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Movie review, “Churchill,” Directed by Jonathan Teplitzk, 110 minutes

churchillquote

I can only think of one good reason to go and see the new biopic, “Churchill.” It’s an opportunity to see the great Miranda Richardson, who plays his wife.

The movie takes place in the last few days before June 6, 1944, when Allied forces invaded Normandy. Sir Winston is portrayed as a greatly flawed hero, but a hero all the same. It’s all dialogue with, it seems, millions of closeups of the old gentleman’s kindly and concerned face. The real Churchill looked exactly like a bulldog. Compassion is the last thing one would associate with him.

But in this movie, he tries to stop Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery from invading France out of his overwhelming compassion for young soldiers. The reason given is his sense of guilt over the massacre at Gallipoli during World War I. He has been blamed for that and it’s inferred in this movie.

To give credit where it is due, Sir Winston’s rhetoric helped inspire and organize the Britons through extreme duress. We still listen to his speeches, and one of them is the high point of this film effort. But that is no excuse for boring moviegoers for nearly two hours and presenting one of the least-admirable characters of British history as someone to love.

Far from compassion, Churchill burned with elitism and anti-semitism. He helped make anti-communism a world religion. Among the many world figures who allowed Hitler to gain enough power to threaten the entire world, Churchill is a standout. Hitler came to power in Germany because he was seen as the best way to overcome German communism, and Churchill was a co-thinker. Instead of stopping the fascists in Spain, or earlier or later, the “great powers” allowed him to build his great war machine in hopes that he would throw it against the Soviet Union first.

I find it impossible to associate Churchill with compassion for soldiers for one main reason: he advocated for war after World War II was over and done. It was Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech that popularized the cold war.

Try an internet search for “Churchill and anticommunism.” Here are a few of the things that pop up:

“…His deep early admiration of Benito Mussolini was rooted in his shrewd appreciation of what Mussolini had accomplished (or so he thought). In an Italy teetering on the brink of Leninist revolution, Il Duce had discovered the one formula that could counteract the Leninist appeal: hypernationalism with a social slant. Churchill lauded “Fascismo’s triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism,” claiming that “it proved the necessary antidote to the Communist poison.” From “Churchill Extols Fascismo for Italy” New York Times, January 21, 1927. Churchill even had admiring words for Hitler; as late as 1937, he wrote: “one may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.” James, “Churchill the Politician,” p. 118. On the conditions of the Fascist takeover in Italy, see Ralph Raico, “Mises on Fascism and Democracy,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 12, no 1 (Spring 1996): 1-27.  https://mises.org/library/rethinking-churchill

Churchill is credited with having begun the cold war:

http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/05/winston-churchills-iron-curtain.html

He is credited with helping the Nazis take power outside Germany:  http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2015/01/winston-churchill-anti-communist-who.html

He is credited with sharing Hitler’s anti-semitism:

https://jodebloggs.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/winston-churchill-and-the-rise-of-bolshevism-1917-1927/

If you think I say outrageous things, you might check out my weekly radio show on KNON.org or 89.3FM in Dallas.  –Gene Lantz

 

Typically today, “unity of the left” means “everybody must follow me!”

jigsaw

But a lot of activists would sincerely like to see honest unification and are frustrated when unsuccessful. The truth is that the so-called “left” is not united for terrible reasons such as personal egotism, but also for a more solid reason: we operate under different theories.

The “Do Good” Theory

If you are nice to other people, they will be nice to you. This will spread and, before too long, everybody will be nice to everybody else and we’ll have a nice world.

The first socialists, usually held to be affluent Frenchmen, were do good thinkers and theorists. They projected that we need societies that are operated for the benefit of the people within those societies. We should expand the democracy we have into a complete and total democracy where everyone has an equal chance at happiness.

In a world run, at that time, by cruel aristocrats, these early socialists made a wonderful and worthwhile contribution, but they didn’t put a whole lot of thinking into how their vision could become reality.

Liberals

To be good, one should oppose the current system and the bad people who run it.

Was it the chicken or the egg that came first, or did they evolve together? As those who ruled societies began to develop a theoretical justification for their pillage, others reacted by developing their own organizations and ideas. Today we think of the two sides as “conservatives” who want to conserve the policies of the past and “liberals” who have a vague idea of some kind of forward motion in society.

