From all three works that we have looked at this week as well as Vinen’s 1968, it seems quite clear that most of the revolutionaries were enthusiastic young people, pushing a rigid organizational machine forward with strict rules, an unquestionable ideology, and unrelenting force. The “Organization” in each of the three works based on The Informer’s story is quite like spearheads. They were sharp—most never hesitated to use lethal force for the sake of the movement. They were fast—it was less than two days from hearing about Frankie’s death to killing Gypo. They were rigid—to join the movement was to effectively pledge for life. Such an organization closely resembles a military and should in principle have immense power to penetrate the existing status quo. However, it is perhaps exactly its overwhelming force that takes it too far, and in turn causes the movement to fall short in achieving its goals.
Liam O’Flaherty expresses the shortcoming of such organization in The Informer, a bleak portrayal of the Irish Civil War and the future of Ireland. The rigidity of structure and dogmatism of the Revolutionary Organization often turns on itself. Because of the “rules,” Gypo and Frankie were kicked out of the Organization and left without support. This is the main underlying cause of all that unfolded in the story. Gypo, in desperation, informed on Frankie just for 20 pounds. Again, based on the principle that betrayers must die, Gallagher hunted down Gypo and sentenced him to death. But Gypo, victimized by the rule and locked up in the cell, had to fight for survival, so he escaped. Gallagher fell into panic, and it could not be more clear that all his rambling of political theories is intended to ridicule the singular ideology of the Organization. The rigidity of the Organization put itself in grave danger, as Gypo got the chance to inform on Gallagher.
However, John Ford’s movie of the same name paints a completely different picture, praising the movement and inciting hope. He purposefully moved the timeframe to the Irish War of Independence to avoid any negative implications brought on by the Irish Civil War. The film portrays Gallagher as a calm, intelligent, and determined figure, fighting for the justice of the Irish people. The power of the organization is highly praised at the end, as Gallagher firmly refutes Katie’s plead to spare Gypo and says, “For Ireland!” This seems like a contradiction to O’Flaherty’s message, but one needs to look no further than John Ford’s biography to understand why. John Ford is Catholic and Irish American, so it makes perfect sense for him as an outsider to romanticize the War of Independence, and subsequently the IRA. However, in changing the story’s setting to the War of Independence, an important point is neglected: The War of Independence led to the split of the IRA into two factions, and precisely because of its militant and unyielding nature, led to the bloody Civil War.
The message of Uptight clearly does not shed positive light on the rising violent movement of Black America following King’s death. The addition of characters such as the old black leader who supports nonviolent protests and Teddy conveys another grave side effect of powerful militant organizations: lack of diversity. This not only refers to lack of tolerance for its members, such as Frankie and Gypo, but also to members of the general society. The old black leader desperately wanted to work with B. G., but only because of his opposition to violence they rejected him. Teddy was outright rejected simply because he was white, as “that’s the policy.” The racial struggle and the Irish Civil War certainly had many differences, but I think Jules Dassin was trying to make a point that diversity matters in all revolutions, especially immediately following King’s death. O’Flaherty’s novel touches on diversity, as Frankie’s father himself was a Socialist but wanted nonviolence. But Uptight’s emphasis on diversity was on a new level. King’s movement was unique; it was an enthusiastic youth movement, but also possessed many distinct qualities: nonviolence, diversity, tolerance, engagement, etc. There was hope that the spearheads of the radical youth would slow down just enough to gain traction with the society at large and bring about actual change. But King was murdered. The spearheads shot forward and the story repeated that of Ireland in the early 1920s: violence, killing, rejection of one’s own members, rejecting any outside voice.
Dassin saw hope in King’s approach. But that hope was quickly extinguished as King was murdered, leaving an almost helpless message in Uptight. The fire of revolution spread fast in 68’, rounding up young spearheads across the Atlantic. But perhaps that precise mechanism of rounding people up into ideology-driven, intolerant, fast-moving organizations caused their downfall. Slowing down and allowing the inflow of ideas and people might have got them closer to their goals in the first place.