Uncompromising left-wing columnist Bob Mittsky busts some myths about what is really behind the Hobbit dispute
And so the powers of evil and darkness gather around that notorious union-buster Sir Peter “Sauron” Jackson. It’s fitting that a filmmaker adept at bringing to the screen Tolkien’s tales should find himself engaged in a struggle with the forces of light and goodness. Jackson and his bully-boy Hollywood executives have now set their armies into motion, and a union-busting horde has emerged from the gates of Mordor, as if vomited froth from the very pits of Hell. They were on the streets of Wellington on Wednesday night, marching like hungry Orcs promised human flesh.
They may not have the numbers, but the courage of Actors Equity members is there for all to see. Their heroic defence against overwhelming corporate might resembles the tragic yet noble sacrifice made by the men of Gondor at Osgliath. Jackson’s dark legions may well still cross the river, but every blow struck by the actor’s union against the bosses is a blow for the future of socialism. Their resistance to the bullying of Hollywood is a symbol of hope to workers around the world. If the vision of Robyn Malcolm energetically defending herself against a savage scab hate murdering lynch-mob late at night doesn’t make your loins stir, then you are truly lost to the darkness.
Every union battle has its scabs, so it was no real surprise to see Jackson and his cronies organising a counter-march by production crew during the week. If the march lacked one thing it was the jackboots and black shirts we all expected to see. But don’t worry, people, they are coming, they are coming!
If The Hobbit is made in New Zealand on the terms demanded by Jackson and his capitalist friends then the fascists and reactionary forces of unrestrained capitalism have won. That’s why we must resist them. It’s no longer just about the actors, though those men and woman stand proudly for everything this nation fought for in previous wars. In 1939 we stood up to totalitarianism, and many of our young men laid down their lives so that the shadow of fascism would never fall over our lands.
Imagine how those poor souls would be turning in their graves now, but for the sterling defence of our socialist freedoms by the trade union movement.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If Hollywood studios want to come here to make films, then let them, but let us dictate the terms. We should insist on our actors and production staff having long term employment contracts, and on all profits from the films being divided equally between the workers who contributed to its success. That’s not so much to ask, is it? The fact that the studios won’t countenance such entirely reasonable provisions is evidence enough that they are enemies of the people.
In any case, as a book The Hobbit displays a clear lack of awareness of class and the machinations of the ruling elites. We should not be surprised that the main character, Bilbo Baggins, as bourgeois a character as any you will find in Western European literature, throws his lot in with the forces of reaction. The main character may end up at home, safe and wealthy at the end of the story, but Baggins is no hero. His efforts to help re-establish a kingdom, and the rewards showered on him by way of plundered gold, show him to be a notorious class traitor and enemy of the proletariat.
If we are to have The Hobbit filmed here, let us at least insert a little realism into the script. If the dwarves are to be the main focus of the story, let them at least form a soviet and allow themselves to make their own decisions collectively about the progress of the quest. As a minimum they should each receive an equal share of all rewards, and all quest decisions should be ratified by a central politburo of delegates (chosen by a special congress of dwarves) following discussions between soviet members facilitated by commissars appointed by a central bureau of union representatives.
It goes without saying that the dwarves should also be unionised, and that a number of union delegates should accompany them along the way, in order to ensure that members of the group receive the entitlements they are due under employment laws: such as a minimum wage, sick leave, holidays and the like. If they are expected to fight their way out of trouble at night, or to march for days on end, let them be paid appropriate amounts of overtime, and receive time in lieu.
The biggest change, though, will have to come at the top. It is inconceivable that Peter Jackson, the arch-lapdog of the Hollywood bosses, could make a politically suitable film. So let’s get Ken Loach to direct and produce these Hobbit films.
But none of these things will happen, of course. Hollywood isn’t interested in socialist realism, or in using the medium of film to document the relentless class struggle between workers and bosses. For if the people really know how exploited they were they would surely rise up and cast off their chains, just as the brave folk of the Shire overthrew their masters at the end of Tolkien’s great trilogy.