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Worldwide disaster is nearing. Pick your disaster trend:

  1. War is more possible than when Trump took office
  2. The environment is getting worse and Trump policies are making it worse
  3. World economies are interlaced, but out of kilter; a serious crisis anywhere could lead to a worldwide nightmare
  4. Democracy is being eroded

It’s not an exhaustive list. I kept it to four because it makes a good metaphor with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Google any of the four topics and you will find plenty of expert opinion on looming disaster.

Rising nationalism is the most problematic, because it means less international cooperation, and international cooperation is the only way to lessen the danger from any of the horsemen listed. The new nationalism in America and some other countries such as Poland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Brazil means that nations have stopped trying to cooperate. England’s Brexit goes in that same direction, too.

Why worry?

Not everybody is trying to solve these problems. Here are some of their arguments.

Why worry when there’s nothing we can do about it?

Certain religious people actually believe that Armageddon is ordained by God and will happen whether we do anything or not, so why try? It’s a convenient excuse

When things get bad enough, people will take action, so let them get worse!

There is no historical basis for this idea. People begin to act, in fact, when they experience victories, not when they experience defeats. The great strike upsurge in America during 1946 is a good example. When unions were winning, everybody wanted to join one.

The coming fascism is only one way to administer capitalism, and capitalism itself is doomed, so just wait it out!

Fascism may be able to remain in power for a long time. It could create untold suffereing and, at the end, not bring us any closer to any solution than we are now

The Democrats just made some headway against Trump in 2018 and are poised to remove or neutralize him in 2020

We had an argument like that about George Bush, and many of us thought that the Obama Administration would be able to right all wrongs. Obama made some progress, but the underlying problems did not go away and they created the conditions that got Trump elected. Going back a little bit, we thought that same thing about Clinton during the Reagan/DaddyBush days. They thought it about Roosevelt when Hoover was President, and about Wilson when Coolidge ruled.  Our problem is not about individuals, but about systems.

Radicals are forever prophesying disaster, yet humanity goes on

They did so in 1859 before the American Civil War, they did so in 1914 before World War I, in 1929 before the Great Depression, in 1933 when Hitler consolidated his power, and in 1947 when the American government turned anti-worker. They were right, of course, and great disasters followed, but people kept trudging onward anyway. So why get upset about the current threats to human existence? Here are some reasons to worry more today:

  1. They didn’t have nuclear weapons before
  2. Plutonium, one of the most poisonous materials in the world, hadn’t even been refined
  3. The world economy has never been as integrated as it is today
  4. Climate change was never so drastic
  5. We never even had such a large world population, and they were never packed, as we are now, into cities
  6. We never had so many displaced people wondering the planet. I’m not just talking about the half-million sleeping in America doorways, but also the millions trying to escape from the Middle East, Africa, and Central America.

If you think it through, you will see disaster(s) on the horizon. If you think it further, you will begin to take action.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program each Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. 89.3 FM in Dallas. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

My astute movie buddy found out that Texas Women’s University was staging Bertold Brecht’s play, “Mother Courage” in nearby Denton, Texas. She bought tickets immediately, thereby providing a genuine educational experience for me.

My own experience with Brecht had never gone much further than listening to Bobby Darin’s 1960s rock song, “Mack the Knife.” But I knew he had been a communist and was a German who opposed Hitler. This play was written about the time the Nazis invaded Poland. The play doesn’t mention Hitler nor WWII, it is set in the Thirty Years’ War in Europe in the 17th century. But then,”M.A.S.H.” was set in Korea, but it was about Vietnam.

Wikipedia says, “Mother Courage is considered by some to be the greatest play of the 20th century, and perhaps also the greatest anti-war play of all time.” You should try to see it if you can, but not because you’re going to like the title character. Or not because you’re going to like anybody at all in this play. They’re not heroic nor self-sacrificing, not physically beautiful, not charming, not tremendously insightful nor clever. They are just people. In other words, this is not an American play. As far as I know, Hollywood has never shown the slightest interest in filming it.

Apparently, Bertold Brecht didn’t believe in cultivating emotional transference between his characters and the audience. He felt that nothing should get in the way of the basic art experience between audience members and the entire performance. He wanted to make his point. In this case, his point was that war is an awful thing benefiting no one, and perhaps adding that people who try to exploit war deserve help the least.

Mother Courage and her children sell food and sundries to Protestant soldiers, or sometimes to the Catholics, in the devastating religious war underway. The thing that she and others in the play dread most is the possible ending of the war. It would cut off their livelihoods. This message is more than obvious in a conversation between two Swedish soldiers in the first scene. The rest of the play enlarges the theme, like a map of battle zones, by sticking pins in it.

A big change is coming in international relations.

war2

It may seem that the whacky international news is only being caused by our whacky president and his whacky ways, but there are several underlying real trends pointing the United States toward starting a new war.

