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Book Review:

Hochschild, Adam, “American Midnight. The Great War, a Violent Peace, and America’s Great Crisis.” Mariner Books, 2022

I found a free Kindle copy through the Dallas public library’s “Libby” service. Now I wish I had a hard copy because of the facts in this history of America from 1917 to around 1924. You could call it the Red Scare. You could call it the most shameful period after the Civil War. Or you could call it a warning about today and tomorrow.

This book changed my view of the period. Previously, I thought that government had simply allowed vigilantes to run amok — arresting, assaulting, and lynching just about anybody they chose. That was bad enough. Having reach Hochschild, I now realize that government was not just standing aside, they were actually fomenting, cooperating, and leading the nastiest gangs of racists they could find. Nearly all the spying was done by government hires. The worst of the mass acts of repression came directly from government agencies.

One might think that the Justice Department would have stood for justice, but they were probably the worst perpetrators. A lot of the worst assaults were called the Palmer raids, after Attorney General Palmer. After them came, probably, the armed forces; but many government offices were in on it, including the post office! J. Edgar Hoover, notorious race baiter, union hater, and all around sociopath, made his chops in the period. We were stuck with him for another 50 years!

Near the end of the book, Hochschild tries to tote up the numbers of people killed, horsewhipped, imprisoned, deported or otherwise deprived of life and liberty, but it’s a hopeless task. Besides, he’s basically talking only of federal cases. All the nasty things that happened at state and local levels would probably have doubled or tripled the size of the book. Then there’s the non-government participation of anti-union bosses and ideologically-driven racists and nativists to consider!

The rationale for the horrors began when Woodrow “He Kept Us Out of War” Wilson was re-elected in 1916. A lot of Americans, including the growing Socialist Party and some of the members of the Industrial Workers of the World, strongly opposed the war. The repression was originally released against anybody who did not want to join the bloodfest. But why, anyone might ask, did it continue after the end of the war and well into the 1920s? The excuse used most was Bolshevism, but the targets were American working people.

There are a couple of things I would have liked to have found in this account. The Greencorn Rebellion in Southeastern Oklahoma was an early expression of anti-war feelings among sharecroppers, including whites, Blacks, and Natives. I would also have appreciated an attempt to go beyond tallying assaults, deportations, imprisonments, and murders just to find out how many workers lost their jobs during this awful period. Of all the terrible things that government and employers do to workers, the most widely applied, and thus the most effective, is to deprive us of the ability to earn a living.

Hochschild clearly condemns certain government officials. He leaves the final judgement of President Wilson open to debate. He gives some credit to “good guys” such as Emma Goldman, Kate Richards O’Hare and of course Eugene Victor Debs. He mentions Frank Little, one of the first anti-war spokespersons lynched. William Z. Foster, who worked through the whole period to try to bring the labor movement together and develop its fighting potential, remains hidden in our histories.

I have always found it interesting to speculate what might have happened in America if different leaders had headed the Socialist Party, the IWW, or the AFofL. Worldwide, the many socialists capitulated early and supported their governments in World War I. There were only two that didn’t. The other one was Russia.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON.org’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. I have about 150 podcasts under the name “Workers Beat Extra” there, too. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

“Argentina 1985” is a good film streaming on Amazon Prime. It is about the trial of the dictators who ran Argentina’s Dirty War. If you can get over the fact that it’s dubbed (pretty well) and you like courtroom dramas, you’ll like this one. There’s a lot to be learned, but great questions still need to be answered:

  1. How does fascism come about?

2. How does fascism end, as it clearly can and does

3. Why?

Writers across the world, including me, are warning that fascism is approaching. Even the President of the United States recently joined in the same caution. Such scholarly articles as can be seen at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d9c0/3a042dd7f1bf8ffbd0096c2eed88a0403600.pdf warn us that fascism is approaching on a world-wide basis.

Scholars almost always study the fascism of Italy and Germany that ended in ruins during World War II. That is one way that fascism might end, but not the only way. I’ve seen very little reference to fascist governments since WWII. Undoubtedly, fascism in Germany and Italy owed much to the support of Western Imperialism. In that respect, they are similar to the fascist governments that arose in Spain, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and other countries. But those latter nations survived fascism and returned to limited democracy. Why don’t we study them?

I am curious about those latter countries’ experience with fascism because they apparently survived it and returned to the kind of limited capitalist democracy that they had before and, for that matter, is similar to what the United States has had since its inception: limited capitalist democracy. Working people are “free” to vote and to do a good many other things, but not to control the economy nor foreign policy.

