Monday, March 02, 2009
The Invisible Majority
In her excellent review of the National Theatre's new production, 'Burnt By the Sun', Madam Miaow (aka Anna Chen) writes:
Appealing to middle-classes everywhere, BBTS shares a nostalgia for the good old days ven ve danced and played music and sang and the house was alive with culture and Chekovian loveliness before the philistines came and took it all away, pass the vodka. You’d think this would be a chance to have a look at the contrary needs of two contending classes, especially as we may be entering our own pre-revolutionary period if Britain suffers a depression, but no. The workers and their case are nowhere to be seen. You don’t have to agree with the Russian revolution, but at least give us an idea that you understand the dynamics of it.
When it comes to portraying life under communism, workers and their case are sadly nowhere to be seen.
The everyday experiences of life of the majority under communism- are it seems not of interest to theatre producers and film makers. The perspective is always that of the rich and those who lost out from the political changes.
We are always supposed to sympathise with wealthy émigrés from communist countries - like ‘The White Countess’ and not with the majority of ordinary, working class people whose lives were undoubtedly improved by communism.
As my wife Zsuzsanna wrote in her First Post piece on ‘The White Countess’
"No one will deny that crimes were committed under Communism. But ordinary people got rather more back from the "Reds", than they ever did when the film industry's beloved "Whites" ran the show".
In the dominant narrative there is no attempt to explain how communist regimes were all different- no, they were all as totalitarian as each other- all were unspeakably evil and repressive. It’s not allowed to point out that some communist regimes eg Kadar’s Hungary and Tito's Yugoslavia, were actually more liberal than many of the regimes the west was bankrolling in the Cold War in the name of ‘freedom‘.
The fact (not that we're allowed to say it too loudly in the 'free democratic' world we live in), is that many millions of people lived perfectly happy lives under communism, as Zsuzsanna pointed out in her Guardian article on growing up in Hungary in the 1970s and 80s.
Trouble is though, they were the ‘wrong’ kind of people.