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Several socialist groups came together on April 29, 2018, in Lake Cliff Park in Dallas to celebrate MayDay. They were kind enough to allow the oldest person in attendance to remind them of the long workers’ tradition by leading singing of “The International.”

Another Mayday celebration, by another group of socialists, takes place at Kidd Springs Park at 5:30PM on May 1st. One cannot help but observe that the progressive movement, even the activists who supposedly have the highest levels of consciousness, continues to be disunited. It’s like Will Rogers used to say about the weather: “Everybody talks about unity, but nobody does anything about it!” I believe the trend, though, is positive.

The trend toward celebrating the International Workers Day is a very positive sign. I can remember reserving that very same Lake Cliff Park pavilion May 1, 1984, and doing all the preparations and publicizing myself. Then I sat there, alone, for two hours hoping somebody would come, but they didn’t! This year, we have two of them. The first one had about 40 people, and I imagine the second will be at least as big.

I’ll be doing a talk about “MayDay Then and Now” at Roma’s Pizza, 7402 Greenville Avenue, beginning at 6 pm on Saturday, May 5th. I’d like to count that as a third MayDay celebration. Every year, I publicize MayDay on my radio show.

MayDay Has a History

The workers’ movement, of course, goes back at least to Moses and the slaves of Egypt, and workers probably celebrated the vernal equinox around MayDay long before they had calendars. But the year 1886 marks the close association of the workers’ movement with May 1.

That year, the word went out from Chicago for a worldwide general strike to demand the 8-hour day. There were protests everywhere. Strikers were killed in Chicago. A police riot erupted on May 4th during another rally in Haymarket square. Authorities came down hard on the Chicago movement and, in 1887, hanged four of the main leaders. Since then, the world remembers “Chicago, 1886” on May 1st.

The repression from the bosses combined with the opportunism of many American labor leaders separated the Americans from the International Workers Day; consequently there have been few celebrations here until recently.

Was Labor Stronger Before?

Almost any reading of labor history will bring out the romantic in us. We long for the great general strike of 1874, or the worldwide struggle of 1886, or the organizing frenzy of 1935-1947. In 1980, when the American government decisively teamed up with the bosses to suppress the labor movement, unions began a numerical free fall that continues today. We had 35% of the workforce organized into unions, and we have only 11% now. People dream about the good old days.

No, We’re Stronger Now!

But despite the decline in union numbers, American labor is actually stronger today than ever. Part of the reason is productivity, but most of it is education. One worker today is four times as productive as those who organized in 1935-47. If one worker walks off the job today, it’s like four workers striking in the old days.

We have more unity than ever. In 1935-47, remember that the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations were two separate and competing organizations. Remember also that racism and other kinds of chauvinism were far more divisive in the “old days” than they are today. The AFL-CIO didn’t even try to organize the millions of undocumented workers before 1999 — they joined the government in calling for deportation!

Today, the AFL-CIO bends over backward to work with church, civil rights, and community organizations. In 1987, unions were so totally isolated that five of the more progressive ones had to create a separate organization, Jobs with Justice, to try to build solidarity outside the official labor movement. Today, virtually all unions have gone past their initial hostility and regularly work with Jobs with Justice and other solidarity efforts.

In the old days, many workers were barely literate. Today, we command more information than they could have imagined. With our phones and computers, workers have the ability to function as almost a single worldwide unit. That’s power! We’re only at the first stages of using it, but today we have the power!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. Podcasts can be found from the “events’ tab. If you are interested in what I really think, look at my personal web site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Review: “Sweet Country,” Directed by Warwick Thornton. 113 minutes

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My movie buddy and I are suckers for anything Australian. I think it’s the way they subsidize their movies that gives them such an intelligent edge. This one is more of a character study and an exposition than a story, even though there’s more than enough action.

The movie claims to be based on actual events in 1929. An indigenous man kills an Anglo, then goes on the run. Moviegoers may have seen wyly outlaws evade posses and madmen dying in salt deserts before, but seldom told with this much plain grit.