And yet we continue to talk about fascism as a one-way street to destruction, as it was in the classic examples of Italy and Germany. Why don’t we know anything about fascism as a transitory form of government as it clearly was in, for example, Chile?

My Best Solution to the Riddle

Fascism In Germany and Italy were created and then destroyed by western imperialism. Their driving force was to overcome the progressive forces, primarily the communists who had been inspired by the Soviet revolution of 1917. Similarly, western imperialism is responsible for initiating fascism in Chile and other countries that, later on, returned to one form or another of limited capitalist democracy.

Fascist Rule is a Conscious Choice

Like almost all riddles concerning social progress, this one can only be solved with class analysis. None of the fascist governments came about by revolutions. That is, there was never a change in the class that ruled. Fascism is just one form of capitalist class rule. In fact, fascism cannot come about without the ruling capitalist class consciously choosing it. That’s the answer to the first question: a necessary requirement for fascism is that the capitalists must choose it as their form of government.

Mussolini defined fascism as “corporatism.” Hitler could never have come to power without the backing of the ruling class of capitalists.

Ending Fascist Rule is Also a Conscious Choice

If a ruling capitalist class can consciously choose to rule with fascism, they can also consciously decide to discontinue it. And that is what happened in Spain, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and the other countries in this discussion. That’s the answer to the second question: fascism ended the same way it began — as a conscious decision of the capitalist class. Why, one might legitimately ask, would they opt for fascism in the first place? The answer is the same as in Germany and Italy: they chose fascism to avoid the extension of democracy under socialism. When democracy threatens to exceed its limits, the ruling class reacts.

Why, then, would they choose, once the immediate democratic threat is lessened, to discontinue fascist rule? Because authoritarian regimes make for inefficient economies. Limited democracy and capitalism worked together to build the most powerful economies that the world had ever known. That’s why they easily conquered all previous forms of government and came to rule the world. Authoritarian governments, where the population is basically forced to work for the state, may be able to build powerful war economies, but only temporarily. To the extent that workers are not enslaved, but “free labor,” or at least if workers believe themselves to be “free,” economies thrive.

Other Considerations

Here, I set out only to answer the question “Why have some nations survived fascism?” I did not set out to discuss the implosion of the Soviet Union. But one might ask if the Soviet Union might have lived up to its potential if it had not been forced by imperialist war threats to adopt an authoritarian stance over its government and, more unfortunately, its economy.

And consider China today. China seems to be balancing a market economy with a socialist government. The economic results, so far, are better than any previous socialist revolution has been able to achieve. One might even argue that the Chinese approach of socialist rule with limited economic democracy is proving itself superior to limited capitalist democracy.

Summary

But understanding the USSR and China are far beyond my ambitions. I simply want to make these two critical points: 1) Fascism is a form of rule that is sometimes chosen by capitalists and 2) Nations have survived fascism, once the threat of “excessive” democracy is past.

–Gene Lantz

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

Book Review: Horne, Gerald, “The Counter Revolution of 816: Texas Slavery & Jim Crow and the Roots of U.S. Fascism.” International Publishers, 2022. Available through Amazon Books

University of Houston Professor Gerald Horne has created a book that must be read. I wholeheartedly recommend it, but that doesn’t make it an easy read.

I believe there is a long-awaited tendency toward truth in Texas history. Most of us have only seen the bleached and romanticized version. It makes great romantic heroes of all the “revolutionary” “founders” of the state. Everyone who can read knows it isn’t true. If they were really such wonderful people, why did they prominently feature slavery in their first constitution?

As far as I know, though, the new revisionist histories lead up gradually to the truth and don’t actually denounce any of the Texas “heroes” before their conclusions. Gerald Horne starts there. The “founders” of Texas are ratfink landgrabbers devoted to genocide for natives and enslavement for Africans from page one.

“Father of Texas” Austin wasn’t a saint trying to find homes for poor settlers. A slave owner himself, he worked constantly and consistently to overcome his host country’s ban against slavery. He was the slaveocracy’s front man. The ones who followed were no less committed to slavery and even more bloodthirsty in its pursuit.

As for the Natives, there were only two ideological trends in Texas: the few “liberals” wanted to put them all into bantusland reservations as in apartheid South African; the majority, including President Mirabeau Lamar, wanted to kill every last one of them. Mexican Americans received little more consideration. The Texas Rangers were an equestrian version of Murder, Inc.

From the first white settlers until modern times, Texas history is a story of lynching and genocide. For good measure, Horne throws in some little-known truths about Oklahoma and the states that were created after the greatest land grab — usually known as the Mexican War.

