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At a rally in Dallas on the first day of early voting, congressional candidate Colin Allred said “We have two weeks to save democracy!”

allred-cwa-earlyvote

Soon afterward, the election in Brazil sharpened world concern for democracy’s future. Jair Bolsonaro openly welcomes a return to military dictatorship. He threatens all his political opponents with using the military and government sanctions militias to carry out “a cleansing never before seen.” Women, gays, landless peasants, and the homeless are targets named in a New York Times article.

Almost immediately after the election, military units began raiding student organizations to confiscate any “anti-fascist” or “pro-democracy” materials, according to @castriotar on Twitter.

It’s not just Brazil. The Week news service says, “Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

What’s “Populism?”

In American history, the populists were always considered the representatives of the downtrodden, primarily farmers and sharecroppers who were being squeezed out by urbanization. Populism was associated with being pro-democracy, according to Wikipedia.

Today, newspersons and pundits use the term to mean anybody who claims to oppose the status quo. They’ve invented the term “right-wing populism” to include politicians who are virulently against democracy. Others just call them fascists.

What’s “Left,” What’s “Right?”

On the democracy scale, “left” is usually associated with more democracy while “right” is associated with less. The meaning of both terms is so thoroughly distorted as to make them generally useless. “Pro-democratic” or “anti’” is more accurate.

President Trump’s recent claim that he can overturn the American constitution’s birthright guarantee by executive order is a good example of anti-democratic activity.

What’s “Democracy?”

Historically, we associate democracy with the ancient Greeks. The idea was government by the will of the people. Through the ages, we have never seen anything close to a complete democracy. The Greeks, of course, excluded their slaves. In America, democracy has grown a lot since slavery days but has never included the people’s control over basic economic nor foreign policy.

Of especial importance is the people’s lack of control over the machinery of elections. We may get to vote, but we have never controlled the elections.

During economic or military emergencies, democracy is always diminished. Wartime presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt were often called dictators.

Socialists have held out the promise of great extensions of democracy, but have never completely delivered because of the extreme tactics of capitalist opposition. The best that socialists have been able to deliver was “wartime democracy” similar to what Lincoln and Roosevelt practiced.

Who Is “Shifting to the Right?”

Commentators are scrambling to explain the anti-democratic global changes. They ask why people have been voting away their own democratic powers. The answer is that we aren’t.

Our democracy, even American democracy, is not complete and never was. The struggle between the poor and the rich, the 1% and the 99%, the employees and the employers, the workers and the owners, is being played out in elections that are ignored by many on our side. The elections are  being manipulated by the rich and distorted by incredible rivers of dark ugly money.

As a world crisis of international competition shrinks their opportunities, the wealthy are increasingly choosing to give up all pretense of government by the people. They are throwing their considerable wealth and power behind reactionary anti-democracy politicians who are willing to carry us all down an obvious path of total destruction.

Only our side can save democracy.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

Notes:

Ny times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/world/americas/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-profile.html

Brazil Election: How Jair Bolsonaro Turned Crisis Into Opportunity

Mr. Bolsonaro’s broadsides against women, gay people, Brazilians of color and even democracy — “Let’s go straight to the dictatorship,” he once said as a congressman — made him so polarizing that he struggled to find a running mate until early August. Traditional parties and politicians considered him too extreme.

President Trump called on Sunday to congratulate him on his victory, following up with a tweet on Monday morning that said, “Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!”

In 1993, he delivered a fiery speech before the lower house of Congress urging its demise, calling the emerging version of democracy in Brazil a lost cause.

“I am in favor of a dictatorship,” Mr. Bolsonaro thundered. “We will never resolve serious national problems with this irresponsible democracy.”

rc‏ @castriotar Oct 26

rc Retweeted Folha de S.Paulo

More than 20 Brazilian universities were invaded by the military police in the past 2 days. They confiscated material on the history of fascism, interrupted classes due to ‘ideological content’, removed anti-fascist banners and posters claiming that it was electoral propaganda.

@castriotar

Many other student movements and organizations reported military police forces inside classrooms, student units, academic directories, confiscating any sort of materials with ‘anti-fascist’ or ‘pro-democracy’ content.

“It will be a cleansing never before seen in Brazilian history.” [referring directly to “reds,” to Workers Party leader Lula Da Silva, and to his present electoral opponent. He said they will “rot in jail.” He directly threatens to use the armed forces and civilian militias with legal sanction against enemies such as the landless peasants movement and the homeless movement.

April article From Independent about Hungary: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/victor-orban-hungary-migrant-refugees-george-soros-ngo-far-right-a8297441.html

Viktor Orban’s right-wing populist party has vowed to would crack down on organisations helping migrants and refugees, in an announcement made just a day after it won an overwhelming election victory.

The autocratic prime minister portrayed himself as the saviour of Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, an image which resonated with more than 2.5 million voters.”

His Fidesz party won a two-thirds super majority in the country’s parliament, which would allow it and its small ally, the Christian democrats, to push through changes to constitutional laws.

**

From Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/02/27/polands-right-wing-government-is-rewriting-history-with-itself-as-hero/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2ef44090bd99

By Mateusz Mazzini February 27

Poland is in the midst of a pitched battle over its collective memory. The ruling party has recently stirred an international controversy by passing a bill criminalizing the use of the phrase “Polish death camps.” But in many ways, those international rifts are just collateral damage. The real battle is at home and is over what counts as legitimate political authority, and who can wield it.

Poland’s government is suggesting that the present-day cosmopolitan liberals who want to acknowledge Polish collaborators in crimes against Jews are traitors, like the Communists, willing to sell the nation to the highest international bidder. And such national mythmaking has more real-world power than many understand.

From The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/its-the-right-wings-italy-now/562256/  June 6

“A new populist government came to power in Italy this week, and the right is calling the shots. It swept in on a wave of anxiety about immigration and the economy. On the economy, certain European rules could prevent Italy from going totally off the rails. When it comes to immigration, things could get rough—at least in rhetoric. In 88 days of coalition talks, Salvini, known for his strident attacks on immigrants as a threat to Italian safety, grew emboldened by the League’s rising popularity in the polls, and in the 11th-hour negotiations to forge a government, he appears to have outmaneuvered Luigi di Maio, the head of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, which won twice as many votes as the League in Italy’s March 4 elections

From The Week: https://theweek.com/articles/804453/why-are-rightwing-populists-winning-everywhere

“Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

“What is the commonality in contemporary conditions, around the world, that has made people in so many countries susceptible to both emotional impulses at once, and powered the global rise of the populist right?

That’s the question that liberal democrats need to answer before they are completely swept away.”

I have never been sure whether Donald J Trump was restoring a world of hatred and nationalist paranoia because it’s just what he wants to do, or if he was simply reflecting a change in world relations whose time had come.

diplomacy-cartoon

Fraternalization among nations is ending.

One could say that international fraternalization started during World War II, or after it, or during the Nixon Administration when he visited China. One could say that it began with the fall of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Or one could say it began with the formation of the European Economic Community, or with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or with the Organization of American States, or with all of that. However it started, it’s ending now. Nations are pulling apart.

Case in point: The European Union is strongly criticizing the governments of Italy and Poland. Even bigger case in point: Donald J Trump is pulling out of environmental accords and, lately, even out of nuclear proliferation accords. Plus, he seems intent on offending almost all traditional American allies. Nations are pulling apart.

Should we ask why?

Or should we look at it the other way around and ask why nations had been seeking cooperation with one another prior to the Trump election?

The period just ending, in which America dominated and forced every other nation to cooperate, is not new in history. In the centuries of British domination, roughly 1700 to 1900, they did the same thing. They even used the same rubric: “free trade.”

As British domination fell apart, the separate nations experienced their first World War. As that war began, V.I. Lenin wrote “Imperialism.” In it, he compared the world’s national leaders to gangs of criminals who might, for short periods, cooperate, but were likely to launch a new “turf war” almost any time. The inference from the pamphlet was that the capitalists running the largest industrialized nations would never cooperate for long. For economic reasons, it’s just not in their nature.

The United States dominated the world economically from World War II to the present, but that domination is being severely tested today. Our cars aren’t the only cars, our steel industry is about gone, even our electronics industry has disappeared. If other nations decided to stop using U.S. dollars as their reserve currency, our economy would fall to pieces. And that could happen. Almost any time. Trump is pushing them in that direction, too.

What we called “globalization,” or fraternalization among nations was really a set of circumstances in which the United States was unchallenged in its world domination. Every other nation actually had to cooperate, or to seem to cooperate. That seems to be ending now. I don’t think Trump caused it in 2016, just as I don’t think Hitler caused it in 1931, or if the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire caused it by dying in 1914. It’s part of the system we live under. It had to end.

The question really is: what are we going  to do about it?

