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It is absolutely wonderful that the Communications Workers of America are buying books and teaching classes on “Runaway Inequality” by Les Leopold. It stirs a lot of thinking.

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The core argument is that something has been seriously wrong in America since the mid 1970s, when wages stopped rising at a rate similar to the increasing productivity. Productivity is the amount of wealth that one average worker creates in one average working hour.

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As the graph shows clearly, wages and productivity seemed to rise together from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s, then productivity continued rising with the same upward slope, but wages flattened out. Profits rose, but wages didn’t. The change, Les Leopold says, came about because of deliberate policy changes. The book is full of other graphs showing the policies that changed, the resulting inequality, and the amazing effects of this incredible rise in inequality. Leopold then concludes by saying that ordinary Americans must band together and change those policies. In other words, wage-earners have to do what the bosses have been doing. It’s a “must read” book, and the classes (I’ve taken them twice) are inspiring!

There are further questions

  1. Is the period 1947-2016 a representative period of history, or is it unusual?
  2. Is the problem local or systemic?;
  3. Given the situation described in the book, is there really a solution for wage-earners?

What period of economic history is “normal?”

The entire book and all its conclusions come from the hypothesis that something went wrong in the 1970s. I have my doubts. The unusual period in American history was not 1974-2016, as Leopold suggests, but 1947-1974, the first part of the graph. In other words, there is nothing unusual about wages being suppressed in a capitalist economy. The unusual period was 1947-1974.

Take a quick look at how unusual was the post-war world:

  • Europe and Asian were bombed flat. American had virtually no competitors in the capitalist world
  • American unions were far stronger than in any time in history
  • The United States set the terms for all economic transactions in the capitalist world
  • The United States had almost all of the world’s gold

Then look at how things changed: By 1974, German and Japanese automobiles were flooding the world. President Nixon had given up America’s control over gold. Unionism had peaked around 1957 and was clearly slipping. The Chinese were having tea with Nixon and had broken up their alliance with the Soviet Union. Economic competition between nations was getting back to “normal.” What every nation had to do, to compete, was lower their costs. Their costs are our wages and benefits.

Is the problem local or systemic?

Our problems derive from the system we live in. American working families are having pretty much the same problems that other capitalist nations are facing. We have probably lost more than the families in other nations since the mid 1970s, but we had more to lose. The lords of American industry and finance have been able to hold on to their hegemony in the world only by sacrificing our wages and benefits.

Even worse, the long-term process of robbing working families entails destroying our democracy. The end of World War II was a triumph of democracy, and nowhere was democracy stronger than here, in the land of the winners. Several of Les Leopold’s graphs show how democracy is diminished. A very striking one is the graph showing that the United States has more people incarcerated than any nation of any size in the world! Today, many people are saying that we live under a plutocracy and that democracy is dead and gone.

It isn’t true. The absence of democracy is fascism, and we don’t have fascism in America. Even in 1947, our democracy was not complete. It was partial. Since the mid-1970s, our democracy has faded, but not disappeared. If the process continues as it is going now, it would be fair to say that fascism is the logical outcome. But it hasn’t happened yet.

Is there a solution?

Given the system we live in as described in “Runaway Inequality,” are we likely to be able to reverse the policies that have brought disaster for working families since the mid 1970s? No. What happened since 1974 is not unusual, it’s part of the ordinary process of world capitalist economics.

If there is a solution for American working families. it will come from a different system.

Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio, 89.3FM, every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. If you’re interested in what I really think, check out http://lilleskole.us

 

 

 

Mass shootings are regular events in America. In today’s newspaper, I just read that Americans have ten times as many guns as anybody else, and that’s the fundamental reason for all the killing.

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My own view may surprise you. When it’s all said and done, I am not for taking guns away from the citizenry.

Are Criminals and Terrorists the Issue?

The popular logic is that taking away a lot of people’s guns will also take a lot of guns away from screwballs, criminals, and terrorists. The NRA and the gun-nuts argue that the people who shouldn’t have guns will find a way to get them anyway, and the rest of us will be defenseless after we’ve given up our own. There’s a lot of heat in that argument, on both sides, but neither one deals with the essence of the question.

