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democracy

Dark money from the U.S. is supporting truck riots in Canada. Can you see why?

Can you see why Republicans block legislation that would benefit their districts? Some Republicans even try to take credit for beneficial legislation that they voted and campaigned AGAINST! Why? Why did the Republican National Convention condone the January 6 insurrectionists? Why are Republican think tanks supplying scripts for crazies who disrupt school board meetings? Why are apparently sane Republicans who get vaccinated arguing that other people shouldn’t? Why take the side of disease over good health? Why underwrite chaos?

The reason that normal Americans can’t understand today’s political events is that nothing like this has ever happened in our country before. It is outside our experience. The only historical precedents are from other countries like, say, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Spain, and Germany. In those countries, chaos was used to help bring down participatory government to benefit autocrats. Possibly the best example for us, because a number of us are old enough to remember it, and because we know more about it, is Chile in 1973.

If you think about it, you might see that, for certain politicians, chaos is a good thing. It worked for the CIA and General Augusto Pinochet in Chile in 1973. Truckers were involved then, too, as some of them are now. Google “Trucks AND Chile.” Read the New York Times article from August 18, 1973, “Chile Calls Truck Strike ‘Catastrophic.'”

It says that a 23-day trucker’s strike has had “catastrophic’ repercussions on Chile’s already ailing economy.

“This is a political strike aimed at overthrowing the Government, with the help of imperialism,” said Gonzalo Martner, Minister of National Planning and one of the chief policy makers for President Salvador Allende Gossens’s socialist government.

I’m not sure how reliable the Times’ account is, because they were probably in on it. But it is well known now that the chaos in Chile was designed and abetted by the CIA, United States of America! For would-be dictators, chaos has its uses, then and now!

–Gene Lantz

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

In 1985, I had a tiny role in a part of the revitalization of American labor. I’d like to get it written down.

After a wonderful upsurge that started around 1932, labor leaders lost their way in 1947 and became isolated. Fortunately the membership couldn’t be ignored for long.

The revitalization actually began well before my time, in the 1960s. It was an extension of the civil rights upsurge that began around 1954. African-American unionists carried the lessons and tactics of the civil rights movement into their unions. For the most part, they were rebuffed by their leaderships, but nothing is ever completely lost in the progressive movement. People learn. People remember.

The newest, possibly most important, twist in the labor reform movement happened in 2021 when over 60% of United Auto Workers members and retirees voted to do away with the old delegate system of electing top leadership and move to the more democratic “one member one vote” method.

It was a setback to the old Administrative Caucus that has dominated the UAW consistently since 1946. I think a look back at earlier reform efforts gives some perspective to today’s important developments.

REFORM IN THE MINERS AND STEELWORKERS UNION

Reform was strong in the Miner’s Union after Jock Yablonski and his family were murdered December 31, 1969. In the Steelworkers, reform was clearly on the agenda when Ed Sadlowski ran for president around 1975. I think Sadlowski might have been the first union candidate since 1947 to allow reds to help him campaign, and that was a very big deal. I campaigned for Sadlowski, but my real role in labor’s reform was a lot later and in my own union.

NEW DIRECTIONS IN THE UAW

For me, it was 1985-1992 and the New Directions Movement in the United Auto Workers. My part, and the origin of the New Directions Movement, started in the middle of a contract fight with LTV Corporation in Grand Prairie, Texas. The fight started in March, 1984. The first 9 months or so showed everything that was wrong in the UAW and in most of the labor movement.

Our union, Local 848, didn’t have a clue about carrying out a fight. The blame for that goes back to 1947 when the anti-union Taft Hartley law passed. It outlawed the most progressive unionists and left the opportunist “business unionists” in charge. Business unionists had no fight in them. They put their full confidence into working with management and gave up on informing and mobilizing their union members.

Local 848 members, like most Americans, had never fought for anything and certainly not for a contract. “Unionism” consisted of working with management for crumbs from their table, then working on a grievance procedure to keep them from stealing their crumbs back during the life of the contract.

But LTV was a profitable corporation when it offered giant takeaways in 1984 contract negotiations. The Assistant Director of UAW Region 5, Jerry Tucker, was experienced in plenty of fights – not necessarily in unions but in the civil rights movement. He pushed the Negotiating Committee to turn down the contract and design a new strategy for a fight.

Jerry Tucker

Tucker called the strategy “Running the Plant Backward” or “Work to Rule” and called it a new strategy. History-conscious workers, of whom there were hardly any, recognized it as an old-fashioned slowdown. Union members were asked to do exactly what they were required to do and nothing else. “No contract, no overtime!” was our big slogan starting out. On May 21, four workers and I were fired for refusing to work overtime. Tucker had previously arranged to call a walkout when/if anybody got fired. Later, a few dozen more were fired, mostly for participating in the walkout.

Initially, it didn’t work at all. Our local union leadership hadn’t the slightest idea of how to run a slowdown. The membership certainly didn’t know. I don’t even think Jerry Tucker had a clear idea. The big walkout and rally on the day after we were fired netted no more than 300 workers. I counted them carefully. That was about 6% of the bargaining unit! I knew then that we were in a lot more trouble than anybody was saying.

The company implemented their “last and final offer,” which included their takeaways. Then they stopped collecting our dues for us.

WE HAD NO IDEA HOW TO COLLECT UNION DUES!

American unions in 1984 did not have the first clue on how to collect their own dues. They had “dues checkoff” from companies since before World War II. In 1941, Mr Ford voluntarily GAVE dues checkoff to the UAW, because he wanted the union to depend on him financially. It worked.

Local 848 made its biggest, nearly fatal, mistake as soon as it was clear that we had to collect our own dues. Leadership assumed that people would voluntarily come to the union hall and pay their monthly dues.

