March 8, 2017, could be gigantic!

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Good strategies and tactics only come from understanding the situation we’re in. If one overestimates people’s willingness to take action, one tends to try things that can’t be done and make other “ultraleft” errors. If we underestimate people, we end up settling for petty reforms when we could get bigger changes.

For most of my political life, I’ve tended to think people would do a lot more than they actually did. I thought, for example, that voters would really turn out to defeat the Orange Menace last November.

Afterward, when individuals and small groups began to call for militant political action, I fell on the timid side of evaluation. I never imagined that the January 21 marches and rallies would be the biggest in American history, but they were.

Now, to my surprise, I’m seeing some actual results from calls for a “general strike.” Even in my town, some small businesses shut down and a lot of students — of all ages — stayed out of school on February 16. For my entire political life, and all of almost everybody else’s, the call for a “general strike” was just a foolish dream of ultralefts and knee-jerk activists who weren’t even interested in whether it would work or not.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day

Now, calls for a general strike are beginning to get some traction. People are discussing the idea and beginning to talk about what it would take to be successful. I imagine that some people are looking at the general strikes in American history. The years 1877, 1886, and 1919 would be good ones to look at, but general strikes occurred in limited geographical areas right up to the big government attacks on workers that began in 1946. None were effective since then that I know of, until February 16, 2017.

To really make a difference, a general strike needs to be organized. Leadership needs to agree on the demands. They need to make those demands clearly understood, and they need to call off the action if the demands are met. It is hardly fair, and certainly not smart to ask people to make sacrifices without knowing what they are fighting for.

Leadership also needs to figure out how the strike should be conducted and how people’s needs can be met during the action. I have always loved reading about the successful strike in Seattle in 1919 where Rob Rosenthal wrote this poem:

“Nothing moves in the city,

Without our say-so

Let the bosses curse,

Let the papers cry

This morning

I saw it happen, with these ancient eyes of mine

Without our say-so

Nothing moves but the tide!”

March 8 is Coming. Look Out!

As I understand it, the February 16 activities were largely organized on social media. A lot of people didn’t know about “A Day Without An Immigrant,” but a significant number of the ones who knew about it went ahead and participated. That’s the times we live in.

As I understand it, the leaders that organized the biggest demonstrations in American history on January 21 have called for actions on March 8 — International Women’s Day. If “A Day Without  A Woman” goes anything like “A Day Without An Immigrant” –given that more people will know about it, that the leadership has already made itself credible and somewhat seasoned, and that there are more women in America than immigrants — a general strike on March 8 could be the most important political event in America since World War II.

That is, if I understand the times.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on the “Workers Beat” talk show ever Saturday at 9AM. 89.3fm in Dallas and http://knon.org everywhere. If you’re interested in what I really think, click here.

The Luddites took matters into their own hands when they saw that machines were destroying their jobs. They smashed the machines!

luddites

The argument in favor of new production equipment has always been that it brings down prices as it increases the total amount of wealth. The argument against it is that it doesn’t benefit the workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps figures on productivity — the amount of wealth that one worker creates in an hour — and it’s incredible how much it has changed. They publish annual or quarterly changes in productivity, but one can use a spreadsheet to show the cumulative effect. From World War II to present, one worker makes more than four times as much as he/she did in an hour!

We didn’t get four times as much in wages and benefits. Instead, we suffered loss of jobs and diminishing power in the workplace as organized labor rolls dropped by two-thirds during the same period.

We have a fighting program against outsourcing, which also takes away our jobs, but American workers seem helpless against automation.

It Wasn’t Always That Way

The American labor movement used to have the correct answer to automation. When the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was a fighting organization (1938-1947) they demanded “30 for 40 with no cut in pay” in virtually every contract fight. It means that they wanted to work thirty hours for forty hours’ pay. Not long after labor took its wrong turn in 1947, they gave up the demand for shorter hours. It’s hardly ever heard of today.

