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Did you receive separate fund appeals from “Our Revolution” and from “Brand New Congress” today? I did.

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The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign was a wonderful, mighty force and pulled millions of people together. If it stayed together, it had the potential to make significant changes in our democracy.

But the chances of its staying together began to diminish as soon as the formal campaign ended. Some of the Bernie-ites split because they didn’t want to pull for Hillary Clinton. Others, including most of the working people, agreed with Senator Sanders that the Clinton campaign was the best we could do in 2016. The split didn’t seem too bad.

Then “Brand New Congress” appeared and claimed to be the heirs of the Bernie movement. A short time later, Bernie himself announced “Our Revolution” to carry on the proud banners of the progressive Bernie movement. On his live-stream presentation, he didn’t mention “Brand New Congress” nor any other organization that might come forward and claim the Bernie mantle. Today, they each hit me up for money. Practically simultaneously. That’s not cooperation, it’s competition between fund raising organizations.

I had heard rumors that some Bernie-ite leaders had split immediately before the live-stream presentation. If the rumors are true, I don’t know why they left. But if they did, it’s fragmentation that the progressive movement can ill-afford.

A movement is more than fund raising

I was very pleased to hear Bernie Sanders mention forms of struggle beyond electoral work. So far, I haven’t seen any of it, but I think a national march or a series of regional marches might help pull people together. Activists aren’t going to participate forever with organizations that only raise money for electoral campaigns.

Unity doesn’t come easy

Even a great reform program like Bernie’s isn’t magnetic enough to hold a large, diverse political group together. Even a great charismatic leader like Bernie isn’t enough. People need understanding and theory that can lead us to victory, not just terrific slogans and terrific leaders.

How do you think the change you want can come about? Think it through and let your conclusions be your guide.

–Gene Lantz

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For a while there, activists thought some of the countries in South America had gone socialist. People pointed to the peoples’ electoral victories and had the highest admiration for progressive elected leaders like Hugo, Evo, and Lula. Some thought they had it made.

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The progressives are under fire today. Hugo died, one of Evo’s ministers was recently murdered by striking miners, and Dilma Rousseff is on trial in Brazil.(Click here for a very good article). Is it Salvador Allende all over again?

I’m not going to say that anybody in any of those South American progressive movements did anything wrong. They’re there and I’m here. They know a lot of stuff that I don’t. The point is that nothing comes easy.

Everything that working people can win can be lost again as long as the bosses remain in power.

Just one more thing. Don’t think that what happens in Brazil, or anywhere, isn’t part of your own struggle. They will never win without you, and you will never win without them.

–Gene Lantz

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There’s no denying the tremendous effect that the Bernie Sanders movement has had on the body politic. Will it continue? Will the various aspects of Sanders’ progressive program be won?

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Gotta love the guy!

A couple of factual observations: Sanders mentioned doing political actions outside the sphere of electoral politics. I could see petitioning campaigns, possibly boycotts, some strike support, and street heat actions being carried out by enthusiastic young activists and I really like the idea.

Sanders didn’t mention “Brand New Congress” at all. Click here for my article on them. This organization started a couple of months ago with a scheme to elect 400 “corruption proof” congresspersons in 2018. I’d love to see that happen, but I was a little skeptical when they said they were the heirs of the Bernie movement. I was waiting for Bernie to say so, and he didn’t.

Sanders did mention organized labor in a positive way, and many of his proposals are also the proposals of the AFL-CIO.

One last factual observation: We’ve seen this before. Going all the way back to the “Deniacs” of Howard Dean, we’ve seen progressive presidential candidates try to extend their movement beyond their candidacy. The worst one, in my own opinion, was Organizing for America, which was supposed to harness the amazing power behind the Obama 2008 campaign. I call it the worst one just because of my local experience here in Dallas, where OFA completely ignored every organization and movement in existence and put on separate, isolated, events that didn’t necessarily relate to the local situation.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT?

I think the Bernie movement has tremendous potential because of its youth support. We’ll probably see the first test of the movement right after Labor Day, when the “lame duck” congress tries to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) unfair trade deal. (Click here for my piece on trade). It’s well established that most Americans and both presidential campaigns oppose it, but the corporations want it, so don’t be too surprised at what happens.

If the Bernie forces mobilize and get past the TPP test, they may come up with a winning formula for continuing. But there are a lot of obstacles to holding the movement together without Bernie at the helm. The movement started fragmenting as soon as the presidential campaign ended, and it’s still degenerating with little splits and big. I suspect the Brand New Congress people weren’t very happy with the August 24 performance, for example.

HOW CAN WE BUILD MOVEMENT THAT CAN WIN?

