Archive

strategy

Considering the number of churches and mosques burnt or bombed lately, the number of worshipers of different faiths murdered by those of some other faith, and the rise in persecutions carried out in the name of religion abroad and at home; it’s time to try to understand what is wrong.

The one thing that all these atrocities have in common is obvious: religion itself.

The Problem is Religion

I make no secret of the fact that I am afraid of all religious people. I may respect them, I may even esteem some of them for their courage or for their compassion or for their oratorical ability or for the breadth of their knowledge. But I’m still afraid of them.

I’m afraid of them because they can be convinced of anything. It may be harmless that some of them think they can fly, or walk on water, or live forever, but religious people can also be convinced to put on an exploding vest and murder a crowd of people they don’t know. They can be convinced to burn people alive. They can be convinced to carry out great wars that slaughter millions.

“On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.” –Thomas Jefferson

Who’s Responsible?

Right now in 2019, a lot of people are blaming President Trump for the upsurge in religious hatred and violence. He’s certainly guilty and deserves blame.

Trump may be the least religious president in history, but he knows how to stir up the nastiest people to carry out the nastiest program. But Trump isn’t the crux of the problem. If religion were not such a handy tool, politicians like Trump wouldn’t use it. Religion itself is the problem.

Religion may be promulgated by very intelligent and capable people, but its true province is among the ignorant and easily misled. Religion is the enemy of reason, the enemy of knowledge, the enemy of understanding, and the enemy of fairness to all.

What Are You Gonna Do?

In general, one cannot argue people out of religion. They don’t believe in facts or evidence. You can’t convince them emotionally either. Even religious people can’t convince other religious people of anything.

“When has one religion triumphed over another by debate, experiment and observation?” – Isaac Asimov

“The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.”  — Voltaire

One cannot persecute people out of their religion. Historically, they have thrived on persecution.

The antidote for ignorance is knowledge. The antidote for superstition is science. If we promote science and knowledge, we are helping relieve our brothers and sisters of the burden of religion. The process may be painfully slow, but it’s the only way forward to a better future for all.

–Gene Lantz

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

RANDOM NOTES:

When I was in the military, there was a chaplain on every warship. It might have cannons, fighter planes, torpedoes or missiles, but it also had a chaplain!

Bertrand Russell: “The Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”

(William Penn, Quaker leader) “To help mend this world is true religion.”

“Woe to him who makes neighbors work for nothing and does not give them their wages.” Jeremiah 22:13

You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24

Marx: “Religious suffering is at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.” (1844. Quoted in Dallas Morning News 10/12/08 by Gregory Rodriguez making the point that Marx was against oppression, not against religion which is only a symptom of oppression)

Edwards, David: “The suggestion seems to emerge that man’s maturity coincides with his abandonment of religion.”

Patiently explain.

It makes sense that everybody who works would want to study successes and failures of those who struggle to make things better for our side. But do we?

Author Eric Blanc talked about the recent wave of successful school employees’ strikes to a small group gathered at Alliance/AFT (school employees) union hall on April 30, 2019.

Blanc, Eric, ‘Red State Revolt. The Teachers’ Strikes and Working-Class Politics.” Verso, London, 2019

The book is available on Amazon and elsewhere on-line. Blanc said that all money gained from book sales will go to “the national strike fund.” Apparently, he’s not just reporting on developments in the working class; he’s pulling for us!

The strike wave actually began a few years back with the Chicago Teachers, but the West Virginia wildcat strike of 2018 was the immediate inspiration for the successes that followed. Blanc emphasized that strikes in the American labor movement had become quite rare, and successes were threatened with extinction before a small group, Blanc mentioned that there were two or three of them, started things moving.

Another important aspect of the school employees’ strikes was the high degree of unity showed between different job groups, different ethnicities, and different communities. Blanc said that it is no coincidence that the other two industries that had large numbers on strike in 2018 were health care and hotels.

What’s the connection?

Women.

In all three industries, women dominate. “Really, these strikes were led by women,” Blanc said. It makes perfect sense. Women, especially women of color, are also winning elections right and left!

What Were the Main Issues?

Blanc said that none of the strikes were about wages. They were about changing the national dialog, created by the dark money manipulators, that schools are failing and the solution is privatization. There was never any evidence to support the idea, but it was the only thing being said prior to the strikes. Blanc said, “The reality is that privatizing is being tried and it isn’t working. All it does is hurt workers and students.”

