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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

Book Review:

Pearson, Chad E., “Capital’s Terrorists. Klansmen, Lawmen and Employers in the Long Nineteenth Century.” University of North Carolina Press, 2022

Pearson brings us a new understanding of America’s terrorists. From April 9, 1865 to January 6, 2022, our terrorists were not primarily motivated by race hatred or stupidity, as we are usually told. Instead, they were instruments organized, and often physically led, by America’s employer class. Big capital used the most shameful events in all of American history to one end: keeping working families down.

Pearson starts with the Ku Klux Klan. They weren’t just random racists. They were deliberately organized and carefully led to force former slaves to work for little or nothing. They still are. Later organizations may have been called “Law and Order Leagues,” or “Citizens’ Alliances,” but they continued to use vigilantes when it suited them. Their purpose was exactly the same: making sure that working families could not successfully organize.

Even though employers could usually county on judges, local police, national guards and even the U.S. Army to side with them, they also found it expedient to organize illegal terrorist activities. That’s what the book is about.

Pearson organizes his explanation with biographical information on the main ideologues for employer terrorism. One of the worst was a newspaper owner; another was a best-selling author of fiction. Both were expert propagandists justifying all legal and extralegal means available to keep workers down.

For us in Dallas, there are some local angles to the story. Martin Irons was a great union man who was ruined and martyred by the terrorists. He called the 1885 Southwest Railroad Strike during a convention in nearby Sherman. His grave is in Bruceville, halfway to Austin, where he died in poverty.

Except for some very good analysis of the January 6 attack on the nation’s capitol, the book limits itself to the 19th century. If it were brought a few years closer to today, it might have talked about Henry Ford’s “Service Department” of goons and criminals that maimed and murdered union supporters on behalf of the company.  

There are several accounts of Harry Bennett and Henry Ford’s “Service Department” of goons, criminals and murderers. https://www.salon.com/2014/06/01/henry_fords_reign_of_terror_greed_and_murder_in_depression_era_detroit/

Another account mentions a ex-wrestler named Fats Perry in the late 1930s. https://books.google.com/books?id=MJJOl7SMWIoC&pg=PA172&lpg=PA172&dq=Fats+Perry&source=bl&ots=7WajZJonOm&sig=ACfU3U3_OvtR3dgVWul8wuROQxLia1vfBQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiK7bjN5Zz7AhV2lGoFHUs6CZQQ6AF6BAhTEAM#v=onepage&q=Fats%20Perry&f=false.

Perry and a handful of other gangsters were fired from Ford’s East Dallas assembly plant on suspicion of theft. They complained to the newly-formed National Labor Relations Board, where a young attorney named Nat Wells wrote down their testimony. They told Wells about kidnapping, tar and feathering, and whipping suspected union organizers on behalf of Ford. They indicated that they had plenty of help from local police and the Dallas Morning News. Wells wrote it all down and it became part of the United Auto Workers’ legal action against Ford Motor Company – and that played a big role in the UAW’s successful organizing drive in 1941, four years after their triumph at General Motors. Thanks to Joe Wells and Dr George Green for keeping this story in our histories.

Dr Chad Pearson teaches history at University of North Texas in Denton. I intend to interview him for my podcast as soon as I can get his contact information.

–Gene Lantz

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

Just to boil everything down to its essence, only two slogans are sufficient to mobilize the mass movement and change the world:

Tax the Rich!

Stop the Wars!

Here in the United States, we achieved a relatively high degree of democracy by 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was implemented. I say “relatively” to mean that our democracy was better than it had ever been. It took centuries of struggle to get that good. Since those days, democracy has been chiseled off some, but it’s still a lot better than it was than, say, when lynching was common and accepted.

The big deficiencies in our democracy have to do with 1) economics and 2) foreign policy. The ordinary person has very little say-so about either one, and never has. The bosses who run America reserve economic and foreign policy decisions for themselves. We don’t get a vote about fiscal or monetary policy, and we don’t get a vote about who to bomb next. If we did, we’d be qualitatively better off. “We,” meaning working families. “They,” meaning the bosses, would be worse off. In fact “they” would no longer be the ruling class.

