“It had nothing to do with the wall!” Kenneth Williams explained the recent 35-day government shutdown to the Dallas Chapter of Texas Alliance for Retired Americans meeting on February 6. Williams is a political activist from Rowlett, near Dallas. President George Nolan put Williams on the agenda first.
Kenneth Williams explained the shutdown
The tipoff, Williams explained, was that Mr Trump had two years in which his party controlled both houses of Congress, yet he didn’t take such drastic action to get his wall. He didn’t do it until the Democrats won the House of Representatives. Williams asked, “If they really wanted money for the wall, why didn’t they do it when they had control of Congress?”
The real reason that Trump provoked the shutdown was to usurp power from Congress. Williams said that Trump was thinking, “We must do something to put them in their place.” But, Williams said, “They underestimated the unity of the Democrats in opposing them.”
Another lesson we learned from the shutdown is
that so-called “middle income” job holders don’t have money in reserve. They
live paycheck-to-paycheck. The shutdown put a terrible hardship on government employees
and contractors. The contractors may never recover.
Will Trump provoke another shutdown? Williams
thinks not, because the entire Republican party is not crazy. They know that
they lost power and influence and they don’t want any more of it. Williams
said, “The Republican Senators are terrified of going through this again.”
One of the activists asked, “How is Trump going to get out of this corner?” Kenneth Williams answered, “He is not going to get out of the corner… he will make up some facts.”
Other retiree activists at the meeting agreed
with Williams. Some of them had even stronger statements.
Retiree Meetings Aren’t Just Social Events
The two-hour meeting covered a lot of analysis
of the situation confronting retirees followed by recommendations as to how to
fight back. Fernando Rojas gave announcements from Senior Source, the local
dispenser of government help for retirees. Alliance Field Organizer Judy Bryant
went over pending state and federal legislation affecting how retirees live.
Bryant then went on to organize delegations to local
congresspersons, voter registration, and other ways that retirees may influence
Our masters rule us because we are confused. They want it that way. That’s the main reason for it.
What is your aim?
The process of improving our human condition, the only process worth living for, benefits as confusion diminishes. But how can we diminish it?
We often find ourselves unable to distinguish between the many choices offered. This may particularly be felt during elections when we are trying to choose candidates. But it also true, more generally, when we try to distinguish between organizations that seem progressive. Which of them will actually set things right?
There are no good answers to the question, but that is not a reflection on the possible answers. It’s the question that was wrong.
Ask the right question
If our goal is to improve the human condition, then it should be obvious that none of the candidates in an election will be able to bring about a great transformation. It should also be obvious, in a more general sense, that none of the various organizations seeking our time and money can, by themselves, create a better world.
Great changes come about because of great mass movements. The biggest lie repeated on the internet, and repeated so often that people think it is true, is that individuals or small groups cause historical changes.
When we ask which candidate to work for or which organization should get our donations, we should be asking how they will affect that great mass movement of working families that will, eventually, bring the change we want.
Demagogues and sectarian organizations will end up on the bottom of our list. Those who promote progress and working class unity will rise to the top.
I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site
“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” — Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State, responding to why they overthrew the government in Chile in 1973
The United States has recognized the opposition leader in Venezuela as their rightful President. They are calling for an overthrow. They say that the elected president was illegally elected and that he disqualified some of his opposition. They have pulled their closest allies in with them.
Right in the middle of the crisis over whether or not Donald Trump can dictate his wishes to the American people, Trump is calling somebody else “a dictator!”
The fascist president of Brazil, who imprisoned his opposition and then “won” his election, is one of the happy club now calling for the overthrow of Venezuela. The U.S. efforts to take over Venezuela’s government and its oil didn’t start yesterday, it started when the great majority of Venezuelans elected, and then defended, an anti-imperialist president.
The pattern was set in Chile when the great majority of Chileans elected the mildly anti-imperialist Salvadore Allende. First they undermined the economy, then they organized the right-wing forces, then they permeated the military. Then they bombed the presidential palace, killed Allende, and installed a fascist government that murdered the remaining oppositionists.
Anyone not already familiar with what happened might just browse for “Chile Allende” on Youtube. There are dozens of videos. https://youtu.be/9h8deIN-OoU is one.
