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Serious groups and individuals are trying to find a way forward during this crisis, but many of us come up with different answers. The reason is that we don’t really understand the problem. That’s our biggest mistake.

It’s popular now to blame President Trump for everything. Since Bernie Sanders cancelled his campaign, some of my friends are blaming Joe Biden. In a more general sense, some blame the Republicans. Some still blame the Democrats. Some blame the people who vote wrong, some blame the people who don’t vote at all. Some blame the Chinese and others say we should be more like the Chinese.

All of them are only partially right.

The economic/ecological/financial/medical/political crisis is not the fault of the Chinese, not the fault of the pandemic, not Trump’s fault, not Obama’s, and not Adam Smith’s. If we were going to blame one of them, we should probably single out Adam Smith. He’s the one who promoted our big mistake by spreading the horse-hockey theory that capitalism was a rational system.

Keynes explains capitalism
Keynes explains capitalism

Capitalism is not a rational system. Never was, still isn’t, never will be. Capitalism really isn’t even a system. The best way to define capitalism is to say that capitalists are running things. The capitalists replaced the aristocrats mostly in the 17th and 18th centuries. The aristocrats had replaced the slave owners in a long process before that. Aristocrats were more productive than the slave owners. Capitalists were more productive than aristocrats, but they still hadn’t evolved up to a rational system.

Even Adam Smith didn’t actually claim that capitalism was guided by rational thinking. He said it was guided by an “invisible hand” that made it good for everyone. He didn’t say that the invisible hand was rational, so that’s to his credit. He should have said, though, that it’s a crazy hand. A psychopathic hand. That would have been more honest.

Capitalists work from a national framework. They take over other, less efficient, economies. They don’t prefer to use their national armies, but they will. When there are no more territories or peoples to take over, they have to face off against one another. That was the situation in 1914 when the big capitalists made us go to war.

If the capitalists were in control of a rational system, they might have found some other kind of solution. I don’t think that individual capitalists, for the most part, really wanted to go to war. Well, maybe Winston Churchill, but not a lot of the capitalists.

After the War to End All Wars and a brief period of prosperity to replace everything they had broken and to grow some new cannon fodder, the capitalists extended their crisis into the Great Depression. Another World War and another prosperous period of replacing broken things brought them into their present crisis.

During and since the Great Depression, the capitalists have been using their power over the government to bail out their failed businesses. In 2007, armored trucks full of money scurried from government agencies to banks and big business. They are doing it again now, and they will have to do it again in future if they are going to stay in power.

What If We Had a Rational System?

Let me change the direction of the argument slightly. Let us suppose for a moment that we actually were living under a rational system. One aspect of a rational system would be to avoid overpopulating our planet. The basic reason for overpopulation is government policies to encourage high birth rates. Presently, nations need high birthrates in order to compete with one another in an irrational world. In a rational world, they wouldn’t.

Pandemics would be less of a threat. Famine would be less of a problem. If an epidemic threatened in some part of the world, the rest of the world could mobilize to isolate and stop it. In a rational world.

Our biggest mistake is blaming individuals, nations, ideologies, or circumstances for our problems. We should blame the capitalists who run our irrational system, and we should democratically replace them with rational leaders. That simple!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9AM central time. They podcast the weekly program and “Workers Beat Extra” on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

I was blown away when the AFL-CIO promoted an extremely progressive May Day, 2020! I think it may be their first one since 1886, and it is amazing!

Couldn't have thought of a better slogan
AFL-CIO slogan for 2020 May 1st events

For May 1, 2020, the AFL-CIO promoted a daylong list of progressive activities. The best one was probably their own 10AM on-line meeting. Mayday with AFL-CIO was a quick look at our working class around the world during International Worker Solidarity Day. Special emphasis was on undocumented workers, refugees, and the “informal economy.” The importance of women was double underlined because all of the speakers were women.

Cathy Feingold ofAFL-CIO
Cathy Feingold of AFL-CIO

The host was Cathy Feingold, International Director of the AFL-CIO and Deputy President of the International Trade Union Confederation. ITUC claims 200 million members worldwide. Speakers were from Morocco, Honduras, Bangladesh, and Europe — Brussels and Geneva. These were top union leaders and experts.

I was thrilled with the theme. We want a new social contract! The best part of the entire event was when Feingold said, “We don’t want to go back to normal!” We want a better world.

The ITUC has a petition for a new social contract: http://petitions.ituc-csi.org/let-s-build-resilient-economi… I hurried to sign it.