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 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

 

We are living in a time of great contradiction.

contradiction-enter-only

The more we learn, the stranger is our political world.

People have never been so enlightened. Knowledge, long ago, was accessible to only a privileged few. Most human beings, lacking any real understanding, were guided by dark superstitions and easily herded about by those in power.

We’ve only had public education in America for 150 years or so. Printed words for 600 years, telegraph for maybe 200, radios for 150, movies for 120, TV for 75, and the internet for about 40. It gets harder and harder to herd people around when they are figuring things out for themselves. That’s a tremendous and growing contradiction.

People of my generation can remember when segregation ruled. We can remember that people laughed when Desi spanked Lucy on the world’s most popular TV program. We can remember poll taxes, white primaries, and English-only ballots. We remember when little children were spanked for speaking Spanish. We may have a long way to go, but we have come a long way, too!

If one thinks of human enlightenment as human progress, one sees a continuum of gains that has never completely stopped and is not likely to ever stop. Remember the apelike creatures in the movie “2001?” They huddled in the darkness while predators roamed around them. Then they began to learn. We are learning still, but at an accelerating pace.

The other side of the contradiction is that we are still being herded around by the people in power. They pretend that their arguments are “equal” or “the other side,” but they aren’t. They aren’t “alternative facts,” they are just lies.

Their rulers’ methods of superstition, divisiveness, chauvinism, and general backwardness are less and less effective. Something will have to give eventually, and it has to be them.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program on 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check our my personal web site

 

Movie Review

“The Sisters Brothers,” Directed by Jacques Audiard. 121 minutes

sistersbrothers

There’s some really terrific shooting scenes in this movie. It takes place in 1851, and the two cold-blooded professional murderers who are the heroes of this film do not have the traditional movie gun, the Colt 45 Peacemaker. The ones they have throw sparks and nasty sounds as well as lead. I don’t think I’ve ever seen better shootout scenes.

There’s a Dallas Angle: La Réunion

Another good thing about the movie, something that makes it more authentic to me, is the central idea of something that was going on in Dallas, Texas, during the period. One guy, and only one guy because everybody else in the movie is a cold blooded murderer, has a dream of going to Dallas and joining a socialist colony there. What makes it so authentic is that there really was a socialist colony forming right outside Dallas in the early 1850s. Wikipedia tells the story very well, even though they are a little too definitive about the dates when it started and when it ended.

The one man with his socialistic dream gives contrast to some of the characters and, to a small extent, tends to humanize others.

More Good Things

One could not ask for better actors than Joaquin Phonenix and John C. Reilly. One could not ask for more interesting scenes of horses running across rough western terrain. Some of the dialogue was outstanding.

On the Downside

We appreciated the effort to make an authentic western, but my movie buddy and I didn’t really like “The Sisters Brothers.” I think the problem was explained in a radio interview where the main star, John C. Reilly, explains that it was a labor of love. Apparently, they loved every scrap of film so much that they couldn’t cut anything out. They left everything in — every unrelated, going nowhere, irrelevant detail.

The result is a meandering movie with plot lines and asides going higher and thither. If they had tightened it up and put it into focus, it might have been a horse opera of worth.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON 89.3 FM “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review

“Bisbee 17,” Directed by Robert Greene. 124 minutes

bisbee17

My movie buddy and I ordered tickets as soon as we heard there was a documentary on the Bisbee Deportation. Good thing we did, because they only scheduled three showings in our town. Most towns won’t get to see it at all. I wonder if they will show it in Bisbee, Arizona?

People who like artsy, independent movies for their own sake might like the film. People who judge movies on their effectiveness probably won’t. People who just want to see some honest working people’s history revealed at last will be glad they made “Bisbee 17,” but even then, I’m not sure they will like it.

The Wikipedia version, just telling the story straight, is a better way to find out about the forced deportation of 1,300 striking miners on July 12, 1917. I have always wondered how they carried it out, but the movie explains that very well.

The Phelps Dodge Mining company and its stooge sheriff deputized over 2,000 men. They made sure to get the Anglo-Saxons because they were targeting virtually every man who wasn’t. They armed those deputies and then started arresting all strikers and anybody who might support them, even people who only attended one meeting “just to listen.” One deputy arrested and deported his own brother, according to the movie, and never saw him again.

Then they marched everybody down to the railroad and loaded them on cars to nowhere. The sheriff announced that he would kill any who returned to Bisbee. The compliant (complicit) railroad company took them out into the desert and stranded them there.

