Book Review:

Sampson, Anthony, “Mandela.”  1991. Dallas Public Library e-book. I learned a lot about “Madiba” Nelson Mandela in this even-handed account. Sampson had known Mandela since 1951 and was generally favorable to his efforts.

Mandela was born into the family of a tribal chieftain. (Xhosa tribe?) He was educated largely at Methodist institutions and eventually qualified as a lawyer. The African National Congress, which began I believe in 1912, was at that time pan-Africanist. Mandela believed in armed struggle and eventually became the head of the armed struggle wing of ANC. He was pictured in fighting attire in those days.

The Afrikaners took over the government of South Africa (1947?) and established apartheid fascism. They had a network of informers, black and white, so that very few militants escaped their grasp. Mandela was arrested. I don’t think he had actually led any armed conflicts at that time, but was more of an organizer.

During one of his hearings, Mandela appeared in full African traditional regalia. But his speech in his trial was what gained international recognition. Then he spent 27 years in custody. Most of the time was on Robben Island.

During that period, Mandela showed how dignity and wisdom can help people cope with even the most difficult of situations. Even his Afrikaner warders tended to respect him. Mandela and others began to call for a united effort of all South Africans of all racial backgrounds. He also called for a peaceful solution to the apartheid situation, but he demanded full voting rights for all.

Mandela’s great ideological contribution to South African history was his idea of uniting all races. Previously, the ANC had no such plan. Another group “Pan African Nationalists” became one of the main competitors with the ANC. The Zulus and several smaller tribal-based groups also opposed integrating democracy. But of course, the biggest opposition was the privileged white Afrikaner nationalists.

The armed struggle, the organizing effort within the country, and international pressures eventually forced the fascists to negotiate some kind of democracy. They greatly preferred to “negotiate” with some of the Black compradores that they had put into power and, often secretly, supported by force of arms. The top Zulu, Buthelezi (?) was the Afrikaner’s choice over Mandela. But the public and the international community were settled on Mandela, so it was he who eventually led the negotiations that ended in a more democratic nation.

I read with personal pride about the effect of international opinion, because my union, the United Auto Workers was very much a part of that effort. My own union local, UAW 848, was involved. I myself led pickets at Shell Stations against apartheid. My wife and I regularly sold “Free Mandela” buttons. They were very popular in the early 1990s. Mandela became President of South Africa, I believe, in 1994.

It is interesting to contrast Mandela’s “Peaceful Road” to that of President Allende in Chile. Most radicals believe that Allende should have armed the public and confronted the military rather than try the peaceful road that eventually led to his death and fascism. We usually say that Allende was totally wrong.

How then, would we explain Mandela’s comparative success with the peaceful road? Was it comparable to Allende’s situation? If it was, then his success would detract from the argument that Allende was wrong to focus on the peaceful road. I don’t think the two are comparable. Allende was trying to institute socialism. Mandela, for all of his communist ties, didn’t even try to dismantle capitalism in South Africa.

Anthony Sampson’s account leaves one with the impression that Mandela was one of the great men of history, but even Sampson would probably say that Mandela was more saint than revolutionary. I recently met a member of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party here in Dallas. I told him I was reading about Mandela and he said, “We don’t think he was any good!”

–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, check out my personal web site

On January 4, 2020, protests were held around the world because Donald Trump is provoking further war in the Middle East. One place where good people gathered was Dallas, Texas, where I live. We had over 100 protesters, which made it the largest local anti-war demonstration in several years.

The conversations, the signs, and the speakers shared some good information. The problem was defined pretty well: Trump knows he will lose the 2020 election if he doesn’t do something drastic like starting a new war. The United States has a long history of invading other countries on the flimsiest pretexts. One of the banners said, “Imperialism is the symptom; capitalism is the problem; socialism is the answer.”

By the time the rally was over, even the newest protesters had a pretty good idea what they were up against. But what, they must be wondering, are we going to do about it?

