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.

For a small donation to Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, I will write you a PRESIDENTIAL PARDON!

Friends, have you thought about getting a PRESIDENTIAL PARDON for yourself? Everybody else is getting them, why not you? You could get pardoned for anything from jaywalking all the way to TREASON during this political season.

For just a small donation to Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, I will write you your very own PRESIDENTIAL PARDON!

Friends, you and I both know that I’m not the president of the United States, but I am the president of UAW local 848 retirees, and a president is a president. When the presidential pardons are flying thick and fast, like they are now, do you think anybody is going to examine YOURS all that closely? Trump is handing out pardons like wallpaper.

Trump even pardoned a Thanksgiving turkey, although some say he only pardoned the white meat. He’s pardoned people for lying to Congress, for lying to everybody! He’s giving out so many Presidential Pardons, you could TP people’s houses in presidential pardons. With all these pardons flying around, nobody is going to check yours! Believe me friends, no one will notice which president signed it.

Donate now to Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and GET PARDONED! Just go to GeneLantz.org and click PRESIDENTIAL PARDON!

Now, friends, I know you haven’t done anything to be pardoned for, you haven’t done any crimes. But think about it. WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO? Some of these presidential pardons are going to people who haven’t even been indicted yet. Just because YOU haven’t been indicted for anything, doesn’t mean you couldn’t go ahead and get your presidential pardon. Imagine being pulled over for letting your car’s sticker expire. You just pull out your PRESIDENTIAL PARDON and roll right on! If you watered your lawn on the wrong day, NOTHING TO IT! Made wind in a crowded elevator? FORGET ABOUT IT! Just walk away with your PRESIDENTIAL PARDON. With a PRESIDENTIAL PARDON in your pocket, you could smoke marijuana in any state in the union!

I’ll write your pardon

Come on and bribe me in the Rose Garden

Come down there any time

I will pardon you for any crime

This offer expires on January 20

Fund Raising Gets Crazy!

For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been getting nuttier and nuttier on social media. The reason is fund raising. I raise money for KNON radio, where I have a talk show. I raise money for the Dallas AFL-CIO, where I am the Communications Director. I raise money for the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, where I am state secretary.

Traditionally, a fund raiser is a dinner. But the pandemic has put everything on-line. I’ve struggled with presentation concepts and video editing, but I’ve also raised a few dollars. Selling “presidential pardons” is not the silliest thing I’ve stooped to. Here are some others I did for KNON radio:

Curse People: For a donation, I offered to curse other people on behalf of mild-mannered people who are just “too decent” to curse out “people who deserve it!” On YouTube it’s https://youtu.be/Gyvvg09rWxk

Vaccination Excusals: I offered to write excusals to anybody crazy enough to want to avoid being vaccinated against COVID-19. https://youtu.be/WeKCwDxExiE

Fake Vacations: For people who don’t really want to go anywhere. https://youtu.be/qLfhpfLX60w

Ear Stiffener: Spray to help people with floppy ears keep their masks on. https://youtu.be/X6w-h17Gt_g

The economy is fast going into the toilet. Fund raising, like a lot of things, is getting desperate.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 Central Time. They post it, and “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, visit my personal web site.

Book Review:

McCrory, Dan, “Capitalism Killed the Middle Class. 25 Ways the System is Rigged Against You.” Published by Dan McCrory, 2019

I interviewed the author and put it on Facebook, “Workers Beat Extra” and YouTube. November, 2020. The book is a handy compendium of everything bad about capitalist America. The list is too long to even summarize. I think the author did a lot of research and added his personal experiences as a local CWA activist and President. He has some good cartoons by Gary Huck.

But, like the cartoons, the book lists all the problems but falls short on the solutions. The final chapter has a question mark, “Evolution or Revolution?” When I interviewed him, McCrory told me he is a Democratic Party activist. And the book is consistent with the idea that progressive activity within the Democratic Party will eventually overcome all the problems of capitalism. As I don’t agree with that, I had a little bit of a hard time taking the whole book seriously.

These are the people who took 4 years to get over wrists they sprained when Obama was President and are doing handsprings today over Biden.

-Gene Lantz

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

Tomorrow, October 26, reaction will likely firm its grip over one of the three branches of American government. Assuming that the votes reported from November 3 favor Mr Biden but are sufficiently close, Mr Trump will begin maneuvers to have democracy set aside. The people will respond.

Democracy is growing less and less convenient for the people in power.

When it first began to spread to the working masses, around 1651, it worked out great for the rich. The new kind of workers, prematurely named “free labor,” was far superior to the slaves, serfs, and peons of before. The new merchants and manufacturers could employ “free labor” to run their complicated machinery. Slaves, serfs, or peons had been okay as long as plows and wheelbarrows were their highest technology, but intercontinental travel and high-level manufacturing needed workers who could be highly trained and organized.

If we wanted to talk “isms,” we would say that capitalism created “free labor” and increased democracy. But “isms” are a distraction. We are just talking about groups of people bound together by their common economic interests. The big group was “free labor,” but the smaller group of bosses was running things.

