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Movie Review: “Peterloo,” Written and Directed by Mike Leigh, 2 hours 23 minutes




How strikes were ended

The new British historical epic was released in Dallas on April 19. I imagine they would like to hope it would run until August 16, the 200th anniversary of the slaughter of hopeful worker activists around Manchester. The run time will almost certainly be disappointing, because movies with a solid political message seldom last longer than one week in our town.

My movie buddy and I went to see it because we knew that the writer/director was capable of saying very good things about working families. Nearly all movies are about the affluent or the artistic. We were certainly not disappointed with “Peterloo!”

Another great thing about Leigh is his ability to develop women characters. Even though history only names the men who organized the effort and the men who did the murdering, women must have been very important in the struggle for British reforms. They show up well in “Peterloo.”

Moviegoers who have no interest in improving the condition of humanity are probably going to think that this film is a tad too long, covers too many characters, and includes too many speeches. Those of us who want to learn from history in order to make a better future, a large group that almost certainly includes Mike Leigh, think it was too short.

In 1819, a reform movement was sweeping through the miserable lives of British manufacturing workers. The heroes in this story are the weavers, men and women, in Manchester. The setting alone is fascinating, because Frederich Engels, lifelong collaborator of Karl Marx, wrote his important literary work, “The Condition of the Working Class in England,” about these very Manchester families.

Leigh did not stint on spending for this film. Every frame rings with authenticity. The one or two short scenes of the great mechanical looms in the textile mill must have cost a small fortune. Every set, every costume, every sallow-complexioned worker, convinces us that we are actually watching what happened in that great historical worker upheaval.

Know your constituency

As a lesson in strategies, Peterloo is superb! Leigh establishes exactly what the workers must have been thinking in 1819, and he goes over every painful question they had to answer as they prepared to go on strike and carry out a massive demonstration involving over 60,000 people.

Every moviegoer already knows how successful they are going to be, as history doesn’t say “Peterloo” without saying “massacre.” Discerning activists will be watching to see what might have been done differently so that the workers might have found success. We also watch to see how we can refine our efforts today.

As the lower tactical level, it would be hard to fault the weavers. They did a wonderful job of convincing tens of thousands of exploited people to come together.

Know your enemies

But at the higher strategic level, they made a tragic mistake that all of us must learn and apply to today’s thinking: they were so caught up in their efforts to organize and unify themselves that they did not give proper consideration to their enemy. Class struggle isn’t one sided. There is another class on the other side, fighting against us, and they cannot be ignored. Most important, they cannot be underestimated.

-Gene Lantz

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

Let’s do a Woody Guthrie festival on his birthday this year! Are you in?

woodyquot-hateasong

If he had survived, he would have been 106 on July 14. It’s a Saturday and a good day for a cookout and a singalong. The incredible Gerardo Contreras of UAW 848 is willing to do the cooking. I believe that both KNON’s “Workers Beat” program and Dallas AFL-CIO would sponsor and benefit from any money we raise.

My idea is to assemble a small choir to perform and lead audience participation songs, just as Woody or Pete Seeger would have done. Individuals or groups might want to do their own performances, but some songs, like “This Land Is Your Land” cry out to have everybody sing.

There are hundreds of songs to choose from, but here are some of the best-known ones.

All You Fascists Bound to Lose  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwcKwGS7OSQ (choir- singalong)

Biggest Thing that Man Has Ever Done https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB-YnV0e3Lc

Deportee (Anthony Esparza)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu-duTWccy

Do Re Mi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46mO7jx3JEw

Hard traveling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfq5b1bppJQ

I Ain’t Got No Home / Old Man Trump https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jANuVKeYezs

I’ve Got to Know https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyo_Hilxlj0

Jesus Christ  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDS00Pnhkqk

“Talking Unions” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WU2RUoakYIM

Oklahoma Hills https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYFUUxxn6Vk

Philadelphia Lawyer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjeen-Hl8uc

Pretty Boy Floyd https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBF3aXvquHs

Ranger’s Command https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FznriVNbWCI

This Land Is Your Land (choir-singalong) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxiMrvDbq3s

Tom Joad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dimhKln0KBg

Union Maid  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1g4ddaXRs0

You Gotta Go Down  and Join the Union https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zN8kGzHH00I

Labor’s musical tradition tends to get lost every now and then. Let’s re-discover some of it!