One thing that CIO militants did win was cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA) in contracts. As the government’s measure of inflation went up, union wages were adjusted upward. The formula used was never quite fair, but the general idea was very good. They used to call COLA an “escalator clause.”

Why No COPA?

Union negotiators could have demanded a cost-of-productivity-adjustment. Instead of higher wages, it should have given us shorter hours. If a person doubles their productivity, then, they should only have to work half as long! If we had done that successfully, we wouldn’t have lost a tremendous number of union jobs. Our unions would be just as big, and have just as much political clout, as they had in 1947!

Why didn’t they? Why don’t they now? That’s kind of a mystery.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on the “Workers Beat” radio talk show, 89.3FM in Dallas and KNON.ORG everywhere. If you want to know what I really think, click here.

 

To go on strike basically means to stop working until some particular demand is met.

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Since Trump was elected, I have received two calls for a general strike. One was for January 21, the other is pending, February 17.  No exact demands accompanied on either one. I think it’s dangerous business, but must be considered.

What Is a Strike?

The word comes from British sailors who would “strike sails” and refuse to take their ships to sea. A “general strike” in a given area means that everybody, not just one particular organization or category of people, stops working until their demands are met. General strikes may not be over economic issues, but political.

Since the U.S. government moved against the union movement in 1947, the only union strikes we have seen were limited to one union, the few other unions legally able and willing to participate, and whatever community support a local union could get. Usually since 1947, American union locals have faced their employers virtually alone.

Prior to 1947, in fact in 1946 in Houston, there were general strikes in America. Probably the most dramatic and best-remembered was the strike for the 8-hour day, worldwide, May 1, 1886. Like most general strikes with potential for change, it was met with armed violence from the employers and their government.

We hear of general strikes in other countries from time to time. Over there, unions are involved but it is unlikely, given their legal situation, that organized labor would call any  general strike in America today. That doesn’t mean somebody else couldn’t!

Strikes Are Part of Economic Struggle

A strike is not the only form of economic struggle, as differentiated from armed struggle or electoral struggle. Any kind of refusal to cooperate with the employers’ system of production fits the description. Workers might, for example, try a “slowdown.” Lately, union leaders call it “work to rule” and ask employees to do only what they are required to do legally and by contract, nothing more. In modern strikes, especially since Reagan, people sometimes lose their jobs. With slowdowns, there’s less risk of job loss. But a slowdown is a harder to organize and carry out.

Economic boycotts are economic struggles. The United Farm Workers carried out an effective one in the early 1970s against grape growers. Economic boycotts, like general strikes are very easily called by some unthinking hothead, but extremely difficult to carry out.

The employers and the government may be counted on to team up quickly against any kind of economic struggle by workers.

Who Wins? Who Loses?

According to the employers, workers always lose every strike. Even if the strike has short duration, the workers at minimum have to go some time without income. The strain on families and friendships is terrific. Nowadays, when many workers are carrying heavy loads of debt, the thought of a strike, even for a few days, terrifies everybody.

According to the workers, we win pretty much every strike. Even if our demands weren’t met, we feel that we’ve stood up for our dignity and for the dignity of all working people.

But putting points of view aside, the actual winner of a strike is generally the side that holds out one day longer than the other side. “One Day Longer” makes a good workers’ slogan and is the title of one of my songs.

“Winning” for us means getting whatever we wanted. “Winning” for the bosses means getting whatever they wanted plus the ability to take retaliatory action against every worker that crossed them.

A Strike Is Serious Business

A successful strike is one that grew out of careful analysis of the situation and had good planning and strong leadership. A good example was the three-month strike recently carried out by the Fort Worth Symphony Musicians. Somebody needs to write a book about that one.

Calling a strike without careful analysis, good planning and strong leadership is irresponsible and likely to get lose and get people fired. It isn’t much better than calling “fire” in a crowded movie theater.

But We Need Economic Struggle, and We Need It Now

I can only think of one thing worse right now than an irresponsible call for economic struggle — and that is no call for economic struggle.

