Can Loach’s movie find an audience?

The promotional effort for Ken Loach’s ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ has started in force, in advance of next Friday’s UK release. Newsnight had an interesting take on it last night (watch it here), and an interview in the Guardian today makes interesting reading. Particularly this bit..

Somebody, at least, is doing a very good job of trying to kill the film in Britain. Loach says that there are about 40 prints of the film here. “In France, there are 300.” To be fair, there is surely a bigger market for anti-Brit diatribes across the Channel, especially as the director has suggested the film may be taken as a metaphor for the Iraq war.

It made me wonder what sort of audience the movie will get in NI. Will people in say, Ballymena, or Lisburn, be able to roll up to the IMC or the Omniplex and make up their own minds? Even if the cinemas want to show it, will the protestors be out in force, as usual? Down with this sort of thing, and all that..

(Movie previously discussed here and here and here and here and here.)

  • Peking

    Loach can fairly churn out the films, though I must say he’s a bit unimaginative in his titles.
    It’s only a few weeks since “The WIND That Shakes the Barley” and now we have “The HAND That Shakes the Barley”.
    That barley’s getting some shaking.

  • Brian Boru

    In fairness, British cinemas were just as unenthusiastic about releasing “The Name of the Father” too – about the miscarriage of justice against the Guildford Four. The usual rubbish about “anti-British/pro-IRA” was churned out then. Hell hath no fury like an imperialist scorned. Michael Collins actually got a decent viewership in the UK. Controversy surrounding a film can sometimes beef up the ratings rather than suppress them.

    The British are going to have to face up to what was done in their names. Their education system ought to tell their people both sides of the story regarding the British empire instead of just viewing it from the “ruler”‘s perspective. From the viewpoint of most of the former colonies of the British Empire, that empire was a tyranny not some “good empire” that RDE might think it was given her writings in the press saying Britain ‘has nothing to apologise for the empire’.

  • Someone releases a movie which takes a virulently anti-British tone and wonders why the British aren’t queuing up to see a movie which tells them what bad people they are? I’m shocked.

  • Brian Boru

    Or telling the truth potato.

  • elfinto


    You seem to be forgetting something. Ken Loach IS British.

  • Stephen Copeland


    … a movie which takes a virulently anti-British tone …

    Have you seen it yet? I haven’t, so I cannot say what its ‘tone’ is.

    … and wonders why the British aren’t queuing up …

    I’d say they aren’t queueing up because it hasn’t been released there yet! They’re not that stupid.

    … to see a movie which tells them what bad people they are?

    Not ‘they‘ but their ancestors, or rather the government that acted in their ancestors names. There is no such thing as inherited guilt – no English person alive today bears any responsibility or guilt for what the Black and Tans did.

    … I’m shocked.

    And a little silly.

  • Declan Walsh

    Potato, there is a world of difference in comdemning the actions of a string of imperialist rulers and attacking the British people.

    Attacking the actions of a nation is not the same as being anti that nations people.

    I have nothing against British people at all and I don’t dislike them because of the actions of the past.

    However denying the atrocities of the British empire’s murky past does not allow Britain to move forward and genuinely forge a more positive post-imperial future.

  • Keith M

    “It made me wonder what sort of audience the movie will get in NI?”

    Probably very little, Loach’s film’s are very arthouse in their appeal and audience and town and cities in NI (and indeed in this country) tend to only show more mainsteam Hollywood fare. It’s not something I like, but it’s something you can’t do much about. Bums on seats is what matters and whatever appeals to the popcorm munchers gets the screenings.

  • It’s simple human nature. If someone released a movie which talked all about Haughey being a crook, do you expect Fianna Failers are going to want to see it? Or Turkish people queuing up to see movies about Armenian genocide? Or any number of other similar themes.

    To turn around and try and justify the lack of a British audience or interest on the back of conspiracy theories is laughable.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    Oops. Sorry Peking. I think I was having a Rebecca De Mornay moment.

    Have changed it.

  • Good piece. I liked the bit about the tyranny of wide angled lenses… I for one will go to see it, but I suspect it’s not going to take off more widely, precisely because he won’t play for the wide angled spectacle that characterises some of the biggest box office hits… I suspect too that winning Cannes will create a bigger audience in France than it ever could outside the French speaking world.

    Eoghan Harris, much against his expectations liked it too:

    Let me confound friend and foe alike by saying that I found Loach’s film a flawed but moving experience, especially towards the end when brother was spilling the blood of brother. Before I deal with the flaws, let me praise the three great strengths of The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

    First, it puts human flesh on ideological issues, through the character of the hero, Damien. His inability to accept the Treaty is dictated in part by his having shot an informer – who in the flesh is a farm labourer and a friend. How can Damien settle for what seems like second best having spilled the blood of this poor boy?

    Second, the film is pretty much perfect in its sense of place, period and the physical appearance of people. As a boy I walked the ambush sites and towns (which were still much as they had been in 1921), buried myself in books and photographs of the period, and met many of the men involved, including Tom Barry. Loach and Laverty – and their production designers – have brought that lost world to life.

    As for people, the film must also be praised as a social document. It pins down almost every social class – strong farmer, cottier, farm labourer and townies of every type – even if their politics, particularly the socialist spiffs, are anachronistic. I said almost, because although we have the token landlord, we do not see the more numerous class of ordinary southern Protestant farmers and shopkeepers – who would later be forced out in large numbers.

