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While they are common in Europe, most of us have never seen a big political strike in our lifetimes, until now.

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The strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona represent a big step up for the American working class. Newspersons are treating the phenomena as something angry teachers are doing, but it is much more than that. It’s a giant step upward for  American workers.

What Is a Political Strike?

Almost all we know about strikes in America since 1947 is limited to actions against a single employer. The austerity oppressing American workers since 1980 has not been met with the kind of united class action we commonly see in Europe. The French railway workers, for example, are just about shutting down the nation right now, and it’s not so they can get a raise. It’s a political strike against government! So are the school employees’ actions in the United States!

If we organized for it, we could be conducting concerted action everywhere to get an increase in the minimum wage. The “Fight for Fifteen” could be a political strike, and I believe that, sooner rather than later, it will be.

It’s Not Just Teachers

Teacher aides, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and all kinds of school employees are doing picket duty. They are joined by students, parents, and the public at large. School administrators, in many cases, are helping by shutting down the schools so that strikers can make up the pay they’re losing with extra school days in the summer. Many politicians and high-profile personalities such as sports figures are on our side. Just about every progressive person is spreading the word on social media.

The demands are not limited to teacher raises. The strikers are demanding an end to the steady starvation of public education and full funding for everything the students need.

It’s Not Just Unions

In fact, I’m not even sure that the unions are directly involved. If one looks at the web site for the Oklahoma Education Association or the Oklahoma American Federation of Teachers, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Both of their Facebook Pages have some good photos, but very little to show that the biggest unions are backing the strike. I have a theory about that.

One of the leaders from West Virginia told me that their strike was “wildcat.” It means that the official unions did not call it and did not officially support it. It also means that the official unions were not legally nor financially responsible for it. My theory is that America’s unions are so constrained, so hogtied, that they dare not push the legal limits with such an action. I’m guessing that all the strikes today are “wildcat.”

I don’t exactly blame them. Unions represent their members and that’s all, no more no less. If they go out on a limb, they may be risking their entire existence. They could be fined every cent they have and then some. Officers could be put in jail. It would not be the first time that the government has punished organized workers. Would that be the responsible thing for a union that represents all its members?

CHEERS to the AFL-CIO Labor Federation

The American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations is not a labor union. It is a federation and consequently has a different legal and political situation. In my opinion, the present AFL-CIO leadership is far in advance of most of their constituent unions. That’s why I emphasize that all progressives should be working with them.

President Rich Trumka has given the national AFL-CIO position on teacher strikes: “When working people dutifully play by the rules and still can’t get ahead, they’re going to upend those rules. That’s exactly what’s happening today. Teachers, from West Virginia and Kentucky to Oklahoma and Arizona, are fighting to overturn a rigged system that has left them behind for decades. They’re inspiring a resurgence of collective action among all working people who are hungry for real change to improve our lives. The 12.5 million members of the AFL-CIO are proud to stand with all those marching to secure a brighter future for our teachers, students and families”

The only part of Trumka’s statement I disagree with is where he said it was “teachers.” Teachers may be spearheading it, but we are witnessing a giant working class process. Conditions, meaning low unemployment and high discontent, are ripe for it to spread throughout the nation.

–Gene Lantz

I discuss these things on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. From the “events” tab, you can see the last two programs. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

 

 

I received a mailing to help me promote “School Choice Week” on the air.

At KNON radio studios, I receive  a lot of right-wing mail. I think it’s because my program is called “Workers Beat” and conservatives can’t conceive of a radio show that is actually for workers. When one says “workers” they assume you mean management, I guess, because all the other radio programs are either written by the bosses or approved by them. I throw away a lot of free books about how to get more work out of workers.

The School Choice mailing came from a post office box in some town in California. It says that there are 32,240 American events to promote “school choice” during January 21-27.  It says that 6.7 million students and supporters will be participating. It says there are 54 events in my town. It says I should promote them on KNON radio and it offers me materials to broadcast.

I assume they sent this to every radio station in America at considerable cost. It’s part of a national effort to destroy the public schools. If you aren’t worried, you should be.

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A Little History on Schooling

America, more than most countries, advanced free public education. It’s one of the reasons that America shot ahead of the rest of the world in the 20th century. But there was always resistance. It took a Civil War to offer free public education to African American children, for example, and even then their public schooling was inferior to that offered to the Master Race of American Anglos. It still is.

