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Progressives need a program, guidelines, to go forward. One element needed is acknowledgement of history, not only all the bad things that have happened and all the bad situations we face today, but also the positive developments.

tenayucca1938We can build on the good things that happened and are happening. There are lots of them. Just yesterday’s Dallas newspaper, for example, included an article announcing that the Texas African American History Memorial had gone up on the Texas Capitol grounds.

Many of us, especially me, have been complaining for decades about the Confederate monuments in and around the Capitol. Yesterday’s new monument is a partial response and a very positive development.

Also in yesterday’s paper, and again in today’s, the Texas Railroad Commission is taken to task for being a superficial front for the oil industry. They’ve been denying that the recent upsurge in earthquakes are associated with oil industry shenanigans. It’s great to see somebody point out corruption, but it’s even better to see a major newspaper that has some regard for the truth!

Why So Much Negativity?

Most of the “Programs For Action” I’ve seen from individuals and organizations are all negative. It’s certainly fair to point out that we are facing the possibility of fascism in America and that chauvinism has leaped forward. It’s honest to complain about poverty levels and inequality and unfairness. But it’s not a good way to approach writing a useful program of action if it doesn’t acknowledge the progress we’ve made since our days of savagery and slavery.

Labor Is Improving

The recent changes in the American labor movement shouldn’t be ignored. Since 1995, the top leaders of the AFL-CIO have been adjusting their overall program to suit the demands that used to be made only by progressive fringe groups. A good example is Jobs with Justice, which started out in 1987 as virtually an outlaw organization with support from only 5 big unions. Today, it works hand-in-hand with all labor leaders. I wrote a short history of the North Texas Chapter.

Capitalism Was A Step Forward!

In the longer sense, thinking people and organizations are rightfully down on capitalism. It’s terrible in the way it creates poverty, divides people, starts wars, lies, cheats, steals, and generally oppresses us. But it’s completely wrong to ignore its historical value. Capitalism freed the slaves! It organized the workers! It’s productive power was far superior to any of the other economic systems that it replaced. One might even argue that capitalism has been more productive, even, than any of the attempts at planned economy so far!

A Good Program Acknowledges the Good

I’m 100% in favor of a program for progressive change and I intend to continue writing about it. Certainly such a program should point out the many shortcomings of today’s society and the need for decisive action. But our history and our present situation aren’t all bad. There’s a lot of progress to build on!

–Gene Lantz

Listen to “Workers Beat” at 9 CST every Saturday morning on 89.3FM and http://knon.org

If you want to know what I really think, look at my life’s lessons site

After 1 1/2 years of arguing with my ultraleft friends over why their votes matter, I now have to turn toward my reformist friends and convince them that voting isn’t everything.

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A little sidewalk march, protected under Article 1. Anybody can organize one!

If you’re not sure what an ultraleft and a reformist are, feel free to consult my on-line glossary of useful political terms. Just for the sake of this exposition, ultralefts tend to denounce voting and reformists tend to denounce everything else.

The official smart people of America are generally saying, now that Trump is the president-elect, “Well we voted and now we must support our new President and let democracy take its course.” We live in a democracy, but it’s a limited democracy and it’s far from perfect. Even after 250 years of steadily improving it, our democracy is still a long way from fairness or equal treatment. In the last few decades, it’s actually gotten worse than it was, and I have a notion that it’s about to get worser still.

Voting May be Critical, But It Isn’t Everything

Working people struggle against the employers in many arenas. Pretty much all of them, including the electoral arena, are rigged against us, but it is important that we learn to carry out our fight in every battleground. That includes strikes like the very important musicians strike going on right now in Fort Worth, Texas. It includes petitioning campaigns, lobbying efforts, fund raisers, small protests and major marches.

Are you too dignified to march?

Think it over carefully before you answer.

In the same time frame that Republicans take over all aspects of federal government, mid January, we’re going to have a chance to put some strength into the civil rights movement during traditional Martin Luther King Jr birthday celebrations.

