TV Review: “One Dollar” Ten chapters of a TV series on CBS All Access.

“One Dollar” is a modern film noir. It’s also a lot of other things that make it really worthwhile.

It’s social commentary about life in America’s Rust Belt as the jobs disappear and the people sink into despondency. It’s uplifting vignettes about people caring for one another during hard times. Its an exploration of the lives of working families in crisis. It’s a tribute. It’s one damn fine piece of artistry.

In a small town near Pittsburg, the first men to come to work at the town’s steel mill discover pools of blood. There are no bodies, and apparently no one is missing. Competence is not one of the characteristics of the local police force. Only one tired and cynical ex-police detective has the interest and the ability to figure out what happened. He can’t sleep. He can’t express himself. He’s a perfectly jaded film noir detective. He can’t stop inquiring.

Not all of the excellently portrayed characters in the small town have anything at all to do with the blood crime. Some of them just briefly carry around the one dollar bill that circulates around town and gives the series its name and motif. But they all explain the town and the times.

It’s a darned good story well told. But that’s not why I raised my opinion several notches before I got to Chapter 10. It was when I realized that Robert Altman, the great American film director who died in 2006, was still alive through the works of present-day directors. I have always thought that Altman’s “Nashville” represented the highest order of film technique, and I saw a lot of it in “One Dollar.”

Remember Altman’s great transitions from one vaguely related part of the story to another? Remember how he could juggle a dozen different stories and keep them all interesting even though they seemed unrelated? “One Dollar” does that. It works and I am grateful.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast the program and “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud. If you are curious about what I actually think, check out my personal web site

Book Review:

Smith, Page, “Trial By Fire. A People’s History of the Civil War and Reconstruction.” McGraw-Hill, NY, 1982. 995 pgs

Lincoln quote on labor

This is Volume 5 of Page’s series on history of America. There are a lot of facts in the book, but factual reporting is not his method. Mostly, he compiles diary entries from people on both sides of the period. He tries, that way, to reflect what people were thinking as the years passed.

It is particularly effective when we try to un-puzzle what happened during Reconstruction. Did it succeed or did it fail? Should they have even tried or would it be better to have left the Southerners to do what they wanted? Who were the good guys and who were the bad? What difference did it make at the time?

Nothing is clear-cut in political history. It’s all a matter of point of view and opinion. Reconstruction may have been a good idea at the end of the Civil War, but a lot of people were against it. As time wore on, fewer and fewer people in the North really cared. The Southerners were adamant, and they thought they could re-assert the same relationships they had before the war.

One reason that Southerners were so optimistic about re-asserting racist relationships is because President Johnson had 3 years to re-instate them after Lincoln’s death. If there’s a bad guy, I mean a really awful bad guy, it was Johnson.

If there’s a good guy, a really good guy, it was President Grant. When he assumed the presidency in 1868, he made a genuine effort to protect African American people and give them a chance to thrive. When his second term ran out, reconstruction was over. The Republicans just gave it up. The strongest of them were the abolitionists, who had pretty well died out by 1876.

Page’s account of Reconstruction is the bloodiest I have seen. Black people were murdered and raped all over the South all through the decades following the war. Some died fighting, but most of them were simply murdered. There were large massacres and small massacres, but the Southerners eventually prevailed and civil rights went from a hopeful era to very dark times that persist today.

—Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. We podcast it, and “Workers Beat Extra,” on Soundcloud. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site

Book Review: Bevins, Vincent, Jakarta Method. Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World. Public Affairs, New York, 2020

If one reads a little bit of news from abroad, or if one watches a few movies made somewhere else, one probably already knows that the United States government has participated in extermination programs. One doesn’t get an idea of the extent.

Appendix 5, pages 266-7, gives some of the numbers. If one adds them up, it amounts to 1,927,850 murders. Author Bevins explains on page 238, “As we have seen, in the years 1945-1990, a loose network of US-backed anticommunist extermination programs emerged around the world, and they carried out mass murder in at least twenty-two countries (see Appendix Five).

The numbers given do not include deaths from military engagements or even “collateral damage” deaths. These were murders. The body count doesn’t even include the people who were tortured, maimed, raped, or held in concentration camps. One of the Indonesians interviewed is quoted on page 246, “They needed to kill the communists so that foreign investors could bring their capital here.”

People who are still alive in America can remember when we used to read the words “non-aligned nations” in the official news. Activists talked about “the third world” and “new left.” These were ways of identifying with much of the world’s population that was neither in the First World American rich-people’s camp nor the socialist Soviet camp. They were trying to maneuver in between.

It was these “non-aligned nations” who experienced the Jakarta method. Jakarta was the capital of Indonesia, the fourth largest nation in the world and a major leader of the non-aligned movement. After three million unarmed suspected leftists were persecuted, and after a million of them were murdered, Indonesia aligned. They aligned with the United States, and so did almost all the others.

The actual method in the Jakarta method was to “disappear” dissidents. Suspects were rounded up, usually at night, tortured for the names of more suspects, and then murdered. A General Domingo in Brazil explains the process on page 215, “First we will kill all subversives, then we will kill all of their collaborators, then those who sympathize with subversives, then we will kill those that remain indifferent, and finally we kill the timid.”

As far as I know, Ronald Reagan did not personally strangle any of the victims. American armed forces were not called out, and America’s intelligence services contributed only a minimum of direct participation. America did these murders with sly propaganda, skillful political maneuvering, bullying, and, most of all, with money. America did not conduct these mass murders personally, they paid someone else to do it.

This book has the first comprehensive listing of those American atrocities I have ever seen. It is not easy to read because the truth is not always easy to take. By bringing together the horrors, and by showing how they interrelate, Vincent Bevins makes a great contribution to our understanding of where we are and how we got there. I don’t think it’s perfect, or even complete. For example, I don’t see Angola on the map in Appendix 5, but I can remember when Jonas Savimbi toured the United States to raise money for his terror campaign there.

It only covers part of the post-war period. I shudder to think what might be revealed from a longer view of history, and I shudder even more to think that, twenty years hence, we will be finding out what American “intelligence services” are doing in our names this very day.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. We podcast the program and other “Workers Beat Extra” material on Wednesdays on Soundcloud. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Why can’t they come up with a unifying plan for the 2020 elections? I don’t mean to insult hippies, nor anarchists, but politically they both share the same malady.

It helps explain why they have so many divergent and confusing attitudes about the current elections, as manifested every day on my social media news feeds.

Hippies and anarchists are really good people in that they sincerely want a better world. They are willing to go to great lengths to make that world happen. They often exhibit great courage in facing arrests and prosecution.

As they never really get anything done, the keepers of the status quo are more than happy to laughingly tolerate them. In fact, the 1% sometimes finds uses for hippies and anarchists to help them confuse and divide the progressive movement.

Hippies and anarchists don’t really like each other, so why am I insisting on throwing them into one big political category? It’s because of what they have in common.

Common Belief of Hippies and Anarchists

They believe that their idea of a better world should come about immediately. They don’t believe in periods of advancement or setback. They basically have one strategy and it is supposed to result in instant gratification — a better world.

Hippies and anarchists believe they already have everything figured out. The hippies take the really short route: they just start living as if the better world were already here. The anarchists take quick actions that are supposed to awaken the rest of us. The hippies don’t care how long it may take for everybody else to catch on, but the anarchists think that just one great “spark” will make their better world right away. The problem is just finding the right spark.

The long, hard work of informing and organizing ordinary people just doesn’t appeal to hippies and anarchists. The daily drudgery of defending democracy and trying to advance it isn’t part of their plan. It isn’t that they are stupid or lazy, maybe they just haven’t thought it through.

Dozens of Election Strategies

That’s why the hippies and anarchists can’t come up with a candidate or a unifying strategy in the 2020 elections. None of the choices, Biden or Trump or 3rd party or abstention, can give them the instant gratification that they consider their due. Eventually, most of the hippies will ignore the election. The anarchists will oppose it. Neither or them will bring anybody any closer to progress.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio program every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast it, and some other “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts, on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

In October 1917, Vladimir Lenin was almost alone in calling for the Bolsheviks to take over Russia. Even after they succeeded, the arguments raged on, Menshevik against Bolshevik, revolutionary against liberal, and Social Democrat against Communist.

Lenin Statue in Seattle

Millions joined the revolutionary movement because the Bolsheviks succeeded. Millions left because of the Stalin-Hitler Pact. Millions joined because the Red Army defeated the fascists. Millions left because of the Khruschev revelations. Millions joined because of Cuba. Millions left when the Soviet Union imploded. All of them were misguided, and all of their arguments are irrelevant.

