A surprising series from the BBC that comes to us from the rather distant time of 1993, but that speaks of the 1970s, the time of punk and the beginning of Margaret Thatcher who was already out when the mini series was produced. And they bring it out in 2007 in the DVD format. At last some may say. These time lags are very interesting because the meaning of the story is completely different according to the time you stand in. At the time of the arrival of Margaret Thatcher, the National Front was a real danger, and the mini-series shows it quite well and it is Margaret Thatcher who thwarted this National Front's ambition completely and utterly by recuperating their votes. It was a time when the left thought along the narrow line of an old model, that of the communist inspired unions, particularly the mineworkers' union, and of the Labor left of Tony Benn, the aristocrat turned a strict socialist. And they needed to be woken up to reality and they were by Margaret Thatcher again. They had to realize the old more or less violent and always intimidating methods were wrong and that the system of the free market economy was not collapsing at all because market economy was not, still is not and will certainly not be collapsing, even if its management is changing and will be changing maybe towards a more controlled, smooth and just functioning. The film looks at the extremely crucial issue of the time: the integration of the massive immigration from South Asia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. It considers this movement from a mixed point of view. First of all the point of view of the immigrants themselves, and particularly one young man who is the son of an Indian man and an English woman. His vision is always divided because he is mixing with people from both communities. It shows both his very Indian approach of personal relations that takes sex for what it is, nothing much except some kind of relaxing way of meeting with other people. Then the orientation is not important at all. But at the same time he desires some deep sentimental and emotional commitment and that runs in conflict with the English approach of things that more or less considers commitment like a downfall, a fault, a flaw in the free texture of life at the time. Since he is not an opportunist he ends up stepping out of a group in which sex was some kind of payment for a career, and since his profession is acting, that leads him to some kind of rather aloof position though all the more chased after because he appears hard to catch. At the same time we have the point of view of the white actors and directors who want to give Indians their chance to be well represented on the stage but then these Indians run into the African blacks who do not have the Indian distantiation (the Blacks are not beige enough as this young man says) and who consider a humorous discourse about Indian immigrants to be yielding to the white representation a society they essentially see as racist is imposing onto them. If you add to that the punk music of one of these white friends of the main actor's you have the full picture. This punk movement was definitely on one hand an extreme and excessive denunciation of white fascism but it also led at the time to the antagonistic movement of the skinheads who were racist and violent. In other words that was a time when things were very volatile and changing too fast for anyone to know which way they were going. That was the time of the squatters and the Claimants' Union. Strangely enough though most of these claimants were whites who wanted to use the social protection that had been set up after the war and up to the end of the 60s to live in poor but decent conditions, with no regular profession but plenty of time to prop up all kinds of protest movements. I remember the squats of the White Chapel area and the punk concerts of the Marquee and the Roundhouse of these mid and late mid 70s. That was a time worth living and that is a time worth remembering. This miniseries gives us a fair picture of what could today inspire us slightly more: there is no future for any country and the people of those countries if there is not a fair dose of freedom, diversity and hard work.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines