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Today I posted a prologue and Chapter One of “Commissioner Torres and the New Government” on http://lilleskole.us, my personal web site. It’s actually my 4th book-length effort. One of them is autobiographical and covers just about everything I’ve learned so far.

What would your revolution look like?

The other three are speculative fiction about a guy named Leo Torres who gets involved with revolutionaries just when the old order of things has fallen apart. Leo gets in on the revolution from the ground floor.

Why?

You may wonder why I write and post these things. Obviously, I’m not going to make any money. They aren’t even copyrighted. It’s not because of the silly old shibboleth “Writers write because they have to.”

I’m one of many people who would like to see a better world, but I’m one of the very few who have tried to describe it. For decades I’ve dodged the question the same way almost every activist does by saying, “I don’t know what the world I’m fighting for would look like, because it’s up to those people living in that world to decide for themselves.” It may be true, but it’s still a dodge.

If we’re fighting for a better world, we ought to be able to describe it. Or at least we ought to try.

I decided on speculative fiction as my way of initiating a discussion on what might happen and what we might do about it. After all, does anybody think that we’ll just wake up one day in a better world?

Nearly all of our sci-fi is dystopian. Just about the only exception is the Star Trek series. They didn’t even have a revolution to get into their wonderful world. They just listened to the Vulcans. In one episode, Mister Spock hints that the Vulcans had to go through some very trying times before they became so civil, but he doesn’t tell us much about it. So we actually have no pattern to follow.

For a long time, American activists tried to copy the Russian revolution. When it imploded, a lot of them were disgusted and demoralized. Some others have tried to follow Chairman Mao. Some followed Nkrumah, Ho Chi Minh, and some followed Castro. I think we could learn from all of them, but we couldn’t learn enough. We have to do a lot of our own thinking.

So, we speculate.

The World I Made

Looking toward the future, especially in the Donald Trump era, one can see disaster ahead. It’s not a matter of whether or not the planet will become inhabitable and wealth inequality will make economic life impossible. It’s only a matter of when.

But I have great faith in myself and other people. Sooner or later we will give up on the people who are destroying the economy and the ecology. We will embrace new leaders and new ways of running things. In the world I create in my sci-fi novels, people have just recently done that. Following the advice of revolutionaries, civilized people have disbanded their armies and their police. They formed local militias to keep order while respected and capable leaders are elected to make economic and social decisions.

The revolutionaries at the center help coordinate activities and continue to advise the localities. As you might imagine, there is very little continuity between one locality and another. There are a tremendous number of problems to be resolved. What will people eat? How will they get it? How will trade continue? How will people get from one place to the next?

Because the air and water are almost undrinkable and unbreathable, something drastic has to be done about the burning of fossil fuels. Because all systems are down, there is no electricity. Without electricity and transportation, there is no long-distance communication. Without transportation, people will not be able to get the goods and services they need to stay alive. What would you do about those things?

The first two novels take the easy way out. They only deal with some of the smaller questions.

My first novel deals with whether or not revolution is possible and worthwhile. It’s common to hear it said that humanity isn’t worth saving, that people will never learn to live without war, that people are essentially greedy and incapable of cooperation, and that every revolution has failed because people are basically just no damned good!

My second novel is more specific. It tries to deal with the fact that certain sectors of the population will not cooperate in building a better world. Hardened drug addicts, for example, are unlikely to cooperate in civil society. What would you do with them?

The third novel is by far the most ambitious. It recognizes that government is necessary and begins to discuss the ins and outs of setting up and running such a government. Is democracy the answer? If so, what would be the machinery of democracy? Here’s a really thorny question, “How could a society avoid the tyranny of the majority?”

I don’t know if you can answer these questions, but I know that I can’t. But I’m inviting you to join me in trying to find out.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” talk show 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday. Call in 972-647-1893 with your ideas. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site at http://lilleskole.us

Texans are forever taking their children to see the Alamo, and a lot of them go to the San Jacinto Battlefield. But if they really care about Texas history, they should make a pilgrimage to Crystal City, where ordinary working people made a lot of history.

Crystal City was the site of the biggest concentration camp of World War II. Japanese families were there from 1943 through the end of the war. A few Italians and Germans were also sent there from other parts of the U.S. and Latin America. The United States traded them for our own prisoners of war.

Crystal is also a great civil rights site. The Chicano movement that terrified Anglos in the 1970s began in Crystal City. The struggles of some of the most desperate working families in America took place in Crystal City. For a while there, they won!

