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civil rights

It’s incredible, but lots of people don’t know the difference between right and wrong!

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It’s evident from today’s discussions around Confederate monuments, white supremacy marches, and free speech. President Trump, that fountain of wisdom, says that we have to take down the Washington monument if we’re opposing Jefferson Davis. Some of my liberal friends, gritting their teeth, say they will defend white supremacists’ right to march and speak out “to the death.”

The racists in Boston today say they aren’t rallying for bigotry, but for “free speech.” They’re trying to frame the argument so that anybody opposed to their disgusting views is against freedom.

There’s a good explanation for the confusion

The confusion over right and wrong today has the same root cause as a tremendous lot of confusion — people have no standard of measurement. With no actual standard, they are going by their feelings. No one would admit that, but it’s true. People are trying to decide very important questions simply by the way they happen to be feeling.

All philosophies are branches of idealism versus materialism. Idealists believe that the standards for everything exist only in their minds — in their ideal world. All the stuff that we see, touch, and smell, is only an approximation of the perfect ideal.

Materialists believe in the real world. We believe that any concept of a perfect ideal would have to be generalized from all the stuff we can sense. The material world comes first, and perfection is just something to talk about when we have extra time.

What standard would work?

The good of humanity is an excellent standard. “Good,” then, is what helps humanity. “Evil” detracts from us. “Right” advances us and “wrong” pushes us backward.

If everyone used that simple standard, the arguments would be over.

Getting back to the present situation, tax dollars should no longer be used to honor the Confederacy. Racism should be suppressed. It’s not a moral issue nor a difficult philosophical problem. It’s just knowing the difference between right and wrong.

–Gene Lantz

You can hear me on “Workers Beat” on KNON.org or 89.3FM in the Dallas area, 9AM central time every Saturday

Botkin, Jane Little, Frank Little and the IWW. The Blood that Stained an American Family. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2017

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The author will speak in Butte, Montana, on August 1

A giant hole in American labor history has been filled.

Frank Little’s Great Grand Niece has explained every known detail of the great union organizer’s life. 125 pages of careful notations testify to her ability as an historian of the first rank, but she also reveals family records hidden for a century. She has written not only the best biography of Frank Little possible, but she also put the events of his life and times in context so that a reader can, from this one book, draw the important lessons of the missing chapters, 1905-1919, of American history.

Why Frank Little and His Times Matter

Frank Little was a top organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW, the Wobblies, the One Big Union, the OBU. At the time he was lynched, one hundred years ago on August 1, he was Chairman of the General Executive Board. Not all details are known, but his legacy probably includes:

1. Implementation of passive resistance tactics decades before Gandhi or MLK
2. Implementation of organizing itinerant farm workers decades before Cesar Chavez
3. Implementation of Industrial Organizing (as opposed to craft organizing) decades before the CIO
4. Champion of the argument that workers should stay out of World War I
If Frank Little had survived his 39th year, and if his ideas had survived, civil rights would have been greatly advanced. Labor would have put aside all arguments against minorities and immigrants long ago. Itinerant farm workers would have been organized far earlier. Divisions in the ranks of organized labor would have melted away. Thousands of soldiers’ lives would have been saved and American workers would have had a far better understanding of capitalism, imperialism, and socialism than they do now or have ever had. This last point is based on Frank Little’s adamant opposition to World War I. He was one of the two most outspoken labor leaders in the world on this point. The other one was V.I. Lenin in Russia.
In our spare time, my wife and I have tried to collect what little we could find out about Frank Little. I posted it years ago at http://labordallas.org/hist/little.htm.
The new book shows that I was wrong on several small details, but my only general mistake was to have underestimated the man and his importance.

Why Didn’t We Already Know All This?

Within a month of Frank Little’s lynching at the hands of the copper bosses of Montana, The United States government launched the fiercest attack against the working class in our history. Free speech, one of Frank Little’s greatest accomplishments, was trampled. Unionists were hunted down and deported or arrested and tortured. Heavy jail sentences were laid on any of the hundreds railroaded for having “conspired with Frank H. Little” to undermine war production.

Union halls were raided and all records were confiscated. History, especially any history associated with Frank Little, was wiped clean. Fear was so great that even Frank Little’s relatives dared not remember him. Fear was so great that the silence lasted almost 100 years, until now.

–Gene Lantz

You can still find me every Saturday at 9AM Central Time on http://knon.org

I write on http://tx.aflcio.org/dallas and http://texasretiredamericans.org

 

 

A lot of Republicans in the Texas Legislature and the editors of the Dallas Morning News have teamed up to oppose “straight party ticket” voting.

