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politics

Choose your favorite coming disaster:

  • Environment
  • Economy
  • War
  • Democracy

Strangling and drowning

Speeches and articles about the environment tend toward dry statistics, but the facts of drought, famine, and flood are talking louder. It’s hard to ignore climate change when your house is washing away.

Environmentalists have always been with us. They range from the driest academics to the eco-terrorists. Their arguments often involve human health, endangerment of species, and the general disappearance of our way of living. Their message grows more relevant with every weather report.

Poverty and famine

The latest figures indicate that 8 men, 6 of them in the United States, hold more wealth than the poorest half of the world’s population. Rich men live 15 years longer. Inequality is rampant and growing. A few rich families enjoy untold luxuries while most children are underfed!

Contrary to what most economists tell us, the reason is deeper than what we can learn from a quick look at recent economics. Most of the analyses we see indicate that everything would be fine if we could just get back to the conditions in America in, say, 1955. Piketty debunks them.

Thomas Piketty’s collection of data shows clearly that the American situation around World War II was nothing normal. In fact, it was a complete exception to the rest of capitalist history. Except for that short period, inequality has always risen under capitalism. Piketty concludes not only that capitalism creates inequality, but that it always will.

Murder and genocide

Wealthy people protect and extend their wealth, just as they always have, with armed police and soldiers. No matter the prayers that we deliver and the songs that we sing, wars are caused by economic inequality. As inequality rises, so does the danger of war.

World War I and World War II, and all the little wars before, between, and since, were basically fought for economic advantage. The sole reason that World War III has not already started is the understanding that nuclear war will have losers but no winners. Even so, threats of nuclear belligerency have become so common that we barely notice them. And non-nuclear war takes up much more of our current history than peacetime.

Just because war is impossible doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Isolation and political impotence

The majority of us, here in America we casually call ourselves the 99%, are increasingly dissatisfied with the suffering side of inequality. In several countries today, the “have nots” are revolting against the governments that protect the “haves.” Today’s news talks about Colombia, France, and Bolivia, but they could as easily have mentioned half a dozen other countries.

The solution, for our side, is to take democratic control over foreign relations, economies, and environmental concerns. The tiny majority of rich people now controlling all those essential areas would rather we didn’t. Their massive propaganda machines are working to that end. They are also going to great pains to strip us of the partial democracy that we have won over the ages. Voter-rolls are being purged, polls are being closed, unions attacked, and burdensome conditions are being put on our right to speak for ourselves.

Increasingly, the rich are relying directly on their police and soldiers. We rely on the only thing we have, people power, to blockade their four roads to hell.

All my facts and figures come from today’s news.

–Gene Lantz, November 27, 2019

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

Across the world and at home, we are learning how to improve our societies. At a breakfast meeting Sunday, November 17, we discussed the present situation and went over some of the lessons of the past.

The United States had more workers on strike in 2018 than in any year since the crackdown against the working class began in the 1970s. Working families in Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Iraq, Iran, Spain, and Greece and other nations are holding massive protests. The progressive movement is far broader, that is that more disparate individuals and groups are practicing solidarity, than in recent history.

How do we make sense of it all and decide which of the many opportunities most merit our resources? We posed some interesting questions that, for most of us, are not easy to answer:

  • Why are there so many arguments in the progressive movement? What are some of the major divisions in the progressive movement today?
  • What is happening in Bolivia? In Hong Kong?
  • Are all the world’s protesters working toward similar goals?
  • Would you defend the right of the Ku Klux Klan to recruit members in public places?
  • Would you defend the right of American armed forces to recruit members in public places?
  • Would you defend the right of ISIS, Middle Eastern religious fighters, to recruit members in public places?
  • Would you defend the right of your local police department to recruit members in public places?
  • Would you urge police associations to join organized labor federations?
  • Does America really need a revolution?

Will revolutionaries be elected into power?

Were the Bolsheviks correct in taking power in 1917, or has history shown that the Menshevik gradualists had a better understanding of their situation?

One would like to think that all progressive activists would agree, even on difficult questions. But the truth is that arguments have always racked and divided the movement. Our group tried looking at the time-tested ideas of great thinkers of the past. We were looking for guidelines, not specific directions.

For guidelines and to initiate discussion, we used the automated learning modules in the “ABC” section of the Little School at http://lilleskile.us/school. I am its author. So far, we’ve looked at the first nine lessons. The next one will be on trade unions. Some people finish a module in five minutes.