–Gene Lantz

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

The 2016 elections confuse and dumbfound me.

me-sanantonio
I think I may have predicted the wrong winner in every presidential election since Goldwater in 1964. I was pretty sure Dukakis would beat Reagan because “people just aren’t that dumb,” as I used to say.

A year ago, I’d have bet money that the 2016 race would be between Hillary and Jeb Bush, so certain was I that we live in a plutocracy. Jimmy Carter said we live in a plutocracy, so it made sense that the plutocrats would be picking both candidates.

Today, I don’t think that corporate America picked Donald Trump. I don’t even think that the Koch brothers right-wing fascist trend of the Republican party picked Trump. When I was certain it would be Jeb Bush,  I underestimated the extent of America’s limited democracy.

Two days ago, when the newspaper ran side-by-side articles with scandals against Clinton and Trump, I thought that Clinton’s close association with Wall Street billionaires would weigh more heavily against her than Trump’s dumbass sexism would hurt him, but I’m apparently wrong about that, too. I don’t think anybody even remembers, two days later, that Clinton made all those cozy statements to the bankers, but the news is full of Trump’s groping women.

Today, while high-profile Republicans are abandoning Trump everywhere, the polls and pundits all say that Hillary Clinton will be our next president. I’m afraid to agree with them for fear I might put a hex on labor’s candidate. It’s been demonstrated over and over that I am usually wrong. Don’t listen to me, friends!

I Actually Do Know One Thing

I know which side I’m on.

Even though I may not be so smart, I am at least persistent. I’ve been on the side of working people all my life and quite consciously for almost 50 years. Reagan may have beat the workers black and blue, but some of us constantly worked against him. Right now I’m working for labor’s candidates and causes, win or lose.

Sooner or later, all of us will have a choice to make. We will either lapse into fascism and court the destruction of the planet or we will give up superstition and idealism and form a rational society for ourselves and our children. Average people, maybe some but not a lot smarter than me, will choose the same side I chose.

–Gene Lantz

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Like a lot of unionists, like all materialists, I’m not really so crazy about the Democrats nor the Republicans. So why not vote Green Party?

exxon-me-nytimes

After all, they’re a progressive party on environmental issues and environmental issues really matter. Since I don’t know much of anything about their candidates, I don’t know anything bad — and the 2016 campaign is smearing both of the major party candidates terribly.

It’s not because, not exactly because, the Green Party took enough votes away from Al Gore in Florida to make George Bush president. It’s not exactly because Texas Greens took half a million dollars under the table from the  Republicans in 2010. By the way, I ran across a good old friend the other day who didn’t even believe it, or maybe he couldn’t remember back that far, so I had to look up a bunch of references for him. I’ll put them down below.

So What’s My Problem?

More than anything else, my whole purpose in doing this blog is to get people to think through their strategy for progressive change. What’s your theory?

My theory is that the entire progressive battle can be boiled down to employers against employees. The employers are what’s holding us back, and the employees are what’s impelling us forward. It’s a matter of choosing sides and sticking with it.

Voting for the Green Party in 2016 is not going to help the employee side. If it means anything at all in this awful two-party system we’re straddled with, it means some help for the wrong side.

People are confused because they don’t know the difference between the American two-party (ugh) system and the parliamentary systems of Europe and other countries. In those other countries. one votes for the party that one loves, and that party gets offices roughly in proportion to the votes they get. In the American system, that isn’t what happens. One of the two parties takes power; the other loses out. Everybody that votes their heart (or their stomach or their endocrine glands) instead of their brain has, at best, wasted their time and everybody else’s. Actually, it’s worse than that.

You’re a leader, even when you don’t want to be. Please realize that whatever you decide is going to affect others. We’re all listening to one another. People are listening to you.So — think!

 

  1. We’re in a two party system
  2. One, just one, of those two parties is going to take the critical offices
  3. Other people are watching what you do and are influenced by it
  4. Therefore, the right vote is the vote that will advance your theory of progressive change

As I’ve said before in this blog, it isn’t the candidates and it isn’t the parties that matter. It’s the progressive movement. It’s the workers.

