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“It had nothing to do with the wall!” Kenneth Williams explained the recent 35-day government shutdown to the Dallas Chapter of Texas Alliance for Retired Americans meeting on February 6. Williams is a political activist from Rowlett, near Dallas. President George Nolan put Williams on the agenda first.




Kenneth Williams
explained the shutdown

The tipoff, Williams explained, was that Mr Trump had two years in which his party controlled both houses of Congress, yet he didn’t take such drastic action to get his wall. He didn’t do it until the Democrats won the House of Representatives. Williams asked, “If they really wanted money for the wall, why didn’t they do it when they had control of Congress?”

The real reason that Trump provoked the shutdown was to usurp power from Congress. Williams said that Trump was thinking, “We must do something to put them in their place.” But, Williams said, “They underestimated the unity of the Democrats in opposing them.”

Another lesson we learned from the shutdown is that so-called “middle income” job holders don’t have money in reserve. They live paycheck-to-paycheck. The shutdown put a terrible hardship on government employees and contractors. The contractors may never recover.

Will Trump provoke another shutdown? Williams thinks not, because the entire Republican party is not crazy. They know that they lost power and influence and they don’t want any more of it. Williams said, “The Republican Senators are terrified of going through this again.”

One of the activists asked, “How is Trump going to get out of this corner?” Kenneth Williams answered, “He is not going to get out of the corner… he will make up some facts.”

Other retiree activists at the meeting agreed with Williams. Some of them had even stronger statements.

Retiree Meetings Aren’t Just Social Events

The two-hour meeting covered a lot of analysis of the situation confronting retirees followed by recommendations as to how to fight back. Fernando Rojas gave announcements from Senior Source, the local dispenser of government help for retirees. Alliance Field Organizer Judy Bryant went over pending state and federal legislation affecting how retirees live.

Bryant then went on to organize delegations to local congresspersons, voter registration, and other ways that retirees may influence decision makers.

Are we stuck with the Donald or can progress still happen in America?

me-copeguitar

Check out my new song: https://youtu.be/_MVyGYFCgz4

If you’ll sing along, here is the latest version:

We’re plowing for progress but we’ve hit a stump

We lost our Obama and got Donald Trump

He holds up our plowing, no goals can be reached

We’ll do so much better when he gets impeached

We’ll sing, So long Donald, it’s been good to know you

So long, it’s been good to know you

So long, it’s been good to know you

You’re going backward but we’re going on

And we’ve got to be moving along

The big man in Congress, his name is Paul Ryan

He don’t care who’s hurting, he don’t care who’s dying

He prisses and prances across Congress’ floor

But pretty soon he will dance out the door

We’ll sing, So long Ryan, it’s been good to know you

So long, it’s been good to know you

So long, it’s been good to know you

You’re going backward but we’re going on

And we’ve got to be moving along

They can’t stand the truth now, they’re just blowing smoke

The worst of the liars are both brothers Koch

Just sing this song now and please heed the call

We’ll get to work and get rid of them all

We’ll sing, So long Kochs, it’s been good to know you

So long, it’s been good to know you

So long, it’s been good to know you

You’re going backward but we’re going on

And we’ve got to be moving along

##################

I have an unshakable confidence that people will figure out what is going on and act responsibly. My argument is this:

  • I figured it out
  • I’m not so smart (I know, I’ve been tested)
  • Everybody else is at least as smart as I am
  • Therefore, everybody else will figure it out

I also think that we are suffocating in a capitalist-created culture. Even though we may not be the best singers or the most clever poets, we should treasure a culture that is our own. That’s why I’m always trying to get you to sing.

It’s also why I continue volunteering at KNON radio 89.3 FM and http://knon.org every Saturday at 9AM

–Gene Lantz

The New York Times published a long liberal’s lament on the situation in France:

SundayReview | OP-ED COLUMNIST

France in the End of Days

Marine Le Pen’s road to victory is clear enough.
Can a pragmatist stop the extreme right?

I’ve been investigating the various strategies for dealing with the upcoming Trump government.

williamskennethmlk

Rowlett activist Kenneth Williams

The best was the simplest: “Get active, because leadership will emerge from the struggle!” Kenneth Williams said that on my radio show, “Workers Beat” Saturday at 9.

Another guest on the show, historian Max Krochmal who was talking about his new book, Blue Texas,  offered a lot of encouragement when he pointed out that Texans have organized successfully under much more difficult circumstances than we face today.

Here’s what Franklin Delano Roosevelt advised in the depths of the Great Depression, “Do something. If it turns out to be wrong, do something else. But, above all, do something!”

Several Strategies Are Being Offered

So far, I’ve had opportunities to check out strategies offered by the Communications Workers of America, Our Revolution, Indivisible, Democratic Socialists of America, Communist Party USA, and just about everybody I know. I like all of them and none.

A Union Idea

The CWA held a webinar on the topic of the upcoming Senate confirmations of Mr Trump’s cabinet nominees. They explained how terrible they are, of course, but we knew that. Their idea is to get the Democrats to delay the confirmation while we use our union networks, social media, and informal communications to rouse the population. In the short term, it sounded pretty good.

The Bernie Sandinistas

For over the weekend of January 7, I sat through about 7 hours of education, planning, and organization with Our Revolution in Dallas. I missed the first 5 hours. I was a little bit surprised to hear them talking almost exclusively about winning elections and conducting successful lobbying campaigns. Only one person mentioned street actions, and I actually had whispered the idea to him before he spoke.

I don’t think it’s because they were excluding street actions, I think it’s because lobbying and election work are what originally brought them together and, for many of these young activists, it’s the only kind of political work they’ve ever had.

At the end of the second day, I asked if I could make a proposal. I proposed that we support activities around the coming MLK birthday. It passed unanimously, enthusiastically, and with no discussion. Then they went right back to talking about elections and lobbying.

The Bernie people, where I live, are the largest, youngest, and most optimistic group in local politics. I was delighted to see them setting up a regional structure and electing officers. I understand that we’re going to be something of a model for organizing Our Revolution nationwide. I have high hopes.

“Indivisible” Plans to Copy the Tea Party

I saw some of this on Rachel Madow, and there were two guys at the Our Revolution meeting promoting a pamphlet and web page called “Indivisible.” It is apparently made up of former congressional staffers who had firsthand experience with the obstructionist tactics of the Tea Party during the Obama years. They recommend that Democrats do the same thing to Mr Trump.

One of the presenters said, “If we want to preserve what we are used to, our top priority needs to be… Use obstruction and delay to minimize the damage that we know is coming.” He explained that the one thing the Tea Party had going for them was the fact that they were organized.

One could drive a truck through the hole in this argument: Tea Party success came from their access to big money, not their organizational genius.

Our role in this strategy is to lobby the Democrats to get them to act like Tea Partiers. I’d  say it’s a whole lot better than doing nothing.

Democratic Socialists Are Fired Up

The Democratic Socialists of America, an offshoot from the old Socialist Party during the Vietnam War, have always wanted to take over the Democratic Party. They still do. Bernie Sanders got them close in 2016, so they are growing in numbers and enthusiasm today. If Bernie’s, and labor’s, candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison, gets the job, it will add even more credibility to this venerable political strategy.

Meanwhile, DSA activists are moving faster and with more certainty than just about anybody. Whether or not one agrees, long term, that the Democratic Party is going to transform into a working people’s party, anybody who craves action would do well to follow DSA.

Communist Party, USA Has Been Changing

I read a series of articles on People’s World, which is “sort of” associated with CPUSA, and sort of not. The writer recommended fighting the Trump government on all fronts and with all strategies. That makes a tremendous amount of sense, but doesn’t winnow down the opportunities very much. If you recommend everything, is it very much different from recommending nothing?

But CPUSA and its worldwide network justly claim to have more experience fighting fascism than anybody. Their basic text, Dmitrov’s “Against War and Fascism,” is the best exposition of what fascism is and how to put together a united front against it. Those are lessons from the 1930s, of course, and not directly applicable to today. I don’t think CPUSA thinks fascism has come to America, but they point out that there are certainly trends in that direction.

Historically, the communists would have put a lot more emphasis on workers and the working class. They would have had a clear aim of eventually taking power through class struggle. Nowadays, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between them and the larger, more socially acceptable, less red-baited, legitimized-by-Bernie, DSA. Both of them say what Kenneth Williams said at the beginning of this article: “get busy!”

My Two Cents

I’ve been thinking through this strategy thing a lot. It’s the reason I started this blog.

I think there are things missing from all of the suggestions above. They don’t start with a solid analysis of what’s wrong, they are basically short-term solutions, and they tend to pine for the “good old days.”

What’s actually wrong is that American capitalism is at the end of its rope. It can’t deliver the goods any more, hasn’t been able to for some time. It isn’t fascist yet, but it’s going that way and the only thing that can stop the process is you and me.

The good old days weren’t that good, and nobody but nobody wants to go back to them. Americans want to go ahead to something better and they won’t settle for anything less.

Voters haven’t turned racist or backward, they’re just desperate. A lot of them voted for Trump for the same reason they voted for Obama — anything other than what we have!

As I said in an earlier article, there are no long term solutions for those of us caught in this system.

That’s why we need long-term plans for fundamental change. The goals are in Bernie’s book — things like free education, decent health care, democracy, and all the many fine things he explained so well. I think Bernie has set the goals very well, the argument should be over how to achieve them. For that, we have to organize everybody, and we organize through successful struggles.

Each of us need to adopt long term goals like those Bernie set down. We need to recognize that elections and lobbying are not the only way to struggle and that, in fact, real change is more likely to come from organized economic activity than from generous politicians. That means that fundamental fights over economic benefits weigh more heavily than purely social questions. It means that workplace organizations mean more than idealistic social groupings.

We have to analyze our own resources and opportunities so we can pick the struggles we join, even if we have to skip some of them.

Then we have to get busy and organize. Leadership will emerge from struggle.

