Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 25, 2009

Capitalism: a Love Story

Filed under: Film,financial crisis — louisproyect @ 7:28 pm

Despite its formulaic quality and despite some very dubious politics, I have no problem recommending Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: a Love Story”. Since there are so few movies (or television shows) that reveal the human side of the largest economic crisis since the 1930s, we must be grateful to Michael Moore for his steadfast dedication to the underdog. Except for Andrew and Leslie Cockburn’s American Casino, a documentary that covers pretty much the same terrain as Moore but without his impish humor, there’s nothing out of Hollywood that would give you the slightest inkling of the scale of human suffering.

There are two passages in “Capitalism: a Love Story” that I found particularly compelling. As an erstwhile analyst of airline deregulation, I thought that Moore’s interviews of a couple of low-paid regional airline pilots effectively illustrate how capitalism puts profits over human needs. One pilot was forced to go on food stamps while another had to take additional jobs to make ends meet. As Moore puts it, he would not want to step foot in a jet plane piloted by somebody making about the same money as a fast food employee. Other pilots, who are higher up on the salary scale working on nationwide routes, tell a similar tale of woe. After losing pensions and taking drastic pay cuts, they stick with their profession for the love of flying.

One of them is US Airways pilot “Sully” Sullenberger III, the hero who taxied his plane into the Hudson River, seen testifying before a packed audience in Congress about his rescue mission. But once he starts talking about the corporate attacks on airline workers, the politicians begin to sneak out like rats. He eventually ends up talking to a bunch of empty seats. This image–worth a thousand words–is Moore at his best. Another powerful image is the wreckage of a regional carrier Colgan Airline jet in Buffalo, New York from last February that cost 50 lives. Shortly after the plane crash, the NY Times reported that co-pilot Rebecca Shaw drew an annual salary of $16,200 a year and once held a second job in coffee shop. Both Shaw and the pilot were undertrained and exhausted much of the time. But it hardly mattered to Colgan if it remained profitable. If this isn’t an argument for socialism, I don’t know what is.

Since so much of the current crisis involves the housing market and its injustices, Moore hits a home run by demonstrating how politicians are bought off by the big players in the industry, especially Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage broker. He interviews an assistant to CEO Angelo Mozilo, who administered the “Friends of Angelo” program. This was a way of allowing elected officials to get discounted mortgages, including Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat with populist pretensions. As was the case with “Sicko”, there has been a major PR effort on behalf of the capitalist class trying to undermine Moore’s reporting. If you Google “Mozilo” and “Michael Moore”, you will find thousands of articles emanating from the same source that try to clear Dodd’s name as well as discredit Moore’s other claims. This one from Yahoo news is typical:

THE FACTS: Dodd has acknowledged that he participated in a VIP program at Countrywide, refinancing loans on two homes in 2003. One was a 30-year adjustable rate loan for $506,000 with an interest rate of 4.25 percent and a fee of 0.45 percent. He also got a 30-year adjustable rate mortgage for $275,042 with an interest rate of 4.5 percent and a fee of 0.73 percent.

Both interest rates and fees were within industry norms for that time, according to data provided to the AP by Bankrate.com.

Last month, the Senate’s Select Committee on Ethics cleared Dodd and Kent Conrad of North Dakota of getting special treatment on the mortgages. But the bipartisan panel also said the senators should have “exercised more vigilance” in their dealings with Countrywide to avoid the appearance of sweetheart deals.

One has to chuckle about the idea of a Senate Select Committee on Ethics clearing Dodd and Kent Conrad, another pig at Mozilo’s trough. It reminds me of how when the New York Police Department “investigates” an incident of police brutality, the malefactor is always cleared as well. The best tribunal for Dodd and company is the nation’s movie theaters where there are no special interests, except a desire to see bad guys nailed by the famous radical movie director.

I also got a big kick out Moore’s attempts to bust into the offices of AIG, Goldman Sachs and other financial corporations that received tax-payer bail-outs. As a former employee of Goldman who walked through the gilded doors at 85 Broad Street for about 2 years in the 1980s, I had to laugh at the spectacle of the bearish, baseball-cap wearing Moore trying to weave through security guards and into the lobby of by now the country’s most despised corporation.

Like “Roger and Me”, “Capitalism: a Love Story” contains autobiographical material about growing up in Flint, Michigan as the son of an auto worker. Moore’s father, who is still alive, escorts the director to the site of the auto parts company that employed him. Now it is nothing but a two mile wide vacant lot. Nowadays, the main industry of Flint is sending out foreclosure notices to the victims of the latest economic upheaval. Moore observes that the United States is rapidly turning into one big Flint, Michigan.

