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Book Review: Marion Merriman and Warren Lerude, “American Commander in Spain. Robert Hale Merriman and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.” University of Nevada Press, 1986

Major Merriman went missing in Spain in early 1938, but his young widow could not bring herself to write about him until she reached the age of 70. Then she sought out a prize-winning co-writer to help her.

Generalissimo Franco and his German & Italian fascists prevailed

The book is extremely personal and could double as a love story as well as a history. I read it for the history. Here’s the best line in it on page 195. She was speaking about her husband’s and hers experiences in defending Spain. In this speech, she was talking to the Rotary Club in Reno, Nevada.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but if you don’t help the Spanish people and take your stand against fascism in Spain, your sons will die in Germany. I promise you that! There will be nothing you can do to stop a world war from starting if you do not help the Spanish Republic now.”

I don’t think that many Americans today know much about the overthrow of the Spanish Republic by fascists. Even those with some inkling probably think it was freedom versus communism, because that’s how things have been distorted worldwide. In fact, the people of Spain were hardly communists. The Communist Party of Spain was a very small group. The nation just wanted to keep the government that they had elected.

The fascists wanted to take over. Generalissimo Franco organized his foreign legionairres from Africa to invade Spain. He received a lot of help from the Catholic Church and his fascist friends Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. For the Germans and Italians, this was a great opportunity to test out their new weaponry. The so-called “great powers,” including the United States, put their hands in their pockets and looked the other way. If they hadn’t, there would have been no World War II! It would profit everyone to muse on why the “great powers” allowed World War II to develop and take place the way they did, but that would be another blog for another time.

In Spain in the mid 1930s, thousands of good young men from all over the world, including from the United States, volunteered to save democracy by going to battle. The Merrimans were among them.

This is a first hand and personal account. Mrs Merriman doesn’t dissect the political forces of the place and time. Her commitment was to follow and to support her husband. Her passions for the cause came later. Neither she nor her husband were communists, she says, but many of the International Brigadistas were, because communist parties across the world organized support for the Spanish Republic. The Republic wasn’t communist, either. It was just a republic.

One gets to know a lot of the people. Many of them, like Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemmingway, were far more famous than Robert Hale Merriman. Everybody admire Merriman. He was an intellectual economist originally from Nevada, but he went to school in Berkeley and studied for his doctorate in the USSR before deciding, on a personal level, that he had to go and fight in Spain.

In a way, he lives on, because he was one of the models for Hemmingway’s hero in “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” One can read a lot about the American brigadistas in ALBA magazine. I get it monthly. There are a few history books with widely varying points of view, like this one. One fact is consistent in all the coverage: the international volunteers were incredibly brave!

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast it on Wednesdays along with my special “Workers Beat Extra” commentary. If you want to know what I really think, you might look at my personal web site.

Book Review: Krugman, Paul, “Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future.” Kindle Edition, 2020

Nobel economist Paul Krugman writes columns for the NY Times. He collected a bunch of them from around 2004 to 2020 and ordered them, more or less, by topic, then published it as a book. It’s a chance to learn something about contemporary economics while examining political developments.

As I have written before, the separation of political economy into two separate “disciplines” was a terrible blow to knowledge in general. Consequently, while Krugman does not deliberately try to overcome the gaps of separation, he tends to ameliorate the problem by examining political developments from an economics perspective. The “zombies” in the title are economic theories that have already been discounted, but just won’t go away. Principal among them are the monetary theories popularized by Republican zealots such as drip-down prosperity.

In the introduction, Krugman writes, “The administration of George W Bush was dishonest to a degree never before seen in U.S. politics (though now surpassed by the Trumpists), and it was obviously, it seemed t ome, taking us to war o false pretenseses. Yet nobody else with a columnin a major newspaper seemed willing to point this out. As  result, I felt I had to do the job.”

Krugman’s treatments are candid and clear. He doesn’t mind exposing and naming some of the partisan sellouts who pretend that economic theory underlines outright class warfare. Krugman declares himself a modern Keynesian and argues for government spending throughout the period 2004-2020. Krugman’s co-thinkers can be pretty smug about his recommendations, both those that were applied and those that weren’t, because history is the best proof.

