I am not writing on how to win elections. I am writing on the role of elections within the larger purpose of making fundamental change. Among those with that purpose, I will consider three approaches to the political arena known as elections.

All three groups may agree more than they disagree. They all agree that the two major political parties operating in the United States are controlled by very wealthy owners and employers. They all agree that neither the “better” nor the “worse” candidate intends any fundamental change. They agree that fundamental change will never be on the ballot as long as the owners and employers control the election process.

  1. The first group abstains from elections, or they only participate when their own members are candidates. The Industrial Workers of the World were a good example. They believed that the bosses control the elections, the parties, and the candidates; consequently, the entire process was nothing but a diversion from the real struggles for change. Later variations on this approach make exceptions when their own members run for office because of the opportunities for proselytizing and organizing that elections afford. But even though they have limited participation in elections, they never believe that election outcomes make any difference.

As the election outcomes are a matter of indifference, these partial-abstainers tend to choose races and election opponents that represented ideas closest to their own. The followers of their opponents might be more likely to listen to, or even join, the “revolutionaries” in those races. While these “revolutionaries” may be very smug about their tactic, working families tend to see them as spoilers and wreckers, as in fact they are.

2) I think the second group in this discussion is the more dangerous of the two, because their “road to revolution” sounds easier. They see each election as an opportunity for gradual reforms that will eventually erode away the support of the wealthy bosses in charge. Such activists generally support the “better” candidate instead of the “worse” one, or the “better” party instead of the “worse” one. If that’s all there were to it, they would be relatively harmless. Their errors may not even be noticeable in general elections. But their actions in primary elections are a different matter.

Since they believe that the “better” political party – currently the Democrats – will eventually make revolutionary change, then the activists see their own role as finding and supporting the “more revolutionary” Democratic Party candidates in primary elections against the “less revolutionary” ones.

Excellent examples are active in elections today in the various groups that pursue the politics of Social Democrat Bernie Sanders. Like the “real revolutionaries” in the first group, they also choose to field candidates against those most like them. In those races, they are more likely of success. More importantly, every time they replace a “less revolutionary” candidate with a “more revolutionary” one, they believe they have moved the entire Democratic Party in the direction that they consider revolutionary.

The Bernie-ites take the Republican “Tea Party” movement as their example. Just as the “Tea Party” candidates defeated “less reactionary” primary candidates with “more reactionary” ones, and moved the Republican party in a reactionary direction, then one would think that a similar approach would make the Democratic Party more progressive and, eventually, revolutionary. The wealthy owners currently in charge will, apparently, not notice in time.

3) The third group does not participate in elections in order to manipulate the process. They support parties and candidates who will be of most benefit to working families, both in the long and in the short term. They do not tend to run primary challengers against the candidates most like them. In every race, primary or general, they choose the candidate most beneficial to working families. They do not disdain the electoral process, like the sectarians in the first group, nor do they commit to the “better” party against the “worse” one like the reformists in the second group. Their focus is on building the political power of working families in the election arena, just as they do in every other arena of political struggle.

Electoral politics is not nearly the only way that power is won and change is made. It may not even be the most important arena. It is certainly part, though, of the necessary process of building an effective coalition benefitting and led by working families. Such a coalition is the only possible remedy to wealthy owner control of our society.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on “Workers Beat” radio talk show on knon.org at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. On Wednesdays, they podcast the program and another “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

I don’t know what happened to the little dog before she sashayed across Sixth Street at Beckley in Dallas 12 years ago. There, in that intersection, is where we met. I know she didn’t have a collar or any sign that she belonged to anybody. I learned later that she was a chewer, like many young dogs; consequently, I have assumed that somebody tethered her outside somewhere in the Western Oak Cliff section of town. If they did, she would certainly have chewed her way to freedom.

I also learned, later on, that she was about six months old and that she had worms. I learned that she was at least part Cocker Spaniel, but that her peculiar “underbite” (her lower teeth projected past her upper teeth—making her just as ugly as she was cute when you didn’t notice her underbite) made her no good for breeding. This “no good for breeding” argument was used by the vet to convince me to have her spayed.

Noting that the dog could really be ugly at some angles, I wanted to name her “Golem.” But Elaine wouldn’t hear of it.

