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What Immigration Laws Do You Want?

The Wall is no solution,
but what is?

I sat in on a very nice conversation about immigration the other day. All five of us didn’t like the way things are nor the direction they seem to be heading. At the same time, I don’t think we had very clear ideas about what we’d like to see.

One guy actually had some valuable historical information. He said that the United States hardly had an immigration policy before 1920 when immigration quotas were legally made proportional to the ethnic groups counted in the 1920 census. In other words, if 9% of Eastern Europeans currently live in the United States, then 9% of new immigrants in 1921 are supposed to be Eastern Europeans. That’s the quota system.

One exception, he said, was China. In the 1880’s, they passed the “Chinese Exclusion Act” specifically to keep companies from continuing to bring in Chinese.

He went on to say that the quota system no longer exists. They have some more complicated way of saying who gets in and who doesn’t. He also said that a great many of the undocumented workers in this country today first arrived here legally. Then, instead of going home when their visa was up, they just stayed.

While we were talking history, one participant brought up the fact that the entire Southwestern United States, where all the controversy is, was stolen from Mexico.

As the conversation went on, it became more and more apparent that the immigration “crisis” as described by President Trump and capable of being remedied only by a giant wall is pretty much all nonsense. A wall won’t stop drugs, it won’t stop crime, and it won’t even stop immigrants.

But, I asked everybody, “What do you want?”

Everybody didn’t answer, but one woman said that she wanted immigration matters to be handled more humanely and respectfully. I responded that any attempt to make immigration less unpleasant will result in more immigration. In other words, if things were nicer at the border, there would be more people trying to get in.

She went on to say that United States policies create a lot of problems in other countries. We cause our own immigration problems, she said, and nicer foreign policy would cause people to stay home and not trek to the U.S. border.

And that leads me to the crux of the matter.

Capitalism Creates The Problem

Of course capitalist countries exploit other countries. That’s how it works. Each capitalist nation is a gang’s turf, defended by the gang’s “muscle.” In other words, the very wealthy people of the United States operate within a certain territory that is guarded by their military and police forces. Their “muscle” protects their riches. They foray into other countries, into some other gang’s turf, for purposes of exploitation.

The people suffering the exploitation, rather than starve, tend to pick up and leave. They go where the money is. Right now, the gangs of the United States have the most successful turf the world has ever known, and the exploited peoples of other turfs often want to come here.

Capitalist nations are set up and run by capitalists. The entire idea of a modern nation comes from capitalism.

If we had open borders, which is the only long-term solution to the immigration “problem,” we couldn’t have capitalism. That’s the answer to “What do we want?” No immigration problem. No capitalism.

–Gene Lantz

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

Film Review: “Who Will Write Our History,” Written, produced and directed by Roberta Grossman. Based on the book by Samuel Kassow

For Holocaust Remembrance Day in Dallas, people from all over the city gathered at the historic Texas Theater to see this documentary about the Warsaw ghetto and the small group of historians who risked their lives to document the tragedy.

They wrote down everything they could, and they saved photos, drawings, and printed (by the German occupation) materials. Then they wrapped it the best they could and buried it. The resulting account was dug up after World War II and constitutes a day-by-day account of the horrors they bore. The film says that the complete Warsaw Archives were buried in three separate parts of the ghetto, and that only two of these treasures have been found so far.

The documentary film has a lot of the footage that the occupiers shot, still shots of some of the archives, plus testimony and narration. It is interspersed with docu-drama film to make a seamless presentation that makes sense. Or rather, it makes as much sense as anything concerning the holocaust does.

We must cry when we remember, but remember we must. The film was shown all over the world on January 27. Its tour continues.

–Gene Lantz

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

“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” — Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State, responding to why they overthrew the government in Chile in 1973

Meeting Venezuelans during their 2006 election

The United States has recognized the opposition leader in Venezuela as their rightful President. They are calling for an overthrow. They say that the elected president was illegally elected and that he disqualified some of his opposition. They have pulled their closest allies in with them.

Right in the middle of the crisis over whether or not Donald Trump can dictate his wishes to the American people, Trump is calling somebody else “a dictator!”

The fascist president of Brazil, who imprisoned his opposition and then “won” his election, is one of the happy club now calling for the overthrow of Venezuela. The U.S. efforts to take over Venezuela’s government and its oil didn’t start yesterday, it started when the great majority of Venezuelans elected, and then defended, an anti-imperialist president.

The pattern was set in Chile when the great majority of Chileans elected the mildly anti-imperialist Salvadore Allende. First they undermined the economy, then they organized the right-wing forces, then they permeated the military. Then they bombed the presidential palace, killed Allende, and installed a fascist government that murdered the remaining oppositionists.

Anyone not already familiar with what happened might just browse for “Chile Allende” on Youtube. There are dozens of videos. https://youtu.be/9h8deIN-OoU is one.

An earlier attempt to overthrow Venezuela is also available on Youtube. https://youtu.be/Id–ZFtjR5c.

Here in America, the silence is deafening. Mr Trump and his gang get to make their accusations every day on every information source. The “honest reporters” reach beyond the Trump Administration to interview leaders and experts from previous administrations, all of whom share the same imperialist views. I wish I could say that the only imperialists in America are Republicans, but you’d know better.

The Venezuelans get some criticism from the so-called “left” as well as from the outspoken imperialists. Certain leftists blame the Venezuelan (and the Chilean) leaders for being social democrats instead of real working-class advocates. In other words, they didn’t deal directly with the local capitalists who were bound to conspire with the United States against them and; consequently, should have known they’d be overthrown sooner or later.

Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. We in America aren’t responsible for decisions in other countries, but in our own. We might love the Venezuelans or hate them, but it isn’t up to us to overthrow their government.

I like the position taken by the World Federation of Trade Unions and its spokepersons in “Labor Today” here:

“The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), representing 95 million workers of the five continents as well as the world class-oriented labor movement, strongly rejects the attempted coup d’état against the legitimate government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

‘This interference, orchestrated by the US government, NATO and the EU and executed by the representatives of the transnationals and monopolies in the country, constitutes a flagrant violation of the most elementary rules of international law and of the Venezuela’s sovereignty. For the WFTU, it is an inalienable right of each people to decide for themselves, without outside interventions, on their present and future.

‘At the same time, the WFTU reaffirms, as it has already done on several occasions, its solidarity with the Venezuelan people, with the working class and our affiliated organizations in the country in front of this imperialist threat. In addition, we call on the Venezuelan people to reject the maneuvers of the imperialists and their lackeys in the region, to condemn the plans of the murderers of the peoples. We will continue to support the Venezuelan working class, for the deepening of the Bolivarian process, until the abolition of man by man exploitation, towards a new world, without wars and imperialist barbarism. This is the only way forward to repel the plans of the imperialists.

‘Long live internationalist solidarity!”

–Gene Lantz

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

Movie Review: “On the Basis of Sex,” Directed by Mimi Leder, 2 hours

My movie buddy and I enjoyed the biopic about Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s early days in the fight for gender equality, even though it was formulaic and predictable from the beginning to the powerful ending where the real Ginsberg mounted the Supreme Court steps.

The movie is very timely as it hit theaters just as Ginsberg was missing her very first sessions while battling lung cancer. The last report I saw said that she had beaten cancer once more and was back on the job. The documentary, “RBG,” about her had just closed a week or so before this dramatization was available. Another reason that the movie is so timely is that the Supreme Court has been making headlines for years as it cleared legalities out of the way for the ongoing power-grab of the plutocracy.

Only Ginsberg’s early legal efforts, and especially her first big trial before the Supreme Court, are covered. But the inference is that she went on to win more and more gains for women. We were pleased that the movie didn’t try to give all the credit to the legal system, but made the point that people change things before laws recognize it.

In discussions after the movie, we talked about the Equal Rights Amendment, which both of us fought for in the 1970s. It passed in Congress but, like any constitutional amendment, it had to be ratified in the states. We came close but we didn’t win, or rather we haven’t won yet.

