The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Culture Corner:
The Crime of the Century & Dopesick & the Stone Face

Oct 25, 2021

Movie: The Crime of the Century, 2021

A documentary and a miniseries, both released in 2021. The first is an HBO documentary by Alex Gibney called The Crime of the Century. It relates the crisis created by pharmaceutical companies pushing opioids, mainly Oxycontin, to treat “pain,” causing rampant addiction of millions and hundreds of thousands of deaths, and which continues to haunt us to this day. It relies on detailed interviews of experts and whistleblowers, leaked documents, company videos and damning testimony.

Miniseries: Dopesick, 2021

The miniseries, Dopesick on Hulu, is a dramatization of the same crisis and stars Michael Keaton. It personalizes the story by focusing on a small rural coal mining community, the same type of area Big Pharma first targeted when it started pushing opioids as a “non-addictive pain medicine.” Both films expose how Purdue Pharmaceutical and others got FDA approval to aggressively sell, for billions in profit, a heroin-like opioid pill by getting doctors to freely prescribe it.

Both films aptly demonstrate that this whole scam was a crime, and companies should not be able to just pay a fine and get off.

Book: The Stone Face by William Gardner Smith, 1963.

William Gardner Smith was an African American author and a journalist, and he used his life experiences as the basis for his novels. His novel The Stone Face tells of a young man who grew up in South Philadelphia, a working class neighborhood, and who, at the hands of racists, was attacked and lost an eye.

To escape the culture of racism, violence and hate in this country, in 1961 he moves to Paris, France. He joins a community of others who have escaped to Paris: writers, artists, those damaged by racism or Nazism, some famous such as James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Chester Himes.

While at first it was liberating, he can’t help but notice the pervasive social and economic racism of the French toward the Algerians, who did hard and undesirable work for low pay and lived in slums. He bears witness to a massacre of Algerians in 1961 in Paris, in which the French police massacred hundreds of peaceful demonstrators.

This novel poses the question: can one truly escape from the violence and hate of this world, or does one have to decide to fight? Reissued this year, it finally getting the acclaim that it has so long deserved.