RevolutionZ

Ep 254 Movement Culture, Union Strategy, novels, and mindsets with Bill Fletcher Jr

November 05, 2023 Michael Albert
RevolutionZ
Ep 254 Movement Culture, Union Strategy, novels, and mindsets with Bill Fletcher Jr
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Episode 254 of RevolutionZ is a deep dive  conversation about  history, fiction and non fiction, the internet, tv, movement culture, winning and losing attitudes, labor strategy, and much more with Bill Fletcher Jr.  

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Speaker 1:

Hello, my name is Michael Albert and I'm the host of the podcast that's titled revolution Z. This episode is our 250 fourth without a break. My guest is Bill Fletcher Jr. Bill is a longtime socialist, trade unionist and international solidarity activists. He's the author of four books to nonfiction and to fiction. His latest is the murder mystery novel entitled the man who changed colors, and it's a. It's our sequel to his first novel, the man who fell from the sky. So, bill, welcome to revolution Z.

Speaker 2:

Michael, it's a it's a real pleasure. I mean, you and I have known each other for a hundred years. Yeah, I Remember, and we met in the late 80s in Boston.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and we've both been around even longer. Yeah, for sure, I should say. Perhaps a problem with having you as a guest, though, is that there are so many things you can talk about with wisdom and experience that it's hard to choose.

Speaker 1:

At the moment, for example, in particular, there is growing, growing labor activism, and particularly the UAW strike, plus the crimes and escalating catastrophe in the mid-east and, for that matter, also the current state of the left and Right and upcoming electoral and activist choices. But before we get to any of that or all of that, or do as much as it as we can, I'd like to ask you about your fiction writing. Why might someone who wants to help with a better world write fiction? Why did you write the two books you have written, the two novels you have written, and why should our listeners read fiction and in particular your two books?

Speaker 2:

Well why they should read my books? Because they're actually good. But you know, it's interesting, michael. I got into fiction ever since I was a kid. I would come up with stories and I didn't write them down, I just dreamed them up. When I became a radical political activists, I Downplayed that part of me because I thought it was frivolous, and I don't blame anybody for that. They're just sort of the climate in some ways and the way I dealt with it. But I continued to have these stories and at a certain juncture I decided to try writing and my first effort failed, and it was. It was a murder mystery and I had a lot of fun writing it, but it failed. I gave it to an agent who had told me in advance that she would read it and she ridiculed it.

Speaker 1:

That's always a pleasure.

Speaker 2:

I know, I know it taught me some interesting lessons about Teaching in some ways. But she, she ridiculed it and her final words to me were when you go back to writing nonfiction, call me. So I said, okay. A few years later I Came up with the idea for another story and a very different story, and I was playing around with it and I related to my wife and my daughter and my daughter was looking at the floor. We were at a restaurant, actually in a cape, and she said dad, I think you've got an idea there and maybe even a couple. So I looked at my wife and she nodded and I started writing and that became the man who fell from the sky.

Speaker 2:

I still wasn't yet certain, michael, because I was pretty insecure, and so I gave the knot, the manuscript, to my wife, daughter and three other friends and I said don't edit it, just give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down. If it's a thumbs down, that's no problem, if it's a thumbs up, then I'll go forward. They all gave me a thumbs up. Fiction gives you. There means a long history on the left of engaging in fiction, which many of our contemporaries ignore. I mean, you know, you look at Dashel Hammett or Octavia Butler, look at Walter Mosley, any number of people. That is a long history of leftist fiction writers, but there's a disconnect between organized left and fiction writers and I've run across that and we can talk more about it.

Speaker 1:

There's a disconnect between the organized left and a lot of things indeed probably connected. Maybe that is something to talk about. Okay, so why do you think first, in the case of fiction writing, why do you think there is that disconnect? And, for example, I mean, you've got a Pittsburgh Pirates hat on right? There's also generally a disconnect between the left and sports, between the left and religion, between the left and a whole lot of stuff, but it's not always been that way.

Speaker 2:

See, that's the thing that's interesting. You know, it's like you look at the 1930s and and you see the involvement of the left in all kinds of spheres of culture, sports. The fight to desegregate baseball was led by both black activists, who were not particularly leftist, and and communists. There was a very famous writer for the Daily worker I think it was red Rodney, I think that's how he was known who was one of the main people very outspoken on the necessity to desegregate baseball. There's something that happened post cold war and I think it was point. Partly it was related to the Cold War and you know, I think it was earlier I.

Speaker 2:

Think it was. I think it was. I I would situate it particularly around the Cold War. I think that there's a longer problem in the United States in general of downplaying culture and right and education, but I think there was a particular thing that happened in the Cold War, with the repression of writers and the repression of artists and and and people going out of their ways to Try to distance themselves From the left, the organized left, in order to work.

Speaker 2:

I was reading the story the other day about Billa Lagoci, the guy who's most well known for playing Dracula, and he was a Hungarian leftist and Was very active in trade union organizing. They smashed him during the Cold War. Peter Laurie, very famous actor, smashed. I mean, there was this incredible intimidation, and so I think part of what happened was that. Part of what happened, though, within the organized left was, I think, a very static view of culture in many sectors, and, and and this was it was uneven, because you know, you'd see, like in the Black freedom movement, the integration of culture, the black arts movement, for instance, but at a certain point it was almost as if many leftists thought that when you reached a certain level of radicalism, that you push aside culture.

