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Several socialist groups came together on April 29, 2018, in Lake Cliff Park in Dallas to celebrate MayDay. They were kind enough to allow the oldest person in attendance to remind them of the long workers’ tradition by leading singing of “The International.”

Another Mayday celebration, by another group of socialists, takes place at Kidd Springs Park at 5:30PM on May 1st. One cannot help but observe that the progressive movement, even the activists who supposedly have the highest levels of consciousness, continues to be disunited. It’s like Will Rogers used to say about the weather: “Everybody talks about unity, but nobody does anything about it!” I believe the trend, though, is positive.

The trend toward celebrating the International Workers Day is a very positive sign. I can remember reserving that very same Lake Cliff Park pavilion May 1, 1984, and doing all the preparations and publicizing myself. Then I sat there, alone, for two hours hoping somebody would come, but they didn’t! This year, we have two of them. The first one had about 40 people, and I imagine the second will be at least as big.

I’ll be doing a talk about “MayDay Then and Now” at Roma’s Pizza, 7402 Greenville Avenue, beginning at 6 pm on Saturday, May 5th. I’d like to count that as a third MayDay celebration. Every year, I publicize MayDay on my radio show.

MayDay Has a History

The workers’ movement, of course, goes back at least to Moses and the slaves of Egypt, and workers probably celebrated the vernal equinox around MayDay long before they had calendars. But the year 1886 marks the close association of the workers’ movement with May 1.

That year, the word went out from Chicago for a worldwide general strike to demand the 8-hour day. There were protests everywhere. Strikers were killed in Chicago. A police riot erupted on May 4th during another rally in Haymarket square. Authorities came down hard on the Chicago movement and, in 1887, hanged four of the main leaders. Since then, the world remembers “Chicago, 1886” on May 1st.

The repression from the bosses combined with the opportunism of many American labor leaders separated the Americans from the International Workers Day; consequently there have been few celebrations here until recently.

Was Labor Stronger Before?

Almost any reading of labor history will bring out the romantic in us. We long for the great general strike of 1874, or the worldwide struggle of 1886, or the organizing frenzy of 1935-1947. In 1980, when the American government decisively teamed up with the bosses to suppress the labor movement, unions began a numerical free fall that continues today. We had 35% of the workforce organized into unions, and we have only 11% now. People dream about the good old days.

No, We’re Stronger Now!

But despite the decline in union numbers, American labor is actually stronger today than ever. Part of the reason is productivity, but most of it is education. One worker today is four times as productive as those who organized in 1935-47. If one worker walks off the job today, it’s like four workers striking in the old days.

We have more unity than ever. In 1935-47, remember that the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations were two separate and competing organizations. Remember also that racism and other kinds of chauvinism were far more divisive in the “old days” than they are today. The AFL-CIO didn’t even try to organize the millions of undocumented workers before 1999 — they joined the government in calling for deportation!

Today, the AFL-CIO bends over backward to work with church, civil rights, and community organizations. In 1987, unions were so totally isolated that five of the more progressive ones had to create a separate organization, Jobs with Justice, to try to build solidarity outside the official labor movement. Today, virtually all unions have gone past their initial hostility and regularly work with Jobs with Justice and other solidarity efforts.

In the old days, many workers were barely literate. Today, we command more information than they could have imagined. With our phones and computers, workers have the ability to function as almost a single worldwide unit. That’s power! We’re only at the first stages of using it, but today we have the power!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. Podcasts can be found from the “events’ tab. If you are interested in what I really think, look at my personal web site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book review: Jeffreys, Diarmuid, “Hell’s Cartel. IG Farben and the making of Hitler’s war machine.”  Metropolitan Books, New York, 2008

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The biggest corporation in Europe solidly backed the Nazis during the time they were taking power. During the ensuing war, the big chemical company was more and more deeply involved in Nazi warmaking and ethnic cleansing.

The book begins and ends with the trial of several top company officials. In between, it details the history of the conglomerate from the time that it supplied poison gas during World War I through the trials that ended in 1948. In both wars, they provided much of the vital expertise and materials.

IG Farben established and ran its own slave labor camp as part of the Auschwitz complex. The abuse and murder of tens of thousands of slave laborers was carried out in Farben facilities just as in the other death camps. One of their small but very successful product lines was Zyklon-B, the death gas.

Working people usually say that we do the bidding of “whoever signs our checks.” Have you ever wondered who signed the checks for Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who killed hundreds of people with torture and outrageous medical experiments? IG Farben.

The company executives received light sentences and early parole. They went on to continued successful careers in European industry.

