The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Issue no. 1030 — March 20 - April 3, 2017

Infrastructure Crumbles while Trump Fiddles

Mar 20, 2017

Donald Trump says he wants to put money into fixing the country’s crumbling infrastructure. Last summer, as a candidate, he promised a trillion dollars to address it.

Yes, it is absolutely true that the infrastructure is crumbling! Just in the past few weeks, we’ve seen a slew of shocking stories:

In Dallas, a six-month-old baby died after his babysitter couldn’t reach 911. Dallas’s aging 911 technology couldn’t tell the difference between calls on hold and hang-ups, creating a huge backlog.

In northern California, heavy rains created a huge hole in the spillway of the Oroville Dam, leading to the emergency evacuation of more than 200,000 residents. This dam is one of 14,000 in the country classified as a “high hazard potential” and needs repair.

Leaking sewer pipes caused sinkholes to appear suddenly in Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Fraser, Michigan, swallowing cars and homes.

In southeast Michigan, from Detroit to Brighton, high winds toppled trees, branches and power lines, leaving more than one million people without power for days, some for almost a week. This was not an act of nature, but a result of budget cuts leaving many trees untrimmed and power lines and grids unmaintained.

Also in Detroit, an equipment malfunction at a water treatment plant caused water pressure to drop to levels that could allow bacterial contamination. Tens of thousands in the city, including 29 schools, were not informed of this danger until long after they had been using this potentially contaminated water.

And, of course, the city of Flint still suffers with lead-contaminated water, several years after the problem was first publicized.

All over the country, roads, bridges, dams, power grids, and water systems are crumbling. All over the country, people are suffering, being injured, and even dying because of the failures of this aging, crumbling infrastructure.

But Trump’s budget proposal does nothing to address this emergency. Just the opposite, in fact.

To begin with, the amount budgeted falls far short of the trillion dollars he talked about on the campaign trail last summer. And even that trillion dollars is in fact a drop in the bucket – the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that 4.6 trillion dollars will be needed over the next 10 years, for repairs and expansion.

Instead of more resources being devoted to infrastructure repair, Trump’s budget is actually full of cuts.

The Department of Transportation would be cut by 2.4 billion dollars. Amtrak’s budget would be slashed, the FAA would be privatized, and other transit projects would be canceled. Funding for New Starts, a federal infrastructure grant program, would be cut. The TIGER discretionary grant program would be eliminated; this program was going to be giving money to the cities of Detroit and Flint, to repair buses and roads. No more. In fact, the only large-scale infrastructure project Trump promises billions of dollars toward – is that useless wall on the southern border!

Trump is proposing nothing to rebuild the infrastructure. To the extent that he talks about building projects at all, he proposes to turn over roads and highways to private companies so that they could turn a profit on toll roads! He’s proposing to dismantle public maintenance and oversight and to give public works projects to for-profit corporations, of his cronies, first and foremost.

This is not a plan to fix the infrastructure. It is a plan to transfer even more cost onto our backs.

Will we trust the words of a real estate billionaire tycoon turned president and pay for the roads, bridges, and structure repairs with our lives and health and taxes and already low wages? Or will we organize and fight for real infrastructure repair financed by Wall Street money; money that was stolen from the workers’ labor in the first place?

Pages 2-3

The Forgotten War

Mar 20, 2017

Upon taking office, President Trump has intensified U.S. military attacks on Yemen. He gave the okay for the very early morning raid of January 29 by U.S. special forces, supported by helicopter gunships and armed Reaper drones, on the rural village of Yakla. And in early March, Trump demonstrably stepped up U.S. bombing of Yemen, with 40 bombing raids in less than a week.

According to the Trump administration, both the raid and the bombings targeted fighters belonging to the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda. But in reality, it was the civilian population that suffered the brunt of the casualties. In Yakla alone, at least 25 civilians, including 10 children under the age of 13, were killed, with dozens more people wounded.

Just like in Syria, Iraq and Libya, the population in Yemen has been caught in the crossfire between imperialist bombs and Islamic militias – with the difference being that the news media has paid much less attention to events in Yemen.

Yemen, the small and very impoverished country at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is located at a crossroads for the entire region. Every day, three million barrels of oil pass through the Gulf of Aden off the Yemen coast, with ships traveling either north to the oil refineries of Saudi Arabia or to the south and the shipping lanes of the Asian markets. At one place, these shipping lanes are so narrow, they are considered a “choke point” just like the Strait of Hormuz at the base of the Persian Gulf.