Let me pause to brag: I told them that people are not accustomed to paying their bills in person. I asked them to send out a monthly bill, but the Financial Secretary told me, “If they won’t come over here and pay their dues, they don’t deserve this union!” I heard that over and over again for the rest of the year while my union went broke. By Christmas, fewer than 20% of our members were caught up on dues. Insiders said it was 10%.

Our financial disaster was hardly the worst part of the story. Our program of “No contract, no overtime” fell flat on its face on the day I was fired. Even though I organized pickets every Saturday morning through that winter, our members grabbed up the overtime. Our top officers did, too. I found out later that the Chairman himself was telling top officers to work overtime!

My part, up to the end of 1984, had been to organize the 65 fired workers and keep them in the struggle. I had zero leadership role in directing the struggle, but I made sure that the firees were not forgotten by getting a big bunch of us to every meeting, by picketing the plant when people went in to work overtime, by publicizing our events, and by helping a series of publicity stunts to keep people thinking about our fight.

Some of the “victors” (firees) at our first public action, June 1984

December was a miserable time for everybody, but especially for the 65 fired workers. Only about 30 of the 65 were doing anything to keep up the fight. News from the International Union was particularly depressing. Leadership told us that the International UAW wanted us to take the concessions and end the struggle, even if some of the firees were sacrificed. One “settlement,” we were told, was negotiated between our UAW International Financial Secretary and LTV management on a golf course!

President Carroll Butler and Assistant Regional Director Jerry Tucker weren’t giving up, but they were certainly ready for some new tactics.

President Butler, Int’l Rep Kinney, and Int’l Rep Medrano

THE LOCAL MAKES A TURN

Our local union leadership did a major turnaround in January. They decided to collect dues inside the plant. Elected union stewards were issued receipt books and every activist we could find was asked to help get the members to pay up.

Think about that!

It wasn’t just a financial decision, or a minor organizational change. It was a turn toward mobilizing the membership – exactly what the union movement hadn’t been doing since “business unionism” took over. It worked, too. Our “percent” of dues-paying members rose steadily from January until we won our victory in July.

As the receipts and cash dollars started pouring into the hall, we bogged down as accountants. Fortunately for the local, I had accountant training, computer training, and I could type. I rigged up a Commodore 64 – it had 64 kilobytes of memory – to two floppy disk readers and kept track of all dues. An extra benefit was being able to tattle on the elected leaders as to who was collecting their dues and who wasn’t. Every time Tucker visited, I could present him with graphs showing which departments and which job families were “on the program” and which weren’t.

By June, 1985, we still didn’t have an impressive “percent” in plain numbers, but my trusty little computer could show that we were pretty solid in certain critical units. For the first time in the entire struggle, we thought we might have the potential to shut LTV down. Leadership called a strike. Management asked for a settlement before we even went out, so the strike lasted only 11 hours!

On July 5, 1985, all the fired workers put on our union shirts and lined up at the LTV gate. We stayed in line while Chairman BJ Meeks took us, one by one, to our proper departments and let us go back to work. I posted a video of this. Our little battle was won!

I have a longer account of the 1984-85 struggle on http://lilleskole.us. On my “GeneLantz” youtube account, I have 52 videos about it. Each has “struggle” in the title.

Our victory was celebrated all through the union movement. I was given credit and a new nickname, “golden fingers” for my typing, accounting and computer work.

I guess that some of us thought we had really helped curve the union movement in a good direction, but we were disappointed in due time.

The most bitter part for me personally came almost immediately. When the 1985 contract was settled, I hoped to keep our super-active fired union members together. But we fell out over how to deal with demands from the International UAW. The new contract penalized the firees by withholding 3 months from our full back pay. We were told, though, that we would not have to pay back the strike pay that we had accepted while we were outside. It balanced out.

But the International UAW demanded that we pay back every cent, immediately! When I protested, a toady little International Rep called me a “freeloader!” I had been standing outside the plant and fighting for my union for one year, one month, one week, and one day; but he called me a “freeloader!”

The firees broke up over this demand. Some of them said they would never pay it because it was grossly unfair. Three of them even got out of the union and became scabs. Some of the better-off firees had the money and paid off right away. I circulated a petition to get a year’s delay while we paid it off in monthly installments, and that’s what I did. But I was not able to get the other firees on that program. We never pulled together again.

I resolved then and there to join a reform movement, if there was one. And there soon was. Riding on the success of Tucker’s “new” tactic at Local 848, he launched the New Directions Movement and ran for Regional Director.

He won that election, but the International was able to keep it all tied up in court, so that Tucker was only able to serve about 1 year of his 3-year term of office.

Meanwhile at Local 848, the International provided an even bigger problem. When we elected officers, we expected our top leaders who had worked with Jerry Tucker to win, to ride their popularity into re-election.

I remember that one of the people who was most against Jerry Tucker’s fightback program ran for local union president right after the 1985 contract was settled. His son was on the Election Committee. A particularly nasty cartoon was circulated against Carroll Butler, the President who carried us through the big 1984-85 fight. I called up the printer to see who had created such a nasty and underhanded attack. The printer told me candidly that it was an International Rep!

The good guys won the election, but, acting on a complaint from the losing candidate’s son on the Election Committee, the UAW International ruled the election illegal and made us hold it over. When a local is forced to hold an election over, the incumbents look bad. President Butler held his office barely, but Chairman BJ Meeks lost. We were furious! My notes at one meeting read, “BJ says int’l forced this local into another election… ‘you have not seen people as vicious as this International!’”

New Directions supporters started holding meetings around the country. At Local 848, we held our meetings after the official union membership meeting. I attended them and, compulsive note taker that I am, kept a lot of notes. I also attended several national NDM meetings.

