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Work Stoppage is going to the movies! In this first episode of a new series, we check out some classics of labor cinema, Matewan and Cradle Will Rock. Matewan tells the story of one of the most famous battles of the Appalachian Mine Wars of the early 20th century which would culminate in the Battle of Blair Mountain shortly after. Covering the struggle of workers in West Virginia to unionize, it gives audiences a window into the absolute tyranny of the coal companies and the level of violence they were willing to use to try and prevent the unions from organizing the mines. Cradle Will Rock recounts the development of the play of the same name by the Federal Theater Project during the great depression. In whirlwind fashion, the film covers the anti-communist witch hunt to purge the Federal Theater Project, the collusion between the US ruling class and fascism, and the struggle for artistic freedom under capitalism. We discuss the themes of the films and how we can use them as agitation tools in our organizing. On future episodes, we’ll discuss many more examples of labor cinema and how we can use them to help make workers’ struggles and their history relatable in our fight to build unions today.
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