The Mensheviks and Social Democrats since 1917 have argued that the Bolshevik Revolution was bound to fail because they should have waited, no matter how long it might take, until they could be elected. Generations passed with the Social Democrats making the same arguments. When capitalism finally did bring down the Soviet Union in 1991, they changed to “I told you so!”

They weren’t really arguing history. The importance of the argument lies in the basic question of whether or not people, Americans for example, should engage in revolutionary struggle. Lenin and the Russian revolution are just metaphors in this fundamental disagreement. If one believes that the only proper way to change the world is by being elected, then Lenin is evil, Lenin is opportunist, and, most important, Lenin is wrong!

The metaphor may be gone, but the argument is still going on. If people want a better world, should they look for a revolutionary program or just a very good election campaign? It’s irrelevant.

It’s irrelevant, for one reason, because a revolutionary program would include a very good election campaign. Lenin knew that, and the Bolsheviks ran election campaigns every time it was permitted.

But it’s even more irrelevant because the situation in America today is far different from Russia in 1917. They didn’t have an almost completely educated populace. They didn’t have cell phones. They didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have worldwide information and communications.

We are misguided if we think that the tide of history is conclusively changed because of an individual or a passing event. The entire history of the human race shows that we get smarter and more capable of self-governance. Individuals don’t change that. Incidents don’t change it.

Even if revolutionaries conceded, because the Soviet Union lasted “only” 74 years, and said that the Bolsheviks should never have sought to break the power of the capitalists in Russia in 1917, so what? They weren’t us and we aren’t them! Today, each of us has an obligation to ourselves and to our species to think through what is needed and what we can do about it. Lenin can’t do it for us, and he couldn’t stop us if he wanted to. It’s up to us, now.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 Central Time. We podcast the radio show and other “Workers Beat Extra” commentaries on Soundcloud.com. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site

TV Review

“Stateless” streaming on Netflix. The first three episodes are directed by Emma Freeman; the other three by Jocelyn Moorhouse.

Please don’t miss this great Australian series.

STATELESS (L to R) FAYSSAL BAZZI as AMEER and SORAYA HEIDARI as MINA in episode 102 of STATELESS Cr. BEN KING/NETFLIX © 2020

The series examines what happens to the lives of those associated with an immigrant detention center that is operated for profit. This one is in Australia, where they unfailingly make great dramas, but the ones in the Rio Grande Valley are also run for profit.

Two of the main characters are inmates: an Afghani trying to save his daughters from the Taliban and an Australian citizen who is trying to hide her identity. The other two administrate the place: an immigration specialist and an ordinary working dude trying out a new job as a prison guard. The place works its wonders on them. Even more, the world system that creates 70 million dislocated asylum seekers and then mistreats them miserably works its wonders on us, the audience.

Part of the story, Wikipedia says, is directly true. All of it sounds true, seems true, hurts truly.

A word about the quality of the presentation: the penetrating insight into every character could only have been revealed by women. Both directors and both writers were women. Their sensitivity is a marvel.

By way of explaining how good the acting is, let me ask you if you’ve ever seen a Cate Blanchett picture where her acting didn’t overshadow everybody else? Cate Blanchett is very good in “Stateless,” but her role is limited. She is listed as one of several Executive Directors. If you’re a fan of Australian TV, let me ask if you’ve ever seen Marta Dusseldorp in anything in which her skill didn’t dominate everybody else? In this series, Ms Dusseldorp and Ms Blanchett are just part of a wonderful ensemble of players. Everybody is excellent. The actors for the four main characters are beyond excellent.

Top acting kudos has to go to Yvonne Strahovski. Her role is the most demanding, and she pushes each of her emotional portrayals beyond limits. After the first few scenes, you may recognize her as the cold hearted Commander’s wife in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” or maybe you won’t recognize her, but you won’t forget her again after you see her in “Stateless!”

Yvonne Strahovski

The Australian immigration/detention system takes a beating in “Stateless,” but several characters, including some administrators, give the impression that they are doing the best that they can in a rotten situation. At least they are trying. My movie buddy and I agreed, several times as we watched the series over a few nights, that the worst of the miseries “Stateless” encountered must be far worse here at home in the United States, where what they are trying to do with the immigration situation isn’t just rotten.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. We podcast the program and “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site

I don’t see a lot of effort being put into winning over the 40% of Americans who support Donald Trump. Mostly, I see them being called names like “moron,” “idiot,” “fascist,” and “white supremacist.” And yet, people who are working to make a better world have to have them.