The most obvious one, which I have written about before, is that the Republicans and Donald Trump are looking at some major election losses in November unless they do something drastic. The most recent shifting of posts in the White House is definitely in that direction.

Another reason is more long-term and has to do with trade balances and history.

Looking Back

Nearly all of us living today are products of post-World-War-Two thinking. The “American Century” that began in 1945 put the United States at the head of all nations both militarily and economically. Historically, it was a most unusual situation for the world and for America, but most of us think of it as “normal” because it’s the only situation we have ever experienced. It isn’t normal at all, and it can’t last.

U.S. military domination continues, but is severely challenged right now in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. U.S. economic domination continues but is severely challenged by the European Union, new alliances in South America, and, most of all, by China.

U.S. economic domination is no longer based on our industrial productivity. A great deal of our industry has been shut down. Our agricultural production is still very strong, but also faces challenges. If anything, U.S. economic domination is based on finance, especially on borrowing.

An interesting article from CBS News says, “Why China won’t dump its huge U.S. Treasury bond Hoard.” They say it won’t happen, but they wouldn’t have written the article if people weren’t worried about it. Apparently, China holds about $1.2 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds. They buy them every year, but they slowed down their purchases last year, the article says. It was just an incremental change, the article says.

The Nature of Change

Most change is incremental. It happens so slowly that we hardly notice it until some statistician points it out. These are quantitative changes. But quantitative changes can accumulate and, eventually, create giant qualitative changes that seem to happen all at once and come out of nowhere. Think of a stock market collapse, an earthquake, or a sinkhole. Think of a war.

Why Have a War?

Competition, not cooperation, is the natural behavior of capitalist economies. War is a natural consequence of capitalism. Even in the “American Century” so far, U.S. armies have been engaged over and over again. Even when the armies were not engaged, the U.S. has employed proxy armies such as the “Contras” in Nicaragua, the Kurds in Syria, or the Saudis in Yemen.

What passes for “diplomacy” is actually based on war or the threat of war. Witness the current expulsion of diplomats from Russian embassies, for example.

Why NOT Have a War?

Like any other enterprise, war depends on the cooperation of the people carrying it out. If we refuse, if we mobilize against it, no one can force us into the next big war. But we need to get started.

-Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON.org 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. Programs are podcast for two weeks and can be found under the “events” tab of the home page. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

 

2018 stretches before us like a blank canvas. Economists and Republican politicians are painting a gorgeous festival on it. Democrats are using only one color: black.

fat-famine

Predictions Take the Safe Road

Nearly all predictions are just linear projections of trends currently underway. For example, American production has been rising slightly so the prediction is that it will rise even more. Unemployment has been low, so the prediction is that it will stay low. I saw one prediction saying that wages will go up in 2018, even though they have been going down since the 1970s.

For A Few, Everything Looks Great!

The disastrous “Tax and Jobs Bill” that just passed the Congress shows what is intended. It is a gigantic giveaway to the rich at the long-term expense of the poor.  This is not a new trend. It has been going on clearly since American domination of the world began to diminish in the late 1970s. It is reasonable safe, therefore, to predict that the rich will continue to get much richer and the poor much poorer in 2018. Inequality will worsen.

Using the same linear projection approach, one would have to conclude that democracy will continue to ebb and the environment will get even less hospitable.

Politics May Get Messy

The last poll before the Republicans passed their big giveaway, conducted by NBC News, said that only 24% of the American people supported the legislation. Republicans say that people will start liking it as soon as they see tiny improvements in their paychecks beginning in January. Democrats say that support for “trickle down” will fall even further as people see what was actually in the bill.

As 2018 begins, Republicans and their only legislative accomplishment are extremely unpopular. President Trump has the lowest ratings in history. Does that mean that they are going to take a mighty hit in the November elections? Are the Democrats going to take charge and bring back the rosy Obama days?

We should be skeptical. Republicans are backed by an awful lot of money, and money wins elections. Also, they hold state power. Who is to say how they might use their money and their power before November?

They might, for example, start another war. They’ve been talking up war with North Korea for months and they have the ability to start such a war just at the time when they consider it most propitious for their election prospects. It worked for both Bush Presidents, who had low ratings before invading Iraq and high ratings afterward. Sure, lots of people would die, but Republicans might well benefit at the polls!

Before deciding that the Democrats will surely make a comeback in November, remember that they have problems of their own. They robbed Bernie Sanders of the 2016 presidential nomination and, by now, everybody knows it. Deputy Democratic Party  Chairman Keith Ellison is touring America right now to try to bring all the Bernies back into the fold, but it’s safe to say that some of them won’t come. The Democrats would have to be really sloppy to not make some gains in 2018, but will they actually turn things around?

In summary, the safe set of expectations for 2018 is that it will be great for the great, but not for us.

What to Hope For

A lot of really good  things could happen in 2018. Low unemployment and high consciousness are requisites for an organizing boom. If unions and the other types of organizations presently underway aggressively take advantage of the situation, we could see some real organizational strength develop for working people. Then (and only then) we might expect to see a reversal in the steady decline in our American wages, benefits, and living standards.