We had some terrific supporters. Paul Shrader, a close assistant of Walter Reuther’s, supported us. Film maker Michael Moore, fresh from his success with the satirical movie about the UAW, “Roger and Me,” gave us $1,000 and a very nice endorsement speech. Our really big gun was Victor Reuther. The Reuther Brothers were associated with some of the UAW’s biggest historic successes. People told me that Victor was “the best of them.” He certainly stepped up to help Local 848 and was totally committed to New Directions.

Victor made speeches at fund raisers for us. I was pleased to serve as Master of Ceremonies at one of them. Victor also made cheeseboards that we auctioned off to raise money.

A related historic event occurred in the period. The Canadian section of the UAW, carrying some of the same reform program as New Directions, split off and formed the Canadian Autoworkers Union. Victor infuriated the International by speaking at their first convention.

Jerry Tucker always referred to New Directions as “the real Reutherites,” even though the Administrative Caucus (UAW leadership) we were trying to defeat had been set up by Walter Reuther. It was hard to argue with Jerry Tucker when he had the only surviving Reuther brother standing right there with him!

New Directions had a very clear program and solutions to the major issues in the union movement: outsourcing, runaway plants, whipsawing, ”team concept,” new technology, democracy in the union, and giveaway contracts. NDM especially hammered on the idea of “one member, one vote.” As everyone knows, we won that in 2021 in a government-supervised election. I’m glad to get it, but I’d rather that the members had chosen it by voting for New Directions 30 years earlier.

I can’t claim to have been a leader of New Directions. I certainly wasn’t, but I played a role. I tried to line up an obscure UAW Local in the Southern Part of Dallas. It was a battery plant with maybe 50-60 workers. I took the union president out to Steak and Ale at my own expense. I gave him a sales pitch for change, but he voted with the Administrative Caucus.

At Local 848, I wrote and distributed our own New Directions pamphlet called “The Arrow.” I still have a few copies. Jerry Tucker put out a 3-fold pamphlet with parts of the NDM program on it. I have a few copies, including one devoted entirely to “one member one vote.”

At one national meeting, we discussed going all-out to reform the UAW. The argument was over whether or not to run Jerry Tucker for International President. I remember speaking strongly in favor. In fact, I think I made the motion nominating him. Maybe I just motivated for the motion. I remember saying that if Jerry was willing to take all the chances for our cause, why would any of us want to stand in the way?

WHY THEY WERE/ARE AFRAID OF THE UAW INTERNATIONAL

Even though we like to think about the UAW’s great history in organizing and standing up for all workers, especially workers “of color,” the main business, practically the only business, of local UAW officers after 1947 was contract negotiations and enforcement. The International, with their expert reps, lawyers, and top researchers, usually dominated.

For example, take the problem of terminations. When companies terminate a UAW member, we grieve it. Usually, the company forces us to grieve it all the way to arbitration. The professional UAW International Reps and the legal staff, experts that they are, handle most of those arbitrations. Without them, local union officers would feel pretty helpless, and companies would soon be firing anybody they wanted to, especially union officers!

The International UAW sat on top of union democracy, too. I have been told that professional union business agents/reps are not allowed to attend union conventions, but in the UAW they sit right at your table and watch every move you make. Or, worse, they stand behind you. International Reps tell the members when to make a motion, when to make a second, and when and how to vote. Anybody who steps out of line is carefully noted, and they can expect trouble during their next elections, negotiations or arbitrations.

I attended my first convention during the New Directions period. Our International Rep sat at Local 848’s table through the entire convention. BJ Meeks and others bravely voted their own convictions, but the intimidation was heavy. Years later, I attended another national convention, and the International Reps orchestrated literally everything that happened.

Have you ever heard of the Praetorian Guard? They were crack soldiers who were charged with guarding the Roman Emperor after democracy had disappeared. They did a great job. That’s how I see the legions of International Reps in the UAW.

So, one may very well ask, how did UAW active and retired members work up the courage to defy the UAW International and vote for “one-member-one-vote” in 2021? Because the government ran the election and gave us a secret ballot. Secret ballot!

NDM LOST

At the convention, Jerry Tucker failed to win the presidency. Our vote counters had expected it, but they were sure that we would win the directorship of Region 1 (mostly California). In an excruciating evening of hand-counting the votes, we lost that one, too. I took an historic picture of Victor and Sophie Ruther, glassy-eyed in defeat, as UAW President Owen Bieber announced the result.

The UAW then disbanded Region 1, so New Directions lost its strongest foothold. Anybody who had supported New Directions braced for the wrath of the UAW International, from Victor Reuther to the smallest.

As I was never in the circle of leadership, I don’t know what discussions and decisions came about, but I had a personal experience that pointed downward for me. Here’s how I remember it:

UAW Local 848 President Carroll Butler, the stalwart of our 1984-85 contract fight, one of the strongest supporters of New Directions, and I were standing on a hotel veranda looking out over San Diego. Out of the blue, he handed me two $100 bills. He told me to donate it at the next New Directions meeting. He wouldn’t be attending, he said, and he didn’t want anybody to know where the $200 came from.

In other words, one of our bravest and strongest men was disassociating from New Directions. That’s when I knew it was over. I kept trying, but the rigor mortis was already setting in. I still have a copy of a letter I wrote to Jerry Tucker dated October 29, 1992: “Dear Jerry. ND activities at Local 848 have stopped altogether.… Wish I had better news. In solidarity, Gene.” I didn’t get a reply.

END

**

SOME NOTES IN MY FILES. Folder dated 12/19/92 and titled “New Directions.”

3 copies of “The arrow.” I scanned one in Pictures/arrow1192.jpg

I scanned 4 photos: tucker-jerry, tucker-mrsjerry, reuther-victor,

I found a photo of Butler with Roy Kinney & Pancho. Another with Silva. They are in “pictures” now.

