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

What would your revolution look like?

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, we speculate.

The World I Made

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Gene Lantz

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

Worldwide disaster is nearing. Pick your disaster trend:

  1. War is more possible than when Trump took office
  2. The environment is getting worse and Trump policies are making it worse
  3. World economies are interlaced, but out of kilter; a serious crisis anywhere could lead to a worldwide nightmare
  4. Democracy is being eroded

It’s not an exhaustive list. I kept it to four because it makes a good metaphor with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Google any of the four topics and you will find plenty of expert opinion on looming disaster.

Rising nationalism is the most problematic, because it means less international cooperation, and international cooperation is the only way to lessen the danger from any of the horsemen listed. The new nationalism in America and some other countries such as Poland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Brazil means that nations have stopped trying to cooperate. England’s Brexit goes in that same direction, too.

Why worry?

Not everybody is trying to solve these problems. Here are some of their arguments.

Why worry when there’s nothing we can do about it?

Certain religious people actually believe that Armageddon is ordained by God and will happen whether we do anything or not, so why try? It’s a convenient excuse

When things get bad enough, people will take action, so let them get worse!

There is no historical basis for this idea. People begin to act, in fact, when they experience victories, not when they experience defeats. The great strike upsurge in America during 1946 is a good example. When unions were winning, everybody wanted to join one.

The coming fascism is only one way to administer capitalism, and capitalism itself is doomed, so just wait it out!

Fascism may be able to remain in power for a long time. It could create untold suffereing and, at the end, not bring us any closer to any solution than we are now

The Democrats just made some headway against Trump in 2018 and are poised to remove or neutralize him in 2020

We had an argument like that about George Bush, and many of us thought that the Obama Administration would be able to right all wrongs. Obama made some progress, but the underlying problems did not go away and they created the conditions that got Trump elected. Going back a little bit, we thought that same thing about Clinton during the Reagan/DaddyBush days. They thought it about Roosevelt when Hoover was President, and about Wilson when Coolidge ruled.  Our problem is not about individuals, but about systems.

Radicals are forever prophesying disaster, yet humanity goes on

They did so in 1859 before the American Civil War, they did so in 1914 before World War I, in 1929 before the Great Depression, in 1933 when Hitler consolidated his power, and in 1947 when the American government turned anti-worker. They were right, of course, and great disasters followed, but people kept trudging onward anyway. So why get upset about the current threats to human existence? Here are some reasons to worry more today:

  1. They didn’t have nuclear weapons before
  2. Plutonium, one of the most poisonous materials in the world, hadn’t even been refined
  3. The world economy has never been as integrated as it is today
  4. Climate change was never so drastic
  5. We never even had such a large world population, and they were never packed, as we are now, into cities
  6. We never had so many displaced people wondering the planet. I’m not just talking about the half-million sleeping in America doorways, but also the millions trying to escape from the Middle East, Africa, and Central America.

If you think it through, you will see disaster(s) on the horizon. If you think it further, you will begin to take action.

–Gene Lantz

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

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

allred-cwa-earlyvote

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

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

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

What’s “Populism?”

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

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

What’s “Left,” What’s “Right?”

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

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

What’s “Democracy?”

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

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

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

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

Who Is “Shifting to the Right?”

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

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

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

Only our side can save democracy.

-Gene Lantz

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

Notes:

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

Brazil Election: How Jair Bolsonaro Turned Crisis Into Opportunity

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

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

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

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

rc‏ @castriotar Oct 26

rc Retweeted Folha de S.Paulo

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

@castriotar

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

By Mateusz Mazzini February 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have never been sure whether Donald J Trump was restoring a world of hatred and nationalist paranoia because it’s just what he wants to do, or if he was simply reflecting a change in world relations whose time had come.

diplomacy-cartoon

Fraternalization among nations is ending.

One could say that international fraternalization started during World War II, or after it, or during the Nixon Administration when he visited China. One could say that it began with the fall of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Or one could say it began with the formation of the European Economic Community, or with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or with the Organization of American States, or with all of that. However it started, it’s ending now. Nations are pulling apart.

Case in point: The European Union is strongly criticizing the governments of Italy and Poland. Even bigger case in point: Donald J Trump is pulling out of environmental accords and, lately, even out of nuclear proliferation accords. Plus, he seems intent on offending almost all traditional American allies. Nations are pulling apart.