Certainly, public protests are worthwhile. When our friends see us hitting the streets, they are a little bit less afraid and a little bit more likely to join us. Mathematically, it sounds like we will eventually keep adding people every time until we have everybody on our side. But if that were true, the United States would have solved all its problems long ago. Some of us joining this particular protest have been doing it over 50 years!

We are going to have to do more than protest. We are going to have to lead. A leader, simply defined, is someone who knows what to do next. In order to lead, we are going to have to know what to do. To know what to do, we are going to have to go through some hard study.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’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

The Democrats will split in 2020. Republicans will be overjoyed. Traditional democrats will scream in pain and blame Bernie Sanders for everything from measles to Armageddon.

Health care will be the reason for the split. It’s already apparent. The candidates running for the Democratic nomination are easily categorized as “for” or “against” single payer health care.

The candidates favoring a single-payer solution to the crisis, notably Bernie and Elizabeth, already have a lot more combined voter support than the “favorite.” One of them would probably win the nomination if things were fair.

But things aren’t fair. In 2016, the traditional Democrats resorted to foul means to make sure that Bernie Sanders did not win the nomination. They will do it again in 2020. They will choose the big money insurance companies over democracy again.

But this time, Bernie won’t go along. He will look at the combined support for single-payer health care, he will look at the cadres of supporters already organized in every state, and he will conclude that either he or Elizabeth, backed by the many progressive candidates in other elections, can win without the Democrats.

He will be right, too. Either he or Elizabeth, or in the best scenario, he AND Elizabeth, will beat both the “liberal” Democrats and the racist Republicans at once. A better world is coming, and it could make significant headway in 2020!

–Gene Lantz

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

“So long, to you

I hope I don’t make you blue

But I think I’m gonna kill myself

I think I’m gonna kill myself”

1950’s singer Buddy Knox

The American Psychological Association says, “The [United States] suicide rate increased 33 percent from 1999 through 2017, from 10.5 to 14 suicides per 100,000 people.” At the same time, suicide rates in the other industrialized countries dropped. Wonder about that!

From my teen years, I’ve always been preoccupied with suicide. I’ve had several reasons for putting it off:

  • Coffee. No matter how bad everything else seems to get, I have always enjoyed coffee
  • Clarice Tinsley. Back in the sex-mad 1970s, I remember speeding my hot motorcycle down a Houston highway with self-murder on my mind. I passed a billboard with smiling television newsperson Clarice Tinsley on it and thought, “As long as I am alive, there’s still a chance of having sex someday with Clarice Tinsley, and that’s a good enough reason to keep going.”
  • New Developments. Nowadays, with the progressive movement booming, I just can’t stand the thought of missing anything.

In a logical sense, though, I convinced myself as a teenager that “At the nadir of ‘why live,’ is the acme of ‘why not.’ If living is totally empty, dying is still no better than living. In other words, even when I could no longer think of any reason to go on living, I still couldn’t think of a good enough reason to stop. I continue my lifelong obsession with suicide, but I keep putting it off.

Some of the sages point out that people don’t kill themselves because of the effect it would have on them. They kill themselves because of the effect it would have on somebody else. I may have planned elaborate, step-by-step plans for dying, but I also plan for how it would affect other people. When we admit that, it’s a good reason for not doing it.

Still, though, all other things being equal, there is still a deadly American trend that begs to be understood.

Who is killing ourselves?

Our nation’s domination of the world has been slipping since the mid 1970s, but we’ve been slow to realize it. If that’s the reason for the increase in suicides, and I think it is, then we can expect to see more and more Americans offing themselves. The only way to get the United States back “on top” is to have another world war, and we’d have so many deaths then that suicides wouldn’t even been noticed.

I’m theorizing that we are killing ourselves because so many of us have lost hope. It is a direct result of our political apathy. Not only do many of us see and feel no hope, we also don’t see any improvement in the future. There is, however, a tiny subset of the American population that is immune to suicide.

Who isn’t killing ourselves?

The people who aren’t killing themselves, and aren’t likely to, are the ones who believe that a better world is possible. They are the people who are helping bring about that better world. They wouldn’t dream of suicide. If we can convince the rest of you to join the effort, we could establish a counter-trend.