On the day after the the inauguration of The Donald, I’m proud to announce that somebody has called for a “Million Women March” in DC and here and there around the country. They invite everyone who believes in women’s rights, and that should include all of us. Even though the march is scheduled for a Saturday, lots of people will take off work on Friday for travel — that might help some of my friends who think a general strike would work on January 20.

I haven’t seen anything yet on activities defending undocumented workers, but I suspect that such events will be called. We won’t be able, physically, to attend everything that somebody thinks up, but we can pick the best ones. I expect to see my ultraleft friends at most of them. Maybe my reformist friends will come this time, too.

Unless they’re too dignified.

–Gene Lantz

No beating around the bush; if you want to know what I really think, click here.

 

 

Reconstruction Was a Horror in Texas!

It’s amazing how one can see the roots of today’s problems in this important period of U.S. history. I’m writing this on Nov 14, 2016; the same day that Ed Sills of the Texas AFL-CIO wrote that two Texas Legislators have decided that “states rights” still supersedes national law. They have filed two companion bills, SB 89 and SJR 7, by Sen. Bob Hall, R-Canton, that would provide for nullification of federal laws that Texas deems to violate the Constitution. HB 74 by Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, is in a similar vein. By their thinking, the Emancipation Proclamation never took effect in Texas because the Texas Legislature didn’t want it!

 

Lynching

When I first began to study and ask questions about Texas during the Reconstruction Period, I received the impression that all went rather smoothly. Texans accepted the federal troops, freed the slaves, and continued with their business, I was told.

What an incredible lie!

The following book has some of the facts:

Richter, William L., Overreached on All Sides. The Freedman’s Bureau Administration in Texas 1865-1868. Texas A&M Univ Press, College station, 1991. For forty months, the Freedman’s Bureau attempted to enforce the ideals of political liberty, and, to a lesser extent, economic liberty for African Americans in Texas. This book details their failure to stop lynchings, continued slavery, torture, rape, robbery, and illegal exploitation. The victorious North lacked both the material resources and the commitment to carry out these ideals.

Texans resisted mightily. For those seeking to document the racist atrocities perpetrated by white Texans during Reconstruction rather than believe the glossed-over histories we are usually offered, there are plenty of descriptions here. In fact, there is more blood than ink on these pages. Blacks and their grossly outnumbered white supporters were vilified, terrified, driven out, and murdered throughout the book while the tiny force of reconstructionists hurried from one part of the state to another seeking justice.

Northeast Texas was particularly bad.

But the book also contains many stories of men who made a great effort to bring justice to Texas. Their failure does not diminish their commitment nor valor.

A Definitive Text on Reconstruction

Book Review
Foner, Eric, “Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution: 1863-1877” History Book Club by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1988

What most of us were told about reconstruction is that it was a failure and the fault was on the former slaves, who “just weren’t sophisticated enough to make their own way and handle all the gifts they were given.” It’s an ugly view.

This author, on the other hand, talks about the real problems. He especially points to the role that the freedmen played in trying to win their own equality. In spite of criminal acts against them, including numerous mass murders, they managed to accomplish some things, and they laid the groundwork for the future civil rights gains.

Even though the author joins the chorus in branding American Reconstruction a failure, he points out that we did better than any other country that had emancipated its slaves, in that we granted them citizenship fairly soon. Also, he puts the main blame for failure on the economic crisis of the 1870s.

Even though the author doesn’t point it out, one can see how the Republican party evolved from one advocating “free labor” capitalism to one favoring big corporations and caring very little for anybody’s rights – all in a short space of time during the industrialization that followed the Civil War.

I was a little disappointed that there was so little about Texas, and nothing about Dallas. I had read elsewhere that the appointed head of the Freedman’s Bureau in Dallas never made it to the city, but was murdered somewhere in East Texas while en route! About Reconstruction in Dallas, almost nothing is known. See Wikipedia — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Dallas_(1856%E2%80%9373)

Here are some of the sentences from the book:

Pg 17: Texas “The (Republican) party’s Southern governors would include Edmund J Davis, who during the war raised the First Texas Cavalry for the Union Army…”

63 Texas “Jean-Charles Houzeau, one of the most remarkable men to take part in the saga of Reconstruction…”  revolutionary. Journalist and astronomer who emigrated to Texas in 1858, sided with Unionists there early in the Civil War, and in 1865 arrived in Louisiana. Edited New Orleans Tribune.