Speaker 1:

I mean look man.

Speaker 2:

I had trouble getting my book reviewed my books reviewed by leftists.

Speaker 1:

I'm sure I wanna suggest and see what you think of it. Another possible reason, and dated a little earlier new left, 60s, late 60s, 70s, right to now. I think there's a how do I put this. There's one of two ways to put it. Simply, divorcing one's self from the society, which is such a god-awful mess, and associating sports and the arts and TV and so on with that, and thus divorcing from that.

Speaker 1:

But, there's another factor, I think, which is separating from working people. I mean now that sounds ridiculous referring to the left, but I always found it incredible that, even starting in the 60s, if you ask people what they watched on TV, it was generally the comic thing the Simpsons. Every leftist watched the Simpsons. If you did little polls when you were out speaking on college campuses, we all watched Simpsons. But you ask them whether anybody watches a sports event or you know, and then you look at the taste. If people do watch sports events, it's often like tennis, but it's never bowling or you know. In other words, there's a hostility to working class, identified phenomena in society, and that includes sports diets where you eat all sorts of stuff. That's always seemed to me the explanation. Your explanation going more into the history is interesting too, though I find that's plausible also, I think.

Speaker 2:

I like what you're saying and I definitely think that there's truth there. In part. I'd say that there is no one thing, but there are these different components and I think you're actually you're on to something and I think that part of that is that much of the connection between the left, by which I'm talking specifically about anti-capitalists I'm not talking about you know, the Democratic Party or something.

Speaker 2:

But again going back to the Cold War, a lot of this was broken and the new left that emerges in the 60s emerges to a great extent divorced from the working class. Now, elements of the new left absolutely came out of the working class and I see that in a variety of different ways, and you'd see groups like the Panther Party, the Young Lords, the Young Patriots, et cetera. But there was, as you're saying, you're right that there was a sort of disconnect and to the point sometimes of being disparaging.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely yeah. Yeah, religion sports, dismissive, disparaging. Really smart in the most religious country on the planet to be dismissive and disparaging and derogatory toward religion. I once was speaking at a campus in Pennsylvania. It was in State College Pennsylvania, which is the place where the university I guess it's the university of Penn State, penn State yeah, and the coach at the time was who was the gigantic coach at Penn State?

Speaker 2:

The paternal.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so it was Joe Paterno and I'm in this little town. The town has about 60,000 people, the stadium holds about 60,000 people and on Saturdays the town is simply dead. I mean, the whole town is in there, Except for the left part of the campus of that school. So, I'm talking to an audience. It was almost 400 people and I said how many of you have been to a football game this?

Speaker 1:

is a, you know, everybody turns out you can't you couldn't figure out a constituency on that campus that would have a lower than 50% and probably a lower than 80% turnout rate, except the left. So the left had about 400 people in that room. Two people raised their hand and they were both black. The whole rest of the room had not been to a football game on that campus. It was incredible. Yeah, that was, I think, the first time when I really said to myself holy shit, I mean, it's not just anecdotal, there's something big here.

Speaker 2:

But there's another thing here, though, I wanna throw in, michael there's also left critiques of culture and sports, some of which is very important and very sharp, that we have to add here. I mean, for instance, let's just take football, because, since you mentioned it so I grew up as a baseball fan. I wasn't so much into football, I mean, I played street ball, you know that type of thing. At a certain point I lost interest in baseball, became more interested in football, but then I was very much affected by the brutality of football And-.

Speaker 1:

Did a particular book impact you? No, no, because for me it was.

Speaker 2:

It was just the reality of it. What was the book?

Speaker 1:

The. I'm trying to think of the title. It's a famous book about football and the accumulated damage, and it was written by a player, north Dallas 40.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, I was very much affected by it, and there was a player for the Dallas Cowboys whose name escapes me, who was my age, is my age. He started suffering, you know, dementia, yeah, and I was very affected by that, and so I had this very ambivalent view about football. Part of the issue that we have on the left is how to integrate our critiques, as they are, of different elements of sports while at the same time not being kind of sending or self-righteous about it.

Speaker 1:

But that's the trick. I mean, that is okay. Some of those critiques are really, really valid. But when you start implying that the reason why people watch football and who working class people, working class men, et cetera, why people watch football, is because they get off on the violence as compared to because it's an incredible sport, you know it's complex, it's, you know the strategy is rich and difficult and the athleticism is incredible. So you know, I suspect a really close look at tennis or at well, actually we know that a close look at gymnastics, you know it, reveals similar ugliness. Why? Because it's in this society and so it's there. You know you just have to look sometimes. But that doesn't lead to the same kind of reaction. Leftists watch tennis, they watch gymnastics. They don't sit there and you know what I mean. But with football, they not only don't watch it, but they don't like that. Anybody else watches it and they disparage people for doing so.

Speaker 2:

Unless they do it privately, which is related in some ways to fiction, that there's a lot of leftists that I've known over the course of my life that are very much into fiction, but you wouldn't know that unless you went to their homes and looked at their book.

Speaker 1:

They were in the fiction closet.

