Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Eisenstein's 1925 classic Стачка (Strike), is an early Soviet film, telling the story of a failed worker's strike in some other era -- not long before the Revolution, obviously -- and how, at least in this case, the owners and mangers won. "помни пролетарии!" ("Remember, Proletarians!") is the final title card of the picture. Not, of course, "remember your ineffectiveness." Remember why you fight and why you must win.
The style is pure Meyerhold physical theater -- some would say overly physical, overly broad -- but for the time and for the intent of the movie, it works surprisingly well. Compare and contrast with "Salt of the Earth" (1954), which tells essentially the same story, only transferred to the American Southwest and stylistically restrained and grounded in realism. [And with a somewhat different ending.]
While I like both movies very much, "Strike" seems quite a bit fresher than its more recent cousin partly due to the fact that the kind of physical acting that Meyerhold proposed and Eisenstein utilized brilliantly (along with superb design elements that follow from Meyerhold's artistic composition notions) are almost new again, they are so rarely seen any more in serious film or stage work.
Of course, "Strike" is proletarian propaganda, and yet for all its seeming excess, it feels very true; this is what workers were up against then, it's how the courageous responded, and it's what often happened to them for their trouble. The shooting down of striking workers was as common in the United States as it was in Russia, if not more so; the use of provocateurs to cause destruction and distraction that the strikers can then be blamed for was taken for granted, much as the presence of provocateurs within nearly all "leftist" protest demonstrations is assumed these days.
Shooting down striking workers -- when workers strike at all in this country -- is not so common these days as it once was, thanks be. Nowadays, The Powers That Be realize that all they really have to do is bully the strikers on the one hand, ignore their demands on the other, and bring in scabs. Management and capital assume that labor has no power any more and can be dealt with contemptuously at best. Labor, for its part, plays along -- as in the recently ended Verizon strike. While not a complete capitulation, the fact is that the strikers won nothing except to not be fired immediately. Which, these days, is a Victory! by definition.
The message of "Strike" and of "Salt of the Earth" is persistence, no matter what "they" do. Persistence is the necessary missing element from so much of the American resistance to the imposition of Neo-Liberal/Neo-Conservative policies for the last 20 years, but the necessity of persistence -- and demand -- has become more widely recognized than ever as we witness the persistent protests around the world.
Trouble is that now that some of these resistance/revolt/revolutionary actions have succeeded, there is no coherent replacement for the Ancien Régimes being overthrown. There is a governing vacuum, which ironically is filled at least temporarily even harsher Neo-Liberal extractive regimes.
It's a wonder anyone carries on at all.
In light of that missing element, any coherent way forward if revolt and revolution is successful, I'm posting a link to A People's Constitution wiki page in hopes that some (more) of my readers may have some thoughts and insights to add over there.
Change of pace:
Big Sur, CA, 1969: Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Sebastian, and Joni Mitchell. "Get Together" (It was cold and windy day -- though I don't actually remember being there... so there is no mistake, the video is not mine.)