    Third, it is thrillingly acted by an all-star Irish cast. Indeed, the film is an extraordinary example of how Loach achieves empathy by allowing the actors access only to their own lines, and at the last minute. Consequently the actors seem to be searching for the words they speak, stuttering and starting over as we do in real life.

    But, of course, it is not real life but a fiction, and this technique is as artificial as any other artistic technique. Nevertheless I was absorbed by the argument – so much so that I wanted to heckle some of the speakers, particularly when they were talking about nationalising land.

    West Cork farmers are no kulaks. And if you tried to take away the land from them, whether in 1921 or 2006, you would have more than your fingernails pulled out by pliers.

    The worst he has to say about the film is that it lacks complexity. Loach nods in this direction when he compares his typing of the British to that of German soldiers in films about the French resistence. Harris again:

    When an Irish writer and director makes the next film on the War of Independence, let us hope they will achieve a work of art. This means minding all Irish workers and small farmers, not just republicans. It means including the internal war the IRA waged against West Brits, that is against Protestant farmers. It it means showing how the IRA shot innocent ex-servicemen as spies.

    Above all, it means depicting the British soldiers, not as cardboard thugs, but as complex characters who came home brutalised from the First World War, and who went to Ireland because it was the only work on offer that paid a pound a day.

    An Irish screenwriter will not have to invent a good soldier. A role model is to hand in the character of the Jewish Auxiliary officer George Nathan, a brave and brutal soldier, who almost certainly murdered the Mayor of Limerick, but who later gave his life for the Spanish Republic, fighting alongside Irish members of the International Brigade in Spain.

  • The largest cinema complex in the UK (Odeon)is not showing the movie.
    But the second largest chain (UGC) will be releasing it next friday.

  • Radishchev

    As I’m sure I mentioned in one of the other threads on this, it’s important for people to remember the nature of the medium. This is not a historical documentary, this is a film, no matter how well-researched or presented. To this end, I include below a quote from Atom Egoyan, prompted by Potato’s mention of Turkey and the Armenian genocide above:

    “Films are by nature a very dubious way of presenting history,” Mr. Egoyan said. “I’m very uneasy with what occurs when you combine notions of atrocity and glamour. Every decision to light a character in a certain way, to add a certain sound effect, to put in musical cue, makes a film interpretive. There’s no way that any dramatic reconstruction is not going to be in some way a retelling. That’s the nature of storytelling.” (2004)

  • fair_deal

    “Even if the cinemas want to show it, will the protestors be out in force,”

    Probably not, just got so used to demonisation by independent and mainstream cinema that virtually immune to it now.

  • soapy

    lol peking. agreed. what did thon barley ever do to deserve all this?

    but it’s been rectified now, so it’s not as funny.

  • Peking

    Yes, sorry Aaron, I was being a bit of a smart arse there.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    entirely deserved!

  • Garibaldy

    The film is being advertised in London, the posters being replete with photos of gunmen, so not shying away from the topic at hand.

    Before we can judge whether we know if someone/thing is trying to stop this film, I’d like to know:

    How many prints do Loach’s films normally have in the UK? Is 40 significantly down?

    As far as I can remember, none of his films make the multiplexes, they play in independent cinemas. This shouldn’t be much different.

    Winning the Palme d’Or of course guarantees a massive audience in France, in the same way that winning an oscar sees lowkey films being re-released to take advantage of the additional interest and credibility it provides.

    I wasn’t going to go and see this because (1) I hated that c**t of a f*****g play Kes at school and watching that film was nearly enough to make me kill myself. (2) Land and Freedom was an absolute joke, and a disgrace, and a violation of the memories of the huge majority of those who fell defending the democratic Republic in Spain. Any film that takes Orwell as its main influence should automatically be banned. Loach’s politics are infantile, and this infects any political films he does.

    However, I think I will go and see it now. At least I won’t have to listen to Ian Hart’s appalling Irish accent as I had originally feared.

  • I’m no industry insider, but if there are as many as 40 prints, then this must be one of his most successful films. Often, Loach films get their only Belfast showings in the QFT and speaking as someone who has seen them there in the past, they don’t always play to a packed house.

    Most of the Cannes critics were surprised that Loach’s film had won the top prize. There will be other and better films at this year’s festival which won’t get any UK release.

    He was fortunate to win and there are many Cannes-winning films from other years which sink without the release his film has got.

    But “They want to silence me. These people want to kill the film,” he says. Though he is one of the most talented film-makers in the UK, politically, Loach is on the extreme margin. Through his choice of stories to tell, he is documenting a form of posture politics whose survival is by no means guaranteed.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Far be it for me to question Ken Loach, but I just did a fairly thorough search of the French film scene, and I have discovered no trace whatsoever of the film in any cinema.

    It is not in the ‘hit list’. It is not in the ‘à venir’ section. It is not mentioneed in the ‘actualités’. And a search for the film, under both its English and French titles (Le vent se leve) revealed precisely nothing.

    So if there are 300 copies of the film in circulation (i.e. more than one per cinema in France, by my count!), where are they?