Here are some of the main points we’ve discussed so far:

  • Activists need to study in order to become more unified and effective
  • Almost everything we have been taught has been filtered by reactionaries
  • Of the two main branches of philosophy, idealism and materialism, materialism is the best guide
  • In general and in the long view, the human condition has improved
  • People’s views are strongly affected by their station in society
  • Different classes of people have strongly divergent views
  • Everything, including societies, is constantly changing

We plan to get together again on the morning of December 1. Let me know if you’re interested

–genelantz19@gmail.com

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

I learned to type almost 70 years ago, and I still communicate with typing every day. But I also talk to Alexa, and she (it) talks to me. We are only scratching the surface.

For decades, scientists have been able to detect brain waves outside a person’s head. Any waves that can be detected can also be amplified and transmitted.

It is only a matter of time until someone interprets those waves into something a computer can read, and then a whole new wave of communications revolution will begin.

If a computer can read brain waves, it can pass the information along to other computers, sensors, and robots. Utilizing his/her brain waves, a person could theoretically run a factory. It’s probably possible now.

If a computer can read brain waves and translate them correctly into instructions for other machines, it could also translate them into new information to be passed to the brain of another human. At first, the machine might simply translate into language, just as Alexa does now. But later, a human and machine could learn to understand one another directly without the need for language. The technology is within our grasp. As soon as somebody figures out a way to monetarize the project, it will take off!

In the 1960s, a lot of long-haired hippies liked to wear headbands. It was partly practical, because lots of people wore their hair long. But it was also a fashion reflecting something about their outlook. I envision a future where lots of us wear headbands or turbans, depending on the size of the technology we need to send and receive information without using language.

Just as today’s information explosion is changing everything about the ways we live and work, this big new improvement in communications will have social effects. It is obvious, for example, that we can’t go on working some people for long hours while condemning others to unemployment and poverty. We should have shortened the workday decade ago, and we will certainly have to in the future.

I look forward to new and better ways to transfer and process information. There is a relationship between truth and opinion, between science and superstition. Even today, while politicians mobilize millions of dollars and the highest of technology to deny the truth, truth tends to win out. Opinions, outright lies, and superstitions are everywhere, but they are wound around a core of science and truth.

As humans gain and process more information, we will discover more truth. Eventually, we will tend to become ungovernable by others, and capable at last of governing ourselves. It isn’t that far away.

Gene Lantz

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

It’s a peculiar thing for an activist to deliver such bad news, but there really aren’t any solutions for working people within our nation. Here’s why: If we won decent treatment for American working families , the cost of labor in the United States would go up. That’s exactly what the bosses keep telling us, but it’s true.

If the cost of labor went up in the United States, then the nation would suffer competitively with other nations. Eventually, the other nations would take over whatever goods and services we now offer to the world.

It’s a little bit easier to see in microcosm. Take, for example, the American auto industry. During the General Motors strike just concluded, management argued all the way through that they couldn’t afford to be less competitive with the transnational companies, like Nissan and Volkswagen, that are producing good cars in the United States for the United States market cheaper than General Motors. They claimed, I think, that they pay $10-$13 more per hour in unit labor costs.

Nobody really disputes that. It’s the handwriting on the wall. Eventually, those companies with the lower labor costs could drive General Motors out of business, unless we do something.

So it is in international affairs. The nations with the lowest labor costs tend to take over from those with higher costs. A lot of us would like to think that the Chinese economy has grown because of socialist planning, and maybe good planning had something to do with it, but I imagine that their unit labor costs deserve a lot of the credit. The same is true of the other rising Asian star, Vietnam.

As long as workers live in separate nations and compete with one another, then there will be pressure to drive down unit labor costs. That’s us, you and me, unit labor costs.

So there is no solution within the United States or within any of the competing nations.

That’s the bad news.

Want the Good News?

The good news is that our present idea of nation-states can be overcome with internationalism. Capitalist nation-states are fairly new in human history, and they can be overcome. The good news is that internationalism is making progress. Unionists allied with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) recently held a big conference in Nepal. They went over the same kinds of problems that we might have discussed at an American trade union conference, but their solutions are different. Their solutions are internationalist.