For Moore, the 1950s were a kind of Paradise Lost for the American working class. His father enjoyed four weeks of vacation every year and had enough money to participate in the post-WWII consumerist bonanza. Except for Jim Crow and the occasional imperialist war such as Korea or Vietnam, this was an unblemished society. Like many young people coming of age in the 1960s, Moore was deeply affected by these blemishes, so much so that he seriously considered becoming a Catholic priest, following the example of a Phillip Berrigan.

Moore’s revelations about his early religious leanings clarified for me what kind of compass he has been using from the very beginning in his career as a documentary maker. He has a deeply moralistic sensibility that is most often reflected as a kind of yearning for a more innocent and more egalitarian America, symbolized by his father’s good fortunes as an auto worker and the New Deal.

Although some critics have compared Michael Moore to Charlie Chaplin, I associate his moralism with the movies of Frank Capra, especially “It’s a Wonderful Life”. With the banks in his gun-sight, Moore evokes the struggle in this movie between an idealistic banker James Stewart and the evil banker Lionel Barrymore. There is a strong sense that Moore’s problem with capitalism is not that it is based on a class system per se but that it has broken a social contract established during the New Deal. His enemies are of course the Republicans but also the Democrats who abandoned FDR’s vision, starting with Jimmy Carter who is seen delivering a speech in 1979 with these words:

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

Moore understands that the business about “piling up material goods” was a green light for American corporations to cut wages. What better way to get workers to become more spiritual than to reduce their earning power, after all.

Unfortunately, the Capraesque vision is ill-equipped to explain exactly why Flint and other rust belt cities hemorrhaged jobs from the 1970s onwards. Or why the banking sector was deregulated in a kind of New Deal reversal, leading to the marketing of derivatives and securitized mortgages. Were such decisions ultimately a failure of leadership at the top, when businessmen stopped behaving like good Christians?

There are glimmers of understanding in “Capitalism: a Love Story”. In one key segment, Moore shows exactly why General Motors earned the kind of profits that allowed his family to live well. He shows footage of the devastation in Japan and Germany following WWII. No wonder so many people bought Chevrolets. The competition had been bombed into rubble.

A real examination of the capitalist system would be far more systemic than Moore is capable of delivering. It would lead to the devastating conclusion that the groundwork for prosperity in such a system is war and nothing else. Periodically the system has a deep convulsion that leads to millions of deaths. If the current economic crisis is as intractable as the Great Depression, then the logical outcome would be a new global bloodletting with the unleashing of nuclear weapons. If this sounds suicidal, you must remember that an Adolph Hitler was ready to sacrifice every German life for his mad quest to build a thousand year empire. With the US in a far more prosperous state today than 1920s Germany, it is still capable of churning up the kind of madmen hounding Barack Obama. Imagine what this nation would look like if the unemployment rate ratcheted up to 20 percent.

There is one scene toward the end of “Capitalism: a Love Story” that really piqued my interest. For Moore, the formation of the UAW was a key historical step forward, an insight that naturally would come to somebody growing up in Flint. He reveals that his uncle was a sit-down striker in 1937, one of the biggest labor struggles of the 1930s. For Moore, a key element in winning union recognition was FDR’s deployment of the National Guard to Flint. Supposedly, FDR—unlike other presidents past and future—saw the National Guard as a pro-working class force. In February 1937, for the first time in history, the Guard protected strikers from the Flint police on FDR’s instructions and the battle for union recognition was won.

I have an interest in Flint labor history as well, mostly as a comrade of the late Sol Dollinger, a long-time UAW member and revolutionary socialist. Although not a participant in the sit-down strikes, Dollinger was married to Genora Dollinger who was a leader of the Woman’s Emergency Brigade in Flint in 1937. She was known as Genora Johnson at the time, married to Kermit Johnson at the time, a strike leader and socialist like her.

Sol Dollinger’s “Not Automatic”, a book about the Flint strike that depends heavily on Genora’s papers and recollections, paints a somewhat different picture from Moore’s. I reread Genora’s report on the sit-down strike, which is contained verbatim in Sol’s book. I also looked at the chapter on Flint in Art Preis’s “Labor’s Giant Step”, a book I read shortly after joining the Socialist Workers Party in 1967, Jeremy Brecher’s “Strike!”, and N.Y. Times articles from February 1937. Here is what all this material adds up to, from my admittedly far-left-of-center perspective.

To start with, the decision to send in the National Guard was made by Governor Frank Murphy, a Democrat who did have strong New Deal sympathies but those sympathies were not exactly in sync with the deepest aspirations of the strikers. Murphy’s intention was to get the strikers out of the factories and not to defeat General Motors. He hoped for a peaceful settlement of the strike and negotiations at the table. To put pressure on the sit-in, the Guard was instructed not to allow food to be sent into the factory. To my knowledge, the same pressure was not applied on the men and women who owned General Motors, who continued to enjoy three square meals a day.