The strikers were with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). They were supposed to have been represented by the Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers but union complacence gave the energetic IWW a chance to move in. It’s not in the movie, but one of the main IWW organizers was my personal hero, Frank Little. Little ducked the deportation and went on to another copper miners’ strike in Montana, where he was lynched less than 3 weeks after the Bisbee Deportation.

The artistic movie man took advantage of the centennial re-enactment of the Bisbee Deportation to film the local people preparing for and carrying out their re-enactment roles. As they were all Bisbee people, most of them were also the descendants of the perpetrators. Many of them still held the same racist, chauvinist, jingoistic beliefs of their forebearers and said so in the movie.

Maybe the best scene is when one outraged man speaks to a planning meeting of Bisbee citizens and says, roughly, “Some of you are saying we have to tell ‘both sides’ of the story! That’s like telling ‘both sides’ of the holocaust!” He made a good point, but the re-enactors didn’t listen. The movie man didn’t, either. That’s the problem with “Bisbee 17.”

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON 89.3 FM “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

 

My summary of history in Texas is that it’s mostly junk. But here’s a great exception:

Book Review:

“The WPA Dallas Guide and History” written and compiled from 1936 to 1942 by the workers of the Writers Program of the Works Projects Administration. Published in 1992 by the Dallas Library

houstonviaduct

In 1912, the Houston Viaduct was the longest concrete bridge in the world

Congressman Martin Dies, the Joseph McCarthy of his day, was able to kill the WPA Writers Project before this book was published. He said that the Writers Project was “doing more to spread Communist propaganda than the Communist Party itself.” Fortunately, he died. Scholars used the manuscript as a primary resource, but hardly anyone else saw this wonderful history book for decades.

Years later, the good people associated with the Administration in the City of Dallas were able to get it published by the Dallas Public Library Texas Center for the Book, University of North Texas Press in 1992. I believe the Dallas library owns five copies. I read it in 2010, but it’s such a compelling book that I read it again in September, 2018. All of these WPA Guides are terrific! I just ordered the “WPA Guide to Texas.”

WPA Guide to Dallas is the most comprehensive history of the city. It includes names, dates, and exact places (on a 1940 map) of everything of importance here.

The Writers Project wrote dozens of historical guides. They intended to bring them all together into a comprehensive history of the United States. Martin Dies and the bureaucrats of 1940 were able to stop a lot of the publications. Every one of the “Guides” that I have seen is better than anything else on their subject. This one is certainly no exception.

During the Great Depression:

“Mellon pulled the whistle,

Hoover rang the bell

Wall Street gave the signal

And the country went to hell.”

The Roosevelt administration, faced with much criticism, changed the name from Works Progress Administration to Work Projects Administration and cancelled the writers project. Dallasites had to find a sponsor that would contribute at least 25% of the cost of the program. The Bureau of Research in the Social Sciences at the UT of Austin sponsored the Texas project.

Here are some of my notes from the book:

John Neely Bryan settled, by himself, on the banks of the Trinity 1841. The Beeman family soon came from Mustang Branch (Farmers Branch) to join him and he married one of them. He eventually sold out to Alexander Cockrell, who got killed in a gun fight. Sarah Cockrell then played a big role in developing the town.

Page 50: Jane Elkins was hanged for murdering a man named Wisdom in Farmers’ Branch, May 27, 1853.

Page 50: April 26, 1854 came the advance guard of the La Reunion colonists. They were followers of Charles Francois Fourier. French and Belgians bought 1,200 acres of land on the western side of the Trinity. “The whole population of Dallas turned out to celebrate the arrival June 16, 1855, of the main body of these idealistic European immigrants, and they were welcomed by a committee headed by their fellow countryman, Maxime Guillot, who acted as interpreter. Guillot had remained in the area after the failure of an earlier utopian community. //This was probably the Icarians of 1846//

P54 Account of the downtown 1860 fire, hanging of 3 slaves, exile of 1. Flogging of all the others.

Back in those days, there were so few men in Dallas that they had to take turns on the jury condemning themselves for gambling. Each would defend himself, then return to the jury box after being found guilty.

Dallas was the center of the buffalo hide trade, then a central cotton factoring area.

Mayor Ervay was jailed in 1872 for refusing to leave office after being ordered by carpetbag governor EJ Davis. By 1875 Reconstruction was over in Dallas.

P67 Really good narrative on Belle Starr, who had a livery stable “somewhere near Camp Street” specializing in stolen horses. (1875). She was shot in Eufala area, Feb 1889.