Let’s Start From Another Angle

If the citizenry gives up our weapons, then only the police will have weapons. That’s what worries me. I don’t know what percentage of the umpteen gun-caused maimings and deaths in America came out of police gun barrels, but I know that there are too many of them. Police shootings are treated as a separate controversy, but they actually go right to the heart of the matter.

The question of the proliferation of guns and the proliferation of police shootings are related. One can’t be solved without the other.

Community Organization is the Answer to Both Problems

If we had effective community organization, we’d have less crime, less need for protection, and a lot fewer police. Neighborhood watches, consisting of the neighbors themselves, could watch out for and report crimes. We would still need professional investigators similar to the ones we see on British BBC television, but we would no longer need armed and dangerous policemen on patrol. In the BBC murder mysteries, the investigators can call out armed units when necessary, and our militias should be able to do the same.

What is the Obstacle?

I can imagine people laughing as they read the preceding paragraph. They’re right, The police in America are not going to be disarmed. Our employers aren’t going to get us organized for self-protection either. But that’s not because it wouldn’t be a good idea. It’s because they don’t work for us. The police, and for that matter the military forces, all work for the plutocrats that run America. They are the armed agents of the people who rule us.

Our our problem is not the NRA, not the gun-nuts, not the terrorists, not the criminals. It’s the bosses.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on http://knon.org/workers-beat every Saturday at 9 Central Time .if you want to know what I really think, check out http://lilleskole.us

 

In the long view of history, the most important event of the 20th century was the Bolshevik revolution that occurred 100 years ago on November 7, 1917.

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There will be small groups, and some large groups, of people singing  “The International” in their own languages all over the world. It’s probably the most popular song ever sung, but is almost completely unknown here in America. The song is now associated with Russia, but it was originally French. The lyrics came from the Paris Commune (1872?) . One of the English versions is at https://youtu.be/VUw_aaBjCpE.

Over here, people know almost nothing about the event. They think it was some kind of a putsch, or sneaky takeover — or that the bosses actually handed their power over, as they did with Hitler in Germany.

What actually happened was that the works of Karl Marx and Frederich Engels began to be translated into Russian sometime around the 1880s. Before that, there were young revolutionaries, but they didn’t know what they were doing and tended toward terrorism. One of them, executed by the tsarist government, had a little brother named Ulyanov. That little brother decided that he would study up before trying anything revolutionary. As he became more knowledgeable and took on leadership, he adopted the name pen name Lenin.

I think it was in 1903, at a party congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, that Lenin argued for a scientific Marxist revolutionary approach. He won a majority in the voting. The Russian word for “majority” is “bolshevik.”

In 1905 Russia was shaken by their losing role in a war with Japan. Among other important developments, the anti-war movement and other progressives formed giant committees that vied with the tsarist government for power. The Russian word for “committee” is “soviet.” The main committee was in Petrograd and was run by another revolutionary who had taken the name Trotsky. They lost that struggle, but the idea of these committees was familiar to the progressives after that.

What followed was years and years of hard work. Lenin was exiled, but he managed to argue for his policies through underground newspapers. By early 1917, the Russian empire was in another crisis. This time, they were getting whipped by Germany in World War I.

Progressives overthrew the Tsar, but the government they formed was basically capitalist. The new leaders wanted to continue the war and the war economy. The Bolsheviks argued for “bread, land, and peace” and “All Power to the Soviets!”

New Committees were formed. Some of them were called “workers, peasants, and soldiers soviets.” This time, Lenin and his Bolsheviks were the main force in the progressive movement. By mid 1917, the Petrograd Soviet was virtually equal to the “official” government. Power was up for grabs, and the soldiers were streaming into the soviets.

I’ve been told that only a handful of people actually died on November 7, 1917. Apparently, only one battalion of soldiers still supported the government, and they couldn’t effectively protect it. People from the soviet stormed the Winter Palace and took charge.

The United States and several other countries already had soldiers on Russian soil, and they didn’t leave. Instead, they joined in a civil war to overthrow the Bolsheviks. In the rest of the world, progressives began to split apart. The American Socialist Party split is dramatized in the movie “Reds.” Essentially, the Socialists kicked the supporters of Lenin out, and they had to form their own party.