Not long after the Guard was mobilized, Genora Johnson formed an Emergency Brigade of women who not only put their bodies on the line but dramatized the willingness of the entire community to come to the aid of the workers. Workers flowed into Flint from all around the industrial heartland in caravans, each one ready to confront any armed force that would be used against workers, either the local police or the National Guard. Additionally, many of the National Guardsmen were workers themselves who could not be relied on to shoot fellow workers. All in all, Murphy had to step gingerly around what was arguably the greatest display of working class militancy in the 1930s.

Flint auto strike, Genora Johnson at 2:33

The role of women in the formation of the UAW

To give some credit to Moore, he certainly does understand the need for such actions. A fairly lengthy portion of his film is shot in Chicago at Republic Windows, where workers were being screwed out of severance payments after the owners decided to shut it down. They sat in, determined to force the bosses to pay what was owed to them. However, in keeping with his tribute to FDR, Moore makes sure to credit the candidate Barack Obama who said that the workers deserved what the company owed them. At the time, many leftist supporters of Obama interpreted this as the second coming of FDR. In a way they are correct insofar as FDR came into office with the same loyalty to the big bourgeoisie as Obama. It was only the militancy of a desperate working class that forced him into taking a modicum of progressive actions.

However, these actions in and of themselves were not sufficient to break the back of unemployment. It took the hellfire of WWII and the cranking up of the arms industry to finally have the stimulus effect that led to postwar prosperity and all the rest that looms so idyllically in Moore’s memory. Humanity can not afford another cataclysm like this in order to sustain a consumerist economy that will eventually lead to ecological crisis of a scale never experienced before. In critical times such as these, it takes a deeper and broader vision of society than that found in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It will require a willingness to break with class society and go deeper into the roots of the crisis than any Hollywood producer might be willing to bankroll.

UPDATE

How Goldman Sachs bankrolled “Capitalism: a Love Story”

46 Comments »

  1. Capitalism is what made America Rich, powerful, created the middle class, enabled us to send men to the moon, to save Europe from catastrophe twice and stop the Russians cold. Unions and socialism do not create wealth or foster new invention and they did not make us rich. They tie down, strangle and suffocate innovation, creativity etc.
    Lets keep that in mind.
    There are abuses in any system and Capitalism is a living, breathing adaptive system that people will constantly try to work around so there needs to be some oversight but you can’t put a pillow over it head and expect it to thrive.

    Comment by smokedsalmoned — September 25, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

  2. We all know what killed the American auto industry was bad quality cars. This is a dead argument. If you want Flint Michigan back, you know what to do. We should all question Capitalism, particularly if we aren’t getting a good return on investment. And I think that’s Moore’s point. One that I wholeheartedly agree with. Ayn Rand started this mess with some idealized version of Capitalism that everyone pretty much knew would never work because it doesn’t account for human nature. But the Capitalists have had a hay day and it’s time we bring back some reality.

    Comment by woodie — September 25, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

  3. Thanks, Louis, for another great review. Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek gave it a typical “liberal” brush-off, complaining at length about Michael Moore and barely even touching on the content of the movie. I should know better than to read her reviews after she convinced me to go see the latest Indiana Jones movie.

    Comment by nate — September 25, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

  4. Suppose you just keep the party line in mind for your ownself, smokedsalmoned.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — September 25, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  5. I don’t really want to get into a discussion about cars here, but in 1973 I bought a Dodge Dart Slant 6 that was a *great* car. It was far more dependable in fact than the Datsun I bought 4 years later. That’s the kind of cars Detroit should have built. Rugged, dependable, good gas mileage and easy to repair.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 25, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

  6. This review also makes a good point of the documentary being a bit dated, it doesn’t touch on the teabagger/tea party protests: http://www.avclub.com/articles/capitalism-a-love-story,33310/

    As I’ve said time and time again, we need a socialist backlash, but the folks at the 9/12 protests are too scared of it: they’re actually rooting for capitalism no matter what they say about economic issues.

    Comment by Jenny — September 25, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  7. Innovations quite often are publicly funded and then privately appropriated. I get as sick hearing about
    all this innovation crap as I do hearing about how efficient private enterprise is or how great small business is. All a big crock of shit. I’ll bet that for every great innovation funded entirely by private capital (and I won’t even talk about how profits are themselves the result of the exploitation of workers, that is, those who actually make things), I can give fifty examples of how the pursuit of private property has led directly to serious social problems (death of workers, death of the environment, etc.). Wnat to take me up on this smokedsalmoned?