Most white Texans supported secession from Mexico. Many of them coveted even more Mexican land and only reluctantly joined the United States when forced by economic circumstances. Nearly all of them supported seceding from the union over the slavery issue in 1860. Their contributions to the Confederacy exceeded every state except, possibly, Virginia. After General Lee surrendered in 1865, many Texans moved to Mexico where they supported the French imperialist forces under “Emperor” Maximillian because they hoped to re-start the Civil War with France on their side.

The total destruction of previous Texas histories is one reason that “The Counter Revolution of 1836” is hard reading. Texas history as we have known it is deservedly turned inside-out! The other reason comes from Horne’s writing style. A few pages into the 575-page opus, the reader starts hoping that Horne will run out of obscure pejoratives to describe early Texans, but he doesn’t. He rarely employs a sentence that wouldn’t diagram as compound/complex. Because he has assembled so many quotes from so many sources, he hop-scotches from one to the other so quickly that it’s not always easy to remember what point he was making.

The book has a tremendous list of resources. Oddly, I did not find Randolph Campbell’s “An Empire for Slavery” among them. Possibly, Campbell may have been too easy on Texas.

–Gene Lantz

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

Would you help me write a futuristic novel about what happens after the revolution? Help me speculate about what Commissioner Leo Torres does after his election to the World Council chartered to develop a model for future living and human happiness.

Unlike most American Sci-Fi, there is no dystopian end-of-the-world in this one. Thinking people have managed to stop all the current trends toward certain annihilation. A coalition of the Progressive Party and the Green Party has wrested control from the old economic rulers. All the people who are still alive after the devastation caused by our current system have a chance to meet their basic needs.

Leo Torres was a very minor figure in the Progressive Party during the revolutionary days. By a fluke of time and place, he achieved great popularity, or possibly notoriety. In his first novel, the Progressive Party leaders asked him to take on the title of “Commissioner” and resolve a very minor problem in an obscure part of Oklahoma. In the second novel, he gets a somewhat more complicated assignment, but still minor, in the Texas Panhandle.

Because of his undeserved but considerable popularity, and because he has shown himself to be trustworthy, the Progressives decide to make him a candidate for World Council in the third novel. He learns a few things as he travels the country in his successful campaign. All the preceding novels are on-line at http://lilleskole.us.

Should he take his seat on the World Council?

What priorities should he have?

What assignments or committees will he be assigned?

What laws and legislation would YOU want enacted, if you were in Leo’s place?

Help me out by sending your ideas to genelantz19@gmail.com.

Book Review:

Taylor, Clarence “Reds at the Blackboard. Communism, Civil Rights, and the New York City Teachers Union,” Columbia University Press, 2013.

There once existed a powerful teacher organization that fought for every progressive aspect of education in New York City. The American Federation of Teachers today, which has advanced in social unionism far beyond the bad old days of President Albert Shankar, is still miles behind the Teachers Union of New York of 1935-1964.

They represented teachers with grievances, they fought for better pay and working conditions as unions do, but they also challenged the basic racism and corruption of education in their times. They fought hard, for example, to expose the explicit and implicit racism in textbooks. They did everything they could think of to improve school materials. They fought for integration of students and faculty. They fought just as hard for gender equality.

Their greatest accomplishment may have been to make the schools part of the communities they served. These were not nominal PTA’s holding fund drives, but honest hard-working community organizations working for community improvement — especially among the most downtrodden constituencies.

One important aspect of school racism was new to me. After Brown V Topeka in 1954, the main physical change in education was to shut down all the segregated Black schools and lay off their teachers! Most of those teachers stayed laid-off because they couldn’t get jobs in the so-called “integrated” schools. The Teachers Union of New York fought hard to get jobs for Black teachers! If anybody else did, I hadn’t heard of it.

While they were bringing social unionism to its heights, the Teachers Union had to fight off management’s attempts to undermine it. Male chauvinism and anti-semitism were useful tools for the bosses, but their big cudgel was anti-communism. Social unionism was the Communist Party’s program and a some of the Teachers Union leaders were reds.

Management, like bosses everywhere after 1947, were able to get a lot of people fired and a lot of careers destroyed. The American Federation of Labor kicked the Teachers Union out over anti-communism. They joined the Congress of Industrial Organizations and continued to thrive as social unionists. However, after 1947, the CIO joined the anti-communist wave and kicked the Teachers Union out again. The Board of Education managed to have the Teachers Union decertified as representatives of their members, so they could no longer settle grievances nor negotiate for job improvements.

