The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 1019 — September 19 - October 3, 2016

Editorial:
Workers’ Answer to the False Choice of a Two Party System

Sep 19, 2016

Donald Trump has clawed his way back and is now running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton. With much of the electorate sick of both parties, Democratic and Republican, Trump is portraying himself as the outsider, the independent.

This election, Trump is a Republican. (In earlier ones, he supported the Democrats.) But the fact that he doesn’t appear to be part of the Republican establishment and many of them even oppose him, plays to Trump’s advantage. The more that Democrats, Republicans, and much of the news media attack Trump, the better they make him look. They allow Trump to appear not afraid of taking on the entrenched establishment of both parties, nor the big shots who run the big news media operations.

Of course, it is all an act, a scam.

Trump is as much of an outsider as any Rockefeller ever was. The son of some scheming, major New York City real estate developer, Trump was born into the elite club of the very wealthy and powerful. For his entire life, Trump has taken advantage of the laboring population in order to add to his own fortune and wealth, the worst exploiter of workers. He even used his reality television show to brag about how much he did this.

In other words, Trump is an avowed enemy of the working class. So, how could he have gained the support of so many white workers and lower middle class people, not to speak of some Latino workers and even a few black workers?

Yes, part of it is his appeal to racist, anti-immigrant attitudes that some may hold. But the fact remains that so many respond who ordinarily wouldn’t be racist, because they are angry. They are being crushed by the unending unemployment, worsening job prospects, the lack of educational opportunities, the lack of affordable housing – everything is getting worse. Many had voted for Obama eight years ago, because he promised “change.” Now, they rightly feel betrayed.

So, they don’t want to vote for Clinton, another Democrat, because she represents more of the same. And she IS more of the same. She is the establishment candidate – which she has proven during her long political career, in which she has faithfully served the capitalist exploiters against the working class.

That leaves Trump as the supposed protest candidate. But whatever Trump says about the lack of jobs and the companies that are cutting them, the worsening schools and neighborhoods, this grotesque billionaire’s proposals would only make things worse. By playing up the worst prejudices against different parts of the working class, including black workers, immigrants, women, Muslims, he is directing one section of workers’ anger against other parts of the working class. He spouts the same vile racist and sexist garbage that other politicians, as well as capitalists, say using innuendo.

Sure, many who might vote for Trump say they don’t necessarily trust him. But any support of Trump, even half-hearted, means accepting his disgusting inhuman attitudes, which drive more wedges between working people, and fan the flames of violence of all kinds.

Whether Trump wins or loses, his campaign has already reinforced the growth of racism and prejudices in the population.

In fact, this election poses a choice for workers. But not between Clinton and Trump, which for workers is a false choice.

It is whether or not workers begin to organize themselves to fight to protect their own class interests against the capitalist class, whether or not workers begin to build up their own class party to confront the capitalist parties in the political arena. That is, whether working people, in their disparate parts, begin to see themselves as part of a single and unified class.

If not, slimy politicians like Trump will use the workers’ own anger against themselves, trapping workers in a worsening cycle of economic decline and violence.

Pages 2-3

Sioux Protest Pipeline

Sep 19, 2016

Back in April, a small group of Standing Rock Sioux set up a protest camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to try to stop construction of a massive oil pipeline project that would run next to their land.

Like many tribes, the Standing Rock Sioux have already been pushed onto marginal land, into an impoverished situation. To make matters worse, fifty years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers flooded the Standing Rock Sioux and members of other tribes out of their homes when it built dams on the Missouri River. Now, the proposed pipeline runs through a burial ground, and right next to the tribe’s water source. The protesters say that it puts their only water supply at risk.

Of course, the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer, is concerned about one thing only – getting its money out of this 3.7 billion-dollar project. When protesters disrupted construction, the company sued the protesters. Then they sent in private security forces with dogs that attacked people trying to block construction.

American Indians from 280 different tribes have joined the protest camp, and dozens of tribes have officially supported the protesters. The camp now has several thousand people.

But for the corporations and the U.S. government that serves them, the wishes of the people directly involved have no standing. They didn’t in the 1800s, not in the 1900s, and not today. U.S. policy toward Native Americans has been one long history of violent theft.

SoCal Gas:
Out of Jail Free

Sep 19, 2016

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office settled charges against SoCal Gas over the massive gas leak in Porter Ranch. SoCal will pay four million dollars.

This is not even a slap on the wrist. SoCal Gas’s parent company, Sempra Energy, is the largest natural gas utility in the U.S., and it reported more than 10 billion dollars revenue in 2015. So this “fine” Sempra has to pay for poisoning thousands of residents for four months is less than one-thousandth of its revenue last year!