More and more, we are seeing the AFL-CIO unite the progressive forces in the United States. They are also doing some good outreach in other countries. President Richard Trumka recently honored the leading Brazilian leader, Lula da Silva, even though he’s in prison. Tomorrow, American trade unionists are meeting with Mexicans in El Paso to discuss problems concerning immigration. Those are marvelous developments. They point the way forward. It’s what we need. It’s what we must have.

How Do We Get There?

Working families struggle at every level. Contract fights, elections, legislative battles, and whatever else comes up. Working families have a big stake in everything that happens, and they have to fight to get anything at all. More and more, we are seeing people fight for one another. It’s called solidarity, and it’s growing nicely.

The fights will continue and so will the solidarity. It will grow into international solidarity, too. Keep going, everybody, you’re doing great!

–Gene Lantz

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

Those of us who have been pulling for the General Motors strikers might begin today to evaluate what we have learned.

  • Striking can pay off in the current economic and political situation
  • General Motors employees showed incredible gumption
  • Union solidarity is terrific
  • Public solidarity with union members is rising
  • Union-busting can be beaten
  • We could have done a lot more than we did
  • The American people are learning which side they are on and what to do about it

On the day before voting is supposed to end, it looks like at least a 60% ratification vote. 

That’s Courage!

There’s a lesson right there. Apparently, 40% of the union members were willing to continue the strike beyond its 6th week! Being on strike is really, really hard! Whether one agrees with them or not on the contract, one surely must concede that they really have guts!

The contract summary is on http://uaw.org. Some of the newspersons have written that it comes up short in providing job security and in bringing the “perma-temps” into full-time employee status. But the people who actually know what they’re talking about consider it quite a victory.

We Win! 

The top American union leader, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, wrote:

“I’ve never felt prouder to be a union member. Backed by millions of brothers, sisters and friends across the country, UAW members stood together to win the fair treatment that they’ve earned over years of selfless sacrifice. I commend the UAW’s national negotiators for standing firm to deliver on what their members demanded and hope this will bring an end to one of the most courageous fights I have ever seen. This is the latest victory in a wave of collective action happening across America. Working people won’t allow greed to dictate our lives, and we won’t tolerate a system that’s been rigged against us. Bosses everywhere should take note—we’re not going to take it anymore.”

On the picket line on day one, it was like a carnival! There were any number of people who were not UAW strikers. Some were from other unions, but some were not union members. Many of the passing cars honked approval.

Social media started spouting all kinds of solidarity messages. Some of them came from the union, but a lot of them were home-made. Political office holders and candidates started posting “I stand with the strikers” and proud pictures of themselves on the picket lines. Several presidential candidates were among them.

A lot of people were asking how they could help. Cases of water were stacked up. People brought cookies and other snacks. In my area, one AFL-CIO unit started raising money to help strikers with financial problems through United Way. They weren’t asked by the union, and they didn’t ask the union. They just did it!

Yard signs of solidarity started going up, and lots of people were asking how to get one.

Beating Union Busting

The newspersons talked more about this strike than they usually talk about anything to do with the union movement. They completely missed the important part, though.

What they could have said was that the 2019 General Motors strike represented an all-out union busting effort by General Motors, other corporations, right-wing ideologues, and the federal government. The result was an historic victory for working families!

Most of the coverage came from two Detroit newspapers. Every article and opinion piece always included the government’s investigations of top UAW leaders on charges of corruption, money laundering, and embezzlement. Investigations had been going on for a while, but they really hit the news on September 15, when the strike began!

Writers on our side, people like me, didn’t talk about these investigations because we recognized them for what they are: union busting. They were hoping to divide the strikers from one another, from their leadership, and from their growing public support. Now that the strike is over, I expect the fanfare to fizzle.

We Could Have Done More

I am a long-time UAW member from the aerospace section. I did not expect the UAW leadership to utilize the lessons that won unprecedented victories for the teachers of West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona. I hoped they would, but I didn’t expect it and, unfortunately, they met my low expectations.;

Basically, all the UAW leadership did was call a strike and set up the financial structure to pay the members who carried out their strike duties. What might they have done?

  • They could have organized their retirees and other supporters to join the pickets and carry out other solidarity actions
  • They might have suggested that supporters could carry out informational pickets at car dealerships
  • They might have had an ongoing union educational program for off-duty strikers
  • They might have had social events for strikers, and even for supporters

But, as far as I could tell, they didn’t.

