Plutocracy, by filmmaker Scott Noble, is the first documentary series to comprehensively examine early American history through the lens of class.
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"Absolutely brilliant on numerous levels, Scott Noble’s Plutocracy is the story of the American working class… I look forward to the day when this series will become part of the historical education available to every new member of the labor movement, to teach the next generation of activists the lessons of our history, and to arm them for the future."
- Sharon Smith, Labor Historian, Author Subterranean Fire: A History of Working Class Radicalism in the United States
Part I, "Divide et Impera" focuses on the ways in which the American people have historically been divided on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex and skill level.
Plutocracy: Divide et Impera (Divide and Rule) includes sections on Mother Jones, the American Constitution; the Civil War draft riots; Reconstruction; Industrialization; the evolution of the police; the robber barons; early American labor unions; and major mid-to-late 19th Century labor events including the uprising of 1877, the Haymarket Affair, the Homestead strike and the New Orleans General Strike. The introduction examines the West Virginian coal wars of the early 20th Century, culminating in the Battle of Blair Mountain.
Part II, "Solidarity Forever," covers the late 19th Century to the early twenties.
Part III, "Class War" focusses mostly on the WWI period.
Part IV is titled "Gangsters of Capitalism." Scott Noble writes of Part IV:
"More than any other entry in the series so far, this film is directly relevant to current events. With some notable exceptions, most of the strikes I covered in parts 1-3 merely set the stage for the next phase of labor struggle -- they didn't usually result in triumphant victories. Oftentimes it was more a case of one step forward, two steps back. Here, I cover a number of militant, highly organized and often ingenious labor actions that collectively compelled great changes at the state level. We can thank these activists for the very existence of the American middle class. I should also stress that Gangsters includes some truly remarkable and harrowing footage of labor strikes and battles between workers and police (especially during the pivotal year of 1934), much of which was only made available in the last few years."
Part V is titled, "Subterranean Fire."
About part 5, Scott writes, "Subterranean Fire is my longest film to date, a full two hours, divided into three parts.
All of the entries in the series were designed to be self-contained. In other words, you needn’t have viewed the previous films to enjoy the latest.
The new documentary focuses mostly on the 1930’s to 1950’s – arguably the most important period in modern American history. These decades included the Great Depression, the peak of labor militancy in 1937 (probably the closest the US has come to a popular revolution since 1787), the rise of the “guest worker” phenomenon, the counter-attack against labor unions, the creation of the military industrial complex, the rise of the FBI, the foundations of the civil rights movement, and the purging of radicals from organized labor and public life.
For those who think this is ancient history and not particularly relevant, you will be surprised to see the many parallels to current events. The film is particularly relevant insofar as it explains how American unions were rendered more and more powerless, leading ultimately to neoliberalism and a general lack of effective working-class resistance.
The subject matter of the Plutocracy series is not exactly light and fluffy. It’s frequently very dark, because it’s an accurate telling of the American experience. I’m not Ken Burns. But I’ve also tried to focus on some of the many inspiring episodes of American history: stories of ordinary people coming together and fighting back against incredible odds. Part V includes a section on the incredible sit-down wave of 1937, focusing extensively on the auto industry.
I’ve also ended each film on a positive note. In part I it was the New Orleans general strike of 1892; in part II it was the Lawrence Textile Strike, etc. I end part V with the current resurgence of strike activity. Although the situation looks rather bleak, we witnessed more American strike activity in 2018 than any year since 1986. We also saw the largest strike in human history occur in India.
At this year’s Milken Institute conference (basically a gathering of billionaires), one hedge fund manager warned that they either had to reform capitalism or face global revolution. There are interesting times ahead.
Thank you again to everyone who has donated or otherwise contributed to my work.
If you would like to see my films continue please consider donating to my fundraiser."
Scott Noble is currently seeking donations to fund his next film series. If you'd like to help, you can donate to his Patreon account or via his website.