Every American who is not a fool knows we need to resist the attacks underway. Economic struggle is, right now, our best option.

Don’t Go Off Half-Cocked

We need careful study and careful planning to win any economic struggle. Fortunately, we have the ability to do that thanks to modern communications. We could, for example, call for a “virtual strike” over a certain demand and for a certain day. We could make our preparations virtually. We could sign up the people willing to participate and, afterward, evaluate the results. Then we could call another one and see how it goes.

Study up, think it through, and share your thoughts.

–Gene Lantz

I talk about these things on KNON.org’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 Central Time every Saturday. 89.3FM in Dallas. If you want to know what I really think, click here.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a popular theory that the capitalists of the Earth had reached some sort of detente and would have no further use for war.

earthdivided

Another theory said that the capitalists were no different from gangsters fighting over their “turf.” Creating world wars was an intrinsic part of their very nature.

World War I and then World War II validated the second theory and completely discredited the first. Modern monopolistic capitalists were willing to kill millions in wars to establish their financial control over different parts of the planet. Their national armies were basically at the service of the bankers. Each “nation” was in fact a separate military operation, each opposed to the others.

This was explained in 1916 in a very important booklet named “Imperialism” by V.I. Lenin. There’s a short version on-line.

The big wars temporarily worked out great for the victorious bankers, despite having been hard on the millions killed, imprisoned, or maimed and on the nations who lost.

The New Theory Was Really the Old

Then in the 1980s, a new version of capitalist peace on Earth began to circulate. It was especially boosted when the Soviet Union failed. Opponents of the new theory called it “neoliberalism” rather than the classic name “imperialism.” Those who promoted the idea, which included virtually all the information sources in the rich countries, called it “globalization.” (I called it “gobblelization”).

The new theory, like the old one, held that the capitalists of the world had brought about a new world order based on extending the benefits of the “invisible hand” of capitalist markets to all the world through “free trade.”

Is It “Free?” Is It “Trade?”

The name “free trade” was a tremendous publicity success. Who’s against freedom? Who’s against trade?

Through long hard work, a few workers’ organizations, particularly unions of the world, explained that these so-called trade deals were nothing but agreements between capitalists at the expense of the workers in their respective territories. Time and a flood of actual data proved we were right. The capitalists were only agreeing among themselves that they would move their operations around to obtain the lowest possible wages and the fewest possible pollution controls.

Just as they had previously used their government’s armies to obtain their wishes, the bankers were now using their respective government’s negotiations. The ends were the same. The bankers from the countries with the biggest armies obtained more advantages over the countries with less clout. Only the 1% of any country benefited.

A Lot of People Bought Into the “New” Theory

Nevertheless, the idea that capitalism had established a new and lasting peaceful relationship persisted, and a lot of people thought it was true. Then, in 2016, came super nationalism, came Brexit, came Donald Trump.

The British poked a hole in the European Union from which it may not recover. The Scots tried to leave the British. Polls showed that near-Nazi nationalists were gaining electoral power in several major capitalist states. President Trump declared “America first” and spit in the faces of several other nations.

Will Capitalism Ever Bring Peace?

People must now review the two theories of international relations. We have to ask ourselves, “Are the bankers who control the major capitalist countries creating a peaceful world, or are they actually no different from gangsters fighting over turf?”

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON.org and 89.3FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, click here.

January 28 was significant for learning about immigration and refugees.

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On the day after President Trump spit in the face of a large world religion, we were confronted with a dramatic historic page-turning and an opportunity to learn a lot.

There are a wide range of positions

Americans are divided on this issue. Positions range from outright racism and jingoism — hating all foreigners — up to my guest on the “Workers Beat” program on http://knon.org and 89.3FM in Dallas. Joshua Hatton gave his position as “abolitionist” and compared it to the brave Americans opposing slavery before the Civil War. They, too, helped people move from South to North, and they, too, opposed any effort to deport people back. The Fugitive Slave Act, tested in the Dred Scott decision, is said to be a major cause of support for the Northern side in the Civil War.