The DA’s office had brought a criminal charge against SoCal Gas for “failing to properly notify authorities.” But the DA’s office did not even mention all those real crimes committed by SoCal Gas and its officials. Namely, company execs:

– operated aged, corroded gas wells highly prone to leaks for years;

– did not install shut-off valves that could stop a leak when it started;

– continued to operate the Porter Ranch facility during the massive leak;

– did not disclose the exact contents of the leak and the health risks it carried;

– did not take all measures to immediately stop the leak, allowing it to pollute the air and pose a massive fire risk for four months.

All these were decisions company execs made, in the name of profit. But these conscious decisions made thousands of people sick and forced them to flee their homes for months. Properly, these criminal actions should call for prison time for company officials, not just a fine for the company – and a small one at that.

But there’s no such thing as proper justice in this system – not for the poor who languish in prison and not for the wealthy who poison us for their great profit.

Murdered by Baltimore County Police

Sep 19, 2016

Korryn Gaines, a 23-year-old mother, was shot to death and her five-year-old son Kodi was wounded on August 1st by Baltimore County Police when they went to Gaines’ apartment to serve a warrant on her for a misdemeanor traffic offense.

The police escalated the situation before it even became a situation. Did they send a sheriff and a negotiating team or social worker? No. They sent in a SWAT team to serve a warrant for a traffic stop on a car without valid tags. To say this is excessive is a complete understatement.

The SWAT team kicked in her door. They got Facebook to shut down her account because she was live streaming their actions. Most egregious – they fired into her apartment killing Gaines with her 5-year-old son in the apartment. They dare accuse her of putting her son in danger!

The police set up a confrontation between themselves and Gaines that for all practical purposes had no other possible ending. Before her Facebook account was shut down, Gaines put on it, “Don’t tell me what to do, I’m home. Tell those gang members outside my door to go away from my home and family.”

The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Baltimore County Police. Maybe they will get some money. But it won’t bring back Kodi’s mother or the images of her murder in his head. And it won’t stop the “gang members” from murdering again, Baltimore County’s supposed “finest.”

Attack on Special Education in Chicago

Sep 19, 2016

Chicago Public Schools insidiously cut Special Education Services by putting up all kinds of obstacles for students getting what they need. These are the services that go to the most vulnerable children, the ones who need extra help learning or simply being safe.

Middle managers now sit in on the meetings that determine whether students will get services. They act as obstacles to students getting help, like having an aide, or getting transportation.

Parents used to be able to let their non-Special Ed children ride the Special Education bus, if they had a student in Special Education. That let siblings help each other and stick together. But this is no longer allowed without parents filling out a lot of paperwork. So the brother or sister of a Special Ed student can’t get on the bus, even though it stops at their house and goes to their school!

Between the middle managers and this new rule, schools specializing in Special Education have seen the number of buses serving their students cut. Christopher Elementary, a south side school with a large Special Education program, went from 34 bus routes last year to 23 this year.

They’ve also increased the amount of paperwork a parent has to fill out to get a student into Special Education at all – another way to keep students from getting services. And it used to be straightforward for many Special Education students to continue their programs over the summer. But added paperwork this past year has dropped the number of students who get into summer programs.

On top of this, aides working with Special Education students are now required to fill out paperwork to account for every 15 minutes of their work day, so they spend their time filling out forms instead of helping students.

The attack on Special Education is part of a bigger attack on public schooling. Politicians all over the country want to spend less on public education for the working class, to free up more money to hand over to the rich – even when that means attacking the most vulnerable kids.

Shameful!

Baltimore:
Port Covington Giveaway

Sep 19, 2016

The Baltimore City Council is expected to give final approval on September 19 to a 660 million-dollar subsidy for the real estate development arm of Under Armour sportswear company. The subsidy will be paid for by a loan the city will take out in the form of bonds. That 660 million will be used to pay for infrastructure for a new “city within a city” to be built on 266 acres of land at Port Covington in Southwest Baltimore. The development will include a new headquarters complex for Under Armour.

Many city officials claim this huge giveaway is worth it because of the jobs that will be created and the community benefits that Under Armour’s development company has agreed to – supposedly worth 136 million dollars.

We know what such promises are worth. But even if this agreement was completely carried out, it would give back to the community only 136 million of the millions the city – that is taxpayers – will pay out. Only about one-fifth of what the developer will rake in.

