Oct 12, 2009
When Michael Moore drives an armored car up to AIG headquarters in his new film – Capitalism: A Love Story – the moment sticks with you. He asks AIG to give back the hundreds of billions of federal bailout money. We laugh, because we know they never will. Besides, all that money wouldn’t fit into that dinky armored truck!
Moore’s film shines light on the last two years of financial meltdown.
He shows economic sharks with no awareness of their ludicrousness.
A damning internal memo from banking giant Citigroup describes how companies take out secret life insurance policies on workers, setting themselves up to profit from working employees to death.
On the other hand, he shows ordinary people who are ground up by events but refuse to suffer in silence. They share their stories.
Moore shows people fighting back. He filmed some of the December 2008 workers’ factory occupation at Republic Windows in Chicago.
He shows neighbors organizing in south Florida to put an evicted family back into their own home.
Moore gives insight into his own political views. He shows footage from his childhood. He says he came to politics wanting to be an “activist priest” like Daniel Berrigan who protested the Viet Nam war.
To him, the problem is not as much capitalism, but simply the losses of the recent decades. He holds up the period after World War II as a kind of golden age for workers, using the example of his father, who worked on the line for GM at Flint. He says that in the 1950s, “A lot of people got rich – and they had to pay a top tax rate of 90%.”
The film illustrates how the policy of “partnership with the corporations” has devastated workers’ standard of living.
Some say Michael Moore doesn’t offer any solutions in the film. He does. Moore recommends: laboring at a worker-owned company, voting for progressive Democrats or waiting on Obama.
But the way workers gained a better standard of living in the past was not by depending either upon politicians or on enlightened corporate schemes. They gained by engaging in wide social struggles. Moore shows footage of the enormous Flint sitdown of 1936, when workers occupied the factories. But workers throughout the Midwest followed after Flint. This wider struggle rocked capitalist society. The capitalists had to improve wages, benefits and conditions. The great flaw of the film is that this wider struggle is not mentioned.
But what the film does do is raise a lot of the problems and issues confronting us all.