Should we ask why?

Or should we look at it the other way around and ask why nations had been seeking cooperation with one another prior to the Trump election?

The period just ending, in which America dominated and forced every other nation to cooperate, is not new in history. In the centuries of British domination, roughly 1700 to 1900, they did the same thing. They even used the same rubric: “free trade.”

As British domination fell apart, the separate nations experienced their first World War. As that war began, V.I. Lenin wrote “Imperialism.” In it, he compared the world’s national leaders to gangs of criminals who might, for short periods, cooperate, but were likely to launch a new “turf war” almost any time. The inference from the pamphlet was that the capitalists running the largest industrialized nations would never cooperate for long. For economic reasons, it’s just not in their nature.

The United States dominated the world economically from World War II to the present, but that domination is being severely tested today. Our cars aren’t the only cars, our steel industry is about gone, even our electronics industry has disappeared. If other nations decided to stop using U.S. dollars as their reserve currency, our economy would fall to pieces. And that could happen. Almost any time. Trump is pushing them in that direction, too.

What we called “globalization,” or fraternalization among nations was really a set of circumstances in which the United States was unchallenged in its world domination. Every other nation actually had to cooperate, or to seem to cooperate. That seems to be ending now. I don’t think Trump caused it in 2016, just as I don’t think Hitler caused it in 1931, or if the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire caused it by dying in 1914. It’s part of the system we live under. It had to end.

The question really is: what are we going  to do about it?

–Gene Lantz

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

 

Book Review:

Piketty, Thomas, “Why Save the Bankers? And Other Essays on Our Economic and Political Crisis.” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston New York, 2016. Dallas Library 330.94 P636W 2016

economics-vague

Apparently, publishers were looking for anything by Piketty after his world-shaking 2014 (in French, 2015 in English) book “Capital in the 21st Century.” This is only a collection of his essays on contemporary developments in Europe 2010-2015. He has a monthly newspaper column.

These are short and readable and, if nothing else, give a short summary of major economic developments in the European Union during the period. They also encapsulate some of his major recommendations for solutions to the capitalist crisis:

  1. The worldwide wealth tax espoused in his major work
  2. Additional economic integration — he calls it ‘federation’ — within the European Union. He particularly wants the EU to be able to issue common bonds and have common debt. At other times, he mentions other economic aspects of closer federation.

“Federalism, the Only Solution,” is the title of one very central essay.

Piketty doesn’t believe that austerity will solve any particular country’s crisis, consequently, he sees no reason why some countries (Germany and France) would force it onto other countries (Greece). He opposes what he calls “tax competition” between nations. It consists of lowering business taxes in order to entice more economic activity away from countries with higher taxes. He mentions Luxembourg and Ireland particularly.

At the end of 2017, Republicans in Congress drastically lowered taxes for businesses and wealthy Americans. One of their excuses was that other nations had lowered theirs already. Race to the bottom!

In a very general sense, Piketty sees the European Union as having unnecessary crises because they only partly joined their economies. Fiscal and monetary policy simply don’t work when they aren’t coordinated among the nations. What hurts one helps another.

-Gene Lantz

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

The outlook for working families is far worse than usually noted.

inequality-europe-US

The graph above is one of those used in the best selling, world-shaking economics book “Capital in the 21st Century” by Thomas Piketty.

Like many graphs in the book, this one shows that income inequality dropped during the middle part of the 20th century. Then it began to rise again and continues to rise toward conditions that Monsieur Piketty and others describe as “intolerable.”

Popular economics books of today such as “Runaway Inequality,” a book broadly used in the American labor movement, only look at the later half of the graph – from 1945 to present. Most of the economic analysis used by the AFL-CIO is based on a “return to normal” which they define as 1945-1973. Most of us grew up in that period and consequently it is natural that we would think of it as “normal.”

In 1973, the United States and the world dropped the gold standard and began floating their currencies. After those great economic changes of the Nixon Administration, and even more so under the trickle-down “Reaganomics” of 1980, we say that really bad people distorted American economics to the detriment of working families. Since the bad people took power, inequality has continually grown much worse.

The world owes its gratitude to the Occupy Movement for having focused our attention on rising inequality. They saw that the 1% was growing in wealth and power to the detriment of the 99%, and they forced the rest of us to see it. The unfortunate inadequacy of their solution grew from the shortcomings of their analysis. They didn’t look deeply enough into the data.

