Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/447/5331

From The Socialist newspaper, 6 July 2006

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

Directed by Ken Loach

Twas hard the woeful words to frame to break the ties that bound us
But harder still to bear the shame of foreign chains around us
And so I said "The mountain glen I'll seek at morning early
And join the bold united men, while soft winds shake the barley"

The title of Ken Loach's latest film is taken from an old Irish rebel song whose theme is the sacrifices people make in their struggle for freedom. It speaks volumes for his talent as a film maker that this is only one of several highly charged topics that are examined in this stunning film set against the backdrop of the Irish war of Independence and subsequent civil war.

Neil Cafferkey Lambeth

However, this is no mere historical epic. Rather it shows how ordinary people can shape history and in turn are shaped by it. The story centre's around an IRA 'flying column' or guerrilla unit in the mountains of Cork.

The lead character Damian develops from sceptical student to full-blown revolutionary through his experiences of violence and oppression. His brother Teddy is the leader of the group whose single-minded determination to drive the British out of Ireland blinds him to the bigger political picture.

Dan, one time trade unionist and radical socialist, is the voice of the left wing of the Irish independence movement that in many ways has been obscured by official Irish history. Finally, there is Sinead who demonstrates the pivotal role women played during the war.

But make no mistake, this isn't a story about plucky Irish guerrillas taking on the might of the British Empire. This is a violent, brutal film that depicts the dehumanising effect an army of occupation can have both on the occupiers and occupied.

Several commentators have drawn parallels between the Black and Tans, a paramilitary organisation recruited mostly from former World War One veterans who were used for what we would now call counter-insurgency against the civilian population, and the conduct of the US and British armed forces in Iraq.

The film illustrates how the combination of a racist ideology, alienation from a local population that can turn hostile at any moment and a 'gloves off' attitude by the occupying army's high command is a recipe for atrocities. This in turn provokes resistance that itself is often brutal.

James Connolly

Loach also explores the influence of the ideas of revolutionary socialist James Connolly on the movement, through the discussions between Damien and Dan.

One quote of Connolly's has particular resonance throughout the film. "If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of a Socialist Republic your efforts will have been in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country..."

The backbone of the IRA is made up of poor farmers and workers but the middle-class leadership has no programme to lift Ireland out of its grinding poverty and dependence on Britain. Indeed, the film makes clear that the well-to-do in Ireland are as great oppressors of ordinary Irish people as the British.

This class antagonism is a grim prelude to the murderous antagonism that erupts as the initial euphoria following the truce between the IRA and Britain is replaced by a sense of betrayal over the peace treaty signed by the IRA leadership which stops short of full independence.

The more middle-class element in the IRA, including Teddy, genuinely believes this is the best deal possible for the people of Ireland. In this they are backed by the Irish establishment, the newspaper owners and the Catholic Church. Those against the Treaty are overwhelmingly poor farmers and workers who feel an independence struggle is meaningless without freeing people from hunger and poverty.

The final scenes of the film are harrowing as former comrades turn on each other and prove that the only thing more tragic and brutal than an independence struggle is a civil war.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley has been criticised in some quarters as a museum piece, irrelevant to a modern Ireland of economic prosperity, and that the links to Iraq are tenuous at best.

However, there is a less obvious lesson here that has relevance to Iraq. It shows that an independence movement that does not have a clear programme that breaks with capitalism, as Connolly argued, can be split by the meddling of foreign imperialism even after it withdraws its troops from the country. In Ireland, the movement was split along class lines with the British sending arms and advice to the pro-Treaty, more socially moderate faction.

In Iraq at the moment the only thing that seems to unite the resistance is hatred of the Americans. When the Americans withdraw, what then will unite the armed factions, if not a vision for a socialist society which can pull in support from all sections of the religious divide?

All in all The Wind That Shakes The Barley comes highly recommended for anyone looking for an insight into this tumultuous period in Irish history. Its commitment to telling the story of many of the forgotten people of that era makes for a moving and fascinating film.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

The Irish Civil War 1922-1923

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 6 July 2006:


Socialist Party NHS campaign

NHS: Not for sale!

Fighting back against cuts and closures

Stop NHS Logistics sell-off

The NHS: What the Socialist Party says


Campaign for a New Workers Party

Public services not private profit

Build the Campaign for a New Workers' Party


Socialist Party youth and students

Young people need a living wage!


Socialist Party campaigns

How the rich became super-rich

Blairites trounced in Labour heartlands

Come to Summer Camp!


International socialist news and analysis

Israeli troops inflict 'collective punishment' on Palestinians

In Brief

'War on terror' undermining our democratic rights

Chile: Who killed Victor Jara?


Socialist Party review

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

The Irish Civil War 1922-1923


Socialist Party workplace news

Royal Mail - turn anger into action

Bus campaign prepares support for striking drivers


 

Home   |   The Socialist 6 July 2006   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Ken Loach:

triangleNewham socialists attend 'I, Daniel Blake' film night

triangleFood banks and the real Daniel Blakes

triangleSocialist inbox

triangleWe are all Daniel Blake: no more deaths from benefit cuts

triangle"We are all Daniel Blake!"

War:

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

triangleRussia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangleShocking insight into Isis

triangleChe Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter

Ireland:

triangleBoeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangleLeeds Socialist Students marks 'International Safe Abortion Day'

triangleEyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events

Independence:

triangleCatalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangleSolidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide

Iraq:

triangle'From Militant to the Socialist Party' - new book now available

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

19/10/17

North West

Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

18/10/17

Democratic rights

Conference on state spies: who's watching who?

18/10/17

Leeds

Striking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni

18/10/17

Royal Mail

Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

18/10/17

PCS

Balloting members on the pay cap

18/10/17

Art

'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

18/10/17

Council

Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

18/10/17

South West Wales

Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

18/10/17

NHS

Uprising to save the NHS!

18/10/17

Socialism

Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?

18/10/17

East London

No cuts - hands off King George A&E!

18/10/17

North London

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

18/10/17

BAE

Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems

18/10/17

Schools

Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now

18/10/17

Swansea

Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

More ...

triangle21 Oct Birmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2