Since then, they’ve been trying to explain what happened.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on http://knon.org/workers-beat every Saturday at 9 central time. If you want to know what I really think, look at http://lilleskole.us

On the “Workers Beat” radio show this morning, I interviewed advocates for Dallas County Schools, a public service that provides transportation and safety for children going to North Texas schools. We are experiencing a propaganda blitz calling for us to vote “against” them in the November 7, 2017, election. How we came to this little historical intersection is an interesting story, and it illustrates a much larger problem for our world under capitalism.

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Today’s radio program was the third time I’ve had advocates for Dallas County Schools. The first ones were bus drivers organized by an independent union. They complained that somebody was out to smear their driving records but, when one considers that they log 106,000 miles per day, their driving record was pretty good. Co-Host Bonnie Mathias and I smelled a rat even then. We decided, without any explanation or prompting, that somebody was out to privatize Dallas County Schools.

When I interviewed the interim superintendent and the organizer for National Education Association later on, I was convinced that privatization was indeed the issue. They said that Texas Senator Don Huffines had originated the entire process with legislation calling for the vote. Although the “remedy” he proposed was complicated, it was skewed toward privatization, said my interviewees.

A Board member who hasn’t been on my radio show had contacted the Dallas AFL-CIO for help a few weeks ago. I sat in on the meeting. Later on, she and I corresponded as I tried to get to the bottom of what was going on.

Today I talked with a Board member and another union official. They went over the charges listed on the three expensive 4-color mailings I have received. They refuted them one by one. Mistakes had been made in the past, they said, but the superintendent and most of the Board had been replaced since then and rectification was under way. Further, the charges against them were overstated or even out right lies!

Nobody mentioned it on the radio, but they said there have been at least 5 robo-calls urging the voters to vote against them. Who paid for five robo calls and 3 big mailings? They said that the mysterious “Protect Dallas Kids” organization that opposed them had filed the required legal reports. They received money from the Dallas Citizens’ Alliance and one of the biggest corporation in North Texas, AT&T. A great deal more had been spent than had been reported, they said.

The Dallas Citizens Committee’s involvement was no surprise. Their main front is the Dallas Morning News, which has editorialized against the Dallas County Schools.

Other than Senator Huffines, I could only find one name associated with the propaganda blitz. The Treasurer, which is required to be listed on political propaganda, is also the Treasurer of the Dallas Republican Party. The address given is right outside Dallas County, but is in Huffines’ Senate District.

As I wrote in the Dallas AFL-CIO newsletter, the anti-worker credentials of Senator Don Huffines, the Dallas Morning News, and the Dallas Republican Party are well established. We stand with the workers!

There’s a Much Larger Lesson

In general, capitalists want to privatize everything. They have already privatized many of the prisons, much of the space program, and a great deal of America’s war machine. They argue that business can do everything cheaper and more efficiently than government, even though even the most shallow thinker can see why they can’t — to every expense they have to add profits.

Almost any form of economic activity can be used to generate profits. That’s why they keep trying to privatize everything. It’s a major issue in so-called trade negotiations as the big transnational corporations try to crate more profit centers all over the world.

The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has been trying to privatize Medicare for years. So far, the Senate has stopped him, but that doesn’t mean he won’t keep trying. They also want to provide everything having to do with veterans’ care.

Unions generally oppose privatizing. We argue that it leads to fewer services and more costs.  On the other side, the bosses look for any kind of problem that a public service may have, then they use that to argue for destroying the public entity and substituting themselves. That’s what’s going on with the Dallas County Schools, and it’s going on all over the world.

When we have a public service, there is always a possibility of corruption; but when we privatize, corruption is guaranteed!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on http://knon.org/workers-beat/ every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you’re interested in what I really think, try http://lilleskole.us

 

Book Review: Kersten, Andrew E, and Lang, Clarence, Editors: “Reframing Randolph. Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph.” New York University Press, 2015.

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I got this book from Oak Cliff Branch of Dallas Public Library.

Asa Philip Randolph is glorified and criticized in the essays collected here. Whether they appreciated him or not, all the writers agreed that he had a profound effect on American civil rights.