In my opinion, Krugman doesn’t go far enough in his analysis of modern economics. He doesn’t say outright that the liars with zombie theories are really puppets of the ruling class. He isn’t as absolute and clear as Thomas Piketty. When Krugman talks about Piketty, he seems to try to fit him in with all capitalist economists who are trying to make the system work, like Krugman himself. I don’t believe that Piketty is trying to make capitalism work.

On July 21, I wrote that I had just read Paul Krugman’s review of Piketty’s new book “Capital and Ideology.” Krugman thinks that Piketty’s work is epic, but that his conclusions are suspect. Here’s where I disagree with Krugman: “And his [Picketty’s] clear implication is that social democracy can be revived by refocusing on populist economic policies, and winning back the working class.” I don’t think that Piketty has any intention of reviving social democracy.

I haven’t read the new book, but the Piketty tome I read did not mention, anywhere, about reviving social democracy. Like any good Marxist, Picketty does not expect social democracy to be revived. Even if it was, Picketty and I would say that it was only temporary. Capitalism, all Marxists agree, is doomed. For decades now, economists have helped a ruthless and wealthy gang maintain their stranglehold to the detriment of the rest of us. In that sense, all their theories are zombies.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio show every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. The talk show and “Workers Beat Extra” podcast are put on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. I don’t mind saying what I think and I even made a personal web site that may interest you.

Book Review:

Prashad, Vijay, “Washington Bullets.” Leftward Books, New Delhi, 2020. Preface by Evo Morales Ayma, former President of Bolivia.

I bought the book through Amazon. I believe that it contributes to a trend, especially among younger people, toward a greater awareness of the seamy side of our nation’s role in the world. Some of the ugliest chapters are generally known among the technologically advanced. The CIA’s overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala, their bloody work in substituting dictators for democracy in Indonesia and most of Latin America, the murder of Patrice Lumumba in Africa, and all the assassination attempts against Fidel Castro in Cuba are common parlance among younger folk. This book attempts to enlarge the scope of understanding and fill in a lot of historical blanks.

The facts are in the book, but this long-running list of condemnations doesn’t follow an understandable pattern and isn’t as clear as other books on the same subject such as “The Jakarta Method.” The problem is probably that other books take up only a few of the bloodstained chapters of American interventionism, while Prashad tries to cover it all. The sheer scope of imperialism’s history, running from the massacres and enslavements of darker-skinned peoples at the very beginnings of colonial America through the current efforts to starve Iran and Venezuela into submission, might be better explained in a series of books explaining interventions in different continents, different eras, or different trends.

Another problem with trying to cover the entire range of international crimes is that American laws protect the documentation from scrutiny for decades before any admissions are made. We are only just now getting official documents about the murder of a million Indonesians in the 1960s, and we don’t know much of anything about NATO’s current slide eastward.

One obvious truth that emerges from Prashad’s effort is that domestic public opinion is always thoroughly prepared before imperialism makes a move. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution, known today as a total sham, prepared public opinion for the invading armies in Vietnam. The invasion of Iraq was preceded by months of repeated nonsense about “weapons of mass destruction.” The U.S. is accused of recently engineering the overthrow of the government in Bolivia, but it’s barely mentioned here. Today, we’re getting spoon fed demonization of Iran, Venezuela, and, especially, China in preparation for whatever they are planning, and we won’t get official release of documents for decades to come.

But communication technology has a way of abrading its way through the sheaths of secrecy. As this is written, Americans are beginning to lose all hope for victory in America’s longest war, Afghanistan. Public opinion already gave up on Libya and Syria.  I have never seen an assessment of the effect of ending the draft on imperialism’s designs, and I have no way of knowing whether or not Americans are willing to support the inevitable next intervention. But Prashad’s book contributes to a healthy trend toward truth and understanding.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk radio show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. We podcast the program and another called “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my aging personal web site.

During the late 1940s, the Congress of Industrial Organizations stopped being the CIO. They became part of “business unionism” and tried to partner with their bosses. In the mid-1950s, they went so far as to re-join the American Federation of Labor, thus forming the AFL-CIO. The program that they operated from was like that of the older AFL and sharply different from the vibrant CIO organizing machine of 1935-1947.

The AFL-CIO continued trying to partner with their bosses until, in 1995, they admitted failure and began to develop a progressive kind of unionism that wasn’t new. It was a return in the direction of the old fighting CIO. By then, we had lost 2/3 of our membership and were isolated from virtually anybody that might help us. Now, in 2021, things look better, but we have not returned, yet, to the virility that we lost in 1947.

My main criticism of today’s progressive labor movement is that they don’t own up to their mistakes. The changes that the new, improved AFL-CIO leadership is making are called “new.” We’d be stronger if we knew our history, all of it, and stopped hiding the trends of 1947-1995.

One way to fill in the blanks in our labor history is to look at one of the main protagonists in the drama, the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America. Here, I review a scholarly document and a history book on those missing pages of American labor history.

–Gene Lantz

Document review:

Brueggemann, John of Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs NY, “The Rise and Fall of the United Electrical Workers: Defending or Assaulting Democracy in Cold War Labor Politics?” January 8, 2003

I believe this is a college dissertation for a doctorate in history. I have a hard copy, but I can’t find it on-line. He concludes that the union’s collective bargaining strategy was out of date, that American attitudes changed and the union didn’t, and that organized labor in general had poor strategies for dealing with capital. These are all euphemisms.

But if you read what he says, it’s pretty much what happened. The anti-communist witch hunt succeeded in shifting American opinions, the union tried to hold true and not give in, and, sure enough, the labor movement not only gave in but basically joined the witch hunt. As Brueggemann puts it, “…the CIO… expelled one of its most democratic and vibrant unions.”

They didn’t just cut off the UE, they didn’t just expel it from the CIO, they commenced to raid it like vultures picking at the bones. The amazing thing is that the UE survived and is still a progressive voice in the American labor movement.

Book Review:

James J Matles, General Secretary of the UE, and James Higgins, “Them and Us. Struggles of a Rank-and-File Union.” Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1974.

This is a history of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America from its inception until the mid-seventies. Matles was the original head of the Organizing Department. He became General Secretary after Julius Emspak died in 1962. I especially appreciated this book because it clarifies what happened to American labor during the critical postwar period. This period is flatly boycotted in official American labor history, so very few people know about it.

My friend Richard Stephens of the National Nurses Organizing Committee recommended it to me during a conversation in which I was recommending “Rainbow at Midnight” to him.

The authors do not use this book to rail against the assaults on their union by the rest of the labor movement, although they report on it factually. Mostly, the book is about problems with management, particularly at General Electric and Westinghouse, the two giants of the electrical industry. Problems within the CIO and with backstabbing in general, even problems with attacks from the government, are reported with sparse comment. I find that remarkable. Nevertheless, a union’s main problem is with management, not with the rest of the unions or even with the government.

The reason I read it, though, is because there are practically no historical accounts of the great change in American labor around 1947. This book goes a long way toward filling that giant hole.

My notes:

Pg 13: UE officers are not allowed to get paid more than their members

Pg 17: Abraham Lincoln: Whenever there is a conflict between the man and the dollar, it can only be resolved by “putting the man before the dollar.”

Back when it was a federal union within the AFL, some of the new locals were allowed to affiliate with IAM. Later on, they realized that IAM intended to split off the craft workers. That’s when they bolted the AFL. There was already a lot of turmoil within the IAM-associated locals, because IAM had a “white male” provision for membership. All the locals were new, industrial unions. Some were “federal unions” and some were in the IAM. They all bolted together to form UE. This took place around the same times that UAW was getting established (1935-8).

Pg 103 5/26/38 House Un-American Activities Committee formed by House of Representatives as a response to the LaFollette committee. HR282 formed it, and it became known as “Dies committee”. Sponsor of the Bill was Martin Dies of East Texas “unreconstructed southern Democrat”. A fink named “Colonel” Frey came from the AFL to accuse CIO members and made quite a plash. New York Times headline “Communists Rule the CIO.” Some of those named were John Brophy of Mineworkers and Director of the CIO; James Matles, michael Quill TWU, Walter Reuther of UAW, …

Pg 115 Matles appeared before Dies committee. Asked for S 1970 (LaFollette bill) to pass to stop outrageous employer behavior. He predicted that without it, “The practice of industry in employing spies, stirkebreakers and finks will continue to flourish as in the past.” The bill didn’t happen but Matles prediction did.

Pg 117-8: John Brophy: “Redbaiting, lies, slanders, raising the cry of ‘communists’ against militant and progressive union leaders, is nothing more than a smokescreen for the real objective of the people that use them. The real objective is to kill the CIO, destroy collective bargaining, destroy the unity of the organized and unorganized that the CIO is building through the nation.”