But the people of this country have paid greatly for the fact that they live in such a strategic location. For that location has made Yemen a target of various imperial and regional powers vying for control and influence, from the U.S. and Great Britain, to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. These rivalries have contributed to more than a half a century of civil wars and violent upsurges inside Yemen.

The latest chapter of this endless war began in March 2015, when the Saudi Arabian military, at the head of a nine-nation Arab coalition, and with the full support of the United States government, began to bomb Yemen heavily in order to weaken and drive back an offensive by the Houthi militia.

The Houthis, named after its founder, had taken control over much of the country, and forced the government, headed by the dictator, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to flee.

Saudi Arabia shares a long border with Yemen. And the Saudi rulers feared that if the Houthis triumphed in Yemen, it could cause greater instability inside Saudi Arabia itself, especially since the Houthis and Saudi Arabia’s most oppressed minorities share the same Shiite religious sect. The Saudi sheiks also feared that the Iranian government, their main rival in the region, would gain a new ally.

This war only sowed more chaos inside Yemen, fueling the growth and power of the Yemen branch of al Qaeda, better known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as well as the local branch of ISIS. A Frontline report, “Yemen under Siege” (May 3, 2016) even shows members of al Qaeda fighting alongside the Saudi coalition forces against their common enemy, the Houthis.

Eventually, the U.S. and Saudi coalition forces turned around and also attacked and bombed al-Qaeda and ISIS – a war inside a war.

These wars have been devastating. In only two years, more than ten thousand people have been killed and 40,000 more have been wounded. The war has also obliterated the already extremely weak Yemen economy. “The [Saudi-U.S.] coalition has destroyed a wide variety of civilian targets that critics say have no clear link to the rebels,” reported the New York Times (“U.S. Fingerprints on Attacks Obliterating Yemen’s Economy,” November 13, 2016), in an understatement if there ever was one.

The article went on to describe the destruction: “It has hit hospitals and schools. It has destroyed bridges, power stations, poultry farms, a key seaport and factories that produce yogurt, tea, tissues, ceramic, Coca-Cola and potato chips. It has bombed weddings and a funeral.”

This massive destruction has already driven close to three million people out of their homes, while depriving much of the population of any food. The latest U.N. estimates are that close to 17 million out of a population of 26 million people have so little access to food, they face starvation and famine.

This is the barbaric price that the U.S. and the other imperial powers, big and small, impose on the population of Yemen.

Imperialist Terrorism in Syria

Mar 20, 2017

On March 16, U.S. drones bombed a building in Al Jinah, a village in Syria. The U.S. military claimed Al Qaeda militants were meeting in the building and reported that “we’re not aware of any credible allegations of civilian casualties.”

But according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British monitoring group with a network of activists in Syria, the U.S. actually destroyed a mosque, killing at least 42 people. The White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group, posted a video of their members pulling bloody people and bodies out of the rubble. The U.S. submitted a satellite image showing a small mosque, largely unhurt, next to a flattened building, to show they hadn’t hit the mosque. But local residents say the flattened building was an expansion of the original mosque complex, recently constructed.

U.S. strikes like this continue the already disastrous war in Syria. Almost half a million Syrians have been killed, with many more severely wounded, and hundreds of thousands of children have been made orphans. Out of about 18 million people in the country, the UN estimates that 13.5 million need humanitarian help to survive. Five million people have been driven out of the country, of whom two million live in refugee camps in atrocious conditions. Another six million have been driven from their homes in Syria. That is, more than half the people in the country have been forced to flee for their lives!

Since the U.S. openly joined this war in mid-2014, supposedly to fight against the Islamic State, the Pentagon has carried out more than 18,900 air strikes in Syria and Iraq. Independent monitoring groups say these strikes have killed thousands of civilians.

Trump follows the Obama administration’s call for U.S. intervention in Syria to stop terrorism. These terrorist wars carried out by the U.S. around the world have created a deep anger against the U.S. And this is what’s behind the growth of individual terrorism everywhere.

The U.S. is not in this war to protect the Syrian population, or the U.S. population. It has no interest in stopping “terrorism” – the U.S. military is actually carrying out terrorist attacks in Syria every day, like the bombing of this mosque, all in order to retain its control over the oil-rich Middle East.

