Tag Archives: history

Across the world and at home, we are learning how to improve our societies. At a breakfast meeting Sunday, November 17, we discussed the present situation and went over some of the lessons of the past.

The United States had more workers on strike in 2018 than in any year since the crackdown against the working class began in the 1970s. Working families in Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Iraq, Iran, Spain, and Greece and other nations are holding massive protests. The progressive movement is far broader, that is that more disparate individuals and groups are practicing solidarity, than in recent history.

How do we make sense of it all and decide which of the many opportunities most merit our resources? We posed some interesting questions that, for most of us, are not easy to answer:

  • Why are there so many arguments in the progressive movement? What are some of the major divisions in the progressive movement today?
  • What is happening in Bolivia? In Hong Kong?
  • Are all the world’s protesters working toward similar goals?
  • Would you defend the right of the Ku Klux Klan to recruit members in public places?
  • Would you defend the right of American armed forces to recruit members in public places?
  • Would you defend the right of ISIS, Middle Eastern religious fighters, to recruit members in public places?
  • Would you defend the right of your local police department to recruit members in public places?
  • Would you urge police associations to join organized labor federations?
  • Does America really need a revolution?

Will revolutionaries be elected into power?

Were the Bolsheviks correct in taking power in 1917, or has history shown that the Menshevik gradualists had a better understanding of their situation?

One would like to think that all progressive activists would agree, even on difficult questions. But the truth is that arguments have always racked and divided the movement. Our group tried looking at the time-tested ideas of great thinkers of the past. We were looking for guidelines, not specific directions.

For guidelines and to initiate discussion, we used the automated learning modules in the “ABC” section of the Little School at I am its author. So far, we’ve looked at the first nine lessons. The next one will be on trade unions. Some people finish a module in five minutes.

Here are some of the main points we’ve discussed so far:

  • Activists need to study in order to become more unified and effective
  • Almost everything we have been taught has been filtered by reactionaries
  • Of the two main branches of philosophy, idealism and materialism, materialism is the best guide
  • In general and in the long view, the human condition has improved
  • People’s views are strongly affected by their station in society
  • Different classes of people have strongly divergent views
  • Everything, including societies, is constantly changing

We plan to get together again on the morning of December 1. Let me know if you’re interested


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

I urge all progressives to fight reactionaries on every front, but the main one is going to be the battle to save basic democracy in America.


Simple logic:

  1. The idea that Trump’s policies are going to make life better for Americans is laughable
  2. Given the present system of American politics, the Republicans will not maintain power through the 2018 mid-term elections
  3. They know it
  4. The only way for the anti-worker forces to maintain power is by scrapping democracy
  5. Therefore, progressives must fight for basic democracy now

Will Trump Improve Life for Americans?

Economist Josh Bivens has a good summary of expected Trump policies on line. It doesn’t look good.

Mr. Hitler made immediate improvements in the German economy by massive infrastructure programs and by going to war. Will Mr Trump be able to do the same?

The U.S. Congress has blocked infrastructure programs all the way through the Obama Administration, even though they would have greatly shortened the long recession. It is unlikely that they would allow Mr Trump to implement anything good along those lines, because their main commitment is to the barons of finance, not construction businesses and certainly not to the American workers. Actually, I’d love to be proven wrong on this.

Mr Hitler had tremendous early successes in his war-making, but that was largely because the Great Powers did nothing to rein him in. They thought he would put an end to communism before he struck at any major capitalist countries. It is doubtful that Mr Trump will be able to use war to improve the American economy in any meaningful sense, and it is unlikely that he will receive cooperation from the other major capitalist countries in whatever adventures he undertakes.

The world wars that resulted from the economic crises of the 20th century are not considered available as a “solution” to economic and political crisis today, because of the imminent destruction of the planet.

Capitalist economies have always suffered from phases of “ups” and “downs.” “Down” is already overdue after the long recovery during the Obama Administration. The current expectation of new “tight money” policies, combined with Mr Trump’s new tax cuts for the rich and deregulation policies will create an immediate and painful crisis for working people.