The Russians had three slogans in 1917: “Bread, Land, and Peace.” Those were really good slogans for them in those days and they worked. But “bread” isn’t synonymous with “economic well being” nowadays. “Land” isn’t the dream of modern workers who left their farms generations ago. “Peace” is still a good slogan, but it doesn’t cover the proxy wars that imperialism is sponsoring all over the globe. Many Americans probably think that our nation is at “peace” now.

“Tax the rich” is the solution to economic inequality. Since the relatively “good” economic days of 1935-1947, inequality has steadily worsened. The bosses cut their own taxes, cut our social spending, and raised our taxes. Their money just keeps piling up. The current economic crisis in the United States, a looming recession, could be resolved quickly and easily with a change in fiscal policy, but instead the bosses are using monetary policy to squeeze the job market. In other words, working families are being sacrificed on the altar of capitalist greed. “Tax the rich” would end the threat of recession while ending the headlong rush to total inequality.

“Stop the wars” would give working families some power over the military-industrial complex. That’s power that we do not have today. The bosses like to be able to foment wars whenever they want, because that way they can keep other nations economically subservient to them. Case in point: while Russians and Ukrainians are dying by the thousands, American military producers and American oil companies are enjoying a bonanza. When it’s all over, American oil companies will have a lot of the markets that the Russians used to have, and the Russians and Ukrainians still living will have diddledy squat.

As important as these two slogans are to working families, they are just as important to the bosses who currently enjoy exclusive economic and military power. Making a change would be difficult, but clarity on our side would help.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON.org’s “Workers Beat” program at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. 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.

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.

Review of documentary:

Carl Colby, “The Man Nobody Knew.” Netflix. 2011. On Amazon Prime at https://www.amazon.com/Man-Nobody-Knew-Carl-Colby/dp/B017UOITGA

I was surprised to see a biographical documentary of William Colby, CIA spymaster, on Amazon Prime streaming service. Colby was an extremely secretive man. Possibly the only person who could have put together remembrances of him is his son, Carl. Carl remembers him as being capable of more cruelty than anyone he had ever known.

The documentary tries to be favorable. A lot of the favorable testimony comes from his ex-wife, mother of his four children, whom he dumped soon after leaving the CIA in 1975. Others who were important in the State Department in the 1970s, give their kind reminiscences. The facts, however, are too strong to be overcome by good intentions.

Colby joined the intelligence service during World War II. In the aftermath, he was the man with the suitcases of money and connections with the Pope that “saved” Italy from its popular communists. Colby ran the CIA’s involvement in imperialism’s attempt to keep Vietnam from independence. He personally created and directed the Phoenix Program that used mercenaries to torture and murder progressives. He directed the CIA during most of the horrors documented in the book, “Jakarta Program” (reviewed in this blog). A million Indonesians were murdered by imperialism, then the pattern was used to murder progressives in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and other countries.

The documentary alleges that Colby did not agree with imperialism’s heavy-handed military aggression in Vietnam. He thought they could have won with big-money subversion. He may have been right, because imperialism certainly succeeded time and again in overthrowing progressives in Latin America, and it’s doing a jim-dandy job for imperialism in Ukraine today without direct military intervention.

A lot of the documentary is taken up with Colby’s testimony to Congress after Watergate. That’s where the most video was available. Colby admitted to some of the CIA’s atrocities during that period, and the documentary credits him personally for doing it. However, those of us who lived through the period remember that the Watergate period was followed by a series of exposures of horrors by the FBI, CIA, and other mechanisms of imperialism. They didn’t admit to anything that hadn’t already been exposed, and the “reforms” didn’t even last a decade before the so-called “intelligence” people went back to spying on citizens and worldwide murder and torture.

Colby was a cold-eyed monster. After he drowned in a river, his son speculates that he may have been despondent over his career and just “gave up.” I certainly hope so.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. My “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts are on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site

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

I can’t keep quiet any longer. For a month now, I’ve listened to “news” accounts, even on NPR, heck, ESPECIALLY on NPR, demonizing Russians and glorifying American foreign policy. I expected that, but I didn’t think it would work because we surely, by now, know a little bit more about Russia and about American foreign policy. From my friends’ Facebook posts, I’m afraid it has.

My marketing teacher used to say that the emotional appeal will always be more effective than the practical appeal. I’ve always wished he were wrong.

