Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 7, 2017

Battlefield Poland

Filed under: Counterpunch,Poland — louisproyect @ 12:59 pm

Stalin and Ribbentrop

In a speech given by Andrzej Wajda to a conference on his work at the University of Lodz in 2001, he spoke about the importance of a national cinema. Given the near-hegemony of Hollywood, one might say that national cinema has seen its day. In the post-WWII period, a number of directors emerged who, paraphrasing Shelly, became the unacknowledged legislators of their nation. Satyajit Ray in India, the Italian neo-realists, Akira Kurosawa in Japan, Ingmar Bergman in Sweden and the French auteurs, all were shaped by their experiences of WWII and their hopes that cinema could help to form a new identity out of the ashes of bombed cities and the mountains of skeletons left behind by the fighting.

For Wajda, the challenge was not just speaking for the hopes of the Polish people but in helping to form a national identity that had been suppressed since the early 1800s. In a subsequent CounterPunch article, I will provide a guide to Wajda’s most important films that are relatively easy to access as Video on Demand (VOD) but in order to make sense of his work, it is essential to preface it with a brief overview of Polish history in order for a left audience to properly grasp the mission Wajda set for himself as a director.

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  1. “On May 3, 1791, the monarch approved a constitution granting democratic rights to its citizens, one that was the second in world history after the United States”

    Only if you don’t count the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Pylyp_Orlyk) that was written 80 years before either.

    Comment by Joe Kozak — July 7, 2017 @ 4:27 pm

  2. Thank you Mr. Proyect for the preservation of historical memory. I confess to thinking myself like a lot of politicized white people and obsessing about the Hitler-
    Stalin pact. The heroism of the Poles is commendable. Is there the issue too of the White Russians invading from Poland? Does not Solzhenytsyn show his colour on this question?

    Comment by Lawrence — July 7, 2017 @ 7:24 pm

  3. Louis, it’s a good work of critical history but you forgot to mention the pretty significant role that the Catholic Church played in Polish society and its rank anti-Semitism prior to WWII. Art Spiegelman’s MAUS does a very fine rendering of this.

    Comment by stew312856 — July 9, 2017 @ 10:51 pm

  4. I will deal with a lot of this in my next article on Wajda’s films, especially one titled “The Promised Land” that was never released in the USA because of its negative stereotypes of Jews.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 9, 2017 @ 11:29 pm

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