[Fwd: Lemisch critique of SDS film]

Mark Lause lause at SPAMworldnet.att.net
Wed Mar 21 21:36:47 MST 2001


This is from the labor historians H-Net list.  It might
be of some interest to the group.  Jesse Lemisch was
always one of the best of the historians who came up in
the 60s.



From:                   "Jesse Lemisch" <utopia1 at attglobal.net>
Will those interested in discussing this film with Jesse Lemisch please
contact him directly.
- - - - -

    My critique of "Rebels With a Cause," a new film about Students for a
Democratic Society, apppears in Film & History, 31.1 (March 2001), as
"Students for a Democratic Society, Heroically Portrayed, Before the
Inexplicable Fall: Consensus History in a Left Film" (to see the article,
click  "Students..." for plain text or "Setup..." for pdf. In order to read
the PDF file you need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader present on your system.
For a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader, go

    For information about Film & History, see its website,

    While "Rebels With a Cause" is often moving and evocative, I also find
it stunningly uncritical, self-congratulatory, first-person heroic,
triumphalist -- and thus at odds with much that the SDS I knew stood for.
Largely avoiding the question of why SDS collapsed, and presenting little
about internal conflicts within SDS, the film won't help younger people who
encounter related conflicts and dangers in the new movements that they are

    Focusing on but moving beyond the film itself, my critique also deals
with larger issues of left aesthetics and truth-telling. Why can't we build
conflict into our films? Can't we get beyond old-time Popular Front
agitprop? Can't we move beyond this stodgy stuff to edgier left film-making?
And why can't we tell the truth?

    This critique is in some ways continuous with an article that I
published in The Nation, "Pop Front Culture: I Dreamed I Saw MTV Last
Night," October 18, 1986. This created a great deal of controversy, to which
I responded in a second article, "The Politics of Left Culture," The Nation,
December 20, 1986.

    I welcome comments, criticism, discussion, forwardings, postings, etc.

    Jesse Lemisch   utopia1 at attglobal.net


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