Bernie Sanders took this growing consciousness much further. His analysis included the nuts and bolts of inequality, the ways that the 1% keeps the flow of wealth moving upward toward them. Sanders’ prescriptions for new nuts and bolts were much more useful than what the Occupy Movement had offered. Sanders and his followers are converging with the American labor movement today, and both are being strengthened. For that, too, the world must be grateful. I am grateful.

At the same time, during the fiery height of the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, even while I was campaigning for him, I often said, “Bernie Sanders will never live to see his program implemented. They would kill him first.”

The solution being put forward by almost everyone in the labor movement and by progressives at large, Bernie Sanders included, is to stop electing bad people and start electing good people who will return to the good policies that reduced inequality during 1914-1973. It’s a simple and seductive solution.

It Won’t Work

I would truly like to think that elections, elections in general and specifically the ones we’re about to have, will elect those good people, with those good solutions, and we will return to the policies that lowered instead of raising inequality in the United States and in the world. But they won’t.

I want to tell you why, even though I supported the Occupy Movement, and even though I support the Bernie Sanders socialists, and even though I am completely devoted to the AFL-CIO and the American labor movement, I want to tell you why I think their analysis is incomplete. Not only is their analysis incomplete, but their prescription, what to do about our situation, is inadequate. One cannot arrive at successful tactics without first understanding the present situation.

Look at the Whole Graph

The popular analysis, and the prescriptions that come from it, are wrong. Look at the whole graph. In fact, look at the entire history of capitalism. Piketty and his associates have accumulated data and anecdotal records going back to the early days of capitalism. Those data show incontrovertibly that increasing inequality is fundamental to capitalism. The 60-year drop in inequality, roughly from World War I until 1973, a small part of capitalism’s history, was never normal. It was completely abnormal and, in fact, antithetical to normal capitalism. What we had before 1914, and what we have now, rising inequality, is “normal.”

Didn’t Work in 2008, Won’t Work in 2018

If one realizes that we are now living in a “normal” period, then one should be able to see that there is no single simple solution. Even if we have great election victories in 2018, as we did in 2008 by the way, inequality is not going to diminish. We’re going to have to work a lot harder than that.

What we are living in now, and what we lived in before World War I, is normal. In an article titled “Who Will Be the Winners of the Crisis?”, Piketty himself explains: “Left to itself, capitalism, because it is profoundly unstable and inegalitarian, leads naturally to catastrophes.” “Inegalitarian” means what you think it does.

So the period of my youth was abnormal. What we are suffering under today is normal.

Why Did Inequality Diminish in the Abnormal Period?

Monsieur Piketty points out that the crises of the 20th century did not cause inequality to go down. As he says in the article I just quoted, “The historical data… shows unambiguously that that financial crises, as such, have no lasting effect on inequality; it all depends on the political response to them.”

So the political responses to the two world wars and to the great depression were what lowered inequality. It was the progressive taxation that lowered inequality. But why did these progressive policies get selected? Why not let the rich continue getting richer and the poor get poorer? Piketty says that the system received “shocks” with two world wars and a great depression.

Look At the Graph Again

Piketty is wrong about the “why” of diminished inequality 1914-1973. It wasn’t “shocks.” It was the success of the working class. We may not know much about the 23 countries that Piketty studied, but we do know what happened in the United States in the middle of the 20th century.

Workers Power Grew

In 1914, when Piketty says inequality began to get lower, the Socialist Party was riding high in America. Even out here, in Texas and in Oklahoma, many people were openly socialists. They voted socialist. There were socialists elected here and there and everywhere. There were socialists in Congress! The Industrial Workers of the World was terrifying employers from the textile mills of New England to the timber forests of Oregon. In 1917, socialists took power in the Russian empire! In 1919, Eugene Debs got a million votes for President while he was in prison!

The great depression hit hard in the capitalist countries, but the socialists were able to point to the Soviet Union and say “They aren’t having a depression!” Socialism, and the workers movement, was growing in popularity while inequality was falling. During World War II, it was the socialists who led the resistance movements. Many of them were so popular that they took power when the Germans and Japanese were finally defeated. Look at Marshall Tito in Yugoslavia, Enver Hoxha in Albania. Look at Mao Tse Tung in China and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam!