    Comment by michael yates — September 25, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  8. Moore’s film at least takes views critical of capitalism to the mainstream. Socialists need to do more of this. I wish folks like Louis, Yates, Henwood et al would start putting content on sites such at Huffpost. I am just a lurker here but couldn’t keep myself from chiming in. Loved Yates’ response to smokesalmon.

    Comment by Ed — September 25, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

  9. Well, I am as much a fan of lox & bagels as the next guy, but when this smokedsalmon chap tells us that:

    “Capitalism is what made America Rich, powerful, created the middle class, enabled us to send men to the moon, to save Europe from catastrophe twice and stop the Russians cold. Unions and socialism do not create wealth or foster new invention and they did not make us rich. They tie down, strangle and suffocate innovation, creativity etc.”

    I would point out (as Mike Yates has already done) that that almost everything smokedsalmon mentions was funded by the Federal government rather than by the private sector. It was not private companies that organized the missions to land men on the moon, nor was it private entrepreneurs who waged either the Second World War or the cold war (although they profited immensely from both). Smokedsalmom might wish to take notice that even the Internet was originally an initiative of the Pentagon, originating as the ARPANET in the late 1960s.

    Comment by Jim Farmelant — September 26, 2009 @ 12:57 am

  10. Well done!

    Comment by JRB — September 26, 2009 @ 1:29 am

  11. It was on marxmail that I read that Moore’s ‘production company, Dog Eat Dog Films, refuses to sigh a union contract with any of the IATSE locals that supply his below the line workers, which include cinematographers and editors’. Have you seen any confirmation of this allegation?

    He has also screened ‘Capitalism: a love story’ at the Toronto International Film Festival, whose City to city program this year is part of the Brand Israel project and which conscientious filmmakers are boycotting.

    That alone is sufficient to erode trust and undermine the message of the film, much moreso if the anti union allegation turns out to be substantiated.

    Comment by Ernie — September 26, 2009 @ 1:55 am

  12. Made America Rich… as if America is one homogenous entity. Some Americans became rich yes, now many Americans are becoming poorer because of the drive to enrichment. Yeah capitalism is making China rich too, though the worker making 50 cents an hour in an overheated factory may not feel so prosperous.

    Comment by SGuy — September 26, 2009 @ 5:42 am

  13. Looks like smokedsalmoned got smoked!

    Comment by Razor — September 26, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  14. I saw a screening of this film, with MM in person there.

    He was asked about a labor party, why he doesn’t split with Dems. He replied he was too old to start a new party. He recommended taking the Dems over.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — September 26, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  15. Great review Louis.
    That “1937” video sent tears to my eyes. How wonderful it would be if we could see the militancy and courage of those workers and their family members again pick up the banner of justice.

    Comment by Joanne Gullion — September 26, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  16. I think the whole goldman sachs aspect makes it a bit more noble.

    And Joanne, the spirit is still alive, I give you the G20 protests from yesterday: http://leninology.blogspot.com/2009/09/g20-protests.html

    Comment by Jenny — September 26, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  17. It’s interesting to me the aspect that deals with moore’s catholicism. I’m from michigan and my father told me that when he was younger he was very liberal in his beliefs and considered becoming a priest. Later in life he became much more conservative. I’ve always found it odd that there was a time in america when being religious meant you were politically progressive.

    It should be said that the religious right in America is a largely a protestant affair and that Catholicism is the U.S. has often been more open to socialism. I’m an atheist, but I think it’s important to know that there plenty of strands within religious movements that are open to socialism.

    Comment by Dave — September 26, 2009 @ 7:08 pm

  18. I believe the “crawl” on TV ought to specify the yearly earnings of the newscaster or talking-head currently on-screen … “Kati Curic’s salary at CBS is $20 million a-year” or “Keith Olbermann is employed at MSNBC under a 4 year, $16 million dollar contract”… and likewise, at least somewhere in every Michael Moore movie, it should indicate Mr. Moore’s net worth together with his gross earnings from his previous film. You see, capitalism really is a love story and we all know that means never having to say you’re sorry.

    Comment by Richard Greener — September 26, 2009 @ 9:36 pm

  19. Well Lou

    Another great blog. I am especially grateful to your for the short films about the 37 strike. It was a deeply moving experience for me to see the grace of remembering being bestowed on the traditions of working class courage, solidarity and sacrifice. It was an instance of our weak messianic power as Benjamin called it. By remembering we repay the debt we owe because of the bravery and the suffering of those who came before us.

    The soldiarity and the courage of the working class and their capacity for sacrifice are the only antidotes to capitalism. That remark may sound to some like something out of Orwell’s 1984 where Winston Smith writes: “If there is hope, it lies in the proles. If they could become conscious of their own strength, they would have no need to conspire. History does not matter to them”. The difference however is that Orwell from outside the working class could not believe that they were the revolutionary class. However even given the current passivity of the workers and the corruption of their leaders, they are still the only grave diggers of capitalism.