Speaker 2:

Right? No, exactly. It's really amazing because I'm very much of a sci-fi fan and, in addition to murder mysteries, and so I could tell you everything about Star Trek, probably every Star Trek series and film I mean just, and I have these I actually once designed a class on strategic planning based on a problem facing the United Federation of Planets the Cardassians, the Klingons and Ramians. So I'm really into that. But what I discovered is that there's many other leftists that are into sci-fi.

Speaker 1:

But they don't talk privately. Privately, you think?

Speaker 2:

Privately, unless they realize that you are. Then you might be able to have that discussion Every so often. You'll get people that will talk about the same, about murder mysteries, and I'm talking about people who are baby boomers or younger. I'm not talking about older folks that are around. But this is the thing that surprised me, that, the inconsistency. So I go to a magazine like Jacobin asking them to review my books.

Speaker 1:

No, you asked them and they said no.

Speaker 2:

No right. The first time they said we don't review fiction and I said what's that policy? Right, that may be their policy. But I said, but why is it, given the history of the left in fiction, why are you not they wouldn't respond the second time? They just said no, and that may just they don't like me, I'm not sure.

Speaker 1:

Do they in fact review some fiction?

Speaker 2:

Well, that's what I found out, that at least recently they have, and so this then led me to send them a note and just say, hey, is it me? I mean like what's going on here, but they wouldn't reply. And there's other outlets that have.

Speaker 1:

Wait, they didn't reply at all to that.

Speaker 2:

No, when I asked them no.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, this is another thing we could talk about. Yeah, yeah no reply that's the Beatles song and that's all over the place on the left.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a certain this kind of contentiousness, yeah, but you know, I don't mind picking on them because I think they are very influential and that they deserve to treat people a little bit better.

Speaker 1:

But it's not only them.

Speaker 2:

No, it's not.

Speaker 1:

It's. It's. There's this feeling that, if you like, if you get a phone call, man, it's ridiculous. If you get a phone call or you get an email and you don't have a really, really positive response, you think it's okay to not respond at all.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

And that's incredible.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah.

Speaker 1:

That's driving me crazy, but that's what people do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, michael, you know you and I are kind of peas in a pod because both of us respond almost immediately to emails. But you're right, there's no, and there never has been, an established email protocol. I remember when I was working at the AFL-CIO back in the nineties and early 2000s, there was an issue that came up and I needed one of the assistants of the presidents to respond to a question in order for me to respond to something. So I sent the person an email. Didn't hear anything. So I sent him another email. Didn't hear anything. I sent him a third email. This is over the course of a few days. We work at the same building, by the way, it's not like they're in Juneau and so all of a sudden, my phone rings and it's this assistant of the president who starts barking at me about how-.

Speaker 1:

Because you're bothering them.

Speaker 2:

Because I was harassing her and I said wait a minute. I said, let's be clear. I had no way of interpreting why you were not responding. I didn't know whether you didn't get it, whether you were telling me to go F myself or whether you were working on getting an answer. So how am I to know? She didn't have her reply? But I've run across that time and again.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's incredible. I mean, you are exemplary in responding quickly, at least in my experience, like NoMis, and I respond to everything also, but so many people on the left just don't, and or they respond yes, I'll do such and such. The time for such and such comes, they don't do it and they don't even think they have to explain or say anything at all. It's just well, okay, didn't do it. And I see I don't think this is true throughout society. I think these things are worse on the left than they are elsewhere.

Speaker 2:

I've encountered it everywhere. Oh yeah, see one. So there's. I think. If you divide what you just described into a couple of components, there's what I call the wizard of Oz phenomena, and that is that people hiding behind their keyboard often turn out to be very different people than you would find in personal interactions.

Speaker 2:

I mean the same person, the same person the same person, just like in the Wizard of Oz, when you have the evil Oz right and then you rip the curtain back and it's just like really nice old guy, right, but he was able to create a certain persona when that curtain was closed that I think many people create with their keyboard and that persona can be rude, it can be hurtful. I see this all the time on Twitter and Facebook.

Speaker 1:

But wait, why would you want to? I mean, it's person X. Why is person X using that the shroud, so to speak, to be other than person X is in public? What are they getting?

Speaker 2:

out of that.

Speaker 2:

They're releasing all of their inhibitions. That's what's going on People are releasing the inhibitions and there's no accountability, so somebody can be as rude as they want to be. I can't tell you on Twitter how many rude comments I get smart ass comments from people that disagree with me and I had to reply to this guy the other day who tried to take issue with me about something, and I said hey, man, you started this by taking a sarcastic swipe at me when we could have had a civil conversation about this. So you get what you get, right. I think that there's the release of inhibitions and many people think they can do and say whatever they want. But the second thing that you're raising is a bit different. I think that there's a lot of people who make commitments that they should never have made, but they're afraid to say no, or they're just really bad planners, and I encounter that all the time.

Speaker 1:

But I bet you don't do it. I mean, if you first of all, I bet you usually do what you say you're gonna do, but if a time comes up that you don't do it, you wouldn't make believe you did it, or that you never made the agreement in the first place, you would apologize.