Both terms are distorted beyond recognition today, especially because the same person or group may be “liberal” on some issues and “conservative” on others.  The terms weren’t very clear to begin with. The worst example of semantic confusion today is probably the term “neo-liberal” which means someone who supports imperialism in foreign affairs because they want “liberal” foreign policies that won’t restrict transnational corporations. The worst “conservatives” on domestic policies are “neo-liberals” on foreign affairs!

Worse, it’s probably true that no one person fits neatly into any of the categories of this essay. We may be able to separate ideas to an extent, but people are always changing and don’t willingly shoehorn.

The Progressive peoples outside the United States hate neo-liberals. They probably aren’t too crazy about ordinary American liberals either, because their good intentions don’t usually extend outside their own immediate sphere.

Liberals don’t really operate from a strong theoretical base, which is why they are sometimes called “knee-jerk liberals.” But they are generally on the side of progress.

Social Democrats

Good people should organize together in opposition to bad people

Liberals tend to resist organizing. “Organizing liberals is like herding cats,” one great liberal commentator used to say. But the more serious ones recognize the struggle for power and organize. Many of them become social democrats.  The first socialist political parties called themselves social democrats. That was true of the one in America and the one in Russia. They organized to combat the status quo.

Historically, the Americans and the Russians had a lot in common before 1917. They were the only socialist parties in the world, among the many, that did not support their own capitalists during World War I. The split came later.

The social democrats were and are the largest groups of organized socialist-thinking liberals. In America today, we still have the old Socialist Party, several of its splits and variants including Democratic Socialists of America, and the Bernie Sanders “Our Revolution” movement. Many leading American unionists have been unspoken social democrats. In general, social democrats believe that their consistent political activities will gradually convince everyone to vote them into office and keep them there. Then they will they transform the society that exists into the brave new world.

In Europe, social democrats are indeed elected into power over and over again, but have never been able to stay in power and effect any kind of long-term transformation. American social democrats have seldom tasted significant power, but they have high hopes of transforming the Democratic Party to meet their ends.

Anarchists

We need militant action to destroy the bad people, then the good people will take over

While liberals more or less ignore the theory and organizations of rulers, anarchists think that destroying the other side is prerequisite to building ours. Some of the best labor heroes and heroines in America styled themselves anarchists. Although violence is not necessarily part of their ideology, they tend to be susceptible to it, and it is relatively easy for the reactionaries to paint anarchists with the brush of violence.

Another big problem for the anarchists is their tendency to spend so much time and energy arguing with the social democrats.

I purposely put the anarchists as being more developed than the social democrats because they recognize that enemies must be overcome if progress is to be made. The anarchists may not have been very effective, and aren’t effective today, but they knew that there are two sides to the struggle for progress, just as in any other war.

Nationalists and Other Forms of Identity Politics

The meek, properly organized and motivated, shall inherit the Earth

Capitalists oppress everybody, even each other if they get the chance. The capitalists of the United States, would crush those of China if they could, and vice versa.

But all oppression is not the same. The historic and ongoing oppression of African Americans in America is one striking example, but it doesn’t mean that American women weren’t oppressed, nor does it mean that Latinos, homosexuals, and, yes, white working men aren’t oppressed as well.

All oppressed people, which means all of us, are oppressed in different ways and tend to have different ideologies and organizations trying to represent us. Those organizations and ideologies do not usually try very hard to work together, but some of them do. Malcolm X and Dr Martin Luther King Jr both come to mind as great leaders of a particular national ideology who eventually recognized the need for broader unity. It is not a coincidence that they were both murdered before they went very far with their thinking.

The general idea that the exploited peoples should fight back, while very progressive in itself, has been elevated into a theory of socialists struggle. Certain ideologists and groups believe that the “most exploited,” having the most reason, are the most likely to rise up against capitalism and create a socialist world. It sounds good.

It sounds so good that hundreds, probably thousands, of college-educated activists go into America’s ghettos to recruit, train, and motivate those revolutionaries that they know are there.

Does it sound patronizing? Yes, it is. Will it work? No. One reason it won’t work is that it lacks recognition of the enemy, which even the anarchists knew about. The enemy knows it won’t work and cheerfully provides, through their philanthropy and churches, funding for these patronizing projects. During the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. government funded its own organizations that worked on this theory. Vista Volunteers was more effective than they intended, and has been toned down. I think they call it Americorps now.