Within a couple of weeks, the little dog we named “Precious” had eaten Elaine’s glasses and ripped the wiring from the back of her computer. Damages in the hundreds of dollars. That wasn’t nearly the most expensive bad habit she had. She also killed our other dog.

Or at least, that was my version of what happened, although Elaine always gave Precious the benefit of the doubt. When the little dog came into our lives, we already had a handsome German Shepherd. He was an extremely good dog, even in his old age. He was tolerant of the new puppy who jumped around on him and constantly invited him to play. Old Buck’s heart gave out a few days after Precious appeared, and I always blamed her, but it was just to tease Elaine.

Rambunctious is an insufficient word for Precious. In those days, our furniture was just what we could afford and mostly from the Salvation Army. Precious could start in the dining room with one big jump, then she would hit the Elaine’s chair, then mine, and then spring, one jump each,  onto the couch. Then she’d gambol her way back to the dining room and start again. Like children, she was fun to watch but hard on the furniture.

Precious would eat anything. I started telling people, when they asked about her pedigree, that she was part Cocker Spaniel and part goat. The pest control people had assured us that no pets had ever been known to eat their rat poison since time began. But Precious got right into it as soon as she found some.

There went $1,500 for a complete blood transfusion and a couple of weeks of rehabilitation at the vets. I made a video when we visited her, “The little dog will live.” I’m sure I put it on YouTube, but now I can’t find it. Precious went on during her long career of costing us more and more until she became, today, probably the most expensive pet that ever lived!

To think, on that first day together, I considered her a free dog!

Getting back to the first day and the street corner where we met, I was just starting my long walk around Lake Cliff Park. I didn’t touch the little dog, but I talked to her, and she followed. Well, she didn’t exactly follow, she was usually ahead of me, but she kept looking back and she stayed near me while I went twice around the 1-mile course and then home. When we got home, I asked Elaine if we could keep her and she said yes. Then I touched the little fuzzy dog for the first time. Before that, I didn’t know she was a female.

As I said, Precious was horribly ugly when one looked directly into her teeth. But from the side, she seemed to have a perpetual smile, almost an audible laugh. Her little stub was always wagging. Elaine and I habitually gave her anything we imagined she might want. When one of us would look askance, the other would give the universal explanation for giving in to the little dog, “She gave me puppy eyes.”

We developed a lot of running jokes about our our little dog. Nothing malicious. For example, we used to say that we were very disappointed that she hadn’t learned to read. Elaine tried to get her to count about two (the number of plates she cleaned after mealtimes), but it was no go.

After 2014, when I had my heart attack, I told Precious that she should have her medical license revoked. We had always heard that people who had dogs had less chance of heart attack. So I pretended to blame Precious for mine. Elaine said that Precious was still batting .500, because only one of us had a heart attack under the dog’s watch.

I always tease Elaine about being too soft on the dog. She says I’m worse.

Not that Precious didn’t have any bad personality flaws. She is intolerant of other dogs, but she never gives them any indication until they get really close. She doesn’t growl at them or posture the way other dogs do. She ignores other dogs until they are close enough for her to bite.

Her other really serious characteristic is intense hatred for the U.S. Post Office. No mailman is safe from Precious if she can get at them. We often worried about getting smacked with a major lawsuit, but mostly we were able to keep her away from them. To her credit, though, we can state today that no mailman has ever successfully smashed their way into our house nor molested either Elaine or me. Not one in 12 years.

Even today, she barks hysterically whenever she thinks the mail might be coming. As she has lost her hearing, she doesn’t really know when they come, but her imagination is working fine.

Precious went everywhere with me unless it was too hot for her to be in the car. That is, she went everywhere with me until about a year ago. That’s when Precious seemed to give up on exercise. She didn’t want to leave the house. She slept almost all the time. About two weeks ago, she even curbed her voracious appetite. The vet (for $641) said she had congestive heart failure and sold us some pills.

She perked up some and even went, once, on a short walk with us. Then about a week ago, Precious started to fall down. She would have spasms on the floor and would be unable to rise. She would just lie there and look directly at us with her big brown Cocker Spaniel eyes. Eventually, she’d get up and act as if nothing had happened. But sooner or later, she’d fall again. The vet calls it “syncope” or something like that. It means that she passes out. She is in the “intermediate” stages of heart failure.

She also started peeing in the house. To be fair, some of her heart medicine is diuretic. It’s the first time in 12 years. My office chair is sitting on a wet floor even as I write this. Fortunately, my sense of smell isn’t any better than my dog’s.

