No Workers Paradise

By Daisy Valera

The Working Class Goes to Heaven” by Elio Petri (Italy, 1970)
The Working Class Goes to Heaven” by Elio Petri (Italy, 1970)

A few days ago, as I was walking by the Charles Chaplin Movie Theater, one of the cinemas with the best films in Havana, I noticed that they were showing “The Working Class Goes to Heaven” by Elio Petri (Italy, 1970), as part of a screening of the best 50 movies of the 20th century.

The title drew me in and I got to see one of the most moving movies I have seen in years of wandering from one cinema to another.

The film mainly takes place in a car parts factory and the name of its main character is Lulu. “The Working Class Goes to Heaven”provides those who have never lived in a capitalist system insight into what the life of a worker is like, complete with all its nuances.

Lulu is portrayed as no more than a work machine, constantly producing for an absent owner. Stressed and tired, he has no option but to be chained to an auto parts machine.

He looses a finger and for sometime also his job.  For the first time he realizes the importance of having free time to spend with his son and being free of the three alarm clocks and other things that become completely useless.

Lulu is in crisis and thinks he is going crazy.  He fully realizes that his social system has burnt him out and dehumanized him.

However, he goes back to the factory, determined to resist.  In alliance with his fellow workers, he declares war on the system that makes him spend almost his entire life in a factory, practically as a slave.

When the movie ended, its images mixed in my mind with the experiences that some foreign friends have told me about their parents.  Their parents are like Lulu; they have two jobs and only six hours of free time.

So the experience portrayed in the movie happens in the majority of countries surrounding us.

The capitalist world is unable to satisfy humanity, it depends on the existence of an exploiting class and an exploited one.

The struggle to get rid of this system is not a matter of preference, but of necessity.

9 thoughts on “No Workers Paradise

  • Grady, excuse me, but the comparison you are doing is very naive. Again, you have NO IDEA. and remember that in Cuba probably more than 95% of the people HAVE to work for the government.

    I understand that you are not a mouthpiece of Socialism, but again, believe me when I tell you that someone who hasn’t experienced it has no idea of how Cuban society works.

    I find this post extremely simple and influenced by the Cuban government media. She seems to be more intelligent than that. I think Capitalism has a lot, a lot of very sad problems, but they are not compared with the system we have in Cuba.

  • Liset, actually I do kind of know what being a worker for the Cuban gov’t is. I’ve worked for government in the U.S. and have experienced first hand the alienation of most workers from interest in their jobs, the graft and corruption of supervisors, the disgusting nexus between business interests and gov’t bureaucrats where taxpayers are ripped off massively. I decided during my employment that this must be what being a worker under Marxian state socialism is like–although maybe not even as bad.

    There is a joke about alienated U.S. gov’t workers. It seems that one day a crew truck full of such workers left for their job site, but they forgot their shovels and had to lean on each other all day.

    I’m not an attorney of a mouthpiece for either Cuban state socialism or U.S. monopoly capitalism. What I hope for is freedom and workable, pluralistic, entrepreneurial socialism for both countries.

    Good luck to us all.

  • Grady doesn’t have any idea of what being a worker for the Cuban government is.

  • Grady, you make it sound like there’s a law against co-operative ownership in capitalist countries. That’s simply not true. I am a member of several Canadian co-operatives including a credit union where I do all my banking.

    And working for someone else does not make you a serf, modern or otherwise. Besides many public companies provide ownership shares to their employees as part of the overall compensation package. Does this mean these employees cease to be serfs? In my case, I work for a non-profit organization that isn’t owned by anybody because it’s set up on a non-equity basis. What does that make me?

  • Daisy, under capitalism the small entrepreneurs and large corporations own the workplaces. The workers/employees own only their ability to sell themselves for work. This lack of ownership makes the life of most citizens–well-paid or poorly paid–sort of like modern serfs.

    This was supposed to be changed by socialism. In the original, pre-Marx socialist concept, the workers/employees would own the means of production directly, like “worker-entrepreneurs.” Marx’s bizarre concept changed socialism into ownership of the means of production by the socialist state. Where this was later applied, workers became wage and salary employees of the state.

    B/c both private property and the trading market were abolished by the Marxian formula, bureaucracy became a monster and workers/employees still felt like modern serfs.

    If we in the U.S.–and elsewhere–had a dynamic, non-serf, cooperative socialist republic as a model for socialism, we’d get rid of capitalism pronto.

    Any ideas?

  • Hi Daisy, I usually enjoy your entries but found this one off the mark.

    I’m sure the movie was very moving and well-made since it won a prize at the Cannes Festival, but it was also a work of fiction and hardly a sound basis for drawing conclusions about the “capitalist system.” I hope that you get an opportunity to travel to Italy some day. I think you will find that most unionized Italian workers (especially those employed in the car parts industry) have excellent wages and benefits. Italy is also one the most beautiful countries in the world whose citizens are ranked in international surveys as having one of the best qualities of life.

  • One of my favorite movies of all time.

    Even if you have a ‘confortable’ job at the office (for example) you are still subject to alienation and despair – see how one of the factory’s supervisors is treated as an equal by Lulu during the strike. It’s not even about ‘poor wages’, it’s about the transformation of the human being into a machine part, a merchandise.

    I’ve heard that Eisenstein wanted to make a film version of ‘Das Kapital’… he wasn’t able to get the project started, but it’s almost as if Petri accomplished Eisenstein’s wish in this movie.

  • sin hablar de que puedes ahorra e irte una vez al anno de vacaciones, ya sea a otro pais o aqui mismo, si no te alcanza el dinero. lugares preciosos que puedes disfrutar porque estas en un pais que te paga por tu trabajo. es cierto que no todos tienen un trabajo ideal, a veces hay que aguantar mucho, y hay gente que no estudia y no aprovecha, y entonces se pasan la vida en trabajos de basura.
    este pais tiene muchos defectos pero para los trabajadores es incomparablemente mejor que Cuba.
    si tu te vas a guiar por una pelicula del 70 y vas a sacar conclusiones a partir de eso, te recomiendo que hables con mas gente y tengas una opinion mas general porque, disculpame, pero asi no se juzgan las cosas.
    yo en Cuba trabajaba en pesimas condiciones y no me pagaban ni para una semana de comida. todo eso cambio cuando llegue aqui.
    asi que informate mejor y no creas lo que dice la tele, porque eso es lo que parece.

  • Daisy,
    estas hablando de una situacion extrema. ademas de 1970. no digo que no se vivan estas situaciones hoy en dia, pero estas dejando de ver la otra parte del asunto.
    yo vivo en estados unidos y aqui, primero te dan todas las oportunidades para estudiar (y esto no lo estoy hablando porque alguien me lo dijo, lo estoy viviendo) y segunda no todo el mundo trabaja en esas condiciones que describe el filme.
    yo tuve hasta hace poco un trabajo en una pequenna compania, trabajo de oficina, me pagaban un salario normal, y mi vida era muy tranquila, salia a las 4 y media de la tarde y tenia el resto del ida para mi, y los fines de semana. los fines de semana puedo ir a conocer otros lugares en el carro y comer cuando quiera en restaurantes, y en general, hacer lo que quiera con el dinero que tengo y que gano con mi sudor.
    esas cosas tan simplesn o podia hacerlas en Cuba.

Comments are closed.