Saul Alinsky and Dorothy Day were the patron saints of identity politics, Several organizations still find plenty of funding and continue today.

Sindicalists

Organize all workers, and boss rule shall wither

While I’m oversimplifying everything, I may as well over-simplify sindicalism. Wikipedia has a really good essay on it. They say that it’s both a system to overcome capitalism and an economic system to run things afterward.

The Industrial Workers of the World always denied being sindicalists. They denied being anarchists. They denied being anarcho-sindicalists. But they are usually put forward as the best American example of all three.

Sindicalists, including some very good trade union leaders, believe that the entire working class can be organized by their workplaces and categories of work. Once that is done, a general strike can be called and the bosses will capitulate. Political work, especially elections, are confusing and not important. Elections are particularly to be avoided because they tend to cause workers to collaborate with non-workers and even with bosses.

After the bosses are brushed aside, according to the sindicalists, workers will already be organized to operate the economy for the good of all.

Communists

Workers Arise!

A lot of sindicalists and a lot of social democrats became communists, especially after the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party demonstrated that it was possible to organize workers politically, form alliances with other progressives, and do away with the capitalists.

Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, German student activists, said that they had to combine the rosy hopes of the French socialists with solid historical analysis and the scientific method to suggest a path to progress. Vladimir Lenin convinced the majority (Russian word: bolshevik) of the Russian socialists to follow that path to victory.

There was jubilation on the workers’ side, but the bosses side was extremely unhappy —  and they had most of the weaponry; consequently the 1917 revolution was contained and its supporters knew great difficulties. Amazingly, Lenin’s revolution endured 70 years and continues to appeal to many thinking activists around the world.

Cadres and Vanguards

All the revolution really needs is us!

The communists committed themselves to the world working class in all arenas of struggle. “The communists have no interests outside of the working class” was their guiding principle.

But some groups saw something different in Lenin’s example. They saw his success as having built a revolutionary, combative political party as key to the win in Russia, rather than his commitment to the ideas of Marx and Engels. To some groups, building a party of deeply committed cadre revolutionary soldiers who could act as an example to less advanced workers was more important than an actual commitment to the working class in all things.

These parties were meant to be the vanguard of all revolutionary struggle. They would set such a good example that other working people would follow them into successful revolutionary action. They tended to avoid electoral politics because it was tainted. Since they were clearly the chosen ones, they tended to argue with everybody else in the progressive movement, and were usually thought of as “splitters.”  I used to be one of them.

Who’s Who Today?

The pressures on the Soviet Union resulted in cracks and fissures throughout the world. The social democrats in America kicked the communists out. The IWW blamed and defamed them. The Trotskyites and the Maoists split them. When the Soviet Union eventually collapsed, individuals and ideologies ran helter-skelter every which-a-way.

Today the old Communist Party USA has largely drifted backward into social democracy. The Maoists are and always were nationalists. The IWW was and is sindicalist and anarchistic. Those who haven’t really thought it out, or don’t want to, are social democrats, liberals and do-goods. Since they split so often, there are too many vanguardist parties to try to name, and more are forming during this wonderful current upsurge.

There are wonderful, well-intentioned, thoughtful people in every category I’ve named. From the softest do-goods to the bitterest vanguard, we belong together.

That’s our “left” today, struggling toward the unity that it must achieve. The key word here is “must.” Progressives in America will unite because, eventually, we will realize collectively that we have to.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON.org 89.3 FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9AM Central Time

I welcome your comments and ideas, in fact I really need them

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

seegerpete

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

 

The New York Times published a long liberal’s lament on the situation in France:

SundayReview | OP-ED COLUMNIST

France in the End of Days

Marine Le Pen’s road to victory is clear enough.
Can a pragmatist stop the extreme right?

Is the history of human progress a story about losers?

I am enjoying a book, “American Dreamers” by historian Michael Kazin. He describes the “leftists” of American history. For each of them, Kazin adds in the reasons that they didn’t succeed. The Industrial Workers of the World were too radical, the People’s Party wasn’t radical enough, etc.

I can see why a historian would think we’re all losers. After all, none of us ever became President of the United States, and lots of us, like Frank Little, were lynched.

What’s a Leftist Anyway?