I think it was in 1963 that five very courageous Latinos took city government power from the dominant Anglos. With only 10% of the population, Anglos had always dominated everything. Then in 1969, Juan Campeon and Jose Angel Gutierrez convened La Raza Unida Party at Salon Campestre just outside the city limits and on the banks of the Nueces River.

La Raza Unida soon took over government in all of Zavala County and in surrounding counties. Inspired by La Raza, other Chicanos throughout America began to form their own fighting civil rights organizations.

Today, only the cement steps of the old Salon Campestre remain. There are no historical markers for La Raza Unida. They hold no government offices, but Mexican American Democrats and other organizations owe their initial inspiration to the courageous workers of Crystal City. There’s a great play about it. It’s named “Crystal.”

About 8,000 people, nearly all Mexican Americans, live in Crystal. A branch of the historic Nueces river runs (when there is enough water) just outside the city limits. There are no unions in existence, even though the CIO tried in the 1940s and the Teamsters tried in the 1960s to organize the cannery workers.

There are no museums in Crystal City. The library is closed. There are several statues of Popeye the Sailor Man and some claims to be the Spinach Capital of the World, but the great contributions and sacrifices of working families are noted only in the minds of certain Chicanos and a handful of amateur historians like us, who care about real history.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show 89.3 FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

I need somebody to explain the machinery of democracy to me, because I’m writing a sci-fi novel about a better world.

A lot of people are now claiming to be revolutionaries. An even larger number would at least say that they want a better world than the one we live in. I think they’d agree that we want to maximize democracy.

What do you want?
How would you get it?

But does anybody know how?

Even if all the present election reformers got their way, even if the current House Resolution # 1 should pass on January 3rd, we would still an imperfect democracy, because we have no way to overcome the “tyranny of the majority.” No matter what Utopian election machinery we may advocate, minorities would still be at the mercy of the majority of voters.

In a better democracy, one’s vote should be directly proportional to their personal consequences from that vote. If a proposal affects you more than somebody else, why should your votes have equal weight? I didn’t think this up, I got it from Ivan Illich in 1972. He said everyone’s vote should be proportional to the effect that it would have on them. He didn’t explain how that could be done.

Obviously, one way is to have a bunch of small local governments. They could regulate things at the local level. A larger government, however, would have to have larger control over what they do, because whatever people do in society will have at least some effect on others.

What About This?

Here’s the best I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Legislative proposals are encouraged from the lowest levels. Proposals should not only substantiate what they intend to do, but should also designate the relative weights of different voters.
  2. The proposal would have to be passed by majority vote, but it wouldn’t be implemented at that point.
  3. If the legislation passed the majority vote, then the majority would also have agreed to the relative weight of different voters.
  4. Thus, before implementation, the vote would have to be re-weighed with some voters getting more weight than others. That result would be the one implemented.

Here’s an example. Suppose somebody proposed that free abortion on demand become the law everywhere. The original proposal might allocate extra votes for women, as women would be affected more than men. If everybody thought that was fair, then the proposal would pass by majority vote. Then the votes would be recounted on the second round, with extra weight for each female vote. If the proposal still passed, it would become law.

Another example: Suppose we had a proposal to provide funding for medical care for coal miners suffering from silicosis (lots of them are). Coal miners would obviously get a bigger percentage of the total potential vote.

Give Me Criticisms & Suggestions

There are very few examples of a better future in American sci-fi. Nearly every speculation is dystopian. The exception is Star Trek, where humanity does indeed achieve a better, more fair, world. But Star Trek never explains how it happened or how it works. All we know is that they learned it from the Vulcans.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON Radio’s “Workers Beat” program, 89.3 FM in Dallas, at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

This isn’t the only place I post. I also do several Facebook Pages, two Twitter accounts, and several web sites. Every week, I write the labor newsletter for the Dallas AFL-CIO. An example is below. The photos are almost always mine. Nearly all of my time is volunteer. I sometimes make as much as $43.64/week from my communications efforts. Never more than that.

Publishing is not as hard for me as it might be for some because I’ve had considerable practice with photos, I type really well, and I’ve been doing volunteer journalism most of the time since I was a sophomore in High School. That would be 1955, 63 years ago.

So, why do I do it?