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By now, everybody in the United States, and especially the Texans, should begin to worry when Republicans talk about “electoral reform.” They’ve already deformed our elections beyond recognition with crazy redistricting, outright voter suppression, and opening the floodgates for big money to buy every candidate.

Now they want Texas to join the states that have already outlawed “straight ticket” voting. I laughed out loud when I read the Dallas editors’ reasons. The main one was that the change wouldn’t make any difference because people could still vote straight ticket, they would just have to put a bunch more marks by each candidate on the ballot.

If it doesn’t make any difference, why do it?

And, anybody could turn the argument right around on the editors. If it’s true that people could still vote straight ticket AFTER this “deform,” then isn’t it also true that they could NOT vote straight ticket NOW? They aren’t offering to give people another choice, they’re offering to take one away!

Straight Ticket Voting Makes Sense

I’m not sure what it’s like in other states, but in Texas we have to elect almost everybody that has anything to do with government, from dogcatcher through all the judges and on up (or down, as the case may be) to the Governor and President. Nobody can keep track of all these candidates — then they throw in a bunch of undecipherable propositions and amendments at the end of the ballot. A person is supposed to have all this clear in his/her head before we enter the voting booth, but everybody knows we can’t.

Party Polarity Is On the Grow

The growing polarity between the two capitalist parties makes them more distinct than ever before. When I was a kid, I used to hear people say that they couldn’t tell the difference between the two capitalist parties. Nobody says that now.

For working families, the Democrats’ party platforms sound like Hollywood dreams, and the Republican party platforms come straight from the hallways of Hell.

Like the “local control” issue, the “straight ticket” issue is a smoke screen to hide the intentions of big money as they rob the workers and deform our democracy in order to undermine our ability to fight back.

–Gene Lantz

Find me Saturdays at 9 Central Time at http://knon.org

If you are courageous and tenacious about your cause, whatever it is, you will eventually,  it may take a while, reach the same conclusions as the rest of us.

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I think of it as battling one tentacle of a monster. Darned thing will just about strangle you if you don’t fight it off. But, if you stay with it long enough, you’ll find that your tentacle leads to a monster with many other tentacles. Various other people are fighting one tentacle or another. If they don’t give up, they’ll all find the many-armed monster.

I didn’t start out with a radical world view. I started with only one cause: corporal punishment in the schools. I wanted school personnel to stop beating on the kids. I think it took me more than a year to realize that many of the school torturers were being encouraged by the kids’ parents. Then I started arguing against all kinds of aversive control of children.

One thing led to another. I no sooner quit criticizing teachers and parents than I started criticizing school administrators, then school boards, then the entire educational system. I even started a special non-aversive school and tried to get people to emulate it.

Then one day I realized that if the schools weren’t the way they are, then young men and women would stop volunteering to join the military to fight and die for someone else’s peace and happiness. Something was wrong, I figured, and it wasn’t just the schools. That thinking process took me several years. I went on from there.

Doesn’t Matter Where You Start

I was reading a long e-mail from a group that calls itself, I think, “Women’s March for Freedom.” They were passing on their revelation that women’s oppression isn’t the only kind of oppression. They listed homophobia and a couple of other forms of chauvinism. They had realized this since they organized the biggest protests in American history on January 21, 2017.

They started with the women’s oppression tentacle, the one they were feeling the most, and then generalized to a broader definition of chauvinist oppression. If they keep at it, don’t get discouraged, and keep on thinking it through, they’ll find the monster.

I think one of the problems in America is that people are too afraid to go on fighting. Many a young radical becomes a frightened, inactive, middle-ager. Maybe most of them.

Follow the Money

On the streetcar this morning, a young man drinking chocolate milk pointed out a motorcycle cop hiding behind a fence. He gestured with his bottle: “Where does he get his authority?” the guy asked me. “I think you already know,” I told him, but apparently he didn’t because he rephrased and asked the same question.

“Police, like anybody else,” I suggested, “work for whoever signs their paycheck.” I thought that was erudite enough, but it didn’t satisfy the young fellow. “And where do THEY get their authority?” he asked me. By then I had decided I was the victim of some long-range Socratic argument and didn’t really want to go on. But there was nobody else in the streetcar to talk to, so I resigned myself to being sucked in and told him, “Whoever signs the policeman’s paycheck works for whoever signs his, and then the next level and the next level until you finally get to very rich people, the 1% so to speak, who are using their money to keep this system running for their own profit.”