Copy of “The Arrow,” January 1991 //I wonder if that’s an error and it was 1992?// “Don’t blame Local 276!” about the whipsawing battle where GM in Arlington beat out Willow Run, Michigan. //I had completely forgotten that I wrote and published “The Arrow” to build New Directions in North Texas. It was a 1 page, letter sized, newsletter. Looks like my printer was a dot-matrix.//

Handwritten notes from 7/21/91 NDM meeting starting at 15:15. “There are 18 folks here.” “Dot goes to St Louis meeting next Thursday. Dick proposes that our cake sale money go to Dot for her expenses. Passes.” “Urges New Directions meeting at 2 on 3rd Sunday of August. Passes” 23 people here.

Handwritten notes from 8/18/91 “Joe Silva says agents in Local 148 are circulating an anti-Tucker leaflet that says Tucker negotiated a contract here that cut out overtime. Butler sent back a a letter pointing out that 1) we still have overtime 2) tucket didn’t negotiate it.” “BJ [Meeks] gives history of NDM: fightback at 848 was origin. Int’l made deals, agreed to give up COLA. Afterward, we decided int’l should be accountable, just as a local is… Not just Jerry Tucker… “Really what NDM is all about is fightback” –BJ Meeks.

“Dot reports on national coordinating meeting. Ken Fout of TDU, Ray Rogers [subject of movie Norma Rae], Dan LaBotz, Jane Slaughter all there helping to formulate ideas and experiences.”

“ND campaign platform 1) internal democratization & reform 2) collateral bargaining 3) organizing 4) pol action and relations with other unions 5) internationalism” “Vote was 14-3 in favor of a national candidate. 3 felt the movement had not come far enough along.” “Glen Plankett of Local 148 reports that they want no less than 7 days to review contract.”

“Nov 2nd in Detroit will be national meeting of ND” “Ralph says we must stop automatically endorsing democrats. Says reactionary Republican Dick Armey is the best rep he ever had.” “BJ mentions possibility of getting Arrow out through interplant mail.” (never happened)

Copy of “The Arrow”: October 1991 “Local 848 getting ready to win” includes a short article “New Directions national conference. UAW members are invited to attend the 3rd Annual National Conference of the New Directions Movement in Detroit November 1-3. “The discussion going on in the New Directions Movement is designed to reverse the general downward trend in strength of our international union. NDM has proposed positive solutions to problems of outsourcing, runaway plants, whipsawing, team concept, new technology, democracy in the union, and giveaway contracts. Registration for the conference is $35 per person. Hotel reservations have been arranged for $39 per night. Air fares are cheaper when reservations are made as early as possible. For more information call (3140 531-2900 (NDM office).”

Copy of “The Arrow,” November 1991 Headlines: “The Race is On! New Directions will challenge International in 1992!” It advertises a ND meeting at 848 on Nov 17 “after the membership meeting.” “Checks should be made to ‘New Directions’ and sent to PO Box 6876, St Louis, Missouri, 63144” //I could scan this//

Copy of “The Arrow”: May 1992 Calls for a May 17 NDM meeting on May 17 “after the union meeting.” Includes a call from Jerry Tucker to support 13,000 Caterpillar workers who had struck through the winter.

Excerpt from “A Troublemakers Handbook” named “Inside Strategies” The story of contract victories the UAW leadership does not want told.” Reprinted by New Directions Educational Fund. There are some quotes from Jerry Tucker. There are a lot of quotes from Joe Silva, who was always carried away with his fantasy version of what was really happening. It paints a much rosier picture of the struggle. In this version, everything we did worked great. In reality, it was a lot harder.

Inside strategies, in this version, were first developed by Tucker at Moog, then at Schweitzer and Bell Helicopter before it was successful at LTV.

A NDM three-fold leaflet. UAW a “one-party state.” “Steelworkers, Mineworkers, Mailhandlers, and now even the Teamsters have one-person, one-vote elections for national officials. Why not the UAW?”

Another 3-fold leaflet. This one has a quote from Vic: “Our union is drifting aimlessly. No longer democratic. Trapped in the corporate agenda. Unwilling to fight for our members today. The UAW needs new policies and new leadership. Through the fight for true democratic voting rights at the rank and file level, and for a true vision of a new direction, we can fulfill our historic destiny and restore real accountability and solidarity.” Signed “Victor Reuther, UAW Co-Founder”

This leaflet is all about “one person one vote.”

Three lightly printed sheets showing contributions to NDM from Elaine and me. Includes our $5/month contributions and my record on button sales.

Very lightly printed letter dated 10/29/92 from me to Jerry Tucker. “Dear Jerry. ND activities at Local 848 have stopped altogether. …one page single spaced… Wish I had better news. In solidarity, Gene”

Tioga is 50 miles north of Dallas. Politically, it may be in another world.

When we made our little road trip, the first thing we noticed were the big campaign signs for Don Huffines hanging on barbed wire fences. He seems to think that Governor Abbott is a liberal. HIs main slogan for getting votes in rural areas, based on an outright lie, seems to be “Stop Giving Our Money to Illegals!”

Our second clue came when we arrived at Tioga and stopped for barbecue. By the way, we liked the food, and apparently lots of other people like it, because the crowd was pretty good for a town with population 803. While we were scarfing it down, though, we noticed that we hadn’t seen a mask anywhere on the trip. Pandemic or not, they just don’t wear them up around Tioga!

Tioga is the birthplace of the great singing cowboy

After the restaurant, we tried to fit in by taking off our masks for our walking tour. We went right down Gene Autry street. We thought there might be some kind of statue, plaque, or other tribute to the great singing cowboy who is, among many other things, who I’m probably named after. The tribute is probably there, because being the birthplace of Gene Autry is Tioga’s only claim to fame, but we couldn’t find it. Right next to the street sign where we paused for a photo, a sign hung from a tree: “Trump: Make America Great!”

