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To go on strike basically means to stop working until some particular demand is met.

strikelondon

Since Trump was elected, I have received two calls for a general strike. One was for January 21, the other is pending, February 17.  No exact demands accompanied on either one. I think it’s dangerous business, but must be considered.

What Is a Strike?

The word comes from British sailors who would “strike sails” and refuse to take their ships to sea. A “general strike” in a given area means that everybody, not just one particular organization or category of people, stops working until their demands are met. General strikes may not be over economic issues, but political.

Since the U.S. government moved against the union movement in 1947, the only union strikes we have seen were limited to one union, the few other unions legally able and willing to participate, and whatever community support a local union could get. Usually since 1947, American union locals have faced their employers virtually alone.

Prior to 1947, in fact in 1946 in Houston, there were general strikes in America. Probably the most dramatic and best-remembered was the strike for the 8-hour day, worldwide, May 1, 1886. Like most general strikes with potential for change, it was met with armed violence from the employers and their government.

We hear of general strikes in other countries from time to time. Over there, unions are involved but it is unlikely, given their legal situation, that organized labor would call any  general strike in America today. That doesn’t mean somebody else couldn’t!

Strikes Are Part of Economic Struggle

A strike is not the only form of economic struggle, as differentiated from armed struggle or electoral struggle. Any kind of refusal to cooperate with the employers’ system of production fits the description. Workers might, for example, try a “slowdown.” Lately, union leaders call it “work to rule” and ask employees to do only what they are required to do legally and by contract, nothing more. In modern strikes, especially since Reagan, people sometimes lose their jobs. With slowdowns, there’s less risk of job loss. But a slowdown is a harder to organize and carry out.

Economic boycotts are economic struggles. The United Farm Workers carried out an effective one in the early 1970s against grape growers. Economic boycotts, like general strikes are very easily called by some unthinking hothead, but extremely difficult to carry out.

The employers and the government may be counted on to team up quickly against any kind of economic struggle by workers.

Who Wins? Who Loses?

According to the employers, workers always lose every strike. Even if the strike has short duration, the workers at minimum have to go some time without income. The strain on families and friendships is terrific. Nowadays, when many workers are carrying heavy loads of debt, the thought of a strike, even for a few days, terrifies everybody.

According to the workers, we win pretty much every strike. Even if our demands weren’t met, we feel that we’ve stood up for our dignity and for the dignity of all working people.

But putting points of view aside, the actual winner of a strike is generally the side that holds out one day longer than the other side. “One Day Longer” makes a good workers’ slogan and is the title of one of my songs.

“Winning” for us means getting whatever we wanted. “Winning” for the bosses means getting whatever they wanted plus the ability to take retaliatory action against every worker that crossed them.

A Strike Is Serious Business

A successful strike is one that grew out of careful analysis of the situation and had good planning and strong leadership. A good example was the three-month strike recently carried out by the Fort Worth Symphony Musicians. Somebody needs to write a book about that one.

Calling a strike without careful analysis, good planning and strong leadership is irresponsible and likely to get lose and get people fired. It isn’t much better than calling “fire” in a crowded movie theater.

But We Need Economic Struggle, and We Need It Now

I can only think of one thing worse right now than an irresponsible call for economic struggle — and that is no call for economic struggle.

Every American who is not a fool knows we need to resist the attacks underway. Economic struggle is, right now, our best option.

Don’t Go Off Half-Cocked

We need careful study and careful planning to win any economic struggle. Fortunately, we have the ability to do that thanks to modern communications. We could, for example, call for a “virtual strike” over a certain demand and for a certain day. We could make our preparations virtually. We could sign up the people willing to participate and, afterward, evaluate the results. Then we could call another one and see how it goes.

Study up, think it through, and share your thoughts.

–Gene Lantz

I talk about these things on KNON.org’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 Central Time every Saturday. 89.3FM in Dallas. If you want to know what I really think, click here.

Bernie Sanders, “Our Revolution—A Future to Believe In.” St Martin’s Press ebook, September 26, 2016. Available from Amazon Books and on Kindle

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S’Wonderful, S’Marvelous!

This must-read book details two important political contributions:

  1. A blow-by-blow account of the miraculous Bernie presidential campaign
  2. Detailed explanation of legislation needed to rescue and advance the people of our nation

The account of the campaign answers the question about how they managed to get so far toward the Democratic Party nomination when they started with virtually nothing and refused to sell out to big contributors. Most of America and even Bernie seem to be surprised at how well people responded to a truthful, direct, approach to America’s actual needs. It’s an inspiring story that needs to be studied.