I’ve never cared much for terms like “leftists” or “right-wing” or “conservative” or “liberal.” They’re not very clear. I prefer “progressives” for people who want to see the human race better off and “reactionaries” for those who would like to see our conditions worsen. But I’ll admit before God and Mr Kazin that we progressives never achieved a perfect world, nor even one that could be called socialism in stability.

What’s a Success?

I wrote a song about George Meyers once. It’s somewhere on Youtube I think. Meyers was a lifelong American Communist. He had a quirky slanted smile that pretty well took over his face most of the time. I never knew anyone happier than George Meyers.

And yet, he had been reduced from being a top union leader and someone who hobnobbed with the best of history. He had been a top officer of one of the most powerful and respected communist parties in the world. They had tens of thousands of members. But nearly all of that was taken away by the witch hunt before I met him.

He’d spent years in prison. When I knew him he was old and scraping by on almost no income. His health wasn’t so great. I never knew anyone happier.

My song said, “They never stopped his smiling/ no matter how they tried/ because in his heart he always knew/ he was on the winning side.

In my fifty years of progressive activism, I’ve known a lot of old-timers like George Meyers who were still in the struggle, and I never knew a happier bunch of people. It seems to me that they enjoy better health and live longer than other seniors who aren’t doing anything socially worthwhile.

Success isn’t achievement. Ask Alexander the Great, who wept after he conquered the entire world. Success is feeling good about yourself every day. We progressives, we have that down!

 

Germans embraced the Nazis, not because they were tired of freedom, but because they believed they had found a cure for capitalism.

doctorposter-capitalism

From the time it began to take over the world, mid 17th century, until the late 19th century, capitalism provided a better life for its subjects. That is, it was better than serfdom. Serfs were landless farm workers, one step above slaves, who had to take whatever their lords dished out. “Free” labor could leave one employer for another and, to some extent, dicker over conditions of employment.

Capitalism Works Best With Limited Democracy

If workers believe they have a voice in government, they don’t have to be guarded, guided, and pushed to do everything. They don’t run away or deliberately smash the equipment, the way slaves or serfs might. They can be educated for the higher forms of labor that capitalism needs. Consequently, the more successful capitalist economic systems use a limited democracy form of government.

From the beginning of the Republic until after World War II, American struggles made good improvements in our democracy.

What Went Wrong, When Did It Go Wrong?

Capitalism stopped benefiting workers after it conquered the world. When there were no new markets, the capitalists had to turn against one another to fight for the markets they had already saturated. That’s not what they called it. They called it “The war to save democracy,” and “The war to end all wars.”

But WW I was really a bloody turf war between gangsters. For a short period, the winners enjoyed their spoils, but it didn’t last very long because  the basic problem of saturated markets and international competition was still there.

So, they decided to have another world war. This one was complicated for workers, because the Soviet Union, try as they might, couldn’t stay out of it. After they began to fight the invading Nazis, they were incorporated into the same side the United States was on. The U.S. ended the alliance as soon as the Nazis were defeated, of course.

No More World Wars

After the U.S. nuked Japan, actually, after the Soviets and other nations showed that they could do the same thing, world wars lost their appeal as a temporary solution to the capitalist crisis. Even the gangster capitalists weren’t crazy enough to blow up their only planet. So, since the late 1970s, capitalist nations have gotten by on small regional wars, lowering their production costs by attacking their workers, and carrying a whole lot of debt. I recently read, in an investment newsletter, that all growth in the United States since 1980 basically came from debt!

Did the Nazis Solve the Capitalist Crisis?

To Germans between, say, 1933 and 1939, it appeared that fascism was the right way to go. Unemployment dived from 25% into low numbers. Lots of infrastructure was rebuilt. National pride was soaring.

But they had only changed their form of government from limited democracy to fascism, they hadn’t changed their economic system. It was still capitalist and it was still in crisis. The only real way toward a temporary solution was war. Even then, as long as they were winning, fascism still seemed pretty good to the Germans. After that, not so much.

What Looks Good to You Right Now?

To a lot of Americans, the Trump Administration and Republican political domination look pretty good. They think there will be more and better jobs. They think they’ll be making a better living and that the steady abatement of basic democracy isn’t too high a price to pay.

But we are still living in an economic system that has provided all the good it is going to provide, and things are only going to get worse if we can’t save and expand our democracy.

 

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

flowchartcartoon

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.