A slogan at the end of the AFL-CIO's meeting

They Keep Getting Better

During the meeting, I was made aware of two slight distractions. One was an anti-communist named Anibal something. Anti-communists hate unionism. He/she had to add overthrowing Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua into the mix. I wrote back, “Great Anibal, just what we need, more divisions!”

The other distraction was more serious. A good friend of mine texted heavy criticism of the event, not because of anything about the event, but because it was sponsored by the AFL-CIO. He said the AFL-CIO was part of American imperialism.

On the upside, the guy agreed with me that the May Day meeting was a really good thing for the world working class, and a good thing for the working class is a good thing all around. But he made me want to share my perspective on the American labor movement and international relations.

I Remember When

I can remember when the AFL-CIO really was part of American imperialism. We used to call them the “AFL-CIA” because they took big bucks from the CIA and carried out their wishes. Their International Department was run by a guy named Jay Lovestone. Lovestone was a rogue Communist Party leader turned rabid anti-communist.

The President of the AFL-CIO was the last major American political figure to stop supporting the war in Vietnam. He persisted even after Nixon gave it up! He encouraged “hard hat” hooligans to beat up anti-war protesters!

I actually saw the “AFL-CIA” in action in 1979 when I first visited revolutionary Nicaragua. No sooner had the Sandinistas defeated the dictator Somoza than the AFL-CIA showed up with big money and an effort to organize “independent” unions. They meant independent of the revolution, but dependent on more money from the United States. Apparently, that was standard operating procedure for the AFL-CIA.

But some amazing changes started taking over the American labor movement in 1987. In that year, five of the most progressive unions met and formed Jobs with Justice. They used it to practice progressive unionism, and it was great. But that was only the beginning.

In 1995, for the first time in over 100 years, the outgoing AFL leadership did not pick its successors. Progressive leaders led by John Sweeney, Richard Trumka, and Linda Chavez-Thompson (of Texas) beat the status quo leaders out. Then they really started making changes.

In 1997, they took the anti-communist clause out of their constitution. I was there for that one, and I was floored! Sometime before 1999, they ditched their old International Department and replaced it with Solidarity. In 1999, I remember when they quit calling, as they had for 100 years, for deportations and started trying to organize the undocumented. Today, they are the best advocates that undocumented workers have. Their May Day event was all about workers without papers.

I’m not positive about this date, but I believe that it was in 2002 when imperialism was able to get the Venezuelan elite to kidnap President Hugo Chavez. The AFL-CIO joined in condemning the act and called for Chavez’ release.

I wish the present leadership of AFL-CIO would acknowledge their egregious mistakes of the past, and I don’t exactly blame young radicals who don’t realize how much they have changed, or even those who believe that everybody who doesn’t embrace their revolutionary ideas must be some kind of enemy. But those are minor gripes. Unions aren’t revolutionary, but they are working class. That’s worth remembering!

The fact is that the American AFL-CIO is a front-line progressive organization of the working class. I couldn’t be more proud!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it along with some of my other audio events (Workers Beat Extra). If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site

Some of the brothers and sisters on my side of the anti-capitalist fight have lately begun exhibiting some of the errors of anarchists, ultralefts, and middle class liberals. I’m hoping it’s a temporary diversion from the very good work we have seen since Bernie Sanders stirred up this giant activist movement in 2016.

The culmination of the mistakes is to disregard the interests of the working class by calling for people to abstain from voting in the 2020 elections. Some of the usual excuses are being given. Some say that they are focusing on street heat and mass action, as if they couldn’t possibly find time to engage in electoral activities while organizing picketing. Others say that they are casting “protest votes” for fringe parties, just to teach the Democrats a lesson, as if they expect the Democrats to learn from them. No matter the excuse being used, these brothers and sisters are mistakenly abandoning the electoral field when it is of desperate importance to workers.

Like nearly all political errors, these comes from not understanding the political situation. An incorrect assessment must lead to error. If one doesn’t see where we are, one can hardly prescribe the way forward.

Apparently, some of the good activists thought that Bernie Sanders and the movement he generated could actually transform the Democratic Party in 2020. Even if they allowed themselves such high hopes, they should have at least recognized that such a transformation was not a certainty.

The extreme level of disappointment that many Bernie supporters are feeling is understandable because they worked hard for the campaign. But it’s no excuse for abandoning the working class. The Bernie campaign, in 2016 and in 2020, was terrific for the working class. The advancement in working-class consciousness, understanding, and willingness to take action is excellent and is not qualitatively diminished by Sanders’ withdrawal from the race.

To let our emotions determine our political statements and actions is not a characteristic of serious revolutionaries. It’s something that anarchists might do, because they think they can jolt the world into transformation. It’s something that ultralefts might do because they don’t care about the outcome. It’s something that middle-class liberals might do because they live in the fuzzy world of pie-in-the-sky ideals.

