Arise Ye Workers (1973) is one of film activists Cinema Action's most concise
and forceful films. On 21 July 1972, five shop stewards were jailed by the
Industrial Relations Court for organising unofficial picketing. Dockers' shop
stewards rallied support from many other workers, including engineers, builders
at Heathrow and, as the film shows, the print workers of Fleet Street. What had
seemed a dispute affecting one industry very nearly became a general strike.
Indeed, 1972 saw the highest number of strike days since 1926.
The film, like all of Cinema Action's of this period, was intended to be seen
at gatherings of workers and to be followed by debate. It carries, in the shop
stewards' reflections on the campaign, an attack on the caution of the union
leadership and support for the shop stewards who took up that role.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film for viewers today is seeing
the panoply of tactics employed by unions, such as 'blacking', which have
subsequently been made illegal. The sequence that shows the police searching a
coach carrying pickets illustrates the use of 'flying pickets', strikers moved
to various locations during a dispute.
Arise Ye Workers contains many common stylistic and formal features of Cinema Action's work. These include: the ironic use of speakers' voices over shots of traditionalist imagery, in this case a naval parade; the unadorned presentation of workers' comments and views, made directly without an interviewer's
questions; the hand-held camera shots from within marches and demonstrations; a
campaigning stance reflected in the titles 'we march on Pentonville' and 'we