Anatomy of a resistance struggle

    LABOUR: A long period of de-industrialisation gives way to a decaying landscape through the decline of a mining community.
    Work, or to Whom Does the World Belong
    Director: Elisa Cepedal
    Producer: Aida Gaitero
    Country: Spain, UK

    «Down with dictatorships, long live the strike,» is a slogan of resistance that once resounded through the anti-fascist underground in Asturias in the north-west of Spain, a rugged territory with large coal deposits. The people there have been heavily shaped by the mining industry and the exploitation of their labour in a harsh subterranean environment by the machinery of capitalism, a dynamic set out in Work, or to Whom Does the World Belong, which screened at Porto/Post/Doc and Doclisboa and was made by a local of the region, Elisa Cepedal.

    Vanguard of revolt

    Workers in Asturias have in the last century been at the vanguard of revolt for better working conditions (in 1919, pressure by strikers led to it having, at seven hours underground, the shortest working day in Europe — gains countered by a 1934 government anti-strike law, and the confiscation of socialist newspapers). A male, British narrator takes us through a chronology of its mining industry and the surrounding political tensions, and offers ideological musings on the power clashes from a leftist perspective — an approach that feels somewhat distant and academic, but manages to capture the global significance of on-the-ground action of solidarity in this remarkably politicised labour force.

    Workers in Asturias have in the last century been at the vanguard of revolt for better working conditions

    Also spliced into the film is a substantial excerpt from the 1932 German film Kuhle Wampe or Who Owns the World?, directed by Slatan Dudow and written by famed Marxist thinker and playwright Bertolt Brecht, set in a ‘30s Weimar-era Berlin of spiraling unemployment, in which a debate on a crowded train turns on scarcity economics, the price of coffee in Brazil and the global financial crisis. Only those who don’t like the world, rather than the wealthy who are fine with the status quo, can change it, . . .

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    Carmen Gray
    Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
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