There aren’t really any charismatic leaders or ambitious programs that can stand up to corporate money power. I love them and I support them, but I don’t count on them. The essential problem in modern society is the conflict between the bosses and the employees. If we stick with the employees’ side, we won’t go wrong.

–Gene Lantz

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Humorists are having a good time with the 2016 elections because never in our history have we had two candidates with such negative approval ratings.

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Remember that terrific episode of “Rosanne” when Dan’s bowling team came in next to last and celebrated by chanting “We’re not the worst! We’re not the worst!”?

Some of my friends tell me that they’ll launch some kind of a protest vote, possibly for one of the growing “other” parties. They think about Trump, they think about Clinton, then they stop thinking.

How does positive change come about?

If you want positive change, then you owe it to yourself to think through how that positive change could come about.  If you believe, as I do, that the basic conflict in the world today is between employees and bosses, then strengthening the employees’ side is the road to progress. So how the election is going to affect working people is the key to understanding the election and making the most use of it. The perfections and imperfections in the candidates aren’t what matters. What matters is what’s going to happen.

There are lots of other theories

I’ve known people, actually quite a few, who believe that bad is good. If something really terrible happens in the 2016 elections, then people will “wake up” and stop being so lackadaisical about progressive change. So they’ll pick the worst candidate. They loved it when Reagan was elected. I once heard a speaker call this the “vulture theory” of politics. We’ll wait around until all hope is lost, then we’ll pick up the carrion pieces. It’s not a good theory and there are absolutely no historical precedents to justify it.

I’ve known people who say that elections don’t matter because the capitalists are just going to do whatever they want anyway. So the upcoming Supreme Court appointments, the unfair trade deals, austerity proposals, and immigration reform won’t matter at all to the oppressed people. It’s not a good theory and it’s sad.

There are people who don’t believe in trying to win a majority. They actually believe that some small, dedicated group is going to make positive historical change. It’s utter nonsense and tends to lead them, in their constant frustration, toward violence as a strategy. Besides, even if they could effect change with a handful of conspirators, they couldn’t make it stick. How would they get the great unlearned people to support them?

Then there are the “revolution right now” people. They don’t need theories. They just sit around sanctimoniously and wait for everybody else to become as smart as they are. Then there will be a revolution and then we’ll be happy. Until then, they can take their joy by saying, “I told you so!”

I’m afraid to say it, but it’s possible that many voters don’t care about outcomes at all. They only care about their own feelings!

Working people make positive change

Working people have a big stake in the 2016 elections because we have a big stake in all political struggles. It makes a big difference who wins, both for working people and for prospects for change. Look at that, not the imperfections of the candidates.

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For weeks now, I’ve been raving about “Raging Inequality” by Les Leopold. Not so much because it’s a great book, which it is, but because the powerful Communications Workers of America (CWA) union is promoting it, teaching classes, and giving away copies. But I’ve been holding something back.

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In essence, the book uses economic data and graphs to show how rotten things have been in America since 1980 in contrast to the period 1945-1980. Then it goes on to suggest how we can return fairness to our nation.

What’s wrong with that?

We’re looking at the wrong end of the graphs. The right side of each graph, the period 1980-2016, isn’t the period that’s out of kilter. It’s 1945-1980, the left side of each graph, that was un-historical. That “American century” of 35 years was downright peculiar in the entire 400-year old history of capitalism. It was the only time in history when the working class of any capitalist country ever held its own against the bosses! All the other periods, including the present one, were just business as usual.

Business as usual means constantly increasing the exploitation of the workers. It’s not anybody’s fault, it’s just the only way that capitalism can work. The only thing that can even slow the process down is resistance from the working class.

The post war period in America began with over 1/3 of all American workers in unions. There were more successful strikes in 1946 than in any year before or since. The unions, especially those led by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), were integrated, practicing solidarity with one another and with the community at large, and even internationalist in their outlook! They were a real force to be reckoned with, and their power took decades to dwindle down to the skeleton that the new progressive AFL-CIO leadership picked up in 1995.

Shouldn’t we be fighting?

Of course we should be fighting every day. That’s why I tout the book so much. It shows where we are now and some of the steps we could make that would take us forward. My objection to it is that we don’t really want to return to 1945-1980, nor can we. We must bear in mind that we are fighting for something entirely new: an end to boss rule.

Until then, every advance that working people make can be taken away, because the bosses are still in power.

Read the book, please!

Let’s do our best to expand this marvelous educational project that the Communications Workers have begun. Let’s read the book and get everyone else to read it.

–Gene Lantz

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Everybody should read “Runaway Inequality” by Les Leopold. Don’t wait for somebody from the Communications Workers of America to invite you to one of their classes on it.

