[Marxism] La Commune

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Nov 5 11:50:14 MST 2006

I am very happy to report that Peter Watkins's "La Commune" is now 
available in DVD/Video. This six-hour film, which originally appeared 
on French television, joins Sergei Eisenstein's "10 Days that Shook 
the World," Gillo Pontecorvo's "Battle of Algiers" and Herbert 
Biberman's "Salt of the Earth" as a classic study of working people 
trying to win their freedom.

Perhaps its greatest achievement is the way it makes this 135 year 
old struggle relevant to more recent ones, which was clearly the 
intention of its director Peter Watkins. As I sat watching it at the 
edge of my seat, practically breaking out in a cold sweat, I could 
not stop thinking about my visits to Nicaragua in the late 1980s when 
the country like somebody hanging on to the edge of a cliff by their 
fingers. "La Commune" demonstrates that this is both the blessing and 
the curse of all revolutions. They are simultaneously great strides 
forward toward freedom and huge risks almost tantamount to Russian roulette.

Several years after the Sandinistas were ousted, Carlos Vilas, an 
Argentine sociologist and supporter of the revolution, spoke at a 
meeting in New York. I will never forget how he characterized it. It 
was like doctors in a delivery room with no electricity during an 
earthquake. When working people try to take power, they are not only 
faced with their own inexperience as masters of society, they are 
faced with the immediate hostility and open sabotage of the old 
ruling classes. I have never seen a film that conveys this dilemma as 
well as "La Commune."


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