I see “brutes,” “beasts,” “monsters,” “dictators,” and “autocrats” when the posts look east, and “standing up to bullies,” “freedom,” and “democracy” when they look at NATO and the United States. The problem isn’t exactly that people don’t have information. The problem is that they don’t have a useful framework for their thinking.

Looking for “bad guys” and “good guys” is just silly. The only way to understand what is happening and chart a course for action is to look at reality and the likelihoods of different outcomes. In the present case of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, a lot of people are going to get killed or maimed. Working people the world over will pay in blood and economic deprivation. A lot of American fossil-fuel magnates are going to get rich(er). That much is certain. The obvious course is to oppose the war, but that’s just an abstraction. The real question is, “what should you do?” That’s always the question.

Well, posting about monsters, saviors, and evil/good intentions is obviously not helpful. It makes sense for people in Russia to demonstrate against the war. It makes sense for people in America to demonstrate against NATO and American support for the war. There’s no good/bad here, there’s just what is going on and what can you, given your situation and resources, do about it.

Think of your possible courses of action. Think of the likely outcomes. Then go to work.

In 1985, I had a tiny role in a part of the revitalization of American labor. I’d like to get it written down.

After a wonderful upsurge that started around 1932, labor leaders lost their way in 1947 and became isolated. Fortunately the membership couldn’t be ignored for long.

The revitalization actually began well before my time, in the 1960s. It was an extension of the civil rights upsurge that began around 1954. African-American unionists carried the lessons and tactics of the civil rights movement into their unions. For the most part, they were rebuffed by their leaderships, but nothing is ever completely lost in the progressive movement. People learn. People remember.

The newest, possibly most important, twist in the labor reform movement happened in 2021 when over 60% of United Auto Workers members and retirees voted to do away with the old delegate system of electing top leadership and move to the more democratic “one member one vote” method.

It was a setback to the old Administrative Caucus that has dominated the UAW consistently since 1946. I think a look back at earlier reform efforts gives some perspective to today’s important developments.

REFORM IN THE MINERS AND STEELWORKERS UNION

Reform was strong in the Miner’s Union after Jock Yablonski and his family were murdered December 31, 1969. In the Steelworkers, reform was clearly on the agenda when Ed Sadlowski ran for president around 1975. I think Sadlowski might have been the first union candidate since 1947 to allow reds to help him campaign, and that was a very big deal. I campaigned for Sadlowski, but my real role in labor’s reform was a lot later and in my own union.

NEW DIRECTIONS IN THE UAW

For me, it was 1985-1992 and the New Directions Movement in the United Auto Workers. My part, and the origin of the New Directions Movement, started in the middle of a contract fight with LTV Corporation in Grand Prairie, Texas. The fight started in March, 1984. The first 9 months or so showed everything that was wrong in the UAW and in most of the labor movement.

Our union, Local 848, didn’t have a clue about carrying out a fight. The blame for that goes back to 1947 when the anti-union Taft Hartley law passed. It outlawed the most progressive unionists and left the opportunist “business unionists” in charge. Business unionists had no fight in them. They put their full confidence into working with management and gave up on informing and mobilizing their union members.

Local 848 members, like most Americans, had never fought for anything and certainly not for a contract. “Unionism” consisted of working with management for crumbs from their table, then working on a grievance procedure to keep them from stealing their crumbs back during the life of the contract.

But LTV was a profitable corporation when it offered giant takeaways in 1984 contract negotiations. The Assistant Director of UAW Region 5, Jerry Tucker, was experienced in plenty of fights – not necessarily in unions but in the civil rights movement. He pushed the Negotiating Committee to turn down the contract and design a new strategy for a fight.

Jerry Tucker

Tucker called the strategy “Running the Plant Backward” or “Work to Rule” and called it a new strategy. History-conscious workers, of whom there were hardly any, recognized it as an old-fashioned slowdown. Union members were asked to do exactly what they were required to do and nothing else. “No contract, no overtime!” was our big slogan starting out. On May 21, four workers and I were fired for refusing to work overtime. Tucker had previously arranged to call a walkout when/if anybody got fired. Later, a few dozen more were fired, mostly for participating in the walkout.

Initially, it didn’t work at all. Our local union leadership hadn’t the slightest idea of how to run a slowdown. The membership certainly didn’t know. I don’t even think Jerry Tucker had a clear idea. The big walkout and rally on the day after we were fired netted no more than 300 workers. I counted them carefully. That was about 6% of the bargaining unit! I knew then that we were in a lot more trouble than anybody was saying.