Teachers struck against privatizing. They struck against divisive school policies such as merit pay. They struck in order to be able to teach instead of spending their entire day filling out forms. They struck over class sizes.

“You Can’t Do It Here”

Just about all I’ve heard here in Texas since the West Virginia strike is that such an activity would be impossible in Texas. Blanc pointed out that West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona are just as Republican-dominated as Texas. School strikes were just as illegal in West Virginia as they are in Texas. The way to keep from getting fired for striking, all seasoned unionists know, is to win the strike.

What’s Next?

Blanc wound up his opening remarks by pointing out that the strike wave is continuing. He said that there will be one-day walkouts in South Carolina and North Carolina. Tennessee and Oregon may have actions coming up. “That should give us hope in our opportunity to seize this moment.”

Who Is Learning These Lessons?

Only 18 of us gathered to hear Eric Blanc. I was the only one from the private sector. Virtually all of the questions thrown at Eric Blanc were about obstacles that school employees had faced and how the Texas situation might compare. I was almost last when I asked how we can get the entire labor movement to realize that the school employees won because they curried broad-based support.

Blanc responded that other kinds of workers could develop broad support for strikes and other progressive activities. “The majority of the workplaces have a relationship with the public that can be leveraged, but it’s not being leveraged right now.”

When somebody finds a winning combination, it makes sense that the rest of us would study their tactics. We might start by reading Eric Blanc’s book.

–Gene Lantz

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

Movie Review: “Peterloo,” Written and Directed by Mike Leigh, 2 hours 23 minutes




How strikes were ended

The new British historical epic was released in Dallas on April 19. I imagine they would like to hope it would run until August 16, the 200th anniversary of the slaughter of hopeful worker activists around Manchester. The run time will almost certainly be disappointing, because movies with a solid political message seldom last longer than one week in our town.

My movie buddy and I went to see it because we knew that the writer/director was capable of saying very good things about working families. Nearly all movies are about the affluent or the artistic. We were certainly not disappointed with “Peterloo!”

Another great thing about Leigh is his ability to develop women characters. Even though history only names the men who organized the effort and the men who did the murdering, women must have been very important in the struggle for British reforms. They show up well in “Peterloo.”

Moviegoers who have no interest in improving the condition of humanity are probably going to think that this film is a tad too long, covers too many characters, and includes too many speeches. Those of us who want to learn from history in order to make a better future, a large group that almost certainly includes Mike Leigh, think it was too short.

In 1819, a reform movement was sweeping through the miserable lives of British manufacturing workers. The heroes in this story are the weavers, men and women, in Manchester. The setting alone is fascinating, because Frederich Engels, lifelong collaborator of Karl Marx, wrote his important literary work, “The Condition of the Working Class in England,” about these very Manchester families.

Leigh did not stint on spending for this film. Every frame rings with authenticity. The one or two short scenes of the great mechanical looms in the textile mill must have cost a small fortune. Every set, every costume, every sallow-complexioned worker, convinces us that we are actually watching what happened in that great historical worker upheaval.

Know your constituency

As a lesson in strategies, Peterloo is superb! Leigh establishes exactly what the workers must have been thinking in 1819, and he goes over every painful question they had to answer as they prepared to go on strike and carry out a massive demonstration involving over 60,000 people.

Every moviegoer already knows how successful they are going to be, as history doesn’t say “Peterloo” without saying “massacre.” Discerning activists will be watching to see what might have been done differently so that the workers might have found success. We also watch to see how we can refine our efforts today.

As the lower tactical level, it would be hard to fault the weavers. They did a wonderful job of convincing tens of thousands of exploited people to come together.

Know your enemies

But at the higher strategic level, they made a tragic mistake that all of us must learn and apply to today’s thinking: they were so caught up in their efforts to organize and unify themselves that they did not give proper consideration to their enemy. Class struggle isn’t one sided. There is another class on the other side, fighting against us, and they cannot be ignored. Most important, they cannot be underestimated.