Catastrophe in Ethiopia

Mar 20, 2017

At least 65 people died in the collapse of a gigantic trash heap outside the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. The poorest of the poor were trying to survive atop that ocean of waste, as in other big cities on earth. While wealth accumulates in the pockets of a handful of billionaires and capitalists, misery and exploitation condemn an increasingly large part of humanity to a horrible fate.

Overthrowing capitalism and putting an end to the capitalist class would be a public safety measure.

MiDAS Computers Rob Michigan Citizens

Mar 20, 2017

The legislature has been investigating problems with the MiDAS computer system and false fraud allegations.

This is like the fox investigating the chicken coop. The whole problem at the Unemployment Insurance Agency STARTED with the legislature and the governor.

Back in 2011, a deliberate attack was waged by the politicians to cut unemployment benefits to 20 weeks and to treat the unemployed seeking benefits as “guilty until proven innocent.” Anti-worker legislators imagined that “fraud” was rampant amongst unemployed filers. They “threw the book at” the unemployed by creating 400% fines that were worst-in-the-nation.

THIS created a logic for treating simple clerical errors as fraud — because — the 400% fines created a financial incentive for the state to bring in LOTS of money by fining LOTS of people!

THIS happened earlier in Michigan with the driver responsibility laws. THIS happened in Ferguson, Missouri where the local government funded itself with outrageous fines!

It was true in Ferguson and it was true with the unemployed in Michigan — it took a fight to bring these issues to light.

Cat Cooked the Books

Mar 20, 2017

Last week, federal agents raided Caterpillar headquarters in Peoria, Illinois. Turns out Cat cooked their books using a Swiss company they own. According to a report commissioned by the government, Caterpillar carried out deliberate tax fraud, avoiding more than 2.4 BILLION in taxes!

Cat’s values in action: stealing, lying, and cheating.

Pages 4-5

Facing the Republican Attack on the Affordable Care Act, What Way Forward?

Mar 20, 2017

The following is a text of a presentation given at a SPARK Public Meeting in Detroit, slightly updated to take account of recent fuller information.

Trump came into the White House boasting and swaggering about his intention to get rid of what Republicans derisively call Obamacare. He said, “I’m blowing it up is imploding ...exploding ...history ...gone ...finished!”

And that is exactly what Republicans set out to do, when they announced legislation to scuttle many parts of the Affordable Care Act.

But the reform of a huge system like the health care system is complicated – as Trump soon admitted, whining that he hadn’t realized how complicated! Hadn’t realized! What everyone who ever tried to get medical care in this country knew, Trump hadn’t realized!

The real problem for the Republicans is that health care deeply touches the population in a way that can get politicians put out of office. And that is exactly the reality now staring Republicans in the face.

One Republican, who came under fire in his own state, said, “Reforming Obamacare is like receiving a 300,000 piece puzzle for Christmas.”

In any case, the Republicans now have their own puzzle. Much of the detail of course has been blurred in their telling about it. But, just like the whole medical care system, the Republican plan is a grab bag of things Republicans have been proposing since the ACA laws were passed, one on top of the other. It is not clear how they would connect the pieces and on what timetable. What IS clear is their determination to make an immediate attack on the health and welfare of the poor and unemployed, as a first step in a larger attack against the general population. Republicans are scrambling to obtain votes from their middle class and deeply reactionary base, which is averse to any social programs.

Moving to Junk Medicaid

Republicans intend to permanently cap government funding for all Medicaid coverage, including the extension that “Obamacare” put in place for 12 million additional low-income individuals and families. Over time, this cap – which will not keep pace with advancing medical costs – will effectively shut down the Medicaid program for new people in many states.

Republicans also intend to eliminate subsidies that offset the high costs of the current programs. Funding for advance premium assistance for very-low-income families will also be eliminated.

They propose to replace the subsidies with small across-the-board tax breaks, the same for everyone regardless of income and regardless of the cost of medical care. Even though the tax breaks for older people are slightly larger, given that insurance and medical care for older people is so much bigger, these tax breaks will effectively favor young, healthy individuals, at the expense of older people with medical problems.

Finally, they would eliminate the mandates of the program, which means gut the rules that make up the federal guidelines for both insurance companies and hospitals and all U.S. citizens. These rules require that everyone has insurance and, if they don’t, they pay a small fine to the government. Under the new plan, there is no fine to the government, but if people let their insurance lapse or don’t get it, when they do sign up they will have to pay the insurance companies a 30% higher premium – in other words, a fine paid to profit.