    As for their current passivity, it will not last. I have no doubt at all that the working class will again eventually decide to turn and fight and we will then see courage, sacrifice and solidarity once more aplenty. However that glorious day will be only when the working class’ current options of retreat, accommodation and quiescence threaten their very survival.

    Re Moore: he is of course a populist and shares all the strengths and weaknesses of that particular ideology. You point out the weaknesses pretty well, but the strengths have also to be taken into account. He can articulate what is in the hearts and minds of working class people. His creation of the character “Michael Moore” has also been a work of genius. He has had the talent of akidoing the powerful and letting their arrogance and venality shine through. He is a true performance artist who in stunt after stunt manages to expel the powerful from the fold of humanity. The little I know about indigenous American dissent is that it takes the form of populist radicalism, and Moore does appear to be operating from within that tradition.

    In the meant time Moore’s films make a contribution and not least at the level of nurturing a potentiality for a different politics. By contrast here in Australia the default setting for dissent is not a radical populism such as Moore’s but left liberalism and that has made all the difference as a right wing poet once said.

    regards

    Gary

    Comment by Gary MacLennan — September 26, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

  20. I took a far more critical view of the film than you did. What he did was good, because there is no one doing anything critical of the system itself. But I had many, many problems with this film an I will just highlight 3.

    1. “For Moore, the 1950s were a kind of Paradise Lost for the American working class…Except for Jim Crow and the occasional imperialist war such as Korea or Vietnam, this was an unblemished society.”

    Thats like saying that except for slavery and genocide, the 17th century was great for humanity in America. One of the really critical aspects of understanding capitalism, that he failed to highlight in any way, is that great wealth on one side, is the product and producer of enormous suffering for hordes of people on the other. Jim Crow & Imperialist wars were not peripheral events to Moore’s woking class white america, they made it possible.

    2. Barrack Obama comes out looking like a hero. He said a few kind words to some striking workers and he promised change. Now he gets completely absolved from the fact that he hired the same financial industry insiders to regulate the game all of their just screwed up. Then senator Obama stood on the floor and Michael Moore even tried to turn the fact that Obama got more wall street money into a positive thing.

    3. Dude where’s my socialism? If you dont have a basic conception of what socialism is before the movie, you certainly don’t have one when its done.

    These are my 3 biggest complaints, but there are many many others.

    Comment by Kai — September 27, 2009 @ 4:29 am

  21. “He recommended taking the Dems over.”

    Gosh, where have I heard that before?

    Comment by The Spanish Prisoner — September 27, 2009 @ 6:11 am

  22. I doubt the real Moore is as naive about class analysis as the character Michael Moore he plays. After all these years in class struggles around Michigan, you can be sure he has been informed of it by many Marxist groups and commentators like Lou. I know personally that he was involved in the plantclosing struggles in Detroit and Flint, 25 years ago or so, and there was plenty of class analysis in the rallies and left newspapers and media then. He live through the sixties and seventies , too.

    I guess one could say “so what ?”. I’m thinking he has decided that his “Capitalism is evil” and “we must replace it with democracy” line that I heard him deliver in an interview on the movie on one of the major network morning shows last week is the most left position that a great mass of Americans might be able to get to. Of course, it is also likely that a basic socialist or communist position would not long be allowed to reach the mass audience that his films are allowed to reach. What would be naive would be to think the US powers-that-be are now tolerant of Communist free speech. Moore is getting away with being about as left as one can be as a major public journalist.

    His contrasting capitalism with democracy is not a bad formulation in this reality.

    Comment by Charles — September 27, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  23. By the way, Hugo Chavez emphasized his belief in Jesus in his UN speech. He also said Marx and Engels are still correct in the Manifesto in a smaller meeting reported on to “our” email lists.

    Comment by Charles — September 27, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

  24. […] I’ve heard about it have been mostly good. (You can find Louis Proyect’s review here.) I will no doubt go to see it. I must, however, admit to having some feelings of trepidation. […]

    Pingback by When Moore is Less « The Spanish Prisoner — September 28, 2009 @ 8:14 am

  25. Well I always thought a good short-hand way of describing socialism/marxism is as the democratic control of the economy. Not deep, I know, but it gets the point across. It seems is Mike Moore is doing the same.

    Comment by Christo — September 28, 2009 @ 11:05 am

  26. And as I think about it, it is extraordinarily advanced to pose to an audience as large as Moore’s the notion that capitalism _as a system_ is no good.