Day after tomorrow, I have been asked to accompany Precious and Elaine to the vet. Elaine says we have to make some decisions. The vet, I’m sure, will (for a price) give us some kind of formulaic outline for whether Precious should live or die. Or the vet will give us some kind of timetable as to when we have to make a decision.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. We podcast it and another short audio on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday morning. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

One of the two major parties is becoming fascist!

We saw a small but ugly part of the Republican Party terrorizing Congress on January 6. Did you notice that Trump never disassociated from them? Have you noticed, since then, that the majority of the Republican Party has not disassociated from Trump? A majority of Republicans in Congress voted to overthrow the elections even AFTER the terror attack. Republican Congressmen are circling their wagons around Trump as the impeachment trial approaches. Devout trumpsters continue to be placed in Republican Party power. That includes their national party head!

Are the Democrats Worried?

Democrats are not worried, because Trump is dragging his party down as well as backward. Democrats may find them easy to beat in near future elections.

I’ve only seen a few actual statistics on how many people are leaving the Republican Party: 2,000 in Arizona,  5,855 in North Carolina, 4,600 in Colorado. We won’t get a clear idea how many are leaving before the next national election. Some states, like mine, don’t even keep track of party registration. However, we can assume that the Republican Party, which has been the minority in popular votes for several election cycles, will be smaller. Smaller and more fanatical.

Should We Be Worried?

Damnright we should be worried! Even with a somewhat diminished official membership, the Republican Party is still one of the two massive parties. America has gone from having two parties firmly committed to limited democracy to having only one. The Republican party of today has shown its willingness to dispense with democracy altogether. That is fascist!

Did Hitler and the Nazis have a majority party? No, they took power with a plurality of voters. In fact, they weren’t even considered an important electoral threat before the great depression began in 1929. But that one crisis was enough to catapault them to power.

America today is one crisis away from fascism.

What Can Be Done?

United workers are the only force capable of stopping fascism. Fortunately for America, we have a progressive union movement around which we can unite. That’s the course that should be followed. It’s the path to victory and a positive future.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. We podcast the radio show and another narrative every Wednesday morning on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my old personal web site.

Book Review:

Windham, Lane, “Knocking on Labor’s Door. Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide.” University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2017

Capitalism is said to have begun in the middle of the 17th century in England. Workers and bosses have been fighting since then. Any period in that great long battle for democracy, dignity and a living wage would be an interesting period.

picketing

This author chose the 1970s in the United States. Certain underlying economic and social developments made it a period of interesting class warfare.

  • The civil rights movement and the women’s movement had created a more diversified, and more militant bunch of activists into organizable workplaces
  • The “American Century” of economic domination over the war-weary victims of World War II was noticeably beginning to end
  • America’s most devoted and seasoned labor activists had been driven away by the great witch hunt that began in 1946. Union militancy had turned into “business unionism.”

Union density peaked at about 35% of the workforce earlier, but unions still had about 20% of the workforce in the early 1970s. Union members had far better wages, better benefits, better pensions, and better jobs than the workforce at large. Part of the consequence of getting more for union members while ignoring other workers was increasing isolation for the unions.

Nevertheless, young people wanted to unionize. They fought hard. For the most part in the 1970s, they lost. One could argue that the events from 1947’s Taft Hartley law to 1970 had foreordained that labor would lose, but that isn’t Mr. Lane’s argument. It’s mine.

Lane argues that companies simply worked harder at union busting. They increasingly won government over to their side. By the end of the 1970s, when Ronald Reagan was elected, the downhill slide was evident to everyone. In 1995, maybe a little late, the AFL-CIO started trying to adjust to the new situation.

One shining light in Lane’s book is the early success of an organization called “9 to 5.” They organized women to fight for the workplace rights that the larger women’s movement had won through federal legislation. The idea of organizing outside the control of government authorities like the National Labor Relations Board was a good one, and they had some early successes. However, it didn’t last.

In fact, most of the hopes that young activists may have had for union organizing in the 1970s were crushed. This is not a happy book to read. I wish he had chosen the 1990s, when American labor began to show some real promise.

–Gene Lantz

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

The last caller on my radio talk show Saturday said, “I don’t know what to believe.” Then we ran out of time. Nearly always, I am able to draw out the right wing critics who call. Within 4 or 5 exchanges, their underlying motivation is exposed. I realize, though, that a lot of people, sincere and insincere, are saying that same thing during the Trump era of “alternate facts.”