Part Two, “An Agenda for a New America: How We Transform Our Country” details the problems we face and proposes practical solutions in the form of legislation needed. In many cases, Bernie Sanders had already proposed proper legislation in Congress. In general, his proposals are designed to:

  • Restore and advance democracy
  • Remedy injustices, including racial injustices
  • Restore equality
  • Fix the economy

But It’s No Good

The big problem with Bernie’s wonderful book is the last line, “September 26, 2016.” He completed the book before Donald Trump’s upset victory for the presidency and before Republicans completed their take-over of all three branches of the federal government plus the majority of state governments.

So what do you do with wonderful proposals for legislation when progressive legislation has almost no possibility of passage? What do you do with an inspirational story of a hopeful electoral campaign when our foundation of democracy is crumbling?

Apparently, Bernie thought, on September 26, 2016, what most Americans thought – that the Democrats would have a big victory on November 8. The glaring fact that they didn’t, and the anti-democratic trends already underway, put new perspective on politics in 2017. Bernie’s thoughts of September 2016 are certainly good to know, and actually kind of miraculous to behold, but not much actual use, are they?

We’re going to have to do some thinking of our own.

Some Positive Suggestions

Rather than leave off on such a negative note, let me make a couple of general proposals that might be helpful in 2017

  1. Electoral politics is not the only form of struggle. The most important power that working people have is our ability to withhold our economic cooperation. It is essential, therefore, to dedicate ourselves to organizing workers – to vote, yes, but to work together in other ways too.
  2. We may think that history only repeats itself, but it doesn’t. Bernie Sanders (and also Donald Trump) campaigned on the idea of re-setting the calendar to some earlier date, but we can’t go backward even if we tried. We have an entirely new situation that needs entirely new proposals. For example, we don’t need to fix the Electoral College or even the electoral system as it exists. We need direct participation in government decisions, and for the first time in human history, direct participation is now possible!
  3. Economies can’t be re-set to earlier times. Sanders, and other writers, seem to want to move us backward to pre-Reagan days. Trump apparently wants us some time before the Civil War. We actually need proposals that account for our present situation and then advance into a better future. For example, if certain financial institutions are “too big to fail,” Bernie Sanders suggests that they are “too big to exist” and need to be downsized to the levels of the 1990s. With our present technological abilities, we don’t need them in the downsized version either. If they are “too big to fail,” certain banks and insurance companies need to be taken over and run for the public good.

We must be grateful to Bernie Sanders and others who have taught us so much. A great future awaits!

–Gene Lantz

Hear “Workers Beat” on KNON radio, 89.3FM and knon.org every Saturday at 9 CST

Click here if you want to know what I really think

We can hang together or separately, as the saying goes.

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We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately!

 

Almost everybody I’ve talked to wants to “do something” right away as concerns the anti-worker government anticipated  for January 20, 2017. For several nights after the election results were announced, thousands protested in the streets of several cities, including mine. As far as I could find out, they had a lot of enthusiasm but no program, no structure, and no strategy.

A month and a half later, we still don’t.

I’ve been asking around about inauguration weekend. So far, it sounds like there will be three rallies, one march, some people going off to the state capital and others going to the national capital. There are probably several more activities being cooked up.

The problem is that there is no coordination among them. As far as I’ve been able to find out, each of them is sponsored by one separate group of people and has demands created by and for solely that group.

Can We Afford to Stay Divided?

As far as I know, the progressive movement in my town (Dallas) has always been divided this way and that.  Every naive young innocent who ever got involved has said, “We’ve got to get together!” And of course it’s true, but I’ve never seen anybody do it.

The book I’ve been promoting, “Runaway Inequality” talks about “silos” and says that all the progressive groups are in their own silos. The solution, says author Les Leopold, is that we have to come out of our silos and start working together. He doesn’t say why we’re in those silos to begin with, nor how to get out.

The basic reason for the silos is funding. Nearly all “progressive” organizations have to raise money. In that sense, they are competitors for the almighty dollar, not partners in any real sense. No matter what high-minded reasons people may have had for creating an organization, their main purpose in life soon becomes raising enough money to pay staff salaries, not whatever they originally intended to accomplish. In a very real sense, they are exactly like churches, most of whom seem to have lost their sense of purpose centuries ago, and they have to raise money or die! How do you change that?

You have to appeal to individuals. Bernie Sanders showed us that it can be done and how to do it.

Why Can’t We Just Hit the Streets?

