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democracy

Are you thinking that it might be over soon? I am.


Having a heart attack in 2014 scared me into writing down everything that I thought might be worth sharing. I put it on http://lilleskole.us as “Life’s Lessons.” It’s kind of the story of my life for anybody who might be interested.

When Covid-19 hit, I felt OK about dying at first, because my story is told. But then I started to panic. For years, I’ve been talking about how lucky I have been to have seen the changes I’ve seen. What a weird wonderful world of changes we have had, especially since 1980 when America’s rich people began to get desperate!

But I want to see how it all comes out. I can see immense changes taking place during, because of, this pandemic.

  • On Line Learning gets a boost
  • Physical transportation gets squeezed
  • Socialism becomes a popular word
  • Capitalism gets examined
  • Cooperation is revealed as the only way forward

I have been advocating these 5 things for decades. I don’t like having a pandemic to teach us lessons, but I still like the lessons. I’m very enthusiastic about seeing how these ideas play out.

Also, I’ve been fascinated with fascism for a long long time. I’ve written dozens of essays about what it is, how it came about in Germany and Italy, and how we can avoid it today. The best description I ever heard of fascism is this one, “Fascism is capitalism in its death throes.”

Fascism is a choice that rulers make. They decide that limited democracy (what Germany had prior to 1931 and what we have always had in America) doesn’t suit them any more. So they take the gloves off and start looking for hoodlums to help them get the workers in line.

We are experiencing death throes of capitalism all over the world. Right now. Hungary, this past week, is going to try fascism. Brazil and lots of other countries, including the United States, have already edged very close to total fascism.

I’m pulling for democracy. I think that Americans believe in democracy and, if they ever figure out what’s happening, will fight for it and win. But maybe they won’t.

I just want to be around to see how it all comes out. I long to see these changes. But I realized that none of us ever gets to see how things come out. We all die before then. Because things don’t really come out. Everything about human society is a never ending battle.

Just to make it clear, let’s suppose that Bernie Sanders somehow wins the presidency along with both houses of congress and the leadership of every state. Would that mean there are no more battles to be fought? No more problems to overcome?

When the Bolsheviks took over the Russian Empire, Vladimir Lenin said, “Now the real work begins.” He died, incidentally, before it was finished. But that’s OK because it will never be finished.

So if I become another notch on Covid-19’s gun, I won’t go willingly but I will understand.

–Gene Lantz

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

TV Review: “Babylon Berlin” directed by Tom Tykwer. three seasons on Netflix

The biggest and most expensive TV series ever produced for German television is running in 100 countries around the world. There are a string of awards. Americans may have trouble with the dubbing and, possibly, with the German expressionism style. If we get involved in the period being depicted, though, we can answer some of our questions about German fascism and, maybe, get some insights into our own.

It isn’t just good entertainment, it’s also a profound learning experience for non-Germans in our historical period.

As we face incipient fascism in several nations and our own, we can profit from trying to understand Germany during the crumbling of the Weimar Republic and before the rise of Hitler. “The Nazis didn’t just fall from the sky,” explains one of the show’s creators. For all we know in America, they may as well have, because many of us don’t know squat.

The two main characters through all 3 seasons are police. He’s a morphine addict and she’s a part-time prostitute. His problems come from shell-shock during WWI, hers from abject poverty. Their combined flaws, compared to that of the general Berlin society around 1929, make them comparatively the healthiest people in the story.

The two of them carry out what might have been called ordinary police procedural drama. But it’s what happens in the background that really matters. They deal with the political/economic situation that helps us answer our questions about Nazis. For the serious questioner, the Wikipedia version explains the period.

In the first three TV seaons, the Nazis aren’t the major political players. Much more important are the monarchists who want to restore the Kaiser, destroy the communists, and make Germany a dominant military power once more. The monarchists sincerely believe that they would have won WWI had it not been for the “fifth column” of anti-war protesters at home. The Nazis agree with them on that, and both of them team up to malign and discredit the big communist movement.

For sheer anti-communism, it would be hard for anybody to beat the social democrats running the government during the Weimar Republic. They made an early deal with the monarchists in the army to destroy the Spartacist League (militant communists) in 1919. They succeeded and executed Rosa Luxemburg and Carl Leibnecht, the leadership way before this TV story begins.