  • Aaron_Scullion

    As far as I can remember, none of his films make the multiplexes, they play in independent cinemas. This shouldn’t be much different.

    I saw My Name is Joe in an Odeon multiplex. Granted, that was in Glasgow, but even so..

  • Garibaldy


    Fair enough, but as you say yourself that was in Glasgow. Loach is suggesting a conspiracy against him. He needs to provide comparative evidence to show it. I think this will go to Multiplexes in the south, and probably in places like west Belfast if not all of Belfast, but again this is because of its local connections rather than anything to do with Loach.

  • andy

    a wee bit off topic, but what was your beef with Orwell?


    The film isn’t due for release here in France until the end of the year.

  • Radishchev

    On the number of prints in circulation, you might consider the following:
    1. “Ae Fond Kiss” (Jury Prize at Cannes, but not Palme d’Or) had twice the number of prints in France as in the UK when it was released. Certain directors, like David Lynch, will always attract wider distribution on the Continent than in their home countries.
    2. As a basis for comparison, “Bullet Boy” (a first feature and much lower profile) had 75 prints in UK circulation when it was released.
    3. The last time that someone cried “censorship” on a contentious film for their home market, and another Palme d’Or winner of course, was Michael Moore.

  • Stephen Copeland


    The film isn’t due for release here in France until the end of the year.

    Which means that the reference to 300 copies is likely to be wrong, and therefore so is the speculation about the supposed French appetite for ‘anti-British diatribes’.

    What’s that old expression about a lie getting half-way round the world before the truth gets out of bed?

  • Garibaldy
    The film is to feature at the Brighton Marina (UGC) next friday, that’s a 10 cinema multi-plex.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    perhaps someone should complain to the guardian?

  • Rory

    Andy, there is nothing at all wrong with Orwell. That is if you are a supporter of the forces hell bent on the destruction of the organised international working class or if you were in favour of the toppling of the Spanish Republic there was much to admire about him. He worked tirelessly to that end and even on his death-bed was naming friends as Soviet agents to the authorities. Why ever do you think he is so much lauded? It cannot surely be for his writing which is propaganda aimed at children from 9-19.

    Another Blair really who was rotten from the outset and posed as a socialist in order to help destroy that threat to his masters’ accumulation of undue profit at the expense of those who created it.

    But don’t take my word for it – I’m sure Garibaldy will be happy to fill you in.

  • Rory

    Sorry, Aaron, I haven’t yet seen the film so don’t feel qualified to comment thereon, though that didn’t seem to deter Ruth Dudley Edwards. Ah well, I suppose different standards must be applied to fragrant beauties of great intellectual stature and integrity than to grumpy old duffers like me with a hidden agenda.

  • Garibaldy


    I think Rory has covered the main points already. Orwell joined a small group which was a hindrance to the war effort, voting on which battles to take part in. Clearly a ridiculous position to take in the middle of a war against fascism. Yet his book has exercised a disproportionately large influence, perverting many people’s view in Britain and Ireland of what actually happened. Most of his condemnation went on the Communists, who were his allies. Why wasn’t he criticising the British and French and other democratic governments for refusing to help? His anti-communism made him objectively a hindrance to the Spanish Republic.

    Animal Farm started life as a propaganda cartoon during the war, and much of it was stolen from a Czech communist who worked with Orwell in the propaganda ministry. Obviously Orwell perverted the message in his later work. What sort of a self-proclaimed revolutionary writes books suggesting revolutionary change to our unjust society cannot succeed? This has again been a dangerously influential work. It was proven in a book published maybe 4 or 5 years ago that the Animal Farm cartoon was financed by the CIA as a piece of anti-communist propaganda.

    I think in reality Orwell was a petty-bourgeois English nationalist more than anything else. His blind hatred of Stalin led him to, as Rory points out, inform on people to the same government that did nothing for Spain. What of the sufferings of the peoples under the various empires in Africa and Asia? He hadn’t much to say about that.

    His mean spirited, vainglorious, Little England and arrogant attitudes prevade his writings, which annoy me intensely. To say nothing of the fact that there’s a good case to say his first wife died because he was too cheap to pay for an operation she needed done properly.

    All in all, a deeply unpleasant individual on a personal and political level.

  • Garibaldy


    Fair enough, but one could mount the argument that Brighton is an atypical town in terms of cinematic audience, and be more likely to have less of a “mainstream audience”. It is a bit more like a university town, which it is, than a normal city.

    I dunno if the whole chain will be showing it. if so, Loach cannot complain.

  • mickhall

    Two points in reply to posts, firstly Ken Loach has never made an anti British film in his life, if anything he portrays the people who make up the nations within the UK as heros, often battling in their daily lives, against great odds to win through in their own small ways. He is one of the few movie directors who shows working class people in an honest and accurate light, warts and all and not as victims or gofers..

    What he does not do is cover up the crimes of the British State and its agencies, indeed his business is prying open their nasty secrets and exposing their lies to the light of day. It is this that has made the media gofers bark with such rage over his new film and if anyone doubts this is more about current UK government policy than the history of Ireland. Then take note of these blood hounds jingoistic criticism of Loach. They are well aware there is a direct historical and political link between the Irish war of independence and the occupation of Iraq by UK/US forces. And Ken in his usual courageous manner has made it absolutely clear they are correct about this

    As to Blood and Freedom, it had nothing to do with George Orwell bar the fact that he fought for the militia that was portrayed in the film, the POUM. Ken comes from the Trotskyist political tradition so it was hardly surprising that he should portray a militia whose leaders, whilst not Trotskyists were more sympathetic to Trotsky than the butcher of the Russian revolution who bled republican Spain dry and stole the Republics gold.

