I’ve got a great movie recommendation for you — Wild River, a 1960 film directed by Elia Kazan starring Montgomery Clift, Lee Remick, and Jo Van Fleet. It is an awesome movie, one recommended to me by a supporter of FFF. It is nothing but sheer enjoyment.
The movie revolves around an 80-year-old woman’s battle against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the federal agency that President Franklin Roosevelt brought into existence as part of the socialist-fascist revolution that FDR brought to America during the 1930s.
The woman is named Ella Garth, played by Jo Van Fleet. She lives on Garth Island, where the Garth family has lived for generations. Garth Island happens to lie squarely in the path of lands that are going to be flooded as part of the massive dam-building project that the TVA is bringing to the Tennessee River. Ella refuses to leave, and so the feds send Chuck Glover, played by Montgomery Clift, to persuade her to voluntarily and peacefully leave the island.
In real life, the TVA was — and is — the classic socialist agency. Its mission was to build a series of dams with the aim of being the owner and operator of a gigantic government-owned electricity-producing company. The TVA was part of the overall socialist-fascist economic philosophy that undergirded FDR’s New Deal for America, along with such programs as Social Security, the National Industrial Recovery Act, fiat money, nationalization of gold, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and many others.
In order to get the land that the TVA dams would flood, federal officials resorted to eminent domain, the process by which the government forcibly takes a person’s property from him in return for payment of what is supposedly the “fair market value” of the land.
What happens if a person refuses to sell? Tough luck. The federal government takes ownership of his land and removes him from the property.
What happened if a person refuses to vacate? The government resorts to force. That’s what the feds were trying to avoid with Ella Garth. They didn’t want the bad publicity that would come with federal gendarmes forcibly removing an 80-year-old woman from the property that her family had owned and lived on for generations. That’s why they send TVA agent Chuck Glover down to Tennessee — to find a nice substitute home for Ella Garth and persuade her and her granddaughter Carol (played by Lee Remick) that leaving Garth Island is in their best interests.
Ella refuses to budge. To her, leaving the island is the same as dying. She’d rather just stay there and die under the coming waters.
To get her point across, she initiates a fascinating and revealing exchange with a black tenant farmer on her property. She offers to buy the tenant’s hound dog, Ol’ Blue, from him, which he refuses to sell. She insists. Deeply attached to the dog, the man tells Ella that his dog is simply not for sale at any price. She concludes by saying that he’s right — that it would be morally wrong for her to force him sell Ol’ Blue, just as it is morally wrong for the government to force her to sell her land.
The TVA dam-building project was, of course, no different from the massive dam-building projects that were taking place in authoritarian and totalitarian countries. Dam-building was just one part, albeit a big part, of the giant public-works projects that characterized socialist regimes. There were also, of course, the massive road-building projects such as the autobahn system in Hitler’s National Socialist Germany, which inspired the U.S. Interstate Highway System, the largest public-works project in U.S. history.
(See the insightful book Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany’s, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbusch, or this review of the book.)
In fact, one of the interesting consequences of FDR’s dam-building escapade with the TVA was that during the Cold War, U.S. officials exported their socialist dam-building prowess to Third World countries, including, of all places, South Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. It was just one aspect of the U.S. national-security state’s strategy of having the United States embrace socialism and communism in the name of fighting socialism and communism.
The TVA project succeeded in ousting 15,000 families from their lands. Statists called it
the price of “progress.” As Stalin put it, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”