The Brown Vs Topeka Supreme Court case in 1954 signaled a renewed fight for fair education. Whites were encouraged to fight against fairness in a number of interesting ways. One way was to move to white suburbs. One way was to create “magnet schools.” These “magnets” drew off the most outspoken activist parents and gave them what they wanted — decent education for their own kids — while leaving the rest of the kids, largely those with parents who had to work, behind.

They loosened the restraints on home schooling for the parents who didn’t have to work. Another way was to push for school vouchers so that tax money could be used for private schools. Yet another way was to push for “charter schools” to use tax money in ways that were out of the control of the people.

It’s the same fight that we were having during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but in different forms.

Who Wants to Destroy Public Education?

The people with the most money want to stop paying taxes. A lot of federal money, and the largest part of any state budget, goes to education. That’s tax money that rich people would rather not pay. After all, their kids don’t even need the public schools. They have always had better schools, before the Civil War and after.

In this regard, wealthy people’s desire to stop paying taxes, the effort to undermine public schooling fits into the larger explanation of what’s wrong in American politics today. In order to maintain their profits and beat their international competitors, wealthy Americans are trying to contain their costs. We are their costs. Public school children are their costs, in their view.

Public schools retain all their traditional enemies, too. Religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular head the list. They think they can get public money to promote their superstitions. In the short run, they can, because the very wealthy welcome any help they can get to destroy public education. Look at poor Louisiana!

In the long run, the very wealthy don’t want to pay for Catholic schools, either, so their little cabal won’t endure very far beyond the collapse of public education. The Catholics will be left at the altar once their usefulness is over.

Just to be Clear

State legislatures have been cutting public education funding for some time. It is especially true in states where right-wing Republicans have seized control. First they drain away all the resources, then they impose crazy unreasonable rules, then they piously claim that the schools are “failing.” Then they cut some more and pass some more rules.

One doesn’t have to be smart to figure out that they intend to rob American children of their right to a decent education.

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Fight Back

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the main unions, are forming coalitions with community groups to clarify the issues and direct the fightback. I’m proud that the main labor federation, AFL-CIO, backs them.

As usual, our enemies have many ways to divide us. They say that they are magnanimously seeking ways to overcome school “failures.” They say they are promoting “innovation,” and “school choice.” They are spending a lot of money to buy politicians and do direct advertising.

That’s why I got the stupid mailing about “school choice week.”

–Gene Lantz

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

 

 

 

I feel that I should explain, especially to those people who avoid me. It’s true that I’m incapable of cordial conversation. In no time, I turn almost every conversation into an “ask” for this or that. Sometimes I’m after contributions to the retiree cause, sometimes I want people to come to something, sometimes I ask them to “make a few calls.”

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Here’s my excuse: I have an urgent sense of history unfolding.

We Think We’re in Normal Times

In normal times, things go on pretty much as they have. There are no sharp changes in normal times. We think it’s “just the way things are,” and the inference is that they have always been that way.

But there are no normal times. Nothing is static, everything is constantly changing. When little, barely noticeable, changes start to accumulate, then giant, sudden changes occur. I saw one of those little changes in my e-mail today. It said that Republicans are proposing another $492 million cut in the Social Security Administration’s budget. It’s just one of many relatively “little” changes that undermine the American standard of living. It’s been going on since 1980.

I also saw, today, that the latest Texas Voter Suppression law is going into effect. I saw that President Trump is saber-rattling, again, against North Korea. He added Iran this past week.

These little changes undermining our standard of living and taking away our democracy so that we can’t fight back, are likely to add up to a big change. It’s impossible to predict when, but it’s foolish to ignore the truth that the big change is looming more likely.

Two Big Changes Ahead

If the coalition of big-money funders and ignorant reactionary pawns continues to get its way, America is going fascist. Who would deny that incipient fascism is already upon us? Who would fail to admit the direction they are taking us? Who would fail to notice that fascism, the total extinction of democracy with working people completely under the thumbs of corporate masters, is exactly what they intend?

The other big change that might occur is a defeat of the big money funders and ignorant reactionary pawns. An enlightened and activated populace may yet join together into an irresistible progressive force that will regain the upper hand for democracy and begin a new path to peace and progress.

Pick One

Those with an urgent sense of history know that one of those big changes is coming. You can have one or the other but you can’t have neither. You can’t have “normal times.”