The ERA would have overturned all the many statutes and case precedents justifying gender discrimination in America. Ginsberg’s approach, in the movie, was to tackle them one-by-one, and that’s what she and others have been doing. The movie implies that we’ve been winning all this time and will continue winning until gender equality is fully achieved.

But, so far, it hasn’t happened.

Why Not?

Women live longer and consequently outnumber men in America and on the planet. If they could get together, even vote together on women’s issues, they would win. But the truth is that they don’t.

Texas has had two outstanding women candidates for governor in the last two elections. Both were outstanding for their stands on women’s equality. Neither one of them won, and neither one of them got all of the women votes. I think that both of them, like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and maybe even like Hillary Clinton, made some progress; but so far no victory cigar!

Frederick Engels, in the 19th century, wrote that women were the first oppressed class, mostly because their oppression coincided with the birth of written history. Both written history and women’s oppression came about because surplus wealth was beginning to be produced. Men took that wealth and developed writing to account for it. They developed women’s oppression in order to make sure that their heirs were biologically theirs.

Engels said that women’s oppression would end in future society because women would be in the workforce and fully as productive as men. I think that’s been the case so far. The laws didn’t change first. What happened first was that women established their power and their rights in the workforce.

Union Women Are Far Ahead

Most American workers aren’t organized into unions, but the ones that are practice women’s equality rather thoroughly. As our working people attain more power, women’s equality will at long last attain its final goal.

Meantime, let’s keep marching!

–Gene Lantz

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

Working people in other nations must be simply amazed that the Americans would let 800,000 workers get locked out while everybody else goes to work as if nothing was happening. After all, if we so much as shut down one airport, one railroad, one highway, or one city for half a day, we’d get whatever we wanted.

Call Congress. Then what?

Without making any excuses, one can look back in American labor history for some of the reasons that nobody has walked out in solidarity. The biggest one is that everybody waits for the unions to do it and, as the saying goes, it ain’t going to happen!

Unions have power, and because they have power, they have tremendous government supervision. Most union contracts have a “no strike” provision. Management would love to see a union violate their contract, because they would then be free to do almost anything they wanted, and the government would happily assist.

In the old days, unions got what they wanted primarily by striking. The Industrial Workers of the World had hardly any other tactics. At the same time, their legal status was about the same as bank robbers. Some of the most powerful unions, mostly in transportation, gained some legal status with the passage of the Railway Labor Act in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the Roosevelt Administration gave us the National Labor Relations Act. It set up the supposedly neutral National Labor Relations Board to referee disputes between management and labor. Legal at last, the unions went on the biggest organizing drive in history.

But there was a price. With government arbitration came a lot of government supervision. In 1947, Republicans came down hard on labor laws. That’s when the vicious “right to scab” laws were legalized in the infamous Taft-Hartley bill. Texas led the way. Republicans have made sure that labor laws worsened.

It may sound innocent to say that “secondary boycotts are outlawed,” but what it means is that unions cannot stop work in solidarity with other unions. Our fundamental principle, “An injury to one is the concern of all” is quoted a lot more than it is used, and it can’t legally be used at for major work stoppage.

Unions are calling for an all-out lobbying effort. A few unions, including one in Dallas, are hitting the streets, and that is a big step forward. But it’s not likely that they will go further.

Why doesn’t someone else do it?

Why is everybody waiting for unions to call walkouts? It’s because our solidarity with the rest of the working class is still fairly weak. From 1947’s Taft-Hartley Act to 1995, America’s unions did very little to promote their relations with churches, community groups, civil rights people, and protest organizations. They accepted their isolation.

With the AFL-CIO elections of 1995, unions began to get back on track. But it’s a long road from a national labor convention to a grass roots coalition at the local level. I’m very proud that my own AFL-CIO Council in Dallas has made giant strides, but not every council has and, even in Dallas, these coalitions are still quite young.

Most of the individuals with enough personal following to call a major action are politicians. If they called a walkout, or even spoke in favor of walkouts, their campaign funds would rupture. So don’t expect any of them, not even Bernie Sanders, to call for walkouts.

