Ken Loach

A critical moment

Ken Loach

Veteran film director and activist Ken Loach responds to Mike Phipps's article Where We Are Now, published on this site on July 20th.

The comparison with the miners' strike is significant in another way. The strike was a pivotal moment. After that defeat Thatcher could implement the full programme to make the working class more vulnerable, more easily exploited, and re-establish profitability to capital.


The consequences have finally proved to be disastrous and have prompted the search for alternatives. . The surge in Labour membership comes from people who are open to the big questions, not just about a tactical gain for the parliamentary left: how do we live in a secure, sustainable world, where everyone makes a contribution which is fairly rewarded, where people can work collectively, not subject to the imperatives of the big corporations and the market?


To have these issues on the agenda during the leadership election should give us a great opportunity. Can the party be shifted away from its traditional collaboration with business and understand the separate and independent interests of the working class? That would be a historic moment. It's only a sliver of an opportunity but, if we listen to the hundreds of thousands who have joined (only a small minority are from the far Left), it exists.


‎I don't think there has been a moment when the membership of the party has been so open to examining the whole economic model, rather than just demanding reforms. The upsurge in activity in the 60s happened outside the Labour party: the anti-stalinist Left was the beneficiary and that disintegrated into sectarianism. The Labour Party was the enemy in those days.


For that reason, I think this is a rare - and critical - moment, like the miners' strike.


The Labour right, which is almost the entire PLP, and their supporters in the press and broadcasting with the BBC taking a leading role, understand that the stakes are high: the danger for them of a mass party committed to seriously attacking the power of capital. They will do anything to make certain it doesn't happen. As always, they will not confront the substance of the analysis or programme, but issue smears and scare stories. This will continue and intensify until the election.


I think the current tactics to counter this might be re-examined. To say that the PLP are good people who will support JC after the election is demonstrably not true. We can all see it. Far better to say that the MPs have a choice, either to end the false allegations - which you have demonstrated are unfounded, Mike - ‎and represent the members, or face the members in a selection contest. Apologising for something that, by and large, is a fiction, is confusing. The right wing should be challenged directly on the politics - analysis and programme. This is what the new members want to hear because it is the reason they have joined.


At the moment the election is being fought on the PLP's agenda: 'intimidation of women MPs‎', 'extremists', 'incompetence'. All easily ridiculed. We need to take the offensive, challenge them on the PLP's record of failure and incompetence at every level, from Blair's war, privatisation, insecurity of employment, electoral failure, austerity......and make certain that this is at least heard in the broadcast interviews. Our interviewees should challenge the questions that are put and realign the arguments.


Easier said than done, I know, but if we allow the present situation to continue the drip of allegations may undermine Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. And there will be a new story every couple of days. The great rallies and events that we organise brilliantly will be largely ignored by the mass media. Of course our side can counteract this by social media but that doesn't mean we should abandon the press and broadcasting to the right wing.


Appeasing the right only encourages them. We know they are bent on destroying the power of the new membership and those who would lead it. They should be challenged at every turn! People are working with real commitment, imagination and energy, I’m sure we can win.


Regards, Ken