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Monthly Archives: July 2016

In the Q&A last Saturday, a woman asked the exasperating eternal question, “Why do people act and vote against their own interests?” Everybody wants to know that.

The answer is that the entire culture, set up and controlled by the employers, is working against us. They own virtually all the advertising industry, the publishers, the movies, the news sources, the schools, the concert halls — everything that hits us intellectually and emotionally. And it’s constantly!

“Society is everywhere in conspiracy against the manhood [and womanhood] of each of its members.” — Thoreau

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Artists fight back in coffee houses with limited audiences. They do even better on the internet. There’s a “union song playlist” on YouTube, (click here) for instance.

Democracy has a way of inserting itself even in commercial cultural enterprises. The movies, for example, have to sell tickets, so they can’t constantly preach against everything we believe. I enjoy writing reviews because there are some good things said in movies like “The Free State of Jones” (click here) where the main character explains that his band of Mississippi guerrillas are not exactly fighting for the North in the Civil War. He says they’re fighting against the wealthy, and that’s not the same thing.

Of the world of art and culture, I believe my favorite area is the daily newspaper comics. I can imagine that the cartoonists try hard to stay neutral on the issues, but they have to cultivate an honest audience; consequently democracy sneaks in again. “Dilbert,” which always shows management as idiots, is my favorite of course. Recently, “Non Sequiter” showed St Peter working the handle on a trap door that sent Republican politicians immediately Down Below. “Doonesbury,” of course, punishes greedy politicians mercilessly.

My own radio show, “Workers Beat” on KNON radio (click here) is an exception to the rule. But the rule remains that the bosses control almost everything that influences us.

–Gene Lantz

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One web site says 251,000 have died in Iraq since America was fooled into invading. Another (click here) says 500,000. Both of them say that most of the dead are civilians, and neither counts the number of maimed and crippled, not to mention the ones driven crazy, some of whom are running around on the streets here at home.

I wrote one of my one-minute songs about it. My argument was that they should be burying all of them here in Dallas, where George W Bush, the main perpetrator of the entire conflagration in the Middle East, lives. I’ve always thought it was fitting that General Robert E Lee’s plantation was taken over during the Civil War and used to bury the war dead. Bush has a ranch that could be used for that.

I don’t usually write about foreign affairs. I always assume that the people over there know more about what they should be doing than people over here, namely me, do.

But it’s clear that the United States has stirred up a holy war. It’s clear that young men and women are being recruited into that holy war on the basis that there’s something ungodly about what the great imperialist nations do in other people’s back yards.

I can’t begin to understand the religious side of it, but I know what imperialism is. It’s the boss’s game and for the boss’s profit. There’s nothing good in it for working people, over here or over there!

–Gene Lantz

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Three days after the Dallas police shootings, the outpouring of “Back the Blue” is even stronger than I predicted.

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Before July 26, 1970, Carl Hampton called for strong community organizations

Most of the public statements, even some from African American leaders, don’t even mention the underlying 400-year old problem of racism that underlies everything. Financial support for the police is everywhere. Dozens of restaurants have opened their doors and menus for free meals for the police. Special prayer services in parks and churches have taken place and are taking place today. There will be a big service for the police on the City Hall plaza tomorrow. The increase in tax money for police activities is virtually inevitable.

What About Solutions?

“Come together,” is the cry from the establishment. “We can work out our problems later,” is added by the more thoughtful ones. Everybody wants to treat one of the symptoms, retaliation against police officers, but few are looking at the problem.

On my radio show yesterday, a wide ranges of responses came from callers. One man  agreed with the Texas Lieutenant Governor that the police shootings were the fault of the peaceful protesters. The leaders, he said, should be arrested. Protests should be banned. Thursday night’s protesters should all be rounded up and “sent back to Mexico.” I think he confused some of his issues.

Another man said that Micah X Johnson, the sniper in question, should be treated as a “quasi hero.” Most of the callers said that the problem was societal and that it would not be solved until our society is changed. I thought that was reasonable, but not very concrete.

Can We Ameliorate Racist Violence?

I’ve been puzzling over answers to this ongoing problem since I was involved in exposing the police killing of Milton Glover in Houston in 1975. Glover waved a New Testament at two patrol officers and they shot him over and over again. In their defense, they said that the book looked like a gun. They walked, of course, but not until after we made it an international scandal.

I’ve heard a lot of the “reform” suggestions before. Here is a list of them published in a statement by the Texas Green Party:

 

  • In order to prevent further police brutality, we support the use of full body cameras that cannot be disabled by officers, demilitarization, and gradual across the board disarmament of the police. All video recordings should be stored indefinitely and available to the public online, without charge, except in cases to protect the victim’s identity and dignity.

