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Tomorrow, October 26, reaction will likely firm its grip over one of the three branches of American government. Assuming that the votes reported from November 3 favor Mr Biden but are sufficiently close, Mr Trump will begin maneuvers to have democracy set aside. The people will respond.

Democracy is growing less and less convenient for the people in power.

When it first began to spread to the working masses, around 1651, it worked out great for the rich. The new kind of workers, prematurely named “free labor,” was far superior to the slaves, serfs, and peons of before. The new merchants and manufacturers could employ “free labor” to run their complicated machinery. Slaves, serfs, or peons had been okay as long as plows and wheelbarrows were their highest technology, but intercontinental travel and high-level manufacturing needed workers who could be highly trained and organized.

If we wanted to talk “isms,” we would say that capitalism created “free labor” and increased democracy. But “isms” are a distraction. We are just talking about groups of people bound together by their common economic interests. The big group was “free labor,” but the smaller group of bosses was running things.

The “free labor” group believed, as all exploited people must believe, that they were part of an ageless and unchangeable system, for better or for worse. Through the generations, they studied and they toiled, they believed, for their own benefit and for the benefit of their children. Actually, the main beneficiaries were in the other group.

Democracy was a blessing to the working people and not entirely inconvenient for the bosses, as long as they still controlled the major economic levers. Workers could be allowed to vote for some of their representatives in government, but they were allowed very little say-so about major economic decisions or government policy. Decisions about war, in particular, had to be reserved for the elite.

Here in America, partial democracy had barely begun before it began to be challenged. Slavery became intolerable, not only to the slaves but to a significant part of the population. Landless workers wanted democracy. Women wanted to vote. People “of color” wanted freedom. Younger people insisted on a fair share. Everybody wanted more education for their children and independent news agencies sprang up everywhere.

The elite rulers found themselves with the Frankenstein dilemma. They had created and nurtured both “free labor” and its concomitant democracy, but both were getting out of control.

The changes were gradual over time. Ordinary people became better educated, more information sources became available, communications improved, organization opportunities grew. Democracy was ascending, and the tight grip of the ever-smaller group of big bosses was threatened.

Even though change is gradual, it is highlighted in certain events and periods. The Vietnam War was one of them. From the bosses’ point of view, the decision was a simple one: they were going to destroy their enemies and perpetuate their control, just as they were accustomed to doing. But democracy and the people began to interfere. When the civil rights movement joined hands with the anti-war demonstrators, even the bosses could see that change was coming.

Since then, education has exploded, information sources have multiplied, communication has headed for the stratosphere, and organizing opportunities are going through the roof. The people see democracy as more than a comfort. It is a necessity and must be extended!

Many of the bosses no longer see democracy as tolerable. It has to be fought. It has to die.

What Will Happen

What will happen, sooner or later, is what must happen. The immovable object and the irresistible force must confront one another. Progress and reaction cannot reconcile. A small group of secret rulers will not willingly cede control. Ascendant democracy for all cannot tolerate a small group of secret rulers. Progress and the people will prevail.

Movie Review:

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. 140 minutes on Netflix

What makes this movie so relevant for today is the contrasting strategies portrayed. The movie makes the different ideologies clear. There were a lot of approaches to the Anti-War movement during the Vietnam invasion and not all of them are in this movie, but some critical ones were. With historical hindsight, we can evaluate them.

In 1969 leaders of the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society, the newly formed Yippie Party, and one pacifist associated with the War Resisters League were put on trial for having crossed state lines in order to “incite a riot” at the Democratic Party National Convention. It was a political show trial staged by the Nixon Administration in hopes of dampening the anti-war fervor of the time.

We can dispense with Nixon’s nasty strategy easily: it failed. The anti-war movement did not diminish during or after the trial. What is much more interesting is the contrasting approaches of the defendants.

The strategy of the protagonist with the pacifist view was to appeal to people’s better nature and provide a good example of anti-war intelligence. He was the most reasonable of the bunch, or at least he seemed so until he slugged one of the bailiffs.

Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers was not involved in organizing the demonstrations. The Nixon “Justice” department apparently indicted him, as the script explains, just to scare the jurors. Seale doesn’t talk strategies with the other defendants, but his interactions with the judge showed his defiant attitude. During the trial, the Chicago Police murdered Fred Hampton, Chicago leader of the Panthers. The judge in the trial infamously had Bobby Seale bound and gagged in the courtroom.

