Roger and me.
American national socialism
I saw Roger and Me in the 90s before I saw any of the other Michael Moore documentaries. I have not re-watched the movie for this ramble. I am responding more to the general theme of the film, the implied politics and economics within, and the impression it has left on me over the years. Though it is advisable for the curious to watch it if they have not. that’s a lot of Michael Moore. But a younger Mikey, a regional socialist seeing the good jobs of his town go bye bye to China an Mexico and leave the folk of Flint broke and harassed by repo men, and eviction goons. In short the film documents Mikey going about Flint, Detroit and further afield to get an interview with Roger Smith, CEO of GM at the time of the film, 1989. The factories of Flint were closing as production was being globalized. So a naïve and portly Michael Moore goes about like a slouchy penguin to meet and talk with Smith about the harm these transformations have brought to his former employees and the economy of the city that prospered around the factory economy. He does eventually talk with Smith in the lobby of some corporate office. All I remember is the exchange was uneventful. Moore said his bit about the suffering caused by jobs taken from a once prosperous working class community, and Roger was dismissive.
Nationalism was not preached overtly in the film. Yet it was implied in the entirety. The very idea that jobs should belong to a particular community is both Nationalist and Socialist. I understood this at the time of watching the film, though much of the conversation among friends was more along the lines of the little guy taking truth to the ‘fat cat’. (I think that phase is repeated constantly in the film.) It was understood to be about evil corporations being selfish, and that they should of their own goodness keep the factories in places like Flint and not move them to cheaper labour markets. But they could not-not and compete, and not being competitive means going out of business. Unless you are going to make luxury goods only you have to keep your prices as affordable as the other companies. The trade agreements and the globalized market of the (((International Banks))) made this so, not the CEOs like Smith. These were just responding as they needed. American house-buying wages add far too much cost to each vehicle or widget for a company to remain viable if their competitors are paying pre-union wages in the third world. A globalized economy can encourage no other course of action. Only regionalism can keep jobs in specific places and for specific people.
Interesting that Moore seems to have lost his grounding principles. This is the irony of his attack on Trump, Moore is essentially claiming he was wrong in this first film, for Trump’s protectionist doctrines are identical at core to the social>moral intuition of Roger and Me. Perhaps Moore is willing to denounce the intent of the film now, as by any measure he has become an internationalist. The long years of Inevitablism have depleted city after city in traditionally White America. Conversely, in Trump we finally have a voice to counter all the years of ravage that have followed 1989—someone who is actually willing to make a claim for the Nation and its People against the Global Economy. The folk always loose out in the global economy. It is not possible otherwise. If the manufacturing sector is in no way bound to the community it sprang from then it is not an enduring aspect of that community. It will remain only as long as the necessary frugality of competition wills it to. Only a change of the intent of the economy can bring good and meaningful employment to all levels of a working community. Trump’s intent, as spoken at least, is to do just this.
Hence in Trump we see the hero Michael Moore was summoning in Roger and Me.