Think of the class.

–Gene Lantz

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

They don’t sound like very good choices, but that’s what’s being offered to the 99% by the 1% today. I know this because I attend a lot of meetings with representatives of working families, specifically union leaders.

ACCIDENT

Workplace safety is in shambles and is not getting better. The American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations has been demanding for some time that the Occupational Safety and Health Agency put forward some mandatory rules for workplace safety. OSHA hasn’t. The pandemic has just made it much worse.

OSHA was created during the Nixon Administration. It is charged with making sure that American workplaces are safe for everyone. Over the years, it has kept the mandate but lost the capacity. They don’t have enough resources to investigate much of anything; consequently, they don’t.

Workplaces may be safe if 1) Benevolent our insurance-minded bosses regulate themselves or 2) the workers have a union. Union workers have very few accidents. When they do, they generally get good care and compensation. But only about 11% of American workers have a union. The other 89% have to look out!

Undocumented workers are particularly at risk. It would be difficult to find out just how much “at risk” they are, because their accidents, even their deaths, are barely recorded. If they are lucky, the dead ones may get a wooden coffin and shipment to their country of origin. That’s about all the luck they have.

If they are hurt but not dead, undocumented workers tend to keep very quiet about it. A person can get fired for getting hurt, and undocumented workers have no protection, no recourse.

Here in Texas, there is an organization that specifically tries to help the undocumented. The Workers Defense Project collect data to show that construction jobs in Texas are the most dangerous jobs in the country. Of course, many of those jobs, and those bad statistics, are held by the undocumented.

Like every agency meant to help working families, OSHA is severely underfunded, is getting more underfunded, and has no prospects for getting more funding. That’s the situation in workplace safety.

DISEASE

The workplace safety situation is especially dire during the pandemic. Companies have no reason to reveal how many of their employees have the Coronavirus, and they have lots of motivation to keep it quiet so that other workers will continue producing wealth for them.

We hail the “essential workers” or “frontline workers.” We’d like to think that everybody loves them, but their bosses don’t. Lots of these self-sacrificing workers that are saving this nation and the world are working without proper training or equipment. It’s not just a few, it’s epic.

Union workers, as usual, are much better off than those without representation, but even union workers are getting shafted. I have been to several press conferences where union leaders announced the numbers of infected or dead members they have. Nearly all of those union leaders can point out workplaces where brave workers are risking the virus without what they need.

Undocumented workers, we’re talking millions of people, don’t get much of anything. They are treated as though they weren’t human. Interestingly, though, they can spread the virus just as well as any human. It is in everybody’s interest to take care of the undocumented and stop the virus, but they don’t. I made a mistake when I said “everybody’s interest,” I should have said “yours and my interest,” not the bosses.

So, the disease threat is really close at hand

EXECUTION

Many of my friends, maybe even all of them, are compare Trump to Hitler. I don’t. Hitler had a mustache. Hitler was smart.

But the conditions that brought about fascism in Italy and Germany are, in a very broad sense, being replicated in America today. Maybe the public at large thinks that fascism is impossible in America. I don’t blame them for thinking that, but they ought to re-think.

Actually, America had a lot of fascists during Hitler’s time. Remember the veteran’s bonus march, for example? Lots of left-learning Americans love the story of the bonus march, especially because Generals MacArthur and Eisenhower burned them out. If the generals are the bad guys, then the bonus marchers must have been the good guys. Right?

But one of the main leaders of the bonus army was a jack-booted fascist. He and his followers, being working folks, wore khaki. So they weren’t fascist black shirts nor fascist brown shirts. They were fascist khaki shirts.

Remember good old Lindberg, “Lucky Lindy,” who flew the Atlantic? He was a Hitler-supporting fascist and he had a big political party behind him. They didn’t have televangelists in those days, no television, but one radio evangelist, Father Coughlin, had hundreds of thousands of listeners! In my own union, the autoworkers, a triumvirate took power. One of them clearly was a communist, but another one was called a fascist!

So don’t think fascism can’t take root in America, it already has.

The Japanese simplified things for Americans at Pearl Harbor, but before that there were a lot of Communists and a lot of fascists.

There were a lot of both of them in Germany, too. But Hitler killed the Communists. We have probably memorized, by now, how many Jews Hitler caused to be dead. I’ve never heard the head count on dead Communists, but I know that they were first. One of Hitler’s main appeals (to the bosses) was that he would kill the Communists.

