Tag Archives: social progress

What I do might be called whining or griping, but I call it asking. I go around telling people that we are in the middle of the biggest worker upsurge in American history, but that our effectiveness is limited by our chronic failure to come together. I ask people what we should do about it.


Nobody seems to know the whole answer but, during the past weekend, I received some good tips. The College of Complexes, a weekly “free speech” forum, let me speak on the history of labor upsurges compared to the present day. I said that American labor was stronger today than ever in history. I also said that significant improvement in our society would result if we manage to pull together. Eventually, they will post the whole evening on their Youtube channel: They already have me several times from earlier appearances.

In the discussion, some of the best ideas came from the anti-worker section. One of them denounced socialism in general and me in particular, but he said that what we really need is total organization at the grass roots level, then a takeover of the corrupt American government. I applauded that as absolutely brilliant.

Another speaker was not pleased with anything I said, but he believed that American involvement in the Middle East was a “big crime.” He said that strong anti-trust legislation is needed. He said that the problem is that we are being ruled by an unscrupulous elite that dominates both major political parties. He added that energy companies could not be trusted and that the corporate news media has betrayed us. I couldn’t have said it better!

A couple of the speakers lauded President Trump and said that I should be supporting him. I agreed that I would be prone to vote for him if the delivered on his promise of $1 trillion on infrastructure improvements. I also said I’d promote him for the Nobel Peace Prize, as several right-wing Republicans are doing, if he brought all American troops back home.

On social media, I’ve been complaining that there were two separate MayDay picnics with, as far as I could tell, no effort to pull together. I also lamented that there were seven different public actions against the NRA convention in Dallas May 4-6. A rational voice responded that I’m probably over-reacting and that, sometimes, there are good reasons to avoid working with some groups and individuals.

I fall back on the best answer I’ve had since I started asking these questions on January 21, 2016. “Leadership will come out of the movement.” That was from my friend and radio guest, Kenneth Williams.


My own advice is this: “Keep Asking!”

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday. Podcasts are available from the “events” tab. If you want to know what I really think, see my personal web site

Everybody should read “Runaway Inequality” by Les Leopold. Don’t wait for somebody from the Communications Workers of America to invite you to one of their classes on it.


Some of the best stuff is in the beginning. The forward is by Chris Shelton, President of the CWA. The middle parts of the book are mostly statistics about how inequality rose after America selected a new business friendly government policy in 1980. The other really great stuff is near the end

I particularly like Chapter 22: “When unions decline, inequality soars and we all lose.” On page 288 Leopold says, “Wealth inequality and unionization levels are intertwined.” You probably knew that but it’s good to see it in print.

What happened?

Then he goes into the reasons for the great union decline from its heady power of 1946, when Americans won strikes more than ever before or since. Leopold apparently doesn’t have the nerve to say it outright, but he lists, in a dispassionate way, several “theories” about how union leadership could have done better. I’ll shorten them and make them more blunt:

  • The decline started in 1947 when unions cooperated with the anti-communist witch hunt and expelled some of their best leaders.
  • Unions shouldn’t have worked closely with the CIA
  • The merger of the AFL and the CIO didn’t work out for the members
  • Unions shouldn’t have supported the War in Vietnam
  • Unions became bureaucratic and undemocratic
  • All unions haven’t learned community organizing techniques
  • Unions aren’t linking up with unions in other countries

Even though Leopold didn’t really commit to it, I thought it was a pretty good list. It probably should have included something about how unions largely ignored and still ignore the civil rights movement, but it’s still a pretty good list.

Right after the list, the author gives the underlying reason for all the problems: “Unions and the rest of us are on the losing side of a gigantic class war — a war that we have to recognize, discuss and address if unions are to grow again.”

In other words, we can list the things union leaders did wrong all we want, but the underlying reason for the decline was aggressive anti-worker policies of the boss class. Even if we’d had the best leadership in the world 1947-1995, it would have been very very hard to withstand the combination of government/boss aggression and the post war “good time” prosperity that allowed opportunist labor leaders to get pretty good contracts for their members — while slowly sinking into isolation from everybody else.

By 1979, unionized American workers were the envy of the world, even though our numbers were dwindling fast. In 1980, the party was over. I don’t think many union leaders figured it out, and some of them still haven’t. They still expect the bosses to act “reasonably.”

The essence of the problem

What it boils down to is this: From 1947 to 1995, the bosses were able to isolate the organized sector of the American working class from the rest of us. I picked this up from an earlier book by a prof in California named Lipschitz, “Rainbow at Midnight,” and from talking to people who lived through it. The new book, with CWA backing, will force unionists to look at the problem and see what we did wrong. Even if it did nothing else, the book would be worth the $20.

But Les Leopold actually does a lot more in “Runaway Inequality.” He makes serious suggestions as to how we can turn the situation around and return to the kind of militant union progressivism that succeeded for the CIO 1935-1947. The progressive leadership of the AFL-CIO, 1995 to present, can and probably will implement these ideas.

I can’t wait!

–Gene Lantz

Click here for more of these ideas