  • Every law-enforcement department should be required to keep and report data to the public regarding police violence statistics.

  • We advocate a shift in funding from policing and prisons on the local, state, and federal levels to minority communities for job creation and educational opportunities.

  • Along with the Black Lives Matter movement and other movements and organizations, we demand justice for all people murdered by the police.

  • We advocate the dismissal of and criminal investigation into all officials that allowed police brutality to continue without acknowledgement or justice.

  • We advocate the establishment and full funding of independent civilian review boards, with subpoena power, at municipal and county levels, to oversee the investigation and subsequent prosecution of law enforcement officers accused of misconduct or brutality.

  • We strongly urge jurisdictions to provide independent prosecution and to require instructions and incentives for prosecuting agencies to pursue indictments against law enforcement officers in cases of alleged misconduct or brutality, rather than withholding evidence from grand juries, as well as comprehensive reform of the grand jury system to prevent no-bills of officers when evidence is clearly sufficient to proceed to trial.

The civilian review board with subpoena power has been a demand of African American community leaders to my own knowledge since the 1980s. The Black Lives Matter group has been publishing these suggestions since 2013. I kind of doubt that young Micah X Johnson knew about these ideas, and I don’t know if it would have stopped him if he did. If some of them had been implemented, Micah X Johnson might have had a lot more hope.

In my own opinion, though, the reforms are unlikely to be instituted because of the basic class nature of the police

Who Are the Police?

I would challenge the idea that poor people and police are the same. The police work for the government, and the government is ruled by wealthy people. Their interests are not the same as the interests of poor people and workers in general.

The 1970 Black Panthers Had the Answer

At lunch with friends on Saturday, I talked with a woman who was at Thursday’s march. She didn’t think the omnipresent police around the march in uniforms, in plain clothes, in cars, on foot, and on horseback were there to “protect people’s right to march” as is being affirmed in most of the public comments. She thought they were there to intimidate the marchers and to arrest anybody who looked crosseyed. Her solution to the overall problem of hatred between poor people and police and persistent racism was direct: “The Black Panthers were right!”

She didn’t mean that everyone should arm themselves as the Panthers did in the late 1960s. She meant that strong community organizations could eventually police themselves. There would be no need for armed police in the everyday concerns of well organized communities. That’s what the Panthers thought, but they didn’t get much of a chance to try it.

Carl Hampton (click here), Houston leader of “People’s Party II,” was murdered by a police sniper on a church rooftop July 26, 1970. His cousin, Fred Hampton, and other Panther leaders had been murdered as they slept by Chicago police a few months earlier.

The Dallas shootings of July 7, 2016, may have generated a lot of feelings, but it didn’t expose a new problem. This has been around for a long, long time.

 

Police shoot African Americans across the nation. That problem cannot be denied.

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The question that sober people must address is what to do about it. So far, we have failed to come up with strategies that would give young people hope of a solution. Our failure resulted in misguided actions on July 7th in downtown Dallas, and we are all going to pay the price.

Prayer and Platitudes

Most of what’s been said so far consists mostly of prayer and platitudes. President Obama’s statement that the shootings in Dallas that killed five law enforcement officers and wounded several others were “a vicious calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” doesn’t offer any solution and doesn’t even mention the overall problem.

Just previous to the Dallas tragedy, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka commented on the two most recent police shootings: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the two African-American men who were shot by police within twenty-four hours of each other.  Racism plays an insidious role in the daily lives of all working people of color…..” He identified the problem accurately, but still, what’s the answer?

What Will Happen In Dallas?

There will be a lot of fear generated in Dallas until the police are satisfied. A lot of Dallasites, especially politicians and white people, are going to be publicly and financially “backing the blue.” Eventually, the most concrete change will probably be an increase in the police budget.

What Should Happen in Dallas and Because of the Dallas Tragedy?

Perpetration of violence against African Americans is as old as America. It’s not a problem easily solved, but it cannot be ignored. On my radio talk show on July 9, I’ll be calling for proposed solutions. As far as I have been able to ascertain, most civil rights organizations believe the problem can be solved with more restrictions and more transparency on police behavior. My own proposal may sound far-fetched, but keep in mind that the problem is very old and very chronic.

The police are an arm of a government that is run by and for the wealthy. As long as that class of people want to continue exploiting African Americans, we are going to see the police carrying out their implicit duties. What we need is a better government. In a more immediate sense, we need to move toward organized communities and away from specialized armed forces. Organizing is long, hard work, but it’s the answer.

Shooting Policemen Doesn’t Work

Does anybody think they can out-shoot or out-kill the police? Do they think they could grab a few rifles and challenge the U.S. Army? Can anybody point to a single time in history that minority violence brought progress for working people?

