civil rights

I received a mailing to help me promote “School Choice Week” on the air.

At KNON radio studios, I receive  a lot of right-wing mail. I think it’s because my program is called “Workers Beat” and conservatives can’t conceive of a radio show that is actually for workers. When one says “workers” they assume you mean management, I guess, because all the other radio programs are either written by the bosses or approved by them. I throw away a lot of free books about how to get more work out of workers.

The School Choice mailing came from a post office box in some town in California. It says that there are 32,240 American events to promote “school choice” during January 21-27.  It says that 6.7 million students and supporters will be participating. It says there are 54 events in my town. It says I should promote them on KNON radio and it offers me materials to broadcast.

I assume they sent this to every radio station in America at considerable cost. It’s part of a national effort to destroy the public schools. If you aren’t worried, you should be.


A Little History on Schooling

America, more than most countries, advanced free public education. It’s one of the reasons that America shot ahead of the rest of the world in the 20th century. But there was always resistance. It took a Civil War to offer free public education to African American children, for example, and even then their public schooling was inferior to that offered to the Master Race of American Anglos. It still is.

The Brown Vs Topeka Supreme Court case in 1954 signaled a renewed fight for fair education. Whites were encouraged to fight against fairness in a number of interesting ways. One way was to move to white suburbs. One way was to create “magnet schools.” These “magnets” drew off the most outspoken activist parents and gave them what they wanted — decent education for their own kids — while leaving the rest of the kids, largely those with parents who had to work, behind.

They loosened the restraints on home schooling for the parents who didn’t have to work. Another way was to push for school vouchers so that tax money could be used for private schools. Yet another way was to push for “charter schools” to use tax money in ways that were out of the control of the people.

It’s the same fight that we were having during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but in different forms.

Who Wants to Destroy Public Education?

The people with the most money want to stop paying taxes. A lot of federal money, and the largest part of any state budget, goes to education. That’s tax money that rich people would rather not pay. After all, their kids don’t even need the public schools. They have always had better schools, before the Civil War and after.

In this regard, wealthy people’s desire to stop paying taxes, the effort to undermine public schooling fits into the larger explanation of what’s wrong in American politics today. In order to maintain their profits and beat their international competitors, wealthy Americans are trying to contain their costs. We are their costs. Public school children are their costs, in their view.

Public schools retain all their traditional enemies, too. Religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular head the list. They think they can get public money to promote their superstitions. In the short run, they can, because the very wealthy welcome any help they can get to destroy public education. Look at poor Louisiana!

In the long run, the very wealthy don’t want to pay for Catholic schools, either, so their little cabal won’t endure very far beyond the collapse of public education. The Catholics will be left at the altar once their usefulness is over.

Just to be Clear

State legislatures have been cutting public education funding for some time. It is especially true in states where right-wing Republicans have seized control. First they drain away all the resources, then they impose crazy unreasonable rules, then they piously claim that the schools are “failing.” Then they cut some more and pass some more rules.

One doesn’t have to be smart to figure out that they intend to rob American children of their right to a decent education.

Public education

Fight Back

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the main unions, are forming coalitions with community groups to clarify the issues and direct the fightback. I’m proud that the main labor federation, AFL-CIO, backs them.

As usual, our enemies have many ways to divide us. They say that they are magnanimously seeking ways to overcome school “failures.” They say they are promoting “innovation,” and “school choice.” They are spending a lot of money to buy politicians and do direct advertising.

That’s why I got the stupid mailing about “school choice week.”

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9AM central time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.




I talk to the young folks, they don’t understand,

‘A thing this old man has to say…”

–from the song “I Wish I Was 18 Again” as sung by Jerry Lee Lewis


I would tell young people that they are going to have to win their rights all over again. I would also tell them not to settle for what their parents had. I would tell them to figure out what needs to be done to get things right, even if it takes some time and experimentation, and then to do it!

False Roads Are Almost the Only Roads

I suppose that everyone is entitled to their own mistakes. In my 50 years of activism, Almost everything I ever did turned out to be mistaken, so I certainly have no right to expect young people to do any better than my own sorry example. Nevertheless, I have to try to warn you.

