Where to Invade Next (North End Productions, 2015), written and directed by Michael Moore.
Reviewed by Roger D. Harris
Posted on February 23 by the Communications Committee
The title Where to Invade Next pimps off of the idea of critiquing US imperialism’s war without end. But documentarian Michael Moore is not going there in his first film in six years.
With Old Glory in tow, Moore’s “one-man army…invades” Western Europe, plus stops in Slovenia and Tunisia, to “steal” good eye-opening ideas to take home:
- Gourmet public school lunches in France.
- Free higher education for citizens and foreigners alike in Slovenia.
- Decriminalization of drugs and attendant social services in Portugal.
- Schools emphasizing time to socialize over teaching to the test in Finland.
- Two-hour lunch breaks and eight-weeks of vacation plus paid maternity leave in Italy.
- Public education condemning its fascist past in Germany, compared to the amnesia in the US regarding the genocide of our indigenous and the enslavement of Africans.
- Prisons for humane rehabilitation in Denmark.
Spoiler alert, each and every country “surrenders” and even points out that some of their “secrets” originated in the US, such as the May 1st celebration of working people.
CEO & Me
Gone however is Moore’s former confrontational in-your-face antics with people in power. Instead Invade is infested with any number of CEOs plus a scattering of heads of state and even the head of the conservative Islamic party of Tunisia. Former rebel Moore behaves not just cordially but reverentially.
Picture this: in the foreground Moore and three bosses – two skirts and one suit, appropriately attired – in comfortable seats on an Italian garment factory floor. In the background stand happy workers singing Whistle While You Work. No, the workers weren’t actually singing the Disney tune. But they were gushing about how great their bosses are while the bosses returned the compliment.
If only those who labor and those who live off of the labor of others could always have such a comfy relationship. The CEOs in Invade are ecstatic about how much they love the opportunity of share the fruits of their workers’ labor with their workers. Moore asks why not be more exploitive (my word, not his), and the CEOs just coo how great it is to have a contented workforce.
Invade is interspersed with brief video of clips of African-Americans being brutalized by police in the US contrasted to the social-democratic harmony on the other side of the Atlantic. But are things so rosy the across the pond?
Just as in the US – where the political trajectory has been away from the New Deal and toward the New Order (Neuordnung), whether under Republicans or under Moore’s favored Democrats – social democracy in Europe is showing signs of serious sickness.
The supposed social contract between labor and capital is unraveling in Europe as in the US. Here wages have stagnated since the mid-1970s despite spectacular increases in labor productivity and even more astronomical increases in the wealth of the rich.
Some of Moore’s success stories, such as Icelanders reigning in their banksters or Tunisians overthrowing President Ben Ali to restore democracy, didn’t quite end up so hunky-dory as suggested in Invade.
The actually happening story of stagnation and austerity is absent from Invade, let along an explanation of why. If that saga were to be told, it would not be a paean to the social-democratic prophecy of the lamb and lion lying down together, but a tale of on-going class warfare.
Invade, to be fair, does have cameo appearances of a few union leaders talking about the importance of struggle and some nods are made affirming the efficacy of popular protests. But the purposes of these fight-backs is not to take control, but to remind those in charge that they ought to act nice.
Moore’s vision is of a social democracy where all is palsy-walsy between workers and bosses…excuse me, entrepreneurs. The basic concept of social democracy is a partnership, where capitalists allow workers some concessions above subsistence level in return for labor peace, and workers allow the rule of capital in return for some social welfare.
(In distinction, workers would rule and not allow capitalists to take a cut of what they produce with straight-up socialism.)
The former champion of the underdog from Flint seems to have forgotten about the indignados of Spain, the aganaktismeni of Greece, the geração à rasca of Portugal, and other militant mass social movements struggling against neo-liberal austerity in Europe. The growing ranks of youthful NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) in the countries Moore has invaded have been ignored.
Clintonism: A Love Affair
Moore advocates for gender equality. Invade treats us to the contributions of women in leadership, including various female CEOs and the first woman president of Iceland. Like Forrest Gump running the football for a touchdown and then continuing his run out of the stadium, Moore takes his feminism too far by essentializing women as the superior sex. Think Margaret “there is no alternative” Thatcher or Madeline “infanticide is worth it” Albright.
Neither menstrual cycles nor active testes dictate political outcomes nearly as well as ideology and objective historical circumstances. If supposedly testosterone driven Barak Obama were to be succeeded by the certifiably double-X-chromosomed Hillary Clinton, we still would not have world peace.
Invade was made for the 2016 presidential election season. The subliminal message of Invade is elect a woman as the next president of the US.
Who could Moore have had in mind when he was making the documercial? Hint, it was not Donald Trump.
Moore is on record for lauding the former senator from the low-wage sex-discriminatory State of Walmart (employs 1.4 million in the US – larger than ten of the actual states) as “one hot shit-kickin’ feminist babe.”
Moore actually confesses to his “forbidden love” for Hillary, making the Bill and Monica affair look dignified in comparison.
As late as January 19th of this year, Moore spoke on MSNBC about “a historic moment where we could elect the first woman president of the United States.” Moore had not yet made a presidential endorsement.
The Big One
Finally just hours before the beginning of the Iowa caucuses, Michael Moore made his big endorsement… unequivocally for Bernie Sanders.
Lambasting Clinton for “red-baiting” Sanders, the love affair is apparently now over with the candidate who “was FOR the war in Iraq, AGAINST gay marriage, FOR the Patriot Act, FOR NAFTA, and wants to put Ed Snowden in prison.”
Note to Michael Moore fans: make sure he sticks to his guns if Sanders fails to get the Democratic nomination. As Moore just exhorted, “Don’t vote by fear. Vote for who u think best represents what u believe in.”
Don’t hold your breath. But this may be an indication that Moore could abandon his sheep dog role of supporting whomever the Democrats dish out for fear of the Republicans, and make a principled decision to support an independent candidate he believes in.
Captain Mike Across America
Bottom line, a partial critique of capitalism is better than none. Speaking to the demographic who are feeling the Bern, Invade adroitly juxtaposes what could be against what is in neo-liberal America. And there’s some good chuckles to be had. So check out Invade and bring your posse.
Roger D. Harris is a member of the Peace and Freedom Party State Central Committee from Marin County.