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Book Review: Kersten, Andrew E, and Lang, Clarence, Editors: “Reframing Randolph. Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph.” New York University Press, 2015.

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I got this book from Oak Cliff Branch of Dallas Public Library.

Asa Philip Randolph is glorified and criticized in the essays collected here. Whether they appreciated him or not, all the writers agreed that he had a profound effect on American civil rights.

I started a sort of timeline:

  • 1898: born
  • 1920s: Street corner orator and co-editor of “The Messenger”
  • 1925: Newly organized Pullman Porters ask him to take over as President. Black Sleeping Car Porters and Maids formed
  • 1935 or so: finally gets a contract from Pullman. Drops “and maids” and joins the American Federation of Labor (AFL) Within it, he argues for anti-discrimination policies until the end of his career
  • 1941: With threat of March on Washington Movement (MOWM), gets Executive Order 8088 (? Forgot the number) outlawing racial discrimination in war industries. Not nearly as much as was demanded, but Randolph calls off the march and is covered with glory for having “forced” the President of the United States to acknowledge the federal government’s role in overcoming racial discrimination. Federal Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) is formed and the MOWM people try to enforce it with marches and pickets throughout the war.
  • 1936: Formation of National Negro Congress. He serves 1 term as president and then resigns as he feels the organization is communist dominated
  • 1960 or so: He is President of the National African Labor Congress NALC
  • 1963: he and Bayard Rustin organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. They cooperated with MLK on it. Of course, MLK stole the show.
  • 1965: he is honored with formation of A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). Chapters are formed in every Central Labor Council and endure today
  • 1968 Ocean Hill-Brownsville conflict between community oriented school board and the United Federation of Teachers. Randolph sided with labor leader Al Shanker and took heat for it
  • 1972: Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) formed as NALC fades away
  • 1974: African American women from Randolph movements start the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)

I was left with the impression that Randolph successfully, eventually, got the AFL to be less racist. The CIO, of course, probably had a bigger effect. Randolph got the federal government on the right track. I think he was a consistent social – democrat, even though the various writers seem to think he wavered this way and that. I think any wavering he did came from trying to fit the civil rights movement into the AFL. Like the social-democrats of today, Randolph looked at the working class. He analyzed it and pushed for its success. Like the social-democrats of today, he did not analyze the obstructionist class and devise ways of overcoming them once and for all.

On the downside, the book accuses him of outright sexism in dealing with women’s politics. They also criticize his rabid anti-communism as unnecessarily divisive. If he read the book today and were asked to comment, I’m sure he would say that those who cannot compromise aren’t going to get anything done in contemporary politics.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. Click here if you want to know what I really think!

Movie review, “Churchill,” Directed by Jonathan Teplitzk, 110 minutes

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I can only think of one good reason to go and see the new biopic, “Churchill.” It’s an opportunity to see the great Miranda Richardson, who plays his wife.

The movie takes place in the last few days before June 6, 1944, when Allied forces invaded Normandy. Sir Winston is portrayed as a greatly flawed hero, but a hero all the same. It’s all dialogue with, it seems, millions of closeups of the old gentleman’s kindly and concerned face. The real Churchill looked exactly like a bulldog. Compassion is the last thing one would associate with him.

But in this movie, he tries to stop Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery from invading France out of his overwhelming compassion for young soldiers. The reason given is his sense of guilt over the massacre at Gallipoli during World War I. He has been blamed for that and it’s inferred in this movie.

To give credit where it is due, Sir Winston’s rhetoric helped inspire and organize the Britons through extreme duress. We still listen to his speeches, and one of them is the high point of this film effort. But that is no excuse for boring moviegoers for nearly two hours and presenting one of the least-admirable characters of British history as someone to love.

Far from compassion, Churchill burned with elitism and anti-semitism. He helped make anti-communism a world religion. Among the many world figures who allowed Hitler to gain enough power to threaten the entire world, Churchill is a standout. Hitler came to power in Germany because he was seen as the best way to overcome German communism, and Churchill was a co-thinker. Instead of stopping the fascists in Spain, or earlier or later, the “great powers” allowed him to build his great war machine in hopes that he would throw it against the Soviet Union first.

I find it impossible to associate Churchill with compassion for soldiers for one main reason: he advocated for war after World War II was over and done. It was Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech that popularized the cold war.