By then, we city people had begun to get a little uneasy. A couple of blocks further, we saw our first “Trump 2024” yard sign of this political year. By the time we got to Race Street and saw a certain house, we were downright nervous.

Stars and Bars flies in Tioga

When we saw the confederate flag and the posted threat of violence, we decided that it might be good to get back to the car before anybody noticed my “Bernie” bumper sticker. As soon as we got back to City Hall, where we had parked, we checked the car for possible painted swastikas. Then we got out of Tioga.

Does anybody remember when Adolf and Barack made a joint statement?

On the way home, we wondered if there were any dark-skinned people in Tioga. More importantly, we wondered why people in the rural areas of Texas seem committed to the Republican Party despite all facts and information. We think it might be racism.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. KNON posts my weekly blog “Workers Beat Extra” Wednesdays on http://soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

Every New Years, I’ve tried to get people to make predictions. Hardly any of them will. The best I have received so far is a stock broker who called KNON. After I prodded him, he responded, “The rich will get richer.” That’s about the safest prediction I ever heard.

My 2022 Predictions:

  • Massive evictions will put millions into the ‘homeless’ category.
  • Vigilantes and illegal militias will flourish.
  • Political violence will become commonplace.
  • Police will tend to allow the anti-worker outrages to flame, while suppressing any activity of pro-worker forces. This was the precedent set in Germany in the 1920s and has generally held.
  • Poverty and hunger will grow, especially among children.
  • The formal educational system will continue to deteriorate as Republicans undermine them with schemes like “charter” schools and assaults on officials. More and more parents will begin to seek out internet solutions.
  • Big corporations will try to privatize the internet and everything else, including all utilities and municipal services.
  • Persistent inflation will force the federal reserve to cut back on “quantitative easing” and near-zero interest rates. Stocks and bonds will crumble but the “real economy” won’t be hit so hard.
  • Little if anything will get done about the environmental crisis. Freak weather disasters will increase and worsen.
  • As world economies teeter, governments will advocate new wars.
  • Omicron will hit early and hard. After it peaks early in the year, a solid majority of Americans will have some immunity from vaccination or from having already suffered through COVID. By late summer, it will no longer be the top of every news story
  • The democratic party will continue unraveling while the Republican Party will grow more homogeneous and harder.
  • Independent movements, particularly the women’s movement, will grow. We will see a revival of unemployed and homeless advocacy groups similar to those of the 1930s.
  • These independent movements will be larger, better informed, and better integrated than anything we have ever seen in history. This is because people are better informed and have infinitely better communications.
  • Unions will not initially lead these powerful independent movements. Unions will be drawn into the larger movement. They will play an important role in guiding and financing the movement.
  • The 2022 elections will show people voting increasingly for 3rd or 4th parties, Greens, Working Family, Democrats, and Independents.
  • One thing that the strong progressive organizations will agree on is this: vote for no Republican!
  • Americans will begin to experiment with the kind of political strikes that have been known in other countries.
  • And slowly, the way forward will begin to show itself.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. The program and a supplemental “Workers Beat Extra” are podcast on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. My January 5 podcast includes these predictions. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Book Reviews:

Two books on MacArthur and Truman

H.W. Brands, The General vs the President. MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War. Doubleday, New York, 2016

William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964. Little, Brown and Company, New York, 1978

Readers who want to know how the Cold War was fine-tuned will find good discussions in these two books. However, both books are based on questionable assumptions that undermine their historical value. Also on the downside, much of the information in the 2016 book seems to have been taken directly from the 1978 book, or from the same sources. I think that both MacArthur and Truman wrote autobiographies that provided much of the original information, but, of course, without a critical eye.

I recommend getting some familiarity with the Korean War before reading these books. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War.

The two authors do not really explain the war. Even worse, they buy uncritically into the U.S. State Department version of what happened. The Americans were heroes, the South Koreans were incompetent, the North Koreans and the Chinese were evil and aggressive imperialists.

The differences explored in these books were not the differences between the U.S. and North Korea, the U.S. and China, the U.S. and the U.N. nor the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The only differences explored are the minor differences between committed anticommunists, especially Truman and MacArthur.

MacArthur, everyone in the book and the authors agree, was a brilliant military strategist. He was also an arrogant gloryhog who wanted to be President. Truman was an outstanding politician. Various other generals and politicians exalted MacArthur, but eventually came around to Truman’s side. The difference between the two main protagonists had to do with the conduct of the Cold War. Basically, MacArthur was ready to risk everything for a military victory against all communists; Truman wanted military containment of the communists while draining them economically. Truman’s version is the one we lived with, but he had to fire one of the most popular military leaders in modern history to establish his program.

MacArthur wanted to destroy the Chinese Army. Truman and his cohorts thought that a long-term effort to destroy the Soviet Union was preferable. The American people were divided, as we are now.

–Gene Lantz

I am on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. Programs and my “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts are posted on soundcloud.com on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Book Review: Marion Merriman and Warren Lerude, “American Commander in Spain. Robert Hale Merriman and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.” University of Nevada Press, 1986

Major Merriman went missing in Spain in early 1938, but his young widow could not bring herself to write about him until she reached the age of 70. Then she sought out a prize-winning co-writer to help her.

Generalissimo Franco and his German & Italian fascists prevailed

The book is extremely personal and could double as a love story as well as a history. I read it for the history. Here’s the best line in it on page 195. She was speaking about her husband’s and hers experiences in defending Spain. In this speech, she was talking to the Rotary Club in Reno, Nevada.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but if you don’t help the Spanish people and take your stand against fascism in Spain, your sons will die in Germany. I promise you that! There will be nothing you can do to stop a world war from starting if you do not help the Spanish Republic now.”

