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—Last Train Home & Deep River

Aug 21, 2023

Film: Last Train Home, a 2009 documentary, available for rent for $3.99 on Apple TV+.

Shot over three years, Last Train Home deals with the largest annual human migration on the planet—every single Chinese New Year, 130 million Chinese migrant workers leave the cities and return home to their rural villages. The film footage of the millions of workers migrating all at once are incredible. The movie puts a human face on this migration by showing the effects on a single family.

The workers leave remote rural villages to find work, and live in miserable barracks close to the factories, thousands of miles from home, and send the money home. By law, their children are not allowed to live with them. Grandparents raise the young. Obviously, this has a huge social impact on the family.

Before this, the families were living in abject poverty, so the parents feel they have no choice. They sacrifice at incredible cost to themselves and their families. But as the film poses, through the mouths of the children, what will the future bring?

Book: Deep River, by Karl Marlantes, 2019

Deep River is an epic immigrant story of mostly Finns, but also Swedes and Greeks, who settle in the Northwestern corner of the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th century. They work in incredibly miserable conditions logging the huge virgin trees of the Northwest, fishing in the rivers or in the ocean, or in the canning factories processing the abundant salmon. Life is hard, but it is the profit motive that drives the owners to never even provide clean straw to sleep on. The race for profits causes the companies to push workers past what’s safe, and people die or are lamed for life. You see the Wobblies (the Industrial Workers of the World) organize in the logging camps and factories. And you see the men and women who fought to build this country and gain a better life.