P68 romantic tale of Sam Bass

P90 1918 effort to start fireman’s union failed. In 1919 a widespread sympathy strike involving inside electricians, then building trades, and garment workers. Resulted in a walkout by linemen.

P 97 “The early months of 1934 were marked by agitation among the unemployed, organized by the Workers Cooperative League for rent, fuel, and clothes allowances in addition to groceries. The fight of local initiative against the depression continued unabated, resulting in the launching of an extensive public works program including the $1,000,000 Triple Underpass at the foot of Elm, Main and Commerce Streets .By the end of the year the Works Progress Admministration had also given employment to 3,000 workers in the city.”

P98 “…wave of mob violence and labor disorders in the summer of 1937 which culminated in the sending of Rangers to Dallas by Governor James V Allred, despite protests of local officials.”

P103: list of Mayors

P157: comprehensive list of labor organizing and troubles. Knights of Labor were here before April 1882. Typographers were the first AFofL union: April 6, 1885.

Carpenters had a successful strike May 6, 1890, for a 9 hour working day. “By 1896 there were twenty labor unions with an aggregate membership of about 2,000. On Nov 20, 1899, a charter was granted by the AFofL to the trades assembly of Dallas, the original central organization in the local labor movement. This assembly lasted until 1910, when on January 8 a charter was issued to the Central labor council, which still functions.” (1940)

P158 in 1919 the linemen struck Dallas Power & Light. “On June 11 a pitched battle with clubs and shotguns occurred at Routh Street and Cedar Springs Road, in which AJ Fisher, a former deputy sheriff employed as a guard for a crew of nonunion workmen, was killed and four men wounded, three of them strikers. Seven union members were arrested and on June 24 the grand jury returned indictments for murder against four: Al Shrum, WT butcher, Robert Roy, and WF Bohannon. Al Shrum was convicted of manslaughter October 27 and sentenced to three years imprisonment.”

ILGWU struck early 1935. Strike abandoned Jan 1936.

Just about all the labor actions listed failed.

In 1940, there were 52 local AFofL unions. //The CIO was largely unsuccessful until 1941 when Ford was organized//

Labor Temple at Young & St Paul was formally dedicated by Governor James E Ferguson, Jan 8, 1916.

Dallas [anti-union] Open Shop Association started 1918.

Pgs 157-160 have the best possible coverage of early Dallas labor organizations.

But the book goes on and covers everything of interest in the city and county. It has sections on Negroes and Hispanics.

P286 good account of La Reunion, the socialist colony that contributed so much to Dallas culture, including a good account of its final days at the beginning of the Civil War. There was a standoff with authorities and one man was wounded.

P296 words to “deep ellum blues” Good account of Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson

P311 Jack Johnson worked as a dishwasher in a Dallas restaurant, Delgado’s at 248 Main. He held local fights against other Blacks. This apparently was before he became champion in 1910.

Buy a used copy from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0929398319/ref=sr_1_1_olp?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538072737&sr=1-1&keywords=WPA+guide+to+Dallas

–Gene Lantz

I am on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” 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

 

We always assume that Lizzie Borden was guilty of the axe murders of her father and stepmother.

Movie Review:

“Lizzie,” Directed by Craig Macneill. 105 minutes

Chloe Sevigny produced this film and carries almost every scene as the central character. She does a fine job of acting, but Kristen Stewart deserves tremendous credit not only for a fine acting job but also because she keeps stretching her capabilities by taking on more and more diverse roles. In this one, the vivacious star of all those “Twilight” movies plays a mousy little immigrant housekeeper.

The real Lizzie Borden was never convicted of all that whacking, but the literary Lizzie, it seems, will forever be guilty until proven innocent.  Recently, she’s also become a feminist trailblazer. She wouldn’t have acted out so murderously, we are given to understand in the movie, if she hadn’t been repressed in the 1890’s. I think this movie makes that point very well through the drama itself, through the tension we in the audience feel on Lizzie’s behalf, and decidedly not because of sermonizing.

lizzieborden

After the movie, you might want to decide about Lizzie’s culpability and motivations on your own. Wikipedia has a good treatment. You might also want to check out the 1975 made-for-TV version starring another very good and versatile actress named Elizabeth Montgomery. It’s free on YouTube. It’s also very good.

We liked the movie. It had a lot of tension and, all the way through, seemed very honest. Also, there were three union logos in the last frame.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM at 9 AM every Saturday Central Time. They podcast them on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.