The woman who doesn’t know what to believe launched her criticism against me by revealing that the Washington Post, which I had quoted earlier as one of my sources of news, is owned by the richest man in the world. In other words, whatever news I had announced was compromised, because it came from people who are under the control of Jeff Bezos.

If we had more time, I would have drawn her out. I’m pretty sure she would eventually have admitted that she does know what to believe. She just doesn’t want to believe it. More importantly, she doesn’t want anybody else to believe it. I’ve had similar puzzles written into the comment sections of my Facebook posts. Some of them say that the January 6th rioters weren’t really Trump supporters, but disguised Trump haters who were trying to discredit him! That’s too far fetched to even consider, but major spokespersons, including the Attorney General of Texas, are saying it.

Some of the other comments to my Facebook posts kind of try to chip away at the facts. “The rioting crowd included pro- and anti- Trump people” one guy said. But the biggest ruse of all is just to change the subject. In the discussion about the riot, one of my perpetual detractors accused me of being for gun control. Another one said that nothing I had to say could be right because I hadn’t “accepted Jesus Christ.”

I’m leading up to a point here. The point is that some Trump supporters, maybe most of them, just want to believe whatever they want to believe. Facts are just in their way.

This may seem like a digression, but I also noticed on Facebook that somebody from a national Catholic organization said that Catholics should take their share of the blame for the assault on democracy. I rather agree, but not because of the instances he quoted.

The problem of selective belief is much broader than Trumpism. There are lots of selective believers on the anti-Trump side, too. A lot of them are religious. Religion, all religion including the Catholic religion, encourages us to believe things that we know could not be true. They call it “faith.” I call it misleading, dangerous, and often hurtful.

Truth comes to us directly through our senses. “Not truth,” the nonsense people prefer to believe, comes to us through our imagination. We all develop a set of prejudices that we usually refer to as “common sense.” For most decisions, it’s pretty helpful. But it’s a great hindrance when things happen to us that haven’t happened before. We need to consult the facts, not our store of prejudices.

All philosophy falls under one of two headings: materialism and idealism. The materialist believes facts and science. The idealist believes whatever they want. Individuals cross the line between the two philosophies depending on what is at stake. They might believe science when stricken with a deadly disease; they might fall back on superstition when problems are less urgent.

But what does all this have to do with January 6th and the woman who called the radio station?

Everyone with internet connection has seen reams of facts from all kinds of sources about the January 6th riot. They know what happened, what happened beforehand and what happened afterward. For some, their layer of prejudices is more important than facts. So they challenge the information sources and say, “I don’t know what to believe.”

As for Jeff Bezos, surely the woman realizes that virtually ALL, not just the Washington Post, commercial media in America are owned by the very wealthy.  It’s important to keep that in mind and be suspicious, but it doesn’t prevent people from being able to make up their minds about factual developments. They can decide what to believe. They just don’t want to.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. We podcast it, along with “Workers Beat Extra” commentary on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really believe, look at my old personal web site.

The rich rulers of America have not chosen fascism at this time. That’s the only reason we don’t have it yet.

Today’s endless stream of denunciations of the January 6th fascist riots in Washington are excellent as far as they go. All of them blame Donald Trump. Some of them call for his removal. Some call for the removal of Senator Cruz and the other Republicans within Congress who provided the “legitimate” cover for the rioters and looters. One of those Republicans made videos of himself breaking into the Capitol with the rioters!

But every outraged denunciation I have read so far misses the point. The January 6th fascist uprising is just one of many such outrageous political acts around the world. There is a universal fascist movement, and it is gaining power.

Like any political development, there are reasons for the burgeoning fascism. Those who lay the blame on individual demagogues, even truly disgusting opportunists like Donald Trump, haven’t made a proper analysis. Without a proper analysis, a practical remedy is impossible.

The root of the crisis is unbounded inequality. The prevailing economic system is making the rich obscenely richer and the poor even poorer. Logic infers that the remedy is a different system, but there has been inadequate leadership in that direction. Instead, the world’s discontented are being channeled toward racism and supernationalism.

Instead of understanding that the system we live in can only make inequality worse and does not have the capacity to do otherwise, we are told to blame peoples of other nations, ethnicities or skin coloring.

