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Naomi Klein Interviews Michael Moore on the Perils of Capitalism

Moore discusses his new documentary film, widely praised as a call for a revolt against capitalist madness.

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But one of the biggest barriers I've found in my research around worker cooperatives is not just government and companies being resistant to it but actually unions as well. Obviously there are exceptions, like the union in your film, United Electrical Workers, which was really open to the idea of the Republic Windows & Doors factory being turned into a cooperative, if that's what the workers wanted.

But in most cases, particularly with larger unions, they have their script, and when a factory is being closed down, their job is to get a big payout -- as big a payout as they can, as big a severance package as they can for the workers. And they have a dynamic that is in place, which is that the powerful ones, the decision makers, are the owners.

You had your U.S. premiere at the AFL-CIO convention. How are you finding labor leadership in relation to this idea? Are they open to it, or are you hearing, "Well, this isn't really workable"? Because, I know you've also written about the idea that some of the auto plant factories or auto parts factories that are being closed down could be turned into factories producing subway cars, for instance. The unions would need to champion that idea for it to work.

MM: I sat there in the theater the other night with about 1,500 delegates of the AFL-CIO convention, and I was a little nervous as we got near that part of the film, and I was worried that it was going to get a little quiet in there.

Just the opposite. They cheered it. A couple people shouted out, "Right on!" "Absolutely!"

I think that unions at this point have been so beaten down, they're open to some new thinking and some new ideas. And I was very encouraged to see that.

The next day at the convention, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution supporting single-payer health care. I thought, "Wow," you know? Things are changing.

NK: Coming back to what we were talking about a little earlier, about people's inability to understand basic economic theory: In your film, you have this great scene where you can't get anybody, no matter how educated they are, to explain what a derivative is.

So it isn't just about basic education. It's that complexity is being used as a weapon against democratic control over the economy. This was [Alan] Greenspan's argument -- that derivatives were so complicated that lawmakers couldn't regulate them.

It's almost as if there needs to be a movement toward simplicity in economics or in financial affairs, which is something that Elizabeth Warren, the chief bailout watchdog for Congress, has been talking about in terms of the need to simplify people's relationships with lenders.

So I'm wondering what you think about that.

Also, this isn't really much of a question, but isn't Elizabeth Warren sort of incredible? She's kind of like the anti-Summers. It's enough to give you hope, that she exists.

MM: Absolutely. And can I suggest a presidential ticket for 2016 or 2012 if Obama fails us? [Ohio Democratic Congresswoman] Marcy Kaptur and Elizabeth Warren.

NK: I love it. They really are the heroes of your film. I would vote for that.

I was thinking about what to call this piece, and what I'm going to suggest to my editor is "America's Teacher," because the film is this incredible piece of old-style popular education.

One of the things that my colleague at The Nation Bill Greider talks about is that we don't do this kind of popular education anymore, that unions used to have budgets to do this kind of thing for their members, to just unpack economic theory and what's going on in the world and make it accessible.