You Will End Up Working for the Man

Almost all of us want to choose a career that will actually make things better than they are. That’s why there are so many college students in the arts and in social studies. They want to do something meaningful while earning their living. It sounds reasonable but it’s nonsense.

In this system, we work for the people who have money and power. We perform the duties laid out by the people who sign our paychecks. The people with money and power are not the people who want change, no matter how they may sugar-coat it. If we want to make a living, we have to please them. So don’t waste your time trying to find a job as a progressive change agent, you will, sooner or later, be disappointed. A better career choice is one where you can make as much money as possible with as little of your time as possible. Look for a job with a union or one that can be organized into a union.

When In Doubt, Choose Democracy

When you are confronted with a decision about how to best employ your resources in the struggle for a better world, democracy makes a good guideline. In general, the political system democracy is in opposition to the economic system capitalism. Democracy pushes for equality. Capitalism has to have inequality.

Study Our History

Their history tells us that George Washington overcame British autocracy, that Lincoln freed the slaves, and that Martin Luther King Jr ended discrimination. Without taking anything away from these outstanding people, we need to acknowledge the masses of people who did the work before them.

Take, for example, the civil rights movement. It didn’t start in Montgomery in 1954. It was well underway before slaveholder George Washington’s time. There were great people who made great sacrifices to win the degree of racial equality that we have presently attained. Some of them were preachers, teachers and wonderful orators, but, in the final analysis, Black people in America freed themselves!

The union movement is responsible for bringing economic and social advancement for workers. There were some wonderful leaders that we know of. But the union movement, by its very nature, consists of and relies on the rank and file members. Workers in America, to the extent that we are free, freed ourselves!

The War Continues

We sometimes win a battle against our bosses; we sometimes lose one. But the war will continue as long as they are in charge. Every advance that we make will have to be won again, sooner or later.

So, my young friends, you will have to win everything that was won before. I’m hoping you’ll go further.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site


The Republican position on undocumented workers is basically to deport them all. Round them up like cattle in concentration camps, and ship them to the other side of a humongous 2,000 mile wall. Twelve million human beings. Is that really likely?

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Let’s say you are a refugee from, for example, Guatemala. Or anywhere. You reluctantly left your home because you were facing hunger, assassination, torture, or some other kind of repression there. After a rough trip to the United States, you found conditions that were pretty terrible compared to the local citizenry, but better than conditions back where you came from.

Your life has an “underground” quality. You enroll your kids in school but, just to be careful, you don’t tell them exactly where you live. You stay out of public life in all aspects, because you worry about being uprooted or causing someone you care about to be uprooted. All this was true when you came to the U.S., it’s true now, and it will still be true after all the Republican fulminations against you.

If the repression in the United States gets worse, you aren’t likely to leave. You’ll just sink further into the underground, won’t you? Maybe you’ll take certain measures: take your kids out of school? Move more often? Change jobs more often? Change names more often? But you won’t leave voluntarily, and you won’t make it easy for ICE to find you.

There’s Always Crime

If things get so bad that you can’t feed your family legitimately , there’s always crime. You can buy a gun for mugging people. A handy crowbar for burglaries is even cheaper. You didn’t want to be part of a growing criminal underground, but it’s better than watching your children go hungry, isn’t it? You do what you have to do. You didn’t make this world, but you still have to live in it.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are interested in what I actually think, check out

I feel that I should explain, especially to those people who avoid me. It’s true that I’m incapable of cordial conversation. In no time, I turn almost every conversation into an “ask” for this or that. Sometimes I’m after contributions to the retiree cause, sometimes I want people to come to something, sometimes I ask them to “make a few calls.”


Here’s my excuse: I have an urgent sense of history unfolding.

We Think We’re in Normal Times

In normal times, things go on pretty much as they have. There are no sharp changes in normal times. We think it’s “just the way things are,” and the inference is that they have always been that way.