I started a sort of timeline:

  • 1898: born
  • 1920s: Street corner orator and co-editor of “The Messenger”
  • 1925: Newly organized Pullman Porters ask him to take over as President. Black Sleeping Car Porters and Maids formed
  • 1935 or so: finally gets a contract from Pullman. Drops “and maids” and joins the American Federation of Labor (AFL) Within it, he argues for anti-discrimination policies until the end of his career
  • 1941: With threat of March on Washington Movement (MOWM), gets Executive Order 8088 (? Forgot the number) outlawing racial discrimination in war industries. Not nearly as much as was demanded, but Randolph calls off the march and is covered with glory for having “forced” the President of the United States to acknowledge the federal government’s role in overcoming racial discrimination. Federal Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) is formed and the MOWM people try to enforce it with marches and pickets throughout the war.
  • 1936: Formation of National Negro Congress. He serves 1 term as president and then resigns as he feels the organization is communist dominated
  • 1960 or so: He is President of the National African Labor Congress NALC
  • 1963: he and Bayard Rustin organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. They cooperated with MLK on it. Of course, MLK stole the show.
  • 1965: he is honored with formation of A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). Chapters are formed in every Central Labor Council and endure today
  • 1968 Ocean Hill-Brownsville conflict between community oriented school board and the United Federation of Teachers. Randolph sided with labor leader Al Shanker and took heat for it
  • 1972: Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) formed as NALC fades away
  • 1974: African American women from Randolph movements start the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)

I was left with the impression that Randolph successfully, eventually, got the AFL to be less racist. The CIO, of course, probably had a bigger effect. Randolph got the federal government on the right track. I think he was a consistent social – democrat, even though the various writers seem to think he wavered this way and that. I think any wavering he did came from trying to fit the civil rights movement into the AFL. Like the social-democrats of today, Randolph looked at the working class. He analyzed it and pushed for its success. Like the social-democrats of today, he did not analyze the obstructionist class and devise ways of overcoming them once and for all.

On the downside, the book accuses him of outright sexism in dealing with women’s politics. They also criticize his rabid anti-communism as unnecessarily divisive. If he read the book today and were asked to comment, I’m sure he would say that those who cannot compromise aren’t going to get anything done in contemporary politics.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. Click here if you want to know what I really think!

Movie Review, “Viceroy’s House,” Directed by Gurinder Chadha, 106 minutes.

Like most useful political movies, “Viceroy’s House” is showing in a very limited run. In Dallas, it’s at the Inwood, but showing only twice each day and sure to disappear on Friday.

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Critics compare the movie to “Upstairs Downstairs” or “Downton Abbey,” partly because it stars Hugh Bonneville, who was the Earl for years on “Downton Abbey.” Actually, it compares much more with “Doctor Zhivago” or “The Year of Living Dangerously,” because it’s an epic historical movie with a tangentially related movie-type love story in the foreground, while great events are going on behind.

Lord Mountbatten, a British war hero, arrives to take over as the last viceroy in imperial India. The weakened empire wants to free its millions of subjects and, for most of the movie, the problems seem fairly realistic. The Lord and his very able wife and daughter try to deal with them as well as possible. But there’s dirty business afoot and tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims will kill each other before the film ends. In Kashmir and other parts of India today, they are still at it.

I don’t want to give away who the real dirty s.o.b. villain is, but his initials are Sir Winston Churchill, about whom I have already delivered some opinions.

As you know, the British didn’t just turn India over to Nehru and his democratic government. Instead, they partitioned it along religious lines as they had earlier with Palestine and Ireland — two other places where a lot of people have died. The entire scheme of partitioning at the end of World War II merits some scrutiny. Why, for example, did we end up with East and West Berlin, North and South Korea, Iraq/Iran/Kurdistan, and one of our old favorites, North and South Indo-China (Vietnam).,

Come to think of it, we might look through a lot of histories and consider what governments really intended when they partitioned geographic areas. I live in Texas, for example, which was partitioned away from Mexico along with California and the entire Southwestern United States.