Books and movies about Nazi Germany have poured out in an endless stream since the end of WWII. We are fascinated with the horror of it and with the questions that are never quite satisfactorily answered, “How could this have happened? Why didn’t somebody do something?”

This book supplies part of the answer, if readers are ready to accept it. Hitler came to power essentially because wealthy Germans, like the officials at IG Farben, preferred the Nazis to the Communists. Even after the war, even during the trials at Nuremberg 1947-48, the main distraction from justice was fear of rising communism.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON 89.3FM radio in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time on Saturdays. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

 

Book Review: Hedges, Chris, “American Fascists. The Christian Right and the War on America.” Free Press, New York, 2006

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“When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”

sometimes attributed to the author Sinclair Lewis and sometimes to Louisiana Governor Huey Long

I appreciated this Dallas Public Library book more than I enjoyed it. I really liked his examination of the underlying precepts of radical right evangelism and his historical comparisons to the thinking and strategies of earlier fascists. On the downside, I think he credited televangelists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson too much and blamed fascist financiers like the Koch brothers too little. I think Hedges understands a lot more about the ideology of fascism than he does about the reasons for it.

Hedges was a top-level foreign correspondent. He really knows how to do research and how to present it. He focused his research on the section of protestant evangelism in the United States that he names “dominionism.”

From page 11: “Dominionism, born out of a theology known as Christian reconstructionism, seeks to politicize faith. It has, like all fascist movements, a belief in magic along with leadership adoration and a strident call for moral and physical supremacy of a master race, in this case American Christians.”

I was interested in faith and fascism because of callers to my radio talk show “Workers Beat” today, March 31, 2018. One of them said that the current pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Robert Jeffress had said that everything President Trump does is okay because it is “ordained by God.” Another caller said that Jeffress, a few years ago, had called President Obama “the anti-christ.”

Another book, “’White Metropolis” charges First Baptist with far-right racist politics in the past. Hedges doesn’t mention Jeffress in his 2006 book, but he hits hard against Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, both of whom are presumably in Heaven now.

Long-time unionists know that Americanism is often evoked against its own people. Labor writer Len DeCaux tells us about a 1913 strike organized by the Industrial Workers of the World, employers tried to use the American flag as a strike breaking device. Declaring March 17 “Flag Day,” they draped flags over mill gates with signs calling for a return to work. The silk workers, makers of flags themselves, retorted with a huge American flag across Main Street bearing these words: “We wove the flag; we dyed the flag. We live under the flag; but we won’t scab under the flag!” –Excerpted “The Living Spirit of the Wobblies”

During a speech delivered in 1918, labor leader Eugene Victor Debs made a similar statement: 3No wonder Jackson said that ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.’ He had the Wall Street gentry in mind or their prototypes, at least; for in every age it has been the tyrant, who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both.”

Can They Be Stopped?

Author Chris Hedges thinks that the radical Christian Right should be repressed. He thinks that the liberal approach of extreme tolerance for varying points of view will lead to the destruction of America. He points out that Hitler could have been stopped if Germans had been less pathologically tolerant. On page 202, Hedges says, “Debate with the radical Christian Right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue. It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion…. This movement is bent on our destruction. The attempts by many liberals to make peace would be humorous if the stakes were not so deadly.”

I agree with Hedges. Tolerance cannot be extended to include intolerance. Where the book goes wrong, though, is in implying that these unscrupulous and opportunistic evangelists can, on their own hook, bring fascism to America. Hitler, working alone or with his ideological compatriots, couldn’t have done it either. The ideologists are not that powerful nor persuasive. Fascism is a form of rule chosen deliberately by rulers. That’s the danger.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas 9-10AM Central Time every Saturday. From the home page, hit the “events” tab to hear the last two programs. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal site

Republicans continue the countdown on democracy with their plans for the 2020 census. African American and Latino organizations are trying to stop them.

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The NAACP’s lawsuit says that the last census seriously undercounted African Americans, and preparations, or lack of preparations, for the 2020 census threatens to do the same. Latinos are especially upset by the Trump Administration’s plan to ask if they are citizens or not.

If the Republicans get away with it, they will be able to seriously diminish Black and Brown representation in government. Their anti-democratic redistricting would be made even easier for them.

Historical Context

This is not the first time that the parties in power have used counting as a way to undermine democracy. Bear in mind that the first constitution counted slaves as 3/5’s of a person so that slaveholders could amass more electoral clout, even though the slaves had no say about anything.

Political Context

The fight for a fair census is another part of the larger fight for democracy and against incipient fascism. Voter suppression laws from state governments are rampant. Redistricting has undercut the “minority” vote. Big money has won Supreme Court backing and is now free  to dominate all elections without even revealing who they are. The Voting Rights Act has already been eviscerated.

