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Praxis Makes Perfect: The Art of Resistance (and Merseyside Pensioners!)
Hazuan and Phil, aka 'The Art of Resistance', have created socialist YouTube channel with the Merseyside Pensioners Association. Fans include Lowkey and Ken Loach.
I recently came across Merseyside Pensioners Association TV (MPATV) on the Radical Film Network’s mailing list. A group of wise, right-on elders with a YouTube channel giving the government what for, I thought? Sounds right up my street…
If you’re looking for a straight-talking bit of content that hasn’t been car-cubed into a sheen of its former self in the name of “marketability”, look no further than the Merseyside Pensioners’ YouTube channel. As you might imagine, MPA is a campaign group for older people; the channel grew out of a podcast that was started to keep the group connected during the pandemic. It’s also one of the most pro-working people, progressive UK media outfits I’ve come across in the last few years.
Leading the channel-making are Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell, aka ‘The Art of Resistance‘, video activists and members of the MPA whose work centers around “resisting capitalism and highlighting the impact of the economic and political system on the majority.”
Each episode is an anthology of news and creative segments. This week’s release is a good example:
“MPATV episode 4 covers a range of issues including the fight defending jobs at Liverpool University, air pollution, climate change and Palestine. We report on the ill fated attempt by Liverpool City Council to set up a private housing company - 'Foundation Homes' and the ongoing campaign to keep Council One Stop Shops open. Satire is provided by 'Jerry the plumber' who is called to Priti Patel's house to fix a leak.“
They’ve already got some famous endorsements, such as rapper Lowkey who appeared on the channel in April, and Ken Loach, who said: "What a joy to hear people speaking with passion and clarity about things that matter without being patronised by a BBC or ITV reporter! More please!"
(Interview lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
Introduce yourself however you wish!
We are Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell, two socialist artists who met in 1997 and have been working and living together since then. We take inspiration from the world around us and the people who are fighting back against capitalism and the injustices it creates. We are currently producing a monthly programme for the Merseyside Pensioners Association (MPATV).
Give a brief overview of your careers.
Neither of us was formally trained as visual artists or filmmakers. Our early films were made with children in East London and dealt with environmental issues. We were also commissioned to make films about the changes that have occurred in the East End. They examined immigration, regeneration, living conditions, and culture through the eyes of local residents. They celebrated a part of London that has seen unprecedented change, yet retains a unique identity. Our film ‘From Cable Street To Brick Lane’ dealt with the fight against racism and fascism in the East End of London. The film explores how different communities came together in the 1930′s, 1970′s, and 1990′s to challenge racism and intolerance. These are themes that continue to run through our work.
We like to collaborate with other artists such as writers, poets, musicians, and dancers. There are many radical artists who don’t get the exposure they deserve. With our 2008 film ‘Not In Our Name’ we wanted to take the anti-war message to a wider audience through an examination of the work of a diverse range of anti-war artists. We moved from London to Liverpool five years ago and we’ve been positively influenced by the activism of many people and groups on Merseyside.
You call yourselves 'film activists'. What is the end goal of that role for you?
We place ourselves at the disposal of grassroots campaigns to give a voice to those who are rarely seen or heard in the mainstream media. History is written by the ruling class so our goal is to contribute in film and art to a people’s history.
Which other organisations do you think are doing important work in your field?
There are many individuals doing inspirational work and it’s important to work with others and share ideas and material to avoid isolation which is often a difficulty with visual artists. We work with the Rainbow Collective who share our values as ‘film activists’. Byline Times, Electronic Intifada, and Skwawkbox do marvelous work as an antidote to the MSM narrative. You have to spend a bit of time to beat the algorithms and discover a rich seam of media activists; too many to mention here.
Do you do any other form(s) of activism?
Currently every Friday we join a grassroots protest outside a Liverpool Council building which has closed its One Stop Shop advice and support service. We get involved in all of the campaigns of the Merseyside Pensioners Association. We also support the #NHSPay15 campaign.
If you could boil it down to three political changes that need to happen in this country, what would they be?
To bring the NHS back into public ownership. Free and comprehensive education from cradle to grave. A universal basic income for everyone.
You’re on the left - do you have strong feelings about that label?
Your impression is correct! We have strong feelings about the use of political labels as they are inadequate and are often used by the establishment to rubbish activism and smear people. Labels skew dialogue. We feel we are part of the rich international socialist tradition which has many different and dynamic manifestations.
In April's MPATV episode, you made a point of saying 'This Is Not The BBC'. What are your key criticisms of the BBC?
The BBC has become the propaganda arm of 10 Downing Street. Nevertheless, we owe a lot to the BBC because in 2005 we were making a documentary about the 2005 election which focused on the safe Labour seat of Bethnal Green - our interest was in the impact the war in Iraq would have on the result. Producer Simon Ford invited us to White City to show a rough cut of the film. He liked it but said we would have to ‘take all of the war stuff’ out - we experienced firsthand the censorship of the BBC. From that point on we realised the only way we could retain editorial control over our work was to avoid organisations like the BBC. We decided to follow the story rather than the money!
Was there a specific moment that radicalised you, or have you always been politically active?
Both of us come from working-class backgrounds and that has influenced our outlook fundamentally. The miners’ strike, the struggle against the Poll Tax, the war in Iraq and fighting racism all influence the radical nature of our work.
For younger people who are only now getting involved in activism, what would be your advice to them to ensure they can be effective?
Never give up. Learn from the past, understand the importance of solidarity, and join a union.
Finally, anything else I haven’t asked that you’d like to speak about?
Well, first we think you are doing a great job. [Thanks, guys. 💌] Secondly, we were all brought up to believe that we live in a democracy where freedom of speech thrives. This is a fantasy and in reality, the role of the media is not to hold the rich and powerful to account but to protect their interests and support them. As Karl Marx said ‘The ruling ideas of every age are the ideas of the ruling class’. We need to build an alternative media that gives a voice to the many, not the few.
I really enjoyed getting to know the work of Haz and Phil, and you can too at the MPATV channel, their Vimeo page and Phil’s photography blog. Think about the collaborations you can make in your work with others in your field and wider campaign groups.
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