Why make enemies?
Making enemies is not a good stratgegy

The last evaluation of Trump’s levels of support that I saw was on “The Hill:” https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/506076-the-hills-campaign-report-trumps-job-approval-erodes-among-groups-that

It says his overall approval rating has dropped to 38%, but it’s still 57% when they consider Anglos only. It’s a comment on the state of the nation that political polarity is almost total: 91% of Republicans and 2% of Democrats approve of Trump. That’s a serious divide!

If anyone is serious about making a better world, they surely recognize that allowing 40% of America to become bitter enemies of progress is not a pathway to progress. They need to be won over, not demonized!

Why Do People Love Trump?

I see a lot of speculation, but it’s not seriously thought out. The reason that millions love Donald Trump is not that they are somehow defective or purposefully evil. What they are is afraid. The Trump strategy is to make them just as afraid as possible, and it’s working. Unfortunately, those of us on the side of progress, by vilifying them, are cooperating with Trump’s plan.

What Are They Afraid Of?

Trump plays on basic fears. One of them is that “minorities” are a growing demographic that should exceed 50% in the near future. Anglos are very conscious that “minorities” are have historically been mistreated, and they fear the same for themselves when they lose their majority.

Another basic fear is that America is losing its economic, military, and cultural dominance of the rest of the world. Xenophobia is a real feeling, and it can be heightened through demagoguery. China’s economic success threatens Anglos.

How Do You Deal With Frightened People?

Certainly not by scaring them even more. Certainly not by calling them names. Progressives have to stop exacerbating Trump’s scare tactics. What we have to do is patiently explain that life can go on, even after Anglos stop dominating minorities and the rest of the world. We should patiently explain, too, that demagoguery will not stop the changing of demographics nor world economics.

Our explanations should show that Trump’s policies are directly benefiting the richest people, not the rest of us. Right now, Trump’s political coalition is dominated by the super-rich who know very well what they’re doing; but it is supported by millions who aren’t benefiting, aren’t likely to benefit ever, and really don’t know what they are doing.

It doesn’t hurt, either, to point out how much Mr. Trump is making things worse. Our employment hopes, our hopes for our health, and the very existence of our planet are threatened by Trump policies. But we have to point out Trump’s flaws without pinning them on his supporters. We can do without Trump, certainly, but we can’t make a better world without our other 40%.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s Workers Beat radio talk show every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. They podcast it along with other material on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

I have begun to really appreciate Lenin. Previously, I looked up to the guy but didn’t really like reading his works. They were too argumentative, and the people he was arguing against, long dead and forgotten, didn’t seem worth all the fuss. It seemed to me that just about everything Lenin wrote, except maybe his major original contribution, “Imperialism,” was a polemic. Hard, unyielding, mean polemic, too.

Statue of Lenin in Seattle

Then we come to today. We have going probably the greatest worldwide upsurge of revolutionary youth in the history of humanity. I have never seen so many people so open to change and so insistent. But, big but, they have no program. They are going every whichaway. Makes me appreciate Lenin and I’ll tell you why.

I didn’t learn much from “Life of Lenin,” except that his older brother was one of the many youths hanged for revolutionary activities, but I learned a bit from Krupskaya’s account of their life together. I think she said that he came to Petrograd in 1898. At that time, the youthful revolutionaries were doing educationals for workers every Sunday. Classes, that’s all they were doing.

Not long before that, a fellow named Plekhanov had translated major Marxist literature into Russian. It had been written decades earlier, but it was just then getting into a language they could all read. Lenin had studied it, and he started arguing that the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party should adopt Marxism. I imagine that Lenin didn’t want to see everybody go down the willy-nilly path his brother had followed. He wanted something that might work.

I have a notion that it was a lot like it is in the United States now. There were a lot of young activists doing this and that, but nobody actually had a plan. Lenin had a plan, and he was willing to fight for it. I don’t think that Lenin was a particularly handsome guy, and I’ve never heard that he was a great orator. As I said, his argumentative writing is hard to follow. But lately, I’ve finally realized why he had to be so pugnacious. Then and now, there are a tremendous lot of wrong ideas floating around, and they need to be shot down and replaced with something that might work.