-Gene Lantz

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

Movie Review: “The Public” written, directed, and starring Emilio Estevez. 122 minutes



Estevez Does a Solid for Libraries and for homeless men

On a freezing cold night, a large group of homeless men organize a sit-in at the Cincinnati Public Library. The librarian who deals with them every day faces a quandary because he knows they may freeze to death if he helps throw them out. The police and the mayoral candidate don’t want to be seen as the bad guys.

My movie buddy and I thought the plot was a little bit unlikely, not because people don’t freeze to death every winter and not because keeping a library open might save them for at least one night; but because we don’t believe anybody today could organize that many homeless men. If the homeless were organized, they could get what they want and they wouldn’t be homeless. But we’re moviegoers, suspending credibility is our specialty!

We really liked the movie. We thought that libraries and libraries came out looking really good. We thought John Steinbeck, one of our favorite authors, and “Grapes of Wrath,” one of our favorite books, came out looking really good. I particularly liked the set design that included a big library sign with a picture of Poet Percy Shelley and one of my all-time favorite quotes:

“Rise like lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number/Shake your chains to earth like dew/Which in sleep had fallen on you/Ye are many/they are few”

If you’re in favor of investigating the far-reaching problem of homelessness in America, you have to root for this movie. If you’re searching for a solution, maybe you won’t find it here, but at least you’ll be searching, and that’s a whole lot better than ignoring this gigantic American problem.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’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 think we should do something about upcoming union contract negotiations. As I understand it, the contract between General Motors and the United Autoworkers Union elapses in mid September. It’s important.

Relatively speaking, the autoworkers have some of the best contracts in America. True, their contracts aren’t as good as they were; but everybody else’s pay and working conditions have been suffering about the same way, so the autoworkers are still ahead. Relatively speaking.

If things go along the way they have been going, the union leadership will take some concessions and sign a new contract early on. If things go along the way they have been going, the membership will grumble but stay on the job. The union will grow weaker.

Most of the time, things do go along the way they have been going. But not always. Sometimes the tiny steps of a trend begin to add up to a giant step, and some fundamental changes occur. In the case of General Motors, too many straws are already on the camel’s back. The announcement of five major plant closures this year was more than just a single straw! The UAW may be forced to strike, if things go along the way they have been going – against working people –, the strike could be disastrous for all of us, not just for the autoworkers.

That’s why we need to start thinking, now, about how we can help.

Take a look backward


The sit-in at GM made history

The successful strike against General Motors in Flint, Michigan, in 1937 was a gigantic breakthrough for America’s working families. The old craft union mold, organizing only the most skilled workers, was broken forever. Unions starting industrial organizing. In other words, everybody in a given industry joined the same union. It didn’t matter if they were skilled or unskilled, black, brown, or white. Women were welcomed. Everybody joined the same union, and, in 1937, that union was the UAW!

Almost immediately, the low-paid and exploited assembly line workers in the auto industry shot to the top of the pay scale. Detroit became the richest per-capita city in America. Other unions followed the example, and economic inequality took a nose dive for the first and only time in capitalist history!

So it matters what happens to the UAW.

Take a look forward

Despite the careful camouflage of the pundits, there is only one reason for the weakening of America’s unions. It isn’t outsourcing because we could be bringing up the wages and living conditions of foreign workers. It isn’t automation because we could be shortening the work week every time productivity climbs. It isn’t some psychological problem.

American unions have been on the decline since government policy turned against us. If government policy were organized around the idea of benefitting Americans, working people would prosper. Instead, they have been cutting us at every opportunity and they intend to continue.

Take a look around

Many progressive activists are involved in a myriad of causes. But one of them should be, must be, support for union contract negotiations. It’s the bosses or us. Which side are you on?

Fortunately for us, the school employees are showing us how to win. Major victories for working families are being won by teachers and other school workers. The reason is simple: they have friends everywhere. Teacher can barely announce a concerted action before students, parents, churches, and community groups swoop in to help them.

Sure, it’s not like that in manufacturing. People don’t see the autoworkers as their community pals the way they see the school workers. They don’t see any stake for themselves in whether or not the autoworkers prevail over General Motors. That’s what we need to overcome.

Starting now, let’s start building support for every union in every contract negotiation. Let’s pay particular attention to the big national contracts that have far-reaching effects. Remember the Teamsters in their UPS contract back around 2006? The Teamsters won big time because they started early and they developed wide support for their contract negotiations.

