What on earth was director Julia Reichert thinking at Sunday night's Oscars?
"American Factory" is a very good documentary, backed by Barack and Michelle Obama, about the growing and shrinking pains that result when a Chinese company takes over a former General Motors manufacturing plant in Ohio. Its lesson, to the extent there is a clear one, is that in a tough global economy, employees must find new ways to bridge cultural divides, save their unions and protect their jobs.
When Reichert and her team took the stage to accept the statuette for best documentary, she said a few smart-enough things about it being tough out there for workers in a world of multinational corporations and rising automation.
She then ended her remarks with this sentence: "Workers of the world, unite!"
Remedial education alert: This is, word for word, the call to action made famous by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their Communist Manifesto. Anyone who says it uncritically is either utterly ignorant of its unmistakable context or actually urging the overthrow of free markets and capitalist economies across the planet via a worldwide revolution of workers against those who control the means of production.
For an Academy Award-winning director to cap her acceptance speech with those words, at a moment when Republicans breathlessly and in most cases baselessly warn of socialists taking over the Democratic Party, is a caricature straight out of right-wing dreams.
Reichert is a believer in unions, as are we. She clearly believes that, at the plant in question, workers have lost valuable leverage because management is hostile to unionization. She's right to be upset about that.
But she cannot possibly be leaping from that to a call for global Marxist revolution. Can she?
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