“When Trotsky spoke, we applauded wildly,” some soldier from that period wrote, “but when Lenin spoke, we marched!”

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. All my recent audio rants are podcast on Soundcloud. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Labor needs an advanced program to meet today’s extreme challenges:

  • Six-hour day!
  • No corporate bailouts!
  • Democracy first!
  • Infrastructure!
  • Organize Everybody!

Nobody is prouder than I of the improvements in the AFL-CIO since the leadership change of 1995. We have reached new peaks this year with our May 1 celebrations and our taking sides with the movement for racial justice.

But the situation is changing so quickly and so dramatically that I believe the American labor movement needs very advanced thinking if we expect to be able to say that we truly represent the needs of all working families. There is little danger, in this extreme situation, of overreaching.

Six Hour Day!

Because of the ongoing unemployment crisis, now is the time to re-implement our old demand for shorter working hours. A six-hour day would help with unemployment and, most likely, increase labor productivity just as it did when the Fair Labor Standards Act came.

During the heyday of the CIO and for a while afterward, American unions demanded “30 for 40 with no cut in pay!” We wanted a 30-hour work week with the same pay we were making in 40 hours. I once checked the resolutions at conventions of the UAW and found that “30 for 40” was there every convention until 1957. That same year was also the peak of U.S. labor organizing. We had 37% of the workforce organized in America!

After 1957, shorter working hours was forgotten and it’s hard to find a union leader today that even knows about it. One exception is a former officer of a local of the United Transportation Union. The UTU is a railroad union. Tom Berry actually negotiated a contract with a 6 hour work day in it, and he will still talk to you about it any Saturday evening when his free speech forum takes place in Dallas. I’m proud he’s my friend.

Somewhere in my moldy pile of old books, I have one about the struggle for shorter working hours. I think it might be named “It’s About Time.” Just as one could make a case for the age old class struggle being a fight for democracy, one could also say it was about time.

Prior to the industrial revolution, most people worked from dawn to dusk. They were outdoors, varying their tasks, and doing their own pacing, so it may not have been nearly as hard for them as it was for factory workers after the industrial revolution. From the industrial revolution forward, working families have fought their bosses over working hours.

In 1886, we had worldwide strikes to try to win an 8-hour day. The main leaders of that movement in Chicago were rounded up and hanged, so we didn’t hear a lot more about it until the Great Depression. When unemployment soared, the Roosevelt Administration pushed for the Fair Labor Standards Act. It was finally passed on June 25, 1938.

The FLSA doesn’t guarantee an 8-hour day. It just mandates overtime pay for working over 40 hours in a given workweek. Bosses don’t like to pay overtime, so 40 hours became something of a norm on many worksites.

America’s overtime problem today rivals that of 1938, so everybody should be able to understand and get behind the demand for shorter working hours now.

Jobs and Infrastructure

Now is the time to demand trillions of dollars for infrastructure repair and advancement. Truly terrible unemployment may be with us for a long time if strong progressive action is not taken. Among the many pressing infrastructure problems is the need for fast internet everywhere.

Democracy Comes First!

Our political demands must be improved in the direction of defending and strengthening democracy, because working families need it most and the wealthy employers of today are not going to provide it. Our usual demands for fair wages, benefits and the right to organize, of course, must be pursued.

No More Corporate Bailouts!

Since 2007, most of the economic action of the government has been directed toward propping up employers with little regard for working families. It needs to stop. If a corporation can only survive by getting a government bailout, it doesn’t need to survive. If workers are displaced by corporate failure, they should be employed directly by government. Their efforts should go toward meeting human needs, not profits.

Corporations have shown and are showing that they cannot be trusted “middle men” to distribute corporate welfare as wages to their suffering employees. In the last crisis and the current one, corporations hid their windfalls from the public and, as soon as they could, redistributed the money to themselves!

They are in that same process with pandemic bailout money right now!

Organize Everybody!

American labor has done is doing a valiant job, especially considering our dwindling resources. In order to bring forward a truly progressive agenda, we are going to have to redouble our efforts to win over the general American population. Our on-line arm, Working America, is perfectly suited to doing this work, especially during the pandemic.

With a progressive program and a digital approach, American labor can organize everybody!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk who every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. We podcast it, and some of my other talks, on Soundcloud. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site