The movie’s director is no novice She has put together a very satisfying movie with some real political and historical significance. Her own family members were among the victims of the period. The acting is superb at every level, from Lord Mountbatten to his least servants. There are hundreds of extras in wide-lens shots that must have cost a fortune. BTW, Mountbatten’s daughter served as a consultant on the film.

Don’t miss it!

Gene Lantz

Catch me on KNON radio 89.3 FM Saturdays 9-10 AM CST

 

 

Book Review: Gaddis, John Lewis, “The Cold War. A New History.” Penguin Press, NY. 2005.

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I got the book from the Oak Cliff Dallas library. Gaddis had already written several earlier books on the period, so this one is sort of a compilation, he says.

What I liked about it was that he included some of the significant events of the Cold War period. It’s not chronological. He presents events in the order he wants in order to make the point he wants to make: that the Cold War was not so much a part of the long confrontation between labor and capital, but rather an historically isolated one of democracy versus totalitarianism. From the first, in his detached academic way, he cheers the American side.

Although it’s presented way out of order, he does talk about the 1948 CIA intervention to keep the Italian Communist Party from winning their national elections. He talks, a little bit, about America’s overthrow of the elected government of Chile and the installation of fascist terror. He mentions the CIA overthrows of the elected governments of Guatemala and Iran.

Like a lot of post-Soviet Union books, he gives his explanation for the failure of that government. He seems to think that Premier Gorbachev was confused and easily swayed by that smooth-talking Ronald Reagan. He says that the Soviets erred by trying to live up to their commitment to worldwide revolution by supporting the Cubans, the Angolans, the Vietnamese, and the many other peoples that tried to advance beyond capitalism and called to the Soviets for help. He says the Soviets couldn’t afford them.

But the fundamental problem, he says, was that the Soviets could not provide the standard of living that their people had been promised. When Khruschev said “We will bury you,” no matter how that was interpreted here, he meant that the Soviets had a superior economic system.

Over the years, I’ve heard a number of smart people talking about the mistakes of the Soviet Union. Some of them imply that those mistakes were also made by the worldwide socialist movement and, especially, by CPUSA here. I think this book nudges us toward an idea of what those mistakes might have been:

1) They mistakenly thought they could extend cooperation with the United States and other capitalist nations after Hitler was defeated.

2) They mistakenly thought that capitalist economies would resume their desperate pre-war economic depression after the war

3) They mistakenly thought that no single capitalist nation could unite the others against them

4) They underestimated the post-war prosperity phase.

Having lived through the Cold War, and after visiting the Soviet Union twice and doing some of my own studying, I have to agree with the book’s author on this important main point: I don’t know if the Soviets could have provided a superior standard of living for their citizens, but I am convinced that they didn’t.

Gaddis, the author, says that a market economy is fundamentally superior to a planned economy because it is more flexible. The Chinese economy, he says, succeeds because they embraced capitalism.

Certainly, the Korean War, the Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam war are covered.  But some things were not.

I just glanced at the book’s index to see if he included some of what I considered the most important aspects of the Cold War: The Taft-Hartley law that put America’s unions into a long downward spiral, the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs, Senator Joe McCarthy’s hearings, the McCarran Anti-Subversive Act(s) that sent American activists to prison, and the House Unamerican Activities Committee which destroyed so many lives. None of them are mentioned; none even made the index. If he had mentioned such things, I might have given more credibility to his thesis that the Soviets and Americans were equally to blame for having started and perpetuated the Cold War.

I don’t think that this “equal blame” idea can stand the test of history, because the wealthy capitalist countries opposed the Soviet Union in every possible way from its inception, 100 years ago. World War II provided only a brief interruption in attacks against the Soviets, and they did that only because Hitler had become such a threat to all of them. From 1917 to 1941, and again immediately after the war, the United States and the other imperialist nations did all they could to undermine and overthrow the Soviets.

I think that the Soviet Union fell as the result of an attack. The frontal attacks, although there were plenty of them, could not bring the Soviets down. But the long siege did.

World War II ended with a gigantic Soviet and American victory in 1945. The declaration of Cold War came from Winston Churchill, sharing a podium with President Truman,  in Fulton, Missouri, March 5, 1946 – less than a year after the hot war ended.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio 89.3 FM from 9 to 10 every Saturday. Call in your opinions!