Young Mr. Lincoln

In real life Abraham Lincoln was nothing if not pragmatic. He was the political disciple of Henry Clay, architect of the Missouri Compromise and the devil’s bargain that was The Compromise of 1850 which led to a few small gains on the Abolitionist front and a massive loss in the form of the Fugitive Slave Act. Lincoln himself was anti-slavery in as much as he was pro-white working class. One thing Young Mr. Lincoln gets very right is that Lincoln thought slavery undermined Free Labor. But like many white abolitionists of his time, while Lincoln was anti-slavery he was not pro-Black, and he argued as much in his famous debates with Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln’s just didn’t know what to do with non-enslaved Black people — probably send them to Africa, — but he did know that slavery was hurting white people, and so he was against it. Anyway, John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln is hardly historically accurate to actual events or the man’s character, but it’s still a good movie about an American hero.

In this week’s conversation I digress to talk about what I have recently learned about Karl Marx’s relationship to the early Republican Party in the US. While my research did not involve this Jacobin article, the piece is a good synopsis for those wanting to more beyond my rant.

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The Rules of the Game

Jean Renoir made one of the greatest anti-war movies ever with 1937's The Grand Illusion, a war film that is actually an anti-war film designed to showcase that all men are truly brothers, that everyone's essentially the same no matter that country they may hail from. Renoir had seen the writing on the wall and new that war was coming. Having lived through World War I, Renoir was desperate to avoid another one.

War came.

The Rules of the Game (1939) is a second, and much more subtle attempt. After the Munich Agreement found the European powers opting for "peace for our time" and a normalization and appeasement of Hitler's power and land grabs, Renoir knew he had to do more, so he made the greatest anti-war movie of all time and disguised it as a bedroom/upper class farce.

It still didn't work, but goodness is it a valiant attempt.

We recorded this episode November 12, 2016, less than a week after the US election.

We welcome any pushes against normalization and appeasement.

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