The two “Yippies,” Abie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, steal the movie, as they did the publicity around the long trial, by joking and mocking the judicial system. Their goal, as gleefully explained in the movie, was to create a “cultural revolution.” Their antics were supposed to reveal the fundamental injustice of the war, the trial, and the entire American way of life. That would somehow lead to fundamental changes, but they were accused in the movie of being simple opportunists aggrandizing their own reputations and book sales.

Students for a Democratic Society was a mass movement. It didn’t last very long, but it had a tremendous impact on society and on the war in Vietnam while it lasted. Its main spokesperson in the movie was Tom Hayden who used his anti-war fame to gain a very successful career in California politics. Hayden explains that his movement’s goal was to win power through elections.

All of the defendants agreed on one thing: they wanted to end the war in Vietnam. In that regard, history explains to us that they were on the right track. The war in Vietnam is probably the only U.S. war whose extent was severely limited by popular dissent.

They also agreed that demonstrating at the Democratic Party Convention was a good tactic. The Democrats, after all, had started the war under the Kennedy Administration and carried it to fabulous extremes under Johnson. One could argue that the Chicago demonstrations helped defeat Hubert Humphrey and put Richard Nixon into the White House. Nixon then carried the war even further, but we have no historical way of evaluating what “Happy Warrior” Humphrey would have done.

The characters in the movie, especially Hayden and Hoffman, argue strategies. Viewers like you and I get to decide who was the most effective.

Gene Lantz

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

You can learn all the technicalities of the movie with the Wikipedia article. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trial_of_the_Chicago_7

For a rave review of the movie’s artistic aspects, see https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-trial-of-the-chicago-7-movie-review-2020

Book Review: Tippett, Tom, “When Southern Labor Stirs,” Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, New York, 1931

I can’t resist any labor history book I find at Half Price Books. This one cost $45, so I assume it is hard to find today. Its message rings through the decades.

In 1929-1930, southern textile workers tried hard to organize into unions. They asked anybody who would listen for union organizers. The Communist-led National Textile Union and the American Federation of Labor-led United Textile Union responded. Bosses forced them into strikes at Elizabethton, Gastonia, Greenville, Marion, and Danville. Tom Tippett visited them all to record his history and opinion.

All of the strikes were major disasters. Tippett apportions the blame as he goes along and in a final chapter. The strikes were settled by armed strikebreakers and soldiers with bayonets, so it’s quite clear why the strikes failed. Governors sent soldiers and “law” officers helped organize the hoodlums, so the fault had nothing to do with the balance of power between the bosses and the workers – government intervention was always the decisive factor.

But our side gets some criticism, too. Tippett compliments the Communists for the depth of their commitment and the peripheral support that they offered the strikers. They brought lawyers, fund raisers, and publicists into the fray. He faults the AFL for their tepid commitment and timid approach. He excoriates both organizations soundly for not anticipating the government intervention.

One feels that the strikers in every case could have won if they only had to deal with the bosses and their local backers such as newspapers and preachers.

Tippett compliments the strikers for their commitment and their spiritual development as unified forces. He loves their songs. He tells of their bravery as they faced terrible hardships. Many of them were blacklisted, some were injured, some were imprisoned, and some were murdered.  . One of the outstanding murder victims was Ella Mae Wiggins, a pregnant mother of five who was killed by strikebreakers with shotguns.

The tales are both heartening, because of the heroic efforts, and depressing, because our side lost. In his summary, though, Tom Tippett sees a bright future ahead. He lists some things that could have been done better:

  • More attention to racial divisions among the workers
  • The entire labor movement, not isolated unions, should commit to organizing the South
  • Financial commitment must be strong because fired workers must have support
  • The AFL strategy of trying to win over the bosses should be set aside
  • The spirit of unionism must be cultivated and maintained
  • Unions must embrace advanced social programs that inspire solidarity

Tippett had great ideas, and many of them were to be adopted just 4 years later when the CIO gestated in the belly of the AFL. His faith in the future of organizing in southern textile mills did not bear fruit in his lifetime. The AFL gave up after these strikes. The CIO tried later, but eventually abandoned its effort to organize the South. The textile mills were long ago offshored to places with even more downtrodden and desperate workers.

But it takes a certain level of faith in the future to be an American union activist, so I deliver to you Tippett’s ending to these sad stories of the past: “…down underneath the southern unrest is a germ with a will to live that neither mobs nor massacres nor prisons can extinguish. It was best expressed in the words of a textile operative whose husband had been killed in front of the Marion cotton mill when she said, ‘somehow or other, we’re going to have a union.’ And they are.”