The Republican plan would also junk the requirement that insurance companies must provide at least a standard health care package, which should include basics like preventive care, hospitalization and drug coverage. Instead of imposing controls on prices – as Trump once promised – Republicans now propose to allow insurance companies to charge older people rates five times as high as younger ones, instead of the current limit of three to one.

And, as a gift to the big insurance companies, they would completely eliminate subsidies for at-risk insurers, leaving only the giant insurers in the field. Already, prior legislative action eliminated all but 13 percent of the funding originally designated for this purpose. This has already driven smaller insurers and co-ops out of business, resulting in rural areas being stuck with often only one choice for an insurer and much higher prices.

We cannot know how quickly and deeply the attacks on the affordable health care law could unfold – in part because it appears that the Republicans don’t even have enough votes from their own party to pass this new medical insurance plan, “Trumpcare.”

But we do know that the politics of the current administration are against any government support for health care to the working class and the poor. Their plan is to reverse the flow of money spent on low-income families and shift it to the upper classes.

Behind their attack on government programs, is the determination to shift funding for Medicare and Medicaid programs to the states, providing the states at the beginning with cash money in block grants, but ultimately leaving the states unable to pay what only the federal government has the means to pay.

The Republicans brag that the Congressional Budget Office finds that the new plan will reduce the government’s overall deficit by 337 billion dollars over ten years. Perhaps, although what they cut from medical programs is almost certainly going to end up in the pockets of the wealthy and the big corporations and banks. In addition, what is cut on the federal level will be sent to the states to fund – some may try to do it, but most will end up cutting programs.

Those who are afraid of deep changes to their health care protections are right to be. The political forces moving forward represent the most reactionary elements of the middle and upper classes: vicious enemies of the working class and poor. Donald Trump has gathered around him a vicious gang of right-wing conspirators – who are pleased with a program that would cut 24 million people off medical coverage by 2026.

Afraid? You Are Right to Be

But leaving the current systems in place is no solution, either.

Obama and Democrats allowed big private insurers to shape and control the new programs. In the Affordable Care marketplace, which covers some 12 million subscribers, the programs are not affordable for those above the income level that allows for Medicaid plans. Even worse, for this section of the population, the programs are so expensive that combined payments for deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance, out-of-pocket costs are so high that families and individuals can face trading off having decent housing for health care, but can’t afford both. Twenty-seven million people are still uninsured.

The system is so complicated, so bureaucratic, that the best of detectives can’t find their way to really be sure what the best policy is for them. The levels of coverage called bronze, silver, gold, and platinum are financially out of reach. Subscribers are still left to pay 20, 30, and 40 percent of costs themselves. The silver level, which is the most used, transfers 30 per cent of medical care cost to the subscriber! And that only AFTER you have paid out all year for premiums, deductibles and co-insurance.

Premium costs alone can top $10,000 per year for a family. Deductibles, which are money that has to be paid by you before insurance pays anything, are easily between $3,000 and $6,000. This year alone, in Michigan, costs have risen 20 percent.

The result? You have insurance, but don’t go for treatment unless you have a crash, like a heart problem or stroke. Families don’t have the money to pay the up-front costs.

The larger impacts of the Affordable Care Act are less talked about and less known. For one hundred fifty million workers who are in group plans at workplaces, the employers have transferred higher costs to employees, claiming they are preparing for the so-called “Cadillac taxes” on “generous” insurance plans. Employers are demanding that workers pay premiums, high deductibles, coinsurance and co-pays where they didn’t demand it before. Deductibles went from $150, $300 for a family to $3,000, $6,000 and more! Result? Workers stop going for medical treatment.

Leading the Way to the Bottom: The U.S. Medical Care System

While almost every other industrialized nation in the world has provided universal healthcare to its population, the U.S. government has traveled in the opposite direction. The socialized medical coverage that we call Medicare and Medicaid – the only somewhat efficient programs that have been in existence for more than 50 years – are also being pulled backward by the movement to eliminate government funding for medical coverage. While these programs still insure over half of the insured population, time is running out before these government programs are turned over to private insurers.

It’s obvious that large parts of the U.S. population are increasingly concerned about losing health care protections.

Does this mean that we should all fall into the Democratic camp and defend Obamacare to our dying breath? Hardly.

