31 December 2019

In David Harvey’s excellent Rebel Cities, he argues that organising communities beyond the narrow concerns of the working class provides the best hope for radical change. He points out that this has always been true, illustrating it by reference to an old film: “There is a wonderful film that was produced by blacklisted Hollywood writers and directors (the so-called Hollywood Ten) in 1954 called Salt of the Earth. Based on actual events in 1951, it depicts the struggle of highly exploited Mexican-American workers and their families in a zinc mine in New Mexico. … The awesome power of unity between gender, ethnicity, working, and living is not easy to construct, and the tension in the film between men and women, between Anglo and Mexican workers, and between work-based and daily life perspectives, is just as significant as that between labor and capital. Only when unity and parity are constructed among all the forces of labor, the film says, will you be able to win. The danger this message represented for capital is measured by the fact that this is the only film ever to be systematically banned for political reasons from being shown in any US commercial venue for many years. Most of the actors were not professional; many were drawn from the miner’s union. But the brilliant leading professional actress, Rosaura Revueltas, was deported to Mexico.” Salt of the Earth is streaming on YouTube.