But there are no normal times. Nothing is static, everything is constantly changing. When little, barely noticeable, changes start to accumulate, then giant, sudden changes occur. I saw one of those little changes in my e-mail today. It said that Republicans are proposing another $492 million cut in the Social Security Administration’s budget. It’s just one of many relatively “little” changes that undermine the American standard of living. It’s been going on since 1980.

I also saw, today, that the latest Texas Voter Suppression law is going into effect. I saw that President Trump is saber-rattling, again, against North Korea. He added Iran this past week.

These little changes undermining our standard of living and taking away our democracy so that we can’t fight back, are likely to add up to a big change. It’s impossible to predict when, but it’s foolish to ignore the truth that the big change is looming more likely.

Two Big Changes Ahead

If the coalition of big-money funders and ignorant reactionary pawns continues to get its way, America is going fascist. Who would deny that incipient fascism is already upon us? Who would fail to admit the direction they are taking us? Who would fail to notice that fascism, the total extinction of democracy with working people completely under the thumbs of corporate masters, is exactly what they intend?

The other big change that might occur is a defeat of the big money funders and ignorant reactionary pawns. An enlightened and activated populace may yet join together into an irresistible progressive force that will regain the upper hand for democracy and begin a new path to peace and progress.

Pick One

Those with an urgent sense of history know that one of those big changes is coming. You can have one or the other but you can’t have neither. You can’t have “normal times.”

That’s why I ask people to study and to get active in the most meaningful way. That’s why I’m such a pain in the butt.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out


Book Review:

Schrecker, Ellen: Many Are the Crimes. McCarthyism in America. Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1998.


I remember the 1950s like white bread: bland, not nourishing, and an important part of every meal. Books, movies, and all things cultural talked about “the American way” as if it were the best of all worlds and the best ever created or imagined. Socialism was never mentioned, except in a pejorative way in movies like “I Married a Communist” or “I Was a Communist for the FBI!” We did not smoke dope in Muscogee, or anywhere else as far as I knew. We kept our hair short and our minds shorter.

It has taken many years for me to realize that the wasteland of the 1950s was created deliberately. Too bad I didn’t have Ellen Schrecker’s book in 1953! It would have saved me a lot of personal anguish.


Schrecker details important aspects of the anti-communist crusade from World War I to modern times. Except for a brief period during World War II, when the United States and the Soviet Union were wary allies, the crusade was relentless.

Schrecker is an academic, so don’t expect her to take sides. She’s just reporting what happened. Academics are afraid to take sides. However, the sheer immensity of the government-run effort to destroy civil rights, civil liberties, and any kind of resistance speaks for itself.

The author reminds us often that she doesn’t sympathize with the communists. She stands on the high ground of impartiality, and, in a way, that makes the facts about the  FBI and the other zealots even stronger.

Schrecker doesn’t shrink from pointing out that a great many of the tactics implemented by the FBI and taken up by other government entities were illegal. A great deal of the testimony against communists and liberal thinkers consisted of FBI-solicited lies. J. Edgar Hoover is hardly the only guilty party. Schrecker doesn’t spare the intellectuals and liberals who all-too-easily jumped on the anti-communist bandwagon. She also doesn’t spare the right-wing union officials who cashed in when, with government help, they drove the militants out of the American union movement.

I’m particularly interested in what happened to the American unions after 1947, when the anti-communist and anti-union Taft-Hartley law was passed. Unions resisted it at first, but here’s what Schrecker says on page 380: “…by the early 1950s, most of the nation’s unions had adjusted to the law and abandoned their struggle against it. It was a serious mistake. Taft-Hartley created an unfavorable legal environment that forced the entire labor movement onto the defensive. Unable to employ the aggressive organizing tactics that had been successful in the 1930s, unions found it difficult to expand. As a result, by the 1970s, when the postwar boom began to falter and the well-paid blue-collar jobs of the members began to disappear, labor was unable to mobilize either the political or the economic clout to protect its earlier gains. It’s numbers dropped… Instead of reaching beyond its traditional white male constituency in the heavy industry and skilled trades of the Northeast, Midwest, and West, the labor movement turned inward and raided its own left wing.”