They never stopped his smiling

No matter how they tried

Cause in his heart he always knew

He was on the winning side!

–My own song about a devoted Communist named George Meyers

–Gene Lantz

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

Below are listed some of the things that Texas labor accomplished over the past year. Even though federal and state governments sent us backward as much as they could, the battles we won are pretty impressive.

But those milestones aren’t even the most significant gains of the year. The biggest gains can only be seen by looking at the trends that are underway:

  • People are better informed than ever in history, and labor’s communications efforts are part of the reason
  • People are communicating with each other better than ever in history
  • Women are taking over leadership and winning
  • Racism is being recognized as everybody’s problem
  • Undocumented workers are finally seen as part of the working class
  • Turnout at elections may be embarrassingly small, but it’s on an upswing
  • Labor’s electoral successes have the 2020 candidates lining up for endorsements
  • Unions are helping each other more than anytime since the heyday of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), around 1947
  • Unions and other progressive organizations are receiving more and more help from the general public. Our rallies and picket lines are backed with volunteers from everywhere
  • People are openly grappling with our problems and possible solutions

On that last topic, we can thank Senator Bernie Sanders for bringing the word “socialism” back into common parlance for the first time since the red scare of the 1920s. I would not go so far as to say that it is widely understood, but it’s definitely being talked about.

My good friend Morris Fried had a letter-to-the-editor published on Christmas Day. He said that he had been studying newspaper coverage of the battles over education and had concluded with his own definition: “Capitalism molds people to fit the economy, socialism molds the economy to fit people.”

That’s real progress!

Texas Labor’s 2019 Achievements:

* We won paid sick leave for everybody living in Dallas and San Antonio

* We survived a grueling 40-day strike by United Auto Workers members against General Motors

* Members of the United Steelworkers at plants owned by Dow Chemical in Deer Park withstood a seven-week-long lockout

* UNITE HERE members in Dallas and Houston led raucous airport rallies

* The Central South Carpenters Regional Council joined the Texas AFL-CIO in leading opposition to a hastily adopted Texas Workforce Commission rule that exempts “gig economy” companies from paying for Unemployment Insurance. 

* The Texas AFL-CIO Citizenship Program held drives in cities across Texas, helping hundreds of eligible residents navigate the complex naturalization application process.

* Federal workers, many of whom are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, stood tall during the longest shutdown in government history – a 35-day fiasco

* An international delegation of labor leaders, including officers and staff of the AFL-CIO, Texas AFL-CIO and national unions, converged on El Paso to build solidarity among working families in the U.S. and Mexico. 

* Unionized Plumbers in Texas worked with their non-union counterparts to kill legislation that would have undermined state safety regulation of the plumbing industry.

* Texas teachers, prominently including the Texas American Federation of Teachers, led the way to achieving a major education reform bill that delivered pay raises for teachers and other public-school employees,

* Amid a high-profile campaign by a coalition that prominently included labor unions, the Texas Senate declined to confirm Gov. Greg Abbott’s nominee as Texas Secretary of State.

* ULLCO, the coalition of labor unions that advocates for working families at the Texas Legislature, stopped dozens of seriously bad legislative proposals, 

* The Texas AFL-CIO’s Ruth Ellinger Labor Leaders School graduated its third class

* Young Active Labor Leaders, a Texas AFL-CIO constituency group for workers under age 35, held its second statewide summit in Houston

* Across the state, Building Trades unions that include Electrical Workers, Iron Workers, Painters, Steelworkers, Laborers, Plumbers and others advocated strongly for high-road policies that offer working families a path to middle income.

* Labor’s goal of enabling solid middle-income jobs to evolve and grow included an ongoing battle against off-shoring, excesses of automation and other factors in a toxic mix aimed in large part at driving down wages.

* The campaign to save the U.S. Postal Service as we know it gained ground

* Delegates to the Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention created the Texas AFL-CIO Veterans Committee

* The Texas AFL-CIO stepped up its social media reach

–Gene Lantz

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

  1. Capitalism has never failed, even though its failure has been predicted for a 1 ½ centuries
  2. Capitalism is already on its way toward peaceful cooperation for the good of humanity

.