–Gene Lantz

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

Book Review:

Smith, Page, “Trial By Fire. A People’s History of the Civil War and Reconstruction.” McGraw-Hill, NY, 1982. 995 pgs

Lincoln quote on labor

This is Volume 5 of Page’s series on history of America. There are a lot of facts in the book, but factual reporting is not his method. Mostly, he compiles diary entries from people on both sides of the period. He tries, that way, to reflect what people were thinking as the years passed.

It is particularly effective when we try to un-puzzle what happened during Reconstruction. Did it succeed or did it fail? Should they have even tried or would it be better to have left the Southerners to do what they wanted? Who were the good guys and who were the bad? What difference did it make at the time?

Nothing is clear-cut in political history. It’s all a matter of point of view and opinion. Reconstruction may have been a good idea at the end of the Civil War, but a lot of people were against it. As time wore on, fewer and fewer people in the North really cared. The Southerners were adamant, and they thought they could re-assert the same relationships they had before the war.

One reason that Southerners were so optimistic about re-asserting racist relationships is because President Johnson had 3 years to re-instate them after Lincoln’s death. If there’s a bad guy, I mean a really awful bad guy, it was Johnson.

If there’s a good guy, a really good guy, it was President Grant. When he assumed the presidency in 1868, he made a genuine effort to protect African American people and give them a chance to thrive. When his second term ran out, reconstruction was over. The Republicans just gave it up. The strongest of them were the abolitionists, who had pretty well died out by 1876.

Page’s account of Reconstruction is the bloodiest I have seen. Black people were murdered and raped all over the South all through the decades following the war. Some died fighting, but most of them were simply murdered. There were large massacres and small massacres, but the Southerners eventually prevailed and civil rights went from a hopeful era to very dark times that persist today.

—Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. We podcast it, and “Workers Beat Extra,” on Soundcloud. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site

Book Review: Bevins, Vincent, Jakarta Method. Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World. Public Affairs, New York, 2020

If one reads a little bit of news from abroad, or if one watches a few movies made somewhere else, one probably already knows that the United States government has participated in extermination programs. One doesn’t get an idea of the extent.

Appendix 5, pages 266-7, gives some of the numbers. If one adds them up, it amounts to 1,927,850 murders. Author Bevins explains on page 238, “As we have seen, in the years 1945-1990, a loose network of US-backed anticommunist extermination programs emerged around the world, and they carried out mass murder in at least twenty-two countries (see Appendix Five).

The numbers given do not include deaths from military engagements or even “collateral damage” deaths. These were murders. The body count doesn’t even include the people who were tortured, maimed, raped, or held in concentration camps. One of the Indonesians interviewed is quoted on page 246, “They needed to kill the communists so that foreign investors could bring their capital here.”

People who are still alive in America can remember when we used to read the words “non-aligned nations” in the official news. Activists talked about “the third world” and “new left.” These were ways of identifying with much of the world’s population that was neither in the First World American rich-people’s camp nor the socialist Soviet camp. They were trying to maneuver in between.

It was these “non-aligned nations” who experienced the Jakarta method. Jakarta was the capital of Indonesia, the fourth largest nation in the world and a major leader of the non-aligned movement. After three million unarmed suspected leftists were persecuted, and after a million of them were murdered, Indonesia aligned. They aligned with the United States, and so did almost all the others.

The actual method in the Jakarta method was to “disappear” dissidents. Suspects were rounded up, usually at night, tortured for the names of more suspects, and then murdered. A General Domingo in Brazil explains the process on page 215, “First we will kill all subversives, then we will kill all of their collaborators, then those who sympathize with subversives, then we will kill those that remain indifferent, and finally we kill the timid.”

As far as I know, Ronald Reagan did not personally strangle any of the victims. American armed forces were not called out, and America’s intelligence services contributed only a minimum of direct participation. America did these murders with sly propaganda, skillful political maneuvering, bullying, and, most of all, with money. America did not conduct these mass murders personally, they paid someone else to do it.

This book has the first comprehensive listing of those American atrocities I have ever seen. It is not easy to read because the truth is not always easy to take. By bringing together the horrors, and by showing how they interrelate, Vincent Bevins makes a great contribution to our understanding of where we are and how we got there. I don’t think it’s perfect, or even complete. For example, I don’t see Angola on the map in Appendix 5, but I can remember when Jonas Savimbi toured the United States to raise money for his terror campaign there.

It only covers part of the post-war period. I shudder to think what might be revealed from a longer view of history, and I shudder even more to think that, twenty years hence, we will be finding out what American “intelligence services” are doing in our names this very day.

–Gene Lantz

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

Why can’t they come up with a unifying plan for the 2020 elections? I don’t mean to insult hippies, nor anarchists, but politically they both share the same malady.