    Comment by Charles — September 28, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

  27. Kai is right on the money, so to speak. No matter how well they may expose various “excesses” of the system, “populists” like Moore just can’t get supporting “progressive” Democrats out of their system. Or see the need for an alternative one, i.e., socialism. Where’s my socialism? you ask. I’ll settle for Moore, who was Nader’s most bellicose supporter for most of the 2000 campaign, calling for independent working class politics. Who can forget his pathetic act on late night TV in 2004 when he got down on his knees and begged Nader not to run against Kerry. And who was he campaigning for last year, none other than Wall Street’s errand boy Obama…even after he endorsed the bail-out with more enthusiasm than McCain did. I also seem to recall Moore threatening not to support any candidate who didn’t support national health care around the time “Sicko” came out.

    And talking about FDR’s sending in the National Guard as helping to win the Flint sit-down strike? Give me a break. As if they were sent in to help the strikers defend themselves against the cops. The truth is that John L Lewis told “New Deal” Democrat Murphy that if he sent the guard against the strikers, he personally would be in the front lines, “bearing his breast” as a target, and that Murphy should prepare himself to accept the consequences of such a “progressive” action for himself and his party. Needless to say, that had a little more impact on the settling of the strike in the workers favor than anything the New Dealers said or did.

    Granted Moore can and will reach a hell of a lot more people than any of us can, and he can talk to workers in a language they can understand (unlike most of the middle class academic radical milleau), the content of what he says does count for something. Remember a fellow who led a lot of workers (and peasants) back in 1917 once said something to the effect that without revolutionary theory, there ain’t gonna’ be any revolutionary practice. Well with this kind of “theory” to guide people, we’ll still be practicising for years to come.

    Comment by MN Roy — September 28, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

  28. No, we woun’t forget the sins of Moore, why should we? his groveling for the dems in 2004 and 2008 was a very disappointign spectacle, which lead some radical columnist to accuse his documentary making altogether, someone actually had the audacity to accused his Fahrenheit 9/11 of antisemitism (the negative portrayal of the Saudis) and even secret Zionism (for he indeed failed to mention the Israel Lobby factor in the driving for war in Iraq), I’m not sure, but i think it was Alexander Cockburn, i may be terribly wrong, in that case my appologies to A.C.
    But why should we condemn him when he’s actually doing something that non of us could pull off in a 100 years? Capitalism? a system? so it’s not just “freedom” we’re living in? It’s not just commie propaganda to take offence in Capitalism and want to replace it with something better? there’s anything better than capitalism? isn’t capitalism=freedom?
    Michael Moore says and shows you that Capitalism is not a nice word, its not a positive system to live by.
    Most USAmericans are very much in the dark when it comes to these things unlike say… Germany.

    Comment by Michael T — September 28, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

  29. The problem is, we on the left are always willing to accept anything just because there is nothing that we really want on the menu. But the whole point of being a radical is to say, this SHOULD be on the menu and this is what I want!! He talks badly about capitalism, but he really focusses on the more egregious examples which obscure the point to me. Any system will have people who misuse, absuse, or take advantage of weaknesses. Thats not the point, because if thats the only problem, then you make reforms to fix the loopholes.

    He should have began with his great childhood and contrasted that with to other side of town, where capitalism was being so racist, and brutal to his family’s black counterpart.

    Capitalism ought to be eliminate dbecause when it operates at it’s most gentle, it is murdering, starving and exploiting millions of people. The fact that he could have a nice life is a direct result og genocide and centuries of slavery. THats why. Not because window works got mistreated or because companies take out peasant insurance. If we fixed those things capitalism still sucks. Capitalism is the reason our prison system is the largest in the world, even without the egregious example of the two Penn. judges.

    The bottom line is he never made a powerful case for why capitalism needs to be eliminated, he never made any case for what it needs to be replaced with, he made a case for reform of the capitalist system. Healthcare for all happens under capitalism all over the world, just not here. Jobs for all would be a great reform, and could be a step towards a hint of socialism. But he’s not radical, his ideas aren’t radical, and Obama is not about real change, period end of story.

    This film can be used to have an important discussion about capitalism, and I’m glad he made it, but its politics, and grasp on history are really really shaky.

    Comment by Kai — September 28, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

  30. I haven’t yet seen the film wholefully so i wouldn’t comment on details. The thing is that alternative criticisms of Capitalism ARE on the menu, all kinds of criticisms, Anarchist, Communist, Fascist, whatever you can imagin. Look up on Youtube.
    The problem is that this is it, they are watched mostly by the converted, who nod their heads, save for the criticism here and there, and move on. Those documents/documentaries have little hit range.
    It seems clear to me that Moore isn’t making movies for Marxists, he’s making movies for Americans, those same Americans who raised him and were his friends and neighbours during his formative years in Flint. Those signify working class Americans that he obviously has strong familiarity with.
    The working class in the US haven’t existed as a force independent from the bourgeoisie since the late 30s, he cannot talk to them as if they were French workers.
    He follows the tradition of left wing populism, and so far, his hit range obscures all “radical socialists” put together.
    again, i haven’t seen the film in its entirety yet so i save any criticism of content.