I’m going to answer in a roundabout way. First of all, I like myself pretty well, or at least I excuse my faults as just run-of-the-mill human errors. Secondly, I know I’m nothing special, I’m about the same as everybody else. That means then, that I must esteem everybody else about as much as I do myself. So, then, I should try to treat everybody pretty well just as I like being treated. It’s not the “golden rule” in the abstract, it’s totally selfish. I like you because I like me. That’s the only reason.

So I try to do what I can for myself, and, by extension, for you, too. That doesn’t mean I’m devoting myself to charity. In my opinion, charity is just a lubricant for a mercilessly inhuman machine that is grinding us up. The System.

If I want to curtail misery and human suffering, then, I need to do whatever I can to change The System. That means getting organized around a program that can actually make a difference. That program is simple: organizing working families. So that’s what I espouse, on paper and all over the internet. I intend to keep it up until I die.

–gene lantz

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

Dallas Labor Unites Us!

If you are part of a working family, the Dallas AFL-CIO is on your side. None of us are illegal; none of us are outsiders. The Dallas AFL-CIO joins Alliance/AFT in a special program to benefit union members who want to apply for citizenship. Volunteers and applicants are encouraged to attend a forum at 11AM tomorrow, December 15, at 334 Centre in Oak Cliff. The road to obtaining citizenship is not an easy one, but your labor movement will assist.

Citizenship Committee Meets

Sherlyn May Need Help

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1338 is assisting Sherlyn Samuel to get back her job with DART. Samuel received the Texas award for outstanding woman trade unionist. She heads our civil rights affiliate, A. Philip Randolph Institute. She stands up for the Dallas Transit Riders. We cannot afford to let managers victimize our top activists.

Sherlynn accepts award from Louis Malfaro

DART management will hold a hearing in the near future, and we may be needed. To get on the Dallas AFL-CIO’s rapid text alert, text “@laborrel” to the phone number 81010.

Get Ready, Texas Legislature Is Coming

If working families are united, we can support progressive Texas legislation or fight reactionaries when the legislature begins on January 8th. The first step is to know what is going on. Write to ed@texasaflcio.org to get on Communications Director Ed Sills’ email list. He also recommends going to http://texasaflcio.org and entering your email and zip code.

It is not too early to establish relationships with your state senators and representatives. Some of them will be organizing buses of supporters to go to the Texas Capitol in Austin for the beginning of the session.

Texas 104 electee Jessica Gonzalez graciously accepted an invitation to speak to UAW 848’s retirees on December 13. She agreed that seniors should be protected against rising property taxes. Supporting public education will be her main priority.

District 104 winner Jessica Gonzalez with retiree Oritize Young

The victor in Texas 102, Ana Maria Ramos, will be speaking and answering questions on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM tomorrow, December 15. Tune in on-line at knon.org or on radio at 89.3 FM. The call-in number is 972-647-1893

More Actions Coming Up

Dec 15, 9A: State Rep electee Ana Maria Ramos on KNON.org and 89.3FM.

Dec 15, 10A: KNON radio’s annual toy drive and music fest at 11311 N Central Expressway

Dec 15, 11A: Citizenship Campaign Forum at Alliance/AFT, 334 Centre in Oak Cliff

Dec 15, 5-10P: Benefit for Brother Corey Hallmark at Theo’s Bar & Grill, 107 NW 8th, Grand Prairie

Dec 20, 7:30P Dallas AFL-CIO meeting for all affiliated members at Independent Bar, 2712 Main St. Followed by annual labor Christmas Party. Call 214-826-4808 for more info

Jan 8: Texas Legislature’s 86th session begins.

Jan 19, 10A: Gather at Dallas City Hall to participate in national Women’s Marches

Jan 20, 10A: Gather at Tarrant County Courthouse, 100 E Weatherford in Ft Worth, to participate in national Women’s Marches

Jan 31: Postmark deadline for applications to be sent to Texas AFL-CIO for college scholarships for union members families

Movie Review:

“Green Book,” Directed by Peter Farrelly, 2 hours, 10 minutes

The Green Book is an important part of American history. It was used to help African-American motorists locate the few places where they might rest. I think that one reason that “Green Book” has continued to sell tickets over several weeks is that people are slow in finding out what it’s about.

There are a lot more good reasons to see the film. Acting by the two main characters is outstanding. Viggo Mortensen plays a street smart nightclub bouncer from New York, while Mahershala Ali plays a delicate Leningrad-trained classical musician. Both are up for Golden Globes awards. The movie is up for best picture, and Oscar-buzz has already begun. The 1960s music is wonderful. The pacing is so good that viewers go beyond ignoring the extra length and wish it could go on longer. There are four, count ’em four, union logos in the final frame!