Following the money is like following the tentacle. It leads to the same monster.

It sure would have been cool if he had said, “Oh, I get it,” but he just glanced at the ceiling of the streetcar and resumed drinking his chocolate milk. I like to think that he might have pondered my words later, but he probably didn’t. For all I know, there might have been something pretty raunchy in his chocolate milk.

Read a Good Biography

Malcolm X started out in prison. He figured out, or was taught, that white people oppressed Black people through their Christian religion. So he became a very effective Islamist fund raiser. He didn’t stop there, and was a much broader kind of revolutionary before they killed him.

Eugene Victor Debs was just a very good trade unionist when he started bucking the system. He tried to bring the railroad unions together and nearly succeeded. They put him in jail for it, and he came out a much broader, much more capable kind of revolutionary before they put him in jail again.

Almost all of us are familiar with aspects of the life of the good Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. His cause was racial discrimination on public transportation, when he started. Then he went on to lead the entire struggle against racism, and didn’t stop there, even for a minute. He linked up with the union cause quite a lot. Lots of people, including a lot of his devoted followers, were shocked when he denounced imperialist war before they shot him.

Just from those three, you can see the two most important aspects of my exposition: 1) courageous and consistent struggle will reveal the monster and 2) Lots of people don’t keep up the “courageous and consistent struggle” because they are afraid of what they will learn, or rather, they are afraid of the thing about which they will learn, i.e. the monster. BTW, I’m not saying people should be afraid, or not any more afraid than they already are, but I do recommend being careful.

The Monster Isn’t A Person

There are nice rich people and there are lousy rich people. I think the widow Joan Kroc, who gave away the Ray Kroc McDonald’s fortune, was probably a nice rich person. I got a book against nuclear war from her once. I think she had bought thousands of them to give away.

The monster isn’t a person, it’s a system being run by several persons. Fight your tentacle long enough and you’ll find it.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on 89.3FM and http://knon.org at 9AM Central Time every Saturday.

Germans embraced the Nazis, not because they were tired of freedom, but because they believed they had found a cure for capitalism.

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From the time it began to take over the world, mid 17th century, until the late 19th century, capitalism provided a better life for its subjects. That is, it was better than serfdom. Serfs were landless farm workers, one step above slaves, who had to take whatever their lords dished out. “Free” labor could leave one employer for another and, to some extent, dicker over conditions of employment.

Capitalism Works Best With Limited Democracy

If workers believe they have a voice in government, they don’t have to be guarded, guided, and pushed to do everything. They don’t run away or deliberately smash the equipment, the way slaves or serfs might. They can be educated for the higher forms of labor that capitalism needs. Consequently, the more successful capitalist economic systems use a limited democracy form of government.

From the beginning of the Republic until after World War II, American struggles made good improvements in our democracy.

What Went Wrong, When Did It Go Wrong?

Capitalism stopped benefiting workers after it conquered the world. When there were no new markets, the capitalists had to turn against one another to fight for the markets they had already saturated. That’s not what they called it. They called it “The war to save democracy,” and “The war to end all wars.”

But WW I was really a bloody turf war between gangsters. For a short period, the winners enjoyed their spoils, but it didn’t last very long because  the basic problem of saturated markets and international competition was still there.

So, they decided to have another world war. This one was complicated for workers, because the Soviet Union, try as they might, couldn’t stay out of it. After they began to fight the invading Nazis, they were incorporated into the same side the United States was on. The U.S. ended the alliance as soon as the Nazis were defeated, of course.

No More World Wars

After the U.S. nuked Japan, actually, after the Soviets and other nations showed that they could do the same thing, world wars lost their appeal as a temporary solution to the capitalist crisis. Even the gangster capitalists weren’t crazy enough to blow up their only planet. So, since the late 1970s, capitalist nations have gotten by on small regional wars, lowering their production costs by attacking their workers, and carrying a whole lot of debt. I recently read, in an investment newsletter, that all growth in the United States since 1980 basically came from debt!

Did the Nazis Solve the Capitalist Crisis?

To Germans between, say, 1933 and 1939, it appeared that fascism was the right way to go. Unemployment dived from 25% into low numbers. Lots of infrastructure was rebuilt. National pride was soaring.

But they had only changed their form of government from limited democracy to fascism, they hadn’t changed their economic system. It was still capitalist and it was still in crisis. The only real way toward a temporary solution was war. Even then, as long as they were winning, fascism still seemed pretty good to the Germans. After that, not so much.