Racists rioted and attacked their capitol in Germany last August. They rioted and attacked their capitol in Washington in January.

As we live in the U.S., we must primarily concern ourselves with the fascists here at home. They are not so hard to understand, because their political tendency has always existed and was made most clear during the American Civil War. They lost that war but won the peace and continued to dominate people of color.

Their political home was the Democratic Party until the civil rights movement became victorious (1965). After that, the Dixiecrats re-aligned with the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan announced his run for the presidency in a notorious racist town, Philadelphia, Mississippi. Powerful Senator Phil Graham of Texas quickly changed from Democrat to Republican, as did many other reactionaries.

But the Republican alliance of rulers and racists was always unstable. It only needed the pinch of a worsening crisis and an unstable demagogue like Donald Trump to split the coalition with violence. The racists ransacked the Capitol, the rulers piously tried to pull their skirts up out of the muck they had created. In the immediate future, they will likely emphasize their other political party.

That is what happened on January 6th, and it is far from over.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s ‘Workers Beat’ program at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. We also podcast “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, take a look at my personal web site

As Joe Biden’s victory sinks into the American consciousness, the AFL-CIO is calling for moving forward together. But what does it mean?

We can be sure what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean continuing slogging along with our age-old organizing efforts in one workplace at a time. Nothing exposes organizing failure more than the continuing decline of union density. It doesn’t mean hesitating at the threshold of solidarity with our natural allies. It doesn’t mean putting our entire political faith and trust in the Democratic Party.

The AFL-CIO has made terrific progress since the leadership election of 1995. They staunched the bleeding that brought our labor movement from 35% density to 11%. But they are going to have to do more, and some of that “more” may seem drastic. The obvious steps are these:

Organize nationwide:

Unlike the old CIO, the AFL and the AFL-CIO never had an effective organizing department. They need one. The new forward-thinking Organizing Department could set the goal of organizing every worker by adding an on-line strategy. It would be easy to do, since the AFL-CIO already has Working America as a separate department. Working America could replicate the nationwide success model pioneered by Move On. From a giant data base of on-line supporters, some traditional union locals could be formed. The members who can’t be formed into traditional unions can still be supportive of labor’s campaigns.

Go all the way with solidarity:

America has many progressive organizations from giants like the NAACP down to the smallest non-profit working from a one-year grant. Most, if not all of them could be induced to cooperate in nationwide campaigns led by labor. To be sure, the AFL-CIO leadership has improved tremendously since the days that the Central Intelligence Agency was their main partner. But much remains to be done. In the Summer of 2020, the labor movement held terrific May Day events. They made positive statements in support of Black Lives Matter, even though at the same time they clung to police unions – the very antithesis of the movement. We can go much further with simple solidarity!

Initiate a Workers Party:

We didn’t need the awful shock therapy of Donald Trump’s election to realize that American voters are done with business-as-usual politics. It was apparent in 2008 when the first Black President swept to power. By 2020, when a run-of-the-mill Democrat named Biden was elected with the shortest coat tails in history, everyone knew that American voters want something different. Trump’s 2016 election showed that they were ready for ANYTHING different.

What If we don’t?:

If American labor and rest of the progressive movement do not come together affirmatively, we can expect continued chaos and stagnation. No one with an idea of the problems we face thinks Joe Biden will solve them. The union movement’s slow “death of a thousand cuts” will continue. The progressive movement will continue to mill around and compete for funding without a program. The Democrats will lose more ground in the 2022 mid-term elections. More oddball candidates will win elections, not because they represent anything better, but because they represent ANYTHING different! The ultimate “something different,” fascism, will continue its rise in America.

–Gene Lantz

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

For some time, I have been hearing political radicals say that we must exploit the split in the ruling class. Is there really such a split? If there is, can progressives actually exploit it and get progressive results?

Who Are the Ruling Class?

We make a lot of mistakes on this simple concept. One is that we really don’t know what “class” means. It is a collection of people holding a common outlook because of their position in the economy. It’s the way that they accumulate money. We make an even bigger mistake when we consider the “ruling class” abstractly as an ideology. They aren’t an abstraction, they are certain people with names. Many of their names are listed every year in Forbes Magazine. It is not a big list.

