Michael Moore plugs ‘Farenheight 9/11’ (Paul Morigi / Getty Images)
By LISA LUINENBURG
Michael Moore’s new documentary film, “Farenheight 11/9” debuted in theaters across the country on Sept. 21. The title of the film is a reference to the date on which Trump was declared the winner of the U.S. presidential election in 2016. And indeed, the first part of the film opens with a recap of the 2016 presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Moore admits with pride that he campaigned for Clinton during the election. Later in the film, Moore briefly interviews Bernie Sanders and then shows him handing off the victory in the primary elections to Clinton. And although he does show that some of the primary election results were doctored to go in Clinton’s favor, Moore fails to mention that this was the strategy of the Democratic Party all along—to rope those who are demanding major social changes, and those leaning in favor of a socialist society, back into the heart of the Democratic Party.
Moore does profile three mass social struggles during the film—the battle for clean and safe drinking water in Flint, Mich., the recent wave of teacher’s strikes in West Virginia, and the school shootings in Parkland that sparked the mass school walkouts and protests against gun violence.
Although Socialist Action would differ with Moore’s analysis of the gun control debates (see the article “Build a Movement Against the Violence of this System!” published in socialistaction.org in April) this section of the movie was, in my opinion, the best and most moving.
Moore interviewed key organizers in each of these social struggles and clearly showed how Governor Rick Snyder and local corrupt government officials in Flint had betrayed the people of that town and poisoned thousands of children with lead, then covered up the test results. He even went so far as to show how President Obama had downplayed the demands of the people of the town, repeating the message that the water was safe to drink rather than addressing the actual causes of the contamination.
Although Moore does include some criticisms in his film of former Democratic presidents, such as Bill Clinton’s slashing of the welfare system in the 1990s, there is no deeper analysis present. Moore mentions that over 100 million people in the U.S. didn’t vote in the last presidential election, which is more people than voted for either of the two main candidates. But there is no discussion of how the two-party system is designed by the ruling class to keep the capitalist system in power.
In fact, during the entire movie, there is no mention of capitalism, socialism, or the class struggle today. While Moore does profile several candidates who come from out of the mainstream, such as Democratic Party candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—a member of Democratic Socialists of America—there is no mention of the candidates’ political affiliations and little discussion of their platforms. There is no discussion of what an alternative to the two-party system, or to capitalism itself, might look like.
Throughout the film, Moore highlights instead that it is Trump and his cronies in big business and the Republican Party, not the capitalist system, that is the root of the problems we are facing in the U.S. today. He goes so far as to make references to Trump’s being a fascist, even showing a clip of Hitler speaking to a crowd, taped over with Trump’s voice. He interviews several experts on fascism, implying that Trump is turning the U.S. into a fascist state and could easily become a dictator like so many others around the world. But is this true?
In our analysis, we would say that Trump is not a fascist but rather a tool of the ruling class who uses populist rhetoric and anti-immigrant scapegoating to appeal to those on the extreme right, or to layers of the white working class. Fascism is a tool that the ruling class uses to protect capitalism and crush the opposition when it is at risk overthrown by mass movements of the working class. As we know from history, if we were truly living under a fascist regime, socialists and other targeted groups would be persecuted and killed.
Although we live in trying times, and Trump’s attacks on immigrants and other layers of the working class should not be minimized, we are not currently living under a fascist state (see Trotsky’s pamphlet “Facism: What it is and How to Fight It” for a deeper analysis). Using the term “fascist” without a deeper understanding of what this term means obscures the real threats we face in the U.S. today.
Moore ends the film with the implication that we need more mass movements and protests in the street to fight against Trump’s rule. And what is his solution for the impending threat of Trump’s takeover of the U.S.? In a recent promotional e-mail for his new film, Moore states, “I’m convinced that once a nonvoter sees this film, they won’t be nonvoting this time around! … I want to see a tsunami of Americans at the polls on November 6th! This movie is my effort to help make that happen.”
Indeed, this is the main strategy of the Democratic Party today—to channel all the righteous rage of working-class people, like those in Flint or the teachers striking across the country, into a vote for another wing of the ruling class. And we will undoubtedly see this happening in a big way during this year’s elections in November. But this obscures the real root of all the attacks the working class faces today—the capitalist system.
And in the end, it won’t matter if we vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate in the next election. The results will be the same—ongoing imperialist wars across the globe, continued cuts to social programs, and deepening attacks against women, immigrants, LGBTQI people, and people of color. The only way to win a better world—a socialist society—is to build an independent party of the working class to fight for our interests, not the interest of the rich and powerful.