Speaker 2:

I would, but that's also the way I was brought up, and I mean I was brought up by my family as well as by the people that I was around when I became first politically active, who were actually quite responsible and really inculcated that in me, a lot of that seems to be absent now and there's a sort of this arrogance, this what I don't need to owe you anything, I don't need to do this.

Speaker 2:

But the other thing is just that I was thinking about two people who promised me a number of years ago that they were gonna help try to find me a job in academia, and Michael, they basically swore they were gonna do it. So I said, okay, great, I really appreciate this Great. So I followed up with both of them to this day, literally, and we're talking about, in one case, maybe 12 years, another case, eight years. I've heard nothing from either of them. It's just incredible. Not a word.

Speaker 1:

I mean, these things are interesting in general, I suppose you could say, but I have this feeling that they're doing a lot of harm to the left, that this kind of you know that, all the analysis that we do about imperialism and colonialism and this, that and the other thing, we might be better off paying attention to this kind of stuff in order to be able to have outreach and to be able to actually talk to people out in the world. Let me just switch because I think it's gonna come back to this I wouldn't be surprised anyway to another focus I suppose you could say, cause I'm interested in how you view the UAW strike and what you think made it special and how you think people might help it and what you think we might hope will come out of it. I mean, those would be the things. I can break them up if you want, but I have a feeling you can just go with it.

Speaker 2:

So I think this has been amazing to watch. It looks like a very important victory. I haven't read the tentative agreements. I think that at the strategy that they pursued of selective strikes and slowly expanding was brilliant, both because it was a cost saving matter, cause it didn't use up all of the union's strike funds, but also because it showed that, given the nature of production, you don't need everybody necessarily to walk out In order to make your point, and I thought that that was very good, as I think the teamster bargaining that almost led to a strike was really quite brilliant.

Speaker 2:

Now, having said that, I have some concerns. Let me preface it by saying that all of these take place in a moment of a resurgence and interest in unions, and that helped to create the situation. The thing that I mentioned to you earlier about my work in helping to organize minor league baseball players it was successful in part because of the times that we're in and the climate that existed. The problem that I see is that, whether it's in the UAW or the Writers Guild or the SAG-AFTRA or the teamsters, that while each of these strikes and struggles have been very, very important, I don't think that they have successfully bridged the gap with the broader public, and so there's something called public sympathy and then there's public support. So the Chicago Teachers Union engaged in two strikes where there was not just public sympathy but public support, because the Chicago Teachers Union, the Milwaukee Teachers Association and some others were successful in framing their demands in ways that went beyond the demands of the bargaining units. Let's take the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild for a second. The Writers Guild in particular was struggling around the issue of artificial intelligence. Now, as we all know, this country is becoming keenly focused on artificial intelligence and quite worried. What I didn't see from the Writers Guild was connecting their work with the Writers Guild and their battle to the broader fears in the public about AI and why AI really is a social question. It's not a bargaining unit question.

Speaker 2:

I think that the UAW did a really good job in so many ways. It was great getting Biden down to the lines. I think that they did not build a broader contract campaign the way I understand one to be, where you're really engaging the public, not just getting sympathy. And maybe they tried and I'm not gonna bust their chops because there was a new leadership that came in only a few months before negotiations started, but I think that we have to start looking at trade unionism in a broader way and that militancy is not enough. We've gotta be looking at vision and an approach to the way that we carry out these battles that truly engages the public. Teamsters did it in 1997 when they went up against UPS. The NFLPA in some ways, when they were going through the lockout, was able to engage public support in a way that had not existed before. So it can be done.

Speaker 1:

I was looking to the UAW strike to go longer. I don't know whether it's really done, I mean it's not totally clear but I thought and I don't know what the demand situation has been. I thought their demands for a shorter workweek and for no tears were both things that the owners would fight pretty much to the death about. So I thought it was gonna be a long struggle and it would keep generating more and more external support, because I think it was getting a lot of that. The polls showed a lot of that, but now I'm not sure why it stopped, although just yesterday or today I saw an article about what's the name of the guy who's the new president.

Speaker 2:

Sean Sain.

Speaker 1:

Okay, a talk he gave saying basically a big victory and so on, but saying we should view it as a first step in winning much more, because much more is deserved, not only for us but throughout the economy. And so he was making linkages and I was pretty impressed with the way he was he seemed to be going about doing it.

Speaker 2:

But it's gotta go more than that, much further, see. I think that, to paraphrase Kenny Rogers, you gotta know when to close, and so their decision-.

Speaker 1:

I gotta stop you. My brother was a professional gambler.

Speaker 2:

Really.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Well, you gotta know when to close and that's a decision that the leadership of the UAW had to make. I'm not gonna second guess them on that. But I think that the reaching out to the public is more than a good speech by the president of the union. It's an activity that has to permeate the organization. I learned this when I was at SEIU back in the 90s and their approach to contract campaigns and the reaching out and building alliances with community-based organizations. They're enlisting the support of others. In Boston. You may remember back in the 90s, you may remember back in the 1980s when what was then the hotel workers under Local 26 under Dominic Pizzato was able to turn out immense community support because of the way that they configured their struggle. That's what I'm talking about. Yeah, right, and I think again they had limited amount of time from the taking over.

Speaker 2:

So I'm not busting the chops, but I'm saying that we've got to go further.