Here, we have a big, rather amorphous, communist party, and a number of organizations opposing them: Trotskyists, monarchists, and the Weimar government itself. Confusing everything are the non-political but very powerful underworld gangsters. Our two police “heroes” are theoretically neutral as they stand up for law and order.

It’s the flapper era. Depravity is commonplace. The rich are disgusting; the poor are miserable. Nobody respects the government. Democracy is strange and alien to the Germans, and they can never forget that it was forced on them by the victors of WWI.

The Weimar government was never accepted by the German people. Their loyalties are divided among the anti-government organizations. As long as the economy is working, though, things go along. The third season ends with the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

I understand that shooting will begin soon on Season Four.

–Gene Lantz

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

Are you sure we’ll have an election in November, 2020?

Most American activists, including me, are working on the elections. We have no experience in any political environment that does not include regular, orderly, elections. We have always lived under a partial democracy. Many Americans believe they live in a democracy that is much more complete than it actually is. In general, we believe in democracy, we think we have it, and we expect it to continue.

People in other countries could tell us a thing or two. Historians could tell us a thing or two. Democracy is not a permanent form of government. In other countries, democracy isn’t taken for granted. Sometimes it is stronger, sometimes it is weaker, and sometimes it is gone!

Democracy Is Diminished

Democracy in the United States is diminishing, and has been diminishing for several decades. The Trump administration has accelerated the rate of diminishing democracy. Just look at some news articles from this week:

John Bachtel wrote a very good summary of the ways that the Trump Administration has recently increased its stranglehold on what remains of our legal system. See “Surging Authoritarianism…” The short version is that Trump has consolidated his hold over the entire Republican Party and the legal system. As I write this, he is busy purging everybody in government who might disagree with him about anything.

The slogan that was so important to millions of American activists, “No one is above the law,” would draw cynical laughter today.

The other recent article of great importance came from the Associated Press on March 3: “U.S. Plans Shift in Focus of Military.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper says specifically that the United States is planning for a war with China! A clipping is on my Facebook Page.

How Democracy Gets Cancelled

Despots never tell us that they intend to destroy democracy. Instead, they tell us that they have to “temporarily” suspend elections or some other aspect of democracy because of a crisis. The crisis, likely as not, is one that they created.

Mr Trump might use war with China. He might use the Covid-19 worldwide health crisis. Somebody might blow up an American building in the scenario that worked so well for George Bush. It wouldn’t be hard for Trump to find or create his “crisis” since he already controls so much of government and public life.

How Democracy Gets Saved

America’s partial democracy came from the British. The Revolutionary War and, more importantly, the Civil War, improved it. Hundreds of actions for civil rights and women’s rights improved it even more. When I was a young man, it was reasonable to expect that democracy in America would continue to improve far into the future. Then came Reagan, union busting, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and repeal of democratic rights we had thought were unassailable.

Democracy was won in wars, in strikes, in demonstrations, and in all forms of political action carried out by progressive people. Democracy will be defended in America the same way, but it’s going to take some serious informing and organizing to win.

What Can You Do?

At the individual level, there’s not a lot you can do beyond complaining. But if you join progressive organizations: unions, civil rights groups, women’s rights groups, and progressive political organizations, then together, we have a chance. But it will not be easy.

-Gene Lantz

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

I saw the “State of the Union” message yesterday. It brought mendacity and braggadocio to new lows. I checked out some of the on-line responses today. The best ones were good reasoning; the worst had no reason but ridicule.

The Alliance for Retired Americans gave a measured response to the issues most important to retirees. ARA response: https://retiredamericans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2020-SOTU-Fact-Check-UPDATE.pdf?link_id=0&can_id=4323d125406e51f8a379e93227bf8d59&source=email-setting-president-trumps-record-straight&email_referrer=email_717673&email_subject=setting-president-trumps-record-straight. On every retiree issue, they point out, Mr Trump lied.

I also watched Bernie Sanders give his response to an audience of Caucasian supporters in New Hampshire. It was brilliant. Here are a couple of quotes, “We are now experiencing more income inequality than at any time in the last 100 years. Today 3 Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of America. 500,000 are homeless…. Billionaires now pay a lower effective tax rate than ordinary working people.”