There were so many calls that I didn’t get to ask him if there were any difference between his “abolitionist” position and the old “sin fronteras” socialist position. “Sin fronteras” means “no borders.” In other words, workers could move back and forth across national borders with the same ease that capital does.

The argument is that national borders were created and operated by capitalists to defend their interests and are actually a hindrance to working people on both sides of the border. In 1999, the new leadership of the AFL-CIO labor federation, changed from “deport them all” to “let them in and then organize them.” In other words, solidarity is our strength and division is our weakness. Still, I expected most union people, and most politicians, too, to duck the issue as much as they could, since nobody wants to fight when your own people are divided.

Some politicians really stepped up

Congressman Marc Veasey of Dallas/Fort Worth has been saying for some time that he opposes Trump’s anti-immigrant actions. He held a meeting on that fateful day, January 28, at Kidd Springs Park. The subject was DACA — Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals. He had a young woman, Diana Radilla, tell what it was like to be raised undocumented. He also had Congresswoman Linda Sanchez from California. They spoke up strongly on keeping DACA intact.

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I didn’t realize that morning that crowds were forming in airports. That evening, when I did find out and went to the DFW airport to join the protests, the first person I saw was Marc Veasey. The second was our Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Here were two leading Democrats going far beyond electoral politics to stand with us, 1000 members of the rabble more or less, against anti-immigrant racism!

Would the unions duck?

Contrary to what the bosses like to tell us, unions are scrupulously democratic. Elected union leaders have to consider every move in terms of how much flak they are going to catch from their members. Consequently, I would have expected them to “lay behind the log” on immigration issues as much as they could. I was wrong again.

On the night that we were at the DFW airport, my good friend Rick Schoolcraft turned up. He’s from my own aerospace local. Gary Livingston, from another aerospace local, had been there all day. His aerospace local probably leans as far right as mine does, but there he was.

The next day, I asked permission to use the Dallas AFL-CIO communications network to encourage more participation at the airport. I couldn’t reach the principal leader, Mark York, but his political director, Lorraine Montemayor, told me immediately to go ahead. So I put it on the web site, sent out 4,000 emails, and used labor’s social media to encourage more turnout.

An hour or so later, I found out why I hadn’t been able to reach Mark York. He was already out there, injured ankle and injured shoulder and all, in the middle of the airport protest! Mark was live-streaming the protests and complimenting other unionists, including Darryl and Stacy Sullivan from the Teamsters, for joining the protests. So much for ducking!

What’s Next?

There is a lot of political space between “reasonable immigration/refugee policy” and “Welcome all.” I don’t think the American public is nearly as pro-immigrant/refugee as my radio guest Joshua Hatton or my fellow protesters at the airport. But people are learning fast as we are being prodded by President Trump and incipient fascism.

We learn quickest when we take action. Policy and leadership are emerging, so don’t count out the American people, even on the complicated and difficult issues!

My video of the DFW protests, 3.5 minutes, is on You Tube.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on http://knon.org and 89.3 FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you are interested in what I really think, click here.

 

 

 

 

There are probably two reasons for Americans to not be afraid of their government.

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One of them is that they are just good, clean, honest people who can’t find it in their heart to think ill of others. The other is that they probably just never did much of anything.

Those who have stepped, even a tiny toe, outside the ring of expected behavior have probably been spied on and  recorded at the least. They may have also been intimidated, smeared, fired from their jobs, blacklisted, beaten, shot, and/or murdered.

Our government, local and national, has been doing those things all along.

Book review: Bud Schultz and Ruth Schultz, editors, “The Price of Dissent. Testimonies to Political Repression in America.” University of California Press, 2001.

The book is a collection of original testimony from people who stepped outside the ring and found Big Brother waiting there. It also mentions things that happened in earlier times, such as the wholesale murders, whippings, arrests, deportations, and illegal persecution of labor activists throughout American history. The chapter titled “The Unrelenting Campaign against the Industrial Workers of the World” is especially enlightening.