Few movies can claim so much authenticity. It seems to be strung together by family stories from Mortensen’s character, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. Someone named Nick Vallelonga gets some of the screenplay and producer credit.

Tony Lip apparently drove a sensitive Black musician through a tour of the Deep South in 1962. His main qualification for the job came from his experience as a tough guy. Tony was required to stay in all-white motels, while his employer had to use the Green Book. It isn’t hard to imagine some of the problems they encountered, but you have to see the movie to realize how well this period, these problems, and these two wonderful characters can be brought to life! If your tastes run toward American history, civil rights, or just great film-making, you don’t want to miss Green Book.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

At a rally in Dallas on the first day of early voting, congressional candidate Colin Allred said “We have two weeks to save democracy!”

allred-cwa-earlyvote

Soon afterward, the election in Brazil sharpened world concern for democracy’s future. Jair Bolsonaro openly welcomes a return to military dictatorship. He threatens all his political opponents with using the military and government sanctions militias to carry out “a cleansing never before seen.” Women, gays, landless peasants, and the homeless are targets named in a New York Times article.

Almost immediately after the election, military units began raiding student organizations to confiscate any “anti-fascist” or “pro-democracy” materials, according to @castriotar on Twitter.

It’s not just Brazil. The Week news service says, “Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

What’s “Populism?”

In American history, the populists were always considered the representatives of the downtrodden, primarily farmers and sharecroppers who were being squeezed out by urbanization. Populism was associated with being pro-democracy, according to Wikipedia.

Today, newspersons and pundits use the term to mean anybody who claims to oppose the status quo. They’ve invented the term “right-wing populism” to include politicians who are virulently against democracy. Others just call them fascists.

What’s “Left,” What’s “Right?”

On the democracy scale, “left” is usually associated with more democracy while “right” is associated with less. The meaning of both terms is so thoroughly distorted as to make them generally useless. “Pro-democratic” or “anti’” is more accurate.

President Trump’s recent claim that he can overturn the American constitution’s birthright guarantee by executive order is a good example of anti-democratic activity.

What’s “Democracy?”

Historically, we associate democracy with the ancient Greeks. The idea was government by the will of the people. Through the ages, we have never seen anything close to a complete democracy. The Greeks, of course, excluded their slaves. In America, democracy has grown a lot since slavery days but has never included the people’s control over basic economic nor foreign policy.

Of especial importance is the people’s lack of control over the machinery of elections. We may get to vote, but we have never controlled the elections.

During economic or military emergencies, democracy is always diminished. Wartime presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt were often called dictators.

Socialists have held out the promise of great extensions of democracy, but have never completely delivered because of the extreme tactics of capitalist opposition. The best that socialists have been able to deliver was “wartime democracy” similar to what Lincoln and Roosevelt practiced.

Who Is “Shifting to the Right?”

Commentators are scrambling to explain the anti-democratic global changes. They ask why people have been voting away their own democratic powers. The answer is that we aren’t.

Our democracy, even American democracy, is not complete and never was. The struggle between the poor and the rich, the 1% and the 99%, the employees and the employers, the workers and the owners, is being played out in elections that are ignored by many on our side. The elections are  being manipulated by the rich and distorted by incredible rivers of dark ugly money.

As a world crisis of international competition shrinks their opportunities, the wealthy are increasingly choosing to give up all pretense of government by the people. They are throwing their considerable wealth and power behind reactionary anti-democracy politicians who are willing to carry us all down an obvious path of total destruction.

Only our side can save democracy.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

Notes:

Ny times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/world/americas/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-profile.html

Brazil Election: How Jair Bolsonaro Turned Crisis Into Opportunity

Mr. Bolsonaro’s broadsides against women, gay people, Brazilians of color and even democracy — “Let’s go straight to the dictatorship,” he once said as a congressman — made him so polarizing that he struggled to find a running mate until early August. Traditional parties and politicians considered him too extreme.

President Trump called on Sunday to congratulate him on his victory, following up with a tweet on Monday morning that said, “Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!”

In 1993, he delivered a fiery speech before the lower house of Congress urging its demise, calling the emerging version of democracy in Brazil a lost cause.