Hitler killed everybody that opposed him, and he killed them first. Keep that in mind when thinking about the possibility of fascism in America. When/if fascism comes to America, wrapped in the flag and singing hymns, as they say, anybody who speaks up will be courting execution.

So we have accident, disease, or execution before us. They aren’t the only choices, but they can claim inevitability unless somebody on our side, the 99% side, does something. Left to their own choices, the 1% bosses have already set their course and their sails. They’ve pulled up their anchor, too.

Their destination is not that far away. Fascism and the execution of the good guys could take place before November. November is when America is supposed to have elections to determine who has power. Democrats share power, of course. They make a great show of sportsmanship and sharing power. But fascists don’t, and fascists are taking over in America right now.

Right now in America, the biggest issue is not the pandemic. It’s not the economic crisis, either. It’s whether or not we will be able to maintain the democracy that we have left. We’ve already watched while Republicans shredded much of our democracy. They got the Citizens United case passed through the Supreme Court. They gutted the Voting Rights Act. They have succeeded in legitimizing the foulest forms of gerrymandering and voter suppression already.

Because they love us and don’t want us to get sick, they have postponed most of our elections in 2020. Their love and concern does not extend to letting us vote safely by mail. They are dead set against that. But they don’t mind postponing our elections.

They wouldn’t mind cancelling them, either.

Those who are re-thinking politics because of these unprecedented times might enjoy a new video on YouTube: “General Strike.”

A very handsome young man explains why every American worker should begin immediately to prepare for a nationwide political strike. He suggests two kinds of activities: stop going to work and stop paying rent. Either one, he says, will certainly teach the capitalists a lesson.

Normally, people wouldn’t even listen, certainly not for 42 minutes. But these aren’t normal times. Instead of dismissing the guy, why not look on the positive side?

You have to admit right away, he’s a really good presenter. Probably a graduate of college communications courses.

Another thing I like is that, unlike lots of radicals I’ve known, he doesn’t think we can all stop working tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, and thus overthrow the government. His stated goals are pretty much the same ones that progressive politicians espouse: health care for all, fair wages for all, and protection against Covid-19.

He shows a lot more humility than the old know-it-all radicals. He says he doesn’t precisely prescribe a process, but he recommends joining and helping progressive organizations. He wants us to support the strikes that already happening. He wants us to help with the Native American cause. These are pretty much in line with what other progressive organizations want. He doesn’t put forward his own timetable for the rest of us to meet. Actually, I was a little disappointed that he didn’t mention International Workers Day, May 1st.

So, we had a persuasive argument to prepare for a general strike from a very pleasant young man who says that this is the most important political period of his life. In general, I agree with him. Getting ready for a general strike is a good idea. If one wanted to be negative, one could complain that radicals are always calling for general strikes, and it’s true – but it doesn’t mean that they are wrong every time they do it. Right now today, Republican politicians are preparing to force everybody back to work, pandemic or no pandemic! Maybe the times have caught up with the idea? Columnist Abigail Van Buren used to say, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day!”

Digging a little deeper, one wonders why the brother doesn’t identify any particular organization with whom he agrees and that the rest of us should join. He gives several hashtags to help us organize: #GeneralStrike2020 #RentStrike2020 and #CareStrike. The video gives his name and title, “Emerican Johnson, Cornpop Ambassador to Vietnam.” At the end of the video, there’s a list of names with a background poem being read. It has “F-U” all through it.

That’s when I began to be critical. Why, if one hopes to organize everyone, would someone deliberately offend all the religious and vulgarity-conscious workers? Is profanity a membership requirement in whatever movement Brother Johnson hopes to build?

Further, what is this organization? There are some clues. For one thing, the speaker’s background is a bright combination of red and black. Red is traditionally the workers’ color, and black is for anarchists. The icon to start the video shows a black cat. The first organization listed as a good one to work with is the Industrial Workers of the World, IWW.

AHA! What American radical group has red and black for their colors, a black cat for their symbol, and “general strike” as the short form of their entire program? What American radical leader can talk for 42 minutes without mentioning the importance of union contracts and electoral politics for working families? Yes, it’s the Wobblies, the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World.

The IWW has been trying to organize a general strike to overthrow capitalism since they began at the turn of the last century. Again, that doesn’t mean that they were wrong, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they are wrong right now today!

–Gene Lantz

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

Are you thinking that it might be over soon? I am.


Having a heart attack in 2014 scared me into writing down everything that I thought might be worth sharing. I put it on http://lilleskole.us as “Life’s Lessons.” It’s kind of the story of my life for anybody who might be interested.

