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I organized a musical event for July 14 at the CWA Local 6215 hall in Dallas. We celebrated Bastille Day and Woody Guthrie’s birthday. As far as I know, it was the first of
its kind in Dallas history. It came out very well. About 50-55 people, including 6 performers, had a great time. There was a lot of good will. I’m not sure how much money we
raised for KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program, but we raised $534.25 that I know of for Dallas AFL-CIO.

But why did I do it?

I’ve organized cultural events before. In general, I’m motivated by a desire to restore the kind of cultural traditions that helped build the American labor movement during
its great upsurge, 1935-1947. I also like to try to combine the labor movement with other progressive elements, in fact that’s what I’m usually trying to do — build unity. As
for fund raising, I’m always raising money for my program on KNON. But I had a special reason for making this one a fund raiser for the Dallas AFL-CIO.

It is my opinion that the labor movement is being bled to death by Donald J Trump and the Republican party. The recent Supreme Court, Janus Vs AFSCME, will deplete labor’s
finances by millions of dollars. Trump’s executive orders driving federal unions out of their workplace offices will cost a lot. The concerted effort of such savage anti-
worker organizations as the National Right to Work Committee and many others is designed to discourage workers and stop dues payments. Many state legislatures are trying to
stop or hinder dues collections.

I don’t know any numbers, and the labor movement is not likely to start advertising its weaknesses, but I think it’s fair to assume that they really need money. I knew I
could’t raise a lot of money with a simple singalong on July 14, but I also knew that we have to start changing people’s attitudes about financing the labor movement. That was
my motivation. I’m pleased with the result.

Here’s What Happened

If you missed the event, you might want to read what was said and watch videos of what was sung. Here are my notes.

Host’s introductions and comments:

Introduce Dallas AFL-CIO principal officer Mark York. He will include greetings from Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy as follows:

“I can’t think of a better quote about labor songs and culture than from the man himself [Woody Guthrie]:

‘I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for
nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad
luck or hard travelling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your
world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that
make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you. I could hire out to the
other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kind that knock you down still farther and the
ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think that you’ve not got any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I’d starve to death before I’d
sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that
anyhow.’

‘We have to make our own songs and our own culture and remember who we are and what we are fighting for. Thanks to you and the folks putting this together for reminding us to
always be true to our best nature and be proud of who we are.” –Rick Levy

Host (me): Thank you for being here to help us revive labor’s cultural heritage. It’s a singalong. You should have a song sheet with the words to the chorus of some great
songs.

When you leave today, I’d like to have your contact information on the back of the song sheets so you can learn about future events.

Why do we say that Woody Guthrie is America’s greatest songwriter? He began his singing career in the 1930s and was taken from public view by 1950, so hardly anybody in this
room has any direct memories of him. Some of you know the name of his son, Arlo Guthrie, and some of you may know some of the songs that he wrote, but he wrote hundreds and
had a profound effect on the progressive movement in America. That’s why we’re celebrating him today.

Woody put working people first. Almost all of his songs are about working families, and many of them are about organizing. One of the most famous is “Union Maid,” brought to
you here by Linda Coleman. She’ll sing the verses, but she wants you to help her sing the chorus

Union Maid and some introductory video: https://youtu.be/rkq8dK0GP6o

Woody Guthrie popularized the “Talking blues.” You’ve heard this style from Nobel-prize-winner Bob Dylan. But you may never have asked where Dylan got his style. Let’s have a
couple of talking blues from Brother Kenneth Williams:

Talking Union
Mean Talking Blues: https://youtu.be/oxMKDrDGZ0g

Woody sang for unions, for people on strike, and for organizing drives. Here is Kenny Winfree with Woody’s song: “You Gotta Go Down”
You Gotta Go Down and Join the Union: https://youtu.be/ynQqbpRM_bw

Almost any book of folk songs will have more Woody Guthrie tunes than those from any other writer. He wrote songs about everything. Pete Seeger tells the story of the
blacklist time when the FBI was arresting, deporting, or intimidating every progressive artist in America. The FBI actually visited Woody and Pete, and Pete said it really was
intimidating. But he said Woody laughed about it and immediately wrote a new song: Would I point a gun for my country.

All folk music is very close to gospel music. When Woody was just a little boy in Okemah, Oklahoma, his mother sang gospel and folk music to him. James Kille brings you some
of Woody’s original lyrics:
Jesus Christ: https://youtu.be/OdsBZHJ6ePY

In the tradition of original folk music, we bring you this satire by our own Dallas group: The Billionaires
Billionaire song (in previous video I think)

Fund Pitch:
All his life, Woody Guthrie was committed to the progressive movement, and so are we. We’d like to have your help in keeping two pillars of progressivism going strong: KNON
radio and the Dallas AFL-CIO. KNON allows the “Workers Beat” every Saturday at 9 AM. We advertise as many progressive events as we can find out, and we explain why people need
to join the movement. The very center of the movement in Dallas is the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council. The labor movement has put its old isolation behind it and is a
fundamental part of progressivism today. It takes money to run these things, and they’re always short. As Woody used to say when they asked him if he was a communist: “Well, I
might be, I’ve been in the red all my life.”