    The fact is whilst the Stalinist tradition is the dominant one beyond Spanish shores as far as the history of the left in Spain is concerned, The Communist Party of Spain [PCE] was far from being the largest party of the working class, that honor went to the anarchists. Who unlike the Stalinists had a magnificent record of struggle, which did not include secret prison in which working class militants were kept, nor demanding the blood of militants who refused to bend the knee to Moscow.

    When making Blood and Freedom I have no doubt Ken thought he would balance the scales of history some what by showing the criminal behavior of the Stalinists in Barcelona, when instead of fighting Fascists there secret police murdered anarchist and Poumists militants in order to eliminated their potential rivals within the working classes; and to appease that section of the Spanish middle class they were trying to win over..

    There is another side to this story and without doubt many of the comrades who belonged to the PCE and the International Brigades were gallant and honorable people to be admired. However there is enough space for more than one interpretation of the history of this period. To suggest otherwise is to invite a rewriting of what actual occurred.

    Few honest men have anything to fear from the truth!

  • Garibaldy


    I’d say Land and Freedom is clearly influenced by Orwell. I think I might have read that Loach mentioned that at the time, though am open to correction.

    I often hear the argument that Stalin bled Spain dry. I know that he provided them with weaponry, and sold it to them because the USSR was in no position at that point and time to just give them away. The USSR’s record on Spain is simply the best of any other country. The rest sat on their hands hoping for a falangist victory.

    As for the relations between the various republican groups. It was not only the PCE that was using violence, much of its violence was a response to violence from other groups. For example, the Anarchists seized the telephone exchange and interrupted communications in the middle of a war. Sorry, but this is totally unacceptable, and left the republican government no choice but to use force. Ditto locking such people up. Again, refusing to join a disciplined army of the republic was madness, and a danger to the war effort. No choice but to suppress such groups in the situation the government was in.

    As for the claim the Anarchists were the largest group, I’ve also seen this before, and I seriously doubt it. In certain areas certainly. But the PCE was the largest group in terms of disciplined action of the type needed to defeat fascism. Certainly, the anarchist tradition by comparison to the PCE virtually disappeared, suggesting that their influence is overstated in many accounts for political reasons.

    I agree that history is open to interpretation. Though not all interpretations are equally valid. To suggest they are (and I’m not saying you are) is postmodernist nonsense.

  • mickhall


    I feel you should study the Spanish civil war from more than the communist international side. The PCE was a very small party in Spain at the start of the war, until Stalin bankrolled it. Indeed much of its rank and file support by the end of the war came from opportunists or members of the Republican middle classes. Not only were the anarchists the largest party in Spain, it led the largest Trade Union confederation,[CNT] the other being under the leadership of PSOE {UGT]

    When I suggest there is room for an interpretation from all sides, I am not talking about the bourgeois parties etc, but the political representatives of the Spanish working classes. As to the demise of anarchism, yes this has happened. Although it had more to do with the two giants of 20th century working class politics, the Reformists and Stalinists, who post WW2 held all the aces. It is impossible to understand the Spanish civil war without making a study of spanish anarchism. I would also suggest there are real lessons we[the left] can learn from them for todays world.

    The rank and file of the anarchist movement and some of its leaders really were magnificent people of a calibre we rarely see in the world of organized labour today, honest and heroic. Take Jose Garcia Oliver, the Republics Minister of Justice for a time, who in the midst of the civil war implemented a system of justice that would be judged progressive innovative and just and fair to this day.

    By the way Oliver was nominated to be Minister of justice by his comrades not because he had experence of the law, bar serving a long prison sentence, but because he was known to have a good heart and at first refused to have any thing to do with the post. Is there a better recommedation to appoint a judge or a government minister.

    Anarchist characters like Buenavetura Durruti would have been at home beside Pancho Villa or Emillio Zapata during the Mexican revolution. These were men and women who led workers into battle by example alone and in the process thousands of workers followed them willingly, many of them, including Durruti, who died defending Madrid, gave their lives willingly for a better future for workers such as themselves.

    If they has been successful, which admittedly would perhaps have been a long shot, I am certain the anarchists would have helped build a country of love and joy, fun and laughter and not the dismal bureaucratic state those who led the comintern built in the USSR and in Eastern europe post WW2. As I said there is a real lesson for the left here.

    all the best comrade.

  • Rory

    I do not deny the heart, bravery and commitment of the Anarchists but in a war to the death situation which the Spanish Republic was facing the Anarchists became objectively the enemy within. How could it be possible to organise a defense against a ruthless, organised, well equipped standing army supported unstintingly by great powers while Anarchists, however well intentioned were running around undermining the very means of defence and alienating those sections of the middle class who supported the Republic and who could best appeal to liberal forces in Western democracies to at least blockade or boycott aid to Franco’s illegal attempt to overthrow the democratic republic?