I think the best political advice I ever read came from a speech Leon Trotsky made during the Russian Revolution: “It is not sufficient to fight, comrades, it is also necessary to win.”

–Gene Lantz

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Looking back over years of writing to you, gentle reader, I see my great error: I never made it clear that I love you.

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“We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.” –Che Guevara

When I passed information on, I pretended to be objective. When I argued, I assumed the superior stance: “I know and you don’t.” When I called for action, I did it arrogantly. I tried morality to make a point. I emphasized jazzy language and clever punch lines.

I can’t blame you if you didn’t listen.

Many years ago, I decided that I have to love myself because I am all I have. It’s simply a matter of admitting that, as living beings, we are always subjective. At the same time, I could think of no particular superiority in myself. It reasoned, then, that if I deserve my love, then everybody else is equally deserving. I remember it clearly. It was 1966. That’s when I began to try to find ways to work for a better world for all.

I was never very good at it, and made many more mistakes than advances. I can talk about overcoming my ego, but I’ve never actually done it. My writing suffered for it, and suffers now.

I want to say that I am sharing information with you because I care what happens to you. I want to say that I want to help break you free of some of the obstructions I have overcome so that you can live your life more fully. I want to say that I can help guide you past some of my myriad mistakes. It isn’t arrogance, or it isn’t just arrogance; I want to be of help.

I have never communicated any of that well. But I intend to go on trying.

–Gene Lantz

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Working Americans have always fought the bosses. We’ve won a few battles and lost many, but we always fought on.

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The closest we ever came to a “cease fire” in America’s class war came between 1947 and 1972, “The American Century.” During those few years, the United States had so much economic domination over the rest of the post-war world that they were able to buy off militant workers and collaborationist leaders. Unionists regularly received 3% annual raises and steady improvements in their benefits packages, including retirement. Non-union people got their improvements, but only as a result of the unions.

Then Came International Competition

After 1972, when President Nixon was obliged to change the worldwide monetary agreement set up after the great war, the bosses returned to business as usual. Their usual business is screwing their workers whether they are organized into unions or not. From those days forward, bosses in every capitalist country have been getting government handouts for themselves and austerity for everybody else.

They would like to continue that, but, as I said, we’ve always fought them. We’ve never won a decisive victory and, for the most part, never even thought about a decisive victory. Our battles have been over immediate objectives such as a pay raise for a limited number of workers or voting rights.

Our Victories Have Been Temporary

Even when we win, our victories are temporary because the bosses are still in power and, sooner or later, will try to reverse our successes. Thus, for example, we won the Voting Rights Act and then lived to see it gutted by the Supreme Court. We fought to see our American standard of living rise to the highest in the world, then saw it fall ignominiously.

The trends on our side of the class war are getting hopeful. Just on the wages front, for example, we aren’t just fighting a few scattered battles over peanuts here and there, we are engaged today in a nationwide battle to raise the minimum wage to a respectable figure. The Fight for Fifteen can involve everybody, and actually does involve quite a few of us.

Things Are Looking Up

On the political side, millions were drawn into action by the Bernie Sanders campaign, and I do not believe it is over. Instead, we are on our way toward a working people’s political party that would give us a real choice in elections. I don’t know if that is what Bernie Sanders intends, but I think the momentum of his followers is going that way. Union leadership is better integrated, more militant, and far more progressive than it has been since 1947.

Most exciting of all, I believe that Americans are better informed, more capable, more connected, and more sophisticated than ever in history before.

–Gene Lantz

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Nothing stays the same. Those who hope to continue the limited democracy in America today, without change, aren’t looking at how the world operates.

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Some of the pundit are already describing America’s political system with the word “chaos.” (Click here)

The nations today are competing with one another by forcing austerity onto their respective workforces. The competition will not get any easier because, no matter how cheaply goods can be produced in one country, another can lower their labor costs even further as long as the bosses are in power and as long as the workforce doesn’t actually starve.

The bosses in power can, and will, enforce more austerity as long as they can. That will include union busting, civil rights violations, misogyny and racism just as it does today. At some point, the bosses will have frittered away the illusion that they rule “with the consent of the governed.”

At that point, they will rule without pretending to have our consent, with naked force. That’s fascism. That’s a choice of government that the bosses can make and will make when there are no easier choices.  It’s capitalism in its death throes.

Fascism will not solve the boss’s competition problem. The only reason that Nazi Germany lasted as long as it did, 12 years, was because of their early successes in war. A fascist government today, without the option of making war without destroying the planet, wouldn’t even last that long. But who wants to go through fascism for any length of time?

It isn’t hard to see what the bosses will do, because they are doing it now. The question is, what do we have to do to carry America on the road to fascism? As the great parliamentarian Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

–Gene Lantz

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