The Working Class Goes to Heaven

Final Friday Film Series
a continuation of The Anti-Bourgeois Film Series

La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso
Italy, 1971, 125 Min
DIRECTED BY Elio Petri
CAST Gian Maria Volontè, Mariangela Melato, Gino Pernice, Luigi Diberti, Donato Castellaneta, Giuseppe Fortis, Flavio Bucci, Ezio Marano, Adriano Amidei Migliano
MUSIC Ennio Morricone

If this Italian drama were any less well told, it would come off as a pure union propaganda piece. Instead, it is a worthy film for the director who made the acclaimed film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. In any manufacturing situation, it simply doesn’t pay to be the fastest and hardest working person on the assembly line. In the first place, you probably can’t keep up the pace you’ve set. In the second place, you make all your co-workers a) look bad and b) have to work harder; they will not thank you for this.Lulu Massa (Gian Maria Volonte) is a highly productive worker at a factory paying piece work but is disliked by his colleagues as his efficiency is used by management to justify their demands for higher output. While employees are told to care for and rely on their machines, they see radical students outside the factory campaigning for higher pay rates and less work. Lulu lives with Lidia and her son. He puts his lack of interest in sex with her down to the pressures of the job.

Lulu loses a finger in a work accident, which the workers blame on the faster times. Shocked, he adopts the students’ analysis and takes strike action to end piece work, against the unions’ policy, which is for simply an increase in piece work rates.

During that time, he visits a colleague who shows him not only the error of his own ways, but the horror of his whole working situation. When he goes back to work, Massa tries to organize a union.            –adapted from the allmovie guide, 2011is

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Class, Race & Gender

Contemporary Capitalism and the Limits of Identity Politics
Six-week session with Dan Karan

The ongoing debate between those arguing for either a class- or identity-based politics has led to a tragic split between forces that ultimately need to come together if each is to realize its goals. But should this even be an “either or” question when considered from the vantage point of trying to build an effective anti-capitalist movement struggling for the liberation of those exploited and oppressed by capital?

What may be surprising to some is that this split is not new and in the U.S. has roots that go back to the nation’s founding if not before. And, in the 19th century, while the Civil War is often referred to as the “second American Revolution” it was really during Reconstruction, the period just after the Civil War, in which a “self-emancipatory” moment opened as former slaves, working class whites and women struggled to realize the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” held out in Declaration of Independence. Yet divisions along class, race and gender lines sealed Reconstruction’s defeat. Why and how was this potentially revolutionary moment defeated and what should this history teach us about the strategies and tactics that the left needs to employ today?

To explore these issues of the intersection of class, race and gender in the US and the consequences of not being able to overcome the divisions that capitalism reinforces and exploits for its own purposes this class will read David Roediger’s recent book on Reconstruction: Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All. This class will be the first in an ongoing series that explore questions of the relationship between class, race, gender and sexuality and how we overcome the divide between those exploited by capitalism and create a genuine anti-capitalist movement of liberation for all.

Dan Karan is a “red diaper baby” born into a communist household (his father worked as an organizer for the Communist Party and both his parents were members for roughly 25 years until leaving in 1956 along with many other comrades in response to Khrushchev’s “On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences” speech about Stalin). Dan’s political activism began at the age of 2 when his parents took him to the 1963 March on Washington. For the last 30 years he has worked for NYC nonprofit housing and community development organizations. He is a proud graduate school dropout who has been studying Marxist theory for more than 4 decades.

Dan Karan is a “red diaper baby” born into a communist household (his father worked as an organizer for the Communist Party and both his parents were members for roughly 25 years until leaving in 1956 along with many other comrades in response to Khrushchev’s “On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences” speech about Stalin). Dan’s political activism began at the age of 2 when his parents took him to the 1963 March on Washington. For the last 30 years he has worked for NYC nonprofit housing and community development organizations. He is a proud graduate school dropout who has been studying Marxist theory for more than 4 decades.

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Tales of the 1%: The Organizer

In turn-of-the-twentieth-century Turin, an accident in a textile factory incites workers to stage a walkout, which becomes a long strike, developing into an occupation. The capitalists summon in the army. The organizer (Marcello Mastrioanni) rallies the workers, converting fear into strength through collective action.

The Organizer is a dramatically political statement from director Mario Monicelli. More commonly known for lighter films like Big Deal on Madonna Street, Monicelli created an expression of the necessity of collective action that is both gritty and entertaining. In making this period piece about a factory strike in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Turin (the rapidly industrializing Italian city that would come to be called “Italy’s Detroit”), Monicelli strove for the utmost realism, casting the film with actual workers and shooting on location in one of the area’s huge textile factories.

“I wanted to show all of that. The truth about what happens in the working world.”
—Mario Monicelli, interviewed in 2006

Discussion with the Capital Studies Organizing Task Force, workers and allies who gather frequently to study the three volumes of Marx’s Capital, in order to be concrete in our analysis of capital and to better inform the class struggles against capitalists and their collaborators.

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