Please fill out the pledge form in your brochures. You can get all the paperwork done with Bonnie Mathis, who has her computer warmed up and waiting for you. When you get
finished, how about some free lunch and a beer? We’ll start the music up as soon as the artists all eat.
Fund Pitch

Noon: Lunch break

Ashaken Farewell
Shenandoah (Included with “Philadelphia lawyer” below)

Introduce the performers? At least Jon Gentry on violin. Ben Willett recording us.

Woody loved to write about cowboys, and he had fun with everything he did. Next James Kille, Linda Coleman, and I will bring you one of Woody’s ballads.
Philadelphia Lawyer: https://youtu.be/sewKC7EVysw

Today, the treatment of immigrants is an international scandal. Woody was sensitive to the problem when he wrote this song, presented to you by Anthony Esparza.
Deportee: https://youtu.be/iYGiR-TN3LQ

All of us are pretty much amateurs except for Kenny Winfree. I asked him to do a couple of extra numbers before we get back to Woody Guthrie
Kenny Winfree extra songs: https://youtu.be/dSKUtCbKv2o

Back around 1990, My wife and I visited Okemah, Oklahoma, where Woody was born in 1912. We asked people about Woody and they said “We don’t talk about him here.” Within a few
years, they changed their tune and now the Woody Guthrie annual festival is an important national event. It’s a sign of the times: As the government gets crazier, the people
are getting more sane.

Oklahoma may not have loved Woody all the time during his lifetime, but Woody sure loved Oklahoma! Join me in the chorus please!
Oklahoma Hills: https://youtu.be/AsHSSSw9UmI

In Woody’s time, the biggest issue became the fascist takeover of Europe. Woody fought it every way he could. Some people would say that we need a fight like that now!
All You Fascists Bound to Lose: https://youtu.be/-X5wHfLfKhc

Americans come together around Woody’s songs. Let’s join in on the chorus for this one.
This Land is Your Land: https://youtu.be/oL8RNiIi3qI

THANKS FOR COMING!

Movie Review: “Woman Walks Ahead,” Directed by Susanna White, 1 hour, 43 minutes

Woman_Walks_Ahead

On the 4th of July, my movie buddy and I learned about people who probably weren’t celebrating the birth of this nation and all the freedom we supposedly enjoy.

Some of the historical background is on Wikipedia. The story starts in 1889 when a painter named Caroline Weldon from Brooklyn comes to the Standing Rock reservation to make a portrait of the great Sitting Bull. In this version, she stays close to him to the end of his life.

If Sitting Bull and Caroline Weldon were as sexy and good-looking as Michael Greyeyes and Jessica Chastain, their Hollywood versions, romance would be inevitable. To the credit of the movie, though, there is very little romantic diversion from the essential story about the end of the great fighting nation and its chief.

The movie makers were challenged to depict a situation of incredible humiliation, degradation, deliberate starvation, racist violence, and genocide. They did a good job of it. The results are hard to watch in places. At the same time, one has to imagine that reality at the Standing Rock Reservation had to have been far worse.

Like some of the best Westerns, this one stars the scenery. The other actors are truly wonderful. Jessica Chastain underplays her role with an admirable professionalism. Michael Greyeyes brings a great and complicated man to life. The main racist villain, Sam Rockwell, is so evil and so broadly representative of the oppressive attitudes of the time that he nearly steals the movie. His is one of those characters that viewers can almost taste and smell.

The director gets the most praise because she tells an essential American story without skipping over its horror and without preaching about it. We count ourselves lucky to have found this movie. Others may have to look hard for it.

–Gene Lantz

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

 

 

 

 

a member of the National Indian Defense Association “NIDA”, reached out to Sitting Bull, acting to be his voice, secretary, interpreter and advocate.

 

 

Have you noticed the number of journalists getting killed lately?

It makes you stop and think about it. Around the world, journalists who try speaking truth to power are getting murdered. President Donald Trump isn’t helping when he tries to convince everybody that truth is fabricated, dark is light, and up is down. By constantly demonizing journalists, he’s painting a big bulls eye on their backs.

Which brings me to my letter to the editor printed today in the Dallas Morning News. It said that the recent decisions of the five anti-worker Supreme Court Justices reveal that they are opposed to democracy and would like to do away with it. The editors removed one word from my letter, “fascism.”

