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Monthly Archives: December 2016

I’m about to celebrate 50 years in the progressive movement.

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When I began, we still had Ku Klux Klan trying to attack our activities. We had federal agents around all the time. Some of our own people were the most dangerous of all.

Lookout! Times are Changing!

We are entering upon times unlike those with which we have had experience. We’re about to inaugurate the most anti-worker, pro-corporation government of our lifetimes. It is likely that democracy is their enemy and violence a close friend.
The progressive movement needs to think our actions through. We can’t just throw together a mob on the street and call it a picket line. We need trained marshals with clear marking, we need legal (ACLU) observers, we need written rules for our street actions. Above all, we need responsible leadership and careful planning.
We have all studied, or at least seen in movies or TV, when fascists and communists battled in the streets of Germany. Note that the fascists, being better equipped and organized, won. After they took state power, the street fights became executions.

Who Is Out to Ruin the Progressive Movement?

The opposition has a great deal of money and can hire all kinds of agents to oppose the progressive movement. Informants, spies, agents, and provocateurs are cheap for them. They may or may not organize street fighters, because they don’t necessarily need them, but the reactionary interventions of one kind and another are certain.
In my period of activism, agents primarily had two goals: gathering information and looking for ways to discredit groups and activities. I always found that cameras were the best defense against them — they’re deathly afraid of exposure! I once had the pleasure of chasing an agent all over inside a bank that we were picketing. He finally got a local cop to stop my trying to take his picture. We never saw him again.
The other “best defense” for an organization is to do a lot of work. Agents want to be involved  in discussions, but they don’t like to work.

It is Insufficient to Fight…

As long as an organization stays on the “peaceful and legal” side, they don’t have to worry as much about agents as they have to worry about some of their own enthusiastic members. “Ultraleft” activists are people who have more courage than brains. They don’t necessarily care about accomplishing anything as long as they put on a great show or have a really wonderful time. Some of them are agents seeking to discredit a group, but most of them are just idiots.
I quote Trotsky at them, “It is insufficient to fight, Comrades,” Leon Trotsky said, “It is also necessary to win!”

National Leadership Is Needed

I greatly admire all the spontaneous outbursts of local activities since November 8. But the coming storm is a national problem that needs national leadership and coordination.  Local groups would be wise to work more on coordination and planning than knee jerk activism.
It’s a little bit embarrassing today to see every group going this way and that, all of them asking everybody else and each other for money, none of them with a plan. We can do better.
It seems to me that everybody is going every whichaway. While I consider that a whole lot better than periods when nobody does anything, it’s also kind of a mess and a little bit perilous. I would have a liked it a lot better if national AFL-CIO had come out with some guidelines — but so far they haven’t. I’m giving them more time, because unions work slowly.
One thing I’m hoping is that the Jan 16 MLK events will tend to shake out the leadership tangle and give us a better idea of how to create a responsible movement. Meantime, I intend to encourage activism — but I also intend to encourage thinking!
I’m on “Workers Beat” radio 89.3FM in Dallas and http://knon.org everywhere each Saturday at 9AM Central Time. If you’re interested in what I really think, click here.

Bernie Sanders, “Our Revolution—A Future to Believe In.” St Martin’s Press ebook, September 26, 2016. Available from Amazon Books and on Kindle

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S’Wonderful, S’Marvelous!

This must-read book details two important political contributions:

  1. A blow-by-blow account of the miraculous Bernie presidential campaign
  2. Detailed explanation of legislation needed to rescue and advance the people of our nation

The account of the campaign answers the question about how they managed to get so far toward the Democratic Party nomination when they started with virtually nothing and refused to sell out to big contributors. Most of America and even Bernie seem to be surprised at how well people responded to a truthful, direct, approach to America’s actual needs. It’s an inspiring story that needs to be studied.

Part Two, “An Agenda for a New America: How We Transform Our Country” details the problems we face and proposes practical solutions in the form of legislation needed. In many cases, Bernie Sanders had already proposed proper legislation in Congress. In general, his proposals are designed to:

  • Restore and advance democracy
  • Remedy injustices, including racial injustices
  • Restore equality
  • Fix the economy

But It’s No Good

The big problem with Bernie’s wonderful book is the last line, “September 26, 2016.” He completed the book before Donald Trump’s upset victory for the presidency and before Republicans completed their take-over of all three branches of the federal government plus the majority of state governments.

So what do you do with wonderful proposals for legislation when progressive legislation has almost no possibility of passage? What do you do with an inspirational story of a hopeful electoral campaign when our foundation of democracy is crumbling?

