Generation Right - East End Film Festival
Saturday 4 July 2015, by
It brought it all back, the years that formed the person I am today: the Thatcher Years. Generation Right is a powerful reminder of why I became a radical community activist. It tells the story of Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Britain’s first female Prime Minister. As a child I vaguely remember women celebrating at first (not so much by the end of her reign). But back then there was a sense of pride that a woman was in office - just like the the hope many of us felt when Obama became president. And now here we are, face to face with the limitations of identity politics.
Cooper expertly assembles a range of archival footage, including various talking heads, and in doing so Generation Right delivers more than a profile of Thatcher, it explores a major historical period. We see Maggie congratulate herself on her own historical significance- reflecting that she’s altered the course of politics for a whole generation, and she wasn’t wrong there. From the miners’ strike to the Battle of Orgreave, from Stop and Search to the race riots, she changed the face of the country. She destroyed the country’s manufacturing industry. I don’t think she was very nice. The archive footage of scenes of police raging and shielding themselves from ordinary people – images that I first saw on my TV screen – are the images that made me join those people to fight against her. Thatcher, as the film explains, claimed to be big on law and order, she was ‘tough on crime’. Ironic now when we hear about some of the cover-ups she was complicit in, and the images of Leon Briton by her side are more unsettling now than ever before. Forget her famous Francis of Assisi quote where she waffles on about discord and harmony, despair and hope. Her real policies, her real strategy is laid bare. She wanted to smash the unions, privatise everything - though she never got the NHS and I hope they don’t today. She wanted to crush the working class. She was proud to be called the Iron Lady, she rejected the idea of society. She took on the miners and destroyed whole communities. And let’s not forget mass unemployment. I don’t think she was very nice.
Through an amazing layered montage, the documentary provides an undogmatic presentation of Thatcher’s war on the working class. The film jolts us back to the present, but how could it fail to? Thatcher championed austerity, championed selling off social housing. Ring any bells? But just as there was a fight back then, there will be a fight back today in Cameron’s Britain. Whether this movement is systemic or focused around single issues like housing , whether it’s union-led or whether community groups are at the forefront, the fight back has already started. The current movement of resistance would benefit from a film which dwelled more on the tactics of the Poll Tax struggle - a mass movement of community resistance, blocking bailiffs and supporting people, most of all a movement of mass non-payment. That was the one that ultimately brought her down. I am proud to have played a role in it. Close to the end of the film where an activist talks about how, with Cameron etc. we will never really get rid of Thatcher. I so want to prove him wrong.
Andrea Enisuoh is a writer, journalist and community activist.
Dir. Michelle Coomber, 2015
Generation Right is screening on 5 July as part of the East End Film Festival, followed by a Q&A- tickets and more information here: