Book Review (Partial): Medhurst, John, “No Less Than Mystic. A History of Lenin and the Russian Revolution for a 21st Century Left.” Repeater Books, London, 2017

Somebody sent me a book anonymously. The package just said “Pearl Books” Wisconsin. I don’t know if everybody is getting one or if I was singled out. Even in paperback, this one costs $19.95 so whoever sent it must have either been strong of purpose or just has a lot of money. I get a lot of books because book salesmen mis-read “Workers Beat” the title of my radio show, and send me business management stuff. They think it’s “Beat Workers,” I guess.

Nevertheless, I liked the “21st Century Left” part of the title, so I’m trying to read it. Also, it led off with an interesting quote, “The Marxist doctrine is omnipresent because it is true.” –V.I. Lenin.

But I got really worried as soon as I got to the top of the second page of the Introduction: “In the end I suggest that that anti-capitalist writers such as …Noam Chomsky… have more constructive options to offer the left today than do the sages of Bolshevism.” I flipped back to the cover and, sure enough, there was a flagrant endorsement from the world’s champion armchair socialist himself, Chomsky!

Determined as I am to hear both sides of the story, I’m still trying to read it and have accomplished all the way to page 127 now. There are 467 to go. It’s pretty easy to see, from the git-go, that the author is against all revolutionaries and for all back-biting intellectual splitters. It reads very much like a treatise on theology – lots of name dropping, obscure quotes, and hardly any commitment to a course of action.

Since the author rules out revolution in the first few pages, I was eager to see what he does recommend, so I skipped to the last chapter. It wasn’t exactly clear, but he seems to favor early anarchism – the idea that capitalism has an on/off switch that needs no process. He likes the occupy movement, whether on the large scale like the Zapatistas in Mexico or the small scale such as what occurred recently in America’s parks and public places. He likes employee stock option plans in which laborers own a controlling stock in (usually small) businesses. He likes the word “libertarian,” but I don’t think he means America’s Libertarian Party. I think he means “more liberal.” Oh yes, I nearly forgot, he favors the counterculture idea – in which no revolutionary activity, or any activity at all, is required because the bosses are about to capsize on their own and all we have to do is grow our hair long, listen to music, and recycle our trash until they’re gone. All of the people he quotes that I recognize were gradualists who believed that the bosses will stand by while we elect revolutionary socialists to replace them.

When it suits him, the author finds anti-revolutionary quotes from Rosa Luxemburg or even Leon Trotsky to discredit the people who actually did make a difference in their lifetimes.

As I spent considerable time as a counter-culturalist and, later, as a Trotskyite, I felt that I had a special need to set the record straight on Luxemburg and Trotsky. Both of them were lifetime revolutionaries with slightly divergent views on how to overcome the bosses. Luxemburg, in fact, wrote what is probably the best refutation of people like Medhurst, the present author, in her short book “Reform and Revolution.” She spoke the truth and paid for it with her life. She’s essential reading.

I don’t like dissing somebody’s thinking without offering an alternative, so let me explain a short version of the actual situation. It begins by asking “what’s wrong?”

What’s Wrong?

Nothing is wrong. Everything is going swimmingly – but only for the bosses. The people who are running most of the world are running it very well, from their point of view. Working families may not like constant wars and environmental disaster, but oil stocks are skyrocketing. Racism and police misconduct may be ugly from our point of view, but they have always paid off nicely, from slavery thru Jim Crow to the present state of things, for our employers. Mass murders may be unseemly to us, but they are just fine for arms manufacturers. For our bosses, hunger and disease are just the cost of doing busines

Anybody who is thinking clearly will see it. Working families’ problems come from our bosses, and the only long-term solution is to remove them from power. I figured that out without any help from Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Mao Tse-Tung, Che Guevara, Patrice Lumumba or Fidel Castro, and certainly not from Noam Chomsky. In my own case, I was simply an elementary school teacher who thought, at first, that the world would change if I could end corporal punishment. When I paused being a knee-jerk activist and thought about it, though, I realized that America’s system of public and private education has not “gone astray” or “missed the point.” They may not always be good for working families, but they function pretty well for the bosses. The same is true for all the other of society’s “ills.”

What I couldn’t figure out, and, like most people, what I’m still grappling with, is what to do about it. History’s great revolutionaries may have had minor differences in their strategies and tactics, but they all agreed that the bosses need to go. In some parts of his long book, Medhurst hints that he thinks so, too, but, for the most part, his contribution provides comfort for those who don’t really intend to do anything at all.

One can live a long and comfortable life writing books about the need for change as long as they stay away from doing anything, or advocating anything that might work. They can advocate for change – heck, they can even get big financial grants from the bosses for their projects – as long as no real challenge to the bosses is involved.

Clever writers can rise to fame and fortune if they defame the people and ideas that might actually make a difference. The armchair socialist, like the cockroach, will survive after all.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. My “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts usually go up on Soundcloud every Wednesday morning. If you are curious about what I really think, look at my personal web site

Book Reviews:

Two books on MacArthur and Truman

H.W. Brands, The General vs the President. MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War. Doubleday, New York, 2016

William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964. Little, Brown and Company, New York, 1978

Readers who want to know how the Cold War was fine-tuned will find good discussions in these two books. However, both books are based on questionable assumptions that undermine their historical value. Also on the downside, much of the information in the 2016 book seems to have been taken directly from the 1978 book, or from the same sources. I think that both MacArthur and Truman wrote autobiographies that provided much of the original information, but, of course, without a critical eye.

I recommend getting some familiarity with the Korean War before reading these books. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary:

The two authors do not really explain the war. Even worse, they buy uncritically into the U.S. State Department version of what happened. The Americans were heroes, the South Koreans were incompetent, the North Koreans and the Chinese were evil and aggressive imperialists.

The differences explored in these books were not the differences between the U.S. and North Korea, the U.S. and China, the U.S. and the U.N. nor the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The only differences explored are the minor differences between committed anticommunists, especially Truman and MacArthur.

MacArthur, everyone in the book and the authors agree, was a brilliant military strategist. He was also an arrogant gloryhog who wanted to be President. Truman was an outstanding politician. Various other generals and politicians exalted MacArthur, but eventually came around to Truman’s side. The difference between the two main protagonists had to do with the conduct of the Cold War. Basically, MacArthur was ready to risk everything for a military victory against all communists; Truman wanted military containment of the communists while draining them economically. Truman’s version is the one we lived with, but he had to fire one of the most popular military leaders in modern history to establish his program.

MacArthur wanted to destroy the Chinese Army. Truman and his cohorts thought that a long-term effort to destroy the Soviet Union was preferable. The American people were divided, as we are now.

–Gene Lantz

I am on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. Programs and my “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts are posted on on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

I’ve seen several recent articles worrying about declining fertility rates. Two of them caught my eye today:

In one of them, government spokespersons complain about the falling birth rate in India, the worlds most populous country. The other lamented falling birth rates in the United States, the richest. Both of them complained that economies would suffer if people didn’t rev up their baby production. Both of them offered no explanation for declining birth rates except to say that people just don’t want kids like they used to.

Do People Want Kids?

People are hard-wired to have children whether they want to or not. The difference between today and the past is that more people have a choice. Thank Margaret Sanger for promoting birth control. Thank millions of women for fighting for their rights. The fight is certainly not over, but women have made some gains, and one of those important gains is that they get a little bit of say-so over when and whether they will have children.

At the risk of offending the religious and anti-woman crazies, one could make a strong case that people don’t really want children, or at least they don’t want a considerable number of them. Start with the scandalous treatment of foster children in Texas, for example. The Texas Tribune says there are 28,000 of them. Many have no foster “families.” Some of them sleep unprotected in Child Protective Service offices!

The United States has 12,000,000 children living in poverty, according to The Anna E Casey Foundation 2021 report. Texas has 1,401,000, or 19% of its total. Texas ranks Texas 46th in taking care of children. It has the most severe anti-abortion law on the books. Texas, one might conclude, has no use for children after they are born!

Is More Population a Good Idea?

At last count (2020), this planet was supporting 7.753 billion human beings. It was 7.673 billion the year before. Some of them are at war. Some of them are dying from disease. Some are being killed by the effects of climate change. Many of them are transient immigrants. 1 in every 10 is undernourished.

Book Review:

Campbell, Randolph B, “An Empire for Slavery. The Peculiar Institution in Texas 1821-1865.” Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

I had Dr Campbell on KNON once, years ago. He was teaching at North Texas University in Denton.

Dr Campbell has strong factual basis for his description of slavery in the Lone Star state. There are 15 pages of bibliography notes that include census figures from 1840, 1850, and 1860 as well as the recordings that were made in the 1930s by former Texas slaves. He had judicial proceedings against slaves and civil cases concerning squabbles between one “owner” and another – as well as squabbles over slave “rentals” and “mortgages.” He has a lot of wills in which “owners” divided their “property” among their heirs. Campbell knows his subject.

This is a dispassionate work of history, not a polemic against slavery nor one of the many apologies for it. He just tells what happened, and that, by itself, makes riveting reading. Given the many misleading accounts of Texas history that exist and are pushed by Chambers of Commerce and politicians, this one is a genuine relief. By looking at the facts, one can finally see through some of the mythology and deliberately misleading versions. Certainly in reality, Texas slaves were not happily playing their banjos and loving their “masters.”

There are some revelations. For example, every Texas child knows that Stephen F Austin, “The Father of Texas,” spent considerable time in Mexico as a representative of his group of settlers. What I hadn’t realized is that a lot of Austin’s Mexico mission consisted of pleas to the Mexican government to allow slavery. During the entire period that white settlers poured into Mexican Tejas, slavery wasn’t legal. The law just generally wasn’t enforced, not for ideological reasons but simply because Tejas was rough country and far away from Mexico City. Many of the new settlers brought their slaves.

Campbell takes a position on the role of slavery in motivating the white settler’s eventual rebellion against Mexico. He says that it was certainly a factor, but not the immediate cause. He does note that the constitution of the Republic of Texas strongly favored slavery, as did state laws after Texas joined the United States. At the beginning, and from time to time, Black freepersons were not allowed anywhere in Texas. After Texas joined the Confederacy, manumission was outlawed.

As to the theory that white settlers intentionally moved to Texas in order to steal the land from a weak Mexican Republic, Campbell offers no opinion in this book. This is just about slavery.

Speaking of laws, Campbell explains that slaves were not legally equal to other forms of “property.” The law had to recognize that slaves were people as well as property. Slaves endured all kinds of punishments, including legal jailing and execution. Dallasites who have read the transcript of the trial of Jane Elkins, the first Texas woman officially executed, may have wondered why it included her dollar value ($700) along with the rest of the proceedings. Campbell says that the “owner” of executed “property” was legally entitled to half their “value.” Apparently, someone got $350 from the county when Jane was hanged.

It is interesting that lynching was never popular in Texas until after African Americans were freed. There were no laws protecting them from lynching, but there were plenty of laws protecting their “owners” from losing money.

Even though I know that farmers regularly try to upgrade their livestock through selective breeding, it had never occurred to me, until I read to page 154 of this book, that some “owners” did the same thing with their human “livestock!” Some male slaves were rented out to stud!

Did slaves and abolitionists fight for freedom in Texas? Well, Campbell estimates that about 4,000 slaves managed to escape to Mexico or to a few friendly native tribes, but most slaves just tried to “get by” with things the way they were. Many of the Germans who migrated to Texas after 1848 did not use slaves, some opposed it, and at least one editor, Adolph Douai of San Antonio, made a public fuss, at least for a while. Seventy percent of free Texans did not own any slaves, but they voted the slaveowners into all important offices; consequently, we may assume that they took no stand against it.  Slavery was apparently considered an economic question, not an ideological nor moral one. During the Civil War, Campbell says that 98,594 African Americans took up arms with the Federal Army. Only 47 of them were from Texas. The main reason is that Federal forces never invaded Texas; consequently, no Texas slaves were freed before Juneteenth.

Was slavery worse in Texas than elsewhere? Campbell says there is no evidence of it. As one reads of the horrors endured by Texas slaves, we can take no comfort from the idea that it was better elsewhere. Campbell says that the treatment of slaves, which varied greatly from “owner” to “owner,” was nevertheless about the same throughout the South.

–Gene Lantz

I am on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. Programs and my “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts are posted on on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Book Review: Dubofsky, Melvin and Warren Van Tine, “John L. Lewis, a Biography.” Quadrangle, the NY Times Book Co., NY, 1977.

If one is interested in the American labor movement 1919-1959, then one needs to know about John L. Lewis. This is a thorough version of 529 big pages in 8-point type! The authors paint a consistent picture of a history-maker who was an autocrat, an egomaniac, and a shifty manipulator who achieved a certain amount of relatively undeserved success. It’s well documented and presented in a balanced way, so I wouldn’t challenge its veracity, but only its conclusion.

Whatever else he may have been, John L. Lewis was a union man

John L. Lewis was a union man. The authors point out that he could easily have made more money if he had left the labor movement and joined his many capitalist friends. They do not explain why he didn’t, but I will: he was a union man. Union men care about others. They may, and apparently Lewis did, use all sorts of questionable strategies to serve their union members; but their goal is to make things better. I challenge anyone to say that John L. Lewis failed in that noble effort!

Lewis started the CIO and guided it to its great success. He was lionized everywhere for it and was one of the greatest heroes of the period 1935-1939. Afterward, he opposed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he opposed entry to World War II, he encouraged a big coal strike during World War II, he opposed President Harry Truman; and he allowed himself to be made one of the most despised public figures in America afterward. Loved or hated, nobody disputes his outsize role in history.

The authors chose hang their narrative on the biennial mineworkers contract negotiations. Many times, walkouts were involved. Lewis was a master strategist who knew how to manipulate the mine owners, his enemies within the union, government supervisors, and whoever else was involved. Because of economic realities, every contract was not a great victory, but many of them were, and much of those victories came about because Lewis was really good at what he did. But it wasn’t mine worker contracts that drew me to the life of Lewis. It was the dramatic change he made in the American labor movement. Lewis implemented industrial unionism when he formed the Committee for Industrial Organizing, known later as the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Before 1935, the “official” labor movement was characterized by craft unions. They avoided organizing women or people of color. They sought out the elite workers, the ones with irreplaceable skills such as electricians or machinists. Someone who pushed a broom had no chance to get the benefits of labor organization. At the same time, certain progressives tried to implement industrial organizing targeting everybody who worked. The IWW is often mis-called “International Workers,” but their real name was “Industrial Workers of the World.” They tried to organize everybody and were so successful at it that the government arrested, deported, and killed enough of them to hold them back.

After that, the communists tried to infiltrate the AFL with newly-organized industrial workers and industrial ideas. They wanted all unions to be like the United Mine Workers, who organized everybody that worked in their industry. John L. Lewis, head of the mine workers, agreed with them and decided, in 1935, that he could get the AFL to accept it. The 1935 AFL convention, and Lewis’ role, makes a great story. When it was over, industrial unionism had a firm beginning at last and American labor was never the same again.

AFL leaders during the period accused Lewis of splitting the labor movement, but this book makes it clear that John L. Lewis did not precipitate a split and that he spent the his career trying to re-unite the movement. In 1955, they did re-unite to form the AFL-CIO. Unfortunately, the twists and turns of history had left the UMW out of the AFL, the CIO, and the AFL-CIO. None of that was Lewis’ fault.

The book is not a grand view of all labor developments. The IWW is barely mentioned. The communists, who did a great deal of the organizing, are only mentioned when they were being excoriated by Lewis or other people. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal that I hadn’t known before. Here are notes I took as I read the life of John L Lewis:

I was surprised to read that the United Mine Workers were demanding a 6-hour day and 5-day week way back in 1919! Also, they demanded that coal mining be nationalized. Lewis joined in the slogans, but not the implementation. I’m up to page 134, and the authors paint him as a gross opportunist.

Lewis rose through the ranks because he cultivated relationships, not because of some meteoric personality. One of the people he cultivated was 40-year AFL leader Samuel Gompers. Another was head of the Harriman bank. After he got the presidency, he beat down the militant miners. He used red-baiting generously. Some of his supporters beat up his opponents.

The government called out airplanes against the miners in the Battle of Blair mountain in August 1921.

Page 82: “On April 1, 1922, he thus led the largest single coal miners’ strike in United States history.”

June 21, 1922, there was a massacre of scabs in Herrin County, Illinois. After winning an armed battle with strikebreakers and guards, miners took them prisoners. As they drove their prisoners along, they got carried away and murdered 19 of them. “The Herrin Massacre.” Lewis blamed it all on communists.

William Z Foster and his Trade Union Education League targeted the UMW because it was the largest of all American unions and because it was organized industrially. Lewis used the occasion to slather his enemies with red paint and destroy them all. After 1926 or so, Lewis was unchallenged within the union. But through his ascent, the union was in descent. In fact, the authors say that Lewis was able to overcome various District Directors because they were losing so many members and, thus, so much clout. The union apparently dropped from 500K members to 100K. They only won the 1922 strike with a $2M loan from the Harriman Bank.

As Lewis reigned supreme, the union was nearly finished.

Even in 1932, Lewis supported his poker playing buddy, Herbert Hoover, for President. FDR took office March 1933. Even before that, John L Lewis was touting the outline for the New Deal. At AFL-CiO conventions beginning in 1933, he spoke up for industrial organizing. Even before that, he wanted to increase the Exec from 8 to 25 in order to represent more of the union movement. Along about page 190, John L starts being the good guy in this narrative. Befrore that, one might claim that his great accomplishment was keeping the union together through hard times, if one were generous. These authors aren’t.

Lewis had a great lifelong friend in Herbert Hoover. According to the authors, he prized his friendships among the high and mighty, be they capitalists or not, much more than other unionists or the common people.

Pg147: In 1921, UMW had 500K. In 1928, 80K.