I equated the absence of democracy with fascism. If someone, like the Supremes, moves us away from democracy, they’re moving us toward fascism. That simple.

I try to explain things like that on my radio show every Saturday. Last Saturday a guy called to ask if I think all “conservatives” are also “fascists.” I said no, and I quoted conservative columnist David Brooks who recently wrote, “You can be a Republican or a Conservative, but not both.” He said true conservatives embrace democracy because they want freedom for all individuals.

If you aren’t for workers, I say, then you are automatically for corporations because their interests are opposite. Mussolini said that fascism was corporatism, and that makes sense to me.

I explore things like that all the time in my writing and on my radio show. Does that mean I’m in line to get killed? The studio is on the ground floor of an office building. Two sides are glass. Around my neighborhood, I’m always on my bicycle. Unprotected. I think that if I get to be as effective as I’d like to be in spreading the truth, I’d be in line to join the growing line of dead truth spreaders.

I thought about getting a gun, but that would kind of dilute the message, wouldn’t it?

 

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio 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.

gun

Movie Review, “1945,” Directed by Ferenc Török. 91 minutes

1945-2guys

I like to accuse my intellectual friends of only liking black-and-white movies in obscure dialects. They’d be sure to like “1945,” but almost anybody who likes good movies would, too.

It’s deceptively simple: Two tight-lipped Jewish guys come into a small Hungarian village immediately after World War II.

Can you imagine that? The all-gentile townspeople can. They have been dreading this coming every moment since their own participation in the holocaust.

I like filmmakers who understand their powerful medium and use it expertly. They don’t necessarily have to have wide screen, technicolor, computer graphics, or a cast of thousands to draw us moviegoers in and change us through art. This is a very sparse movie, like a tiny and innocent looking stick of dynamite.

The best movie comparison I could make is to “High Noon.” It’s not a cowboy movie, but the pacing and the tension it creates are similar. If you liked High Noon, you’d probably like “1945,” and who doesn’t like High Noon?

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. There are podcasts under the “events” tab. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

Book Review:

Levinson, Marc, “An Extraordinary Time. The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy.” Basic Books, New York, 2016. Dallas Public Library 330.9045 L665E

keynes-quot-inflation

The unusual economic period was the third quarter of the 20th century, also known as the Post War Boom, or the Golden Era. That’s when many people made good livings and some made fortunes. The “ordinary economy” in the title is what we have now – basic capitalism where some still make great fortunes but everybody else is struggling.

He takes an international approach. He points to a few national economies that did OK while the majority foundered, but mostly he shows the similar problems that the wealthy nations suffered after 1973. His point of departure was the oil crisis, but it might just as well have been the failure of the Bretton Woods international financial agreement 1945-1973.

I particularly enjoyed the way Levinson deflated the claims of various schemes of government intervention. He quotes figures to show that none of the much-vaunted “new” approaches actually did much to help after 1973. Reaganism was just as big a bust as any other “new” theory. Actually, they weren’t even new.

His international approach is far superior to what we usually read in American newspapers and political campaign advertisements. They only talk about what happened in America without regard for world changes. His way is better. For example, suppose an economist said that a certain new technology should have greatly improved manufacturing production in America. Maybe the reason it didn’t is because some other country did it better or cheaper. That’s pretty much what actually happened to American manufacturing, not some mistaken priorities within our own economy.

What limits this economics book is its commitment to capitalism. He dispenses with the Soviet Union’s economic travails in two pages. The rest is about the major capitalist economies. Nowhere in the book could one even ask the essential question of economics, “If we can produce enough for everybody, then why isn’t everybody doing OK?”

The set of statistics most critical for Levinson is those on productivity. He says that the Golden Age was golden because of high productivity in the wealthy nations. The crisis that began in 1973 and continues now was marked by substantially lower productivity. If productivity could be restored to high levels, everything would be just fine, according to Levinson. At the same time, he offers no suggestion as to how that could be done.

You might as well say, and I think Levinson does say, in so many words, “The Golden Age was just a fluke. Misery is the norm.” I recommend this book for its open-minded analysis and despite its conclusions.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 Central Time every Saturday. Podcasts can be found under the “events” tab. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

I just got the word, via Bruce Bostick of the Steelworkers, that Ed Sadlowski died yesterday.  He was one of the great American labor leaders who ultimately didn’t win.

sadkiwski-leaflet

It’s easy for us to remember the great leaders for working families if they rose to some title or office that makes the history books. What we don’t remember is the thousands who did the work but didn’t get the titles. The Sadlowski campaign for President of the Steelworkers was a landmark event in 1977, but Ed didn’t win the election.

After the draft was repealed in 1972, America’s big student movement dribbled away. For a lot of the 1960s-70s “radicals,” the progressive movement was over. You see them all the time. They’re the older guys with ponytails who love to talk about it, but it was only an interlude for them.

