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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.”

mad-hatter

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.

 

I just can’t get away from these cow metaphors. I grew up in the country and worked, for a while, in a dairy. You can learn a lot from cows.

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But what I’m actually trying to wrap my mind and yours around is how to deal with the difficult political situation we’re in. The question came up because of one of my earlier posts. It drew a comment, more or less, to the effect that one of the major tasks confronting progressives is re-educating or replacing our union leadership.

I Used To Be a Lot More Intelligent Than I Am Now

Long ago, I was a member of an organization that didn’t like the union leadership. In fact, I don’t think we liked any leaderships. Not in the women’s movement, not in the civil rights movement, not in the anti-war movement, not in any of the progressive movements. It’s not that we were anti-leadership anarchists, it’s just that we thought we alone knew best. We only liked one leadership, ourselves. Everybody else, everybody in leadership of any organization, was just wrong. We were the smart ones!

The result was that we almost always got into squabbles with the leadership of any organization we tried to relate to. We had a reputation for it, and knowledgeable activists didn’t look forward to our company.

Build Up Our Side, Don’t Tear it Down

I don’t think that we need, at this time, arguments with the leaders of the unions or of any progressive organization as a way for the progressive movement to go forward. I can’t say that I actually agree, point-by-point, with the leaders of any of the organizations that are doing so much and moving so many people into action right now. But I’m sure glad they are building the movement!

We should be deliriously happy to see so many people starting to get active, and we should encourage it in every way possible. When it’s appropriate, we can make our suggestions on program, on tactics, on strategy, or even on broad ideology. But we should do it in a friendly helpful cooperative way, not an argumentative or confrontational way.

Arguing and confronting are what we do to our enemies, not our friends.

How to Get Cows to the Right Place

Cows tend to meander along. It’s kind of hard to figure out why they go where they go, what influences them, who they look to for leadership, what they try to avoid. We’ve all seen the stampedes in the western movies, where some poor old cowboy gets killed while trying to “turn the herd.” Death by stomping.

It’s mighty hard for a cowboy to do it. But it’s even harder for a single cow. And in this metaphor, we aren’t cowboys. We’re cows, stampeding right along with everybody else. It would be inadvisable to get in front of a mad stampede and try to argue. We’d get stomped and maybe hurt some of the other cows, too.

We’ll be more effective if we go along with the herd and do our best to nudge one here, poke one there, moo loudly when appropriate, moo softly if it will work better, and try to get the herd over where we all need to be. That’s leadership in a cow stampede. Also in a mass movement.

–Gene Lantz

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

Book review: Cowie, Jefferson, Stayin’ Alive. The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class. New Press, New York, 2010.

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According to this author, the American working class met its death in the 1970s. Some of it was suicide, some of it was homicide, some of it was chronic depression.

He goes to great length to talk about how America’s powerful labor unions lost their clout, but he spends a lot more time and energy talking about the culture of the 1970s. “Saturday Night Fever” gets about as much play as the Hardhat attack against anti-war protestors.

Combining political and cultural changes isn’t a new approach. One of my favorite books is George Lipsitz, Rainbow at Midnight. Labor and Culture in the 1940s. University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 1994. Lipsitz explains where labor went wrong, 1940s and 1950s, while Cowie merely comments at length on the resulting shipwreck in the 1970s. Of the two books, Lipsitz’s is by far the stronger and more informative.

Cowie weaves a fascinating tale with very few heroes, but some stunning villains. One of the biggest reasons given for labor’s downfall is AFL-CIO President George Meany, who deliberately split the Democratic Party and destroyed the hopes of presidential candidate George McGovern in 1972. The vivid description of these events is the strength of Cowie’s book, but its weakness is that he doesn’t explain why. He says that Meany hurt the union movement very substantially because he was a “cold warrior” who didn’t want a peace candidate to carry the Democratic Party standard. But he doesn’t explain why Meany was such a “cold warrior.” Maybe Cowie didn’t know.

Back in those days, and for some time before and after, the AFL-CIO got a lot of money from the CIA. That’s why Meany was a cold warrior.

Cowie also explains that a lot of labor’s strength disappeared when steel plants were shuttered and when other American industries went overseas. He doesn’t say why. He doesn’t explain that international competition had recovered from World War II by the early 1970s and American corporations were forced to compete with excellent German and Japanese imports.  Maybe he didn’t know.

Cowie explains that labor was blindsided by clever politicians like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. He explains that they made mistakes of commission and omission and they just weren’t farsighted leaders. He didn’t say why. He didn’t explain what Lipsitz’s book had explained so well, that the militant leadership of the American union movement had been expelled and blacklisted during the post war witch hunt. Maybe he didn’t know.