I don’t think that many Americans today know much about the overthrow of the Spanish Republic by fascists. Even those with some inkling probably think it was freedom versus communism, because that’s how things have been distorted worldwide. In fact, the people of Spain were hardly communists. The Communist Party of Spain was a very small group. The nation just wanted to keep the government that they had elected.

The fascists wanted to take over. Generalissimo Franco organized his foreign legionairres from Africa to invade Spain. He received a lot of help from the Catholic Church and his fascist friends Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. For the Germans and Italians, this was a great opportunity to test out their new weaponry. The so-called “great powers,” including the United States, put their hands in their pockets and looked the other way. If they hadn’t, there would have been no World War II! It would profit everyone to muse on why the “great powers” allowed World War II to develop and take place the way they did, but that would be another blog for another time.

In Spain in the mid 1930s, thousands of good young men from all over the world, including from the United States, volunteered to save democracy by going to battle. The Merrimans were among them.

This is a first hand and personal account. Mrs Merriman doesn’t dissect the political forces of the place and time. Her commitment was to follow and to support her husband. Her passions for the cause came later. Neither she nor her husband were communists, she says, but many of the International Brigadistas were, because communist parties across the world organized support for the Spanish Republic. The Republic wasn’t communist, either. It was just a republic.

One gets to know a lot of the people. Many of them, like Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemmingway, were far more famous than Robert Hale Merriman. Everybody admire Merriman. He was an intellectual economist originally from Nevada, but he went to school in Berkeley and studied for his doctorate in the USSR before deciding, on a personal level, that he had to go and fight in Spain.

In a way, he lives on, because he was one of the models for Hemmingway’s hero in “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” One can read a lot about the American brigadistas in ALBA magazine. I get it monthly. There are a few history books with widely varying points of view, like this one. One fact is consistent in all the coverage: the international volunteers were incredibly brave!

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast it on Wednesdays along with my special “Workers Beat Extra” commentary. If you want to know what I really think, you might look at my personal web site.

Book Review:

Prashad, Vijay, “Washington Bullets.” Leftward Books, New Delhi, 2020. Preface by Evo Morales Ayma, former President of Bolivia.

I bought the book through Amazon. I believe that it contributes to a trend, especially among younger people, toward a greater awareness of the seamy side of our nation’s role in the world. Some of the ugliest chapters are generally known among the technologically advanced. The CIA’s overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala, their bloody work in substituting dictators for democracy in Indonesia and most of Latin America, the murder of Patrice Lumumba in Africa, and all the assassination attempts against Fidel Castro in Cuba are common parlance among younger folk. This book attempts to enlarge the scope of understanding and fill in a lot of historical blanks.

The facts are in the book, but this long-running list of condemnations doesn’t follow an understandable pattern and isn’t as clear as other books on the same subject such as “The Jakarta Method.” The problem is probably that other books take up only a few of the bloodstained chapters of American interventionism, while Prashad tries to cover it all. The sheer scope of imperialism’s history, running from the massacres and enslavements of darker-skinned peoples at the very beginnings of colonial America through the current efforts to starve Iran and Venezuela into submission, might be better explained in a series of books explaining interventions in different continents, different eras, or different trends.

Another problem with trying to cover the entire range of international crimes is that American laws protect the documentation from scrutiny for decades before any admissions are made. We are only just now getting official documents about the murder of a million Indonesians in the 1960s, and we don’t know much of anything about NATO’s current slide eastward.

One obvious truth that emerges from Prashad’s effort is that domestic public opinion is always thoroughly prepared before imperialism makes a move. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution, known today as a total sham, prepared public opinion for the invading armies in Vietnam. The invasion of Iraq was preceded by months of repeated nonsense about “weapons of mass destruction.” The U.S. is accused of recently engineering the overthrow of the government in Bolivia, but it’s barely mentioned here. Today, we’re getting spoon fed demonization of Iran, Venezuela, and, especially, China in preparation for whatever they are planning, and we won’t get official release of documents for decades to come.

But communication technology has a way of abrading its way through the sheaths of secrecy. As this is written, Americans are beginning to lose all hope for victory in America’s longest war, Afghanistan. Public opinion already gave up on Libya and Syria.  I have never seen an assessment of the effect of ending the draft on imperialism’s designs, and I have no way of knowing whether or not Americans are willing to support the inevitable next intervention. But Prashad’s book contributes to a healthy trend toward truth and understanding.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk radio show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. We podcast the program and another called “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my aging personal web site.

During the late 1940s, the Congress of Industrial Organizations stopped being the CIO. They became part of “business unionism” and tried to partner with their bosses. In the mid-1950s, they went so far as to re-join the American Federation of Labor, thus forming the AFL-CIO. The program that they operated from was like that of the older AFL and sharply different from the vibrant CIO organizing machine of 1935-1947.

The AFL-CIO continued trying to partner with their bosses until, in 1995, they admitted failure and began to develop a progressive kind of unionism that wasn’t new. It was a return in the direction of the old fighting CIO. By then, we had lost 2/3 of our membership and were isolated from virtually anybody that might help us. Now, in 2021, things look better, but we have not returned, yet, to the virility that we lost in 1947.

My main criticism of today’s progressive labor movement is that they don’t own up to their mistakes. The changes that the new, improved AFL-CIO leadership is making are called “new.” We’d be stronger if we knew our history, all of it, and stopped hiding the trends of 1947-1995.

One way to fill in the blanks in our labor history is to look at one of the main protagonists in the drama, the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America. Here, I review a scholarly document and a history book on those missing pages of American labor history.

–Gene Lantz

Document review:

Brueggemann, John of Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs NY, “The Rise and Fall of the United Electrical Workers: Defending or Assaulting Democracy in Cold War Labor Politics?” January 8, 2003

I believe this is a college dissertation for a doctorate in history. I have a hard copy, but I can’t find it on-line. He concludes that the union’s collective bargaining strategy was out of date, that American attitudes changed and the union didn’t, and that organized labor in general had poor strategies for dealing with capital. These are all euphemisms.