It helps explain why they have so many divergent and confusing attitudes about the current elections, as manifested every day on my social media news feeds.

Hippies and anarchists are really good people in that they sincerely want a better world. They are willing to go to great lengths to make that world happen. They often exhibit great courage in facing arrests and prosecution.

As they never really get anything done, the keepers of the status quo are more than happy to laughingly tolerate them. In fact, the 1% sometimes finds uses for hippies and anarchists to help them confuse and divide the progressive movement.

Hippies and anarchists don’t really like each other, so why am I insisting on throwing them into one big political category? It’s because of what they have in common.

Common Belief of Hippies and Anarchists

They believe that their idea of a better world should come about immediately. They don’t believe in periods of advancement or setback. They basically have one strategy and it is supposed to result in instant gratification — a better world.

Hippies and anarchists believe they already have everything figured out. The hippies take the really short route: they just start living as if the better world were already here. The anarchists take quick actions that are supposed to awaken the rest of us. The hippies don’t care how long it may take for everybody else to catch on, but the anarchists think that just one great “spark” will make their better world right away. The problem is just finding the right spark.

The long, hard work of informing and organizing ordinary people just doesn’t appeal to hippies and anarchists. The daily drudgery of defending democracy and trying to advance it isn’t part of their plan. It isn’t that they are stupid or lazy, maybe they just haven’t thought it through.

Dozens of Election Strategies

That’s why the hippies and anarchists can’t come up with a candidate or a unifying strategy in the 2020 elections. None of the choices, Biden or Trump or 3rd party or abstention, can give them the instant gratification that they consider their due. Eventually, most of the hippies will ignore the election. The anarchists will oppose it. Neither or them will bring anybody any closer to progress.

–Gene Lantz

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

In October 1917, Vladimir Lenin was almost alone in calling for the Bolsheviks to take over Russia. Even after they succeeded, the arguments raged on, Menshevik against Bolshevik, revolutionary against liberal, and Social Democrat against Communist.

Lenin Statue in Seattle

Millions joined the revolutionary movement because the Bolsheviks succeeded. Millions left because of the Stalin-Hitler Pact. Millions joined because the Red Army defeated the fascists. Millions left because of the Khruschev revelations. Millions joined because of Cuba. Millions left when the Soviet Union imploded. All of them were misguided, and all of their arguments are irrelevant.

The Mensheviks and Social Democrats since 1917 have argued that the Bolshevik Revolution was bound to fail because they should have waited, no matter how long it might take, until they could be elected. Generations passed with the Social Democrats making the same arguments. When capitalism finally did bring down the Soviet Union in 1991, they changed to “I told you so!”

They weren’t really arguing history. The importance of the argument lies in the basic question of whether or not people, Americans for example, should engage in revolutionary struggle. Lenin and the Russian revolution are just metaphors in this fundamental disagreement. If one believes that the only proper way to change the world is by being elected, then Lenin is evil, Lenin is opportunist, and, most important, Lenin is wrong!

The metaphor may be gone, but the argument is still going on. If people want a better world, should they look for a revolutionary program or just a very good election campaign? It’s irrelevant.

It’s irrelevant, for one reason, because a revolutionary program would include a very good election campaign. Lenin knew that, and the Bolsheviks ran election campaigns every time it was permitted.

But it’s even more irrelevant because the situation in America today is far different from Russia in 1917. They didn’t have an almost completely educated populace. They didn’t have cell phones. They didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have worldwide information and communications.

We are misguided if we think that the tide of history is conclusively changed because of an individual or a passing event. The entire history of the human race shows that we get smarter and more capable of self-governance. Individuals don’t change that. Incidents don’t change it.

Even if revolutionaries conceded, because the Soviet Union lasted “only” 74 years, and said that the Bolsheviks should never have sought to break the power of the capitalists in Russia in 1917, so what? They weren’t us and we aren’t them! Today, each of us has an obligation to ourselves and to our species to think through what is needed and what we can do about it. Lenin can’t do it for us, and he couldn’t stop us if he wanted to. It’s up to us, now.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 Central Time. We podcast the radio show and other “Workers Beat Extra” commentaries on Soundcloud.com. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site

TV Review

“Stateless” streaming on Netflix. The first three episodes are directed by Emma Freeman; the other three by Jocelyn Moorhouse.

Please don’t miss this great Australian series.

STATELESS (L to R) FAYSSAL BAZZI as AMEER and SORAYA HEIDARI as MINA in episode 102 of STATELESS Cr. BEN KING/NETFLIX © 2020

The series examines what happens to the lives of those associated with an immigrant detention center that is operated for profit. This one is in Australia, where they unfailingly make great dramas, but the ones in the Rio Grande Valley are also run for profit.