–Gene Lantz

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Some old articles about how the Republicans financed the Greens in Texas

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/state-politics/20100610-Texas-Democrats-take-Green-Party-to-8824.ece

Texas Democrats take Green Party to court over ballot funding

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/state-politics/20100625-Judge-blocks-Green-Party-candidates-from-4442.ece

Judge blocks Green Party candidates from Texas ballot

  • By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News

Published: 25 June 2010 06:33 AM

Updated: 26 November 2010 02:41 PM

A state judge blocked Green Party candidates from Texas’ general election ballot Thursday, ruling that illegal corporate money was used in a Republican attempt to put them there to benefit Gov. Rick Perry.

District Judge John Dietz said he expected his injunction would be stayed by a higher court.

He issued the injunction after a day of testimony in Austin that implicated a former top Perry aide in efforts to field Green Party candidates in November.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Party_of_Texas

The Green Party’s efforts to get its candidates on the ballot for the 2010 elections was challenged when it was revealed that the Green Party’s petition drive had been funded by corporate interests linked to Republican operatives.[1] Republican operatives linked to the reelection campaign of Governor Rick Perry helped to fund the signature drive for ballot access.[2][3] A court challenge resulted in the Green Party candidates being allowed to remain on the ballot, and the near 92,000 signatures gathered in support of the Green Party from registered Texas voters were validated.[4][5]

GOP ties bind Green Party candidates in Texas case

GARY SCHARRER , AUSTIN BUREAU

Published 5:30 am, Tuesday, June 29, 2010

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/GOP-ties-bind-Green-Party-candidates-in-Texas-case-1702618.php 

AUSTIN — Even if allegations about an illegal petition drive are true, knocking Green Party candidates off the November general election ballot before they can be proven imposes “a death penalty,” lawyers for the party argued Monday in a written appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

The party has until Friday to certify its candidates for the fall election, but a judge last Friday ordered it not to proceed because of an “unauthorized illegal contribution” by a corporation with Republican links.

“This case matters because voters should have an alternative to entrenched career politicians. Despite the signatures of over 90,000 Texans, entrenched career politicians and their lawyers want to deny voters the right to choose in November,” said David Rogers, one of the Green Party lawyers.

A GOP front group — with help from Texas Republicans — raised $532,500 in anonymous contributions to help the Green Party get enough signatures to make the ballot. Democrats assume the liberal Green Party gubernatorial candidate, Deb Shafto, would siphon votes from Democrat Bill White and help GOP incumbent Rick Perry.

 

Did you receive separate fund appeals from “Our Revolution” and from “Brand New Congress” today? I did.

sandersberniefragmented

The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign was a wonderful, mighty force and pulled millions of people together. If it stayed together, it had the potential to make significant changes in our democracy.

But the chances of its staying together began to diminish as soon as the formal campaign ended. Some of the Bernie-ites split because they didn’t want to pull for Hillary Clinton. Others, including most of the working people, agreed with Senator Sanders that the Clinton campaign was the best we could do in 2016. The split didn’t seem too bad.

Then “Brand New Congress” appeared and claimed to be the heirs of the Bernie movement. A short time later, Bernie himself announced “Our Revolution” to carry on the proud banners of the progressive Bernie movement. On his live-stream presentation, he didn’t mention “Brand New Congress” nor any other organization that might come forward and claim the Bernie mantle. Today, they each hit me up for money. Practically simultaneously. That’s not cooperation, it’s competition between fund raising organizations.

I had heard rumors that some Bernie-ite leaders had split immediately before the live-stream presentation. If the rumors are true, I don’t know why they left. But if they did, it’s fragmentation that the progressive movement can ill-afford.

A movement is more than fund raising

I was very pleased to hear Bernie Sanders mention forms of struggle beyond electoral work. So far, I haven’t seen any of it, but I think a national march or a series of regional marches might help pull people together. Activists aren’t going to participate forever with organizations that only raise money for electoral campaigns.

Unity doesn’t come easy

Even a great reform program like Bernie’s isn’t magnetic enough to hold a large, diverse political group together. Even a great charismatic leader like Bernie isn’t enough. People need understanding and theory that can lead us to victory, not just terrific slogans and terrific leaders.

How do you think the change you want can come about? Think it through and let your conclusions be your guide.

–Gene Lantz

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There’s no denying the tremendous effect that the Bernie Sanders movement has had on the body politic. Will it continue? Will the various aspects of Sanders’ progressive program be won?

ara-bernie

Gotta love the guy!

A couple of factual observations: Sanders mentioned doing political actions outside the sphere of electoral politics. I could see petitioning campaigns, possibly boycotts, some strike support, and street heat actions being carried out by enthusiastic young activists and I really like the idea.

