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The Big Flame (1969): dockers, class war and workers' self-management

Sun, 16/01/2011 - 17:28

Written by Jim Allen and directed by Ken Loach, The Big Flame was broadcast as the BBC's Wednesday Play in 1969. It documents a fictional unofficial strike on Liverpool's docks in which the workers, frustrated by the uselessness of their union officials, decide to take matters into their own hands (as we in SolFed advocate).

The actor Godfrey Quigley (who also played the prison chaplain in A Clockwork Orange) plays a veteran trade union militant (and a Trotskyist, so we are led to believe) called Jack Regan who advocates a worker-takeover of the docks, which the rank-and-file vote to put into practise. Workers' self-management is usually an idea promoted by the libertarian communist wing of the anti-capitalist movement, while the Marxist wing tend to support centralised state-ownership. However playwright Jim Allen was a former member of the Socialist Labour League, the forerunner of Gerry Healey's Workers' Revolutionary Party, which probably explains why Jack Regan is described as a Trot rather than an anarcho-syndicalist, for example.

Nevertheless, The Big Flame is an excellent piece of film that explores the themes of class war, wildcat strikes and the history of the Liverpool dockers. Well worth watching!

Rating: red n black starred n black starred n black starred n black starred n black star 5/5  

 



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