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J. Weber

Film Review

Not Alone Comrade!

(June 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V. No. 24 (Whole No. 120), 11 June 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The film, Alone, produced by Sovkino of the U.S.S.R. and shown at present at the Cameo Theatre, is a significant portrayal of life in Soviet Russia, not in the heroic days of the Revolution, but at the present time, in the days of struggle against the kulaks and nepmen. Briefly told the story depicts the bleak but enlightening experience of an immature girl just out of Normal School who is sent most unwillingly to teach the children of a backward tribe away off at the edge of civilization in the Altai region of Siberia.

Here a village Soviet exists but we are made quickly and convincingly aware that although forms have changed, the underlying reality has not. The rich kulak who has divided his large flock of sheep forming the wealth of this region, among his “poor relatives” (the usual action), still wields the power. He uses the very Soviet to exploit the worker-shepherds, helped along by the lazy and inefficient bureaucrat assigned as head of the Soviet.

The young Moscow girl, at first bewildered through lack of experience, comes soon to a realization of actualities, particularly when the nepman-kulak invades the class-room to withdraw the older children to make them tend the flock. She comes into conflict with the crafty kulak and when he attempts to slaughter the sheep, the main source of food supply for the village, for his own private profit, her appeal to the head of the Soviet being unavailing, since he has no “instructions”, she decides to appeal to the higher-ups at the provincial center. Here she makes the mistake of accepting the help of the class-enemy who offers to drive her in his sleigh and she finds herself deserted, alone, in the trackless waste of snow. However she is found and against the opposition of the bureaucrat the village poor sent an appeal for help to save her life. An aeroplane does the rest. Meantime the village poor are aroused and force the regeneration of the Soviet by holding elections and casting out the bureaucrat.

We are informed that this picture of conditions as they now exist kindled a heated discussion in Moscow. Criticism was levelled at the playing up of a “star” as against the picturing of the “masses”. Nevertheless, after the usual preview before selected workers to decide whether the film should be released to the Russian masses, these workers voted favorably on it as giving a true picture. In spite of which, the Cameo billboards repeat an announcement that this picture will probably never be seen publicly in Russia.

May we not conclude that the criticism as to “star” technique is just a wee bit disingenuous? That actually the bureaucrats felt more than uncomfortable under its too direct exposure of how, although they are not counter-revolutionaries, they play directly into the hands of the class enemies?

Yes, aimed at bureaucracy in Siberia, it struck home in Moscow as the workers could not fail to understand. No, the film must not be allowed to give aid and comfort to the Left Opposition! It is too symbolic of our own struggle for the regeneration of the Soviets. We heartily recommend the film to party comrades.

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