Speaker 1:

Further. Let me tell you a little anecdote. I think I might have done it in another podcast, I'm not sure, but I think it's consequential. So a friend of mine in Boston went to provide support with it. It was basically two people at a UAW plant where there was a picket line and it was a 24 seven picket line, and they went to try and learn and see what was going on and lend some support and they relayed to you know, I heard the stories about this and okay, so it's anecdotal. But the first thing that I asked was well, who came from Boston? And they said well, a lot of other union members would show up in support.

Speaker 1:

I said well, was there anybody from the, you know, the organized left in Boston, from the various? And they said we didn't see anybody. We were, they were, you know, but they didn't see any others. So that was the first interesting nugget. The second interesting nugget was they're talking to this guy, older, and he's explaining how the younger workers basically have to be taught everything by the older workers regarding strike, et cetera, et cetera Also interesting.

Speaker 1:

But then they're talking to this guy and he's describing his feelings about what's going on and he has a sophisticated understanding of basically the billionaires and us, the owners, and us, us being the people on strike, really with it, really understanding and really passionate about it. And then they ask well, you know, in your day to day life, what bothers you the most about your situation? And the guy said you could probably guess. The guy said immigration and welfare, just after he finished, you know, with this sort of left analysis of class relations. And then they, they tried to go further to understand and they said well, how, how is that? And immigration and welfare sort of impact you day to day and upset you, and the guy said, bingo, that's what they quoted. And he said, well, the billionaires divide us.

Speaker 1:

And he proceeded to understand that what was going on here was dividing people around these issues. And then he said but I'm adamant. What bothers me day to day is immigration and welfare People keeping in their head almost opposite conceptions for some reason and the reason seemed to be that is. The reason seemed to be their team was Trump. Their analysis was quite close to the left, but didn't matter. When it was time to line up, they lined up with the team.

Speaker 2:

I think it's deeper, Michael Deeper than that.

Speaker 1:

Oh, yeah, okay.

Speaker 2:

And then the team when I was, when I worked at the Quincy shipyard in Massachusetts, there were all kinds of people that I encountered encountered who had very contradictory ideas. I remember in I was working in a particular compartment it was me and this white guy and from Boston, and we're chatting and we had gotten along fine. He was very pro union. We had a union. There was a very conservative union, but we had a union. He was, he was pro union. We got into a discussion about race. I don't remember how exactly we got into the discussion, but at a certain point this guy says to me if I had a daughter and she married a black guy, I would disowner.

Speaker 1:

I would what Disowner, disowner, disowner.

Speaker 2:

He's saying that to me.

Speaker 1:

He's talking to me, I know, I understand.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I may be light skinned, but I don't look like I come from Norway, right, and it's like. It's like what I mean I could not get. And you know what, michael, he wasn't angry when he said it. He didn't say it in a way to hurt me. He said it in the tone of voice that he would have said Bill, it's time to go to lunch. And in that moment it became very clear to me about these contradictory ideas that can be held by people that they're able to rationalize.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's remarkable.

Speaker 2:

It is.

Speaker 1:

If you had been in Cleveland and 15 minutes later you had asked him about LeBron James, he would have said he's wonderful. I love him. I have a picture of him up on the wall.

Speaker 2:

That's right. And I think that part of our job has left us is to create storylines that help to tie together people's experiences, but taking them in a positive direction, because my experience is that people gobble up stories, which goes full circle to why I wrote my book.

Speaker 1:

I know you're going to. It wasn't my intention by the way.

Speaker 2:

But people gobble up stories. They are always trying to fit together facts and experiences with a storyline either the storyline that they grew up with, the storyline that they want to believe, a storyline that maybe they saw on television or something. But they're trying to fit it together, and so the facts, when thrown at people that contradict the storyline, often become facts that are discarded, like the guy that you talked about in the line, and so we end up needing, therefore, to have exchanges with people that really get to the heart and soul of the storyline. Why does someone embrace a particular storyline? What does it do for them? Yeah, that's my question too. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I mean. Another example would be what's going on in the mid-east.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

So you can have a conversation with somebody and if you're talking in general terms, the idea of an open-air prison, all the things that Gaza has suffered, would sort of sicken the person if it was done in abstract terms. And so the person has established, like that guy in the picket line has established that they understand that certain kinds of behavior, like collective punishment and genocide, are horrendous. And then 10 minutes later, the person will say something like but they attacked Israel, they attacked, they did bad things, they killed these people, and somehow that outweighs everything else, not only in the past, but it yields an excuse for, I mean, it's incredible. So the person understands the values at some level and yet throws out the facts for some reason. And that's why I said the thing about a team. In other words, the person does that and when they throw out the facts it's because they don't want to not be on the team where the team in this case is supporting Israel, supporting Jews, et cetera, et cetera, especially if the person is Jewish.