There must be half a dozen organizations expecting to take over the Democratic Party, end all corruption, end its dedication to capitalism, and make it a workers’ party. There are others who believe they can create a workers party — perhaps from the Greens or from the Working Families Party — or from scratch. Conditions for a workers party have never been better because of the high educational levels and consciousness of the American people.

The progressive movement is a giant in America. The Women’s March on the day after Trump took power put more people on the streets than ever before in American history. They are planning another one in January 2018.

Even though very few Americans even know what a political strike is, they are becoming common in other parts of the world. With modern communications and the high level of consciousness among people, especially among young people, we may see major changes in America that come from outside the electoral system.

Expect the worst. Hope for and work for the best!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio, 89.3FM in Dallas, at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you want to know what I really think, check out http://lilleskole.us

 

 

Germans embraced the Nazis, not because they were tired of freedom, but because they believed they had found a cure for capitalism.

doctorposter-capitalism

From the time it began to take over the world, mid 17th century, until the late 19th century, capitalism provided a better life for its subjects. That is, it was better than serfdom. Serfs were landless farm workers, one step above slaves, who had to take whatever their lords dished out. “Free” labor could leave one employer for another and, to some extent, dicker over conditions of employment.

Capitalism Works Best With Limited Democracy

If workers believe they have a voice in government, they don’t have to be guarded, guided, and pushed to do everything. They don’t run away or deliberately smash the equipment, the way slaves or serfs might. They can be educated for the higher forms of labor that capitalism needs. Consequently, the more successful capitalist economic systems use a limited democracy form of government.

From the beginning of the Republic until after World War II, American struggles made good improvements in our democracy.

What Went Wrong, When Did It Go Wrong?

Capitalism stopped benefiting workers after it conquered the world. When there were no new markets, the capitalists had to turn against one another to fight for the markets they had already saturated. That’s not what they called it. They called it “The war to save democracy,” and “The war to end all wars.”

But WW I was really a bloody turf war between gangsters. For a short period, the winners enjoyed their spoils, but it didn’t last very long because  the basic problem of saturated markets and international competition was still there.

So, they decided to have another world war. This one was complicated for workers, because the Soviet Union, try as they might, couldn’t stay out of it. After they began to fight the invading Nazis, they were incorporated into the same side the United States was on. The U.S. ended the alliance as soon as the Nazis were defeated, of course.

No More World Wars

After the U.S. nuked Japan, actually, after the Soviets and other nations showed that they could do the same thing, world wars lost their appeal as a temporary solution to the capitalist crisis. Even the gangster capitalists weren’t crazy enough to blow up their only planet. So, since the late 1970s, capitalist nations have gotten by on small regional wars, lowering their production costs by attacking their workers, and carrying a whole lot of debt. I recently read, in an investment newsletter, that all growth in the United States since 1980 basically came from debt!

Did the Nazis Solve the Capitalist Crisis?

To Germans between, say, 1933 and 1939, it appeared that fascism was the right way to go. Unemployment dived from 25% into low numbers. Lots of infrastructure was rebuilt. National pride was soaring.

But they had only changed their form of government from limited democracy to fascism, they hadn’t changed their economic system. It was still capitalist and it was still in crisis. The only real way toward a temporary solution was war. Even then, as long as they were winning, fascism still seemed pretty good to the Germans. After that, not so much.

What Looks Good to You Right Now?

To a lot of Americans, the Trump Administration and Republican political domination look pretty good. They think there will be more and better jobs. They think they’ll be making a better living and that the steady abatement of basic democracy isn’t too high a price to pay.

But we are still living in an economic system that has provided all the good it is going to provide, and things are only going to get worse if we can’t save and expand our democracy.

 

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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One web site says 251,000 have died in Iraq since America was fooled into invading. Another (click here) says 500,000. Both of them say that most of the dead are civilians, and neither counts the number of maimed and crippled, not to mention the ones driven crazy, some of whom are running around on the streets here at home.

I wrote one of my one-minute songs about it. My argument was that they should be burying all of them here in Dallas, where George W Bush, the main perpetrator of the entire conflagration in the Middle East, lives. I’ve always thought it was fitting that General Robert E Lee’s plantation was taken over during the Civil War and used to bury the war dead. Bush has a ranch that could be used for that.

I don’t usually write about foreign affairs. I always assume that the people over there know more about what they should be doing than people over here, namely me, do.

But it’s clear that the United States has stirred up a holy war. It’s clear that young men and women are being recruited into that holy war on the basis that there’s something ungodly about what the great imperialist nations do in other people’s back yards.

I can’t begin to understand the religious side of it, but I know what imperialism is. It’s the boss’s game and for the boss’s profit. There’s nothing good in it for working people, over here or over there!

–Gene Lantz

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