The company implemented their “last and final offer,” which included their takeaways. Then they stopped collecting our dues for us.

WE HAD NO IDEA HOW TO COLLECT UNION DUES!

American unions in 1984 did not have the first clue on how to collect their own dues. They had “dues checkoff” from companies since before World War II. In 1941, Mr Ford voluntarily GAVE dues checkoff to the UAW, because he wanted the union to depend on him financially. It worked.

Local 848 made its biggest, nearly fatal, mistake as soon as it was clear that we had to collect our own dues. Leadership assumed that people would voluntarily come to the union hall and pay their monthly dues.

Let me pause to brag: I told them that people are not accustomed to paying their bills in person. I asked them to send out a monthly bill, but the Financial Secretary told me, “If they won’t come over here and pay their dues, they don’t deserve this union!” I heard that over and over again for the rest of the year while my union went broke. By Christmas, fewer than 20% of our members were caught up on dues. Insiders said it was 10%.

Our financial disaster was hardly the worst part of the story. Our program of “No contract, no overtime” fell flat on its face on the day I was fired. Even though I organized pickets every Saturday morning through that winter, our members grabbed up the overtime. Our top officers did, too. I found out later that the Chairman himself was telling top officers to work overtime!

My part, up to the end of 1984, had been to organize the 65 fired workers and keep them in the struggle. I had zero leadership role in directing the struggle, but I made sure that the firees were not forgotten by getting a big bunch of us to every meeting, by picketing the plant when people went in to work overtime, by publicizing our events, and by helping a series of publicity stunts to keep people thinking about our fight.

Some of the “victors” (firees) at our first public action, June 1984

December was a miserable time for everybody, but especially for the 65 fired workers. Only about 30 of the 65 were doing anything to keep up the fight. News from the International Union was particularly depressing. Leadership told us that the International UAW wanted us to take the concessions and end the struggle, even if some of the firees were sacrificed. One “settlement,” we were told, was negotiated between our UAW International Financial Secretary and LTV management on a golf course!

President Carroll Butler and Assistant Regional Director Jerry Tucker weren’t giving up, but they were certainly ready for some new tactics.

President Butler, Int’l Rep Kinney, and Int’l Rep Medrano

THE LOCAL MAKES A TURN

Our local union leadership did a major turnaround in January. They decided to collect dues inside the plant. Elected union stewards were issued receipt books and every activist we could find was asked to help get the members to pay up.

Think about that!

It wasn’t just a financial decision, or a minor organizational change. It was a turn toward mobilizing the membership – exactly what the union movement hadn’t been doing since “business unionism” took over. It worked, too. Our “percent” of dues-paying members rose steadily from January until we won our victory in July.

As the receipts and cash dollars started pouring into the hall, we bogged down as accountants. Fortunately for the local, I had accountant training, computer training, and I could type. I rigged up a Commodore 64 – it had 64 kilobytes of memory – to two floppy disk readers and kept track of all dues. An extra benefit was being able to tattle on the elected leaders as to who was collecting their dues and who wasn’t. Every time Tucker visited, I could present him with graphs showing which departments and which job families were “on the program” and which weren’t.

By June, 1985, we still didn’t have an impressive “percent” in plain numbers, but my trusty little computer could show that we were pretty solid in certain critical units. For the first time in the entire struggle, we thought we might have the potential to shut LTV down. Leadership called a strike. Management asked for a settlement before we even went out, so the strike lasted only 11 hours!

On July 5, 1985, all the fired workers put on our union shirts and lined up at the LTV gate. We stayed in line while Chairman BJ Meeks took us, one by one, to our proper departments and let us go back to work. I posted a video of this. Our little battle was won!

I have a longer account of the 1984-85 struggle on http://lilleskole.us. On my “GeneLantz” youtube account, I have 52 videos about it. Each has “struggle” in the title.

Our victory was celebrated all through the union movement. I was given credit and a new nickname, “golden fingers” for my typing, accounting and computer work.

I guess that some of us thought we had really helped curve the union movement in a good direction, but we were disappointed in due time.

The most bitter part for me personally came almost immediately. When the 1985 contract was settled, I hoped to keep our super-active fired union members together. But we fell out over how to deal with demands from the International UAW. The new contract penalized the firees by withholding 3 months from our full back pay. We were told, though, that we would not have to pay back the strike pay that we had accepted while we were outside. It balanced out.

But the International UAW demanded that we pay back every cent, immediately! When I protested, a toady little International Rep called me a “freeloader!” I had been standing outside the plant and fighting for my union for one year, one month, one week, and one day; but he called me a “freeloader!”

The firees broke up over this demand. Some of them said they would never pay it because it was grossly unfair. Three of them even got out of the union and became scabs. Some of the better-off firees had the money and paid off right away. I circulated a petition to get a year’s delay while we paid it off in monthly installments, and that’s what I did. But I was not able to get the other firees on that program. We never pulled together again.

I resolved then and there to join a reform movement, if there was one. And there soon was. Riding on the success of Tucker’s “new” tactic at Local 848, he launched the New Directions Movement and ran for Regional Director.

He won that election, but the International was able to keep it all tied up in court, so that Tucker was only able to serve about 1 year of his 3-year term of office.

Meanwhile at Local 848, the International provided an even bigger problem. When we elected officers, we expected our top leaders who had worked with Jerry Tucker to win, to ride their popularity into re-election.

I remember that one of the people who was most against Jerry Tucker’s fightback program ran for local union president right after the 1985 contract was settled. His son was on the Election Committee. A particularly nasty cartoon was circulated against Carroll Butler, the President who carried us through the big 1984-85 fight. I called up the printer to see who had created such a nasty and underhanded attack. The printer told me candidly that it was an International Rep!

The good guys won the election, but, acting on a complaint from the losing candidate’s son on the Election Committee, the UAW International ruled the election illegal and made us hold it over. When a local is forced to hold an election over, the incumbents look bad. President Butler held his office barely, but Chairman BJ Meeks lost. We were furious! My notes at one meeting read, “BJ says int’l forced this local into another election… ‘you have not seen people as vicious as this International!’”

New Directions supporters started holding meetings around the country. At Local 848, we held our meetings after the official union membership meeting. I attended them and, compulsive note taker that I am, kept a lot of notes. I also attended several national NDM meetings.

We had some terrific supporters. Paul Shrader, a close assistant of Walter Reuther’s, supported us. Film maker Michael Moore, fresh from his success with the satirical movie about the UAW, “Roger and Me,” gave us $1,000 and a very nice endorsement speech. Our really big gun was Victor Reuther. The Reuther Brothers were associated with some of the UAW’s biggest historic successes. People told me that Victor was “the best of them.” He certainly stepped up to help Local 848 and was totally committed to New Directions.

Victor made speeches at fund raisers for us. I was pleased to serve as Master of Ceremonies at one of them. Victor also made cheeseboards that we auctioned off to raise money.

A related historic event occurred in the period. The Canadian section of the UAW, carrying some of the same reform program as New Directions, split off and formed the Canadian Autoworkers Union. Victor infuriated the International by speaking at their first convention.

Jerry Tucker always referred to New Directions as “the real Reutherites,” even though the Administrative Caucus (UAW leadership) we were trying to defeat had been set up by Walter Reuther. It was hard to argue with Jerry Tucker when he had the only surviving Reuther brother standing right there with him!

New Directions had a very clear program and solutions to the major issues in the union movement: outsourcing, runaway plants, whipsawing, ”team concept,” new technology, democracy in the union, and giveaway contracts. NDM especially hammered on the idea of “one member, one vote.” As everyone knows, we won that in 2021 in a government-supervised election. I’m glad to get it, but I’d rather that the members had chosen it by voting for New Directions 30 years earlier.

I can’t claim to have been a leader of New Directions. I certainly wasn’t, but I played a role. I tried to line up an obscure UAW Local in the Southern Part of Dallas. It was a battery plant with maybe 50-60 workers. I took the union president out to Steak and Ale at my own expense. I gave him a sales pitch for change, but he voted with the Administrative Caucus.

At Local 848, I wrote and distributed our own New Directions pamphlet called “The Arrow.” I still have a few copies. Jerry Tucker put out a 3-fold pamphlet with parts of the NDM program on it. I have a few copies, including one devoted entirely to “one member one vote.”

At one national meeting, we discussed going all-out to reform the UAW. The argument was over whether or not to run Jerry Tucker for International President. I remember speaking strongly in favor. In fact, I think I made the motion nominating him. Maybe I just motivated for the motion. I remember saying that if Jerry was willing to take all the chances for our cause, why would any of us want to stand in the way?

WHY THEY WERE/ARE AFRAID OF THE UAW INTERNATIONAL

Even though we like to think about the UAW’s great history in organizing and standing up for all workers, especially workers “of color,” the main business, practically the only business, of local UAW officers after 1947 was contract negotiations and enforcement. The International, with their expert reps, lawyers, and top researchers, usually dominated.

For example, take the problem of terminations. When companies terminate a UAW member, we grieve it. Usually, the company forces us to grieve it all the way to arbitration. The professional UAW International Reps and the legal staff, experts that they are, handle most of those arbitrations. Without them, local union officers would feel pretty helpless, and companies would soon be firing anybody they wanted to, especially union officers!

The International UAW sat on top of union democracy, too. I have been told that professional union business agents/reps are not allowed to attend union conventions, but in the UAW they sit right at your table and watch every move you make. Or, worse, they stand behind you. International Reps tell the members when to make a motion, when to make a second, and when and how to vote. Anybody who steps out of line is carefully noted, and they can expect trouble during their next elections, negotiations or arbitrations.

I attended my first convention during the New Directions period. Our International Rep sat at Local 848’s table through the entire convention. BJ Meeks and others bravely voted their own convictions, but the intimidation was heavy. Years later, I attended another national convention, and the International Reps orchestrated literally everything that happened.

Have you ever heard of the Praetorian Guard? They were crack soldiers who were charged with guarding the Roman Emperor after democracy had disappeared. They did a great job. That’s how I see the legions of International Reps in the UAW.

So, one may very well ask, how did UAW active and retired members work up the courage to defy the UAW International and vote for “one-member-one-vote” in 2021? Because the government ran the election and gave us a secret ballot. Secret ballot!

NDM LOST

At the convention, Jerry Tucker failed to win the presidency. Our vote counters had expected it, but they were sure that we would win the directorship of Region 1 (mostly California). In an excruciating evening of hand-counting the votes, we lost that one, too. I took an historic picture of Victor and Sophie Ruther, glassy-eyed in defeat, as UAW President Owen Bieber announced the result.

The UAW then disbanded Region 1, so New Directions lost its strongest foothold. Anybody who had supported New Directions braced for the wrath of the UAW International, from Victor Reuther to the smallest.

As I was never in the circle of leadership, I don’t know what discussions and decisions came about, but I had a personal experience that pointed downward for me. Here’s how I remember it:

UAW Local 848 President Carroll Butler, the stalwart of our 1984-85 contract fight, one of the strongest supporters of New Directions, and I were standing on a hotel veranda looking out over San Diego. Out of the blue, he handed me two $100 bills. He told me to donate it at the next New Directions meeting. He wouldn’t be attending, he said, and he didn’t want anybody to know where the $200 came from.

In other words, one of our bravest and strongest men was disassociating from New Directions. That’s when I knew it was over. I kept trying, but the rigor mortis was already setting in. I still have a copy of a letter I wrote to Jerry Tucker dated October 29, 1992: “Dear Jerry. ND activities at Local 848 have stopped altogether.… Wish I had better news. In solidarity, Gene.” I didn’t get a reply.

END

**

SOME NOTES IN MY FILES. Folder dated 12/19/92 and titled “New Directions.”

3 copies of “The arrow.” I scanned one in Pictures/arrow1192.jpg

I scanned 4 photos: tucker-jerry, tucker-mrsjerry, reuther-victor,

I found a photo of Butler with Roy Kinney & Pancho. Another with Silva. They are in “pictures” now.

Copy of “The Arrow,” January 1991 //I wonder if that’s an error and it was 1992?// “Don’t blame Local 276!” about the whipsawing battle where GM in Arlington beat out Willow Run, Michigan. //I had completely forgotten that I wrote and published “The Arrow” to build New Directions in North Texas. It was a 1 page, letter sized, newsletter. Looks like my printer was a dot-matrix.//

Handwritten notes from 7/21/91 NDM meeting starting at 15:15. “There are 18 folks here.” “Dot goes to St Louis meeting next Thursday. Dick proposes that our cake sale money go to Dot for her expenses. Passes.” “Urges New Directions meeting at 2 on 3rd Sunday of August. Passes” 23 people here.

Handwritten notes from 8/18/91 “Joe Silva says agents in Local 148 are circulating an anti-Tucker leaflet that says Tucker negotiated a contract here that cut out overtime. Butler sent back a a letter pointing out that 1) we still have overtime 2) tucket didn’t negotiate it.” “BJ [Meeks] gives history of NDM: fightback at 848 was origin. Int’l made deals, agreed to give up COLA. Afterward, we decided int’l should be accountable, just as a local is… Not just Jerry Tucker… “Really what NDM is all about is fightback” –BJ Meeks.

“Dot reports on national coordinating meeting. Ken Fout of TDU, Ray Rogers [subject of movie Norma Rae], Dan LaBotz, Jane Slaughter all there helping to formulate ideas and experiences.”

“ND campaign platform 1) internal democratization & reform 2) collateral bargaining 3) organizing 4) pol action and relations with other unions 5) internationalism” “Vote was 14-3 in favor of a national candidate. 3 felt the movement had not come far enough along.” “Glen Plankett of Local 148 reports that they want no less than 7 days to review contract.”

“Nov 2nd in Detroit will be national meeting of ND” “Ralph says we must stop automatically endorsing democrats. Says reactionary Republican Dick Armey is the best rep he ever had.” “BJ mentions possibility of getting Arrow out through interplant mail.” (never happened)

Copy of “The Arrow”: October 1991 “Local 848 getting ready to win” includes a short article “New Directions national conference. UAW members are invited to attend the 3rd Annual National Conference of the New Directions Movement in Detroit November 1-3. “The discussion going on in the New Directions Movement is designed to reverse the general downward trend in strength of our international union. NDM has proposed positive solutions to problems of outsourcing, runaway plants, whipsawing, team concept, new technology, democracy in the union, and giveaway contracts. Registration for the conference is $35 per person. Hotel reservations have been arranged for $39 per night. Air fares are cheaper when reservations are made as early as possible. For more information call (3140 531-2900 (NDM office).”

Copy of “The Arrow,” November 1991 Headlines: “The Race is On! New Directions will challenge International in 1992!” It advertises a ND meeting at 848 on Nov 17 “after the membership meeting.” “Checks should be made to ‘New Directions’ and sent to PO Box 6876, St Louis, Missouri, 63144” //I could scan this//

Copy of “The Arrow”: May 1992 Calls for a May 17 NDM meeting on May 17 “after the union meeting.” Includes a call from Jerry Tucker to support 13,000 Caterpillar workers who had struck through the winter.

Excerpt from “A Troublemakers Handbook” named “Inside Strategies” The story of contract victories the UAW leadership does not want told.” Reprinted by New Directions Educational Fund. There are some quotes from Jerry Tucker. There are a lot of quotes from Joe Silva, who was always carried away with his fantasy version of what was really happening. It paints a much rosier picture of the struggle. In this version, everything we did worked great. In reality, it was a lot harder.

Inside strategies, in this version, were first developed by Tucker at Moog, then at Schweitzer and Bell Helicopter before it was successful at LTV.

A NDM three-fold leaflet. UAW a “one-party state.” “Steelworkers, Mineworkers, Mailhandlers, and now even the Teamsters have one-person, one-vote elections for national officials. Why not the UAW?”

Another 3-fold leaflet. This one has a quote from Vic: “Our union is drifting aimlessly. No longer democratic. Trapped in the corporate agenda. Unwilling to fight for our members today. The UAW needs new policies and new leadership. Through the fight for true democratic voting rights at the rank and file level, and for a true vision of a new direction, we can fulfill our historic destiny and restore real accountability and solidarity.” Signed “Victor Reuther, UAW Co-Founder”

This leaflet is all about “one person one vote.”

Three lightly printed sheets showing contributions to NDM from Elaine and me. Includes our $5/month contributions and my record on button sales.

Very lightly printed letter dated 10/29/92 from me to Jerry Tucker. “Dear Jerry. ND activities at Local 848 have stopped altogether. …one page single spaced… Wish I had better news. In solidarity, Gene”