Pages 4-5

Israel:
The Impasse of Repression

Sep 19, 2016

On August 3rd, the Israeli Parliament lowered the minimum age for imprisoning a child for “a grave terrorist act” from fourteen to twelve. With this law, the Israeli state pretends to fight the attacks launched by sometimes very young Palestinians against Israeli soldiers or civilians.

This simply testifies to the impossible situation Zionist policies have created in what used to be Palestine. According to an Israeli human rights organization, in 2015, 30 Palestinian children were killed by the Israeli army, and 1,735 were wounded. Already in 2015, 860 very young kids have been arrested, 136 of them under the age of twelve.

This situation results from the oppression of the Palestinians and the complete absence of any perspective that their situation might improve. Israel continues to encroach more and more on Palestinian lands and the sealing of the West Bank and Gaza means the Palestinians are trapped in an open-air prison. In these territories, unemployment and poverty hit almost everyone.

This policy of more and more repression cannot possibly bring security to the Israelis. On the contrary, it can only push more Palestinians to fight to change their situation. By imprisoning children, even the very young, the Israeli government just transforms them even more quickly into young rebels.

Migrants Flee Hell Created by Imperialist Powers

Sep 19, 2016

Since the beginning of 2016, more than 3,000 migrants have disappeared trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. This is more than in the first half of 2015.

The number of people seeking refuge in the European Union rose from 435,000 in 2013, to 600,000 in 2014, to 1.2 million in 2015. Since the beginning of this year, 250,000 persons have tried to cross the Mediterranean. The agreement between Turkey and the European Union has stopped these migrants from arriving in Europe, but not their need to flee their homelands. And there’s no reason for this to stop, for the simple reason that wars and famine haven’t stopped.

The migrants are fleeing the chaos created by the imperialist countries in big parts of Africa and the Middle East, and the United States has the lion’s share of responsibility for this disaster. While the leaders of the imperialist countries help make these people’s lives a hell, they want to bar migrants access to a dignified existence, under the pretext that Europe and the United States don’t have the means to receive all the misery of the world!

What cynicism on the part of politicians who are extremely generous about giving money to the capitalist class, and who spend billions for military interventions across the planet.

45 Years Ago:
Attica Prison Rebellion

Sep 19, 2016

Forty-five years ago, prisoners rebelled in Attica, a New York state prison. The rebellion lasted five days until it was savagely repressed, leaving 31 prisoners and nine guards dead, all shot by the police.

There had been previous revolts in the prisons. From 1950 until Attica, there were some 50 other prison uprisings. But that didn’t prevent a prison official from declaring in 1966, they were “proud, satisfied and happy” with their system.

In fact, as events were to show, the prisons were becoming a breeding ground for revolt.

By 1970, many prisoners had begun to call themselves “revolutionaries.” The black movement and the U.S. war in Viet Nam led to political radicalization for many. These attitudes had spread throughout the population, including among prisoners.

A new type of prisoner appeared: those condemned in ordinary criminal cases whose political consciousness developed in prison. George Jackson was the best known representative. His book Soledad Brother tells of his development. Jackson was serving a ten-year term in prison for a theft amounting to $70. He supported the radical Black Panthers. He knew that his life was threatened by the U.S. government, which had begun a program targeting the radical wing of the black movement for assassination. In August 1971, George Jackson was shot in the back by a guard in San Quentin prison. The authorities tried to hide this assassination, but the truth came out. It led to a series of riots in many prisons. The Attica revolt was the deepest.

In Attica, 54% of the prisoners were black, but 100% of the guards were white. Prisoners were kept 14 to 16 hours per day in their cells. Their mail was read, their reading censored and they saw their families only through a separation barrier. They had almost no medical care and early releases were arbitrary. The system of plea bargaining, with 75% of those in prison having no trial, increased the feelings of injustice. The accused pled guilty, whether they were or not, in exchange for a promise of a reduced sentence ... which they didn’t always get.

The prison system reflected society’s inequalities. In 1969, a crime of fraud by someone who had gained $200,000 led to seven months in prison, at worst. On the other hand, the prison term for a burglary yielding $321 was 33 months.

In a sociology class at Attica, prisoners began to discuss the changes they wanted. They organized demonstrations and presented modest demands.

George Jackson’s assassination increased tensions in all the prisons. When Jackson was assassinated, some prisoners in Attica seized a courtyard and held 40 guards hostage. The prisoners invited observers, including a New York Times reporter, to visit the place. One wrote, “The racial harmony that reigns among the prisoners was stunning. The courtyard was the first place that I’ve seen where there was no racism.” A black prisoner declared, “I didn’t think that the whites would join in. I cried at the idea that we were all so close. All united.”