To settle for a fight to just preserve the existing Obamacare would be a mistake.

We have to recognize that good, fair national health care can’t be near realized while a for-profit system is left in place.

With no way for workers in this system to control how a program is organized, working people have no hope of good universal, accessible health care.

We have to set our vision higher than to simply protest an attack on an already broken system. We have to set our sights on the fight for national health care for all and make a fight that would threaten to bring the house down, a fight like those of the past when the rich backed away from the power of the organized workers and poor in struggle.

We can be sure that neither Republicans nor Democrats will lead such a fight. Obamacare was crafted in a period where the Democrats controlled the Presidency and both the House and Senate in Congress. They let big health care companies design a hugely profitable system for themselves instead of insisting that Medicare be extended to all: a national, universal, single payer system. The population would have backed them to the wall on that.

It doesn’t take any more energy to fight for new solutions than it does to fight for old, broken, half fixes. We may as well go for it all. After all, we are in a fight for our very lives when it comes to the health care disaster.

Did You Know ...

Mar 20, 2017

Fully two-thirds of elders in nursing homes are on Medicaid? The health system is so expensive that low and middle income families use up all their earnings before end-of-life health care and depend on the system for skilled care and nursing home services.

Proposed cuts to Medicaid are an attack on all of us in the general population.

Pages 6-7

Drug Companies Profiting from Opioids

Mar 20, 2017

Early in March, the State of West Virginia sued some of the largest drug distribution companies for flooding the market with opioid drugs. These companies include McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, which distribute 85 percent of all drugs in the U.S.

Opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone (sold under the tradename OxyContin) are highly addictive pain killers.

West Virginia is not alone in having an epidemic of opioid overuse. Since 2000, opioid use has caused nearly 180,000 overdose deaths.

This painkiller epidemic not only kills, but also undermines working-class families’ lives, work and income, and takes a financial toll on hospital emergency rooms.

But in addition to the medically accepted overuse of these drugs, the number of opioids in West Virginia suggests that these drugs are being sold on the black market. These companies flooded West Virginia with 780 million doses of opioids between 2007 and 2012. In one instance, the companies shipped nearly 40 million tablets of painkillers to one county during this period. Considering that this county’s population is 96,000, this drug shipment amounted to more than 400 pills for every man, woman and child.

This epidemic is not a little scam discovered recently. At least 13 of the companies sued by West Virginia “knew or should have known that hundreds of millions of pills were ending up on the black market. But the companies ignored warnings and continued to send the drugs, sometimes after being alerted by the DEA or their own employees,” according to the Washington Post.

In fact, several of these drug distribution companies and pharmacies have already paid civil fines to settle previous cases. But, “The epidemic still rages because the fines and suspensions imposed by the DEA do not change the conduct of the wholesale distribution industry. They pay fines as a cost of doing business in an industry which generates billions of dollars in annual revenue,” according to the State of West Virginia.

These companies sold close to 10 billion dollars worth of opioid painkillers in 2015. The very same companies also sold drugs to treat painkiller addiction, for which sales are more than five billion dollars a year. So, these companies make a killing, financially as well as literally. They won’t be stopped by lawsuits.

West Wednesday Protests

Mar 20, 2017

Tyrone West, a 50-year-old black man, was murdered by the police in July of 2013, near his home in a working-class neighborhood of northeast Baltimore. He was driving a Mercedes Benz, belonging to his sister, to take a friend to work, when he was pulled over by the cops. They harassed him, so that he got out of the car and started running across a neighbor’s lawn. He ended up dead at their hands. The autopsies performed, both by the city and by a pathologist hired by the family, indicated the cops beat him brutally.

After three and a half years, there is still no justice for his family, including his mother, his son and his sisters.

His younger sister, Tawanda Jones, a teacher, has organized protests every single Wednesday since his murder. Every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., no matter the weather, she leads a protest, held at different places, like police headquarters, city hall, the court house, a main intersection for buses traveling through the working class sections of east Baltimore. The protests are announced the day before, because Tawanda herself has been harassed by cops whenever they see her in her car. She gives a short speech, updating what has happened on her brother’s case, and linking it to the other police murders, like when Freddie Gray was killed by the cops in 2015 in Baltimore.

Tawanda is relentless in her anger and exposure of police brutality. She leads others at the protest in a favorite chant: “We can’t stop, we won’t stop, until killer cops are in cell blocks.”

