Sunday, August 27, 2006


CHRIS KRAUL LA TIMES - In his classic 1936 film, "Modern Times," Charlie
Chaplin has to work so fast tightening bolts in a steel factory that he
finally goes crazy. In a memorable scene that has become a metaphor for
labor exploitation, the Little Tramp is run through the factory's
enormous gears. For President Hugo Chavez's socialist government, the
film is more than just entertainment: It's become a teaching tool. Since
January, in a bid to expose the evils of "savage capitalism," the Labor
Ministry has shown the Chaplin film to thousands of workers in places
such as this rundown industrial suburb of Caracas.

When the screenings at factories or meeting halls end, Labor Ministry
officials then take their cue, and use Chaplin's plight to spell out
worker rights under occupational safety laws passed last year and now
being applied. They are part of Chavez's sweeping reform agenda that he
calls Socialism for the 21st Century,0,

WIKIPEDIA - Chaplin's political sympathies always lay with the left. His
politics seem tame by modern standards, but in the 1940s his views (in
conjunction with his influence, fame, and status as a resident
foreigner) were seen by many as dangerously radical. His silent films
made prior to the Great Depression typically did not contain overt
political themes or messages, apart from the Tramp's plight in poverty
and his run-ins with the law. But his films made in the 1930s were more
openly political. Modern Times (1936) depicts the dismal situation of
workers and the poor in industrial society. The final dramatic speech in
his 1940 film, The Great Dictator, which was critical of blindly
following patriotic nationalism without question and his vocal public
support for the opening of a second European front in 1942 to assist the
Soviet Union in World War II were controversial. In at least one of
those speeches, according to a contemporary account in the Daily Worker,
he intimated that Communism might sweep the world after the war and
equated it with "human progress".

The speeches, along with his unwillingness to support the war effort
(apart from the service of his two sons in the Army in Europe and a film
openly mocking Hitler's regime), added to his growing political
problems. The critical view of capitalism in his 1947 black comedy,
Monsieur Verdoux led to increased hostility, with the film being the
subject of protests in many US cities. As a result, Chaplin's final
American film, Limelight, was less political and more autobiographical
in nature. His following European-made film, A King in New York (1957),
satirised the political persecution and paranoia that had forced him to
leave the US five years earlier (one of the few films of the 1950s to do
so). After this film, Chaplin lost interest in making overt political
statements, later saying that comedians and clowns should be apolitical
and "above politics". . .

During the era of McCarthyism, Chaplin was accused of "un-American
activities" as a suspected communist sympathiser; and J. Edgar Hoover,
who had instructed the FBI to keep extensive secret files on him, tried
to end his United States residency. . . In 1952, Chaplin left the US for
what was intended as a brief trip home to England; Hoover learned of it
and negotiated with the INS to revoke his re-entry permit. Chaplin then
decided to stay in Europe, and made his home in Vevey, Switzerland. He
briefly returned to the United States in April 1972, with his wife, to
receive an Honorary Oscar. Even though he was invited by the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Academy Awards), he was only
issued a one-time entry visa valid for a period of two months. However,
by this time the political animosities held by the American public
towards the now elderly and apolitical Chaplin had faded, and his visit
was a triumphant success.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are many brilliant pieces written from a more scholarly point of view defending the administration of President Chavez and trying to educate our corporate-owned, media-misled citizenry about the politics, economics and civil society of Venezuela. Most recently and notably, an article by Jeff Cohen entitled “Go to Venezuela, You Idiot.” So, instead of writing a scholarly piece, I would like to make some personal observations about the regimes of George Bush and Hugo Chavez.