Contrast the General Motors strike with the Chicago Teachers strike that started just as the autoworkers were winding down. The Chicago Teachers held a national solidarity day, today, in which everybody published selfies of themselves or their organizations. Their hashtag, #putitinwriting, will give them thousands if not millions, of contact information for supporters all over the world! If they should decide on expanding the strike or, for example, on raising money, they now have an incredible base of support!

If the Chicago School Board doesn’t cave soon, we are likely get a real lesson in modern fighting tactics from the Chicago teachers!

Summing Up

News coverage of the 2019 General Motors strike will continue to nit pick over the contract details. A few of them might discuss the strike tactics. But they will continue to miss the historic importance: The American people are ready to fight, and we are learning how to win!

–Gene Lantz

I’m usually on http://knon.org/workers-beat every Saturday at 9AM, unless a tornado destroys the studio. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

What Do You Have to Lose?

Today, while Corporate America, dark money, and an even darker government are trying to destroy the United Auto Workers, it would be good to consider what it means for all of us. To do that, look back in American history to a time before the UAW became the first great success of the Committee for Industrial Organization.

In 1935, nearly all American unions were weak. They were divided by craft. Only the most elite and skillful, nearly all white men, were even considered for union membership. The few unionized African Americans were isolated in segregated unions. White and black unions in the same workplace even scabbed on each other! The many child laborers, of course, had no union representation at all.

Color and gender lines were broken once and forever in the union. The UAW organized industrially. That is, everybody who worked in the industry was a candidate for membership. Their anti-discrimination pattern and their militant action were followed in the great upsurge that followed, and working people in America gained unprecedented power.

The UAW never limited itself to contract battles. They threw themselves into the political fight against the fascism that was growing in America and around the world. In the 1960s, the UAW organized its retirees into a national organization that fought for, and won, Medicare and Medicaid!

The explosion of worker power went far beyond improving wages and benefits. America’s civil rights also surged forward, and the UAW was more than just a great example to follow.

The UAW supported the civil rights movement. If you have looked at photos and videos of the American civil rights movement that began in 1954, you may wonder who was that white man in the front ranks? He was the President of the United Auto Workers! The first version of Dr King’s “I Have A Dream” speech was written in his Detroit office, which was in the UAW’s Solidarity House. The United Farm Workers’ first big contribution was $10,000 delivered to Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in California by UAW Representative Pancho Medrano of Dallas, Texas!

Before the UAW, most American workers were no better off than day laborers. Corporate America has never forgiven the union for its part in bringing dignity into our workplaces. They would like nothing better than to destroy the UAW and the entire American labor movement. That’s why we have to fight!

–Gene Lantz

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

This morning on KNON.org and 89.3FM, a caller called me a policeman. He really started warming up then and called me a Republican.

The problem began with the previous caller. My guest, Kenneth Williams, was saying that the Democrats should impeach President Trump. The caller said that it didn’t matter because we would still have capitalism and we need socialism. He basically said that nothing matters in American politics and that there is nothing we can do.

I didn’t disagree with him, but I asked him what we should be doing. I think that President Roosevelt’s great quote, “Do something,” is an admirable guide. He kept talking anti-capitalism and pro-socialism and I kept asking him what kind of action he would recommend. Gridlock.

Then the phone rang again. This one was the name-caller. He, too, said that capitalism is bad and that we have to have socialism. So I asked him what we should do. He said I was trying to change the subject. I said I wasn’t changing the subject but, if we need something different, how do we get it? It seemed to make him even more angry, so that’s when he called me a Republican.

Actually, he had a point

I’m not good at hiding my opinions, and I think the second caller figured out that, truly, I do not like armchair socialists. An armchair socialist is a pseudo-intellectual who rejects everybody else’s proposals but has none of his/her own. At least, they have no proposals that they are willing to act on. Noam Chomsky strikes me as such an armchair socialist. Even though I often agree with his criticisms, I’m not fond of him overall.

Almost the opposite of an armchair socialist is a knee-jerk activist. This is somebody who takes “do something” to heart so much that they get involved in every issue without thinking. They don’t even know which side they are on.

Politics may seem like a game to some people, but not to me. It’s a matter of life or death for everybody on this planet, and it merits some serious thinking and committed action.

But, of the two, I prefer the activists. They are at least right part of the time. The armchair socialists are a drag all the time!

–Gene Lantz

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