Plutocracy V: Subterranean Fire


The documentary charts the establishment of the labor unions in America as a response to the accumulation of wealth by capitalists and the poor treatment of workers. It highlights some major labor movement events of the 1920s and 30s and gives insight into the interplay between labor, race, politics and organization. It speaks to the founding of the labor movements and the radical ideas behind them.

During that time, organization became pertinent if workers were going to earn a livable wage or improve their general way of life. Unions allowed for organized action among exploited workers who shared one ultimate goal and desire to improve their standard of living and earn a livable wage. It seemed that organized cooperation on as large a scale as possible was the only way to accomplish this.

Support for the movement came in many forms. The documentary reflects on how writers and other artists presented workers as protagonists and represented a form of subtle resistance and defiance. Imperialists, fascists, and leftists chose their sides and in the post-war era, there was a brief period of economic boom. Still in the 1940s and post-WWII era, workers became more and more disadvantaged even as industries thrived. Politics played a huge role as well.

The deliberate fostering of cold-war paranoia led to McCarthyism. It created the perfect environment for Truman Doctrine and American interference in other State's affairs and it also went as far as targeting Hollywood, because anyone associated with or appreciating any content deemed communist was labeled as communists themselves.

The documentary also explores the initial radical ideas and "communist" leaders that led to the success of the union movement and offers commentary on the effects when they were arrested and eliminated. The movement was naturally permanently altered.

The basic worker's rights that exist today would not be there if not for the actions of the labor movement. Yet, it is clear there is more to be done and that could have been done. The film notes that today the richest people in the world own more wealth than the entire bottom half combined. It begs the question of how much change has actually been effected?

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