The prison administration stalled any negotiations with the prisoners. On September 13th, 1971, Governor Rockefeller gave the green light for an assault by the National Guard, prison guards, and local police, armed with automatic rifles, submachine guns and tear gas. In 15 minutes, 31 prisoners and nine guards were killed. The administration claimed at first that the guards had their throats cut by the prisoners, but autopsies proved that they had been killed by police fire.

These events didn’t prevent other movements in the prisons and the creation of support committees for those accused of further crimes at Attica. In the end, the judicial authorities gave up demanding life sentences for the prisoners who survived the assault.

Attica will always be a symbol of both the brutality of which the U.S. government is capable and of the heroism of ordinary people who have decided to make a stand.

National Anthem
– Instilling Unthinking Patriotism

Sep 19, 2016

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem – and it became a national scandal.

Why does anyone care? If the media and the NFL had ignored him, few people would have noticed, and Kaepernick’s message protesting police killings of unarmed black men would have gone unheard. You might think this would be an easy solution for the NFL and the TV networks. Yet instead, they made an enormous issue of the national anthem, the flag, and finally, even, the troops.

Singing the national anthem at sporting events is one of the most important ways this country instills unthinking patriotism in ordinary people. This ritual started with baseball during World War I, then came back, again with baseball, in World War II. It soon spread to other sports. And it proved to be a useful way to impose uncritical, unthinking patriotism in the population.

This idea that we should support our country, right or wrong, really means that we should support the decisions of the government – especially when it’s wrong.

Of course, the super-patriots often pretend that we are being asked to “support the troops.” What we are being asked for is to support the wars the U.S. launches – even when, as in Vietnam or Iraq, those wars are brutal wars of domination fought to dominate a population that doesn’t want the U.S. there, and even when the troops, mostly working class youth, pay a bitter price for wars they never decided on.

This country starts instilling unthinking patriotism on children when they’re very young, in school and at sporting events for young people. It is one of the most important ways of getting the population to go along with policies that are clearly against their interests.

So, of course, the NFL and all the sports media people made such a big deal when Kaepernick protested the national anthem. Whether intentionally or not, he called into question this link between sports and unthinking patriotism.

Pages 6-7

Texas:
The Lone Star Killer

Sep 19, 2016

The estimated mortality rate for mothers in Texas doubled within two years, 2011 and 2012, according to University of Maryland scientists. While 72 women in Texas died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in 2010, that number jumped to 148 in 2012. The maternal death rate stood at around 36 per 100,000 live births, much higher than the maternal death rate in other rich countries, where it is 12.

Because of such shocking findings, the researchers concluded: “Still, in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely.”

Yes, something was utterly wrong for women in Texas.

First, the State of Texas cut family planning grants by 66% across the state. As a consequence of this drastic cut, 82 women’s clinics in the state were closed. Then in 2013, the state came up with a scheme to ditch Medicaid. Under this scheme, the state legally withheld funds from any clinic affiliated with an abortion provider.

Women did not just die in the hospital during or immediately after childbirth. About 60 percent of maternal deaths occurred six weeks or more after delivery, according to the researchers. They noted that this figure is particularly important because more than half of the nearly 400,000 births in Texas every year are covered by Medicaid, but benefits for many mothers expire 60 days after they give birth.

Adding to all this calamity is that Texas has the largest number of uninsured people in the country and has rejected Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. This could well be contributing to maternal deaths and near-deaths.

Yes, as the researchers said, only a war can cause such a very high death rate during delivery. But this is a war declared by the State of Texas against the working class in general, and women in particular.

Deaths of Mothers Due to Child Birth Increasing in U.S.

Sep 19, 2016

The estimated mortality rate for mothers giving birth in the U.S. increased from 18.8 in 2000 to 23.8 in 2014, according to University of Maryland scientists. The maternal mortality rate is the annual number of deaths of mothers per 100,000 live births from any cause related to pregnancy. Close to 1,000 women died in 2014 during the delivery of their children.

This high U.S. maternal mortality rate puts the U.S. 30th in the world, just ahead of Mexico, among 31 countries reporting maternal mortality information. And in the U.S., the rate has been increasing – it is 27% higher over the past 14 years. By comparison, maternal mortality worldwide dropped about 44% between 1990 and 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

So, the situation is getting worse each year for pregnant U.S. women. Yet at the same time, scientists have made incredible discoveries that can save us from deadly health conditions not treatable a decade ago.

The above rates did not include Texas and California. The reported maternal mortality rate for Texas doubled within two years, 2011 and 2012, to levels not seen in any other states. The maternal mortality rate in Texas was 35.8 in 2014, according to the same scientists. There are reasons for this higher mortality rate (see separate article).