The indigenous characters are largely inarticulate and given to local idioms. The film has to use subtitles for some of their dialogue. There is a lot of symbolism that is open to interpretation, but one theme is clear throughout: racism. Like any story revolving around racism then as now, those dancing around the theme included the decent, the indecent, and the willfully ignorant.

The chase through the outback gives the filmmakers and the moviewatchers wonderful opportunities for vista viewing. The old John Ford westerns have absolutely nothing on this Australian cowboy movie.

But it’s the characters that matter. Moviewatchers get a solid inside look at these realistic settlers and their near-slave employees. Degradation and inspiration are there in handfuls. Warwick Thornton and his Australian team have made us a gratifying movie that is to be taken seriously and thoroughly enjoyed. The price of a ticket seems hardly enough to repay them.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time on Saturdays. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site,

Book Review: Hedges, Chris, “American Fascists. The Christian Right and the War on America.” Free Press, New York, 2006

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“When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”

sometimes attributed to the author Sinclair Lewis and sometimes to Louisiana Governor Huey Long

I appreciated this Dallas Public Library book more than I enjoyed it. I really liked his examination of the underlying precepts of radical right evangelism and his historical comparisons to the thinking and strategies of earlier fascists. On the downside, I think he credited televangelists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson too much and blamed fascist financiers like the Koch brothers too little. I think Hedges understands a lot more about the ideology of fascism than he does about the reasons for it.

Hedges was a top-level foreign correspondent. He really knows how to do research and how to present it. He focused his research on the section of protestant evangelism in the United States that he names “dominionism.”

From page 11: “Dominionism, born out of a theology known as Christian reconstructionism, seeks to politicize faith. It has, like all fascist movements, a belief in magic along with leadership adoration and a strident call for moral and physical supremacy of a master race, in this case American Christians.”

I was interested in faith and fascism because of callers to my radio talk show “Workers Beat” today, March 31, 2018. One of them said that the current pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Robert Jeffress had said that everything President Trump does is okay because it is “ordained by God.” Another caller said that Jeffress, a few years ago, had called President Obama “the anti-christ.”

Another book, “’White Metropolis” charges First Baptist with far-right racist politics in the past. Hedges doesn’t mention Jeffress in his 2006 book, but he hits hard against Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, both of whom are presumably in Heaven now.

Long-time unionists know that Americanism is often evoked against its own people. Labor writer Len DeCaux tells us about a 1913 strike organized by the Industrial Workers of the World, employers tried to use the American flag as a strike breaking device. Declaring March 17 “Flag Day,” they draped flags over mill gates with signs calling for a return to work. The silk workers, makers of flags themselves, retorted with a huge American flag across Main Street bearing these words: “We wove the flag; we dyed the flag. We live under the flag; but we won’t scab under the flag!” –Excerpted “The Living Spirit of the Wobblies”

During a speech delivered in 1918, labor leader Eugene Victor Debs made a similar statement: 3No wonder Jackson said that ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.’ He had the Wall Street gentry in mind or their prototypes, at least; for in every age it has been the tyrant, who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both.”

Can They Be Stopped?

Author Chris Hedges thinks that the radical Christian Right should be repressed. He thinks that the liberal approach of extreme tolerance for varying points of view will lead to the destruction of America. He points out that Hitler could have been stopped if Germans had been less pathologically tolerant. On page 202, Hedges says, “Debate with the radical Christian Right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue. It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion…. This movement is bent on our destruction. The attempts by many liberals to make peace would be humorous if the stakes were not so deadly.”

I agree with Hedges. Tolerance cannot be extended to include intolerance. Where the book goes wrong, though, is in implying that these unscrupulous and opportunistic evangelists can, on their own hook, bring fascism to America. Hitler, working alone or with his ideological compatriots, couldn’t have done it either. The ideologists are not that powerful nor persuasive. Fascism is a form of rule chosen deliberately by rulers. That’s the danger.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas 9-10AM Central Time every Saturday. From the home page, hit the “events” tab to hear the last two programs. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal site

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.

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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.

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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

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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 http://knon.org/workers-beat/ at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are interested in what I actually think, check out http://lilleskole.us

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.”

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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 http://lilleskole.org