Capitalists failed

Sincere socialists believe that the working class will place the world’s economy under democratic control at a juncture when two important conditions are met during the same period of time. The first is capitalism’s natural tendency to create its own great crises; the second is that capitalists create a working class that is informed, organized, and ready to take over.

In 1916, V.I. Lenin explained in his short book, “Imperialism,” that capitalists cannot cooperate across national borders, where each set of capitalists operates its respective armies. The First World War, followed quickly by the Second World War, seemed to validate his assertion. During WWI, Lenin’s prophecies came true in the case of Russia. The capitalists there were not able to govern and the Bolsheviks were ready and able to take over. To Lenin’s great disappointment, however, those two critical conditions were not met in other great industrialized nations.

Despite constant threats, World War III has still not happened. The long period between 1945 and the present, and especially the implosion of the Soviet Union, tends to argue for the first argument against revolution given above: capitalism has not failed. Or so they would say.

But capitalists destroyed tens of millions of young men and innumerable civilians in two world wars and interminable smaller wars. The United States is directly involved in at least three wars as this is written. Is this not failure?

Would it not be honest to say that capitalists failed, at least twice in world wars, or at least four times if one counts the Great Depression and the recent Great Recession? Would it not be honest to say that socialist revolution has failed because workers were not ready, rather than because capitalists did not fail?

Capitalists do not cooperate

Since World War II, the major industrial nations have not returned to the battlefield against each other. One reason, often given, is that they were reluctant to destroy the planet with nuclear weapons. The other reason, though, was that they couldn’t. After 1945, the United States had almost the only functioning factories in the world. The U.S. economy completely dominated the world’s prostrated bombing victims for at least 30 years. Militarily, the United States still reigns supreme.

During the years of U.S. domination, certain “international” organizations were put in place. The UN, NATO, SEATO, OAS, WTO, and WMF are examples of “international” organizations that were set up by the United States and operated for the good of the United States. Other nations were forced to go along. It may have looked like international cooperation, but it wasn’t. It was international domination, and that domination is now crumbling.

In the past week, the elected President of the United States has upset “world cooperation” with verbal attacks against other nations, trade wars, and undermining the World Trade Organization. America has begun to militarize space in clear violation of international law. Does that sound like cooperation?

Conclusion

The capitalists fail because they cannot do otherwise. Working families are being forced to educate themselves and fight back together. Two conditions are being met. Let us hope they come together in time!

–Gene Lantz

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

We’ve been studying theories of social change:

  • Utopianism: We don’t have to do anything about effecting change. We will just live good lives and other people will start copying us. Beatniks, Hippies, Counterculturalists, early French socialists
  • Economism: Capitalism will inevitably fall of its own weight. All we can do is help it along with economic struggles such as union contract battles.
  • Populism: We’re all pretty much the same so all we have to do is get everybody together somehow. The main thing we need is great leaders to spark the revolution. Anarchists, terrorists
  • Syndicalism: We will organize everybody into one big union, then call a general strike and take over. IWW
  • Reformism: If we just keep improving our society, little by little, we’ll eventually make it perfect. We need to work in elections. Parliamentary cretinism. Capitalist liberalism.
  • Class struggle: Working families have enemies: our owners and employers, who must be overcome before lasting change can occur. We have to fight on the side of working families in all arenas and at all times.

If you have time to do some reading, I recommend the 60 pages from “Reform or Revolution” by Rosa Luxemburg. She argues that we must fight for immediate reforms while pushing for an ultimate class confrontation. She was arguing against a German Philosopher named Eduard Bernstein. Bernstein personified the category of “reformist.”

This same argument is the number one issue in our progressive movement today.

Luxemburg, Rosa, “Reform or Revolution,” included in ‘Rosa Luxemburg Speaks” edited by Mary Alice Waters, Pathfinder Press, New York 1970. Available at https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1900/reform-revolution/index.htm. A note of caution: All of the world’s revolutionary parties prior to 1917 called themselves “social democrats.” After the Russian revolution, the world movement split. See the great movie “Reds.”