Hard Times Will Likely Dominate the Mid-Term Elections

If one assumes that our American levels of partial democracy continue, it is unlikely that the party in power will fare well in 2018. In fact, the party in power usually does very poorly in mid-term elections.

None of this is a secret, neither to progressives nor to reactionaries.

What Can We Expect about Democracy?

Since around 1980, American democracy has already taken hard knocks at the hands of Republicans. Unions were assailed in every imaginable way. The Voting Rights Act was gutted, big money was sanctified by the Supreme Court, Republican redistricting largely overcame the popular vote, and voter suppression schemes were put into effect all over the nation.

The Obama Administration fought to maintain democracy, but does anyone think the Trump Administration will? If Mr Trump were to make outlandish anti-democratic Executive Orders, for example, who in government would oppose him? Not the legislative branch that is already in the hands of Republicans, and not the judiciary which will return to a reactionary anti-worker majority as soon as Mr Trump makes his first appointment.

Mr Hitler, it is often pointed out, won an election without winning the popular vote. How did he stay in power? How will today’s reactionaries try to stay in power?

Get ready to organize and fight!

–Gene Lantz

Listen to “Workers Beat” at 9 CST every Saturday morning on 89.3FM and

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

In a casual discussion group I participate in, somebody asked, “Where are we in the swing of the historical pendulum? Are we close to revolution?”


I didn’t try to answer at all, because I couldn’t deal with the way the question was framed. There is no “historical pendulum.” It’s common to believe that history just swings back and forth or goes around in circles, but it doesn’t. The general movement of history is forward and progressive. We aren’t savages any more, most of us, and we aren’t serfs nor slaves. Over the centuries, progress is being made.

But later, I wished I had answered the question, because my analysis may seem unusual to some people: Revolution in the United States and in most of the world may be just around the corner!

Doom and Gloom

OK, there are a lot of naysayers and former radicals among us today. The implosion of the Soviet Union hit hard. The rapid change in Eastern Europe devastated some folks, and the difficulties they’re having in Venezuela and Brazil today are squeezing the optimism away. Add to that the tremendous success that dark money has enjoyed in turning our American democracy backward during the last 4 decades. It’s enough to get some people down. Some people. But they aren’t taking the long view.

The Long View Looks Great!

What are the requirements for a qualitatively better society? A well informed and well organized public with leadership from among the workers. We have that, more than ever!

Nowadays, I am in awe of the millennials. They grew up understanding more about using new technology than I will ever learn. Technology extends their knowledge and their capabilities.

The millennials also grew up without all the anticommunism that crippled the thinking of my generation. When I was young, we were afraid to even look to the left, much less think in that direction. The Bernie campaign has made “capitalism” and “socialism” everyday words. People are thinking thoughts that used to be taboo.

Today’s young people have the entire world at their fingertips. Most of my generation would never have left home if it hadn’t been for the military draft.

Don’t Overlook the Unions

Unions are the organized sector of the working class. It’s true that there aren’t as many union members per capita as there were in 1957, but that’s misleading. One worker today is doing the work of 4 pre-war workers. And he/she is likely to be highly skilled and hard to replace. Workers are just as central to the progressive movement as they were in Russia in 1917 and every year since! Nobody else can stand up to the bosses eyeball to eyeball, but workers can!

Older people think that the 1960s and 1970s were the revolutionary times. Long hair and marijuana do not a revolution make! Ask them how much union support they enjoyed in their anti-war marches, their feminist causes, their environmental rallies, or anything they look back on with smug satisfaction of revolutionary activity. Unions barely participated in those days, but things have turned around now. It’s hard to find a street action that isn’t supported by AFL-CIO members. In fact, they originate a lot of them!

Furthermore, it is now possible for everybody to work with America’s unions. From 1947 to 1995, that was impossible. The unions in the post war years grew more and more isolated, but today they are reaching out with both arms!

Communications Are Already Revolutionized

There were a number of revolutions in the 20th century. They did it with clandestine meetings, secret leaflets, and a tiny few underground newspapers. One person might “spread the word” to a few dozen on a very good day. Today, we can reach thousands, maybe tens of thousands, without leaving home!

The possibilities are amazing!

–Gene Lantz

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