Sanders didn’t mention “Brand New Congress” at all. Click here for my article on them. This organization started a couple of months ago with a scheme to elect 400 “corruption proof” congresspersons in 2018. I’d love to see that happen, but I was a little skeptical when they said they were the heirs of the Bernie movement. I was waiting for Bernie to say so, and he didn’t.

Sanders did mention organized labor in a positive way, and many of his proposals are also the proposals of the AFL-CIO.

One last factual observation: We’ve seen this before. Going all the way back to the “Deniacs” of Howard Dean, we’ve seen progressive presidential candidates try to extend their movement beyond their candidacy. The worst one, in my own opinion, was Organizing for America, which was supposed to harness the amazing power behind the Obama 2008 campaign. I call it the worst one just because of my local experience here in Dallas, where OFA completely ignored every organization and movement in existence and put on separate, isolated, events that didn’t necessarily relate to the local situation.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT?

I think the Bernie movement has tremendous potential because of its youth support. We’ll probably see the first test of the movement right after Labor Day, when the “lame duck” congress tries to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) unfair trade deal. (Click here for my piece on trade). It’s well established that most Americans and both presidential campaigns oppose it, but the corporations want it, so don’t be too surprised at what happens.

If the Bernie forces mobilize and get past the TPP test, they may come up with a winning formula for continuing. But there are a lot of obstacles to holding the movement together without Bernie at the helm. The movement started fragmenting as soon as the presidential campaign ended, and it’s still degenerating with little splits and big. I suspect the Brand New Congress people weren’t very happy with the August 24 performance, for example.

HOW CAN WE BUILD MOVEMENT THAT CAN WIN?

There aren’t really any charismatic leaders or ambitious programs that can stand up to corporate money power. I love them and I support them, but I don’t count on them. The essential problem in modern society is the conflict between the bosses and the employees. If we stick with the employees’ side, we won’t go wrong.

–Gene Lantz

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Humorists are having a good time with the 2016 elections because never in our history have we had two candidates with such negative approval ratings.

voteclass

Remember that terrific episode of “Rosanne” when Dan’s bowling team came in next to last and celebrated by chanting “We’re not the worst! We’re not the worst!”?

Some of my friends tell me that they’ll launch some kind of a protest vote, possibly for one of the growing “other” parties. They think about Trump, they think about Clinton, then they stop thinking.

How does positive change come about?

If you want positive change, then you owe it to yourself to think through how that positive change could come about.  If you believe, as I do, that the basic conflict in the world today is between employees and bosses, then strengthening the employees’ side is the road to progress. So how the election is going to affect working people is the key to understanding the election and making the most use of it. The perfections and imperfections in the candidates aren’t what matters. What matters is what’s going to happen.

There are lots of other theories

I’ve known people, actually quite a few, who believe that bad is good. If something really terrible happens in the 2016 elections, then people will “wake up” and stop being so lackadaisical about progressive change. So they’ll pick the worst candidate. They loved it when Reagan was elected. I once heard a speaker call this the “vulture theory” of politics. We’ll wait around until all hope is lost, then we’ll pick up the carrion pieces. It’s not a good theory and there are absolutely no historical precedents to justify it.

I’ve known people who say that elections don’t matter because the capitalists are just going to do whatever they want anyway. So the upcoming Supreme Court appointments, the unfair trade deals, austerity proposals, and immigration reform won’t matter at all to the oppressed people. It’s not a good theory and it’s sad.

There are people who don’t believe in trying to win a majority. They actually believe that some small, dedicated group is going to make positive historical change. It’s utter nonsense and tends to lead them, in their constant frustration, toward violence as a strategy. Besides, even if they could effect change with a handful of conspirators, they couldn’t make it stick. How would they get the great unlearned people to support them?

Then there are the “revolution right now” people. They don’t need theories. They just sit around sanctimoniously and wait for everybody else to become as smart as they are. Then there will be a revolution and then we’ll be happy. Until then, they can take their joy by saying, “I told you so!”

I’m afraid to say it, but it’s possible that many voters don’t care about outcomes at all. They only care about their own feelings!

Working people make positive change

Working people have a big stake in the 2016 elections because we have a big stake in all political struggles. It makes a big difference who wins, both for working people and for prospects for change. Look at that, not the imperfections of the candidates.

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