In assessing the complex contributions of Newsreel in its various incarnations, we must note the relationship of the local and cultural to the macro-economic or infrastructural level which is, in the end, determinant. The unceremonious retreat of progressive forces in this decade has by now convinced us that a Marcusean analysis sacrifices explanatory or predictive power for inspirational zeal. Fredric Jameson, in a recent ambitious attempt to periodize the
sixties, concludes that the turbulent decade represented, after all, a moment of transition from one infrastructural or systemic stage of capitalism to another. The eighties can, according to Jameson, be characterized as global capitalism's moment of reentrenchment, the era in which the unbound social forces and liberating energies of the prior moment must be brought to heel. The sixties' unleashing of prodigious and unexpected new forces, issuing from the social movements of blacks, students, feminists, and Third Worlders, produced a kind of "surplus consciousness" disinclined to forward the multinational corporate agenda. It is these emergent, relatively maverick constituencies that late capitalism must now attempt to proletarianize. But Newsreel has, from its beginnings, remained an active contributor to the development and dissemination of this "surplus consciousness," advocating resistance to the hegemonic while cultivating the values of a nascent political culture. Amidst the conservative backsliding and backlashing of the eighties, Newsreel has emerged as America's most consistent radical documentary voice. If, in the early years, its films spoke primarily to the Movement vanguard, Newsreel has moved toward a deepening of its ties with a broad spectrum of working Americans, offering a coherent Left perspective for an analysis-starved audience as well as a route to public access for minority artists. And finally, through continuing distribution of the early films of struggle and confrontation, the Newsreel enterprise has sustained the popular memory of concerted, energetic political activism. If the efforts of the sixties are to escape recuperation, to survive and, in time, to be renewed, it will be through cultural as well as political agitation. Given the history of the organization and its achievements to date, one can reasonably look to Newsreel for leadership in the struggle ahead.