The first hand explanations from activists of the 1950s-1980s, though, aren’t just history lessons. They are up close and personal, hard hitting and sometimes a little difficult to read. Witnesses to the Black Panthers murdered in Chicago, the students shot down at Kent State, and civil rights victims of murder and mayhem in the American South are especially effective. I don’t know why they left out the time that the Houston police fired 1,000 bullets into the dormitory at Texas Southern University and the police sniper who killed Carl Hampton a few blocks away, but I guess there were just too many episodes to fit into one book.

Texas isn’t left out completely, because they interviewed my good friends Jose Rinaldi and Linda Hajek about the FBI agent in our Dallas CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) anti-war group. Agent Frank Varelli was commissioned by the Dallas FBI to do nasty things to our friendly little group of peaceniks. Among the horrors he committed was informing the murderous death squads in El Salvador about the names and arrival dates of deported Salvadorans and visiting Americans from here.

He told us his name was Gilberto Mendoza, and he gushed gratitude to our group for standing up for Central Americans. As I remember it, he gushed that over and over again, every time he showed up. I got tired of him and thought he was an idiot, but I didn’t spot him as an agent. In fact, I interviewed him for The Hard Times News. I never look for agents, I just ask everybody I know to do a lot of work. Agents never want to do any actual work.

In 1987, the Dallas FBI got behind on Varelli’s paychecks. To pressure them, he went to the Dallas Morning News, and they ran a full front-page expose! I think Varelli liked the notoriety, because the next thing you know he came to one of our meetings, without his Mendoza disguise, and explained the entire thing!

Varelli did ugly things, and most of the folks were shocked. I wasn’t, because I had already participated in an ACLU lawsuit against the Houston police and a national lawsuit against the Justice Department. I wanted to sue the pants off the FBI over Varelli, but was outvoted.

Our government does ugly ugly things and always has, but they always say, as the book shows, every time they get caught, that they won’t do it any more.

–Gene Lantz

Hear “Workers Beat” on 89.3FM in Dallas and knon.org everywhere every Saturday at 9 central time. If you want to know what I really think, click here.

Trump is blasting his prevarication machine, and most people think he is “out of control.”

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The pundits and columnists seem confused by all the “alternate facts” blasting out. See, for example,

Trump’s disregard for the truth threatens his ability to govern
Dallas Morning News

But there is method to his madness

As I’ve said before on this blog, watch out for major attacks against democracy during this political period. They can’t fix the economy for the voters, so their only alternative is to make sure the voters’ power is diminished BEFORE the 2018 Mid-Term elections.

Trump and his minions are repeating this nonsense about millions of undocumented workers voting because he is building a case for more voter suppression. 

As Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels taught us long ago, the most outlandish lies will be believed if they are repeated often enough. From his “bully pulpit” the presidency, Trump can repeat a lie many many times.

Liars are blaming liars

The “responsible” journalists, of course, are doing what they should do today and calling him a liar. But who will believe them in these days of failing trust? Who will believe newspersons who basically echo the beliefs of their six giant corporate employers? The most popular television news service, Fox, is by far the least honest.

The newspersons are already largely discredited, they largely did it to themselves. And Trump is discrediting them more and more by repeating, more and more, that they aren’t to be trusted. That’s the second part of Trump’s conspiracy against democracy.

Will it work?

One is tempted to say that a national prevarication campaign won’t work because the people have their own access to information, particularly through the internet and particularly through social media. One is tempted to say that even the discredited newspersons, if they stick to their guns, will be believed by a significant part of the population. BTW, I wouldn’t count on their sticking to their guns. People work for whoever signs their paycheck.

The big lie technique worked for Goebbels. It worked for Hitler. Millions died for their lies. Whether or not it will work now and here in America depends on us.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on knon.org radio and 89.3 FM every Saturday at 9 in North Texas. If you want to know what I really think, click here.