Even then, they didn’t quit. The Teachers Union survived as an important voice for social unionism, especially for civil rights and community cooperation, until 1964. They need to be remembered.

**

I broadcast on “Workers Beat” on KNON.org at 9AM CT every Saturday. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site

Every New Years, I’ve tried to get people to make predictions. Hardly any of them will. The best I have received so far is a stock broker who called KNON. After I prodded him, he responded, “The rich will get richer.” That’s about the safest prediction I ever heard.

My 2022 Predictions:

  • Massive evictions will put millions into the ‘homeless’ category.
  • Vigilantes and illegal militias will flourish.
  • Political violence will become commonplace.
  • Police will tend to allow the anti-worker outrages to flame, while suppressing any activity of pro-worker forces. This was the precedent set in Germany in the 1920s and has generally held.
  • Poverty and hunger will grow, especially among children.
  • The formal educational system will continue to deteriorate as Republicans undermine them with schemes like “charter” schools and assaults on officials. More and more parents will begin to seek out internet solutions.
  • Big corporations will try to privatize the internet and everything else, including all utilities and municipal services.
  • Persistent inflation will force the federal reserve to cut back on “quantitative easing” and near-zero interest rates. Stocks and bonds will crumble but the “real economy” won’t be hit so hard.
  • Little if anything will get done about the environmental crisis. Freak weather disasters will increase and worsen.
  • As world economies teeter, governments will advocate new wars.
  • Omicron will hit early and hard. After it peaks early in the year, a solid majority of Americans will have some immunity from vaccination or from having already suffered through COVID. By late summer, it will no longer be the top of every news story
  • The democratic party will continue unraveling while the Republican Party will grow more homogeneous and harder.
  • Independent movements, particularly the women’s movement, will grow. We will see a revival of unemployed and homeless advocacy groups similar to those of the 1930s.
  • These independent movements will be larger, better informed, and better integrated than anything we have ever seen in history. This is because people are better informed and have infinitely better communications.
  • Unions will not initially lead these powerful independent movements. Unions will be drawn into the larger movement. They will play an important role in guiding and financing the movement.
  • The 2022 elections will show people voting increasingly for 3rd or 4th parties, Greens, Working Family, Democrats, and Independents.
  • One thing that the strong progressive organizations will agree on is this: vote for no Republican!
  • Americans will begin to experiment with the kind of political strikes that have been known in other countries.
  • And slowly, the way forward will begin to show itself.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. The program and a supplemental “Workers Beat Extra” are podcast on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. My January 5 podcast includes these predictions. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review:

“Green Book,” Directed by Peter Farrelly, 2 hours, 10 minutes

The Green Book is an important part of American history. It was used to help African-American motorists locate the few places where they might rest. I think that one reason that “Green Book” has continued to sell tickets over several weeks is that people are slow in finding out what it’s about.

There are a lot more good reasons to see the film. Acting by the two main characters is outstanding. Viggo Mortensen plays a street smart nightclub bouncer from New York, while Mahershala Ali plays a delicate Leningrad-trained classical musician. Both are up for Golden Globes awards. The movie is up for best picture, and Oscar-buzz has already begun. The 1960s music is wonderful. The pacing is so good that viewers go beyond ignoring the extra length and wish it could go on longer. There are four, count ’em four, union logos in the final frame!

Few movies can claim so much authenticity. It seems to be strung together by family stories from Mortensen’s character, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. Someone named Nick Vallelonga gets some of the screenplay and producer credit.

Tony Lip apparently drove a sensitive Black musician through a tour of the Deep South in 1962. His main qualification for the job came from his experience as a tough guy. Tony was required to stay in all-white motels, while his employer had to use the Green Book. It isn’t hard to imagine some of the problems they encountered, but you have to see the movie to realize how well this period, these problems, and these two wonderful characters can be brought to life! If your tastes run toward American history, civil rights, or just great film-making, you don’t want to miss Green Book.

–Gene Lantz

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

Movie Review:

“The Hate U Give,” Directed by George Tillman Jr, 129 Minutes

It’s a young adult movie made from a young adult novel. I am not at all sure how African American moviegoers will view it, but it’s a great introductory course on Black Lives Matter for the rest of us.

As you can figure out from the trailer, the story is about how teenagers are affected when a white police officer shoots an unarmed young Black man. It’s an unfortunately familiar problem. The film’s treatment is pretty strong, even though some might say it isn’t strong enough, and it covers many aspects of racism today. That makes it really worthwhile.

Luckily, it’s also a very fine movie. The screenplay is tight, the pacing is about right, the cinematography and the music jell together well, and the actors are simply wonderful. No matter what anybody thinks of the movie, I doubt they will be able to resist the unfathomable charm of the young star played by Amandla Stenberg.

at arrivals for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING Special VIP Screening, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's), Los Angeles, CA May 6, 2017. Photo By: Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection

It makes all the sense in the world that her character’s name is “Star.” Her siblings, too, have empowering names that help carry the plot along. Coincidentally, the actress’s name, Amandla, also carries a lot of punch.  The word “Amandla” means “Power.” It is explained on Wikipedia.

When a movie is this enjoyable, it’s hard to remember that it’s also timely and important.

–Gene Lantz

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

 

Reverend L. Charles Stovall needed a ride home from the Dallas Labor Day Breakfast, and I was happy to get to spend time with him.

Stovall and Hickman at the Labor Day Breakfast in 2011

Almost as soon as he got in the car, he called Reverend Holsey Hickman to tell him that the annual breakfast is getting better and better. I wholeheartedly agreed.

The hard data showed that ticket sales were way over the 500 mark that we strived for over the last decade. Participation from labor, political, religious, and community leaders was far better. The three of us could remember when area unions had to scramble to even find even one religious leader to open the ceremonies. There were no community groups. Civil rights and immigrant rights weren’t mentioned.

National Unions Are Watching Dallas

This year, we had two national union leaders speaking: UFCW International President Marc Perrone and ATU International Secretary-Treasurer Oscar Owens. Perrone told the crowd, “We are the labor movement. We are the last and only hope for America.” He also said, “The fight for justice will go on forever as long as there are greedy bastards out there!” My favorite quote was one word repeated three times, “Organize! Organize! Organize!”

Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy was in the audience and trying to listen while admirers hustled him into one photo opportunity after another. Louis Malfaro, leader of Texas’ biggest union, the Federation of Teachers, presented the Linda Bridges award for outstanding union women to the Dallas AFL-CIO Political Director, Lorraine Montemayor. The applause showed how much everyone agreed with the choice. Montemayor said, “You are the backbone of this country!” Then, true to form, she began outlining some of the hard work planned for this election season.

The award for “Hero of Labor” deservedly went to DJ Garza of the UAW. As an organizer for the Workers’ Defense Project, Garza has made a difference in winning rights for Dallas workers. The “Community Champion” award went to Faith in Texas. They turned out many volunteers for the recent petitioning campaign to win paid sick time.

Political Leaders Know the Value of Union Support

I don’t know if Mark York, principal officer of the Dallas AFL-CIO and emcee for the breakfast, was able to mention every office holder and candidate in the audience. It seemed to me that they were all there. Texas governor candidate Lupe Valdez put it this way: “I work with unions because we want to do the right thing for every working Texan.”

Colin Allred, candidate for Congress in District 32 — one of the most closely watched races in America — wowed the crowd. Like many candidates this year, he is also a union member. Also on the dais were Congresspersons Eddie Bernice Johnson and Marc Veasey. The Texas Democratic Party Chair, Gilberto Hinojosa, came to speak, as did  Senator Royce West, State Rep Victoria Neave, County Judge Clay Jenkins, Commissioner John Wiley Price, and Councilman Scott Griggs. Out in the audience, there were many more.

Look Back, Look Forward!

Us old timers can remember when the annual breakfast petered out for a couple of years. It was expensive back in the 1990s, and sometimes it just didn’t seem like it was worth the trouble. During those two years without the annual AFL-CIO breakfast, our little Jobs with Justice group seized the opportunity. We didn’t have the money for a banquet, so we fell back on time-tested labor tactics. We did car caravans to labor’s “hot spots” around North Texas. News reporters liked it, and we more than kept up the Labor Day tradition.

When the breakfast started again, Jobs with Justice worked to get faith leaders, especially Stovall and Hickman — because they were also major civil rights leaders — to come. We had to raise the money, but we soon had a table of ten religious and community leaders. Stovall and Hickman reflected the new, broader and more inclusive AFL-CIO that would extend its influence throughout the progressive movement.

This trend is extending. In 1999, the AFL-CIO began to reach out to undocumented workers for the first time in its history. Today, there are no barriers between the Dallas AFL-CIO and every aspect of the progressive movement. The Labor Day breakfast showed that we have made tremendous progress, and it points the way toward a future in which the progressive movement is truly focused on working families. In that future, nothing can stop us!

–Gene Lantz

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