    The Trots – don’t mention the Trots – fifth columnist counter-revolutionaries happy to sacrifice the ardent young idealist in any attempt to hinder progress. Much the same since WWII except they wear out and destroy that idealism and have not recently been known, to my recollection at least, of sacrificing anyone yet – though I wouldn’t be too sure about the Workers’ Revolutionary Party or what Militant might have got up to in Liverpool. The most successful group at burning out youthful idealism of course is the Socialist Workers’ Party which has been doing it for thirty years now, I suppose. An old Trot is a rarity to be seen – apparently there are spotters’ clubs worldwide who enthuse when they catch a glimpse of one still active and in reasonable condition over the age of 40.

    The British tradition of Trotskyism largely stemmed from CIA alarm at the TGWU national bus workers strike in 1953 (the first national strike since the General Strike). America after all held the mortgage papers on UKplc for the war aid investment – a second mortgage really since the first one on WWI was still in default.

    When the Liverpool dockers then struck with great popular support and were on the verge, under Communist Party leadership of winning what were achieveable demands in wages and conditions in jumps the newly born Socialist Labour League (SLL) (propritor: Gerry Healy a bullnecked thug straight out of the J Edgar Hoover/ Mayor Richard Daly school of casting) who enabled the establishment of a splinter group that demanded ridiculously unattainable rises with much passion, much quoting (or misquoting) of Marx and divided and weakened and helped defeat the strike.

    Healey went on to become messianic leader of the
    cultist group the Workers'(sic) Revolutionary Party (WRP) and his lieutenants, Tony Cliff and Duncan Hallas established splinter groups that later became the International Socialists (IS) and now the Socialist Workers’ (sic) Party from the sub groups that therefrom split and reformed (as Workers’ Fight; Workers’ Power; Revolutionary Communist Group and perhaps Revolutionary Communist Dog Lovers’ Party for all I know – ssorry I’ve run out of sic’s)whom no living being to my knowledge has yet been capable of calculating.

    So that is my recollection from learned and real experience, but I may be wrong. Check it out for yourselves and come back to me.

  • Garibaldy


    Totally agree there are lessons to be learnt from Spain about effective co-operation. Perhaps I was a little dismissive of the anarchists, but this was partly because they did not all share the same vision of what things would be like. I know syndicalism was dominant in the unions before the war, and that influence carried over.

    In terms of your comment on the eastern European socialist states. I think the main reason they developed the way they did was the threat to them from external hostile powers, as well as the stage of development they were at. A Spain run by the anarchists, for all their undeniably good intentions, would have been crushed by the Nazis even if they had defeated the falangists.

    The left definitely needs not to let differing interpretations stand of the way of working together effectively and to be more respectful of others’ points of view, but a grip on the reality of circumstances must be kept, another lesson to draw from Spain.

  • Garibaldy


    Are the sics for spelling or the fact these groups had no workers? I assume it’s the latter

  • No One Expects The Spanish Civil War!!!!

  • Pete Baker

    Apart from when it’s The Left navel-gazing on a thread about Ken Loach, Jim 😉

  • Garibaldy

    Makes a change from navel gazing about the same old nonsense though. A bit of sand, splits and Stalinism if you will

  • andy

    Garibaldy (& Rory)
    Thanks for the info
    Everyone else… sorry if I inadvertently helped the thread to go a wee bit off topic…

    I think The Wind could do fairly well in England (possibly even better in Wales and Scotland) for an independent film. It has received lots of publicity, and I don’t think most English people have a big problem with accepting the British State was wrong in Ireland in the ’20s.
    A similair film set in the 80s and 90s would probably be a bit close to the bone.
    I don’t have figures but I got the impression Michale Collins did well here. It certainly seemed to run for a while, and that was reported in the English press as having a very strong republican bias.

  • Reader

    Garibaldy, Mickhall, Rory
    The workers, defeated, will never be united.

  • woofus mcdoggus

    Thanks for the link to the BBC clip folks:

    I find the reaction to Loaches film in some quarters of Britain to be absolutely hilarious.

    He’s right when he says that their views are the road to fascism.

    The Daily Mail asking ” Why does Loach loathe his country so much” – I mean its laughable, completely laughable. They just cant get it into their wee heads that the peoples they “conquered” didnt bloody want them. My country right or wrong. Pathetic.

    A very worthy documentary on European nationalism a few yars back was called ” Lies my country told me”. Seems some Brits are still suffering from this oul affliction.

    The film itself, though I have not seen it, seems to be a lot more sophisticated than the knee jerk reactions its inspiring.

  • woof again

    Further to my last post – just look at the tone of the Guardian hahaha what is perceived to be a liberal lefty paper – “To be fair, there is surely a bigger market for anti-Brit diatribes”.

    Anti Brit diatribes lol. It has always amazed me how the British can talk of Amritsar but not Ireland. And how many on the british left can talk of east Timor but not squaddies shooting young guys in the back in Belfast. Too close to home perhaps. I think it betrays a very deep racism, perhaps worse than that held for the inhabitants of other ex colonies in that – “well the darkies you can see THEY really ARE different – but these bloody Paadies I mean they really ARE British I mean, we bloody civlised them”

    And then there are those on here who dont even agree that since 1801 Ireland was ever a colony lol.

    I despair.