Sanders took up Trump’s major points in order but, instead of looking at them from the billionaire point of view, he considered what they actually meant for working families. It was like reversing a telescope. Every result was a refutation of the “State of the Union” speech.

Sanders, to his immense credit, went much further. He marveled aloud that any president, in 2020, could make a long public speech without mentioning the climate catastrophe.

Anybody For Peace?

Mr Sanders did not talk about foreign policy. I was hoping he would oppose what Mr Trump had said when he bragged about trying to overthrow the government of Venezuela. But he didn’t.

And by the way, I noticed that Mrs Pelosi only clapped a few times during Mr Trump’s exposition, but she was certainly clapping when Trump said that the United States was heading a coalition to overthrow Venzuela! I would have liked to think that somebody on “our side” of the 2020 elections was against imperialism.

Ed Sills of the Texas AFL-CIO expressed outrage at Mr Trump’s obvious intention to privatize schools. He wrote, “Last night, President Trump made vouchers a centerpiece of his State of the Union address and slammed public schools as ‘failing government schools.’ The sight of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripping up her copy of Trump’s speech as he concluded is a great metaphor for how we feel about private school vouchers.”

Doing it Wrong

Should Pelosi have ripped up the speech? There are minor arguments about it today, but I want to point out a much more important issue because I also watched late-night comedian Stephen Coulbert’s report on the “State of the Union” speech.

Coulbert mimicked and ridiculed Mr Trump. His studio audience seemed to like it, but I didn’t. It is one thing to disagree with reactionary ideas and reactionary people, but it is another thing altogether to ridicule them. The crippling polarity in America today is largely because of fundamental disagreements and class interests, but there is no value in making it worse by ridiculing Trump and his millions of misguided working class supporters.

Whether we like it or not, we have to have them. We have to win them over no matter how hard it is nor how long it takes.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast them on knon.org. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

All democrats want unity. Bernie Sanders and his supporters want to beat Trump, but they want to do it by unifying around a progressive program. I can’t understand why anybody would surrender that vision before the primaries.

The Democratic Party’s final decisions on candidates for 2020 is at hand. Bernice Sanders is quoted in a recent AP News story: “Let me say this so there’s no misunderstanding,” he told a rally in Indianola, Iowa. “If we do not win, we will support the winner and I know that every other candidate will do the same.”

But the article by Will Weissert  is headlined, “Sanders calls for unity, but his supporters have other ideas.” Bernie endorsed Mrs Clinton after he lost the 2016 primary, but a lot of his young supporters stayed home on voting day. They just don’t trust or care for the Democratic Party as it is and has been.

Something similar happened in the Republican Party in 2016. Many Republicans declared that they would never support Mr Trump if he got the nomination. Today, they slavishly support everything he does. They unified despite their objections. They chose power over all other considerations.

Almost all of my friends today advocate for that kind of unity in the Democratic Party. Only by unifying, they say, can they defeat Trump and incipient American fascism. I would go so far as to say that they all agree on that.

But unity around what? Does ‘unity” mean accepting the old “lesser evil” corporate capitalism of the Democratic Party? For many of my friends, that is exactly what they mean. They mean “vote for Biden in the primaries” because he is “moderate” enough to “capture the middle.” They argue that he is “the only way to beat Trump.” The logic is inescapable, but don’t forget that they said the exact same thing about Mrs Clinton in 2016.

If Mr Weissert’s article has predictive power, the young and progressive voters currently pushing Mr Sanders into the top ranks of candidates may not transfer their allegiance to Mr Biden after the primaries. One has to add another very important argument that must be dealt with: if Sanders supporters feel that the Democrats cheat to defeat Bernie, they will be less likely to support the Democratic candidate.

Are the primaries fair?

Did the Democrats cheat in 2016? Certainly they stacked the deck with super delegates committed to Mrs Clinton long before the primaries started. Certainly, Mrs Clinton was given an advanced look at the questions in at least one of the debates against Bernie Sanders. Everybody knows both of those things, and Sanders supporters were not forgiving in 2016. If they suspect chicanery, they won’t be forgiving in 2020, either. And in fact, they already do. If you get news from the main independent Bernie group, Our Revolution, you have already seen headlines charging that the establishment Democrats are out to defeat Bernie Sanders through underhanded tricks. They might as well extend the charge of cheating to cover other progressive candidates.