On page 382: “Its rupture with the left hastened its transformation from a movement to a bureaucracy…. Once the left-wingers were gone, organized labor lost its dynamism….”

The saddest of the tragedies throughout this long, detailed book comes on the last page when the author considers “Can it happen again?” “…the process through which McCarthyism came to dominate American politics is infinitely replicable.” In less academic language: Yes, it can happen again.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you’re interested in what I really think, look at




Socialism has become a popular topic for liberal discussion. Thousands of young people are joining moderate socialist organizations such as SP, DSA, or one of the Bernie-ite electoral groups.


It is wonderful to see so many people committing to a better world, but I’m not sure how serious they are. It would be good to take a look backward to see how this discussion was conducted over the ages.

Socialism was a suitable subject for tea parties and Utopian literature for a couple of centuries before the 20th. There were even some harmless experiments, including one here in North Texas in the 1850s. The draft law of the Confederacy ended the Texas experiments with guns and terror.

The hippies of the 1960s recapitulated that early period and did some more harmless experimenting with communal living, counter-cultural institutions and what they called the “land trip.” Almost all of them either gave it up or moved to Costa Rica or both.

In 1917, though, the talk got serious. Since then, serious advocates of socialism have realized that an opposition exists and it’s not just arguing politely. Millions died in the civil war after that first socialist economy was established.


The “arguments” of the opposition then took the form of fascism. In Italy, Germany, and Spain, the socialists were put down with guns and terror.  No sooner had the Nazis been defeated than the “arguments” of the opposition began killing millions in Korea, Vietnam, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, South Africa, Angola, and Indonesia. Sorry if I left some out.


Here in the United States, only a few of the advocates of socialism actually died and a few, not a whole lot, were imprisoned. But an awful lot of them lost their jobs and suffered blacklisting. Many Americans are still terrified of socialism because the terror that began in 1947 worked rather well for the anti-socialists. If it hadn’t, they would have gone much further, as they did in other nations.

Socialism is serious business. It’s not enough to discuss and advocate it. We need a plan.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you’re interested in what I really think, look at


Mass shootings are regular events in America. In today’s newspaper, I just read that Americans have ten times as many guns as anybody else, and that’s the fundamental reason for all the killing.


My own view may surprise you. When it’s all said and done, I am not for taking guns away from the citizenry.

Are Criminals and Terrorists the Issue?

The popular logic is that taking away a lot of people’s guns will also take a lot of guns away from screwballs, criminals, and terrorists. The NRA and the gun-nuts argue that the people who shouldn’t have guns will find a way to get them anyway, and the rest of us will be defenseless after we’ve given up our own. There’s a lot of heat in that argument, on both sides, but neither one deals with the essence of the question.

Let’s Start From Another Angle

If the citizenry gives up our weapons, then only the police will have weapons. That’s what worries me. I don’t know what percentage of the umpteen gun-caused maimings and deaths in America came out of police gun barrels, but I know that there are too many of them. Police shootings are treated as a separate controversy, but they actually go right to the heart of the matter.

The question of the proliferation of guns and the proliferation of police shootings are related. One can’t be solved without the other.

Community Organization is the Answer to Both Problems

If we had effective community organization, we’d have less crime, less need for protection, and a lot fewer police. Neighborhood watches, consisting of the neighbors themselves, could watch out for and report crimes. We would still need professional investigators similar to the ones we see on British BBC television, but we would no longer need armed and dangerous policemen on patrol. In the BBC murder mysteries, the investigators can call out armed units when necessary, and our militias should be able to do the same.

What is the Obstacle?

I can imagine people laughing as they read the preceding paragraph. They’re right, The police in America are not going to be disarmed. Our employers aren’t going to get us organized for self-protection either. But that’s not because it wouldn’t be a good idea. It’s because they don’t work for us. The police, and for that matter the military forces, all work for the plutocrats that run America. They are the armed agents of the people who rule us.

Our our problem is not the NRA, not the gun-nuts, not the terrorists, not the criminals. It’s the bosses.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on every Saturday at 9 Central Time .if you want to know what I really think, check out