Here in America, the silence is deafening. Mr Trump and his gang get to make their accusations every day on every information source. The “honest reporters” reach beyond the Trump Administration to interview leaders and experts from previous administrations, all of whom share the same imperialist views. I wish I could say that the only imperialists in America are Republicans, but you’d know better.
The Venezuelans get some criticism from the so-called “left” as well as from the outspoken imperialists. Certain leftists blame the Venezuelan (and the Chilean) leaders for being social democrats instead of real working-class advocates. In other words, they didn’t deal directly with the local capitalists who were bound to conspire with the United States against them and; consequently, should have known they’d be overthrown sooner or later.
Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. We in America aren’t responsible for decisions in other countries, but in our own. We might love the Venezuelans or hate them, but it isn’t up to us to overthrow their government.
I like the position taken by the World Federation of Trade Unions and its spokepersons in “Labor Today” here:
“The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), representing 95 million workers of the five continents as well as the world class-oriented labor movement, strongly rejects the attempted coup d’état against the legitimate government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
‘This interference, orchestrated by the US government, NATO and the EU and executed by the representatives of the transnationals and monopolies in the country, constitutes a flagrant violation of the most elementary rules of international law and of the Venezuela’s sovereignty. For the WFTU, it is an inalienable right of each people to decide for themselves, without outside interventions, on their present and future.
‘At the same time, the WFTU reaffirms, as it has already done on several occasions, its solidarity with the Venezuelan people, with the working class and our affiliated organizations in the country in front of this imperialist threat. In addition, we call on the Venezuelan people to reject the maneuvers of the imperialists and their lackeys in the region, to condemn the plans of the murderers of the peoples. We will continue to support the Venezuelan working class, for the deepening of the Bolivarian process, until the abolition of man by man exploitation, towards a new world, without wars and imperialist barbarism. This is the only way forward to repel the plans of the imperialists.
Movie Review: “On the Basis of Sex,” Directed by Mimi Leder, 2 hours
My movie buddy and I enjoyed the biopic about Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s early days in the fight for gender equality, even though it was formulaic and predictable from the beginning to the powerful ending where the real Ginsberg mounted the Supreme Court steps.
The movie is very timely as it hit theaters just as Ginsberg was missing her very first sessions while battling lung cancer. The last report I saw said that she had beaten cancer once more and was back on the job. The documentary, “RBG,” about her had just closed a week or so before this dramatization was available. Another reason that the movie is so timely is that the Supreme Court has been making headlines for years as it cleared legalities out of the way for the ongoing power-grab of the plutocracy.
Only Ginsberg’s early legal efforts, and especially her first big trial before the Supreme Court, are covered. But the inference is that she went on to win more and more gains for women. We were pleased that the movie didn’t try to give all the credit to the legal system, but made the point that people change things before laws recognize it.
In discussions after the movie, we talked about the Equal Rights Amendment, which both of us fought for in the 1970s. It passed in Congress but, like any constitutional amendment, it had to be ratified in the states. We came close but we didn’t win, or rather we haven’t won yet.
The ERA would have overturned all the many statutes and case precedents justifying gender discrimination in America. Ginsberg’s approach, in the movie, was to tackle them one-by-one, and that’s what she and others have been doing. The movie implies that we’ve been winning all this time and will continue winning until gender equality is fully achieved.
But, so far, it hasn’t happened.
Women live longer and consequently outnumber men in America and on the planet. If they could get together, even vote together on women’s issues, they would win. But the truth is that they don’t.
Texas has had two outstanding women candidates for governor in the last two elections. Both were outstanding for their stands on women’s equality. Neither one of them won, and neither one of them got all of the women votes. I think that both of them, like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and maybe even like Hillary Clinton, made some progress; but so far no victory cigar!
Frederick Engels, in the 19th century, wrote that women were the first oppressed class, mostly because their oppression coincided with the birth of written history. Both written history and women’s oppression came about because surplus wealth was beginning to be produced. Men took that wealth and developed writing to account for it. They developed women’s oppression in order to make sure that their heirs were biologically theirs.
Engels said that women’s oppression would end in future society because women would be in the workforce and fully as productive as men. I think that’s been the case so far. The laws didn’t change first. What happened first was that women established their power and their rights in the workforce.