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Some of the best stuff is in the beginning. The forward is by Chris Shelton, President of the CWA. The middle parts of the book are mostly statistics about how inequality rose after America selected a new business friendly government policy in 1980. The other really great stuff is near the end

I particularly like Chapter 22: “When unions decline, inequality soars and we all lose.” On page 288 Leopold says, “Wealth inequality and unionization levels are intertwined.” You probably knew that but it’s good to see it in print.

What happened?

Then he goes into the reasons for the great union decline from its heady power of 1946, when Americans won strikes more than ever before or since. Leopold apparently doesn’t have the nerve to say it outright, but he lists, in a dispassionate way, several “theories” about how union leadership could have done better. I’ll shorten them and make them more blunt:

  • The decline started in 1947 when unions cooperated with the anti-communist witch hunt and expelled some of their best leaders.
  • Unions shouldn’t have worked closely with the CIA
  • The merger of the AFL and the CIO didn’t work out for the members
  • Unions shouldn’t have supported the War in Vietnam
  • Unions became bureaucratic and undemocratic
  • All unions haven’t learned community organizing techniques
  • Unions aren’t linking up with unions in other countries

Even though Leopold didn’t really commit to it, I thought it was a pretty good list. It probably should have included something about how unions largely ignored and still ignore the civil rights movement, but it’s still a pretty good list.

Right after the list, the author gives the underlying reason for all the problems: “Unions and the rest of us are on the losing side of a gigantic class war — a war that we have to recognize, discuss and address if unions are to grow again.”

In other words, we can list the things union leaders did wrong all we want, but the underlying reason for the decline was aggressive anti-worker policies of the boss class. Even if we’d had the best leadership in the world 1947-1995, it would have been very very hard to withstand the combination of government/boss aggression and the post war “good time” prosperity that allowed opportunist labor leaders to get pretty good contracts for their members — while slowly sinking into isolation from everybody else.

By 1979, unionized American workers were the envy of the world, even though our numbers were dwindling fast. In 1980, the party was over. I don’t think many union leaders figured it out, and some of them still haven’t. They still expect the bosses to act “reasonably.”

The essence of the problem

What it boils down to is this: From 1947 to 1995, the bosses were able to isolate the organized sector of the American working class from the rest of us. I picked this up from an earlier book by a prof in California named Lipschitz, “Rainbow at Midnight,” and from talking to people who lived through it. The new book, with CWA backing, will force unionists to look at the problem and see what we did wrong. Even if it did nothing else, the book would be worth the $20.

But Les Leopold actually does a lot more in “Runaway Inequality.” He makes serious suggestions as to how we can turn the situation around and return to the kind of militant union progressivism that succeeded for the CIO 1935-1947. The progressive leadership of the AFL-CIO, 1995 to present, can and probably will implement these ideas.

I can’t wait!

–Gene Lantz

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During the fight against NAFTA and every trade deal ever created, we like to say, “We’re not against ‘free trade,’ but we want ‘fair trade.'” It’s true, too, but there are good reasons why our government will never negotiate a fair trade treaty.

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The current unfair trade proposal is the “Trans Pacific Partnership” — TPP

It’s fairly easy to see why a certain amount of confusion would be generated. Xenophobia, a paranoid fear of people in other countries, characterizes a lot of our campaigns. Xenophobia disguises itself as patriotism. Racism isn’t far behind it.

It’s confusing because we characterize the people negotiating the treaties as misguided rather than malevolent. It’s hard to believe that big corporations could be as rotten and crazy mean as they really are.

It’s confusing because some of our not-so-bad political leaders support these rotten trade deals. NAFTA could never have been passed without President Bill Clinton, and good old President Obama is currently pushing hard for TPP.

THE TRADE SITUATION IS ACTUALLY QUITE CLEAR

A fair treaty would be one that gives decent treatment to the workers in all the signing countries. But all of the trade treaties so far have been negotiated in secret by a few political representatives from the different countries and an absolute horde of corporate lobbyists.

Corporations don’t want fair treatment for workers. It would cost them money. Corporations don’t want to preserve the environment. It would cost them money. NAFTA, TPP, and all the treaties in between were bad news for workers and for the environment. Corporations have virtually all of the money, way more than enough to buy out the political representatives, up to and including the President.

CORPORATIONS MUST CUT EXPENSES ON WAGES AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Globalization (I call it “gobblelization”) today is characterized by intense competition between major capitalist countries. One of the main purposes of the TPP, mentioned often by President Obama, is to give U.S. corporations advantages over the growing Chinese economy. The companies compete primarily by holding down labor costs and not spending any money on environmental protection.

As long as we live under a system dominated by big corporations, as ours is now, every trade deal will be bad for workers and the environment. There is not and there will not be a “fair trade” deal!

–Gene Lantz

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