Yesterday and Today: A look at the 1950 film “United Together for Tomorrow”
I have a confession to make: I got a little bit teary-eyed while watching this 1950 Chinese propaganda film. It’s a fairly famous movie in Chinese film history. I’ve translated the title as "United Together for Tomorrow" [团结起来到明天]. Please let me know if there’s an established English name for it, as I haven’t seen one.
The whole film is available online here.
The film is set only a year before it was made, in 1949. The People’s Liberation Army is on their way to liberate Shanghai. There, workers in a yarn factory go on strike in response to their bosses attempts to take their identity card and rig their union election in favor of the ruling Nationalist Party. The Nationalists respond to the strike with a brutal crackdown, while the workers stand together and fight. At one point, some workers decide to stand down an advancing Nationalist tank, and one of them is crushed to death as a result.
Call me a sap, but every time I see that scene, my eyes get a little wet and my throat constricts - it’s a real tearjerker. Her comrades hold her as she dies. The crackdown becomes a rallying point for the workers, and they organize a massive demonstration against the ruling Nationalists and the imperialist exploitation [by the Americans, backing up the Nationalist government].
Perhaps what is truly sad is the terrible irony of this story as it may be seen today, now that the CCP has been in power for so many tumultuous decades. In this film from the 1950s, the workers looked to the CCP as their vehicle of liberation, that would soon make them masters of their own labor and their own society. Looking at the events of recent decades, I am not pointing out any secret when I say it won’t be the last time workers’ identification documents have been taken from them, as has happened to so many migrant workers, or that shop floor organizations have been corrupted to serve the ruling party, as has happened all too often with the ACFTU, or even the last time a dissident has stood down stands down a government tank…
I hope you can forgive the terse commentary on the film, but at the same time, I felt that I could not let these things go unsaid.
Here are a few pictures from the film:
Great picture of some of the main characters
Workers defiant, as they are asked to give up their identification cards
Great photo of strike leader “Big Sister Zhang”, lookin’ hard!
Government crackdown on a rally after the violence against the strikers