Try an internet search for “Churchill and anticommunism.” Here are a few of the things that pop up:

“…His deep early admiration of Benito Mussolini was rooted in his shrewd appreciation of what Mussolini had accomplished (or so he thought). In an Italy teetering on the brink of Leninist revolution, Il Duce had discovered the one formula that could counteract the Leninist appeal: hypernationalism with a social slant. Churchill lauded “Fascismo’s triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism,” claiming that “it proved the necessary antidote to the Communist poison.” From “Churchill Extols Fascismo for Italy” New York Times, January 21, 1927. Churchill even had admiring words for Hitler; as late as 1937, he wrote: “one may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.” James, “Churchill the Politician,” p. 118. On the conditions of the Fascist takeover in Italy, see Ralph Raico, “Mises on Fascism and Democracy,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 12, no 1 (Spring 1996): 1-27.  https://mises.org/library/rethinking-churchill

Churchill is credited with having begun the cold war:

http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/05/winston-churchills-iron-curtain.html

He is credited with helping the Nazis take power outside Germany:  http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2015/01/winston-churchill-anti-communist-who.html

He is credited with sharing Hitler’s anti-semitism:

https://jodebloggs.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/winston-churchill-and-the-rise-of-bolshevism-1917-1927/

If you think I say outrageous things, you might check out my weekly radio show on KNON.org or 89.3FM in Dallas.  –Gene Lantz

 

I have two reasons why we aren’t fit to govern, one reason why we are, and a firm belief as to whether or not we ever will.

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Why Americans Can’t Govern Themselves

The first reason is obvious: Americans aren’t even trying to govern ourselves. In my town, we just finished critical local elections with about 5% turnout of eligible voters. “Eligible voters” is the electorate plus the large percentage who didn’t even register.

The issues were really big and really clear. The establishment was lined up on one side and the people on the other. Everybody had a big stake, but hardly anybody responded.

The other thing against our ability to govern ourselves is the crippling divisions between those few of us who have shown that we give a damn. Example: my group called a rally last Friday, then had to try to reconcile with two other groups calling conflicting activities. We were able to come together with one of them, but the other wouldn’t budge. Here’s a laugh for you, the two groups most divided, most sectarian, least concerned about building a unified movement, were factions of “Indivisible!”

The divided progressive organizations make little effort to work together. They may call for “unity” all the time, and they do, but their idea of “unity” is “everybody follow me!” Very few of our disparate groups have a coherent strategy that makes any sense.

Hardly any of us recognize the central role of the working class in any effort to make progress against the 1%. If we did, we’d be working hard to stop Congress and the State Legislatures from undermining organized labor, but we aren’t.

Why Americans Can Govern Themselves

It’s all relative. I just made a couple of points explaining why the American people can’t govern ourselves, but I didn’t mention that we are far better prepared than the people who are running things now. One could start clicking the days off the calendar before the rich capitalists destroy all of us, including themselves, with their wars and pollution!

So the American people may not be very fit to govern, but we’re miles better than the present rulers!

Who Will Win the Contest?

Our side will win. It’s only a matter of time. Human history can be thought of as a struggle between knowledge and ignorance, between reason and superstition. In the long arc of history, knowledge and reason are the winning side.

In my fifty years of activism, I’ve seen extremely hopeful trends developing. People are better educated,  smarter, and more capable than before. Much more! Major organizations like the AFL-CIO have re-invented themselves and now promote progressive unity. Old divisions like racism and homophobia are much less effective than they were.

Folks worry today that the capitalists will soon choose to govern through fascism rather than the time-honored American method of limited democracy. I’m one of those worried people, but even a dreadful period of fascism would be temporary. The capitalists cannot solve the problems they caused that way or any other way.

Given time, the people will prevail. I just hope we live that long.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still broadcasting on http://www.knon.org/workers-beat/ at 9 Central Time every Saturday. Join me and call in 972-647-1893.

Hard is the fortune of all womankind

She’s always controlled

She’s always confined

Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife

A slave to her husband the rest of her life

–The Wagoner’s Lad (Joan Baez)

Why the Patriarchy Succeeded the Matriarchy

During Women’s History Month, it’s good to reflect on the oppression that we are dealing with and how to fight it.

For most of humankind’s existence, matriarchies were more common than patriarchies. Up to 5 or 6,000 years ago, humans were hunter-gatherers. They barely survived and had nothing that that they could keep. Whatever they obtained was consumed right away.