That’s why I ask people to study and to get active in the most meaningful way. That’s why I’m such a pain in the butt.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out http://lilleskole.org

 

For the past several weeks, I’ve been hosting on-line meetings on digital organizing.

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It’s not that I know a lot about it. I do these meetings because they need doing. Our progressive movement is exploding like an adolescent in a growth spurt. But, like an adolescent, it isn’t very well coordinated and doesn’t seem to know where it’s going.

The on-line part of the work could bring us together, it could coordinate our activities, and it could help turn this strong but clumsy adolescent into the soldier we need.

Techies Don’t Usually Set Organizational Policy

I have been around computers since 1963. In business and in politics, the techies usually get called into strategy meetings, but only to provide a general idea of what is possible. The overall goals of each organization are set by somebody else, and the techies shoehorn their abilities into someone else’s parameters.

It’s still like that within most organizations. Some glaring exceptions are  MoveOn and Facebook — where the techies created and ran the entire operation.

Today’s Techies Run Wild

Almost everybody with a computer, or even with a smart phone, has the potential today to play a big role in politics — for good or for evil. In our mish-mosh progressive movement, the techies create their own strategies, if they have any at all, and they tend to go every which-a-way.

There are a lot of classes, some excellent ones are on-line, about digital organizing, but they are primarily concerned with HOW to implement various technologies. I see very little about WHY?

That’s why I freely admit that I’ve been doing this for thirty years and still don’t know what I’m doing.

Disseminating Information Is Not Enough

If we know a lot about communications and social media, we can reach a lot of people with a lot of information. So what? If we aren’t working together to build a progressive movement that can stand up to the challenges from the other side, the 1%, the enemy, then why throw out all this info?

Organizing, even the segment of organizing called digital, means joining people together for a common purpose. It isn’t how many people we can reach, it’s how many we can move!

Organizations Often Work Against One Another

Who doesn’t dream of unity? But it’s just a dream if we don’t take stock of the very real reasons that disunity persists in the progressive movement. We have to recognize obstacles if we are to overcome them.

One big obstacle, probably the biggest, is how the “progressive” organizations are funded. In general, we beg for donations from the people who have money. Often as not, they are, as a class, the very people we are trying to overcome. The donor class keeps all of us begging and, far worse, competing against each other for contributions.

If we asked individuals about the need for unity, almost all of them will agree. But those same individuals, working in “progressive” organizations, are primarily competitors for money, not co-operators. As a movement, we’re killing ourselves with our own opportunism!

There are other reasons for disunity, of course. Big egos get in the way. Deliberate saboteurs and agent provocateurs are among us all the time.  Our adolescent obsessions with one part of the progressive movement over the others disunites us. Arguments over tactics are often a source of friction. Putting aside tactics, we don’t really even agree on our major goals.

Unity Requires Agreed-Upon Principles

The first thing the progressive movement should agree on is what we are trying to do. That goal is to overcome those who are now running the world (into the ground) and implement a better, more democratic, system.

The second is an overall strategy based on empowering working families, as opposed to bosses. The bosses are running things now, for their own benefit, and their employees have very little say-so about the important things. Unions, because they represent working families, are especially important.

Then comes tactics. Progressives should be taking part in every arena of political struggle that benefits working people and disadvantages our bosses. Everything we do that makes our side stronger and their side weaker is a good tactic.

Our resources vary, and some tactics are better than others. That’s why we need democratic discussion among ourselves to sort out the best immediate activities. But the guideline, the first thing, always has to be uppermost in our thinking.

So, What Do We Do Right Now?

Figure out which activities are best moving us toward our goal. Use our digital magic to boost those progressive activities. Participate in the ideological discussion around those actions so that participants will get all possible value from being part of it. Agitate, educate, and organize!

–Gene Lantz

I invite your opinions. I’m on http://knon.org 89.3FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 Central Time

Yesterday, May 3, we celebrated Pete Seeger’s birthday at our house.

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With a few musically inclined friends, we sang and played some of Pete’s better-known hits.

Linda Coleman gave a short talk and conducted a discussion about Pete’s life. She was particularly incensed that he was blacklisted for so much of the time when the world needed him most. We hooked a computer up to the TV so we could watch Pete’s videos on YouTube.

Their Culture Is All Over Us, and All In Us

On my radio show, I often make the point that almost everything a person reads, or sees, or hears, in America was either written by the bosses or approved by them. They own almost all the movie studios, the TV channels, the book publishers, the music producers, etc. We can’t avoid their culture because it’s in the very air we breath, and, like their other pollution, it’s not good for us.