United, the Democrats will certainly defeat Mr Trump and blunt the drive to fascist America. But progressive voters want that unity around a progressive program, not around the old business-as-usual corporate liberalism of the Democratic Party as practiced for decades and espoused today by Biden and most of the candidates.

Taken one at a time, Bernie Sanders’ programs are popular with voters. They sincerely want better education, better protection of the environment, more democracy, better health care, and improved possibilities for working and retired Americans. That’s the program that they want to unite around.

Will the Bernie Movement Grow?

Sanders’ age adds another dimension to the situation. His supporters are willing to vote for him even though he is the oldest candidate in the field and one of the oldest to ever run. But they must also feel that 2020 will be his last campaign. He had a heart attack during this one. Sanders has never claimed that he, personally, could change America, but that the movement he is building can. I’m one of the people that subscribes to that idea. But would the movement continue if Bernie loses in the 2020 primaries? It would to a large extent, but it wouldn’t have the dynamism that it draws from Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Sanders and his supporters want to beat Trump, but they prefer to do it by unifying around a progressive program. I can’t understand why anybody would surrender that vision before the primaries are over.

–Gene Lantz

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

Book Review:

Rosswurm, Steve (editor), “The CIO’s Left-Led Unions.” Rutgers, New Brunswick, NJ, 1992. Available from Amazon

A friend recently told me that the current union-busting effort against the Auto Workers is “the worst union busting in history.” If it is, then the destruction of the most progressive unions in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) during 1947-1957 is surely second. I would only concede to my friend’s opinion about the UAW because the post-war attacks took place in a period of union upsurge, and today’s union busting occurs when we are being forced to our knees.

Today’s attacks have brought us to a time when barely over 1 in 10 American workers has union protection. The post-war attacks came when union density was three times higher and American workers were aggressively seeking unionization.

I almost began by not recommending anyone read this book. It’s too depressing. However, the sadness is not the fault of the book nor its contributing authors. This is really what happened. After Republicans succeeded in passing the Taft-Hartley anti-labor act in 1947, the CIO adapted itself to anti-communism. That meant expelling its most progressive and energetic union members, leaders, and entire unions. It meant adapting to “business unionism” and cooperating with management. It meant, in a few short years, joining the lifelong anticommunists and business unionists in the American Federation of Labor. It meant turning toward the management-rigged government oversight system and away from union memberships. It meant curtailed democracy in our unions. It also meant a long downward spiral toward helplessness for American workers.

My friend, talking about today’s attack on the UAW, also said, “I don’t think this started recently. I think it’s been coming for some time.” I agreed. The chickens are coming home to roost.

Hardly anyone I know in today’s labor movement knows anything about labor history 1947-1957. It just isn’t in their history books. They celebrate the Flint Sitdown (1937), or maybe the Occupational Safety and Health Act (1974); but they don’t know the first thing about the great negative turnaround sometimes called the “Treaty of Detroit.”

They don’t know when unions gave up on civil rights, when they gave up on organizing the South, when they disassociated from international solidarity, when they spurned women’s rights, when they gave up on national health care, on improving Social Security, on shorter working hours as a remedy for automation, or when they stopped listening to their members.

To be fair, the darkness that began in 1947 began to be illuminated in 1995 when the AFL leadership failed to pre-select its own replacements for the first time in a century. The Sweeney/Trumka/Chavez-Thompson leadership started reversing the many aspects of “business unionism.”  They have made great improvements without ever admitting what was wrong and why. That fight goes on.

The book that Steve Rosswurm brought together does us a service. It tells, in some detail, a few parts of the story. These are stories that almost no one knows, or almost no one will admit knowing. It’s the police, the press, and the reactionary unions destroying the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen Union’s effort to organize in the South. It’s the end of the great civil rights efforts of the Food and Tobacco workers. It’s the nasty anti-worker efforts of the Catholic Church. It’s the role of the main labor-bashers—the U.S. Government. It’s the betrayal of the Tannery Workers. It’s the mercenary creation of the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE) to deliberately undermine what was probably the best union in America, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE) and lower workers’ standard of living at Westinghouse.