But if you read what he says, it’s pretty much what happened. The anti-communist witch hunt succeeded in shifting American opinions, the union tried to hold true and not give in, and, sure enough, the labor movement not only gave in but basically joined the witch hunt. As Brueggemann puts it, “…the CIO… expelled one of its most democratic and vibrant unions.”

They didn’t just cut off the UE, they didn’t just expel it from the CIO, they commenced to raid it like vultures picking at the bones. The amazing thing is that the UE survived and is still a progressive voice in the American labor movement.

Book Review:

James J Matles, General Secretary of the UE, and James Higgins, “Them and Us. Struggles of a Rank-and-File Union.” Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1974.

This is a history of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America from its inception until the mid-seventies. Matles was the original head of the Organizing Department. He became General Secretary after Julius Emspak died in 1962. I especially appreciated this book because it clarifies what happened to American labor during the critical postwar period. This period is flatly boycotted in official American labor history, so very few people know about it.

My friend Richard Stephens of the National Nurses Organizing Committee recommended it to me during a conversation in which I was recommending “Rainbow at Midnight” to him.

The authors do not use this book to rail against the assaults on their union by the rest of the labor movement, although they report on it factually. Mostly, the book is about problems with management, particularly at General Electric and Westinghouse, the two giants of the electrical industry. Problems within the CIO and with backstabbing in general, even problems with attacks from the government, are reported with sparse comment. I find that remarkable. Nevertheless, a union’s main problem is with management, not with the rest of the unions or even with the government.

The reason I read it, though, is because there are practically no historical accounts of the great change in American labor around 1947. This book goes a long way toward filling that giant hole.

My notes:

Pg 13: UE officers are not allowed to get paid more than their members

Pg 17: Abraham Lincoln: Whenever there is a conflict between the man and the dollar, it can only be resolved by “putting the man before the dollar.”

Back when it was a federal union within the AFL, some of the new locals were allowed to affiliate with IAM. Later on, they realized that IAM intended to split off the craft workers. That’s when they bolted the AFL. There was already a lot of turmoil within the IAM-associated locals, because IAM had a “white male” provision for membership. All the locals were new, industrial unions. Some were “federal unions” and some were in the IAM. They all bolted together to form UE. This took place around the same times that UAW was getting established (1935-8).

Pg 103 5/26/38 House Un-American Activities Committee formed by House of Representatives as a response to the LaFollette committee. HR282 formed it, and it became known as “Dies committee”. Sponsor of the Bill was Martin Dies of East Texas “unreconstructed southern Democrat”. A fink named “Colonel” Frey came from the AFL to accuse CIO members and made quite a plash. New York Times headline “Communists Rule the CIO.” Some of those named were John Brophy of Mineworkers and Director of the CIO; James Matles, michael Quill TWU, Walter Reuther of UAW, …

Pg 115 Matles appeared before Dies committee. Asked for S 1970 (LaFollette bill) to pass to stop outrageous employer behavior. He predicted that without it, “The practice of industry in employing spies, stirkebreakers and finks will continue to flourish as in the past.” The bill didn’t happen but Matles prediction did.

Pg 117-8: John Brophy: “Redbaiting, lies, slanders, raising the cry of ‘communists’ against militant and progressive union leaders, is nothing more than a smokescreen for the real objective of the people that use them. The real objective is to kill the CIO, destroy collective bargaining, destroy the unity of the organized and unorganized that the CIO is building through the nation.”

Pg 118: “Walter Reuther, then a young organizer and officer of the United Auto Workers, made a comment on Frey’s performance: ‘Now the bosses are raising a scare – the Red Scare. They pay stools to go around whispering that so-and-so, usually a militant union leader, is a Red. What the bosses actually mean, however, is not that he is really a Red. They mean they do not like him because he is a loyal, dependable union man, a fighter who helps his brothers and sisters and is not afraid of the boss. So let us all be careful that we do not play the bosses’ game by falling for the Red Scare. No union man worthy of that name will play the bosses’ game. Some may do so through ignorance—but those who peddle the Red Scare and know what they are doing are dangerous enemies of the union.’”

Pg 139: November 1945, Truman called a Labor-Management Conference. “CIO proposals for immediate wage increases to make up the 30 percent loss in real wages and a demand for firm price controls across the board were defeated by the combined votes of corporation executives and representatives of the AFL.”

Pg 140 “On November 21, 1945, the first strike in mass production industry began when the Auto Workers under the leadership of vice-president Reuther shut down the auto plants of General Motors.”  I think the UE joined this strike, but signed contracts before the UAW. Later on, Reuther would use this as his reason for raiding the UE.

Pg 146: heads of GM and GE were both named Charles E Wilson. “engine charlie” and “electric charley”

“Despite his public expression of satisfaction with the outcome of the strike, Reuther was deeply disappointed and embittered. He blamed the Chrysler and Ford settlements made by his own union, and the settlements of the Steel Workers and UE with U.S. Steel and the GM electrical division, for the failure to get the additional one cent from General Motors. This episode was the first of a series of developments over the next few years that produced a complete break in the relationship between UE and the Auto Workers. The break lasted for more than two decades. It was not until the winter of 1969-1970 that Reuther and Secretary-Treasurer Emil Mazey met with Fitzgerald and Matles and agreed to join forces in another nationwide strike struggle against a powerful corporation.”

Pg153 3/5/46 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Prime Minister Winston Churchill launched the cold war with a call for a political and military buildup by ‘English speaking peoples” to contain communism. Truman, seated on the platform, indicated by his presence, and by a cordial response to the Churchill remarks, his endorsement of the cold war proposition, upon which U.S. foreign policy was soon to be exclusively based and domestic policy oriented accordingly. UE denounced it: “…we must take the lead in the fight to prevent American monopolists from dragging the world into war.”