–Gene Lantz

KNON hasn’t fired me yet, so I’m still on the radio at 9 AM every Saturday. 89.3FM and knon.org. If you are curious about what I really think, click here.

We can better understand the system we live in by taking a long historical view.

rottenapple

Our economic and government system, while a great improvement over its predecessors, rotted to its core by early in the last century.

After that time, there were no solutions for the society as a whole. There were, however, solutions for certain wealthy people.

World War I and World War II, although they cost millions of workers’ lives and reversed a great deal of progress, turned out pretty good for the wealthy people of the United States. They enjoyed a prosperous, though temporary, period after each successful war. The people in the nations that lost suffered terribly, of course, but as I said, there were solutions for certain wealthy people after the 20th century began.

That so-called “solution,” world war, isn’t available to them any more because of nuclear proliferation.

Some time during the 1970s, the “American Century” of post war prosperity began to wane. Working Americans haven’t done particularly well since then, and have in fact begun to slide backward. The temporary economic “solutions” worked only for the very wealthy, and they continue that way today. Some people call this a crisis of capitalism.

The Crisis is Natural

If an economic system has to sell its products for more than they cost, and if the workers of a given nation do not have the resources to pay, then the products have to be sold somewhere else. The wealthy owners have to compete for that “somewhere else.” Since the 1970s, the wealthy owners of the United States have stopped winning that competition. It shows in all the statistics. Their only way to beat out their competitors is to reduce the wages, benefits, and social benefits of poorer people. That’s what they have been doing and what they continue to do.

Deregulation, Privatization, Corporate Welfare and Outsourcing are Necessary Props

To prop up the wealthy, to provide a “solution” for the wealthy (not for us), they cause their government to deregulate their businesses, privatize the socially-owned sector, hand out tax breaks and outright gifts to corporations, and outsource work to countries where wages and environmental regulations are more advantageous to them.

It’s Temporary

Even though the wealthy people are able to get their government to cooperate in their economic “solutions,” the results are only temporary, because the wealthy people in other countries are doing the same thing. It’s a competition usually, nowadays, called, “the race to the bottom.” That’s what we call it. They probably call it “good business.”

Things get temporarily better for the wealthy class while everybody else suffers.

Comes the Trump Government

President-elect Donald J Trump will accelerate all of the “solutions” listed above, solutions only for the wealthy and not for us, and they will be, if anything, temporary fixes. The crisis will continue, there is no way to turn it around because the international competition will still be there.

No matter what reforms we may attempt, the overall competitive system will remain rotten and will continue to get rottener.

We need a new system.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on knon.org and 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday. If you want to know what I really think, look at my life’s lessons

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.

trumpinfrastructure

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 http://knon.org

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

I can’t kid you, there’s a lot to worry about. To begin with, I’m worried that Mrs Clinton might stumble and fall before November 8. A Trump presidency would be a disaster for working people! But I’m also worried about what both major candidates are going to do after November 8.

Voting for More War?

Mrs Clinton’s saber rattling toward Russia during the debates reminds me that she’s a hawk and  has always been a hawk on foreign affairs. She keeps asserting that Russia is working against her election and threatening them with cyber war. She also wants to escalate the war in Syria with a “no-fly” zone. If she shot down a Russian plane in Syria, wouldn’t there be hell to pay? They have nukes! Those of us who would like to see fewer hostilities and less war are likely to be very uncomfortable during her presidency.

Voting for Unfair Trade Deals?

It’s good that Mrs Clinton says  she won’t push the Trans Pacific Partnership unfair trade deal. Mr Trump doesn’t believe she will stick to opposing it, and I don’t believe either one of them would. I can still remember when candidate Obama was going to fix NAFTA and oppose other unfair trade, now all of us have to worry that President Obama will try an end-run during the lame duck Congress. He’s already working on it!

Unfair trade deals are essential to the big money guys, and few politicians would even try to resist them. Obama doesn’t, and he has a lot more of my respect than either Mrs Clinton or Mr Trump!

Voting for an Openly Fascist Movement in America?

The pundits and newspersons seem to think Mr Trump is stupid. They think he is throwing away his political chances by bashing immigrants, encouraging violence at his meetings, skipping over facts to appeal to emotions, catering to the  crudest kind of people, claiming the entire electoral process is “rigged,”  and, especially, refusing to abide by the decision of the voters after the election (unless he wins).

I’m hoping that stupidity explains his political actions, but I don’t honestly think we can count on it. Like most analysts, Mr Trump already knows he isn’t likely to win over the Electoral College. I think he’s going to try to start an openly fascist movement, the first one since the 1930s in America.

Trump is already a skillful media person, far more skillful than the hate radio manipulators like Rush Limbaugh that have already gained considerable following. He’s already floated the rumor that he may be starting his own television network. We have to assume it would be even less truthful and more sensationalist than Fox News!

A billionaire with his own television network and millions of followers from among the most volatile and least sensible ranks of people could create an anti-worker movement that would dwarf the fascists now operating in Europe. And don’t give me “It can’t happen here” because it can and has before.

So let’s get worried together, and start figuring out what we’re going to do about it!

–Gene Lantz

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