  • DK

    I would have thought that denouncing Stalinists was a good thing. But then that all depends on whether you view Stalinism as a bad thing.

  • Rory

    There was a small campaign by some activists on the Irish question in the early seventies where pale pink-white-bright orange tricolour stickers were posted on walls around the watering holes of Fleet Street and Farringdon Road. The stickers posed the question: ” Why has the Irish War turned the Guardian from pale pink to bright orange?”. A lot of red faces ensued.

    Incidentally, Channel More4 are to carry a profile of Loach at 9.15 tonight, followed by a showing of Carla’s Song at 10.20, while the same channel is screening My Name is Joe at 10.10pm tomorrow, Sunday.

    I understand that Barley was produced by Hallmark so it should make an appearance on that channel after the public showings have been milked.

  • Garibaldy


    Some great satire produced about media coverage in the early 70s. A brilliant one of the drunken journalists in the Europa hotel bar in particular springs to mind.


    I’m not sure Stalinism actually means anything, or than an objection to disciplined and co-ordinated action by a political party.

  • Apart from when it’s The Left navel-gazing on a thread about Ken Loach, Jim 😉

    Shoulda known it was those godless Commies again, Pedro.

    Did it ever strike ya that with all the navel gazing on Slugger……..

    No one has ever yet struck lint?

    Boogie on Sluggeraroos.

  • mickhall


    Your right, of course denouncing Stalinism is a good think, for a socialist such as myself it is also a duty. For as far as the Labour movement was concerned, Stalin’s greatest crime towards it was he took people who came to socialism to help build a better world and turned them into accomplices of mass murder or in some cases they became murdering scum.

    Garibaldy, Stalinism does indeed mean something, it was a perversion of socialism, setting back the cause by decades if not centuries. Not to understand this make’s you blind or willful and I do not say this to be offensive, in fact it saddens me greatly that a young comrade can go down the road you appear to be on. The fact that the word discipline so readily drips from your pen worries me, for of course in the Stalinist sense what discipline meant was blind faith in the leadership, which one oppose at there peril.

    If socialism is ever to offer more than the current system we live under in the west, it must offer people more freedoms not less. I tell you bluntly, workers in any great numbers will never give up the gains they have made under bourgeois democracy, for all its faults, unless we can offer them this, for if they were to do is they would be fools and they are far from that.

    Sorry comrade but yesterday you posted about the reasons why the peoples democracies were stagnant[my word] societies, writing it was because of US opposition and intervention. This will just not do.

    Ask your self why not a single worker defended the USSR rifle in hand and not a single regiment of the Red army did the same. This was the State their grandfathers established and the army that defeated nazi Germany.

    They refused to fight for the State because it had become a stagnant pond full of Stalinist bureaucratic pond life who thought it was their right to live in luxury at the workers expense.

    We workers are nether the cart horses of the capitalist nor the play things of Stalinist bureaucrats, we want no truck with any more top down states in which we are disciplined whilst others live high on the hog as we already have one of those..

  • Garibaldy


    The USSR had indeed become extremely corrupt by the end, producing the results you eloquently outline. Although I will say that people did not expect the collapse of the social system. Had they anticipated this, with its attendant consequences for employment, living standards and life expectancy, we might have seen a different response. But instead I think there was a general perception that all would be rich. A set of concrete historical circumstances produced the type of regimes that were seen in Eastern Europe, and those circumstances must be thoroughly analysed to avoid a repetition of their mistakes. Condemenation of these mistakes is not enough. They should not and cannot be replicated.

    Denouncing Stalinists came up in the context of Orwell, who informed on members of the CP and Soviet sympathisers to the British government. I assume that’s not what you mean by denouncing. I think it’s what DK meant, though he can clarify.

    As for discipline. I believe that experience shows that socialists can only affect real change when they are properly organised and capable of acting in a coherent manner. That requires a disciplined party. To say this is not a sign of bureaucratic control freakery. After all, even paliamentary parties act in a disciplined manner, otherwise they wouldn’t be effective. But the members can and must remain in ultimate control. There is great room for disagreements, but not for factions. Look at the Scottish Socialist Party. Factions can work in broad movements, but not as an effective political party.

    The word Stalinism is too often applied by those whose own failure to understand this means that they fail to make lasting achievements or contributions. Be it the absence of a Trotskist or anarchist revolution anywhere in the world or the failure of the hippies to alter society.

    This applies to a great extent to the anti-capitalist movement of the 1990s. Very little achivement due to its unfocussed and often apolitical nature. It might also prove the downfall of the progressive governments in Latin America, though I hope not.

    The left must be democratic in its organisations but it must also be capable of focussed political and societal interventions.

  • mickhall


    What you really mean and are advocating is a Leninist Party based on democratic centralism. Rosa Luxemburg, eloquently predicted the outcome of such a method of organization and she was proved correct. i e far from leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat or whatever, what you end up with in reality is this, the dictatorship of the politburo, then the smartest group within it, then the most opportunist clique with that group, finally ending up with the most double dealing and brutal individual sitting upon it, who gains power by appealing to the forces of reaction. In Stalin’s case the State bureaucracy.

    As to the workers, they are allowed a walk on part to cheer their great leader on special occasions such as May day. Please don’t tell me this will never happen with your bunch and the whole problem is with the way Democratic Centralism has been implemented, for it is hogwash.