Pg 148: Campaigned for Hoover

Pg165: Mother Jones opposed Lewis

Pg167: “Third period” reds were a problem

Pg178: At 1932 AFL Convention, Lewis urged the formation of the United Electrical Workers. He presaged the New Deal

Pg 174: Economist and reformer W. Jett Lauck worked with Lewis for decades. Wrote most of his speeches

Pg 183: The New Deal, Lewis said, was a way to avoid communism. He blasts communists all through his career

Pg 192 “Captive mines” were owned by steel companies. They refused national agreement under Section 7A of NIRA. Some historians claim that Lewis only wanted to form the CIO so that he could organize the captive mines. Clearly, it isn’t true because he went to great lengths to help the United Auto Workers form and win their big action against General Motors.

Pg 201: Opposed women’s auxiliary for UMW

Pg 205: 12% of the American workforce was organized in 1935. That was less than in 1922

Pg 276: GM settlement caused U.S. Steel contract. Lewis did not call nor control the sit-downers at Flint. He dealt with Michigan Governor Murphy and FDR

Pg 277: “What the AFL had failed to accomplish in half a century, the CIO had accomplished in three weeks.”

Pg 278: By the end of August, 1937, the CIO had 3,419,600 members, which was more than the AFL had.

Pg 306: 12-21-37 failure of unity conference\

Pg 307: AFL chartered dual unions, red baited, and linked with Chamber of Commerce to change the Wagner Act to disallow industrial unions. They undermined the New Deal, too.

Pg 307: Nov 1938–CIO is separate. Dubinsky pulled the ILGWU out of the CIO and went back to the AFL. CIA stooge Jay Lovestone was Dubinsky’s adviser.

Pg 314: FDR and New Dealers sold out Steel Workers Organizing Committee even after the Memorial Day 1937 massacre. August 1937 began “Roosevelt Depression.” Lewis criticized FDR and began the break that festered from then on

Pg 319: 1-25-39 Homer Martin resigned from Presidency of the UAW and took his own version of the union into the AFL

Pg 344: Lewis used his oratorial skill to destroy his enemies. He used the word “hottentot” to make his enemies sound like barbarians, savages, or cannibals

Pg 350: Spoke to NAACP and was for full rights for African Americans

Pg 351: Hoover 1940

Pg 351: Puissant is a word the authors use to mean “overly powerful.” FDR was becoming a puissant president, Lewis thought

Pg 358: He endorsed Wendell Wilkie for President in 1939 and swore to resign from the CIO if unions did not follow him. They didn’t and he did.

Pg 369: Phil Murray, anti-communist like Lewis, was elected to lead the CIO. During the war, Lewis tried to rejoin the AFL. In fact, he continued efforts to re-unite the labor movement to the end of his career. The authors blame him for some of the problems, but they record that he did try over and over again.

Pg 457: Jan 24, 1946, UMW re-admitted to AFL

Pg 458: Strike wave of 1946: “In November, 1945, two hundred thousand General Motors employees walked out of their plants. Two months later, 300,000 meat packers and 180,000 electrical workers struck, and were followed shortly thereafter by 750,000 steelworkers. In all, 4,630 work stoppages, involving 5,000,000 strikers, and totaling 12,000,000 idle work-days occurred in the twelve months following Japan’s surrender. While little physical violence characterized these stoppages, they generated violent emotions as middle- and upper-class Americans feared that unions would disrupt their economic security.” After the strike wave, Americans were bitter toward organized labor. This may help explain what happened in 1947.

Pg 468: Truman defeats Lewis in 1946 contract negotiations. Lewis had demanded mine safety.

Pg 474: Centralia mine explosion kills 111. Lewis uses it to push for mine safety

Pg 473: Taft Harley passed June 23, 1947. Lewis fought it before and after (pg 474)

Pg 476: Lewis continued to oppose Taft-Hartley after many unions accommodated themselves to it. In 1953, Lewis also made statements against Wagner Act and said unions were better off without government intervention

Pg 492: He always sought unification

Pg 493: AFL-CIO united in 1955, but they excluded the UMW

Pg 501: “The Jones Boys” were union hoodlums who beat up scab miners. Sometimes the would stop work at a scab mine and line up all the workers, then force them to join. Apparently, Lewis countenanced this through his career, but the book only mentions it this once. This page is also the first mention of Tony Boyle. Boyle took over the UMW and ruled it until he was convicted of murdering Jock Mahoney, his opponent.

Pg 506: Describes Lewis’ banking empire, which began in the 1920s and was gigantic by the 1950s. By then, the coal industry had fallen so low that its great financial achievements began to erode away

Pg 513: For his legacy, Lewis did not ask for statues or honors so much. He chartered 10 hospitals in mining districts. Apparently, Lewis always voted Democrat as he aged.