Working families have to fight on every front to preserve the partial democracy that we have won over the centuries. Every front includes economic struggles as well as electoral.

— Gene Lantz 

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you look in the “events” tab of knon.org, you can find programs from the last two weeks. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

A big change is coming in international relations.

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It may seem that the whacky international news is only being caused by our whacky president and his whacky ways, but there are several underlying real trends pointing the United States toward starting a new war.

The most obvious one, which I have written about before, is that the Republicans and Donald Trump are looking at some major election losses in November unless they do something drastic. The most recent shifting of posts in the White House is definitely in that direction.

Another reason is more long-term and has to do with trade balances and history.

Looking Back

Nearly all of us living today are products of post-World-War-Two thinking. The “American Century” that began in 1945 put the United States at the head of all nations both militarily and economically. Historically, it was a most unusual situation for the world and for America, but most of us think of it as “normal” because it’s the only situation we have ever experienced. It isn’t normal at all, and it can’t last.

U.S. military domination continues, but is severely challenged right now in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. U.S. economic domination continues but is severely challenged by the European Union, new alliances in South America, and, most of all, by China.

U.S. economic domination is no longer based on our industrial productivity. A great deal of our industry has been shut down. Our agricultural production is still very strong, but also faces challenges. If anything, U.S. economic domination is based on finance, especially on borrowing.

An interesting article from CBS News says, “Why China won’t dump its huge U.S. Treasury bond Hoard.” They say it won’t happen, but they wouldn’t have written the article if people weren’t worried about it. Apparently, China holds about $1.2 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds. They buy them every year, but they slowed down their purchases last year, the article says. It was just an incremental change, the article says.

The Nature of Change

Most change is incremental. It happens so slowly that we hardly notice it until some statistician points it out. These are quantitative changes. But quantitative changes can accumulate and, eventually, create giant qualitative changes that seem to happen all at once and come out of nowhere. Think of a stock market collapse, an earthquake, or a sinkhole. Think of a war.

Why Have a War?

Competition, not cooperation, is the natural behavior of capitalist economies. War is a natural consequence of capitalism. Even in the “American Century” so far, U.S. armies have been engaged over and over again. Even when the armies were not engaged, the U.S. has employed proxy armies such as the “Contras” in Nicaragua, the Kurds in Syria, or the Saudis in Yemen.

What passes for “diplomacy” is actually based on war or the threat of war. Witness the current expulsion of diplomats from Russian embassies, for example.

Why NOT Have a War?

Like any other enterprise, war depends on the cooperation of the people carrying it out. If we refuse, if we mobilize against it, no one can force us into the next big war. But we need to get started.

-Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON.org 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. Programs are podcast for two weeks and can be found under the “events” tab of the home page. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

 

Take a look at recent news from the point of view of the progressive movement. Keep in mind that only the working class, and working class issues, can truly pull the movement together. The entire working class will not unite over gun control, over the right to abortion, over civil rights, or any of the other important causes. Wages and working conditions will unite us, because all of us care most about them.

On May 6, Texas held the first primary elections of the season. Democrats were overjoyed to double the turnout that they had in the last mid-term elections. Republicans improved about 15%. But the raw number of votes determines election winners, not percentages of improvement. While the Democrats were able to get a million voters to the polls, the Republicans got half again as many. The leading Democrat, Beto O’Rourke for Senate, got 600,000 votes, while the Republican incumbent got 1.3 million! The same was true in the governor’s race.

One of the reasons for improved Democratic Party turnout was that they fielded candidates in every race, even in the ones where they were almost sure to lose. There’s a downside to that, because some of the contested seats were held by rock-solid working class incumbents with 100% pro-worker voting records. Politicians are mostly opportunists, not principled leaders.

Labor is calling the results “mostly good news” because over 90% of our endorsed candidates got into runoffs or won outright. But we lost three of the best of the state representatives, including Roberto Alonzo of Dallas who has been honored nationwide for his commitment to labor’s cause. Labor worked hard for their candidates

Progressive Movement Remains Fragmented

No one could deny that there is an upsurge in the progressive movement since the 2016 elections. The big improvement in voting statistics demonstrates it. But cohesion is not one of the grand characteristics. The most unifying theme among Democrats was dislike for President Trump, according to the pundits.

But the only way they could unite effectively is around the basic issues of the working class, and the election results did not show that trend. While the AFL-CIO could honestly claim a 90% success rate, another organization, Emily’s List, which only endorses on women’s issues, could claim 100%, according to the Politico news service. All their endorsed women were in runoffs or had won outright.