Let’s do it for the autoworkers in September, starting now!

–Gene Lantz

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

Does anybody know what they want?

Progressive activists chase after first one golden cause after another. One day it’s immigrant rights, and the next day it’s something else. All of us are like that because there are so many challenges and opportunities, and they come at us from different angles almost every day.

But, ultimately, what do we actually want? What would meet all the challenges and fulfill all the opportunities?

I’ve been trying to answer that question for some time. I’ve written three short novels about what people might do once a major transition of power had taken place. All my long anguishing boils down to this:

We want a world where all concerned people are organized and in charge. Afterward, we want them to remain organized and in charge while they do their best to end suffering and meet human needs.

What would that look like?

There are two fundamental organizing patterns: workplace and community. Through the past century, our unions were responsible for most of the uplifting that took place. Community groups have also made contributions, but they have tended to be more transitory. If everybody belonged to a workplace organization or to a community group, or to both, then everybody would be organized. Their taking power from the plutocrats would follow almost automatically. That’s what we want.

How do we get there?

Today, we organize ourselves into hundreds of progressive organizations. Most of them are transitory, but every experience in a mass organization is a learning experience. Hardly any of them even intends to take ultimate power, they simply are trying to affect the situation in the here and how. But people within them, and even people who are watching them without participating, are learning.

I often say that it doesn’t make much difference which progressive cause first activates an individual. If they stick to it, they all will eventually reach the same conclusion and tend to join the larger cause.

One of the biggest problems is that they don’t stick to it. A lot of people get discouraged and quit. Hardly anything is as pathetic as listening to older people say, “When I was young and bullet proof I used to believe in causes, but I’ve learned since then that you just can’t fight city hall,” or words to that effect.

So, overcoming discouragement is critical. Right now, people need more inspiration than information. They need to courage to try, and to go on trying.

So here’s the eternal question: “What do I do now?” and here’s the answer: “Promote mass activities that have the potential to bring information and inspiration to working people.” And keep at it!

Book Review:

Taylor,F. Jay, “The United States and the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939,” Introduction by Claude G Bowers, United Printing Services, New Haven, Connecticut, 1956.



Fascist General Franco had a lot of help from his friends

The parents of monsters are not usually examined. Thus it is with the progenitors of World War II, who were in Spain. But if the fascist monster persists, and threatens world havoc again, such an examination is in order. I set out then, to read about the Spanish Republic, Mussolini, and Hitler in the few years leading up to the fascist holocaust.

Historians like to present unassailable facts and feign objectivity. Thus, this author reports only that the Spanish Republic attempted to assert democracy after centuries of monarchy and dictatorship. They were set upon by General Franco and his Moorish troops from Morocco while the “great powers” sat on their hands.





The Abraham Lincoln Brigade is still celebrated with their U.S. magazine

A few thousand untrained internationalists, as many as 3,000 from the United States, joined the fight for democracy. Fascist Italy and Germany supplied tens of thousands of trained soldiers along with modern tanks and aircraft to defeat them. England, France, and the United States went to great lengths to pretend neutrality. Thus, fascism found its military and psychological advantage in its first great step toward taking over all of Europe. The great war became inevitable.

Author F. Jay Taylor cannot completely avoid the same conclusion. On page 189, he says: “In any event, although Roosevelt had some misgivings concerning American Spanish policy, he refused to act and so must share responsibility with Britain and France in contributing to the advent of the Second World War by appeasing Fascist aggressors in Spain.”

The books’ introduction is by the American Ambassador during the period.

Claude G. Bowers is more generous with conclusions. He says that the purpose of the Spanish Republic was “aimed at wiping out the lingering feudalism in the land and the raising of the status of the workers to that of human dignity.” He also says, ““It is a sad commentary on human weakness that while the totalitarians made no secret of their purpose, we democrats did our best to cover it up.”

Having read the book 70 years after its publication, and having read other important sources about the fascist invasion of Spain, I am explicit in my conclusion: The great capitalist powers, including the United States, nurtured European fascism in its infancy because the fascists offered to destroy the socialist bogeyman for them.

They embraced fascism over democracy then and have done it since. Examples include Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Congo, Their current target is Venezuela.

Can one conclude anything else?

-Gene Lantz

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