Pg 528: Died June 11, 1969. Left no papers nor any clear explanation of his lifelong motivations

Pg 529: The book ends with Dec 30, 1969, when Yablonski and his family retired for the night. That’s when Tony Boyle had them killed

Book Review:

Walter, Jess, “The Cold Millions.” Big Text,Inc, Harper, New York, 2020

There is a rave review from the Washington Post.

Jess Walter lives in Spokane, Washington. The book is about his town during 1909-10, the time of the great free speech fight of the Industrial Workers of the World. It’s fiction, but everything seems to fit. The point of view changes with each chapter, but the central character, by right of survival since his final chapter is the end of the book, is a teenager named Ryan Dolan. Dolan and his older brother are what we would today call migrant workers, but in their day were simply tramps.

The Spokane Free Speech fight is well noted in labor history, but nobody imagined what it may have been actually like in those days until this book. For example, we know that the IWW members were arrested after mounting soap boxes, one by one, and attempting to exercise their constitutional right to speak out. Many of them, just for irony’s sake, were arrested for having tried to read the Declaration of Independence.  In all, over 500 workers were incarcerated in Spokane and suffered terribly.

The IWW’s strategy was to fill the jails until the public, especially taxpayers, demanded their release and respect for constitutional rights. It was nonviolent resistance long before Gandhi and Martin Luther King popularized the term. The greatest hero of the Spokane fight was IWW organizer Frank Little, but he barely appears in this book because he spent the entire period in jail. The Dolan brothers were in and out.

Fortunately for the readers, the other giant labor figure from Spokane is prominent in Walter’s depiction. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the “Rebel Girl” orator from the IWW, may well be credited with having originated the “fill the jails” strategy earlier in Missoula, Montana. She and Frank Little were successful there. Little carried the strategy forward several times in several western cities for some of the most romantic chapters in American labor history.

If you know your history, you know that Flynn was there and that the publicity she generated was largely responsible for the success in Spokane. You might not know, though, that she was nineteen years old and far-gone pregnant when she did it!

I have always imagined the IWW workers mounting their soapboxes in a more or less orderly fashion, then being handcuffed and led off by the police. That’s how civil disobedience is carried out in our day. But Walters makes it clear that it couldn’t have been orderly at all. He describes it as shrieking bedlam, and, when you think about it, you realize that it must have been as he says.

The whole book is like that. History alive and real.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk who every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. On Wednesdays, they podcast it along with “Workers Beat Extra.” If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

I don’t know what happened to the little dog before she sashayed across Sixth Street at Beckley in Dallas 12 years ago. There, in that intersection, is where we met. I know she didn’t have a collar or any sign that she belonged to anybody. I learned later that she was a chewer, like many young dogs; consequently, I have assumed that somebody tethered her outside somewhere in the Western Oak Cliff section of town. If they did, she would certainly have chewed her way to freedom.

I also learned, later on, that she was about six months old and that she had worms. I learned that she was at least part Cocker Spaniel, but that her peculiar “underbite” (her lower teeth projected past her upper teeth—making her just as ugly as she was cute when you didn’t notice her underbite) made her no good for breeding. This “no good for breeding” argument was used by the vet to convince me to have her spayed.

Noting that the dog could really be ugly at some angles, I wanted to name her “Golem.” But Elaine wouldn’t hear of it.

Within a couple of weeks, the little dog we named “Precious” had eaten Elaine’s glasses and ripped the wiring from the back of her computer. Damages in the hundreds of dollars. That wasn’t nearly the most expensive bad habit she had. She also killed our other dog.

Or at least, that was my version of what happened, although Elaine always gave Precious the benefit of the doubt. When the little dog came into our lives, we already had a handsome German Shepherd. He was an extremely good dog, even in his old age. He was tolerant of the new puppy who jumped around on him and constantly invited him to play. Old Buck’s heart gave out a few days after Precious appeared, and I always blamed her, but it was just to tease Elaine.

Rambunctious is an insufficient word for Precious. In those days, our furniture was just what we could afford and mostly from the Salvation Army. Precious could start in the dining room with one big jump, then she would hit the Elaine’s chair, then mine, and then spring, one jump each,  onto the couch. Then she’d gambol her way back to the dining room and start again. Like children, she was fun to watch but hard on the furniture.

Precious would eat anything. I started telling people, when they asked about her pedigree, that she was part Cocker Spaniel and part goat. The pest control people had assured us that no pets had ever been known to eat their rat poison since time began. But Precious got right into it as soon as she found some.

There went $1,500 for a complete blood transfusion and a couple of weeks of rehabilitation at the vets. I made a video when we visited her, “The little dog will live.” I’m sure I put it on YouTube, but now I can’t find it. Precious went on during her long career of costing us more and more until she became, today, probably the most expensive pet that ever lived!

