April 16, 2009

Video review: “The Prologue” from the Passaic textile strike

this is the first in a series of video reviews on films about strikes.

This film was made in 1926 and is silent. This video only shows the opening prologue. It is a melodrama explaining conditions of the workers at the struck woolen mills. The rest of the movie contains documentary footage of the picket lines, police beatings and other aspects of the labour actions. According to the IMDB website, the cast played themselves and the production crew were made up of members of the communist party. (Ironically the IMDB site had sponsored links to union busting outfits).

You will see in the title sequence “An International Worker's Aid Picture.” Affiliated to that was the Workers Film and Photo League. Two reels were thought lost to time. However, in 2006, the Communist Party USA donated a vast collection to New York University and among the collection were reels and reels of film. Two of them included the lost footage which at present is in the process of restoration.

Passaic by the way, is in New Jersey. And sadly, the strike was lost due to various problems like an attack by the at that time racist craft unionism of the AFL and red-baiting. It did have a silver lining of, breaking the company unions then in place, and forcing the hand of the AFL. These lessons were remembered in the 1930s

more on the strike: http://www.weisbord.org/Passaic.htm


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