When Covid-19 hit, I felt OK about dying at first, because my story is told. But then I started to panic. For years, I’ve been talking about how lucky I have been to have seen the changes I’ve seen. What a weird wonderful world of changes we have had, especially since 1980 when America’s rich people began to get desperate!

But I want to see how it all comes out. I can see immense changes taking place during, because of, this pandemic.

  • On Line Learning gets a boost
  • Physical transportation gets squeezed
  • Socialism becomes a popular word
  • Capitalism gets examined
  • Cooperation is revealed as the only way forward

I have been advocating these 5 things for decades. I don’t like having a pandemic to teach us lessons, but I still like the lessons. I’m very enthusiastic about seeing how these ideas play out.

Also, I’ve been fascinated with fascism for a long long time. I’ve written dozens of essays about what it is, how it came about in Germany and Italy, and how we can avoid it today. The best description I ever heard of fascism is this one, “Fascism is capitalism in its death throes.”

Fascism is a choice that rulers make. They decide that limited democracy (what Germany had prior to 1931 and what we have always had in America) doesn’t suit them any more. So they take the gloves off and start looking for hoodlums to help them get the workers in line.

We are experiencing death throes of capitalism all over the world. Right now. Hungary, this past week, is going to try fascism. Brazil and lots of other countries, including the United States, have already edged very close to total fascism.

I’m pulling for democracy. I think that Americans believe in democracy and, if they ever figure out what’s happening, will fight for it and win. But maybe they won’t.

I just want to be around to see how it all comes out. I long to see these changes. But I realized that none of us ever gets to see how things come out. We all die before then. Because things don’t really come out. Everything about human society is a never ending battle.

Just to make it clear, let’s suppose that Bernie Sanders somehow wins the presidency along with both houses of congress and the leadership of every state. Would that mean there are no more battles to be fought? No more problems to overcome?

When the Bolsheviks took over the Russian Empire, Vladimir Lenin said, “Now the real work begins.” He died, incidentally, before it was finished. But that’s OK because it will never be finished.

So if I become another notch on Covid-19’s gun, I won’t go willingly but I will understand.

–Gene Lantz

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

TV Review: “Babylon Berlin” directed by Tom Tykwer. three seasons on Netflix

The biggest and most expensive TV series ever produced for German television is running in 100 countries around the world. There are a string of awards. Americans may have trouble with the dubbing and, possibly, with the German expressionism style. If we get involved in the period being depicted, though, we can answer some of our questions about German fascism and, maybe, get some insights into our own.

It isn’t just good entertainment, it’s also a profound learning experience for non-Germans in our historical period.

As we face incipient fascism in several nations and our own, we can profit from trying to understand Germany during the crumbling of the Weimar Republic and before the rise of Hitler. “The Nazis didn’t just fall from the sky,” explains one of the show’s creators. For all we know in America, they may as well have, because many of us don’t know squat.

The two main characters through all 3 seasons are police. He’s a morphine addict and she’s a part-time prostitute. His problems come from shell-shock during WWI, hers from abject poverty. Their combined flaws, compared to that of the general Berlin society around 1929, make them comparatively the healthiest people in the story.

The two of them carry out what might have been called ordinary police procedural drama. But it’s what happens in the background that really matters. They deal with the political/economic situation that helps us answer our questions about Nazis. For the serious questioner, the Wikipedia version explains the period.

In the first three TV seaons, the Nazis aren’t the major political players. Much more important are the monarchists who want to restore the Kaiser, destroy the communists, and make Germany a dominant military power once more. The monarchists sincerely believe that they would have won WWI had it not been for the “fifth column” of anti-war protesters at home. The Nazis agree with them on that, and both of them team up to malign and discredit the big communist movement.

For sheer anti-communism, it would be hard for anybody to beat the social democrats running the government during the Weimar Republic. They made an early deal with the monarchists in the army to destroy the Spartacist League (militant communists) in 1919. They succeeded and executed Rosa Luxemburg and Carl Leibnecht, the leadership way before this TV story begins.

Here, we have a big, rather amorphous, communist party, and a number of organizations opposing them: Trotskyists, monarchists, and the Weimar government itself. Confusing everything are the non-political but very powerful underworld gangsters. Our two police “heroes” are theoretically neutral as they stand up for law and order.

It’s the flapper era. Depravity is commonplace. The rich are disgusting; the poor are miserable. Nobody respects the government. Democracy is strange and alien to the Germans, and they can never forget that it was forced on them by the victors of WWI.

The Weimar government was never accepted by the German people. Their loyalties are divided among the anti-government organizations. As long as the economy is working, though, things go along. The third season ends with the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

I understand that shooting will begin soon on Season Four.

–Gene Lantz

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