The main problem with “knee jerk” activism is that it doesn’t go anywhere. Witness the Occupy movement that had thousands of charged-up protesters. They had no program, in fact they deliberately avoided having a program. As a result, they left nothing behind but some really good slogans and memories. But there’s another, very serious, reason to be cautious about spontaneous street actions.

Leftists may not continue to own the streets in America. Remember, that the progressives in Germany tried to take on the better-organized, more unscrupulous, and better financed Storm Troopers in the streets, but it didn’t work out well for them!

In our lifetimes, leftists and leftist causes pretty much ruled the streets. The fascists have stayed inside the corporate boardrooms and left picketing, street rallies, and marches to the riff-raff (us). But Mr Trump regularly puts together rallies of tens of thousands of hotheads today, and he has already shown that he’s willing to encourage violence against any detractor!

I’m not saying we shouldn’t rule the streets. But we aren’t in the same situation we were in before November 8, 2016. It’s different now.

One Proposal for Unity

Progressive people who want to survive and thrive during the Trump Administration need serious strategies for coordinated activity. My proposal is a series of “teach ins,” conference calls, and, possibly, “retreats” to work on programs and to coordinate activities. At the very least, we could set up a “clearing house” function so that different groups would know what the others were planning.

Labor, as the most responsible and most consistently progressive part of the left, needs to center itself in this process.

Everybody going their own whichaway isn’t affordable any more.

–Gene Lantz

Hear “Workers Beat” on KNON radio, 89.3FM and knon.org every Saturday at 9 CST

Click here if you want to know what I really think

 

 

 

 

A New York Times article on December 15, 2016, “Bots at War For Your Soul,” explains that some of the arguments on twitter are actually generated by, and carried out by, robots!

What kind of jobs

We never ask “What kind of jobs?” Will we fall for anything and everything?

How could anybody fall for such an outlandish scam? A lot of us do, according to the article. I’d be a little more sanctimonious about it if I hadn’t also fallen into a stupid “flame war” on email just yesterday.

We’re being told in yesterday’s newspaper that Russians actually guided the 2016 elections into the Trump win column. People fell for that. We’re told, all the time, that “fake news” stories, especially on social media, confused the electorate and the general political scene?

Why?

Some of the answers are obvious. For example, we tend to believe things that we see over and over, and, since almost all of our Facebook and Twitter friends believe the same things we do, over and over is how information is presented to us. But that’s not the fundamental problem.

The fundamental problem with belief in America is that we have given up our objectivity. We’ve ditched the scientific approach. We’ve become addicts for information that suits us and fits into the frameworks we’ve already established. We’re suckers. We don’t believe our own senses, and we don’t check facts.

Just to prove my point, I offer you the 2016 election results.  Snake oil consumption on a mass scale!

If we ever sober up, I am hoping that we re-evaluate the fundamental difference between all philosophies: some of them are materialistic and the rest are idealistic. The idealistic people can believe almost anything. Their only test for truth is whether or not it “feels right.” The materialistic ones favor facts and science. The idealistic ones believe that “truth is in the eye of the beholder.” The materialistic ones believe that truth is truth — it may be hard to discover, but it’s still truth.

Scientists, when they’re being scientists, are materialists because it’s the only way they can make progress. At home watching TV, they may become romanticists and superstitious fools, but that’s just for recreation. All of us are materialists when it really matters, when it comes to getting our cars to run or our computers to work, but we are constantly subjected to the boss’s philosophy, idealism, in all our movies, all our TV, nearly all our books, etc. Idealism is the philosophy used by Voodoo religionists, crooked politicians and our employers.

–Gene Lantz

If you’re interested in what I actually think, click here

During the next period, we’re going to need to organize quickly. To that end, I started a text reminder service for my class on labor relations. You can join it by texting “@laborrel” to the phone number “81010.”

When something important comes up, or if something changes quickly, I’ll text you. It came up just last Saturday, when I asked thousands of people to join the musicians’ picket line in Fort Worth, then found out at the last minute that somebody had cancelled it. Those who had my texting service saved themselves a trip to downtown Fort Worth. Of course, I also told everybody by e-mail, but that’s not as immediate as texting.

A few people have kidded me about using the name “Dr. Lantz” on my labor relations class. The truth is, I hope to see a lot more worker educational activities and the texting service will come in handy for everybody involved. Besides, I really am Dr. Lantz.

diplomadoctorate

–Gene Lantz

Listen to “Workers Beat” at 9 CST every Saturday morning on 89.3FM and http://knon.org

If you want to know what I really think, look at my life’s lessons site