Sabby Sagall

Remade in Dagenham

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Ford's women

The 1968 Ford women's strike was a landmark on the way to equal pay. Sabby Sagall recalls the dispute and its effects.

On 7 June 1968 women sewing-machinists at Dagenham took on the mighty Ford Company over sex discrimination in job grading. The strike had a huge impact, forcing Ford’s to its knees and feeding the growing calls for women’s equality in the workplace and beyond.

The 2010 film of the dispute, Made in Dagenham, has now been adapted into a stage musical starring Gemma Arterton as the worker who leads the strike.

Notoriously Militant

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Sheila Cohen has written an immensely readable and well-researched book on the history of the British Ford Motor Company, seen through the eyes of leading shop-floor and union officials and stewards, mainly from the PTA assembly plant.

The book encompasses the history of Ford Dagenham from 1931 until the last vehicle rolled off the line in 2002.

The book is suffused with the spirit of shop-floor activism and workers’ democracy, particularly celebrating the upsurge of 1968-74, when rank and file trade unionism was among the most advanced in the British labour movement.

Verdi: the music of revolt

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October 2013 is the bicentenary of the birth of the great Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi. Sabby Sagall explains how his operas were not only profoundly shaped by the revolutionary times he lived in, but how they in turn helped inspire the unification movement to ultimate victory.

On 10 October the world will celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, one of the trio together with Mozart and Wagner of Europe's greatest operatic composers. Verdi was a composer who was quite conscious of the links between music, society and politics. Born into a family of rural innkeepers, he was proud of his humble origins. When King Vittorio Emanuele wanted to ennoble him, he replied, "I am a peasant." He wanted his music to speak to the masses, not to a privileged elite.

1810: The Year of Chopin and Schumann

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Music is the most abstract of the arts yet it tells us truths about the world through its impact on our emotional life.

The human experience which the composers convey is not simply the product of past musical influences but is shaped by the historical context. This is borne out by the strange coincidence that Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann, the two greatest composers of romantic piano music, were born in the same year.

Playing a part against injustice

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Oscar winning actor Julie Christie talks to Sabby Sagall and Judith Orr about her work and political commitment and how she feels about the media treatment of women in the public eye in the age of celebrity culture.

Your first film was Billy Liar in 1963. It was about a woman, Liz, who wanted to challenge conventions and live her own life. Were you aware in your own life about women's changing expectations at that time?

I had absolutely no understanding of the social historical meaning of anything then, let alone of the part I was playing. She was a beatnik, not yet of the 1960s. It's just after the war. Billy represented the fears and repression of post-war Britain and Liz the very beginning of a new culture which youth called "freedom".

Palestine: 60 years after the Nakba

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Sabby Sagall recently visited Palestine as part of a twinning project. Here he describes the daily struggles of Palestinians as they continue to resist the Israeli occupation.

The taxi skirts round the 16th century Ottoman wall of Jerusalem's Old City, reaching for the hills of Palestine. The rocky, sun-dried slopes roll east towards the Jordan river and north towards Galilee; silent witnesses of the unending suffering of the Palestinian people, but also of their unbelievable courage and resilience.

Palestine: Attacks on Hamas

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Palestine in 2006 was dominated by a single event: the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas's overwhelming victory in last January's general elections.

Israel then launched an economic embargo on the new government, withholding tax-revenues belonging to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and successfully urging western governments to cease aid payments.

The result has been a slow strangulation of the already crippled Palestinian economy and a great intensification of Palestinian suffering. The justification was three-fold: Hamas's refusal to recognise Israel's right to exist, to formally renounce violence and to accept previous agreements with Israel.

Non-Jewish Jew

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Review of 'Born Jewish', Marcel Liebman, Verso £14.99

Marcel Liebman was a Belgian Jewish socialist historian. He lived part of his childhood in the shadow of the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Born Jewish is a memoir of his family's day to day battle to survive. It is a moving and inspiring account that testifies to the courage and resilience of the Jews of Europe during the Second World War. In a trenchant introduction, Jaqueline Rose identifies the book's crucial themes.

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