But the book falls short. It only gives parts of a much bigger, much uglier picture. To be fair, it tries. It lays the blame on those who deserve it. A small part of that blame falls on some of the victims. The Communist Party members in unions, according to the book, were too secretive and too ardent in their devotion to existing socialist countries. They may have been superior union leaders, and the book says they were, but they had holes in their armor. I tend to agree with apportioning that small part of the blame to the Communists. I think they misread the period, and that is fatal in politics. I think they expected a continuation of the pre-war hard times and failed to appreciate the great prosperity that Americans enjoyed after the war.

That’s another fault of the book in my opinion. It names the perpetrators of the witch-hunt that distorted and crippled American labor, but not the main one. It was Prosperity that misled the American workers and is misleading us now. Working people today vote for Donald Trump because they think that post-war prosperity was permanent, when it always was and had to be temporary.

The book names these perpetrators: The news agencies, the Catholic Church which deliberately sent agents to cooperate with anti-union entities, the AFL who teamed up with the CIA against unions worldwide, opportunistic CIO union leaders who saw a chance to advance themselves over the interests of union members, government agencies such as the FBI, the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the National Labor Relations Board and, especially, crafty businessmen who knew how to take advantage of everybody.

Those who know any labor history at all know that the CIO expelled its best unions in 1949 and 1950, but they may not know that expulsion didn’t end that battle. The CIO and the rest of the anticommunist cabal then had to cooperate to destroy those unions. They raided them mercilessly. The government withdrew all protection so that the raids could proceed. Leaders were maligned and sometimes arrested.

Newspersons whipped up a steady stream of misleading vituperation for progressive union leaders. Hey, that’s what they’re doing to the UAW today!

–Gene Lantz

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

Notes:

Pg ix: “The federation’s leadership then had to commit sizable resources to destroy the expelled uions…”

Pg6: “It is difficult to provide precise figures for the number of CP members in the expelled unions, but we know it was small.” (he extimates 1.8%)

Pg7 “The CP, then, despite a small membership in the expelled unions, played a central role in them because of its leading political position…” And because they earned the respect of non-communist but sincere union members.

Pg9: I had always thought that 14 unions were expelled, but this book says there were 11. It also mentions that two, the UE and the Farm Equipment (FE) unions left voluntarily “despite the CP’s wishes”

Pg9 “The expelled unions were at least as democratic, if not more so, than other CIO unions.”

Pg 13: The UE fought automation. As far as I can see, there has been no fight against automation since then.

Pg 13: “The destruction capital has wreaked upon working people in the past 20 years [written in 1992] ought to suggest to both scholars and today’s trade unionists that the expelled unions were on to something.”

Pg14: “Militants’ ‘discovery’ in the early 1980s of ‘in-plant’ organizing suggests the strength of the ‘workplace rule of law’ paradigm, politically induced historical amnesia, and the impact of the missing activists.” This was very personal for me, because it was my local union that “discovered” in-plant organizing in 1984-85. We called it something else, but it was the age-old union tactic of slowdown. It had been long-forgotten due to historical amnesia.

Pg 15: “An article about the IUE and [James B.] Carey might well be titled, ‘In Bed with the Feds: The Conception and Birth of a Bastard Union.’ There was scarcely a federal agency – the FBI, the presidency, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the Atomic Energy Commission – that was not at Carey’s service in the battle against the UE.”

Pg 15: “…the CIO leadership’s acceptance of capitalism – or lack of understanding of it – stands in stark contrast to the expelled unions’ comprehension of its dynamics.”

Pg 15: “Capital mobility was an important part of the corporate postwar counteroffensive against the CIO…”

Pg16: “What predominated, however, were the solutions of Walter Reuther and the IUE. Inevitably, those chickens came home to roost in the 1970s and 1980s.” The steady erosion of American labor was apparent by 1972, for those who wanted to see.

Pg 78: …the failures of the 1930s, when FTA [Food and Tobacco Workers], then the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packinghouse & Allied Workers Union of America, had tried to organize and maintain viable local unions among the seasonal agricultural workers.” So, UCAPAWUA tried to relieve the miseries depicted in Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath!” They also tried to organize cannery workers in Crystal City and Pecan Shellers in San Antonio. I knew one of their organizers from back in those days. She was a Communist, or course.

Pg 85: …in April [1947], Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, among the most restrictive pieces of labor legislation in our country’s history.”