The unions may have squandered their basic strength and their political clout in the 1970s, or at least they may have done better than they did. But the inference that the American working class just evaporated is just wrong. People still work, nearly all of us still work, and the working class is just what it was and has always been — the only people who can stand up to capitalism.

Cowie’s great strength is in vivid description. Whether you lived through the 1970s or are just curious about how things got as bad as they did for working people, this is a good book to read. The AFL-CIO promotes it through Union Communications Service. That’s how I found it and I’m glad I did.

–Gene Lantz

you can hear me on knon.org or 89.3fm at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. If you want to know what I really think, click here.

 

I’ve been investigating the various strategies for dealing with the upcoming Trump government.

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Rowlett activist Kenneth Williams

The best was the simplest: “Get active, because leadership will emerge from the struggle!” Kenneth Williams said that on my radio show, “Workers Beat” Saturday at 9.

Another guest on the show, historian Max Krochmal who was talking about his new book, Blue Texas,  offered a lot of encouragement when he pointed out that Texans have organized successfully under much more difficult circumstances than we face today.

Here’s what Franklin Delano Roosevelt advised in the depths of the Great Depression, “Do something. If it turns out to be wrong, do something else. But, above all, do something!”

Several Strategies Are Being Offered

So far, I’ve had opportunities to check out strategies offered by the Communications Workers of America, Our Revolution, Indivisible, Democratic Socialists of America, Communist Party USA, and just about everybody I know. I like all of them and none.

A Union Idea

The CWA held a webinar on the topic of the upcoming Senate confirmations of Mr Trump’s cabinet nominees. They explained how terrible they are, of course, but we knew that. Their idea is to get the Democrats to delay the confirmation while we use our union networks, social media, and informal communications to rouse the population. In the short term, it sounded pretty good.

The Bernie Sandinistas

For over the weekend of January 7, I sat through about 7 hours of education, planning, and organization with Our Revolution in Dallas. I missed the first 5 hours. I was a little bit surprised to hear them talking almost exclusively about winning elections and conducting successful lobbying campaigns. Only one person mentioned street actions, and I actually had whispered the idea to him before he spoke.

I don’t think it’s because they were excluding street actions, I think it’s because lobbying and election work are what originally brought them together and, for many of these young activists, it’s the only kind of political work they’ve ever had.

At the end of the second day, I asked if I could make a proposal. I proposed that we support activities around the coming MLK birthday. It passed unanimously, enthusiastically, and with no discussion. Then they went right back to talking about elections and lobbying.

The Bernie people, where I live, are the largest, youngest, and most optimistic group in local politics. I was delighted to see them setting up a regional structure and electing officers. I understand that we’re going to be something of a model for organizing Our Revolution nationwide. I have high hopes.

“Indivisible” Plans to Copy the Tea Party

I saw some of this on Rachel Madow, and there were two guys at the Our Revolution meeting promoting a pamphlet and web page called “Indivisible.” It is apparently made up of former congressional staffers who had firsthand experience with the obstructionist tactics of the Tea Party during the Obama years. They recommend that Democrats do the same thing to Mr Trump.

One of the presenters said, “If we want to preserve what we are used to, our top priority needs to be… Use obstruction and delay to minimize the damage that we know is coming.” He explained that the one thing the Tea Party had going for them was the fact that they were organized.

One could drive a truck through the hole in this argument: Tea Party success came from their access to big money, not their organizational genius.

Our role in this strategy is to lobby the Democrats to get them to act like Tea Partiers. I’d  say it’s a whole lot better than doing nothing.

Democratic Socialists Are Fired Up

The Democratic Socialists of America, an offshoot from the old Socialist Party during the Vietnam War, have always wanted to take over the Democratic Party. They still do. Bernie Sanders got them close in 2016, so they are growing in numbers and enthusiasm today. If Bernie’s, and labor’s, candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison, gets the job, it will add even more credibility to this venerable political strategy.

Meanwhile, DSA activists are moving faster and with more certainty than just about anybody. Whether or not one agrees, long term, that the Democratic Party is going to transform into a working people’s party, anybody who craves action would do well to follow DSA.

Communist Party, USA Has Been Changing

I read a series of articles on People’s World, which is “sort of” associated with CPUSA, and sort of not. The writer recommended fighting the Trump government on all fronts and with all strategies. That makes a tremendous amount of sense, but doesn’t winnow down the opportunities very much. If you recommend everything, is it very much different from recommending nothing?

But CPUSA and its worldwide network justly claim to have more experience fighting fascism than anybody. Their basic text, Dmitrov’s “Against War and Fascism,” is the best exposition of what fascism is and how to put together a united front against it. Those are lessons from the 1930s, of course, and not directly applicable to today. I don’t think CPUSA thinks fascism has come to America, but they point out that there are certainly trends in that direction.