Pg 155: Electric Charlie Wilson in Oct 1946 “The problems of the United States can be captiously summed up in two words: Russia abroad, labor at home.”

Pg 169: One reason unions gave for signing the Taft-Hartley affidavits were that it would help them organize in the reactionary south. They organized almost nobody and “operation Dixie,” after spending hundreds of thousands, was abandoned. I think in 1948.

Pg 170: Matles in 1948 CIO meeting “But we will not rush to that Taft-Hartley line-up for the simple reason it is not a chow line. It is a line where they are dishing out poison.”

Pg 192 “The Auto Workers, in good standing with the Taft-Hartley board, followed a strategy of petitioning the board for elections in UE organized shops, wherein the UE would be barred from appearing on the ballot.” They explain the process here and there. Companies could call for union elections any time they wanted to, and they did. They worked closely with the raiding unions. UAW was first and worst, but Steelworkers and other unions raided UE even before IUE was created.

Pg 194-5. After years of protesting the raids without relief, the UE stopped paying dues to the CIO and stayed away from the November 1949 convention in Cleveland, whereupon they were “expelled.” That convention created the IUE. Murray installed James Carey, CIO secretary who had been voted out of UE office in 1941, as president. He then issued a call to all UE locals to come to the convention and join the IUE-CIO.

Pg 205: Chapter “McCarthyism and Humphreyism” clarifies the rotten careers of two of America’s worst “rightist” and “leftist” politicians.

There are some really good lessons about fighting and bargaining. A bosses’ technique known as “Boulwarism” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulwarism#:~:text=Boulwarism%20is%20the%20tactic%20of,Boulware%2C%20who%20promoted%20the%20strategy) is especially edifying.

On pg 295 they explain the problems of new technology and rising productivity. Labor never got a decent share.

Pg 298 “In 1947, at the start of the cold war, the income of the lowest fifth of all families in the U.S. was 5 ½ percent of total national income. Whereas that of the highest fifth of families, in 1947, was 41 ½ percent. In 1972 the breakdown remained exactly the same. No change.” The authors seem to consider those ratios outrageous, but I wonder what they would have said in 2007 when statisticians talked about “the bottom 90%”?

Pg 304: Good summary of the whole period on the last page of the book: “The CIO objective of the 1930s – to implant industrial unionism in the shops of mass production – had been achieved. But the drive toward long-range objectives – organizing the millions of workers still unorganized, developing a strong independent political movement, redistributing the national wealth and income – was derailed by the corporate anti-labor offensive conducted during a quarter-century of cold and hot war. In the seventies, then, these objectives still remain to be won.”

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast it and an additional “Workers Beat Extra” every Wednesday. If you care curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Perry Bacon Jr wrote an editorial “American Democracy is in Even Worse Shape Than You Think” in the Washington Post.

I re-posted it on Facebook and Twitter because it’s a very good think piece and deserves general consideration. Americans really must consider the likelihood of a fascist takeover.

I respectfully disagree with Bacon as to how things will happen, but not with his direst prediction.

It is not an overstatement to say that Republicans literally tried to overthrow democracy after the 2020 elections. At that point, one would have thought that they might back off a little and play the “loyal opposition” until their next chance for electoral victory. But that is not what they did. To this day, they are continuing the same policies that led to the January 6th putsch.

Beyond January, Republicans have consistently undermined democracy everywhere that they hold power.

Bacon warns that Republicans are likely to win the 2022 Mid-Term Elections. His strongest argument is the historical trend for first-time presidents to lose in their first mid-term challenge. He points out, correctly, that Republicans who control Congress will certainly, surely, refuse to ratify the 2024 presidential race if they do not win it outright. That’s reasonable to assume, because that’s what they tried to do in 2020 when they had clearly lost.

He May be Wrong, But He’s Right

Here’s where I disagree with Bacon before I agree with him. I don’t think the Republicans are likely to win in 2022. I’m not even sure they are planning to try. Certainly, the antidemocratic, racist, chauvinistic policies they are pursuing are not building a “big tent” of voters. They are avoiding all truth. Their “base” is shrinking down to the most racist and superstitious.

In the long term, civilized people are becoming more technologically capable, more educated, and more sophisticated while the Republicans deliberately appeal only to the most backward. That’s why I don’t expect them to succeed as an electoral party unless the Democrats throw away their advantage with an ideological split or allow a major economic disaster before the election.

In other words, the Republican party is getting smaller. The catch is that it’s getting more fascistic.

History Foretells

In 1931, Hitler’s fascist party was very small. They gained a tiny plurality in that election because of the worldwide economic catastrophe of 1929. The German Communists, I believe, had a slogan “After Hitler, us!” The Nazis were not a powerful electoral party, but they didn’t have to be. Faced with the likelihood of a Communist takeover, the wealthiest class of Germans went over to Hitler. Everything after that was predictable.

Speaking of Predictions

My prediction is that the Democrats will defeat the Republicans in national elections until the next economic disaster. If you don’t believe there will be another great economic disaster, then you may believe that Democrats will stay in power, but you’d be ignoring the history of our economic system. It has to have an economic disaster. It’s only “when,” never “if.”

Even a relatively small fascist political party is likely to take power in the next crisis, and that crisis will come as sure as God made little green apples. The Democrats will not be able to stop the fascists any more than the Weimar socialists could stop the Nazis.

A Further Prediction

The only hope for the future is to defeat the fascists by organizing around working families. That is what the Germans failed to do in 1931 and what Americans must do now. I predict that we will.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. They post it, along with “Workers Beat Extra” podcast on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, try my personal web site.