Speaker 1:

And I agree with you that the left has to figure out how to talk to such people. I mean, you can throw your hands up and say, well, facts don't matter, fuck it, I can't do anything. I mean, you can try and figure out a way to communicate, which you were describing one particular way to do. Chomsky does it a completely different way. He just he takes the situation that the person can't seem to grok what they ordinarily understand and he leaves that behind, creates an analogy where you're talking about something quite different. So, instead of talking about Russia and the US, you're creating an analogy in which the person can see clearly the issues and the values, and then you try and come back to the situation where there's a mental block. Right, yeah, maybe there are ways to do this, but again, it seems to me that these are the things that the left has to learn how to do, not the fourth decimal point of imperial structure, or something.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I think that that's right, and some of this may be semantically, because I think we're talking about the same kind of phenomenon. I don't look at it as a team, because I don't think it's necessarily someone embracing a team or a side, so much as someone embracing a story, and they're embracing a way that they think the world operates or should operate. There was a comedian named George Wallace no relationship to the Alabama governor who used to do these monologues and at the end of the monologues he would say that's the way I see it and that's the way it ought to be. And I thought that that summarizes the thinking of millions of people that they see it a certain way and that's it, whereas this bumper sticker used to say God said it, I read it and that settles it. So there's a certain. Let's apply it for a second. Let's apply it All right.

Speaker 1:

So, because you're bending me but you're not convincing me. Take a working class guy who understands rape, understands gross sexism, understands just bullying, et cetera, et cetera, but lines up with Trump. Understands billionaires, understands, but nonetheless, how to line up with Trump? To me, it seems like what's going on is they don't want to lose the sense of efficacy, maybe power, maybe impact, maybe uniqueness that they get from MAGA, right. They don't want to lose that and that desire not to lose that is stronger than the impulse to basically see what's in front of them, right, which they would ordinarily see but they don't see.

Speaker 2:

In this situation, and you're explaining it in, I think, a different way, but I'm not sure I'm fully understanding it- I'm saying that there may be a number of things going through that person's head, sure, but one of the things that I would the way I would interpret this is that, well, let me raise it in a couple of different ways so one thing for that person is that they can wipe aside all of the negative things in the mind about Trump and basically say, yes, he's an ass, but there's certain core things that he's trying to do that I think mitigate against his being an ass. And I've seen this among religious people who basically, you know, you say what about this family values thing.

Speaker 2:

Where do you see the family values in Trump? And they'll say, well, you're right, but we're all sinners.

Speaker 1:

But we're all sinners, oh yeah.

Speaker 2:

Sinners right, and so, therefore, what we have to look at is what is he trying to do, which is in complete contradiction with what groups like the Mar-Wajari and others were saying years back about so-called family values? So I think part of it is that. I think part of it is that there are things that he's trying to do?

Speaker 1:

What do they think he's trying to do? That mitigates all the bad.

Speaker 2:

Oh, getting rid of abortion, putting up a wall stopping immigrants, militarizing the police against either protesters or criminals.

Speaker 1:

So you think that his constituency is actually in some peculiar sense policy-driven? I think they have those policies partly to be on his side.

Speaker 2:

No, I think that there are certain attractive features to him for some people, but I think it's that they have basic beliefs that they have linked with him, and he has answered certain questions. But he's also done to go back to the example of Wizard of Oz. He's also allowing people to open up, go unrestricted with their prejudices and to feel absolutely no guilt about being a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a bully. He's basically saying it's okay. So that's the other part of this, which I think is not political, so directly and more psychological, I think it's a very effective thing that he's done of essentially saying it's okay to be a bad boy. I was watching this thing on Netflix Michael the other day, a really interesting thing. It's called Get Gaudy and it's about-.

Speaker 2:

Try that one more time Get Gaudy. You know, the mafia guy Gaudy, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Okay so it was. What's interesting is how he became the Teflon Don and how it was that people, regular people, came to identify with him. This guy was a murderer, right, but he was a bad boy and he was doing it to the system. And this country has always had this sort of really strange relationship to criminals. You know the sort of glamorizing, the Jesse James's, you know, and others, the Lucky Lucianos, Look at the impact of the Godfather. So there's this thing of being a bad boy, being rebellious, that when I was watching this thing Get Gaudy I said to my wife. I said we're looking at a proto-Trump, we're looking at the same kind of tapping into this thing that a lot of people don't want to talk about and that goes beyond the team. So I think that there's politics, I think that there's a psychological aspect to this that these guys allow.

Speaker 2:

There's a theme in some science fiction. I saw it in. There was an episode of Star Trek like this. There was this series called the Purge, where basically the idea is that people hold things in and then, but you give them time to explode and they can go out and they can rape, they can murder, but all the rest of the year they have to contain themselves. I think that's what we see in someone like Trump. The Trump is basically saying, hey, it's okay to be a bad boy, it's okay to mock someone who's disabled, right, it's okay to spit at a Muslim, it's okay. Nothing, there'll be no problem with that. And in a society that is as sick as ours, that carries some weight.

Speaker 1:

It's a reading. I'm not sure.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, think about it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, all right, so we're close to an hour, but I did wanna ask you about one other ballpark area which is sort of I don't know state of the left. How do you see things? I mean, for some people there's just doom and gloom. I think there are some real positives out there as well, but there's the culture of the left which is we've spent some time on and that's pretty disturbing, I think. But how do you feel? I mean, are you getting up in the morning and are you have hope and drive or, without getting too personal, are you getting up in the morning and turning over and putting your head back down? Cause a lot of people are doing the latter. I know that's unfortunate.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, I'm actually optimistic but I'm not stupid and I see what's up against us. But my attitude is sort of summarized by this, this, perhaps analogy I've gotten tired of hearing people complain about how bad things are people on the left, and I say to them on December 8th 1941, do you think that the chiefs of staff were sitting around Washington and saying, oh my God, we are completely screwed? Did you just see what happened in Pearl Harbor? And they're attacking Philippines? Oh my God, for God, you know what I mean. It's like no, what they would have been doing is saying we just got our asses kicked, now what are we gonna do?

