( – promoted by buhdydharma )
A young British communist travels to Spain to defend the the Republic and finds himself in a militia composed largely of anarchists and PUOM members ( independent Marxists ). The main character initially embraces the philosophy of collectivism and revolution now until an injury causes him to re-think his position while in convalescence. He decides to reject the cause of his lover ( an anarchist ) and join up with the better armed communist fighters. A battle between the two factions occurs and he ultimately goes back to his old militia partially no doubt to return to his lover.
There are two scenes in the movie that resonated with me. In one, workers of a local village have a forceful debate about whether to instantly collectivize a former land owner’s property. Their argument is simple: it is the only way to ensure that everybody eats. One man argues against it, essentially saying the land he works has produced because of his labor. The village wants to institute the principles of revolution immediately. Several militia members participate and one of the speakers cautions against it saying that it is wiser to fight against the forces of fascism, and worrying about the actual revolution later.
Later toward the conclusion of the movie, the militia is confronted by the communist forces and ordered to join up and put down their weapons. A verbal confrontation leads to an armed one and the results are predictable, a few defiant militia members are killed and the rest concede.
Loach’s vision is obvious: that the mainstream communist forces in Spain betrayed possible revolution and were more than willing to sacrifice the idealistic aims of the anarchists, independent Marxists, and peasants. Clearly, this is a simplistic view, neglecting the reality that the world community was reluctant to intervene save Mexico and Russia, and ultimately the Nationalist forces had an actual professional fighting army.
Americans joined the international effort in the Abe Lincoln Brigade and Canadians formed the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. A memorial to the Abe Lincoln Brigade was dedicated in San Francisco this year.
It seems astonishing today that motivated people would join up to fight against Fascism with little government backing, on the spot training, and little to gain personally when we live in a world buffeted by things that keep us from a distance from one another and from all those ungrateful foreigners who just don’t appreciate Americans.
And I cannot help but contemplate Loach’s mournful message of betrayal. I am almost glad I cannot vote and while I would support the Dem candidate and I agree that is the pragmatic and most realistic goal for now, I must ask: how long am I expected to do this?
A presidential Dem must by virtue of being forced to appeal to the vast middle, betray progressives, shy away from any discussions about class and race lest they fuel the right. Americans don’t want change. They want reassurance. Obama for all his talk of hope and change is really a milder version of Reagan (minus some of the retrograde policies ), making people “feel good” because in the end that is what Americans want.They want to feel good. Clinton, for all of her blather about experience, brings experience that still assumes American supremacy. Both of them want to maintain hegemony.
Progressives are constantly reminding one another that the preventing the ascension of McCain takes priority over all else. Makes sense. But what if McCain wins even if I make my paltry donations? I won’t call myself a Dem, not truthfully that I ever did.
I blame the Republicans for the sorry state of our union not the Dems. But. I blame the Dems for being quislings, cowards, corporate appeasers, for constantly ignoring the American people and for making them think things will be different. The absolute best I can hope for is a less rightist Supreme Court if he or she wins and who knows if I can even trust them on that?
Progressives, independent leftists,and independent thinkers who don’t fit easily into a box will all be betrayed for pragmatism in the end. Pragmatism will create the illusion that we have set a new course.
There is some conventional wisdom in politics that leftists critique from the left and end up governing from the right. In other words they tend to be great in opposition. Not that we will ever find our here in the United States. The Democratic party is afraid of the American people, the Republican party just despises them.
Maybe Ken Loach was engaging in revisionist and naive fantasy history when he suggested that the worker rebels were betrayed and punished both by fascists and communists and that they ever had a hope of fashioning their vision. A realist would agree.
The realist in me expects very little even if we get a Dem president. Better than the alternative, but still a bitter stew.