"The Enemy Within is utterly compelling"
It’s hard to separate form from content and content from my own political convictions in the face of Still the Enemy Within, Owen Gower’s Sheffield Doc/Fest Audience Award winning documentary that revisits the miners from the UK’s 1984 strike. To be honest, I was in tears about 30 seconds into the film and this trend continued until the closing credits. So be it.
Coal is the future, we are told. The NCB (National Coal Board) puts out promotional videos. Strong, hairy men spend their days in the mine and their holidays on jet skis and in swimming pools, sipping cocktails with beautiful women. The lie is sold and dreams are bought in their thousands. Mining yields the secure jobs of the future and there are plenty for everyone. But strings are being pulled, in the form of the Ridley Plan, a Tory report of contingency planning to defeat any challenge from trade unions.
The 80s roll around and history unfolds as we know it, except this time the only voices are speaking are Thatcher’s ‘enemies within’. Pit closures are threatened, the miners go on strike, the Tories won’t budge. Coal has been stockpiled but the miners are optimistic and united. The weeks become months. The political propaganda machine goes into full force. State sanctioned intimidation and violence begins. People are bloodied and beaten, a few even killed in police brutality as they attack the ‘enemies’ trying to hold on to their livelihoods, to provide for their families.
I’ll refrain from any futher synopsising but suffice to say The Enemy Within is utterly compelling. With a documentary this powerful and such moving real-life protagonists, you can truly see how much can be accomplished on a modest budget. Gower weaves together archive footage, present day interviews and dramatized scenes to share an often misrepresented part of British history. A must see, whether to reinforce your pre-existing Leftist beliefs or to trace the history of the ideological dismantling of the industrial working class, the ‘enemies’ now turned ‘scroungers’.