Maybe a rock star will.

Some impossible things happen

If Mr Trump really tries to keep the government shutdown going for an extended period, as he says he will, there will be work stoppages. They will succeed, too.

There is such a thing as “historical imperative.” It says that some things will happen, not because they are likely or even possible, but because they have to happen. Maybe Americans don’t understand our own labor history, and maybe we’re easily divided. Maybe we’re ignorant, but we’re not stupid.

–Gene Lantz

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

Texans are forever taking their children to see the Alamo, and a lot of them go to the San Jacinto Battlefield. But if they really care about Texas history, they should make a pilgrimage to Crystal City, where ordinary working people made a lot of history.

Crystal City was the site of the biggest concentration camp of World War II. Japanese families were there from 1943 through the end of the war. A few Italians and Germans were also sent there from other parts of the U.S. and Latin America. The United States traded them for our own prisoners of war.

Crystal is also a great civil rights site. The Chicano movement that terrified Anglos in the 1970s began in Crystal City. The struggles of some of the most desperate working families in America took place in Crystal City. For a while there, they won!

I think it was in 1963 that five very courageous Latinos took city government power from the dominant Anglos. With only 10% of the population, Anglos had always dominated everything. Then in 1969, Juan Campeon and Jose Angel Gutierrez convened La Raza Unida Party at Salon Campestre just outside the city limits and on the banks of the Nueces River.

La Raza Unida soon took over government in all of Zavala County and in surrounding counties. Inspired by La Raza, other Chicanos throughout America began to form their own fighting civil rights organizations.

Today, only the cement steps of the old Salon Campestre remain. There are no historical markers for La Raza Unida. They hold no government offices, but Mexican American Democrats and other organizations owe their initial inspiration to the courageous workers of Crystal City. There’s a great play about it. It’s named “Crystal.”

About 8,000 people, nearly all Mexican Americans, live in Crystal. A branch of the historic Nueces river runs (when there is enough water) just outside the city limits. There are no unions in existence, even though the CIO tried in the 1940s and the Teamsters tried in the 1960s to organize the cannery workers.

There are no museums in Crystal City. The library is closed. There are several statues of Popeye the Sailor Man and some claims to be the Spinach Capital of the World, but the great contributions and sacrifices of working families are noted only in the minds of certain Chicanos and a handful of amateur historians like us, who care about real history.

–Gene Lantz

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

Movie Review: “Vice,” Directed by Adam McKay, 2 hours 12 minutes.

As the young Dick Cheney and the old, Christian Bale was heavy
Christian Bale was skinny in “The Machinist”

Even if you lived through the Bush-Cheney years and don’t think you need a refresher course, you will benefit from seeing “Vice.” It concretizes our understanding of the many things that are wrong today. Dick Cheney was not the first nor the last Republican to warp our laws in the service of dark money, but he is certainly in the running for the worst.

The movie credits him with paving the way for dishonest network television, tax giveaways, fraudulent wars, distortion of justice, and torture, among other things.

So many are the chronicles of Cheney’s crimes that the movie, despite its length, has little time for drama. It is almost a documentary. The time-saving method of using a narrator to hurry us through events has to be employed. Even within that hurried framework, though, the actors are magnificent. Christian Bale again shows his dedication and ability by being both the wastrel Young Dick and the overweight criminal old Dick. Amy Adams, as Dick’s Lady MacBeth, is outstanding. Several headliners take minor roles, or even cameos, to get the historical drama on the screen.

It was not completely amazing to see that Brad Pitt headed a list of film producers, especially if one also went across the movieplex to see the outstanding civil rights film, “It Happened on Beale Street,” where Pitt is again the lead producer. Pitt apparently is committed to progressive filming.

There are a lot of surreal moments in the film. They’re extremely humorous in a macabre sort of way. Some of the critics have blasted McKay for taking short breaks from serious treatment, but I think he did it the way it had to be done. When listing the crimes of Cheney, we have to laugh to keep from screaming.

–Gene Lantz

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