Two of the main characters are inmates: an Afghani trying to save his daughters from the Taliban and an Australian citizen who is trying to hide her identity. The other two administrate the place: an immigration specialist and an ordinary working dude trying out a new job as a prison guard. The place works its wonders on them. Even more, the world system that creates 70 million dislocated asylum seekers and then mistreats them miserably works its wonders on us, the audience.

Part of the story, Wikipedia says, is directly true. All of it sounds true, seems true, hurts truly.

A word about the quality of the presentation: the penetrating insight into every character could only have been revealed by women. Both directors and both writers were women. Their sensitivity is a marvel.

By way of explaining how good the acting is, let me ask you if you’ve ever seen a Cate Blanchett picture where her acting didn’t overshadow everybody else? Cate Blanchett is very good in “Stateless,” but her role is limited. She is listed as one of several Executive Directors. If you’re a fan of Australian TV, let me ask if you’ve ever seen Marta Dusseldorp in anything in which her skill didn’t dominate everybody else? In this series, Ms Dusseldorp and Ms Blanchett are just part of a wonderful ensemble of players. Everybody is excellent. The actors for the four main characters are beyond excellent.

Top acting kudos has to go to Yvonne Strahovski. Her role is the most demanding, and she pushes each of her emotional portrayals beyond limits. After the first few scenes, you may recognize her as the cold hearted Commander’s wife in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” or maybe you won’t recognize her, but you won’t forget her again after you see her in “Stateless!”

Yvonne Strahovski

The Australian immigration/detention system takes a beating in “Stateless,” but several characters, including some administrators, give the impression that they are doing the best that they can in a rotten situation. At least they are trying. My movie buddy and I agreed, several times as we watched the series over a few nights, that the worst of the miseries “Stateless” encountered must be far worse here at home in the United States, where what they are trying to do with the immigration situation isn’t just rotten.

–Gene Lantz

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

I don’t see a lot of effort being put into winning over the 40% of Americans who support Donald Trump. Mostly, I see them being called names like “moron,” “idiot,” “fascist,” and “white supremacist.” And yet, people who are working to make a better world have to have them.

Why make enemies?
Making enemies is not a good stratgegy

The last evaluation of Trump’s levels of support that I saw was on “The Hill:” https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/506076-the-hills-campaign-report-trumps-job-approval-erodes-among-groups-that

It says his overall approval rating has dropped to 38%, but it’s still 57% when they consider Anglos only. It’s a comment on the state of the nation that political polarity is almost total: 91% of Republicans and 2% of Democrats approve of Trump. That’s a serious divide!

If anyone is serious about making a better world, they surely recognize that allowing 40% of America to become bitter enemies of progress is not a pathway to progress. They need to be won over, not demonized!

Why Do People Love Trump?

I see a lot of speculation, but it’s not seriously thought out. The reason that millions love Donald Trump is not that they are somehow defective or purposefully evil. What they are is afraid. The Trump strategy is to make them just as afraid as possible, and it’s working. Unfortunately, those of us on the side of progress, by vilifying them, are cooperating with Trump’s plan.

What Are They Afraid Of?

Trump plays on basic fears. One of them is that “minorities” are a growing demographic that should exceed 50% in the near future. Anglos are very conscious that “minorities” are have historically been mistreated, and they fear the same for themselves when they lose their majority.

Another basic fear is that America is losing its economic, military, and cultural dominance of the rest of the world. Xenophobia is a real feeling, and it can be heightened through demagoguery. China’s economic success threatens Anglos.

How Do You Deal With Frightened People?

Certainly not by scaring them even more. Certainly not by calling them names. Progressives have to stop exacerbating Trump’s scare tactics. What we have to do is patiently explain that life can go on, even after Anglos stop dominating minorities and the rest of the world. We should patiently explain, too, that demagoguery will not stop the changing of demographics nor world economics.

Our explanations should show that Trump’s policies are directly benefiting the richest people, not the rest of us. Right now, Trump’s political coalition is dominated by the super-rich who know very well what they’re doing; but it is supported by millions who aren’t benefiting, aren’t likely to benefit ever, and really don’t know what they are doing.

It doesn’t hurt, either, to point out how much Mr. Trump is making things worse. Our employment hopes, our hopes for our health, and the very existence of our planet are threatened by Trump policies. But we have to point out Trump’s flaws without pinning them on his supporters. We can do without Trump, certainly, but we can’t make a better world without our other 40%.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s Workers Beat radio talk show every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. They podcast it along with other material on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site