Union Women Are Far Ahead
Most American workers aren’t organized into unions, but the ones that are practice women’s equality rather thoroughly. As our working people attain more power, women’s equality will at long last attain its final goal.
Meantime, let’s keep marching!
I’m on KNON’s Workers Beat program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site
Working people in other nations must be simply amazed that the Americans would let 800,000 workers get locked out while everybody else goes to work as if nothing was happening. After all, if we so much as shut down one airport, one railroad, one highway, or one city for half a day, we’d get whatever we wanted.
Call Congress. Then what?
Without making any excuses, one can look back in American labor history for some of the reasons that nobody has walked out in solidarity. The biggest one is that everybody waits for the unions to do it and, as the saying goes, it ain’t going to happen!
Unions have power, and because they have power, they have tremendous government supervision. Most union contracts have a “no strike” provision. Management would love to see a union violate their contract, because they would then be free to do almost anything they wanted, and the government would happily assist.
In the old days, unions got what they wanted primarily by striking. The Industrial Workers of the World had hardly any other tactics. At the same time, their legal status was about the same as bank robbers. Some of the most powerful unions, mostly in transportation, gained some legal status with the passage of the Railway Labor Act in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the Roosevelt Administration gave us the National Labor Relations Act. It set up the supposedly neutral National Labor Relations Board to referee disputes between management and labor. Legal at last, the unions went on the biggest organizing drive in history.
But there was a price. With government arbitration came a lot of government supervision. In 1947, Republicans came down hard on labor laws. That’s when the vicious “right to scab” laws were legalized in the infamous Taft-Hartley bill. Texas led the way. Republicans have made sure that labor laws worsened.
It may sound innocent to say that “secondary boycotts are outlawed,” but what it means is that unions cannot stop work in solidarity with other unions. Our fundamental principle, “An injury to one is the concern of all” is quoted a lot more than it is used, and it can’t legally be used at for major work stoppage.
Unions are calling for an all-out lobbying effort. A few unions, including one in Dallas, are hitting the streets, and that is a big step forward. But it’s not likely that they will go further.
Why doesn’t someone else do it?
Why is everybody waiting for unions to call walkouts? It’s because our solidarity with the rest of the working class is still fairly weak. From 1947’s Taft-Hartley Act to 1995, America’s unions did very little to promote their relations with churches, community groups, civil rights people, and protest organizations. They accepted their isolation.
With the AFL-CIO elections of 1995, unions began to get back on track. But it’s a long road from a national labor convention to a grass roots coalition at the local level. I’m very proud that my own AFL-CIO Council in Dallas has made giant strides, but not every council has and, even in Dallas, these coalitions are still quite young.
Most of the individuals with enough personal following to call a major action are politicians. If they called a walkout, or even spoke in favor of walkouts, their campaign funds would rupture. So don’t expect any of them, not even Bernie Sanders, to call for walkouts.
Maybe a rock star will.
Some impossible things happen
If Mr Trump really tries to keep the government shutdown going for an extended period, as he says he will, there will be work stoppages. They will succeed, too.
There is such a thing as “historical imperative.” It says that some things will happen, not because they are likely or even possible, but because they have to happen. Maybe Americans don’t understand our own labor history, and maybe we’re easily divided. Maybe we’re ignorant, but we’re not stupid.
I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, look at my personal web site
Today I posted a prologue and Chapter One of “Commissioner Torres and the New Government” on http://lilleskole.us, my personal web site. It’s actually my 4th book-length effort. One of them is autobiographical and covers just about everything I’ve learned so far.
The other three are speculative fiction about a guy named Leo Torres who gets involved with revolutionaries just when the old order of things has fallen apart. Leo gets in on the revolution from the ground floor.
You may wonder why I write and post these things. Obviously, I’m not going to make any money. They aren’t even copyrighted. It’s not because of the silly old shibboleth “Writers write because they have to.”
I’m one of many people who would like to see a better world, but I’m one of the very few who have tried to describe it. For decades I’ve dodged the question the same way almost every activist does by saying, “I don’t know what the world I’m fighting for would look like, because it’s up to those people living in that world to decide for themselves.” It may be true, but it’s still a dodge.
If we’re fighting for a better world, we ought to be able to describe it. Or at least we ought to try.
I decided on speculative fiction as my way of initiating a discussion on what might happen and what we might do about it. After all, does anybody think that we’ll just wake up one day in a better world?