Pg 169: Management leader quoted, “I hated the Communists! I hated the Communists! Hell, I would have shot them on sight.” But even he acknowledged superior leadership of the open Communist leading the International Fur and Leather Workers Union (tanners).

Pg183: …a good deal of outstanding labor history has been written about workers in the United States, from the American Revolution through World War II. Yet, most post 1945 labor history is an afterthought, consisting of sweeping generalizations, spiced with a bit of anecdotal evidence.”

Pg185: ‘Beyond ardent anticommunism, it is difficult to pin down the ideology of the IUE in the 1950s.”

Pg198: The IUE accepted contracts that ripped away all the seniority rights that the UE had won for married women. “”Once again, a married woman had no seniority rights and could be fired if she failed to notify her foreman of her marriage.”

The last page repeats the lyrics of Tom Juravich’s “An Old Soldier.” It’s on YouTube at https://youtu.be/jgxAcdqLVTM

Rich people live a lot longer than poor people. The difference may be as much as 15 years.

Why?

It’s easy to find a chart on preventable causes of death on the internet. Here are some in order of the most deaths caused.

  • Nontransport accidental injuries
  • Intentional self-harm
  • Transport accidents
  • Assault
  • Event of undetermined intent
  • Complications of medical and surgical care
  • Legal intervention
  • Operations of war

Poor people get killed on the job, rich people generally don’t. Poor people get depressed and kill themselves, rich people generally don’t. Poor people are always in a hurry and have unsafe cars, rich people generally don’t. Rich people have better protection, better medical care, better lawyers, and rich people generally don’t risk their lives in war.

That’s why.

Gene Lantz

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

Book Review:

Sampson, Anthony, “Mandela.”  1991. Dallas Public Library e-book. I learned a lot about “Madiba” Nelson Mandela in this even-handed account. Sampson had known Mandela since 1951 and was generally favorable to his efforts.

Mandela was born into the family of a tribal chieftain. (Xhosa tribe?) He was educated largely at Methodist institutions and eventually qualified as a lawyer. The African National Congress, which began I believe in 1912, was at that time pan-Africanist. Mandela believed in armed struggle and eventually became the head of the armed struggle wing of ANC. He was pictured in fighting attire in those days.

The Afrikaners took over the government of South Africa (1947?) and established apartheid fascism. They had a network of informers, black and white, so that very few militants escaped their grasp. Mandela was arrested. I don’t think he had actually led any armed conflicts at that time, but was more of an organizer.

During one of his hearings, Mandela appeared in full African traditional regalia. But his speech in his trial was what gained international recognition. Then he spent 27 years in custody. Most of the time was on Robben Island.

During that period, Mandela showed how dignity and wisdom can help people cope with even the most difficult of situations. Even his Afrikaner warders tended to respect him. Mandela and others began to call for a united effort of all South Africans of all racial backgrounds. He also called for a peaceful solution to the apartheid situation, but he demanded full voting rights for all.

Mandela’s great ideological contribution to South African history was his idea of uniting all races. Previously, the ANC had no such plan. Another group “Pan African Nationalists” became one of the main competitors with the ANC. The Zulus and several smaller tribal-based groups also opposed integrating democracy. But of course, the biggest opposition was the privileged white Afrikaner nationalists.

The armed struggle, the organizing effort within the country, and international pressures eventually forced the fascists to negotiate some kind of democracy. They greatly preferred to “negotiate” with some of the Black compradores that they had put into power and, often secretly, supported by force of arms. The top Zulu, Buthelezi (?) was the Afrikaner’s choice over Mandela. But the public and the international community were settled on Mandela, so it was he who eventually led the negotiations that ended in a more democratic nation.

I read with personal pride about the effect of international opinion, because my union, the United Auto Workers was very much a part of that effort. My own union local, UAW 848, was involved. I myself led pickets at Shell Stations against apartheid. My wife and I regularly sold “Free Mandela” buttons. They were very popular in the early 1990s. Mandela became President of South Africa, I believe, in 1994.

It is interesting to contrast Mandela’s “Peaceful Road” to that of President Allende in Chile. Most radicals believe that Allende should have armed the public and confronted the military rather than try the peaceful road that eventually led to his death and fascism. We usually say that Allende was totally wrong.