Historically, the communists would have put a lot more emphasis on workers and the working class. They would have had a clear aim of eventually taking power through class struggle. Nowadays, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between them and the larger, more socially acceptable, less red-baited, legitimized-by-Bernie, DSA. Both of them say what Kenneth Williams said at the beginning of this article: “get busy!”

My Two Cents

I’ve been thinking through this strategy thing a lot. It’s the reason I started this blog.

I think there are things missing from all of the suggestions above. They don’t start with a solid analysis of what’s wrong, they are basically short-term solutions, and they tend to pine for the “good old days.”

What’s actually wrong is that American capitalism is at the end of its rope. It can’t deliver the goods any more, hasn’t been able to for some time. It isn’t fascist yet, but it’s going that way and the only thing that can stop the process is you and me.

The good old days weren’t that good, and nobody but nobody wants to go back to them. Americans want to go ahead to something better and they won’t settle for anything less.

Voters haven’t turned racist or backward, they’re just desperate. A lot of them voted for Trump for the same reason they voted for Obama — anything other than what we have!

As I said in an earlier article, there are no long term solutions for those of us caught in this system.

That’s why we need long-term plans for fundamental change. The goals are in Bernie’s book — things like free education, decent health care, democracy, and all the many fine things he explained so well. I think Bernie has set the goals very well, the argument should be over how to achieve them. For that, we have to organize everybody, and we organize through successful struggles.

Each of us need to adopt long term goals like those Bernie set down. We need to recognize that elections and lobbying are not the only way to struggle and that, in fact, real change is more likely to come from organized economic activity than from generous politicians. That means that fundamental fights over economic benefits weigh more heavily than purely social questions. It means that workplace organizations mean more than idealistic social groupings.

We have to analyze our own resources and opportunities so we can pick the struggles we join, even if we have to skip some of them.

Then we have to get busy and organize. Leadership will emerge from struggle.

–Gene Lantz

KNON hasn’t fired me yet, so I’m still on the radio at 9 AM every Saturday. 89.3FM and knon.org. If you are curious about what I really think, click here.

We’re forced today to battle to hang on to what little we have. But it’s good to keep in mind what we actually want.

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For example, we are trying to keep the bosses from shipping our jobs overseas. Mr Trump says he will help us. We say we want to keep those jobs, but is that really our ultimate goal?

In a Better World, We Don’t Want Jobs

What we actually want is wages, not jobs. We get fooled on that when politicians announce that they have brought in a certain number of jobs after giving away millions in tax abatements and other concessions to this or that corporation. The jobs, if they ever materialize at all, often turn out to pay very little. Texas is a great example of this. Texas politicians claim that they brought in more jobs than any other state, but they hide the fact that they also have more minimum wage jobs than any other state.

Texas and the rest of the South had full employment up to 1860. Everybody who wanted a job had one. Lots of people who didn’t want a job still had one. Slaves didn’t make any wages, but they by Golly had full employment!

It isn’t jobs we want.

If all our gains in productivity (wealth produced per worker per hour) went to shortening our working hours, out jobs would only last about two hours a day, 5 days a week. As the wealth produced would still be the same, we could enjoy the same wages that we made with the old-time long hours.

In a Better World, We Don’t Want Obama Care

Right this minute, the fight is on to try to save the Affordable Care act. But is it really what we want? Wouldn’t we really rather have free health care as a right — so we could have great public health services and medical experts consulting with us to keep our health at the peak?

In a Better World, We Don’t Want Electoral Reform

The Republicans have severely battered the democratic system, and they are probably going to try to do a whole lot more damage before the Mid-Term elections. We have to fight to stop voter suppression, the flood of money into elections, and the outright falsehoods perpetrated against us in election campaigns. But what would we like to have?

Now that almost everyone in America has access to a telephone or a computer, why shouldn’t we do away with representational democracy altogether and begin direct democracy? It would be a lot easier and cheaper than the present system, not to mention being far more fair. Why not have a national discussion over, for example, the federal budget, and then take a day or two for everybody to register their vote electronically? Computers could count the vote and let us know the outcome right away!

We could say similar things about free education, ending chauvinism, the right to emigrate, ending wars, child care, military expenditures, etc. There are better ways to do things than the options we are presently being offered.

A Better World Is Attainable

Shorter working hours, free health care, and direct democracy may sound like science fiction. It’s probably true that they wouldn’t have worked as well in the past as they could work now, and they would certainly work better in the future than they would work now, but they could work now!

The system that we live under doesn’t adapt to the possibilities of improvements for its constituents. Mostly, it only adapts to the possibilities of improvements for a tiny few rich people, and those rich people do the best they can to hold everybody else back.

But we could have a better world for everyone. Having a clear idea of what we want is Part One of developing a strategy to get it.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on http://knon.org and 89.3 FM radio every Saturday at 9 CST. If you are curious about what I really think, click here.