The “free labor” group believed, as all exploited people must believe, that they were part of an ageless and unchangeable system, for better or for worse. Through the generations, they studied and they toiled, they believed, for their own benefit and for the benefit of their children. Actually, the main beneficiaries were in the other group.

Democracy was a blessing to the working people and not entirely inconvenient for the bosses, as long as they still controlled the major economic levers. Workers could be allowed to vote for some of their representatives in government, but they were allowed very little say-so about major economic decisions or government policy. Decisions about war, in particular, had to be reserved for the elite.

Here in America, partial democracy had barely begun before it began to be challenged. Slavery became intolerable, not only to the slaves but to a significant part of the population. Landless workers wanted democracy. Women wanted to vote. People “of color” wanted freedom. Younger people insisted on a fair share. Everybody wanted more education for their children and independent news agencies sprang up everywhere.

The elite rulers found themselves with the Frankenstein dilemma. They had created and nurtured both “free labor” and its concomitant democracy, but both were getting out of control.

The changes were gradual over time. Ordinary people became better educated, more information sources became available, communications improved, organization opportunities grew. Democracy was ascending, and the tight grip of the ever-smaller group of big bosses was threatened.

Even though change is gradual, it is highlighted in certain events and periods. The Vietnam War was one of them. From the bosses’ point of view, the decision was a simple one: they were going to destroy their enemies and perpetuate their control, just as they were accustomed to doing. But democracy and the people began to interfere. When the civil rights movement joined hands with the anti-war demonstrators, even the bosses could see that change was coming.

Since then, education has exploded, information sources have multiplied, communication has headed for the stratosphere, and organizing opportunities are going through the roof. The people see democracy as more than a comfort. It is a necessity and must be extended!

Many of the bosses no longer see democracy as tolerable. It has to be fought. It has to die.

What Will Happen

What will happen, sooner or later, is what must happen. The immovable object and the irresistible force must confront one another. Progress and reaction cannot reconcile. A small group of secret rulers will not willingly cede control. Ascendant democracy for all cannot tolerate a small group of secret rulers. Progress and the people will prevail.

Movie Review:

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. 140 minutes on Netflix

What makes this movie so relevant for today is the contrasting strategies portrayed. The movie makes the different ideologies clear. There were a lot of approaches to the Anti-War movement during the Vietnam invasion and not all of them are in this movie, but some critical ones were. With historical hindsight, we can evaluate them.

In 1969 leaders of the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society, the newly formed Yippie Party, and one pacifist associated with the War Resisters League were put on trial for having crossed state lines in order to “incite a riot” at the Democratic Party National Convention. It was a political show trial staged by the Nixon Administration in hopes of dampening the anti-war fervor of the time.

We can dispense with Nixon’s nasty strategy easily: it failed. The anti-war movement did not diminish during or after the trial. What is much more interesting is the contrasting approaches of the defendants.

The strategy of the protagonist with the pacifist view was to appeal to people’s better nature and provide a good example of anti-war intelligence. He was the most reasonable of the bunch, or at least he seemed so until he slugged one of the bailiffs.

Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers was not involved in organizing the demonstrations. The Nixon “Justice” department apparently indicted him, as the script explains, just to scare the jurors. Seale doesn’t talk strategies with the other defendants, but his interactions with the judge showed his defiant attitude. During the trial, the Chicago Police murdered Fred Hampton, Chicago leader of the Panthers. The judge in the trial infamously had Bobby Seale bound and gagged in the courtroom.

The two “Yippies,” Abie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, steal the movie, as they did the publicity around the long trial, by joking and mocking the judicial system. Their goal, as gleefully explained in the movie, was to create a “cultural revolution.” Their antics were supposed to reveal the fundamental injustice of the war, the trial, and the entire American way of life. That would somehow lead to fundamental changes, but they were accused in the movie of being simple opportunists aggrandizing their own reputations and book sales.

Students for a Democratic Society was a mass movement. It didn’t last very long, but it had a tremendous impact on society and on the war in Vietnam while it lasted. Its main spokesperson in the movie was Tom Hayden who used his anti-war fame to gain a very successful career in California politics. Hayden explains that his movement’s goal was to win power through elections.

All of the defendants agreed on one thing: they wanted to end the war in Vietnam. In that regard, history explains to us that they were on the right track. The war in Vietnam is probably the only U.S. war whose extent was severely limited by popular dissent.

They also agreed that demonstrating at the Democratic Party Convention was a good tactic. The Democrats, after all, had started the war under the Kennedy Administration and carried it to fabulous extremes under Johnson. One could argue that the Chicago demonstrations helped defeat Hubert Humphrey and put Richard Nixon into the White House. Nixon then carried the war even further, but we have no historical way of evaluating what “Happy Warrior” Humphrey would have done.

The characters in the movie, especially Hayden and Hoffman, argue strategies. Viewers like you and I get to decide who was the most effective.

Gene Lantz

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

You can learn all the technicalities of the movie with the Wikipedia article. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trial_of_the_Chicago_7

For a rave review of the movie’s artistic aspects, see https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-trial-of-the-chicago-7-movie-review-2020