Pg 118: “Walter Reuther, then a young organizer and officer of the United Auto Workers, made a comment on Frey’s performance: ‘Now the bosses are raising a scare – the Red Scare. They pay stools to go around whispering that so-and-so, usually a militant union leader, is a Red. What the bosses actually mean, however, is not that he is really a Red. They mean they do not like him because he is a loyal, dependable union man, a fighter who helps his brothers and sisters and is not afraid of the boss. So let us all be careful that we do not play the bosses’ game by falling for the Red Scare. No union man worthy of that name will play the bosses’ game. Some may do so through ignorance—but those who peddle the Red Scare and know what they are doing are dangerous enemies of the union.’”

Pg 139: November 1945, Truman called a Labor-Management Conference. “CIO proposals for immediate wage increases to make up the 30 percent loss in real wages and a demand for firm price controls across the board were defeated by the combined votes of corporation executives and representatives of the AFL.”

Pg 140 “On November 21, 1945, the first strike in mass production industry began when the Auto Workers under the leadership of vice-president Reuther shut down the auto plants of General Motors.”  I think the UE joined this strike, but signed contracts before the UAW. Later on, Reuther would use this as his reason for raiding the UE.

Pg 146: heads of GM and GE were both named Charles E Wilson. “engine charlie” and “electric charley”

“Despite his public expression of satisfaction with the outcome of the strike, Reuther was deeply disappointed and embittered. He blamed the Chrysler and Ford settlements made by his own union, and the settlements of the Steel Workers and UE with U.S. Steel and the GM electrical division, for the failure to get the additional one cent from General Motors. This episode was the first of a series of developments over the next few years that produced a complete break in the relationship between UE and the Auto Workers. The break lasted for more than two decades. It was not until the winter of 1969-1970 that Reuther and Secretary-Treasurer Emil Mazey met with Fitzgerald and Matles and agreed to join forces in another nationwide strike struggle against a powerful corporation.”

Pg153 3/5/46 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Prime Minister Winston Churchill launched the cold war with a call for a political and military buildup by ‘English speaking peoples” to contain communism. Truman, seated on the platform, indicated by his presence, and by a cordial response to the Churchill remarks, his endorsement of the cold war proposition, upon which U.S. foreign policy was soon to be exclusively based and domestic policy oriented accordingly. UE denounced it: “…we must take the lead in the fight to prevent American monopolists from dragging the world into war.”

Pg 155: Electric Charlie Wilson in Oct 1946 “The problems of the United States can be captiously summed up in two words: Russia abroad, labor at home.”

Pg 169: One reason unions gave for signing the Taft-Hartley affidavits were that it would help them organize in the reactionary south. They organized almost nobody and “operation Dixie,” after spending hundreds of thousands, was abandoned. I think in 1948.

Pg 170: Matles in 1948 CIO meeting “But we will not rush to that Taft-Hartley line-up for the simple reason it is not a chow line. It is a line where they are dishing out poison.”

Pg 192 “The Auto Workers, in good standing with the Taft-Hartley board, followed a strategy of petitioning the board for elections in UE organized shops, wherein the UE would be barred from appearing on the ballot.” They explain the process here and there. Companies could call for union elections any time they wanted to, and they did. They worked closely with the raiding unions. UAW was first and worst, but Steelworkers and other unions raided UE even before IUE was created.

Pg 194-5. After years of protesting the raids without relief, the UE stopped paying dues to the CIO and stayed away from the November 1949 convention in Cleveland, whereupon they were “expelled.” That convention created the IUE. Murray installed James Carey, CIO secretary who had been voted out of UE office in 1941, as president. He then issued a call to all UE locals to come to the convention and join the IUE-CIO.

Pg 205: Chapter “McCarthyism and Humphreyism” clarifies the rotten careers of two of America’s worst “rightist” and “leftist” politicians.

There are some really good lessons about fighting and bargaining. A bosses’ technique known as “Boulwarism” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulwarism#:~:text=Boulwarism%20is%20the%20tactic%20of,Boulware%2C%20who%20promoted%20the%20strategy) is especially edifying.

On pg 295 they explain the problems of new technology and rising productivity. Labor never got a decent share.

Pg 298 “In 1947, at the start of the cold war, the income of the lowest fifth of all families in the U.S. was 5 ½ percent of total national income. Whereas that of the highest fifth of families, in 1947, was 41 ½ percent. In 1972 the breakdown remained exactly the same. No change.” The authors seem to consider those ratios outrageous, but I wonder what they would have said in 2007 when statisticians talked about “the bottom 90%”?

Pg 304: Good summary of the whole period on the last page of the book: “The CIO objective of the 1930s – to implant industrial unionism in the shops of mass production – had been achieved. But the drive toward long-range objectives – organizing the millions of workers still unorganized, developing a strong independent political movement, redistributing the national wealth and income – was derailed by the corporate anti-labor offensive conducted during a quarter-century of cold and hot war. In the seventies, then, these objectives still remain to be won.”

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast it and an additional “Workers Beat Extra” every Wednesday. If you care curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Perry Bacon Jr wrote an editorial “American Democracy is in Even Worse Shape Than You Think” in the Washington Post.

I re-posted it on Facebook and Twitter because it’s a very good think piece and deserves general consideration. Americans really must consider the likelihood of a fascist takeover.

I respectfully disagree with Bacon as to how things will happen, but not with his direst prediction.

It is not an overstatement to say that Republicans literally tried to overthrow democracy after the 2020 elections. At that point, one would have thought that they might back off a little and play the “loyal opposition” until their next chance for electoral victory. But that is not what they did. To this day, they are continuing the same policies that led to the January 6th putsch.

Beyond January, Republicans have consistently undermined democracy everywhere that they hold power.

Bacon warns that Republicans are likely to win the 2022 Mid-Term Elections. His strongest argument is the historical trend for first-time presidents to lose in their first mid-term challenge. He points out, correctly, that Republicans who control Congress will certainly, surely, refuse to ratify the 2024 presidential race if they do not win it outright. That’s reasonable to assume, because that’s what they tried to do in 2020 when they had clearly lost.

He May be Wrong, But He’s Right

Here’s where I disagree with Bacon before I agree with him. I don’t think the Republicans are likely to win in 2022. I’m not even sure they are planning to try. Certainly, the antidemocratic, racist, chauvinistic policies they are pursuing are not building a “big tent” of voters. They are avoiding all truth. Their “base” is shrinking down to the most racist and superstitious.

In the long term, civilized people are becoming more technologically capable, more educated, and more sophisticated while the Republicans deliberately appeal only to the most backward. That’s why I don’t expect them to succeed as an electoral party unless the Democrats throw away their advantage with an ideological split or allow a major economic disaster before the election.

In other words, the Republican party is getting smaller. The catch is that it’s getting more fascistic.

History Foretells

In 1931, Hitler’s fascist party was very small. They gained a tiny plurality in that election because of the worldwide economic catastrophe of 1929. The German Communists, I believe, had a slogan “After Hitler, us!” The Nazis were not a powerful electoral party, but they didn’t have to be. Faced with the likelihood of a Communist takeover, the wealthiest class of Germans went over to Hitler. Everything after that was predictable.

Speaking of Predictions

My prediction is that the Democrats will defeat the Republicans in national elections until the next economic disaster. If you don’t believe there will be another great economic disaster, then you may believe that Democrats will stay in power, but you’d be ignoring the history of our economic system. It has to have an economic disaster. It’s only “when,” never “if.”

Even a relatively small fascist political party is likely to take power in the next crisis, and that crisis will come as sure as God made little green apples. The Democrats will not be able to stop the fascists any more than the Weimar socialists could stop the Nazis.

A Further Prediction

The only hope for the future is to defeat the fascists by organizing around working families. That is what the Germans failed to do in 1931 and what Americans must do now. I predict that we will.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. They post it, along with “Workers Beat Extra” podcast on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, try my personal web site.

Sixty-five percent of Americans approve of labor unions and would join one if they could, according to a Gallup poll for Labor Day, 2020. Unions love to publicize that 65% figure. But here’s contradicting info: the Amazon organizing drive at Bessemer, Alabama, failed miserably. Despite a high-profile campaign, about 45% of eligible workers didn’t even vote! Of those who did vote, 60% rejected the union.

Longtime union organizer Chris Townsend, while urging unions to keep trying, projects a bleak future:

“You will have many, many, more opportunities to complain about what went wrong in the future failed organizing drives yet to come. Bessemer is merely a milepost on what will be a long and arduous road to organize this piece of the commanding economic heights. Many more losses lie ahead. Strikes and other uprisings are ahead. The union organization of corporate America will be a messy affair. There will be many casualties.”

Should we conclude that one contradictory fact or the other is just an aberration, or should we accept them both as hard data and try to figure out the reason? Straining to find an answer, should we think that everybody really does want a union, just not in their own workplace?

Most unions and union supporters have seized on a single explanation for the Amazon fiasco. They say that the American government is so hostile to working people that we don’t have a chance to organize. Labor law, they argue with considerable credibility, has to be changed! They are correct of course, but there’s a lot more to it.

I resolve the contradiction this way: unionization is genuinely popular in America, but our method of organizing needs changing. I agree with Chris Townsend that many future workplace organizing drives will fail. I just don’t believe that the traditional workplace organizing drive, taken alone, has a bright future. I also don’t expect a lot of immediate help from the government in changing labor law so that traditional workplace organizing drives will start succeeding. We don’t presently have that kind of government.

I believe that the data on union popularity from the 2020 Gallup Poll was correct. Further, I believe that union organizing is far more popular in 2021, because of the lessons learned during the continuing worldwide pandemic. I also believe that the American union movement, led by the AFL-CIO labor federation, is moving toward riding that popularity to real gains for working families.

Unions need more than traditional workplace organizing drives. We need big, national and international, campaigns to educate and mobilize our many supporters toward the goal of power for working families. We need to sign up all our supporters and get them to coordinate their resources meaningfully. We can do that. Given the fact that most Americans carry advanced learning and communications devices around with them, it might not take much time.

Workplace organizing, instead of being the one-and-only-labor-tactic, will become a by-product of a mighty movement. A single electronic source could start that movement and build it into an irresistible force. The AFL-CIO already has a potential tool called “Working America,” but it has not yet been fully implemented. It will, or something like it will, and union popularity will be unleashed at last.

Let’s See

If I am right about the progressive movement coming together with the AFL-CIO, then we are likely to see bigger and more meaningful activities. MayDay will be a test of sorts. In 2020, the AFL-CIO and certain national unions had big celebrations. For many of them, it was their first time to publicly acknowledge International Workers Day. I predict it will be far bigger and better in 2021. It will be based on unions, but not confined to them. MayDay will help unify and direct the progressive movement at last! Let’s see!

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. We podcast the program and a more directed program, “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com If you are interested in what I really think, take a look at my personal web site.

One of the two major parties is becoming fascist!

We saw a small but ugly part of the Republican Party terrorizing Congress on January 6. Did you notice that Trump never disassociated from them? Have you noticed, since then, that the majority of the Republican Party has not disassociated from Trump? A majority of Republicans in Congress voted to overthrow the elections even AFTER the terror attack. Republican Congressmen are circling their wagons around Trump as the impeachment trial approaches. Devout trumpsters continue to be placed in Republican Party power. That includes their national party head!

Are the Democrats Worried?

Democrats are not worried, because Trump is dragging his party down as well as backward. Democrats may find them easy to beat in near future elections.

I’ve only seen a few actual statistics on how many people are leaving the Republican Party: 2,000 in Arizona,  5,855 in North Carolina, 4,600 in Colorado. We won’t get a clear idea how many are leaving before the next national election. Some states, like mine, don’t even keep track of party registration. However, we can assume that the Republican Party, which has been the minority in popular votes for several election cycles, will be smaller. Smaller and more fanatical.

Should We Be Worried?

Damnright we should be worried! Even with a somewhat diminished official membership, the Republican Party is still one of the two massive parties. America has gone from having two parties firmly committed to limited democracy to having only one. The Republican party of today has shown its willingness to dispense with democracy altogether. That is fascist!

Did Hitler and the Nazis have a majority party? No, they took power with a plurality of voters. In fact, they weren’t even considered an important electoral threat before the great depression began in 1929. But that one crisis was enough to catapault them to power.

America today is one crisis away from fascism.

What Can Be Done?

United workers are the only force capable of stopping fascism. Fortunately for America, we have a progressive union movement around which we can unite. That’s the course that should be followed. It’s the path to victory and a positive future.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. We podcast the radio show and another narrative every Wednesday morning on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my old personal web site.