97 education “Northern benevolent societies, the Freedmen’s Bureau, and, after 1868, state governments provided most of the funding for black education during Reconstruction. But the initiative often lay with blacks themselves…”

119 murder “In Texas, where the army and Freedmen’s Bureau proved entirely unable to establish order, blacks, according to a Bureau official, ‘are frequently beaten unmercifully, and shot down like wild beasts, without any provocation.’”

121 Texas “One black who refused to be bound and whipped, asserting that ‘he was a freeman and he would not be tied like a slave,’ was shot dead by his employer, a prominent Texas lawyer.”….

181 Johnson “Throughout his Presidency, Johnson held the view – not uncommon among Southern yeomen – that slaves had in some way joined forces with their owners to oppress nonslaveholding whites.”

195 Texans for Suffrage: “A handful of delegates, such as Texas Unionist Edward Degener, called for extending the suffrage to literate blacks, but in general the idea was scarcely contemplated.”

204 TX murder an inalienable right: “Texas courts indicted some 500 white men for the murder of blacks in 1865 and 1866, but not one was convicted. ‘No white man in that state has been punished for murder since it revolted from Mexico,’ commented a Northern visitor. ‘Murder is considered one of their inalienable state rights.’” The footnote is John A Carpenter, “Atrocities in the Reconstruction Period,” JNH, 47( Oct 1962)

205: “The convict lease system, moreover, which had originated on a small scale before the war, was expanded so as to provide employers with a supply of cheap labor. In Texas in 1867, blacks constituted about one third of the convicts confined to the state penitentiary, but nearly 90 percent of those leased out for railroad labor.”

218 Johnson/Jackson: “…Johnson’s hero, Andrew Jackson.” The same page says Johnson was a drunk.

235 40 acres: “In a speech to Pennsylvania’s Republican convention in September 1865, Stevens called for the seizure of the 400 million acres belonging to the wealthiest 10 percent of Southerners. Forty acres would be granted to each adult freedman and the remainder – some 90 percent of the total – sold ‘to the highest bidder’…” The book has several references to the idea of selling or giving land to freedmen. General Sherman did it on his march to Atlanta. Lincoln allowed it on the Carolina Islands and in a large area at a river junction. Johnson, however, had the soldiers remove all African Americans from their land.

243 Natives: On the Civil Rights Bill around 1866. “This defined all persons born in the United States (except Indians) as national citizens…”

279 Citizenship: “Alone among the nations that abolished slavery in the nineteenth century, the United States, within a few years of emancipation, clothed its former slaves with citizenship rights equal to those of whites.” I conclude from this that Reconstruction may have been a “failure,” but it was less of a failure than all the other countries that stopped slavery!

281 Strike 1867: “Strikes broke out among black longshoremen in Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, Richmond and New Orleans, and quickly spread to other workers, including Richmond coopers and Selma restaurant waiters.”

282 Waco: “Throughout the South, planters complained of blacks neglecting their labor. Once a week during the summer of 1868, ‘the negros from the entire county’ quit work and flocked to Waco, Texas, for political rallies.”

285 Tx back wages: “…some Texas leagues demanded back wages for blacks held in slavery after the Emancipation Proclamation.” //I think they mean “union leagues.”

297 Parsons: “…the party did gain the support of Gen. James Longstreet, whose example inspired some Confederate veterans to follow in his footsteps. One was Alabama-born Albert R Parsons, a descendant of Mayflower Pilgrims, who in 1867 established a Waco newspaper advocating black rights, and stumped central Texas for the Republicans.” //the footnote is Hamilton and William, eds., “Graham Papers” 7:533//

299 TX Germans: //Germans are mentioned here and there as scalawags — Southerners opposing the Confederacy.// “The Germans of Southwestern Texas comprised the largest bloc of immigrant Southern Republicans, helping to send to Congress Edward Degener, a San Antonio grocer who had taken part in the revolution of 1848, been imprisoned by Confederate authorities, and seen his two sons executed for treason.” //I googled him and found Wikipedia summary that said he settled in Sisterdale in 1850 and that his two sons were killed in the Nueces massacre. He joined in purchasing the land for the “true der union” monument in Comfort!//

342 KKK shut down, 1868 elections: //There’s a long list of mass murders and other atrocities.// “Unable to hold meetings and fearful that attempts to bring out their vote would only result in further massacres, Georgia and Louisiana Republicans abandoned the Presidential campaign.” (1868 I think)

//some nice photos in the middle of the book//

399 TX planters’ decline: “Planters constituted a large majority of the wealthiest Texans in 1860, but only 17 percent ten years later.”

437 Colfax massacre of 280 people: Apparently armed blacks tried to resist in Louisiana around 1873. “They attempted [armed self-defense] in Colfax. The result was that on Easter Sunday of 1873, when the sun went down that night, it went down on the corpses of two hundred and eighty negroes.”

Pg 440 Davis Suppressed Klan in TX: “By early 1869, order had been restored and the Klan destroyed. Davis proved equally decisive, organizing a crack two-hundred-member State Police, 40 percent of whose members were black. Between 1870 and 1872, the police made over 6,000 arrests, effectively suppressing the Klan and providing freedmen with a real measure of protection in a state notorious for widespread violence.”

480 Sylvis a racist? “William Sylvis, president of the Iron Moulder’s Union, toured the South early in 1869 recruiting members of both races, but simultaneously called the Freedmen’s Bureau, a ‘huge swindle upon the honest workingmen of the country’ and blamed carpetbaggers for the South’s woes.”

528 the Depression of 8173 – largely ended reconstruction: “Buffeted by the shifting tides of public opinion, p[reoccupied first with the economic depression and later with yet another wave of political scandals, the second Grant Administration found it impossible to devise a coherent policy toward the South…. Grant in his second term presided over a broad retreat from the policies of Reconstruction.” //there’s some point here where he refuses to use troops in Louisiana, and that’s the dividing line ending the Reconstruction era.//

531 Supreme Court racism: Slaughterhouse case of 1873. Supreme Court more or less re-affirmed states’ rights. “In the name of federalism, the decision rendered national prosecution of crimes committed against blacks virtually impossible, and gave a green light to acts of terror where local officials either could not or would not enforce the law.”

548 Grange excluded Blacks: Grange …”’really a political society’ which excluded blacks from membership and took an active part in mid-decade Redemption campaigns.”

549 Texas taken by Democrats in 1873: “Texas Democrat Richard Coke defeated Gov. Edmund J Davis in 1873 by a margin of better than two to one.” Texas had a massive influx of white immigrants that changed the demographics.

550 Assassinations! “The situation worsened in 1874 with the formation of the White League, openly dedicated to the violent restoration of white supremacy. It targeted local Republican officeholders for assassination, disrupted court sessions, and drove black laborers from their homes.”

556 Dawes’ early career: “”…the Massachusetts legislature elected Henry L Dawes to fill Sumner’s seat…” //Dawes comes up in my history again as author of legislation ending tribal ownership in Oklahoma — thus opening up all Native lands to exploitation//

556: “Civil Rights Act” “Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1883…”

557 communists in 1875: Some guy in Ohio advocated Greenbackism and was accused as a “proponent of ‘communist revolution.’”

586 1877 strike and federal intervention: Author makes the point that federal govt had decided they didn’t need to intervene in local affairs and thus ended protection of blacks, but they had no qualms about intervening against workers during the general strike of 1877! “Thus, the upheaval marked a fundamental shift in the nation’s political agenda.”

587 Civil rts act of 1875 declared unconstitutional in 1883

603 Summary of failure. “Nonetheless, whether measured by the dreams inspired by emancipation or the more limited goals of securing blacks’ rights as citizens and free laborers, and establishing an enduring Republican presence in the South, Reconstruction can only be judged a failure.” He blames the depression of the 1870s. “None of these factors, however, would have proved decisive without the campaign of violence that turned the electoral tide in many parts of the South, and the weakening of Northern Resolve, itself a consequence of social and political changes that undermined the free labor and egalitarian precepts at the heart of Reconstruction policy.”

Pg 603: “Perhaps the remarkable thing about Reconstruction was not that it failed, but that it was attempted at all and survived as long as it did.”

609 Rewriting history: ‘This rewriting of Reconstruction’s istory was accorded scholarly legitimacy – to its everlasting shame – by the nation’s fraternity of professional historians.”

Pg 609: “The views of the Dunning School shaped historical writing for generations, and achieved wide popularity through DW Griffiths film, Birth of a Nation (which glorified the Ku KLUX Klan and had its premier at the White House during Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency)…”

Pg 612: accomplishments: family, church, and school. “Yet the institutions created or consolidated after the Civil war – the black family, school, and church – provided the base from which the modern civil rights revolution sprang. And for its legal strategy, the movement returned to the laws and amendments of Reconstruction. ‘The river has its bend, and the longest road must terminate’ Rev Peter Randolph a former slave, wrote these words as he dark night of injustice settled over the South. Nearly a century elapsed before the national again attempted to come to terms with the implications of emancipation, and the political and social agenda of Reconstruction. In many ways, it has yet to do so.” //end of book//

–Gene Lantz

This is just a tiny part of my on line labor history collection

Ultraleftism: Although it sounds “more left,” ultraleftism actually means making a fetish of being “more radical” on every question and activity, whether the proposed tactics would have a good result or not. That’s what it means.

Unfortunately, what people think it means is “more left” or even “more progressive.” They’re wrong.

Michael X Johnson made a serious ultraleft error on July 7 when he shot Dallas police officers downtown. He may have thought he was somehow contributing positively to the fight to end police shootings of African Americans. Instead, he set off a storm of support for anything the police might want to do while the civil rights movement was simply swept under the rug.

Several new funds have been set up so that people can give money to the police. Here is what the Dallas newspaper announced just today:

“Groups that announced donations: › RBC Wealth Management-U.S. gave $10,000 to the Assist the Officer Foundation. › American Airlines is helping fly in families affected by the shootings and donating $50,000 to the Assist the Officer Foundation. › Southwest Airlines is offering travel assistance to families and donating $75,000 to the Assist the Officer Foundation. › Through the Texas Bankers Association, member banks are making donations to the Assist the Officer Foundation. PlainsCapital Bank, based in Dallas, made a $25,000 donation. Dallas-based NexBank is also donating funds.

‘The Texas Instruments Foundation board of directors approved two grants to provide immediate assistance to the Dallas police and DART victims and their families, and to support long-term relief and efforts to unify and strengthen our community. These contributions have been pledged to two organizations: ª $25,000 to the Assist the Officer Foundation, which will provide immediate assistance to the injured/slain Dallas police and Dallas Area Rapid Transit officers and their families. ª $100,000 to the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas United Dallas Relief Fund, which has been set up to provide supportive services, including mental health resources for victims and families of both first responders and civilians, and helping long-term through the difficult time ahead.

‘Empire Baking Co. raised $4,200, which was donated to the Assist the Officer Foundation.

‘The Capps family in the Devonshire neighborhood of Dallas raised $600 from a lemonade stand to donate to the Dallas Police Association’s officer assistance fund.

‘Restaurants and breweries across the Dallas area are offering free food and drink to uniformed police officers. Some are donating a portion or all of their proceeds to groups supporting the Dallas and DART police departments.”

Another article goes over some of the things that are expected of the City Council, including getting more police officers and raising their pay. On Facebook, someone is selling T-shirts promoting Mayor Rawlings and Chief Brown for President and Vice President!

Funerals and memorial services are drawing crowds of 5,000 or more. I think the 800 on the night of the shooting was the biggest demonstration we’d seen to stop police killings.

Mothers Against Police Brutality, which started in Dallas well before anybody ever heard of “Black Lives Matter,” had steadily built their support with good, well thought-out tactics. Ultraleftism has given us all a setback.

–Gene Lantz

Click here for more of these ideas

 

Police shoot African Americans across the nation. That problem cannot be denied.

me-civilrts

The question that sober people must address is what to do about it. So far, we have failed to come up with strategies that would give young people hope of a solution. Our failure resulted in misguided actions on July 7th in downtown Dallas, and we are all going to pay the price.

Prayer and Platitudes

Most of what’s been said so far consists mostly of prayer and platitudes. President Obama’s statement that the shootings in Dallas that killed five law enforcement officers and wounded several others were “a vicious calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” doesn’t offer any solution and doesn’t even mention the overall problem.

Just previous to the Dallas tragedy, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka commented on the two most recent police shootings: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the two African-American men who were shot by police within twenty-four hours of each other.  Racism plays an insidious role in the daily lives of all working people of color…..” He identified the problem accurately, but still, what’s the answer?

What Will Happen In Dallas?

There will be a lot of fear generated in Dallas until the police are satisfied. A lot of Dallasites, especially politicians and white people, are going to be publicly and financially “backing the blue.” Eventually, the most concrete change will probably be an increase in the police budget.

What Should Happen in Dallas and Because of the Dallas Tragedy?

Perpetration of violence against African Americans is as old as America. It’s not a problem easily solved, but it cannot be ignored. On my radio talk show on July 9, I’ll be calling for proposed solutions. As far as I have been able to ascertain, most civil rights organizations believe the problem can be solved with more restrictions and more transparency on police behavior. My own proposal may sound far-fetched, but keep in mind that the problem is very old and very chronic.

The police are an arm of a government that is run by and for the wealthy. As long as that class of people want to continue exploiting African Americans, we are going to see the police carrying out their implicit duties. What we need is a better government. In a more immediate sense, we need to move toward organized communities and away from specialized armed forces. Organizing is long, hard work, but it’s the answer.

Shooting Policemen Doesn’t Work

Does anybody think they can out-shoot or out-kill the police? Do they think they could grab a few rifles and challenge the U.S. Army? Can anybody point to a single time in history that minority violence brought progress for working people?

I think the best political advice I ever read came from a speech Leon Trotsky made during the Russian Revolution: “It is not sufficient to fight, comrades, it is also necessary to win.”

–Gene Lantz

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The War for Independence isn’t just a simple tale of heroism and yearning for freedom.

indianbook

Howard Zinn’s history (click here)  pointed out that a major cause of the conflict had to do with the British treaties with the Natives. The British had promised no further westward expansion, while the colonialists fully intended to do just what they did to the Natives all the way to the Pacific.

African Americans were ill treated during and after the war. (click here) The defeated British did try to carry out their promise to free all their African American soldiers around New York and were quicker to end official slavery altogether than were the racists in the South.

The newly created United States distinguished itself among “civilized” nations for racism, imperialism and genocide over the next century. In 1854, Frederick Douglas’ July 4th speech asked, “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions!” (click here)

Did the British enjoy some moral high ground over the colonialists? Were the people our ancestors fought better or worse than the ones they fought against? Few of us today are so knowledgeable as to be able to make that call. Certainly not I!

But we are not honest people if we don’t consider all the aspects of our history that are clearly at hand.

–Gene Lantz

Click here for more of these ideas

 

womanlynched

Darn, I missed the anniversary of Jane Elkins’ hanging again. It was May 27, 1853, when they carried out Judge John H Reagan’s orders and hanged her in downtown Dallas, right where the Old Red Courthouse is today. There’s an elementary school named after Reagan. Nothing for Jane. Every year, I try to remember to try to get people to commemorate Jane Elkins day.

Last year, she was a character in a play. She’s mentioned in some of the material at the Old Red Courthouse museum because she is officially the first woman ever executed in Texas. They probably hanged plenty of others, but they didn’t write it down. Most people don’t know about Jane.

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