    Even the best of parties who use this method of organization, end up using it as a source to enforce discipline, impose their own candidates for the CC etc and leadership positions. Loyalty needs to earn’t, not enforced by party diktats.

    sure a party which aims for power needs discipline, but above all else it needs democracy, for without it , if it gains power it will simply replicate its internal, undemocratic structure in the State it governs, this much history has set in stone.

    No masters no gods is not only a good way to live ones life,[imo] it is a must within a political party, wether of the right or left. No factions you say, to have democratic factions or groups within a party is essential, as without being able to join with other members, when members disagree with the leadership, they have no method of either changing party policy or if necessary changing the leadership. Indeed when Lenin banned factions in the Bolshevik party by banning the workers opposition, he became the grave digger of the Russian revolution.



  • Garibaldy


    Democratic centralism has actually helped save certain parties from leadership groups who abandoned socialism after the fall of the USSR. The Greek CP is one good example, and closer to home the failure of the DL to abolish the WP is another example. The dangers you outline remain, but they can be negotiated.

    I agree with your philosophy on masters and gods, and an active party membership that engages in open debate and political discussion is essential.
    However, factions are bad for effectiveness. People are free to take whatever position they want on votes on policies, but the formation of permanent alternative parties within a party is a nonsense.

    I think given the week state of the left it is essential to maximise its influence through effective interventions and actions. One way of doing this is through broad movements like the anti-war movement, but for real change an effective political party with a clear vision is necessary.

    Whatever the different visions of the future, the reality is that we must all band together to defend what remains of the welfare state, and seek to seize some of the assets created by the Celtic Tiger for ordinary people.

  • Rory

    It is bloody difficult this oul’ revolution business. We can see who got it wrong and sometimes see the reasons why but since none have yet got it right, despite our warm hearted enthusiasm for those that tried and continue to try, we tend be be all the time engaged in hypercriticisms of the wrong as though, we might have foreseen it all without hindsight. This seems to me to be particularly true where people have overthrown oppressive tyrannies and while the left were forever proclaiming solidarity during the course of the struggle, no sooner was the oppressive regime brought down with great sacrifice than the left were even more vociferous in denouncing the new order before it had an opportunity to face and deal with the problems of running their own land. The sickening distortion of the IS (later SWP) contingents on Vietnam Solidarity marches of the expression of support “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh” with the accompanying “How many Trots have you done in?” could only but occassion the riposte from even the most mild mannered man, “Clearly not enough”.

    Discipline and democracy are essentials and we must always be wary of leadership coveting power over all, but the historical conditions in which the Soviet Union tried and failed to complete its transition are not those of today and we would be best to view that time with cold objective analysis in order to learn from it what best we may. An exercise in which I sometimes, perhaps often, fail myself, I must admit.

  • Fintan, Portlaoise

    In a way you have to feel a bit sorry for those Brits who are still living in an age when Battler Brittain anbd other heroes gave Jerry, various wogs, rebels, insurgents and recalcitrent tribesmen on the North West Frontier, Zuland and the North East Frontier Agency a good sorting, and taught them cricket and all those other good British things in the process.

    Who really cares that they just havent copped on that the sun has set on the Empire? George Bernard Shaw once commented that the sun never set on the Empire because God wouldn’t trust the English in the dark, but maybe He has given up caring about them. At a time when Britain is engaged in a nasty war of aggression based on their elected leaders’ blatant lies, why do some English people get upset over a film that shows some of the atrocities committed in their name? Another example was mel Gibson’s excellent The Patriot. You’d think every English person was born to be a truly gallant, fearless and sporting boy scout.

    What beats me is why they didn’t get so uptight about the film Gandhi in the early 1980s. In fact, the British Government helped finance the film, which shows in graphic detail the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919. That was when British Army soldiers opened fire on an unarmed gathering of men, women and children. Official (i.e British = lying through their teeth) sources reported 379 killed, but other sources put it as high as 1,800. I have visited the site several times and one of the most striking memories is the well from which 220 bodies – men, women and children who had thrown themselves in to try and escape the machine gun bullets – were recovered.

    Compared with that, what’s a few dozen Irish civilians murdered by the Black and Tans in Cork? If the British can co-finance a movie that reports that atrocity, why so much fuss about another one that refers to much lesser atrocities in Ireland?

    On another note, another source of funding for the Gandhi film, starring the excellent English actor Ben Kingsley as the Mahatma, was the Indian Government. That did not go down well in all quarters. An Indian director friend of mine sarcastically commented to me that he was going to ask the British Council in Calcutta for funding to make a movie about the life of Winston Churchill – with an Indian in the eponymous role!

  • Reader

    Fintan: If the British can co-finance a movie that reports that atrocity, why so much fuss about another one that refers to much lesser atrocities in Ireland?
    “Ghandi” was recognised as a brilliant epic illustrating the character and circumstances that elevated one man to a pivotal role in the history of a sub-continent. The synopsis of “The wind” reads like an art house propaganda piece. So maybe they aren’t being judged just on the basis of their body count?

  • andy

    Ben Kingsley’s real name is Krishna Bhanji..
    He was born in England but as you may guess from that the comparison your friend made would only have been accurate if he was going to chose an English expat.

