Monday, September 01, 2014

Monday Movie on Labor Day ~ "I'm Alright Jack"

As it's Labor Day, a memory of a British movie touching on the topic of "the workers" from back in the the late 1950s. I'm Alright Jack. It was produced and directed by the Boulting Brothers.

Back then the British film industry was just beginning to find its metaphorical feet, after World War 2. The Boultings gave us many a satirical look at life. In I'm Alright Jack, a brilliantly funny depiction of both the excesses of trade unionism and the corruptness of the captains of industry. Messages from the storyline are still appropriate today in Britain, even more so in the USA.

Corrupt corporations have taken the place of corrupt individual bosses from the ranks of the aristocracy and upper classes. Trades unions, though, have been de-fanged over the years, by conservative governments, leaving the people, the workers, without recourse to right wrongs perpetrated upon them.

In I'm Alright Jack Ian Carmichael played Sidney Windrush, returning from military service, forced to work on the shop floor of his uncle Bertram's missile factory. The controversial appointment was part of an elaborate scheme hatched with partner Sidney Cox (played by the late Richard Attenborough) to secure a lucrative Arab arms deal. But while the pair are confident Windrush's presence will upset the unions, Peter Sellers' character, shop steward Fred Kite, gives them more than they were hoping for.

I found myself feeling miffed when, watching the movie, some time ago, my husband muttered scornfully, "That was exactly the problem - trades unions!" He was duly corrected!

What other avenue did we "the people" ever have? What power do ordinary people now hold? None, except for their votes at election time, votes which can be manipulated by the power of money, and don't seem to mean a whole lot these days.

I found myself envying people of the 1950s, when ordinary folk found their strength in the union movement. Eventually, they did take things too far - human nature once again. It led to their downfall at the hands of the Margaret the Dreadful (Thatcher) in Britain, and various conservative administrations in the USA.

Unions were the tool of the workers. Now they have no tool at all. In the USA, even more so than in Britain, "the people" need to reclaim their power and attempt to de-fang the corporations. But how could that come about?


Jefferson's Guardian said...

Here's a step in the right direction. We might not be able to de-fang the corporations, but hopefully we can cut their legs out from under them. But, like every meaningful and lasting movement, it'll take everyone's involvement and participation.

Wishing all a peaceful and reflective Labor Day...

Twilight said...

Jefferson's Guardian ~ It will! Many more will need to come to their senses first, too many decades of potent mind manipulation has addled more than a few brains - even including the best of 'em.

A peaceful day to you too J'sG. :-)

mike said...

Unfortunately, this post-recession (or is it current recession?) recovery finds most employees happy to have any job. The unemployed are disenfranchised from the discussion and most aren't even being counted in the unemployment statistics, as they've been out of work too long. Many of the employed don't have the older version of a 40-hour-a-week job, as they are now holding several part-time positions without benefits.

The USA now excels at service-sector positions in our post-industrial economy. The financial sector has become our most profitable industry, with its new version of too-big-to-fail socialism-capitalism bail-outs and hand-outs from the taxpayers. I've not seen any recent numbers that reflect our wartime spending on terrorism, but the war and security industry may have exceeded the financial sector at this point.

We do have a "labor union" in the USA and it's a consortium of corporations and politics, which is a pendulum-swing from back in the good ol' days, when the unions were run by the mobsters.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, I realise that we're in a very different situation these days, union-wise. It's a situation come about partly due to lack of union/people strength and determination over a long period. This is what "they" (the powers that be, bankers, corporations, 1% etc.) must have been aiming for for a very long time - a weakened populace.

US unions run by mobsters gave the union movement a bad image here, I understand this. It's another piece of unintended, and very unfortunate, mind-manipulation that has played into things as we now find them.