>There are violent revolutions and there are more peaceful ones. Some revolutions are based on ideals and theories and Utopian visions. Others grow out of simple needs for decent jobs and human dignity. The later is the story of the documentary film The Take (2004).
Created by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, The Take chronicles the struggles of out-of-work laborers in Argentina trying to take over abandoned factories and run them for themselves. Driven by basic necessity rather than ideology, these workers desire the simple ability to have a job and provide for the basic needs of their families in the wake of devastating economic policies by the county’s capitalist leaders.
What is truly wonderful about this film is it ability to tell a powerful story, set it within a complicated historical context, and do so while showing the very human realities of the struggle. In other words, it’s not really about revolution, or jobs, or capitalism versus a kind of collectivism. It is a story about people.
And yet, even though it is a story about people, it is also a story about a revolution. Argentina once had a thriving economy. But then new strategies were introduced by a government set on getting themselves rich as whatever cost. The country went into a downward spiral. Factories closed, unemployment skyrocketed, and the World Bank and IMF offered the kind of help one gets only from enemies who claim to be friends. The problem with bad macro-economics is the inevitably tragic micro-economic fallout. Simply, it’s the burden placed on the families who can no longer afford to feed themselves, go to the doctor, or pay rent.
But in Argentina something new began happening. The workers went back to the shuttered factories in which they formerly labored and re-opened them. These workers took over the means of production, produced products, sold them, paid their bills, gave themselves paychecks, and ran the factories collectively. The former owners, who legally were still the owners, were kept out, often by court orders based on Argentine laws, and mostly by the sheer tenacity of the workers who put their hearts and bodies on the line.
If there is anything truly remarkable about this story it is the way ordinary people, people with wives and husbands, with kids, with dreams and desires, walk the thin line between despair and possibilities. These are people like me, like you, who want decent jobs, who love their families, love their friends and their communities, who are not seeking power and glory, but only want a chance to live as they should.
Where the film ends is not where the story ends. Some challenges are overcome, but others still loom. The workers get mostly what they seek, but their future is uncertain. The government took a turn towards the left and is therefore more amenable to the workers, but, like all governments, it is still a mixed bag. If anything, The Take is a realistic look at the human struggle for life and liberty, for work and pay, for present needs and future dreams. It is, in short, a story of humanity.