    Comment by Michael T — September 28, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

  31. Yes, I agree he’s making movies for Americans in the year 2009, that is workers who obviously don’t have the same level of understanding as French workers do today…or American workers did in the 1930s, the same ones who made the sit-down strikes shown in the film. Only those workers (like the workers in Minneapolis, San Francisco and Toledo before them) were led by SOCIALISTS who understood that capitalism itself was the problem and that all the fine words of a Murphy or an FDR (and they were a lot finer than anything that that pompous condescending yuppie in the Oval Office today has on offer) were so much more wool to pull over the workers’ eyes. After a massacre or two, even leaders like John L Lewis were no longer buying. If they were led by the likes of a Michael Moore or any of the other “progressive” superstars of today, they would have went back to work and waited for the Democrats to do something for them instead in the name of “Anybody But Landon” or some other greater evil just like the anti-war movement gave up the streets for the voting booth at the behest of UFPJ.

    The kind of “populism” that Moore espouses and which sees the Democrats as a “lesser evil” and never gets beyond attacking the “excesses” of the system is part of the problem, not the solution. It may be great as a starting point for the millions who never come into contact with the “left” and who will hopefully see it but if we don’t get beyond it, we won’t be going anywhere other than were Obama and his liberal-left cheerleaders want us to go…or rather stay, within the confines of the Democratic party.

    Comment by MN Roy — September 29, 2009 @ 1:03 am

  32. I agree with Michael T here: despite his remaining support for Obama, Moore has a good starting point, you need to approach it from practical, sympathetic terms as opposed to philospohical terms which is what Moore is doing.

    Comment by Jenny — September 29, 2009 @ 1:19 am

  33. Wait a minute. The fact that some pilots make very low salaries is a good argument for socialism?! Why? Are these pilots being forced to work these jobs for this pay? No. They are not slaves. And anyone who is educated and bright enough to be a pilot could get a number of other jobs if they wanted to. They could come and be a cubicle monkey with me if they want. But no, they *chose* that job. With that pay. And can quit anytime. And it’s not like flying a smog spewing plane filled with middle class people who paid for plane tickets is exactly charity work. So why are we outraged..?

    Comment by Annie L. — September 30, 2009 @ 4:50 am

  34. What a shallow blame the victim argument there Annie. Why dont we extend it, sure tobacco companies push a harmful product but noone has to smoke! sure a car company may sell an unsafe car but nobody has to drive it! Suppose they find the cubicle job has crap pay, or has been downsized or outsourced. Suppose they want to be pilots, I don’t know what that charity comment is meant to mean, many charity workers don’t get paid. We are talking about valued work here, why cant they get a decent remuneration for it?

    Comment by SGuy — September 30, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

  35. Wait.. so educated, bright people who have chosen a low paying position are now suddenly “victims”? If they want to be pilots, they can be pilots. If they want to make money, they can select a different job or seek out a pilot position that makes more money.

    And actually, there are many unsafe cars on the road. Small sports cars and convertibles come to mind. And what about motorcycles? Very unsafe. Should all small cars and motorcycles be made illegal, to protect the “victims” who have chosen to drive these vehicles?

    My point with the charity comment is that being a pilot isn’t about helping the poor or anything like that. Airplanes are very bad for the environment. Planes aren’t even ridden by poor people. So if pilots decide not to be pilots because the pay is so low, and as a result we have fewer planes in the air, who cares?

    Michael Moore seems horrified that there are some pilots that make only a little more than a fast food worker. Guess what.. in pure socialism, pilots (and all professions) would be making little more than fast food workers. That’s kind of the point of socialism. Look at Cuba, each person gets government issued salary of about $200 per month regardless of their job.

    Do you think pilots should be raking in much more cash than fast food workers? That’s capitalism.

    Comment by Liz — September 30, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

  36. SGuy,
    Brilliant argument! Giving someone cancer = voluntary contracts between adults. Genius math — I’m sure the day you develop cold fusion is just around the corner.

    Comment by ryan — September 30, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  37. Liz, with your argrument you can also say that bus drivers can go out and seek a higher position in the transport industry if he wants better pay, what’s stopping him/her? They have been given responsibility on the lives of tens of people at a time, they’re surely qualified.
    In socialist countries people can sustain themselves pretty well with 200$ a month, but cuba isn’t only a socialist countrie, it’s a country under seige and a 40 year old blockade.
    In America, you have monumental medical bills that are about second highest in the world.

