Michael Moore’s new film is not, as the title implies, a film about overwhelming US military might and another ill-conceived imperialist war. Instead the more bizarre premise involves Moore “invading” various countries himself to take the best from their societies and return to an America he characterises as dysfunctional.
From Slovenia he decides to take free education for all. In Finland he plants the US flag in the best education system in the world with short school days and no standardised testing. From France he wants to seize pay slips that detail how the government uses people’s taxes, and fantastic school meals that are not just about nutrition but educating students about healthy eating. In Norway the criminal justice system, based on principles of rehabilitation not punishment, is taken as part of his ideas land grab.
In a packed two hours viewers are subject to a huge amount of content and a wide range of interesting interviews and different attitudes than those normally heard in the mainstream media. There are useful anecdotes and facts and figures which are pertinent to a socialist audience.
However, Moore’s narrative set up, which says the US is utterly failing in its priorities and in some respects other capitalist nations have got things absolutely right, feels false and sometimes borders on absurd. He also at times uses crass national stereotypes — for example seeming to make a link between happy Italian workers and the amount of sex they supposedly have — which are tedious and discreditable.
The “seizures” he makes — lunch breaks, good food, a healthy work/life balance, regular holidays, humane treatment of prisoners, jailing of bankers who caused the economic crisis, legal abortion, women playing a central role in society, not treating substance misuse as a crime — are not things with which socialists would disagree.
As a film that champions the idea that another world is both possible and necessary, it is worth a watch. It would be fun to see it with a group of politically minded friends and then thrash out the arguments it makes over a coffee. Struggle plays a role in the film, but overall I found the ideas about how better societies can be created incoherent and lacking rigour. As a strategy for changing the world, Moore’s “invasions” leave a lot to be desired.
Where to invade next? The global working class needs to place the red flag on capitalism’s front lawn!