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Film review - Capitalism: a love story
By Michael Moore
Reviewed by Dan DiMaggio, Socialist Alternative, USA
Michael Moore's new film Capitalism: A Love Story opens with a simple message: "Capitalism is evil," and must be replaced with a system that puts the interests of ordinary people over profit.
Moore calls this movie "the culmination of all the films I've ever made." In his previous films, he focused on specific industries like health insurance (Sicko) or corporations like General Motors (Roger & Me). But in Capitalism, Moore shows how the problems we face are systemic, rather than the product of a few bad apples or a handful of evil corporations.
Capitalism: A Love Story will expose to millions the realities of a system which has only one goal: the short-term maximisation of profit. The significance of this - a major filmmaker denouncing capitalism in front of an audience of millions in the most powerful capitalist nation in the world - should not be lost. While Moore does not provide a clear alternative, he forces open a popular debate on the need to transform the entire social system.
Moore interviews families facing foreclosures and layoffs. He exposes the "Dead Peasant" insurance policy, through which giant corporations take out life insurance policies on their employees, usually unbeknownst to the workers or their families. If a worker dies, these companies collect tens of thousands - or even millions! - of dollars, while the family is left to foot the bills for medical and funeral expenses.
At the end of the film, Moore concludes: "Capitalism is an evil, and you can't regulate evil. You have to eliminate it, and replace it with something that is good for all people." Yet, he avoids putting forward a coherent alternative.
Moore counterpoises his call for real "democracy" to the anti-democratic character of capitalism. As he told Democracy Now, "The wealthiest 1% [of Americans] have more financial wealth than the bottom 95% combined. When...1% essentially not only own all the wealth, but own Congress, call the shots, are we really telling the truth when we call this a democracy? You and I have no say in how this economy is run."
While highlighting the need for struggle from below, and calling for an alternative to capitalism, Moore avoids calling himself a socialist. However, the film does highlight the growing interest in socialism among Americans, and points out the recent poll showing that among people under 30, only 37% say they "prefer" capitalism to socialism, while 33% prefer socialism and 30% are unsure. What this 30% understand by 'socialism' is probably less certain.
Unfortunately, Moore himself stops short of calling for a political alternative to the two-party system. Despite criticisms of Obama's economic team and some of his policies, Moore treats the president with kid gloves. He supported Obama's campaign in 2008 and even helped create false illusions in his policies. This was despite Obama's support for the bank bailouts, opposition to 'single-payer' health, and call to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan.
Moore ends the film with an appeal for people to get active in building movements against the corporate domination of our society. It is an appeal that could certainly catch on, given the anger bubbling up beneath the surface in US society.
To anyone interested in building a fight back against capitalism, I urge you to join the Committee for a Workers' International, the world socialist organisation to which the Socialist Party and Socialist Alternative are affiliated.
A longer version of this review is available on the website of the CWI in the US - socialistalternative.org
In The Socialist 28 October 2009:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party reviews