What Looks Good to You Right Now?

To a lot of Americans, the Trump Administration and Republican political domination look pretty good. They think there will be more and better jobs. They think they’ll be making a better living and that the steady abatement of basic democracy isn’t too high a price to pay.

But we are still living in an economic system that has provided all the good it is going to provide, and things are only going to get worse if we can’t save and expand our democracy.

 

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In all the struggles of American history, all our victories have been temporary. We need a workers’ political program for permanent change. I’d like to see it come from organized labor, and soon. Instead of vaguely advocating for it, I decided to write down what I would consider the elements of a good program.

Goal of the Party

The goal of a workers’ political party is conclusive victory for workers’ rights and democracy. For members to vary from our goal, even for candidates and office holders, is grounds for expulsion.

Activities

Strategies for achieving our goal begin with a careful analysis of each existing situation. For the last few centuries, the overall worldwide situation has been characterized by domination by the propertied people of the industrialized nations. Peace, even between the major nations, is always uneasy because they are economic competitors.

Who Is With Us?

Against all of the owners and employers are the working class of the world and an undetermined and shifting section of the unstable “in between” class of small businesspersons, professionals, and other “go-betweens” who tend to change allegiances according to which of the two main classes is winning. Members of the Party remain scrupulously aware of who are likely to be supporters and who are likely to be enemies of progress.

All of the non-propertied people are oppressed, but not equally; nor do all of the oppressed have the same resources and capabilities; consequently, strategies are tailored for different groups.

Philosophy

Members of the Party have no time nor taste for fantasies, superstitions, fetishes, and vague feelings. Our activities are guided toward understanding each situation and developing tactics for strengthening our side and undermining the other. We are aware that everything is in constant change. We employ a conscious study of history, but do not consider history an overly strict guideline.

Necessity

The current economic system, while far better than its predecessors, no longer benefits the  people. Instead, it threatens the destruction of our planet.

Democracy

The Party practices internal democracy. Democracy is the only governance that works with volunteers, and it is the absolutely necessary precedent for a victorious new order.

In our lifetimes, we have never seen the American people as ready to fight as they are right now. Case in point: the January 21st demonstrations put more protesters on the streets than ever in American history.

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Is It Enough?

At the same time that our potential strength is growing, the challenges are growing, too. The far right, the dark money people, the Koch brothers, all of the worst of America’s ruling rich, are far stronger than ever. They were bad enough when they were just the crazies in the John Birch society  the Tea Party and Ku Klux Klan, but now they hold state power!

Does it seem likely that these merciless and unscrupulous power mongers are going to be “touched” by our sentiments? Will they have a “change of heart” after they hear our arguments at Town Hall meetings? Does anyone think they will give up state power just because people carried signs?

What About the Next Elections?

If everything were the way it used to be, or the way it usually is, the Democrats could expect to win big in the 2018 mid-term elections. There is a lot of enthusiasm for fighting the Republicans, thanks to the Republicans. Also, the party in power normally loses in mid-term elections. A lot of our leaders, thinking things are the way they used to be, or the way things usually are, are focusing entirely on the next elections. We’ll warm up in the local elections that occur between now and then, and then we’ll be “really ready” in November, 2018.

American Democracy Is On the Wane

We should fight in the local elections at hand. We should get ready for the 2018 mid-terms. We should continue building giant protests. We shouldn’t concede anything. But is it enough? Even if we think it’s enough, can we be sure?

Consider that the level of democracy that we enjoyed just a few years ago is being eroded away. When Bill Clinton was President, for example, we thought our voting rights were secure. Not only that,  we more or less expected to continue expanding American democracy just as we had more or less consistently since 1776. We’ve seen big money take over our elections with the blessings of the Supreme Court. We’ve seen a President appointed by the same court. We’ve seen the near-sacred Voting Rights Act gutted. We’ve seen unfair redistricting and myriad voter suppression laws become common. Just recently!

Maybe we have enough democracy left to assert ourselves in 2018 and put America back on the path to freedom. I hope so, but I’d like to have something stronger just to make sure.

What Else Is There?

Here in the United States, we know almost nothing about the kinds of economic struggles that are common in other parts of the world. The only truly successful economic boycott we know of was the United Farm Workers’ fight against grape growers. We’ve never seen a successful political strike in our lifetimes. Union organization has almost stopped completely in America due to the combined hostility of bosses and governments.

Those are the things we have to learn if we want to win.