In 1935 in America, the Committee for Industrial Organization took over where the Industrial Workers of the World left off. The progressive movement grew like crazy. By 1947, they had gone from a small part of the labor movement to approximately 1/3 of the American workforce! The actual numbers of people in unions continued to rise until the mid-1950s. Then it started to drop off. In that same period, socialists were red-baited into virtual obscurity.  The Soviet Union was probably at the height of its world popularity when it sent up Sputnik in 1957, but its popularity sagged after that. By the time Reagan declared war against the progressive movement, the steam had gone out of the workers’ movement, both internationally and here.

I saw one book, sold by the AFL-CIO, that says the American labor movement died in 1972 because they failed to support McGovern for President. We didn’t actually die, but we lost a lot of blood.

However one may analyze it, no matter what statistics one uses, one still has to conclude that the workers’ movement does not have the power that it enjoyed in the middle of the century, when inequality was at its lowest.

After 1980, the power of American employers waxed while ours waned. Inequality grew. Inequality is still growing.

While Employers Rule, Workers Can Make No Permanent Gains

The greatest person I ever knew personally was named George Meyers. He had been a leader of the CIO before he joined the army in World War II. George used to say, ‘There are no permanent gains for workers under capitalism.” No matter what you win, you will always have to fight for the same things again.

I had a personal experience with that. My union carried out an incredible fight in 1984-5, and we emerged with the best contract in the aerospace industry. Better than Boeing’s contract, and we were just little LTV in Grand Prairie, Texas. But nobody hangs on to those gains. You have to win them over again, the same things, win them over and over and over, every contract.

With Understanding, We Can Prescribe Solutions

The solution to the rising inequality caused today by normal capitalism is to fight with everything we can find. We have to fight to win these elections, of course, and we really need to win. But that’s not all. We need economic struggle as well as political struggle. We need boycotts, we need petitioning campaigns, we need militant contract fights, and above all we need to organize. We need to bring the entire progressive movement together and focus it on fighting the employers, the 1%.

It’s easy to say these things but not so easy to do. Contract fights are rare today, because the legalities have become so rigorous against us and our leaders have lost their edge while our members are confused. Even a simple idea like organizing is really really hard. Most union staffers and officers are far too busy to organize. There’s very little money for organizing, and there are very few unpaid volunteers in today’s labor movement.

But There’s Good News

We are in the biggest and most general progressive upsurge in American history. It isn’t focused, it isn’t united, but it’s big and it’s enthusiastic. The most exciting news of the 21st century came from the teachers of West Virginia and a few other states this year. They carried out victorious political strikes. Political strikes are common in Europe, but almost unheard of in America. That kind of planning, that kind of volunteering, and that kind of militancy is what we have to have.

I won’t say it’s easy to do what has to be done, but I will say that it has to be done. There is no other way.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, see my personal web site. I intend to present the ideas in this article at 6:30PM Central Time on September 1 at Romo’s Restaurant, 7033 Greenville Av in Dallas. Come down and discuss it!

Book Review:

Galbraith, James K “The End of Normal. The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth.” Simon & Schuster, New York, 2014. Dallas library 330.90511 G148E 2014

Some economists, and certainly those dominating the thinking in the labor movement, believe that the period 1945-1973 was “normal” and that our subsequent problems came about because of bad policies. Most notably, we blame Reagan, Reaganomics, and “trickle down” economics. Our intentions are the best, but our economic analysis is way wrong according to the last few economics books I’ve read, especially this one.

The postwar boom was not normal. It was an extremely unusual period of capitalist history during which the United States dominated the economic world. Capitalists reluctantly shared some of their largesse with a powerful and demanding labor movement. By 1973, it was pretty well over. What happened before and what is now happening afterward is normal capitalism: slow growth, rising inequality, international competition, and inevitable crises.

Some economists treat their discipline like a religion. In religion, God has a purpose for everything. He/She tends to restore balance in a world that makes sense. When things seem to go terribly wrong, God is just moving a few things around with balance and purpose His/Her ultimate goal. Religious people think that the universe has some kind of stasis, and everything within it has a natural balance that we will understand someday after we’re dead. “Farther along, we’ll know all about it. Farther along, we’ll understand why” as the song says.