Their culture teaches us that we are helpless, that we can’t change anything, that things are the way they have always been, and, worst of all, their culture teaches us alienation from one another. “Life is a jungle,” they tell us constantly.

Pete Seeger, of course, contributed to a culture that uplifted us and brought us together. That’s why they were so eager to blacklist him.

You Can’t Escape Their Influence, But…

If we recognize their culture and we recognize our culture, and we learn the difference between them, we can cope. That’s why it’s important to celebrate Pete Seeger’s birthday, and a lot of other important birthdays and anniversaries.

By the way, Woody Guthrie was born July 14.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on 89.3 FM in Dallas and http://knon.org all over the world, 9AM Central Time

 

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

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

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

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

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

Doesn’t Matter Where You Start

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

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

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

Follow the Money

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

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

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

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

Read a Good Biography

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

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

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

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

The Monster Isn’t A Person

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

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

–Gene Lantz

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

I recently wrote down a decent political program, but how could it be implemented?

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The Trick Is to Know What You Want

If a political program is to be implemented, its supporters have to be clear on it and keep it fresh in mind. That’s why the one I wrote is so brief.

Everyone has a certain amount of resources and a certain number of opportunities. Nearly all of us are short of money and time, but we usually have some of one or the other. But we have to pick and choose, carefully, which opportunities we will pursue with our limited resources. Some of them move us closer to the ultimate goal of the political program, and others not so much.

All Strategies and Tactics are Good

The catch is that strategies and tactics are only good in their proper place and time. A mass rally might be the best thing for a May Day activity, or a general strike might be. A letter writing campaign might be good in some situations, but probably not for May Day. It’s all good, but only when it fits the situation!

Can You Trust the Leadership?

Nowadays, new “leaders” are under every rock in the garden. We’re being pulled every whichaway by this or that organization or cause. As I explained in another blog, I tend to follow the AFL-CIO organized labor federation because, whether they are right or wrong, they are always working class and a united working class is the only long-term solution. Also, I’ve been working with these guys for a long long time, so I know their abilities, their intentions, and their shortcomings.

Whose Ax? Whose Ox?

Nearly all organizations and all their activities have short term goals. Some of those short-term goals advance a decent long term political program, but not all of them, and some always more than others. What they do depends on whose ax is being ground, and whose ox has been gored. Even some of our greatest leaders have to be viewed with a certain skepticism.

Take Bernie Sanders, for example. Senator Sanders is probably the most widely respected progressive leader in the United states today, and one would have to go back several years to find someone as deserving of respect. His book from September 2016, which I reviewed, has a wonderful list of things that need to be accomplished. And yet, they consist in their entirety of reforms which, if won, could still be taken away in another period.

None of Our Gains, So Far, Have Been Permanent

There are not and will not be any permanent gains for working people as long as our bosses run the system. Everything we can win — civil rights, voting rights, pay raises — can be taken away by the bosses, and will be taken away whenever they get the chance!

Even the finest organizations such as NAACP and Children’s Defense Fund have limited, temporary, goals. Not that activists shouldn’t support them, but we should support them with the realization that they will only take us a limited distance toward our ultimate goal.

Who and What Shall We Shun?

Are there arenas of political activity that we should avoid? Lots of “radicals” don’t believe in elections. Lots of liberals don’t believe in street actions. Hardly anybody in America believes in general strikes because we don’t know beans about them. Some unionists are always wanting to strike, others are always wanting to cozy up to the bosses. Some people make a fetish of civil disobedience, other people wouldn’t go near it. Some would say that only economics matters, while others would say that art and culture are the only way to make a difference. All of them are wrong.

As I said above, all strategies and tactics are good in the right place and time. The same goes for arenas of struggle. People who eschew elections are non-thinking zealots. People who will never support a strike action are probably cowards or sell-outs. Or, at least, we should admit that, even if we’re not zealous, venal or cowardly, we’re all ignorant.

The test of any opportunity is “How far does it take us toward our ultimate  programmatic goal?

There are no blueprints. We may study previous situations and their heroes until our eyes pop out, and we still won’t know exactly what to do in the next situation. But, if we apply ourselves consciously, study, collaborate with people we respect, stay active and keep our programmatic yardstick handy, we can refine our ability to choose.

That’s an organization plan.