[Marxism] Fwd: Divided We Fall | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jan 29 14:05:27 MST 2017

If victorious strikes by teamsters in Minneapolis in 1934, by San 
Francisco dockworkers the same year and auto workers three years later 
in Flint define the rise of the American working class as a powerful 
force to be reckoned with, three confrontations between labor and 
capital in our lifetime mark its retreat.

In 1981 Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 airline controllers who had gone out 
on strike as a signal that the partnership between labor and capital was 
a thing of the past. Four years later, the meatpacking workers organized 
as P-9 struck Hormel in an effort to maintain the good-paying jobs with 
generous benefits that were seen as essential for a decent middle-class 
existence. With the defeat of P-9, jobs at Hormel and other meatpacking 
jobs became non-union, low-paying and dangerous with a predominantly 
immigrant workforce made up in large part of vulnerable undocumented 

While not a strike as such, the union-led struggle in Madison, Wisconsin 
of 2011 was launched to prevent teachers and other public service 
employees from being “Hormelized”. When Governor Scott Walker introduced 
a bill in January of that year that would cut wages, benefits and 
eliminate dues checkoff—a mechanism that is essential to keeping a union 
functioning in a closed shop environment—over 100,000 people took part 
in a “kill the bill” movement that adopted many of the tactics of the 
Occupy Wall Street movement that erupted a couple of months later.

For those not old enough to have bitter memories of the P-9 strike, I 
recommend tracking down Barbara Kopple’s 1990 film “American Dream” that 
unfortunately is nowhere to be seen on VOD but that can be borrowed as a 
DVD from better libraries, such as Columbia University’s. Kopple is also 
the director of “Harlan County, USA”, another documentary about labor 
struggles, in that case a 1973 strike by coal miners in the legendary 
pro-union county that voted 8-1 for Donald Trump in November.

Kopple has declined in recent years, stooping so low as to make a 
documentary about Woody Allen in 1997 and following up with a docudrama 
about the Hamptons in 2002 that was a Yankee version of British soap 
operas like Upstairs/Downstairs or Downton Abbey.

Fortunately for us, a new Barbara Kopple has emerged, namely Katherine 
M. Acosta, the sociologist and obviously politically advanced director 
of “Divided We Fall”, a film about the Wisconsin labor struggle that I 
had the good fortune to watch yesterday. For now, the film has not found 
a distributor and hopefully this review will inspire some enterprising 
party to invest in this film that is equal to Kopple at her best and 
moreover a story that demands the attention of everybody trying to 
understand how we have ended up with an orange-haired baboon in the 
White House determined to throw us back to the 1880s. Essentially, the 
defeat of the public workers struggle in Wisconsin involved all of the 
players and all of the contradictions that led to the defeat of Hillary 
Clinton and the nightmare we are now living with.

full: https://louisproyect.org/2017/01/29/divided-we-fall/

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