This religious commitment to balance and purpose is contradicted by everything that happens. The universe has no balance: some stars collide with others, planets come and go. Our lives have no balance: we may be growing cancer cells right alongside the healthy ones.

Things aren’t balanced and purposeful. In fact, things aren’t even whatever we think they are. Everything is changing from one type of thing to another. The only “normal” is change. That’s true of economic systems as well. It’s not a religion, and there is no balance and purpose to be “restored.”

galbraithquote

Galbraith seems to know that, and he lashes the many conventional economists whose conclusions are tailored to suit the desires of their employers. You really have to appreciate Galbraith for that.

The author teaches at UT Austin. He’s a wonderful writer. Whether or not he’s a great economist, I suppose, will be revealed over the next few years because, unlike most, he does not believe that America will ever return to the growth period from around 1945 to the 1970s. He recommends that we adjust our policies for an extended period of slow growth. His recommendations are a lot like those of Bernie Sanders.

I wonder what he said two weeks ago when President Trump announced that growth in the 2nd quarter of 2018 had exceeded 4%? If they are able to sustain that kind of growth, then Galbraith was simply wrong, but that one quarter could easily be a fluke. I wrote him an email to ask.

Some of his more contemporary remarks, from January 2018, are on-line:

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/economist-james-k-galbraith-isnt-celebrating-dow-25000-2018-01-08 He correctly predicted that corporations would not invest their ill-gotten gains from the December, 2017 tax giveaway. He says they will just buy back their own stock and drive up stock prices, and that is certainly what happened over the next 8 months.

This is a good book well worth reading.

OTHER REVIEWS:

https://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviews/7923_the-end-of-normal-review-by-hans-g-despain/

Reviewed by Hans G Despainent

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James K Galbraith’s The End of Normal, recently published, is a spectacular achievement in political economy generally, as a philosophical critique of the practice of economics and public policy in particular, and for its comprehensive and totalizing explanation of global monopoly-finance capitalism.

…Galbraith contends that not only does financialization generate massive inequality and instability (see Galbraith 2012), but generates opportunities for colossal fraud. Galbraith contends we must “stipulate that the Great Financial Crisis was rooted in a vast scheme of financial fraud”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144111-the-end-of-normal

Today, four factors impede a return to normal. They are the rising costs of real resources, the now-evident futility of military power, the labor-saving consequences of the digital revolution, and the breakdown of law and ethics in the financial sector.

 

MY NOTES:

Pg10: That bastard Richard Fisher

17 He begins his tale in 1945

21 Effect of communism. At the last chapter, he gives an interesting summary of the economic collapse of the Soviet Union from being a great power to being a total bust

57 Financialization

64 Economists are like monks in a monastery. He handles metaphors very adeptly

67 Capitalism = perfection

68 Stochastic – it means “random”

99 Could this be an error? He says that no gain results from variable costs. Does he think profit comes from fixed costs?

100: Does he think surplus value is produced from energy? Business cycles are caused by technology. Tractors basically caused the great depression by supplanting all the farmers, mules, and horses. Anyway, he thinks resource costs are a big problem. He thinks technology is not going to save us.

164 Explaining the Great Recession: “…fraud took over the financial system because it was expedient to allow it.” The basis for growth ended in the 1970s.

Somewhere in here, he mentions that nobody cares if people move from California to Colorado. I think he’s pointing out that immigration within the Economic Union is a really big problem, but it’s easy within the United States.

222 Cutting Social Security would not help the economy, as they are just transfer payments redistributing wealth but not creating or destroying any

238 There are four obstacles to achieving high growth and full employment:

  1. Energy markets remain high cost and uncertain (this was 2014)
  2. World economy is no longer under the effective financial and military control of the United States and its allies.
  3. Digital technology replaces a lot more jobs than it creates
  4. The private financial sector has ceased to serve as a motor of growth

Pg 241: Why not live in a “no growth” world? He says that our store of capital would not get replenished so productivity would fall continuously

The Soviets were a great powerhouse by the 1960s, but they did not rebuild and replenish their productive abilities and, eventually, lost the technology race. Their production got more and more costly and less and less quality. After the government collapses, the economy really went to hell. GNP dropped by half, life expectancy dropped from 72 down to 58 (pg 259).

He doesn’t think cutting the working hours would be as good as just letting people retire earlier.