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Class Struggle: Film from the Clyde (1977)

Courtesy of Cinema Action

Main image of Class Struggle: Film from the Clyde (1977)
16mm, 83min, black & white
Produced, Directed, Filmed and Edited byCinema Action

Following events that took place on the Clyde in 1971 when The Guardian newspaper disclosed the contents of a secret Tory party document, as a result of which the four Scottish shipbuilding yards began a work-in that lasted over a year.

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Although it is easy to recognise Cinema Action's films as departing from usual media practice, Class Struggle: Film from the Clyde makes a feature of its differences. We see, for example, the daily press conference held by shop stewards during the work-in and can note the pomposity of the television crews that descend for Harold Wilson's visit. Jimmy Airlie stresses how important it was for shop stewards to ensure fair coverage of the occupation in the mainstream.

The uniqueness of Class Struggle is about more than Cinema Action being the only group allowed to film inside the yards. The news crews seem interested in the yards only as backdrops for interviewing 'key players'. Cinema Action emphasised the action of workers and shop stewards who found running the yards, in one's opinion, "easier than working the double bottom of a ship".

Class Struggle has similarities with The Miners' Film (Cinema Action, 1975), in that specific industrial action is put in the wider perspective of political struggle. This balance is signified by the film's title, but the work-in was exemplary in its form. Whereas the miners had drawn strength from the fundamental importance of their raw material, the shipyard workers galvanised support by the bravery and novelty of their response to closure.

The retrospective observations of the men involved in the work-in reflect the disagreement between those who supported it as a means of protecting jobs and those who thought it part of a general campaign against capitalism. The appeal to management to help with the running of the yards is indicative of this tension but the filmmakers shared Jimmy Airlie's opinion that the work-in had politicised all those who took part.

Keiron Webb

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Running the occupation (4:59)
2. Digging in (6:53)
Miners' Film, The (1975)
UCS I (1971)
Big Flame, The (1969)
Cinema Action