To think, on that first day together, I considered her a free dog!

Getting back to the first day and the street corner where we met, I was just starting my long walk around Lake Cliff Park. I didn’t touch the little dog, but I talked to her, and she followed. Well, she didn’t exactly follow, she was usually ahead of me, but she kept looking back and she stayed near me while I went twice around the 1-mile course and then home. When we got home, I asked Elaine if we could keep her and she said yes. Then I touched the little fuzzy dog for the first time. Before that, I didn’t know she was a female.

As I said, Precious was horribly ugly when one looked directly into her teeth. But from the side, she seemed to have a perpetual smile, almost an audible laugh. Her little stub was always wagging. Elaine and I habitually gave her anything we imagined she might want. When one of us would look askance, the other would give the universal explanation for giving in to the little dog, “She gave me puppy eyes.”

We developed a lot of running jokes about our our little dog. Nothing malicious. For example, we used to say that we were very disappointed that she hadn’t learned to read. Elaine tried to get her to count about two (the number of plates she cleaned after mealtimes), but it was no go.

After 2014, when I had my heart attack, I told Precious that she should have her medical license revoked. We had always heard that people who had dogs had less chance of heart attack. So I pretended to blame Precious for mine. Elaine said that Precious was still batting .500, because only one of us had a heart attack under the dog’s watch.

I always tease Elaine about being too soft on the dog. She says I’m worse.

Not that Precious didn’t have any bad personality flaws. She is intolerant of other dogs, but she never gives them any indication until they get really close. She doesn’t growl at them or posture the way other dogs do. She ignores other dogs until they are close enough for her to bite.

Her other really serious characteristic is intense hatred for the U.S. Post Office. No mailman is safe from Precious if she can get at them. We often worried about getting smacked with a major lawsuit, but mostly we were able to keep her away from them. To her credit, though, we can state today that no mailman has ever successfully smashed their way into our house nor molested either Elaine or me. Not one in 12 years.

Even today, she barks hysterically whenever she thinks the mail might be coming. As she has lost her hearing, she doesn’t really know when they come, but her imagination is working fine.

Precious went everywhere with me unless it was too hot for her to be in the car. That is, she went everywhere with me until about a year ago. That’s when Precious seemed to give up on exercise. She didn’t want to leave the house. She slept almost all the time. About two weeks ago, she even curbed her voracious appetite. The vet (for $641) said she had congestive heart failure and sold us some pills.

She perked up some and even went, once, on a short walk with us. Then about a week ago, Precious started to fall down. She would have spasms on the floor and would be unable to rise. She would just lie there and look directly at us with her big brown Cocker Spaniel eyes. Eventually, she’d get up and act as if nothing had happened. But sooner or later, she’d fall again. The vet calls it “syncope” or something like that. It means that she passes out. She is in the “intermediate” stages of heart failure.

She also started peeing in the house. To be fair, some of her heart medicine is diuretic. It’s the first time in 12 years. My office chair is sitting on a wet floor even as I write this. Fortunately, my sense of smell isn’t any better than my dog’s.

Day after tomorrow, I have been asked to accompany Precious and Elaine to the vet. Elaine says we have to make some decisions. The vet, I’m sure, will (for a price) give us some kind of formulaic outline for whether Precious should live or die. Or the vet will give us some kind of timetable as to when we have to make a decision.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. We podcast it and another short audio on every Wednesday morning. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

As Joe Biden’s victory sinks into the American consciousness, the AFL-CIO is calling for moving forward together. But what does it mean?

We can be sure what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean continuing slogging along with our age-old organizing efforts in one workplace at a time. Nothing exposes organizing failure more than the continuing decline of union density. It doesn’t mean hesitating at the threshold of solidarity with our natural allies. It doesn’t mean putting our entire political faith and trust in the Democratic Party.

The AFL-CIO has made terrific progress since the leadership election of 1995. They staunched the bleeding that brought our labor movement from 35% density to 11%. But they are going to have to do more, and some of that “more” may seem drastic. The obvious steps are these:

Organize nationwide:

Unlike the old CIO, the AFL and the AFL-CIO never had an effective organizing department. They need one. The new forward-thinking Organizing Department could set the goal of organizing every worker by adding an on-line strategy. It would be easy to do, since the AFL-CIO already has Working America as a separate department. Working America could replicate the nationwide success model pioneered by Move On. From a giant data base of on-line supporters, some traditional union locals could be formed. The members who can’t be formed into traditional unions can still be supportive of labor’s campaigns.