The answer to the question posted in Luxemburg’s title is “both.” She says that revolutionaries must join the working class in every struggle. It is not because those struggles will lead to permanent and significant change, but because working families become strong, well organized, and well informed with each success. She says on page 36: “Between social reforms and revolution there exists for [revolutionaries] an indissoluble tie. The struggle for reforms is its means, the social revolution, its aim.”

More specifically, here is how she describes the ultimate goal (page 39): “The scientific basis of socialism rests, as is well known, on three principal results of capitalist development. First, on the growing anarchy of capitalist economy, leading inevitably to its ruin. Second, on the progressive socialization of the process of production, which creates the germs of the future social order. And third, on the increased organization and consciousness of the proletarian class, which constitutes the active factor in the coming revolution.” In simpler terms, she believes that everyday democratic struggles get working families ready to take over when capitalism inevitably goes into crisis.

 But, Luxemburg says, there is a completely different theory which can only lead to disaster. The main proponent of this other theory was the German philosopher Eduard Bernstein. Bernstein was a gradualist. He believed that the everyday struggles for democratic reforms were sufficient by themselves to bring revolutionary change. One good reform would build on another one until, pretty soon, we’d have perfected society. Because Bernstein believed that reforms were all we needed to do, she called him a “reformist.”

Most of “Reform or Revolution” is an argument against Bernstein and his co-thinkers of the time. As I reread it this year, though, I substituted the names of leading writers and organization of today, because they are still preaching that reforms are enough.

Luxemburg says on page 38: “According to Bernstein, a general decline of capitalism seems to be increasingly improbable…” I haven’t actually heard those exact words in today’s arguments, but I heard “socialism is not on the horizon” many times. It’s practically the same thing.

(Page 50) “Bernstein says, The [revolutionary party] must not direct its daily activity toward the conquest of power, but toward the betterment of the conditions of the working class within the existing order. It must not expect to institute socialism as a result of a political and social crisis, but should build socialism by means of the progressive extension of social control and the gradual application of the principles of cooperation. Bernstein himself sees nothing new in his theories.”  I don’t see anything new in today’s reformism either.

Bernstein’s followers say (page 50): “They hope to see a long succession of reforms in the future, all favoring the working class.” That’s reformism in a nutshell. A pipe dream!

As I read Luxemburg’s argument, I realized why reformism got such a big boost over the last few years. During the first decade of this century, relatively progressive leaders were elected in places like Tunisia, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and the United States. When Bernie Sanders became a household name nationwide, it really looked like we could achieve permanent structural change just by voting. We could get good political leaders in the current election and even better ones in the next, or so we thought. I don’t know if anybody still thinks that, but that’s how it looked when Obama was in office.

Luxemburg continues about reformism on page 50: “He thinks that the expropriation of the means of production cannot possibly be effected as a single historic act. He therefore resorts to the theory of expropriation by stages.” After “socialism is not on the horizon,” I began to hear a lot more about stages, even though nobody ever explained which stage was which and how they knew.

On page 59: “We move here in a straight line toward the total abandonment of the class viewpoint.” In modern times, I heard that working families were just one of several important “core” groups. Like all good liberals, we should work for each of them equally, I heard.

Page 69: “Bernstein’s socialism is to be realized with the aid of these two instruments: labor unions – or as Bernstein himself characterizes them, economic democracy – and cooperatives. The first will suppress industrial profit; the second will do away with commercial profit.” She explains that unions are totally defensive, never offensive. She goes on to explain why ESOPs could never replace capitalism. Anybody who has ever been in one of today’s American unions know that they are defensive organizations. Lately, I’ve heard a lot about employees taking over enterprises and running them successfully. In real life, they tend to have a very short life, and anybody who thinks about it should realize that they will never overtake the mighty corporations that run the world today.

On page 76, Luxemburg sums up Mr Bernstein: “He who renounces the struggle for socialism renounces both the labor movement and democracy.”  I’ve seen that in action, just lately.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’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