Speaker 2:

What are we gonna do?

Speaker 1:

I do the exact same thing with sports themes.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

Describing how they take a defeat. They don't hide under the table. They try to be strategic. They try to figure out why they lost. They try to figure out what they can do instead.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, right, and that's the way I look at our situation Now. Having said that, I think that there's a number of challenges that we have to address going forward, that we as a left and the left is actually many lefts but one of those is are we actually serious about winning?

Speaker 1:

That's exactly what I was gonna say to you. I was gonna say, before you do the strategic things, what distinguishes you from somebody whose head is going back down on that right?

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

And my answer is exactly that. Yes, yes, absolutely. That's interesting that you're going in the same Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised. I think that there's a lot of people on the left who have given up on the idea of winning Absolutely and are more interested in losing gloriously.

Speaker 1:

Exactly Right, looking good.

Speaker 2:

They want history to remember. They went down with the ship. They didn't abandon it. They went down with it A number of years ago. I tell the story about this incident. I was invited to speak at an event in Texas a left event and so I gave my talk and then, with the Q&A, and so people were coming up, michael, they were telling me how terrible the situation was in Texas. It's like, oh, and this is before Abbott, right, Right, right. So I'm listening to them. And so I said to them how do we take over Texas? And they looked at me like I had lost my mind.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you're just totally crazy.

Speaker 2:

Completely.

Speaker 1:

Might as well be from.

Speaker 2:

Mars, it might as well, and I looked at them and I said how do we take over Texas? I said if we're not thinking about how we win, why are we doing this? So what is the plan for taking over Texas? When have you sat down and looked at the key cities, the key social movements? Have you looked at the counties that are irrelevant? I mean, are you looking to winning or what? And it took me a little while to get them to that.

Speaker 2:

I had a similar discussion a couple of years ago with some activists in Florida who were basically saying the same thing. Oh, bill, I said yeah, yeah, okay, got it All right. So how do we take over Florida? And when I was finished talking, they actually got jazz. They said I'd never thought about it like that. And I said, exactly because we're always thinking in a defensive way, we very rarely think about developing a counter offense. And the other part of this, michael to be, if we want to be real is that I think a lot of people on the left are afraid of winning because in order to win, you have to engage in some messy alliances. And there's some of us that are so pure that if it gets larger than an old VW bug, they just start getting worried about the arrangements that have to be made.

Speaker 1:

You remember the slogan dare to struggle, dare to win.

Speaker 2:

I never forget it.

Speaker 1:

Right. I always used to think to myself dare to struggle, okay I get that. Dare to win what?

Speaker 2:

the hell does that mean?

Speaker 1:

Right, but there was a lot of wisdom in that. These are the issues that strike me as really important. I mean, lots of things are important, obviously, but these are important issues that don't get talked about much and that don't get addressed, and yet they're critical and for example on a sports team. Can you imagine any sports team that has any chance of winning? The throw your hands up, we're getting killed attitude would probably get you booted off the team.

Speaker 2:

That's how you write right.

Speaker 1:

But unless the team is just destitute, it has no chance, in which case it makes sense to go out on the court and play, you know, to look good, avoid getting hurt, et cetera, et cetera, but with no eye on winning. That's the way, I think, the left often functions.

Speaker 2:

Well, you're right, and here's the sense we're pretty much out of time. Let me just add on to that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So, as I mentioned to you, I wear a Pittsburgh Pirates cap and a New York Mets cap. I alternate and during the warmer months and this year, both the Mets and the pirates started off the season doing really well and then all of a sudden both teams crashed and so people would mock me. Right, it's like you're wearing a pirates cap and I said that's what shows you a true fan. A fan doesn't deserve a team. When the team is doing badly, fan sticks with the team, gives the team support and, as a team is rebuilding, reconfiguring strategy. But you don't just walk away. It's easy, at least up until this year, to have been a New York Yankees fan because they were always winning, right, right, there's nothing lost there. It's difficult being a Mets fan or a pirates fan because you just don't know, but you actually have to believe in the mission.

Speaker 1:

Agreed, although I tend to root for players I like, but we'll set that aside. The person who is defeatist let's call it is not crazy. Like you said, you're not stupid, you can see. So if I said to you I use this example with students often also, if I said to you you're going to have to play one on one with LeBron James or Steph Curry or somebody, it's going to be on TV, bill, it's going to be. The whole thing is going to be on TV. Everybody who knows is going to watch it. Everybody else is going to watch it. And what are you going to do? You've got two minutes to get ready. And to me, the person who says, hmm, I'm going to try and figure out how to look as good as I can, how to wear clothes that show me off in a good light, how to generate some interest among the fans and on TV and how nice a guy I am, I said you're going to try and score. He said, no, that's ridiculous. I'm going to lose 100 to 6 or 100 to 8 if I don't practice. And if I do practice, I'm going to get four more points. So what the fuck is the difference? So I'm going to try and do what I can do.