Labor’s candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor was controversial because of being a woman, a Latina, and gay; but she won a thumping big plurality and goes into the runoff with a big advantage among Democratic voters. It would be a stretch to claim that she did so well because of the AFL-CIO endorsement, when Emily’s List had better results.

People who want serious change remain confronted with this problem: how can we unite the progressive movement?

Best News Was Barely Reported

While pages and pages of newsprint covered the Texas elections, there was scant coverage of the teachers’ strike in West Virginia. But from the point of view of unifying the progressive movement around workers’ issues, the news from West Virginia was at least as important, if not more so. For the first time in years, American labor saw a well planned and well-executed strike create big gains for workers. By holding out statewide for nine days, those teachers won a 5% raise for themselves and for all state workers. They also got a freeze on health care costs. The AFL-CIO Executive Board endorsed the strike in, I think, about the 7th day. The American Federation of Teachers spoke encouragement, but I didn’t see any of the nationwide forces really throwing themselves into it. The main fund raising I saw was one of those “go fund me” accounts.

In today’s news, way back in the back pages, teachers in Oklahoma have issued an ultimatum to their legislature. Arizona teachers are also talking strike.

Historical View is Bad, but Mostly Good

A lot of people, including me, believe that economic conditions are leading the capitalist class toward choosing fascism as their preferred form of rule. The great robbery called the “tax cut” went through Congress in December with very little popular support. Despite their best efforts, it is unlikely that the rich will convince Americans to warm to it very much.

What I’m saying is that it is getting harder for the rich to continue robbing the American people. That’s why they are working so hard to disarm us with voter suppression, dangerous foreign policy, anti-union legislation and legal decisions, deregulation, redistricting, and destruction of civil rights and civil liberties. Once our rights are gone, we can’t defend ourselves at all. That’s fascism.

Even though I think the obscenely wealthy are likely to choose fascism, I don’t think they will be able to implement it. That’s the good news. We aren’t as dumb as they may think. Actually, we’re far better educated and far more capable of coming together than the Italians and Germans of the 1930s were.

This is the time to organize. Low unemployment and high discontent are the ingredients for a great upsurge. Despite the low voter turnout numbers, Americans have more energy, and it is more generalized, then at any time since World War II. We may be fragmented, but we won’t stay that way. Once we are united, nothing can stop us!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas from 9 to 10 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

Book review: Glenn Frankel, “High Noon. The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.” Bloomsbury, New York

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There aren’t any actual good guys that I know of in the story about the American film blacklist. There are just bad guys, to one degree or another, and victims. The main character in this book is Carl Foreman, who wrote “High Noon” and saw it through. According to the book, Foreman’s views were shaped by the anti-communist witch hunt going on at the time (1952). Foreman was one of the victims.

The plot of the movie, as you know, concerns a lawman under pressure from a gang of killers. He can’t find anyone to back him up, but he can’t figure any way out of it either. So he has to face almost certain death alone. He survives (it’s still a Hollywood movie) and is embittered about the law (the system?) and about the people he had considered his friends. He dumps his tin star and rides away. The town becomes a ghost town, just as it deserved.

The town in High Noon is a metaphor for Hollywood. I’m old enough to remember when the movie came out, and I’m also old enough to remember the schlock that passed for American films afterward. Rock Hudson flirted with Doris Day in every other movie for the next ten years!

I’ve read several books about the witch hunt that is sometimes called the “McCarthy period.” I liked this one because it names a lot of names of the name namers. It doesn’t equivocate as to who was profiting by turning in their friends, who was lying to begin with, and who found some way around it. Foreman was one of those last ones. He was a victim to be sure, but he came out of it better than many former Reds. He managed to avoid naming any names, too, according to the book.

A lot of fuss is made over film star John Wayne, who was one of the biggest red-baiters in Hollywood. This may have been because many of the people he was victimizing had served honorably in World War II, while Wayne ducked it and made his fortune playing war heroes. Wayne hated “High Noon” and Carl Foreman. There’s an interesting interview on YouTube in which Wayne tries to cover his venom with a patriotic veil.

I also liked the film analysis in the book. Several artists did what has to be their best, or way up there nearly best, work in this movie under difficult circumstances. I can’t think of a better performance by Katy Jurado or Lloyd Bridges. Lon Chaney Jr, who ruined his image by playing The Wolfman over and over, was especially outstanding. Gary Cooper played Gary Cooper for the 1000th time, but it’s hard to think of a better version! If you’re curious about Cooper’s role in the witch hunt, you’ll get your answer in this book.

The book offers a lot of answers about this terrible period in American history. The questions continue to overshadow the answers, especially “Will it happen again?”

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 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