The young people who had been transformed by that great anti-war movement continued engaging in the many struggles for justice. Many of them still are. In general, though, they didn’t look to organized labor for causes. Unions did not want them. Most unions had ignored or opposed them throughout their political awakening and, to be frank, many of us had little or no hope for the union movement.

Sadlowski was a point of departure. His energetic fight for justice in the Steelworkers’ union showed that there were great things to be done in the union movement and great people were doing them. We flocked to the Sadlowski campaign, even to the point of giving up college career plans and getting Steelworker jobs.

Ed Sadlowski did not reject the outside help. He paid a price in red-baiting for that. I don’t think the red-baiting caused him to lose the election. He lost because he was bucking a mighty tide of conservatism and isolation in the American union movement, in my opinion. But the red-baiting hurt, too.

If we knew our labor history, we’d know that there were heroes in many unions who bucked the tide. Steel and the Miners Union may have been in the papers more, but it was going on in a lot of places.

I think the big payoff for the insurgents began in 1987 when a few unions started Jobs with Justice. In 1992, as I recall, there was a big conference of the more progressive unions to discuss the problems of low-paid workers. Then in 1995, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka, and Linda Chavez-Thompson overturned 100 years of continuous officeholding in the AFL-CIO. That’s when it really started getting good, and it’s improved every day since then!

The Ed Sadlowski’s may not get the titles and the awards, but they did the work for all of us.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. The “events” tab on the web site leads to recent podcasts. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.

President Trump is the champion of fair trade for American workers. Or is he destroying the hopes of all workers for a peaceful and beneficial world? Or does he even know what he’s doing?

me-nonafta

A lot of working families were won over by Trump’s promise to renegotiate so-called “trade” agreements and restore American jobs. People, including a lot of union people, are still hoping he will. Yesterday, he poked his finger into the eyes of several world leaders at the G7 meeting in Canada. He said he was representing American workers.

What’s “Fair,” What’s “Free?”

For decades, since the Clinton Administration at least, American unions have been campaigning on the slogan “Fair trade, not free trade.” We always say “We’re not against trade — we just want it fair.” But it’s been very hard for union leaders to resist xenophobia and isolationism, because those “isms,” — right along with nationalism and racism — are also against the trade deals that America negotiated since Clinton.

The people that knew what they were talking about presented the argument that the so-called “free trade” deals were only “free” for big transnational corporations — not for the working families in America or any other country. Big corporations received “freedom” to pay low wages and pollute, nobody else got anything. That’s why we opposed NAFTA and all the others leading up to the “Trans Pacific Partnership” that was still an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The people that knew what they were talking about actually favored trade deals if they included wage and environmental protection. But not everybody is so sophisticated. They hate the trade deals anyway. That’s why so many of them voted for Trump.

There’s a History to “Free Trade”

I recently read a complete history of Britain and found an interesting reference. When Britain “ruled the waves” and ruled the world, their slogan was “free trade.” From the time they defeated Napolean until World War I, the English favored what they called “free trade.” They didn’t , at least not immediately, necessarily open their own markets, but they wanted everybody else, especially their many colonies in Asia and Africa, to open theirs.

In other words, “free trade” meant, then and now, the “freedom” of one country’s corporate rulers to exploit everybody else. Another word for it is modern imperialism.

After World War I, and especially after World War II, when the United States took over world trade, corporations wanted “free trade” for the exact same reasons. But the “freedom” was always for the exploiters and never for the exploited, then and now.

Everything Ends

There are different ways to look at the Trump program on trade issues. Economists and pundits are arguing that he’s destroying the world and setting us back centuries. Trump and his supporters say he is restoring fairness. Xenophobes and racists are rooting for him, as they have all along.

But there’s another, more interesting way to look at Trump’s trade wars. American economic domination is coming to an end. It actually ended in the 1970s, according to some. Since then, international leaders have simply agreed to keep the system in place even though the United States is living on credit and has been for decades. The post-war system put in place by the United States after WWII has actually fallen apart. Donald Trump is just an opportunist trying to turn the situation to his own benefit.

A Real Solution to the Trade Wars

Modern nations were created by capitalism. Each nation is run by and for the bosses. Their economic and political decisions are made for the benefit of the dominant class — the capitalist class. That includes much more than trade deals and treaties. It also includes global pollution, war and genocide.

It is theoretically possible that the various governments, as presently constituted, could cooperate on trade in a way that would benefit the inhabitants of the various nations. But that’s only in theory. It has never worked that way because the inhabitants, us, were never in charge. We still aren’t, and there will be no solution until we are.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. The “events” tab on the web site leads to recent podcasts. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.