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A History of the European Working Class - Episode 4
Directed by Stan Neumann • Documentary • 2020 • 52 minutes
The organized working class of the early 20th century was both at a high point of political power and poised for tragic defeat. The rise of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler turned legions of European workers into disempowered pawns in the pursuit of war. While the emergence of Fordism improved living standards for many workers in the wake of World War II, these gains would be overshadowed by the ensuing decades of deindustrialization and declining union membership. Worker’s protest movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia were met with military repression by the Soviet Union, accelerating a legitimacy crisis in the Eastern Bloc and fracturing the international socialist movement. In the face of neoliberal economic restructuring, deindustrialization and the collapse of the Soviet project, working class identity and political organization has entered a period of prolonged crisis. No longer equipped with a sense of historic confidence, does the working class still have meaning as a collective identity? Is it a relic of the past, or can it be reassembled to confront the social and economic inequalities of the 21st century?