Apparently, Bernie thought, on September 26, 2016, what most Americans thought – that the Democrats would have a big victory on November 8. The glaring fact that they didn’t, and the anti-democratic trends already underway, put new perspective on politics in 2017. Bernie’s thoughts of September 2016 are certainly good to know, and actually kind of miraculous to behold, but not much actual use, are they?

We’re going to have to do some thinking of our own.

Some Positive Suggestions

Rather than leave off on such a negative note, let me make a couple of general proposals that might be helpful in 2017

  1. Electoral politics is not the only form of struggle. The most important power that working people have is our ability to withhold our economic cooperation. It is essential, therefore, to dedicate ourselves to organizing workers – to vote, yes, but to work together in other ways too.
  2. We may think that history only repeats itself, but it doesn’t. Bernie Sanders (and also Donald Trump) campaigned on the idea of re-setting the calendar to some earlier date, but we can’t go backward even if we tried. We have an entirely new situation that needs entirely new proposals. For example, we don’t need to fix the Electoral College or even the electoral system as it exists. We need direct participation in government decisions, and for the first time in human history, direct participation is now possible!
  3. Economies can’t be re-set to earlier times. Sanders, and other writers, seem to want to move us backward to pre-Reagan days. Trump apparently wants us some time before the Civil War. We actually need proposals that account for our present situation and then advance into a better future. For example, if certain financial institutions are “too big to fail,” Bernie Sanders suggests that they are “too big to exist” and need to be downsized to the levels of the 1990s. With our present technological abilities, we don’t need them in the downsized version either. If they are “too big to fail,” certain banks and insurance companies need to be taken over and run for the public good.

We must be grateful to Bernie Sanders and others who have taught us so much. A great future awaits!

–Gene Lantz

Hear “Workers Beat” on KNON radio, 89.3FM and knon.org every Saturday at 9 CST

Click here if you want to know what I really think

We can hang together or separately, as the saying goes.

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We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately!

 

Almost everybody I’ve talked to wants to “do something” right away as concerns the anti-worker government anticipated  for January 20, 2017. For several nights after the election results were announced, thousands protested in the streets of several cities, including mine. As far as I could find out, they had a lot of enthusiasm but no program, no structure, and no strategy.

A month and a half later, we still don’t.

I’ve been asking around about inauguration weekend. So far, it sounds like there will be three rallies, one march, some people going off to the state capital and others going to the national capital. There are probably several more activities being cooked up.

The problem is that there is no coordination among them. As far as I’ve been able to find out, each of them is sponsored by one separate group of people and has demands created by and for solely that group.

Can We Afford to Stay Divided?

As far as I know, the progressive movement in my town (Dallas) has always been divided this way and that.  Every naive young innocent who ever got involved has said, “We’ve got to get together!” And of course it’s true, but I’ve never seen anybody do it.

The book I’ve been promoting, “Runaway Inequality” talks about “silos” and says that all the progressive groups are in their own silos. The solution, says author Les Leopold, is that we have to come out of our silos and start working together. He doesn’t say why we’re in those silos to begin with, nor how to get out.

The basic reason for the silos is funding. Nearly all “progressive” organizations have to raise money. In that sense, they are competitors for the almighty dollar, not partners in any real sense. No matter what high-minded reasons people may have had for creating an organization, their main purpose in life soon becomes raising enough money to pay staff salaries, not whatever they originally intended to accomplish. In a very real sense, they are exactly like churches, most of whom seem to have lost their sense of purpose centuries ago, and they have to raise money or die! How do you change that?

You have to appeal to individuals. Bernie Sanders showed us that it can be done and how to do it.

Why Can’t We Just Hit the Streets?

The main problem with “knee jerk” activism is that it doesn’t go anywhere. Witness the Occupy movement that had thousands of charged-up protesters. They had no program, in fact they deliberately avoided having a program. As a result, they left nothing behind but some really good slogans and memories. But there’s another, very serious, reason to be cautious about spontaneous street actions.

Leftists may not continue to own the streets in America. Remember, that the progressives in Germany tried to take on the better-organized, more unscrupulous, and better financed Storm Troopers in the streets, but it didn’t work out well for them!

In our lifetimes, leftists and leftist causes pretty much ruled the streets. The fascists have stayed inside the corporate boardrooms and left picketing, street rallies, and marches to the riff-raff (us). But Mr Trump regularly puts together rallies of tens of thousands of hotheads today, and he has already shown that he’s willing to encourage violence against any detractor!