“I am in favor of a dictatorship,” Mr. Bolsonaro thundered. “We will never resolve serious national problems with this irresponsible democracy.”

rc‏ @castriotar Oct 26

rc Retweeted Folha de S.Paulo

More than 20 Brazilian universities were invaded by the military police in the past 2 days. They confiscated material on the history of fascism, interrupted classes due to ‘ideological content’, removed anti-fascist banners and posters claiming that it was electoral propaganda.

@castriotar

Many other student movements and organizations reported military police forces inside classrooms, student units, academic directories, confiscating any sort of materials with ‘anti-fascist’ or ‘pro-democracy’ content.

“It will be a cleansing never before seen in Brazilian history.” [referring directly to “reds,” to Workers Party leader Lula Da Silva, and to his present electoral opponent. He said they will “rot in jail.” He directly threatens to use the armed forces and civilian militias with legal sanction against enemies such as the landless peasants movement and the homeless movement.

April article From Independent about Hungary: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/victor-orban-hungary-migrant-refugees-george-soros-ngo-far-right-a8297441.html

Viktor Orban’s right-wing populist party has vowed to would crack down on organisations helping migrants and refugees, in an announcement made just a day after it won an overwhelming election victory.

The autocratic prime minister portrayed himself as the saviour of Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, an image which resonated with more than 2.5 million voters.”

His Fidesz party won a two-thirds super majority in the country’s parliament, which would allow it and its small ally, the Christian democrats, to push through changes to constitutional laws.

**

From Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/02/27/polands-right-wing-government-is-rewriting-history-with-itself-as-hero/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2ef44090bd99

By Mateusz Mazzini February 27

Poland is in the midst of a pitched battle over its collective memory. The ruling party has recently stirred an international controversy by passing a bill criminalizing the use of the phrase “Polish death camps.” But in many ways, those international rifts are just collateral damage. The real battle is at home and is over what counts as legitimate political authority, and who can wield it.

Poland’s government is suggesting that the present-day cosmopolitan liberals who want to acknowledge Polish collaborators in crimes against Jews are traitors, like the Communists, willing to sell the nation to the highest international bidder. And such national mythmaking has more real-world power than many understand.

From The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/its-the-right-wings-italy-now/562256/  June 6

“A new populist government came to power in Italy this week, and the right is calling the shots. It swept in on a wave of anxiety about immigration and the economy. On the economy, certain European rules could prevent Italy from going totally off the rails. When it comes to immigration, things could get rough—at least in rhetoric. In 88 days of coalition talks, Salvini, known for his strident attacks on immigrants as a threat to Italian safety, grew emboldened by the League’s rising popularity in the polls, and in the 11th-hour negotiations to forge a government, he appears to have outmaneuvered Luigi di Maio, the head of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, which won twice as many votes as the League in Italy’s March 4 elections

From The Week: https://theweek.com/articles/804453/why-are-rightwing-populists-winning-everywhere

“Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

“What is the commonality in contemporary conditions, around the world, that has made people in so many countries susceptible to both emotional impulses at once, and powered the global rise of the populist right?

That’s the question that liberal democrats need to answer before they are completely swept away.”

Movie Review:

“The Hate U Give,” Directed by George Tillman Jr, 129 Minutes

It’s a young adult movie made from a young adult novel. I am not at all sure how African American moviegoers will view it, but it’s a great introductory course on Black Lives Matter for the rest of us.

As you can figure out from the trailer, the story is about how teenagers are affected when a white police officer shoots an unarmed young Black man. It’s an unfortunately familiar problem. The film’s treatment is pretty strong, even though some might say it isn’t strong enough, and it covers many aspects of racism today. That makes it really worthwhile.

Luckily, it’s also a very fine movie. The screenplay is tight, the pacing is about right, the cinematography and the music jell together well, and the actors are simply wonderful. No matter what anybody thinks of the movie, I doubt they will be able to resist the unfathomable charm of the young star played by Amandla Stenberg.

at arrivals for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING Special VIP Screening, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's), Los Angeles, CA May 6, 2017. Photo By: Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection

It makes all the sense in the world that her character’s name is “Star.” Her siblings, too, have empowering names that help carry the plot along. Coincidentally, the actress’s name, Amandla, also carries a lot of punch.  The word “Amandla” means “Power.” It is explained on Wikipedia.

When a movie is this enjoyable, it’s hard to remember that it’s also timely and important.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program, 89.3 FM in Dallas, at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal site