Tag Archives: FBI

There are probably two reasons for Americans to not be afraid of their government.


One of them is that they are just good, clean, honest people who can’t find it in their heart to think ill of others. The other is that they probably just never did much of anything.

Those who have stepped, even a tiny toe, outside the ring of expected behavior have probably been spied on and  recorded at the least. They may have also been intimidated, smeared, fired from their jobs, blacklisted, beaten, shot, and/or murdered.

Our government, local and national, has been doing those things all along.

Book review: Bud Schultz and Ruth Schultz, editors, “The Price of Dissent. Testimonies to Political Repression in America.” University of California Press, 2001.

The book is a collection of original testimony from people who stepped outside the ring and found Big Brother waiting there. It also mentions things that happened in earlier times, such as the wholesale murders, whippings, arrests, deportations, and illegal persecution of labor activists throughout American history. The chapter titled “The Unrelenting Campaign against the Industrial Workers of the World” is especially enlightening.

The first hand explanations from activists of the 1950s-1980s, though, aren’t just history lessons. They are up close and personal, hard hitting and sometimes a little difficult to read. Witnesses to the Black Panthers murdered in Chicago, the students shot down at Kent State, and civil rights victims of murder and mayhem in the American South are especially effective. I don’t know why they left out the time that the Houston police fired 1,000 bullets into the dormitory at Texas Southern University and the police sniper who killed Carl Hampton a few blocks away, but I guess there were just too many episodes to fit into one book.

Texas isn’t left out completely, because they interviewed my good friends Jose Rinaldi and Linda Hajek about the FBI agent in our Dallas CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) anti-war group. Agent Frank Varelli was commissioned by the Dallas FBI to do nasty things to our friendly little group of peaceniks. Among the horrors he committed was informing the murderous death squads in El Salvador about the names and arrival dates of deported Salvadorans and visiting Americans from here.

He told us his name was Gilberto Mendoza, and he gushed gratitude to our group for standing up for Central Americans. As I remember it, he gushed that over and over again, every time he showed up. I got tired of him and thought he was an idiot, but I didn’t spot him as an agent. In fact, I interviewed him for The Hard Times News. I never look for agents, I just ask everybody I know to do a lot of work. Agents never want to do any actual work.

In 1987, the Dallas FBI got behind on Varelli’s paychecks. To pressure them, he went to the Dallas Morning News, and they ran a full front-page expose! I think Varelli liked the notoriety, because the next thing you know he came to one of our meetings, without his Mendoza disguise, and explained the entire thing!

Varelli did ugly things, and most of the folks were shocked. I wasn’t, because I had already participated in an ACLU lawsuit against the Houston police and a national lawsuit against the Justice Department. I wanted to sue the pants off the FBI over Varelli, but was outvoted.

Our government does ugly ugly things and always has, but they always say, as the book shows, every time they get caught, that they won’t do it any more.

–Gene Lantz

Hear “Workers Beat” on 89.3FM in Dallas and everywhere every Saturday at 9 central time. If you want to know what I really think, click here.

I’m about to celebrate 50 years in the progressive movement.


When I began, we still had Ku Klux Klan trying to attack our activities. We had federal agents around all the time. Some of our own people were the most dangerous of all.

Lookout! Times are Changing!

We are entering upon times unlike those with which we have had experience. We’re about to inaugurate the most anti-worker, pro-corporation government of our lifetimes. It is likely that democracy is their enemy and violence a close friend.
The progressive movement needs to think our actions through. We can’t just throw together a mob on the street and call it a picket line. We need trained marshals with clear marking, we need legal (ACLU) observers, we need written rules for our street actions. Above all, we need responsible leadership and careful planning.
We have all studied, or at least seen in movies or TV, when fascists and communists battled in the streets of Germany. Note that the fascists, being better equipped and organized, won. After they took state power, the street fights became executions.

Who Is Out to Ruin the Progressive Movement?

The opposition has a great deal of money and can hire all kinds of agents to oppose the progressive movement. Informants, spies, agents, and provocateurs are cheap for them. They may or may not organize street fighters, because they don’t necessarily need them, but the reactionary interventions of one kind and another are certain.
In my period of activism, agents primarily had two goals: gathering information and looking for ways to discredit groups and activities. I always found that cameras were the best defense against them — they’re deathly afraid of exposure! I once had the pleasure of chasing an agent all over inside a bank that we were picketing. He finally got a local cop to stop my trying to take his picture. We never saw him again.
The other “best defense” for an organization is to do a lot of work. Agents want to be involved  in discussions, but they don’t like to work.

It is Insufficient to Fight…

As long as an organization stays on the “peaceful and legal” side, they don’t have to worry as much about agents as they have to worry about some of their own enthusiastic members. “Ultraleft” activists are people who have more courage than brains. They don’t necessarily care about accomplishing anything as long as they put on a great show or have a really wonderful time. Some of them are agents seeking to discredit a group, but most of them are just idiots.
I quote Trotsky at them, “It is insufficient to fight, Comrades,” Leon Trotsky said, “It is also necessary to win!”

National Leadership Is Needed

I greatly admire all the spontaneous outbursts of local activities since November 8. But the coming storm is a national problem that needs national leadership and coordination.  Local groups would be wise to work more on coordination and planning than knee jerk activism.
It’s a little bit embarrassing today to see every group going this way and that, all of them asking everybody else and each other for money, none of them with a plan. We can do better.
It seems to me that everybody is going every whichaway. While I consider that a whole lot better than periods when nobody does anything, it’s also kind of a mess and a little bit perilous. I would have a liked it a lot better if national AFL-CIO had come out with some guidelines — but so far they haven’t. I’m giving them more time, because unions work slowly.
One thing I’m hoping is that the Jan 16 MLK events will tend to shake out the leadership tangle and give us a better idea of how to create a responsible movement. Meantime, I intend to encourage activism — but I also intend to encourage thinking!
I’m on “Workers Beat” radio 89.3FM in Dallas and everywhere each Saturday at 9AM Central Time. If you’re interested in what I really think, click here.