We make another, possibly even more fatal, mistake when we assume that the ruling class has limited control. In America, they are virtually unchallenged in their control over the entire electoral system, both major political parties, all three federal branches of government, and nearly all state and local governments. A handful of American families control the economy as well as the government. They also control almost all information sources and use them to disguise or misrepresent their actual roles.

How Are They Divided?

The idea of a “split in the ruling class” is especially popularized today because of the growing polarity between the Democrats and the Republicans. Recently, because of the demagogue Trump, we have begun to associate one party with democracy and the other with totalitarianism. But the differences are essentially tactical and not at all fundamental to who runs what.

America never had, and does not have today, total democracy. Democracy, like everything else, is not static, but in a state of continuous change. In 1776, Americans had almost the same amount of democracy that Britains had created for themselves. Through struggle, Americans increased their levels of democracy fairly consistently until the late 1970s. From that point forward, a concerted effort from the ruling class has diminished democracy. If Donald Trump had succeeded in setting aside the 2020 elections, then democracy would have taken a drastic setback. The election of Joe Biden means that our American democracy may hold its own or move forward slightly, but it is not likely to be much.

The ruling class adopted its anti-democratic stance after the civil-rights and anti-war movements had threatened their control and at a time that their post-war international economic hegemony was challenged from abroad. From their point of view, American workers had to be harnessed more effectively than before, and certainly more effectively than their international competitors were harnessing their own workers. Democracy was an obstacle to be overcome. That economic situation was never rectified and cannot be rectified short of world war. The only thing that the American ruling class could do was out-compete other nations by driving down unit labor costs. “Unit labor costs,” to all effects, is how they think of the rest of the American population.

If the ruling class continues to be unchecked, they will continue to drive down unit labor costs and they will diminish democracy to do so. Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals, leftist or rightists, the ruling class will agree.

A split in the ruling class?

Perhaps over tactics and timing, but not over who controls what. A good lesson can be learned from the current arguments in Congress. The Democrats and Republicans are unable to agree on a COVID relief package. But, during the same period, they agreed by more than a 2/3 majority on gigantic military expenditures! Contrast the difference! The military bill goes directly to the immediate interests of the ruling class, the COVID-relief bill primarily affects only the rest of us – their unit labor costs.

Even the details of the COVID-relief bills being discussed tell us something about ruling class control. They would give a small amount in relief to the unemployed, small amounts for schools (private as well as public), substantial amounts to save the airline industry, some amounts for “small” business, and some amounts to keep state and local governments running.

Have you heard anything about job creation through infrastructure projects? Did you hear anything about simply buying the airlines and other failing corporations to run them for the public good? No, you haven’t and you won’t, because those are measures that actually do speak to the essential question of who runs what.

The bosses have some differences, but they’re only about “how” to run things, never about who runs them.

–Gene Lantz

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

Film review:

“The Painted Bird,” Directed by Václav Marhoul, 2 hours 49 minutes

My movie buddy and I watched this film streamed from HULU in our comfortable living room. If we had seen it in a theater, I don’t know if we could have stayed through it. I understand that many other moviegoers have walked out, not because they didn’t appreciate the film, but because they appreciated it too much!

You can tell it’s a novel. Too much happens with too many characters for an original screenplay. Also, it’s really long. It’s in the starkest black and white. The main character is mute, most of the characters are too miserable to talk, so it’s almost a silent movie.

The story, briefly, is about an Eastern European boy who suffers through the period coincident with World War II. He wanders from one miserable hovel to the next and suffers amazing, disgusting, depredations from backward and somewhat insane perpetrators. They don’t limit themselves to persecuting the boy. Some of the things they do to one another are extremely difficult to watch and almost impossible to put into words.

On the technical side of the production, any one of several amazing accomplishments would make this art movie worth watching. I don’t see how they managed to assemble such an array of international movie stars. I can’t begin to explain how they managed to train the animals to portray such wild extremes of behavior. The cinematography is breathtaking. The props include authentic German and Russian war machines. All the settings are either gorgeous or grotesque. In short, the movie is done well.

And finally, what does it all mean? Does it mean that many humans, perhaps a majority, are cruel and perverted? Does it mean that humans, even an unprotected little boy, can endure almost anything? Or is it just a statement about certain people in a certain place and a certain period of time? Probably, it will mean different things to different people, but I can almost guarantee that the effect will be on a grand scale and this movie will be talked about for some time to come.

–Gene Lantz

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