How then, would we explain Mandela’s comparative success with the peaceful road? Was it comparable to Allende’s situation? If it was, then his success would detract from the argument that Allende was wrong to focus on the peaceful road. I don’t think the two are comparable. Allende was trying to institute socialism. Mandela, for all of his communist ties, didn’t even try to dismantle capitalism in South Africa.

Anthony Sampson’s account leaves one with the impression that Mandela was one of the great men of history, but even Sampson would probably say that Mandela was more saint than revolutionary. I recently met a member of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party here in Dallas. I told him I was reading about Mandela and he said, “We don’t think he was any good!”

–Gene Lantz

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

Below are listed some of the things that Texas labor accomplished over the past year. Even though federal and state governments sent us backward as much as they could, the battles we won are pretty impressive.

But those milestones aren’t even the most significant gains of the year. The biggest gains can only be seen by looking at the trends that are underway:

  • People are better informed than ever in history, and labor’s communications efforts are part of the reason
  • People are communicating with each other better than ever in history
  • Women are taking over leadership and winning
  • Racism is being recognized as everybody’s problem
  • Undocumented workers are finally seen as part of the working class
  • Turnout at elections may be embarrassingly small, but it’s on an upswing
  • Labor’s electoral successes have the 2020 candidates lining up for endorsements
  • Unions are helping each other more than anytime since the heyday of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), around 1947
  • Unions and other progressive organizations are receiving more and more help from the general public. Our rallies and picket lines are backed with volunteers from everywhere
  • People are openly grappling with our problems and possible solutions

On that last topic, we can thank Senator Bernie Sanders for bringing the word “socialism” back into common parlance for the first time since the red scare of the 1920s. I would not go so far as to say that it is widely understood, but it’s definitely being talked about.

My good friend Morris Fried had a letter-to-the-editor published on Christmas Day. He said that he had been studying newspaper coverage of the battles over education and had concluded with his own definition: “Capitalism molds people to fit the economy, socialism molds the economy to fit people.”

That’s real progress!

Texas Labor’s 2019 Achievements:

* We won paid sick leave for everybody living in Dallas and San Antonio

* We survived a grueling 40-day strike by United Auto Workers members against General Motors

* Members of the United Steelworkers at plants owned by Dow Chemical in Deer Park withstood a seven-week-long lockout

* UNITE HERE members in Dallas and Houston led raucous airport rallies

* The Central South Carpenters Regional Council joined the Texas AFL-CIO in leading opposition to a hastily adopted Texas Workforce Commission rule that exempts “gig economy” companies from paying for Unemployment Insurance. 

* The Texas AFL-CIO Citizenship Program held drives in cities across Texas, helping hundreds of eligible residents navigate the complex naturalization application process.

* Federal workers, many of whom are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, stood tall during the longest shutdown in government history – a 35-day fiasco

* An international delegation of labor leaders, including officers and staff of the AFL-CIO, Texas AFL-CIO and national unions, converged on El Paso to build solidarity among working families in the U.S. and Mexico. 

* Unionized Plumbers in Texas worked with their non-union counterparts to kill legislation that would have undermined state safety regulation of the plumbing industry.

* Texas teachers, prominently including the Texas American Federation of Teachers, led the way to achieving a major education reform bill that delivered pay raises for teachers and other public-school employees,

* Amid a high-profile campaign by a coalition that prominently included labor unions, the Texas Senate declined to confirm Gov. Greg Abbott’s nominee as Texas Secretary of State.

* ULLCO, the coalition of labor unions that advocates for working families at the Texas Legislature, stopped dozens of seriously bad legislative proposals, 

* The Texas AFL-CIO’s Ruth Ellinger Labor Leaders School graduated its third class

* Young Active Labor Leaders, a Texas AFL-CIO constituency group for workers under age 35, held its second statewide summit in Houston

* Across the state, Building Trades unions that include Electrical Workers, Iron Workers, Painters, Steelworkers, Laborers, Plumbers and others advocated strongly for high-road policies that offer working families a path to middle income.

* Labor’s goal of enabling solid middle-income jobs to evolve and grow included an ongoing battle against off-shoring, excesses of automation and other factors in a toxic mix aimed in large part at driving down wages.

* The campaign to save the U.S. Postal Service as we know it gained ground

* Delegates to the Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention created the Texas AFL-CIO Veterans Committee

* The Texas AFL-CIO stepped up its social media reach

–Gene Lantz

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