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:
American Midnight & Coal Miner’s Daughter

Nov 7, 2022

Book: American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis by Adam Hochschild, 2022

If people were asked, when was America’s period of greatest repression, few would answer “1917 to 1921.” The award-winning author brings this troubled and tumultuous time to life.

It was a time of uprisings: people organized against World War I, exposing it as an effort to colonize and divide up Africa and the Middle East. Industrial workers felt their power and attempted to strike and fight for a decent life. Black G.I.s came home from the war and were ready to fight a war for a better life here at home. Women were fighting for the vote, for their rights, and to legalize birth control. And workers in the Soviet Union had just made a revolution, which kicked out the rich rulers. They began to build a worker-run society.

The book tells how capitalist society responded: terror, torture, killings, jailings, deportations, surveillance, and a general revoking of all the rights we think we have. It is an incredibly important tale, full of courage and betrayal, important as we today face again the threat of a repressive wave.

Movie: Coal Miner’s Daughter, 1980

Loretta Lynn, the country singer depicted in Coal Miner’s Daughter, recently died at the age of 90. The movie is based on the book that is Loretta’s autobiography, of the same name. It was an incredible story: raised dirt poor in the hollows of Kentucky, daughter of a coal miner, married at 13, and mother of six kids by the time she was in her 20s. She started singing early on for herself and her family. Her husband bought her a pawnshop guitar for a wedding anniversary present. She taught herself to play, she started playing at local honkey-tonks, and she eventually rose to fame from there. Her music expressed her working class roots and its trials and tribulations, and her joy and pride in that culture.