Rocking the Cradle of Labor At the end of Cradle Will Rock, a film that vividly portrays the struggles

of the fledgling Federal Theater Project in the late '30s, a grand play is anticipated. The play is about the right for workers to come together and the layers of corruption mounted against them, set in a twisted place called Steeltown, USA. With strikes at US Steel threatening to spread to every industry in the country, the powers of High Society purchase political solutions. Among them, hearings into 'un-American' activities within the Works Progress Administration, the New Deal agency that over saw the doomed Federal Theater Project. Mere hours before the curtain is set to rise, nefarious Republican focres conspire to cut funding for the FTP, causing not only the cancellation of the show, but the Government's armed confiscation of the theater and all props stored within. All Union actors were forbidden from going on stage while the height of pre-post-WW2 'red scare' tension builds throughout the country. Flames of social fury were ready to erupt at any moment. The final hope rests with the show's creator, a neurotic, non(actor's) union, homosexual schitzophrenic who agrees to perform the entire play himself, with nothing but a rented piano and his nervous chords to inspire the only vacant theater in Manhattan. As Act One awkwardly stumbles forward, a voice rings out from the back of the house--one of the actors, a once-homeless dreamer who foresakes everything to be a part of that very special moment, begins to sing her lines. Invoking a street beaten hooker named Moll, the jaded spirit of Steeltown's destitute prostitutes, Olive Stanton fights through the raking silence of choked gasps. Unless another castmate is aslo willing to gamble their string-fed lives, Olive knows she, too, will soon be walking her own lonely, head-down stroll towards midnight's lesser angels. As the spotlight grip gives up his search for Olive's leading man, the spirit of Bohemian unity shines through the darkness in the upper balcony and a booming voice commands the womdering crowd to know that the show will indeed be going on! Inspired, the entire cast erupts to deliver a raw, defiant spectacle worthy of every tear there is to shed. There is actually a very true story behind Cradle Will Rock. Not only about Orson Welles and Marc Blitzstein and Nelson Rockefeller, but of the greater struggles of rich and powerful capitalist ideals versus those of labor-inspired socialism, which tends to appeal to the more mentally lunar, as well. Another common truth from both then and now is that despite neverending struggles, dwindling membership due to difficulties legislated

against them and a long, staggering list of protections and rights that have apparently become so taken for granted that we forget that Labor's role in this country stretches from protections for coal miners and track layers to the forward strides in Civil Rights, to the common worker being able to earn a fair wage without having to worry if they'll shamefully be cast aside by company CEOs who simply see 'labor' as another easy expense to trim in 'hard times'. It's the only way for the truly needy to afford jet fuel when times are rough. Something else that is true about this struggle is that many unions, like anything else influenced by the allure of money or politics in our current system, have also been corrupted. Blind allegiance to a weak Democratic party, one whose existence depends largely upon the dwindling AFL-CIO, in lieu of forming a true Worker's party has also weakened the ability to organize labor here in America. Is now the beginning of the end for this incarnation of the Labor movement? With overwhelming Republican power at the state and government levels and limited understanding or support for unions nationwide, the Midwest protests are likely to be waited out or ignored into the next news cycle before having the chance to become the overwhelming issue of the 2012 campaign, as it should be. Can the passion of other worldwide cries for revolution catch on here to fundamentally alter the capitalist system that seems doomed to eventually consume itself--letting only the passengers on those private jets escape to Bermuda? Will the Wisconsin Statehouse become the brilliant spark that leads millions of beaten down workers to demand their equality, to finally feel the true power of their production? There is a lot of money being bet against it. Billions of dollars are at the disposal of those who think everything is working out just fine, thank you very much, and don't appreciate the poor not knowing their place. What do we common people have with which to fight back against these capital interests? We have our voice and it is mighty. We have our ideas of what a better world should be and they are wonderous. We have a legacy of enthusiastic, productive protests that brought about incredible changes to the American identity, both painful and fundamental. The momentum should feel like a wind at our backs but it turns out that somehow we've just been left behind again. Even the true believers have given up the cause of social unity as a fool's quest. While most admire the strength of those in the Heart-land willing to endure nightmares for the dreams of their children, the fact of the matter is that a lot of those admirers are as far from Wisconsin as they

were from a voting booth last November. Like the forbiden artists at the end of Cradle Will Rock, we have the choice to either watch the grand play from the dark seats or stand up, risk it all and demand the spotlight shine on our vision for a new world. Will history's soundtrack broadcast your voice one day?

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