For this season of The Film is a Weapon screening series, we’ll be taking our lead from the Ford Workers’ Group film shows for Dagenham workers in the mid 1980s. These screenings brought together films about working class struggles all over the world.
Our first screening will be of Harlan County.
Here’s what “The Combine” said about Harlan County in the 1986:
“In 1973 the coal miners of Harlan County, Kentucky USA, were up against a group of notoriously ruthless exploiting employers – the Coal Bosses. For years the employers had fought tooth and nail to keep the miners under.
But in 1973 the miners went on strike for more money, for better health and safety conditions, and for the recognition of the workers’ most basic rights- the right to strike, and the right to belong to a Union.
The strikes met huge opposition from the bosses and from the armed thugs they hired to beat the miners down. Armed goons squad arrived on the picket lines and miners were shot and killed. But the miners were not cowed. They fought back against the bosses’ violence. And in the front line were the women of the mining communities. They played a key role on their picket lines.
One women in the film – a veteran of the workers’ struggles of the 1930s – says :
‘ They may shoot me, but they can’t shoot the Union out of me!’
If this film was fiction, you would say it was unbelievable. But it’s not fiction – it’s real, it’s the history of one working class struggles of our time. We urge all Ford workers to see this film if you can- you won’t get to see it on TV!“