Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Can “Letters to the Editor” be catalysts for movement building?

In my opinion, this is the way to build movements provided we are also sharing these letters and our ideas with family, friends, neighbors and fellow workers.

If you are only writing the letters to politicians and not sharing them publicly they do no good at all... they end up in the "circular file."

But even the most reactionary politicians can be convinced to support progressive, pro-worker legislation.

Let me give you an example.

A long time ago I met with Gerald Ford to discuss extending unemployment benefits when he was still a Congressman and House Minority Leader.

We agreed to meet a second time with a larger group of people.

Gerald Ford had never supported any pro-worker legislation of any kind.

During our second meeting I showed him the petition we had begun circulating. He asked how many signatures we had. I told him a couple hundred and he laughed. But, he said, come back with ten thousand signatures on your petition in a month and I will support this legislation to extend unemployment benefits. Obviously he thought we couldn't get the signatures.

I met with the president of the local labor council and told him what Ford said. He didn't believe Ford would go along.

So, I called a press conference at the unemployment office and said what Ford told us. The media went back to Ford and asked him. He acknowledged he told us that.

So, we started a massive letter writing campaign, turned the published letters into leaflets and tabled using these leaflets at the unemployment office, supper markets, public parks, at plant gates and on college campuses.

We held small street corner demonstrations at busy pedestrian crossings.

We collected over 25,000 signatures in less than a month... Ford kept his promise and got a slew of Republicans to support the legislation that even many Democrats had opposed until Ford announced he was voting for it.

Because of our "little" campaign supporting extending unemployment benefits workers today get extended benefits when unemployment goes above a certain level.

By the way... Gerald Ford later told me he would never again make such an agreement with me.
It is possible to build movements capable of winning using methods like this even when dealing with the most reactionary politicians if we work in the right way.

We have prevented foreclosures using such methods and won welfare benefits for people, too.
I was very involved working with U.S. Senators Phil Hart and Gaylord Nelson and we forced Nixon to agree to very progressive environmental legislation.

I was also very involved in the national movement that won free school lunches for children from poor families... we used very similar methods. This movement started with about a dozen people sitting around in a living room talking about the problem.

Just ask the Liberal Party in Canada what kind of movement they came up against when they tried to deport me and my family using similar methods.

When the movement against the Vietnam War first started we worked in the same way.

And the movement to free Angela Davis began in the same way.

I don't buy the non-struggle position that it does no good to write letters and circulate petitions, sign onto statements, and have personal meetings with even the most reactionary politicians...

But, if people are not going to work together in an agreed upon way towards a common objective...

You are right, writing letters, etc. will do no good.

So, if I am the only one writing such letters, the politicians will just laugh at me. What I have found is that once a few people start initiating a struggle in this way it starts to spread. People like to see everyone working together and it encourages them to get involved.

The idea is to think of letter writing as part of movement building.

We all need health care, don't we? What better reform to build a movement around?

And one of the most important things is for these politicians to see movements growing. They can't stand it when they can't stop a movement with phony promises.

You know, when it comes to health care reform it really can't hurt to write a letter to the editor similar to the one I wrote... try it; and try using the letter after it gets published and meet with your members of the U.S. Senate and member of Congress--- show them your published letter and let them know you are talking to everyone you can.

Politicians understand a very simple rule of advertising... when people are happy they don't say much; but, when people aren't happy and they start talking to everyone there is a problem that could end up destroying what it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create goodwill with buyers.

Maybe your letter won't do any good; but, can it do any harm?

I called U.S. Senator Ted Cruz after my letter was published and told him to check out my letter to the editor. I told Cruz I want to meet with him. I doubt he wants to meet with me but I am willing to bet before I am done he is going to meet with me to discuss health care reform.

I am sure I am going to hear from a bunch of people who will say I'm full of shit. That we can't ever hope to get anything from these politicians.

But, here is the thing... if we want to win this kind of reform right now we are going to have to force these politicians to sit down and talk. They are, unfortunately, what we have for the moment.