    I guess it would have been less snappy though…

  • andy

    err, sorry not Expat – I meant of English extraction…

  • JAY119

    Why all the fuss? Loach’s movies are made for the cognoscenti, I doubt that entertainment comes into it. At least if it does, then the one film I have watched right through, Kes, gives no hint of it. If the Brits don’t want to watch it they’re entitled to stay away. although the British press is getting the blame for slating the movie without seeing it, it was our Ken who said it was anti-British. I doubt that Irish people, or any other people would want to flock to a see a movie whose director had already told them was about their shortcomings. I like the title though.

    Nice blog this, it is rare indeed to see justification for Stalin nowadays.

  • mickhall

    On the entertainment point, was it Loach or Mike Leigh who made the film about guys on a building site etc, Ricky Tomlinson was in it.
    The film he made about the spooks in the north was entertaining. So was Blood and Freedom, for a movie to be entertaing it does not have to have a car chase in it or a pair of false boobs, his films entertain me, as in its day did Zcars. Incidentally another point about Ken is the opportunities he has given to working class people to become involved in the film and TV industry. not only as actors but in all walks of that business.

    I just love it at 70 years old Ken Loach can still make steam come out of the ears of those who occupy the big house. Indeed he is one of the people which make England a nice place unlike all those jingoistic pillocks

    Afternoon all.

  • JAY 119

    mick, if you have been entertained by Ken good luck to you, you are clearly one of the cognoscenti, but you clearly never been on a film set if you think that Ken gives more work to working class people than any other director. The vast majority of people on ALL film sets are working class.

    I don’t know about anyone else but no steam is coming out of my ears, and any you see coming from the press is simulated I can assure you. They couldn’t give two hoots, they’re trying to sell papers. No, he’s just boring and humourless to the majority of people who want to go to the pictures to be entertained. And that is why the cinema chains don’t show his work, it doesn’t pay.

    If you like him that’s legitimate too, but I like scouse and I know from experience that’s an aquired taste.

  • Brian Boru

    “it was our Ken who said it was anti-British.”


  • mickhall


    I am not saying Ken’s a saint far from it, he is like most of us, he does his best but at times gets it wrong. Nor did I say he employs more working class people than other directors, what I did say was he has given opportunities to working class people who would not normally have found their way into that industry.

    Although Ken would hate to believe it was so, I do feel he is becoming that very English of things, A National treasure.

    I’m not so sure you are correct about the steam thing as the reason he is getting it from some quarters is not because of Ireland, but Iraq. As he is clearly pointing out, even with the best of intentions soldiers cannot act as a police force without putting the locals nose out of joint and politicians like Blair cannot feign surprise when things go pear shaped, as our history books are full of such past failures or tragedies.

    What to his credit Ken does achieve it to make a movie a topic of discussion beyond who is the star etc. Think what you will about him or his movies, raising cultural debate beyond the level of big brother can not be a bad thing, can it?

    All the best

  • Radishchev


    The film you enquied about, with Ricky Tomlinson in it, was called “Raining Stones”, with Bruce Jones as the lead. I believe it was on one evening last week.


    What beats me is why they didn’t get so uptight about the film Gandhi in the early 1980s.

    Here’s the way it works.Little films (that is to say, films on a small budget) need all the publicity they can get.
    This film of Loachs has caused a stir, in no small part due to the comments made by the director in regards to Iraq which can in no real measurable way be comparable to what happened in Ireland.
    Had there been no controversy over this film, it would probably have done little to no serious business at the box office, but now that people have been fed the lie that they are being prevented from seeing it by all sorts of nefarious underhand tricks of the british establishment, then there will be a lot more people determined to watch it than had previously been the case.

    It’s all showbusiness folks, don’t ever think otherwise.

    Big budget films on the other hand can suffer from negative publicity, with a large potential audience being put off from going to see a blockbuster by the idea that it might be overly ‘political’ which is why the companies that produce them do everything to ensure that little to no controversy surrounds them, and this is why there were no stories about the film Ghandi planted in the media to stir up a fuss.

    Myself, I still have high hopes that I shall enjoy the film when I get the chance to see it.

  • mickhall


    Cheers for that, good name for a film.

    Take care.

  • Depardieu

    Even BBC World is at it! In the week when a British film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, when the BBC’s “Talking Movies” programme had a feature on “The Wind That Shakes The Barley”, including an interview with its star, Cillian Murphy, the oft-repeated trailer for the programme contained no mention of this expose of Britain’s crimes in Ireland.

    I suggest that every BBC office should have a prominent notice stating that the second most corrupt public body in Unionist-dominated Northern Ireland was —the BBC. LEST WE–AND THEY—FORGET…

  • Rory

    There was a discussion with Loach and others including a British military historian and a woman novelist with John Humphreys on “Start the Week” on BBC Radio4 this morning. Well worth a listen. You can catch by using the ‘listen again’ facility on the BBC Radio 4 website.

    Tonight in 10 minutes (7.15pm) on BBC Radio 4’s nightly arts programme the film is to be reviwed and subject to the question “History or propaganda?”.

    Sorry for the short notice, only just heard the trail for the programme.

  • Garibaldy


    Cheers for that. Will hunt the stuff out on the net.