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Is the history of human progress a story about losers?

I am enjoying a book, “American Dreamers” by historian Michael Kazin. He describes the “leftists” of American history. For each of them, Kazin adds in the reasons that they didn’t succeed. The Industrial Workers of the World were too radical, the People’s Party wasn’t radical enough, etc.

I can see why a historian would think we’re all losers. After all, none of us ever became President of the United States, and lots of us, like Frank Little, were lynched.

What’s a Leftist Anyway?

I’ve never cared much for terms like “leftists” or “right-wing” or “conservative” or “liberal.” They’re not very clear. I prefer “progressives” for people who want to see the human race better off and “reactionaries” for those who would like to see our conditions worsen. But I’ll admit before God and Mr Kazin that we progressives never achieved a perfect world, nor even one that could be called socialism in stability.

What’s a Success?

I wrote a song about George Meyers once. It’s somewhere on Youtube I think. Meyers was a lifelong American Communist. He had a quirky slanted smile that pretty well took over his face most of the time. I never knew anyone happier than George Meyers.

And yet, he had been reduced from being a top union leader and someone who hobnobbed with the best of history. He had been a top officer of one of the most powerful and respected communist parties in the world. They had tens of thousands of members. But nearly all of that was taken away by the witch hunt before I met him.

He’d spent years in prison. When I knew him he was old and scraping by on almost no income. His health wasn’t so great. I never knew anyone happier.

My song said, “They never stopped his smiling/ no matter how they tried/ because in his heart he always knew/ he was on the winning side.

In my fifty years of progressive activism, I’ve known a lot of old-timers like George Meyers who were still in the struggle, and I never knew a happier bunch of people. It seems to me that they enjoy better health and live longer than other seniors who aren’t doing anything socially worthwhile.

Success isn’t achievement. Ask Alexander the Great, who wept after he conquered the entire world. Success is feeling good about yourself every day. We progressives, we have that down!

 

A caller on my radio show on KNON.org at 9AM this Saturday morning paid us a great compliment.

me-bonniemathias

Bonnie Mathias and I are on knon.org, 89.3FM, every Saturday at 9AM Central Time

He said that we were passing on worthwhile knowledge, just a little drop at a time. He compared the “drip drip drip” of our contribution to water eroding away a big hard rock of ignorance.

The “Workers Beat” program has been on KNON since it started in Dallas 30 or so years ago as a part of the ACORN community organizing group. When it had to go independent, and even after the government cut all funding for community talk radio, KNON managed to keep “Workers Beat” on the air.

It is one of three pro-labor radio shows in the entire southern half of the United States! As I put on the KNON web site, “Almost everything you see and hear comes from the bosses, or was approved by them. Employees don’t control the movies, the book publishers, TV, or the radio stations. Bosses do. The outlook and opinions of the bosses are expressed, everywhere and all the time. The outlook and opinions of workers get almost no expression. KNON “Workers Beat” talk show is an exception.”

Should We be Proud?

I guess that Bonnie Mathias and I can be proud that we prepare for the program and show up every Saturday without getting paid, but we can’t take credit for the wisdom in today’s caller’s compliment. The truth is that we don’t say a lot. KNON wants us to run an open mike talk show, not spout off our own opinions.

Even though today’s topic was the way that the City of Dallas is joining in the international game of sacrificing the right to retire, and even though I have very strong feelings about our losing the right to retire, I didn’t actually say “Vote NO on Proposition One on the Dallas ballot.” I just outlined what Proposition One would do and asked the radio audience for their opinions.

Callers were against Proposition One, by the way.

But the point is that the wisdom that working people get from the “Workers Beat” radio program isn’t coming from the hosts. It’s coming from the workers themselves! KNON just provides the forum, and working people call in, each with their own wise observations. Their observations are the “drip drip drip” of knowledge that is eroding away the rock of mass ignorance.

We’re just proud we could help!

–Gene Lantz

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