Only in California has the maternal mortality rate markedly decreased. In the Maryland study, the scientists said, “California has made concerted efforts to reduce maternal mortality ... contracting with the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative to investigate primary causes of maternal death. This collaborative developed and promulgated evidence-based tool kits to address two of the most common, preventable contributors to maternal death (obstetric hemorrhage and preeclampsia) and implemented quality improvement initiatives throughout the state.”

The example shows that simple public health improvements would prevent some of the deaths of mothers in pregnancy. Yet even California doesn’t measure up to other countries.

The U.S., one of the richest countries in the world and in history, chooses not to allocate the required and available resources and money to prevent women from dying in childbirth. It ranks alongside poor countries, in terms of its maternal mortality rate.

This is part of the “American way of life.”

Page 8

Michigan State Budget Raided by Corporations

Sep 19, 2016

Michigan corporations are projected to get a tax refund while effectively putting nothing into the state Treasury in 2016.

The tax credits left over from the Democrats plus the lower tax rate gift of 6 percent from the Republicans, adds up to the corporations altogether not only paying nothing into the Treasury but actually getting refunds! Officials are projecting a net loss of 99 million dollars in revenue from the state’s principal business taxes.

Of course, the state made up the loss by strong arming the population. Michigan is expected to collect roughly 9.4 billion dollars in personal income taxes in 2016. Seven billion dollars will come from sales taxes. And then there are gas taxes and registration and other fees. All of these taxes weigh most heavily on ordinary people.

There it is. And it is not just in Michigan. Corporations put nothing in, but are given money from the state Treasury, while working people are taxed even more in every possible way.

Business as usual.

Billionaires Weren’t Paying Taxes
– How “Shocking”!

Sep 19, 2016

Tax audits done by the Michigan Department of the Treasury snagged a few billionaires for not properly paying taxes on multiple homes. According to data obtained by The Detroit News, some of the most expensive real estate in Michigan – fancy second homes and vacation homes – was improperly getting tax exemptions.

State workers have some advice for these billionaires – if you don’t want to pay state taxes, stop buying second luxury homes!

Michigan Revenue “Sharing” Lawsuit

Sep 19, 2016

If anyone is wondering why cities are going broke across Michigan, it is because the state has been stealing their money. A lawsuit was filed against the state by 14 communities because of under-funding of local government.

Explaining the lawsuit, one city manager said, “The state has taken tax money to use on everything from tax breaks to whatever deals and incentives they come up with, and led us to this scenario with emergency managers who screw us up.”

A lawsuit like this shines a light on the problem. But to claw back money that is being diverted to corporate pockets requires a determined fight of whole communities – a working class fight!

Michigan 2016:
Let the Workers Voice Be Heard

Sep 19, 2016

In August, a new party was officially recognized in the state of Michigan: the Working Class Party. We reproduce below a leaflet issued by the new party. It appeared on the website: www.workingclassfight.com and is borrowed from there.

There is more information about the new party on that website, including a link that takes you to an interview that aired on Michigan Public Radio on August 22, featuring one of the new party’s candidates, Mary Anne Hering. She discusses what militants had to do to get the party on the ballot, what it stands for and what they hope to accomplish with the elections, given that they understand elections cannot change the situation of working people.

MICHIGAN 2016: LET THE WORKERS VOICE BE HEARD

We joined with others to put Working Class Party on the ballot this year in Michigan:

  • To let working people express their anger,
  • To insist that workers should not pay the cost of the bosses' crisis.

We say emergency measures are needed:

  • To put a halt to unemployment,
  • To stop the slide in our standard of living,
  • To stop the destruction of public services and schools,
  • To stop the poisoning of children's minds and bodies.

We say that the wealth of this society must be taken and used to pay for emergency measures protecting the health, lives and well-being of ordinary people.

Putting a party on the ballot won't change our situation, we know that.

  • It will take a fight of the working class to put its hands on the wealth that is today hoarded by a handful of banks, a couple hundred large companies and a tiny wealthy capitalist class.

But by putting this party on the ballot in Michigan, we are planting a flag.

A vote for the Working Class Party can show that there are thousands of people who say:

  • That they are fed up with Democrats and Republicans, who both represent only the big companies and banks, the capitalist class;
  • That they are convinced the working class needs to speak for itself, putting forward its own answers.

And those thousands of people can begin to change the situation!

For the Working Class Party,
Sam Johnson, Mary Anne Hering, Gary Walkowicz

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