Nearly all of our sci-fi is dystopian. Just about the only exception is the Star Trek series. They didn’t even have a revolution to get into their wonderful world. They just listened to the Vulcans. In one episode, Mister Spock hints that the Vulcans had to go through some very trying times before they became so civil, but he doesn’t tell us much about it. So we actually have no pattern to follow.
For a long time, American activists tried to copy the Russian revolution. When it imploded, a lot of them were disgusted and demoralized. Some others have tried to follow Chairman Mao. Some followed Nkrumah, Ho Chi Minh, and some followed Castro. I think we could learn from all of them, but we couldn’t learn enough. We have to do a lot of our own thinking.
So, we speculate.
The World I Made
Looking toward the future, especially in the Donald Trump era, one can see disaster ahead. It’s not a matter of whether or not the planet will become inhabitable and wealth inequality will make economic life impossible. It’s only a matter of when.
But I have great faith in myself and other people. Sooner or later we will give up on the people who are destroying the economy and the ecology. We will embrace new leaders and new ways of running things. In the world I create in my sci-fi novels, people have just recently done that. Following the advice of revolutionaries, civilized people have disbanded their armies and their police. They formed local militias to keep order while respected and capable leaders are elected to make economic and social decisions.
The revolutionaries at the center help coordinate activities and continue to advise the localities. As you might imagine, there is very little continuity between one locality and another. There are a tremendous number of problems to be resolved. What will people eat? How will they get it? How will trade continue? How will people get from one place to the next?
Because the air and water are almost undrinkable and unbreathable, something drastic has to be done about the burning of fossil fuels. Because all systems are down, there is no electricity. Without electricity and transportation, there is no long-distance communication. Without transportation, people will not be able to get the goods and services they need to stay alive. What would you do about those things?
The first two novels take the easy way out. They only deal with some of the smaller questions.
My first novel deals with whether or not revolution is possible and worthwhile. It’s common to hear it said that humanity isn’t worth saving, that people will never learn to live without war, that people are essentially greedy and incapable of cooperation, and that every revolution has failed because people are basically just no damned good!
My second novel is more specific. It tries to deal with the fact that certain sectors of the population will not cooperate in building a better world. Hardened drug addicts, for example, are unlikely to cooperate in civil society. What would you do with them?
The third novel is by far the most ambitious. It recognizes that government is necessary and begins to discuss the ins and outs of setting up and running such a government. Is democracy the answer? If so, what would be the machinery of democracy? Here’s a really thorny question, “How could a society avoid the tyranny of the majority?”
I don’t know if you can answer these questions, but I know that I can’t. But I’m inviting you to join me in trying to find out.
I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” talk show 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday. Call in 972-647-1893 with your ideas. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site at http://lilleskole.us
Movie Review: “Vice,” Directed by Adam McKay, 2 hours 12 minutes.
Even if you lived through the Bush-Cheney years and don’t think you need a refresher course, you will benefit from seeing “Vice.” It concretizes our understanding of the many things that are wrong today. Dick Cheney was not the first nor the last Republican to warp our laws in the service of dark money, but he is certainly in the running for the worst.
The movie credits him with paving the way for dishonest network television, tax giveaways, fraudulent wars, distortion of justice, and torture, among other things.
So many are the chronicles of Cheney’s crimes that the movie, despite its length, has little time for drama. It is almost a documentary. The time-saving method of using a narrator to hurry us through events has to be employed. Even within that hurried framework, though, the actors are magnificent. Christian Bale again shows his dedication and ability by being both the wastrel Young Dick and the overweight criminal old Dick. Amy Adams, as Dick’s Lady MacBeth, is outstanding. Several headliners take minor roles, or even cameos, to get the historical drama on the screen.
It was not completely amazing to see that Brad Pitt headed a list of film producers, especially if one also went across the movieplex to see the outstanding civil rights film, “It Happened on Beale Street,” where Pitt is again the lead producer. Pitt apparently is committed to progressive filming.
There are a lot of surreal moments in the film. They’re extremely humorous in a macabre sort of way. Some of the critics have blasted McKay for taking short breaks from serious treatment, but I think he did it the way it had to be done. When listing the crimes of Cheney, we have to laugh to keep from screaming.
I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday Central time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site