    Comment by Michael T — September 30, 2009 @ 6:41 pm

  38. Am I imagining things, or are comments disappearing?

    Surely a Marxist wouldn’t believe in censorship!?!? Wait a second …

    Comment by ryan — September 30, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  39. Im sorry ryan but um isn’t smoking a choice? It seems a lot of people treat it that way, indeed you’ve got people getting all teary over encroachments on the ‘freedom’ to smoke. That was my point ignoramus, that freedom under capitalism isn’t all its cracked up to be. Yes I used one example of capitalist abuse to illustrate another, i don’t doubt that grabs your goat.
    Im sorry liz you’ve illuminated nothing. Of course they are, they’ve had shitty conditions imposed on them, why can’t you understand that? Oh yes its environmentally bad but so is practically everything. Funny you talk about cars, they’re contributing more pollution then planes at this point in time. It is however work in demand in our current society and yes it needs some education so why cant it be remunerated like so many others? I can imagine that if you were on food stamps in your current job you’d be pissed, would the option to just ‘quit’ be all the panacea you need?
    Do you fly by the way? a few less planes, I think a lot of people would care. I think all workers, whether fast food or pilots should not have to abide on food stamps. Don’t pretend you care about the poor when capitalism is a system which creates poverty and finds great utility in it and its obvious you are defending it. Those who truly care well remember the phrase ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’.

    Comment by SGuy — October 1, 2009 @ 3:41 am

  40. I have been following this thread with some amusement. What an embarrassment to all socialists these extremely naive comments are. I would like to point out that the same people who argue that international trade is what’s making people in other countries poor ALSO argue that what’s making Cuba poor is the trade embargo. Which is it?? Is trade making people poor? Or is NOT trading making people poor??

    “it’s environmentally bad but so is practically everything”? Oh, really? Everything is as environmentally bad as a 500 ton jumbo jet? so we should embrace cars and planes since “everything is bad anyway?” We should encourage more people to drive more trucks and cars and planes by making the government pay them more, because we’re just embracing the smog and loving it? Uh, ok…

    Comment by Sam E. — October 1, 2009 @ 5:14 am

  41. Actually Sam E what we say, if fuckers like you bothered checking, is that the way trade is performed creates poverty. This is so typical of mediocre capitalist apoligsts, in manichaen fashion you either support trade as is or you completely oppose it.
    Guess what capitalism as a whole is an environmentally destructive system. To single out air flights as was done in a shallow hypocritical fashion accomplishes nothing but trying to put a progressive gloss on contempt for screwed over workers. Not once does anne or whatever her name is confront the bosses who run the airlines. Is that magic solution then, fuck over workers to save the environment? Has the massacre of the auto workers in the US done a great service in the cause of averting Global Warming?
    You fuckwits all come over so smug thinking you have a gotcha. All you got is the proof of your own ignorance. Im not in the least amused at you anti-worker fucks!

    Comment by SGuy — October 1, 2009 @ 7:25 am

  42. http://metrotimes.com/screens/story.asp?id=14402

    Comment by Charles — October 1, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

  43. Are you a true Marxist? Or a Neo-Marxist? I see alot of people calling themselves “Marxist” but then not following his teachings when it does not suit them.

    Comment by eye4knowledge — April 17, 2010 @ 7:27 am

  44. […] few years. Ferguson’s movie covers some of the same ground as Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: a love story” and Leslie Cockburn’s “American Casino“  but with a lot more power and […]

    Pingback by Inside Job « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — September 24, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  45. —-COP OUT!

    Moore’s surely a skilful, if predictable, film-maker who knows how to go for emotive sequence programming
    routines.

    What he’s not is deep or thorough —or even very daring in the REAL sense.

    He challenges NONE of the underlying assumptions of this USURY driven ‘money system’ itself.

    He doesn’t even bother to point out the UN-Constitutional nature of teh FED—even as he literally visits the document!

    Finally, how can he even pretend to be looking at the planned takedown of America without once
    mentioning the outrageous agendas of the 4 decades on Globalist RED China set up, sellout and
    world TREASON OP?

    THIS is the REAL REALITY behind our dismal franchise slum surface.

    —Sorry Michael —this flick is decades stale in its breakdowns.

    Comment by Ymus Anon — December 29, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  46. […] Moore understands that the business about “piling up material goods” was a green light for American corporations to cut wages. What better way to get workers to become more spiritual than to reduce their earning power, after all.Read More:https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/capitalism-a-love-story/ […]

    Pingback by humdinger jimmy: reckless pedestrian years | Madame Pickwick Art Blog — October 29, 2012 @ 7:38 pm


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