I’m not saying we shouldn’t rule the streets. But we aren’t in the same situation we were in before November 8, 2016. It’s different now.

One Proposal for Unity

Progressive people who want to survive and thrive during the Trump Administration need serious strategies for coordinated activity. My proposal is a series of “teach ins,” conference calls, and, possibly, “retreats” to work on programs and to coordinate activities. At the very least, we could set up a “clearing house” function so that different groups would know what the others were planning.

Labor, as the most responsible and most consistently progressive part of the left, needs to center itself in this process.

Everybody going their own whichaway isn’t affordable any more.

–Gene Lantz

Hear “Workers Beat” on KNON radio, 89.3FM and knon.org every Saturday at 9 CST

Click here if you want to know what I really think

 

 

 

 

Today I am supposed to get a chance to say a few words at a memorial for Fidel Castro.

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I probably won’t say a lot about his great courage, his internationalism, or his fine intellect, because there are other speakers and I’m sure they will cover that. Instead, I will try to stress what we should have learned from Fidel’s victories and defeats.

At the same time, I might mention a number of other victories and defeats we are aware of, such as the Obama election victory, the Bernie Sanders election defeat, America’s Equal Rights Amendment, the People’s Party of Texas in 1896, or the 8-hour day movement.

What Makes a Victory Instead of a Defeat?

The main thing that separates the victories from the defeats is not intellect, and it’s not courage. It’s the approach to strategic decisions.

In Fidel’s victories, and in every victory, strategy began with a correct assessment of the situation at hand. The Fidelistas correctly decided that Cubans were ready to get rid of the Batista dictatorship and that they would support armed struggle. He figured out that the international community would generally favor his effort and that the Eisenhower Administration would not immediately intervene. I’m sure they had a much more detailed and thought-out assessment. If their assessments had been wrong, most of us would have never heard of Fidel Castro or socialism in Cuba.

What’s Our Situation?

If we’re trying to figure out the best way forward in the United States in December, 2016, and I hope we are all working on that, we need to start with a correct assessment. Trying to copy Castro in 1959 would be a disastrous mistake. Trying to copy any strategic decisions in any other situations would likewise be disastrous.

We have to do what the Cubans did. We have to figure out our situation and then determine the way forward.

–Gene Lantz

Listen to “Workers Beat” at 9 CST every Saturday morning on 89.3FM and http://knon.org

If you want to know what I really think, look at my life’s lessons site

 

A New York Times article on December 15, 2016, “Bots at War For Your Soul,” explains that some of the arguments on twitter are actually generated by, and carried out by, robots!

What kind of jobs

We never ask “What kind of jobs?” Will we fall for anything and everything?

How could anybody fall for such an outlandish scam? A lot of us do, according to the article. I’d be a little more sanctimonious about it if I hadn’t also fallen into a stupid “flame war” on email just yesterday.

We’re being told in yesterday’s newspaper that Russians actually guided the 2016 elections into the Trump win column. People fell for that. We’re told, all the time, that “fake news” stories, especially on social media, confused the electorate and the general political scene?

Why?

Some of the answers are obvious. For example, we tend to believe things that we see over and over, and, since almost all of our Facebook and Twitter friends believe the same things we do, over and over is how information is presented to us. But that’s not the fundamental problem.

The fundamental problem with belief in America is that we have given up our objectivity. We’ve ditched the scientific approach. We’ve become addicts for information that suits us and fits into the frameworks we’ve already established. We’re suckers. We don’t believe our own senses, and we don’t check facts.

Just to prove my point, I offer you the 2016 election results.  Snake oil consumption on a mass scale!

If we ever sober up, I am hoping that we re-evaluate the fundamental difference between all philosophies: some of them are materialistic and the rest are idealistic. The idealistic people can believe almost anything. Their only test for truth is whether or not it “feels right.” The materialistic ones favor facts and science. The idealistic ones believe that “truth is in the eye of the beholder.” The materialistic ones believe that truth is truth — it may be hard to discover, but it’s still truth.

Scientists, when they’re being scientists, are materialists because it’s the only way they can make progress. At home watching TV, they may become romanticists and superstitious fools, but that’s just for recreation. All of us are materialists when it really matters, when it comes to getting our cars to run or our computers to work, but we are constantly subjected to the boss’s philosophy, idealism, in all our movies, all our TV, nearly all our books, etc. Idealism is the philosophy used by Voodoo religionists, crooked politicians and our employers.

–Gene Lantz

If you’re interested in what I actually think, click here