Book Review:

Windham, Lane, “Knocking on Labor’s Door. Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide.” University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2017

Capitalism is said to have begun in the middle of the 17th century in England. Workers and bosses have been fighting since then. Any period in that great long battle for democracy, dignity and a living wage would be an interesting period.

picketing

This author chose the 1970s in the United States. Certain underlying economic and social developments made it a period of interesting class warfare.

  • The civil rights movement and the women’s movement had created a more diversified, and more militant bunch of activists into organizable workplaces
  • The “American Century” of economic domination over the war-weary victims of World War II was noticeably beginning to end
  • America’s most devoted and seasoned labor activists had been driven away by the great witch hunt that began in 1946. Union militancy had turned into “business unionism.”

Union density peaked at about 35% of the workforce earlier, but unions still had about 20% of the workforce in the early 1970s. Union members had far better wages, better benefits, better pensions, and better jobs than the workforce at large. Part of the consequence of getting more for union members while ignoring other workers was increasing isolation for the unions.

Nevertheless, young people wanted to unionize. They fought hard. For the most part in the 1970s, they lost. One could argue that the events from 1947’s Taft Hartley law to 1970 had foreordained that labor would lose, but that isn’t Mr. Lane’s argument. It’s mine.

Lane argues that companies simply worked harder at union busting. They increasingly won government over to their side. By the end of the 1970s, when Ronald Reagan was elected, the downhill slide was evident to everyone. In 1995, maybe a little late, the AFL-CIO started trying to adjust to the new situation.

One shining light in Lane’s book is the early success of an organization called “9 to 5.” They organized women to fight for the workplace rights that the larger women’s movement had won through federal legislation. The idea of organizing outside the control of government authorities like the National Labor Relations Board was a good one, and they had some early successes. However, it didn’t last.

In fact, most of the hopes that young activists may have had for union organizing in the 1970s were crushed. This is not a happy book to read. I wish he had chosen the 1990s, when American labor began to show some real promise.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. We podcast it and “Workers Beat Extra” dialogue on Wednesdays on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my old personal site.

The rich rulers of America have not chosen fascism at this time. That’s the only reason we don’t have it yet.

Today’s endless stream of denunciations of the January 6th fascist riots in Washington are excellent as far as they go. All of them blame Donald Trump. Some of them call for his removal. Some call for the removal of Senator Cruz and the other Republicans within Congress who provided the “legitimate” cover for the rioters and looters. One of those Republicans made videos of himself breaking into the Capitol with the rioters!

But every outraged denunciation I have read so far misses the point. The January 6th fascist uprising is just one of many such outrageous political acts around the world. There is a universal fascist movement, and it is gaining power.

Like any political development, there are reasons for the burgeoning fascism. Those who lay the blame on individual demagogues, even truly disgusting opportunists like Donald Trump, haven’t made a proper analysis. Without a proper analysis, a practical remedy is impossible.

The root of the crisis is unbounded inequality. The prevailing economic system is making the rich obscenely richer and the poor even poorer. Logic infers that the remedy is a different system, but there has been inadequate leadership in that direction. Instead, the world’s discontented are being channeled toward racism and supernationalism.

Instead of understanding that the system we live in can only make inequality worse and does not have the capacity to do otherwise, we are told to blame peoples of other nations, ethnicities or skin coloring.

Racists rioted and attacked their capitol in Germany last August. They rioted and attacked their capitol in Washington in January.

As we live in the U.S., we must primarily concern ourselves with the fascists here at home. They are not so hard to understand, because their political tendency has always existed and was made most clear during the American Civil War. They lost that war but won the peace and continued to dominate people of color.

Their political home was the Democratic Party until the civil rights movement became victorious (1965). After that, the Dixiecrats re-aligned with the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan announced his run for the presidency in a notorious racist town, Philadelphia, Mississippi. Powerful Senator Phil Graham of Texas quickly changed from Democrat to Republican, as did many other reactionaries.

But the Republican alliance of rulers and racists was always unstable. It only needed the pinch of a worsening crisis and an unstable demagogue like Donald Trump to split the coalition with violence. The racists ransacked the Capitol, the rulers piously tried to pull their skirts up out of the muck they had created. In the immediate future, they will likely emphasize their other political party.

That is what happened on January 6th, and it is far from over.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s ‘Workers Beat’ program at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. We also podcast “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, take a look at my personal web site