Speaker 1:

There's some of that on the left too, so it isn't so crazy. In other words, if you think that you can't win, if you think that there's nothing to win in any event, there's nothing better, then it makes sense to not be strategic, because being strategic takes effort and it gets you no place. You think so I might as well have a good time while I'm being on the left and enjoy my friends and look good or whatever, but I don't have to try and win, because that's stupid, that's rolling up, going up the hill and getting crushed when it comes back down. So this is another area where we have to somehow eliminate that sense of there's nothing to win and you can't fight City Hall anyway. You can't win. You can win some little thing, but you can't win any. A very little time goes to that.

Speaker 2:

Well, I mean very little time goes to combating that belief. Or you have to eliminate those people Right, and by which I don't mean I don't mean like whacking them.

Speaker 1:

What.

Speaker 2:

I mean, is that and I say this to folks, it's like if you're a defeatist, I don't want you anywhere around me, get the hell out of my way. If you think that there's no point, I'm not interested. I really am not.

Speaker 1:

Go to the beach. That's right, but here's a counter to that. So I have a friend, no names a very good friend and very, very political was in the war in Iraq. He did tremendous organizing work in particular part of the country, and a time kindly finally came and he basically said to me I can't take it anymore. He said what can't you take? And he said I can't take the people I'm trying to organize I can't take the level of he would be disparaging about it because he had gotten to that point. But he was basically saying I have to be a therapist, I have to be a I don't know a parent. I have to be. They just don't have any capacity to get things done. Now the problem is that there's some truth to that and that's part of what we're, that's part of why we're trying to change the whole society. And so when you say somebody who is defeatist, okay, go do your thing while we try and change the world, that can make a movement callous.

Speaker 2:

I don't think so. I think it's like battle fatigue. It does what. I think that it's like battle fatigue. I think that is. I think that what I'm talking about, Michael, is not people who express misgivings but do the work.

Speaker 2:

I'm talking about the kind of people who are the equivalent of the character played in the movie by William Macy, the movie called the Cooler, where this guy basically, if he stands near you, he brings you down. He's used by Alec Baldwin in this casino If someone is on a roll, you send William Macy over and they start losing. I'm talking about that. I'm talking about people that have lost hope, who are cynics.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I understand what you're saying.

Speaker 2:

Those are people right, and to me they are casualties of the movement. It's like battle fatigue that there are people that go through war. There's something happens at a certain point and they just can't do it anymore. And I get that I'm not being disparaging of them. They just they can't do it. Your friend, maybe he reached that point that he just emotionally can't do it anymore, and I get that. It might be that he needs to take a rest. It may mean that he needs to take a different, do a different movement.

Speaker 1:

But what if there are so many such people that you'll have to solve the problem?

Speaker 2:

The problem doesn't get solved except through struggle. It doesn't get it, just doesn't, Any more than you can win a battle without fighting it. I mean, the only way you can, the only way is, then it sounds like a catch 22.

Speaker 1:

That is, person is defeatist. Person feels look, you know, we're not going to win. It doesn't even have to be conscious, it's just there, we're not going to win, we can't win, there's nothing to win, et cetera, et cetera. They're defeatist and cynical, as you say Okay so, but what if? What if that's so many people that you simply have to turn them around? Now, if you say that the only way you can turn them around is if they're struggling successfully, I guess All right, that sounds like a catch 22.

Speaker 2:

No, no, I meant it in a different way. I'm saying that the people who are defeatists may have to take a pause. They may have to take a pause. Oh, okay, pausc, yeah Right, they may need to take a break. There may be nothing you can really do that can convince them. I know people like this and and what I do is, given that there's certain things I don't ask of them, and what I do is I look for people, you know a coalition of the willing, so to speak. I look for people that are prepared to engage in struggle, and you know it's like I. I I'll give you an exact analogy. When I have managed staff, I've said to staff don't come into my office with problems, come into my office.

Speaker 2:

That's right. I want your best thinking on how to get out of the situation, unless you really just want to come into vent. I said now, if you want to come into vent, that's fine, just tell me in advance, because then I won't. I won't worry about trying to help you work it through. I'll just be there to you know, be supportive. But if you're coming to resolve a problem, then I want your best thinking about options and that's the way I think we have to look at politically that your friend may be right now. He needs a break, you know it just may be as simple as that.

Speaker 1:

Difficult situation though. Yeah, anyway, we're up around minute an hour and 14 minutes, are you? Is there anything you'd like to get into this session that we? I mean, there are obviously tons of things we haven't talked about, but is there anything that you particularly want to bring up before we?

Speaker 2:

come to our close. We've covered so much and a lot. I'm hoping that people listen to it. I'm worried. I mean we could go on you and I could go on for the next hour. Yeah, right, at least, and I want to make sure people listen. So I guess I would just say stay tuned.

Speaker 1:

Okay, well, that said, this is Mike Albert. Well, first, thank you for doing this.

Speaker 2:

Sure Pleasure.

Speaker 1:

And, as I said, this is Mike Albert signing off until next time for Revolution Z.

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