Humans lived in cooperative societies where everyone’s contribution was completely necessary for survival; consequently no one was undervalued. People traced their lineage through their mothers, the only parent of whom they could be certain.

Woman’s Downfall was Cows, Not Apples

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At the dawn of civilization, people began to accumulate wealth. Their wealth may have been cattle or agricultural products, but, for the first time, human beings had something that they could keep and pass on to their heirs. That was the downfall of women’s equality.

The men wanted to be sure of their heirs, so they ended women’s rights. Marriage was invented and adultery, for women, became a capital offense. Polygamy thrived and polyandry was rare.

Women were the first oppressed class

–Frederich Engels (Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State)

It Wasn’t Just Women

The men with the wealth didn’t just oppress women. They oppressed everybody they could. They enslaved everyone they could conquer. Slavery became the dominant form of work for centuries. But people, including women, struggled for a better deal. As capitalism became the dominant form of economic production, starting only about 400 years ago, labor became more “free,” and really big gains began to come.

America Was “The Beautiful” for White Propertied Men

In 1776, when the United States began to form, white propertied men of a certain age were the only ones who could vote. Blacks were enslaved and Natives were murdered. Women couldn’t even own property. Millions would die before significant change came about, but change did come.

American democracy peaked toward the end of the 20th century, and has been generally headed the other way since then. Our electoral system is now awash in money. Previous restrictions on racist voter suppression are being put aside. The Equal Rights Amendment is a distant memory, except in Nevada, where it passed in 2017.

How to End Women’s Oppression

Women’s oppression has the same basis as oppression of others — it is the will of the holders of wealth. They have to be removed from power. Women, as one of the more oppressed groups, have a special role in this fight. It is heartening that the biggest demonstrations in American history, weekend of January 20-21, were led by women. It is significant that women called a general strike on International Women’s Day, even though there is no way to evaluate the participation.

I work on organizing people who support the right to retire. I especially prize our women activists because they tend to have the clerical abilities that organizers need, while men who have worked with their hands all their lives tend to have less ability to use modern technology.

I don’t believe that women, acting alone, will overcome the propertied oppressors. It will take virtually everyone. But I don’t think it could be done without women!

There was a union maid,

Who never was afraid

–Woody Guthrie

I urge all progressives to fight reactionaries on every front, but the main one is going to be the battle to save basic democracy in America.

trumpinfrastructure

Simple logic:

  1. The idea that Trump’s policies are going to make life better for Americans is laughable
  2. Given the present system of American politics, the Republicans will not maintain power through the 2018 mid-term elections
  3. They know it
  4. The only way for the anti-worker forces to maintain power is by scrapping democracy
  5. Therefore, progressives must fight for basic democracy now

Will Trump Improve Life for Americans?

Economist Josh Bivens has a good summary of expected Trump policies on line. It doesn’t look good.

Mr. Hitler made immediate improvements in the German economy by massive infrastructure programs and by going to war. Will Mr Trump be able to do the same?

The U.S. Congress has blocked infrastructure programs all the way through the Obama Administration, even though they would have greatly shortened the long recession. It is unlikely that they would allow Mr Trump to implement anything good along those lines, because their main commitment is to the barons of finance, not construction businesses and certainly not to the American workers. Actually, I’d love to be proven wrong on this.

Mr Hitler had tremendous early successes in his war-making, but that was largely because the Great Powers did nothing to rein him in. They thought he would put an end to communism before he struck at any major capitalist countries. It is doubtful that Mr Trump will be able to use war to improve the American economy in any meaningful sense, and it is unlikely that he will receive cooperation from the other major capitalist countries in whatever adventures he undertakes.

The world wars that resulted from the economic crises of the 20th century are not considered available as a “solution” to economic and political crisis today, because of the imminent destruction of the planet.

Capitalist economies have always suffered from phases of “ups” and “downs.” “Down” is already overdue after the long recovery during the Obama Administration. The current expectation of new “tight money” policies, combined with Mr Trump’s new tax cuts for the rich and deregulation policies will create an immediate and painful crisis for working people.

Hard Times Will Likely Dominate the Mid-Term Elections

If one assumes that our American levels of partial democracy continue, it is unlikely that the party in power will fare well in 2018. In fact, the party in power usually does very poorly in mid-term elections.

