Three activists

Christopher Mitchell G8: can you hear us? Tuesday November 15, BBC4, 9pm

The CPGB and its national organiser, Mark Fischer, featured prominently in a 60-minute film about the G8 protests, which took place in Gleneagles in July. Veteran filmmaker Christopher Mitchell and his team followed three political activists on their way to Scotland: John Jordan from the Rebel Clown Army, Green Party member Matt Wootton and comrade Fischer. The director has produced a surprisingly partisan film for the mainstream media - a pleasant surprise. It explicitly sympathises with the G8 protesters - albeit in a politically undifferentiated way. All three are shown to be critical of Bob Geldof's Live8 concert, which "got Tony Blair a lot of good publicity". Mitchell is also with the protestors in their struggle against the increasingly provocative police. When the riot police use their truncheons to beat retreating protestors over the head outside the Gleneagles hotel, Mitchell enhances the menace with dark, threatening music. He has made a real effort to explain the political motivations of all three - though, it has to be said, getting John Jordan and the Rebel Clown Army to talk sense consistently is beyond even him. But then again, their actions speak extremely eloquently of their total disorientation and political befuddlement. At one point, they invade a House of Fraser store, roll around on the floor and shout out, "We are praying to the god of make-up". A pretty inane critique of consumerism that achieves just one thing - it really pisses off the shoppers. Perhaps, though, it made the clowns feel good about themselves: "Politics doesn't deal with all this internal stuff like happiness," Jordan explains. "We need to reach those at the G8 with compassion and love." Hmm "¦ In stark and immediate contrast, the film shows comrade Fischer, who explains: "Those eight people do not matter - we, the working class, hold the answers. We need to patiently explain to people why Marxism offers a way out of the misery of today's world." Whenever Mitchell tries to explain why the people were protesting or what the solution could be, he almost always has to resort to comrade Fischer to do the talking. But then I'm biased "¦ The film is also very funny and is not above gently mocking the main protagonists. There is a young comrade from the CPGB struggling to put up a tent (as well as struggling to explain why he is attracted by the 'coherence' of communism). The clowns can't decide if they should talk to the police in high-pitched or normal voices and their march ends in disarray because they are too many for 'collective decision-making'. Mark Fischer is seen building some bridges with a young member of the Morning Star's Communist Party of Britain - "You two-headed, revisionist lizard," he gently chides him. Clearly, unity talks loom. A significant moment comes when comrade Fischer and Matt Wootton meet for the first time. CPGB comrades (like many others) have just arrived, over two hours late, for the demonstration outside the Gleneagles Hotel. Anarchists, clowns and direct action supporters had arbitrarily decided to block all access roads leading to the area to "stop the service workers making it through to the G8", as one told me on the day. As if the leaders of the capitalist world were going to have to make do with sharing a Pot Noodle - was it really beyond their ken to get hotel staff helicoptered in? While Wootton sides with these anti-democratic stunts, comrade Fischer criticises them strongly: "I don't like anarchists or clowns, but I would never try to keep them away from a protest. With our history, we must be squeaky-clean when it comes to democracy in our own movement. How can we criticise the G8 for being a small minority that tramples on the rights of the majority if we do the same thing?" Wootton has no immediate answer, but when Mark has gone, he moans: "Yeah, he talks about democracy in the movement, so that everybody seems to agree with him and he can decide everything." Sorry, Matt, did our national organiser upset you in some way? You can always write in, you know "¦ Christopher Mitchell is to be congratulated on producing a lively, touching and amusing film that - while it doesn't get everything right - tells a truth about the general state of our movement through affectionate portraits of three of its activists. Catherine Mason