Go all the way with solidarity:

America has many progressive organizations from giants like the NAACP down to the smallest non-profit working from a one-year grant. Most, if not all of them could be induced to cooperate in nationwide campaigns led by labor. To be sure, the AFL-CIO leadership has improved tremendously since the days that the Central Intelligence Agency was their main partner. But much remains to be done. In the Summer of 2020, the labor movement held terrific May Day events. They made positive statements in support of Black Lives Matter, even though at the same time they clung to police unions – the very antithesis of the movement. We can go much further with simple solidarity!

Initiate a Workers Party:

We didn’t need the awful shock therapy of Donald Trump’s election to realize that American voters are done with business-as-usual politics. It was apparent in 2008 when the first Black President swept to power. By 2020, when a run-of-the-mill Democrat named Biden was elected with the shortest coat tails in history, everyone knew that American voters want something different. Trump’s 2016 election showed that they were ready for ANYTHING different.

What If we don’t?:

If American labor and rest of the progressive movement do not come together affirmatively, we can expect continued chaos and stagnation. No one with an idea of the problems we face thinks Joe Biden will solve them. The union movement’s slow “death of a thousand cuts” will continue. The progressive movement will continue to mill around and compete for funding without a program. The Democrats will lose more ground in the 2022 mid-term elections. More oddball candidates will win elections, not because they represent anything better, but because they represent ANYTHING different! The ultimate “something different,” fascism, will continue its rise in America.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. We podcast the program and additional “Workers Beat Extra” Wednesdays on If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

An April 5th article from Associated Press asks “What do we do with the bodies?” It seems that big-city morgues and funeral homes are already overwhelmed even before the pandemic hits its peak. 1,000 bodies per day are expected soon.

coffins piling up
Expect a lot more cadavers

The pandemic is forcing us to re-think a lot of our customs. Cadaver disposal is certainly one of them. The highly-lucrative funeral home industry won’t like it, but we need another solution.

The Old Way

Currently, grief stricken families pay out thousands of dollars and untold misery while disposing of their cadavers. Even cremation, which sounds cheap and simple, costs a lot. I understand that the Islamists use cremation, but I wonder if it’s simpler or cheaper than what the Christians do. Jews skip the crazier aspects and hurry their cadavers into the ground, but there’s still a lot of ceremony.

I have wondered how much useful real estate is being taken up by graveyards. I don’t know how much it is, but I know it’s growing and I’m pretty sure it’s useless.

Once the authorities finish all their paperwork, they release the corpse to the funeral home. There, the Christian thing to do is to suck out the guts and internal organs and substitute filler and chemicals. Then the cosmetologist pretties up the ugly remains so people will say, “he looks so peaceful” as they parade past.

Usually, a preacher gets his chance to say almost anything over the remains. Some of it may be true, but, in some cases, the preacher didn’t even know the dead person. One thing for sure, the preacher will take advantage of the occasion to proselytize for his particular set of beliefs.

A growing trend is toward “green funerals.” The grief-stricken get their cadaver back into the environment, usually in the form of compost. I imagine it is difficult for them to fight off the religious relatives who will insist on church involvement anyway. If the person died of Covid-19, nobody is going to want them in their compost.

Just about the only way to get around the funeral and religion industries is to donate one’s personal cadaver to a medical school. I did that decades ago, but I have a feeling that they wouldn’t take a body festering with Covid-19 germs, so the medical school escape route is probably closed.

Not everybody disposes of their cadavers the way we do in America. I understand there are still some Zoroastrians in the Middle East. They encourage buzzards and other scavengers to carry off as much as they will eat. But I’ll bet they wouldn’t do that with a Covid-19 victim! Diseased buzzard poo might end up in their vegetable garden!

If American bodies continue piling up from the pandemic, neither the Christians, the medical schools, nor the Zoroastrians have a practical solution for disposing of all these germy bodies. Fortunately, I do.


I thought of this before I saw the movie “Fargo.” We could adapt wood chippers to atomize cadavers. Most of the result would be liquid, so it could be poured into a hole. Probably 4-5 feet deep and 10 inches in diameter would hold a body.

Then we could sprinkle on some tree seeds and cover with our the dirt we just dug up. Just so we’d remember who went where, we could put a little brass plate on top. Then we could move a few feet over and start on another corpse. It probably wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes and $100 to get rid of the remains, and we would be planting some nice trees where, someday after the pandemic, the relatives could remember the deceased in a nice shady spot.

Problem solved

I’m well aware that mortuaries and religious fanatics are not going to like my suggestion for what to do with hundreds of thousands of virus victims. I encourage them to come forward with theirs.

–gene lantz

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