None of this is a secret, neither to progressives nor to reactionaries.

What Can We Expect about Democracy?

Since around 1980, American democracy has already taken hard knocks at the hands of Republicans. Unions were assailed in every imaginable way. The Voting Rights Act was gutted, big money was sanctified by the Supreme Court, Republican redistricting largely overcame the popular vote, and voter suppression schemes were put into effect all over the nation.

The Obama Administration fought to maintain democracy, but does anyone think the Trump Administration will? If Mr Trump were to make outlandish anti-democratic Executive Orders, for example, who in government would oppose him? Not the legislative branch that is already in the hands of Republicans, and not the judiciary which will return to a reactionary anti-worker majority as soon as Mr Trump makes his first appointment.

Mr Hitler, it is often pointed out, won an election without winning the popular vote. How did he stay in power? How will today’s reactionaries try to stay in power?

Get ready to organize and fight!

–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

Movie review: “Elle,” Directed by Paul Verhoeven, 130 minutes

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Disclaimer: I admit that I would probably buy a ticket to watch a movie about a a woman sitting on a couch watching TV, if the actress was Isabel Hupert. I’ve never seen her in anything I didn’t really enjoy.

In “Elle”Ms Hupert plays a middle-aged business woman who has always had to deal with monsters. Because she’s such a terrific actress, I was never quite certain whether she was one of the victims, one of the monsters, a bemused observer, or just somebody who really knows how to cope. Maybe all of it.

How Do You Cope?

In a large sense, we really are surrounded by monsters, just look at American politics for example, and we really do have to cope. How do you cope with monsters? Do you call the police? Do you buy a gun? Do you shrug it off? Do you join them? Perhaps you could start a pornographic video game company and make caricatures of them raping and murdering one another?

If I understood French, I’d probably be completely blown away by the nuances in this film. Even reading the subtitles, I was intrigued. Hupert is a mystery, and she reminds us that so are we all!

–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

Progressives need a program, guidelines, to go forward. One element needed is acknowledgement of history, not only all the bad things that have happened and all the bad situations we face today, but also the positive developments.

tenayucca1938We can build on the good things that happened and are happening. There are lots of them. Just yesterday’s Dallas newspaper, for example, included an article announcing that the Texas African American History Memorial had gone up on the Texas Capitol grounds.

Many of us, especially me, have been complaining for decades about the Confederate monuments in and around the Capitol. Yesterday’s new monument is a partial response and a very positive development.

Also in yesterday’s paper, and again in today’s, the Texas Railroad Commission is taken to task for being a superficial front for the oil industry. They’ve been denying that the recent upsurge in earthquakes are associated with oil industry shenanigans. It’s great to see somebody point out corruption, but it’s even better to see a major newspaper that has some regard for the truth!

Why So Much Negativity?

Most of the “Programs For Action” I’ve seen from individuals and organizations are all negative. It’s certainly fair to point out that we are facing the possibility of fascism in America and that chauvinism has leaped forward. It’s honest to complain about poverty levels and inequality and unfairness. But it’s not a good way to approach writing a useful program of action if it doesn’t acknowledge the progress we’ve made since our days of savagery and slavery.

Labor Is Improving

The recent changes in the American labor movement shouldn’t be ignored. Since 1995, the top leaders of the AFL-CIO have been adjusting their overall program to suit the demands that used to be made only by progressive fringe groups. A good example is Jobs with Justice, which started out in 1987 as virtually an outlaw organization with support from only 5 big unions. Today, it works hand-in-hand with all labor leaders. I wrote a short history of the North Texas Chapter.

Capitalism Was A Step Forward!

In the longer sense, thinking people and organizations are rightfully down on capitalism. It’s terrible in the way it creates poverty, divides people, starts wars, lies, cheats, steals, and generally oppresses us. But it’s completely wrong to ignore its historical value. Capitalism freed the slaves! It organized the workers! It’s productive power was far superior to any of the other economic systems that it replaced. One might even argue that capitalism has been more productive, even, than any of the attempts at planned economy so far!

A Good Program Acknowledges the Good

I’m 100% in favor of a program for progressive change and I intend to continue writing about it. Certainly such a program should point out the many shortcomings of today’s society and the need for decisive action. But our history and our present situation aren’t all bad. There’s a lot of progress to build on!

–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