She opens the mic to others who raise issues of police brutality and racial justice. Usually the demonstrations are small, perhaps 25 people, with all ages showing up, often high school and college students.

On the July anniversary of West’s death, a few times more people and groups have come together, 50 to 100, mostly black and working-class protesters.

Tawanda Jones’ courage and determination show how it is possible to go forward, to use protests to weigh in for the changes needed in this society.

Michigan’s Power Outage Disaster

Mar 20, 2017

The windstorm that hit last week knocked out power to about a third of all homes in Southeast Michigan. Many people were without power for several days up to a week – in the freezing cold.

The head of DTE Power blamed it all on the storm. Certainly there were strong sustained winds. But this storm didn’t have to knock out power to that many people and for that many days. That was all due to decisions made by companies like DTE.

In order to increase their profits, DTE and other energy companies have cut back on how many linesmen they have. There are so few regular workers that they had to bring in contractors from nearby states to do repairs.

Trees went untrimmed and the power lines deteriorated and were not replaced. All of this came crashing down under high winds. Power was shut down deliberately by DTE as grids overloaded or failed. As a result, people had pipes burst in their homes. Some people had to pay for motel rooms, if they were lucky enough to find one. Most everyone had food spoil in their refrigerators and freezers.

And then there was the cost in human health and safety that is harder to measure. What happens to the children, the sick and elderly when room temperatures drop to 40 degrees?

The storm that hit Michigan last week was a product of nature. But the tremendous disruption and suffering of the population was a product of decisions made by some bosses and politicians.

Illinois Schools:
Chance Shows up the Politicians

Mar 20, 2017

Chance the Rapper, a graduate of a Chicago public high school, met with Illinois governor Bruce Rauner to discuss why Chicago schools aren’t getting funded. He was not satisfied with what the governor told him. No surprise there.

Rauner and the Democrats who control the state legislature have been playing a game of chicken since Rauner’s election two and a half years ago. They have refused to pass a budget, meaning cuts to vital public services, and to most of the public universities. And now Chicago’s school board says without help from the state, they will have to cut the school year short by three whole weeks. At this point, the state of Illinois provides a smaller share of its school budgets than is provided by any other state.

But go to downtown Chicago and “look up” at the glittering new skyscrapers and parks. It’s obvious Chicago could easily fund the schools itself, without help from the state. But the Democrats who run Chicago would rather blame the Republican governor than actually educate working-class children.

Chance came back, gave one million dollars to Chicago Public Schools, and another $10,000 each to ten neighborhood schools. While a nice gesture, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the shortfall of hundreds of millions for the whole school system.

Workers Paid to Attend Trump Rally

Mar 20, 2017

When President Trump went to Ypsilanti, Michigan to give a speech, he asked the Big 3 Auto Companies to provide him with an audience. So GM, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler put salaried and hourly workers onto buses, paid them a day’s wages, provided lunch and sent them on a “field trip” to hear Trump’s speech.

Most auto workers would have preferred a more interesting destination. Next time, maybe GM, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler can pay workers to spend the day at the zoo!

Page 8

Trump in Michigan:
Jobs Snow Job

Mar 20, 2017

President Trump gave a televised speech about manufacturing jobs on March 15 in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

He said during his speech, “I am going to fight for Michigan workers.” Then he turned around and said that auto workers and auto executives have the same interests. He said workers and executives could “fight side-by-side, to protect our industry and to stop the jobs from leaving our country.”

He is using the word “fight” but he is actually making the opposite argument. He is arguing for workers to be submissive to their bosses. He is arguing that if workers surrender to their bosses, then workers and bosses together can “win.” What bull!

This is the same message preached to workers before, and it has NOT worked. The policy of top leadership of the UAW, the policy of the Democratic Party, has been for workers to surrender to their bosses and be in a “partnership.” Has it worked?

Trump used the word “we” a lot in his speech to argue that politicians, CEO’s, Wall Street and workers should all be as one with big business! What garbage! THIS is what got workers half-pay! THIS is what got more work piled onto fewer workers!

In fact, even though factories HAVE closed and jobs HAVE been moved around, manufacturing production has gone UP in the United States overall — for the past 100 years! According to a 2015 Ball State University study, “The notion that manufacturing in the United States is in decline is factually incorrect.

What has led to the loss of U.S. jobs is what was called “speed up” in the old days. More industrial production is now done in the United States by the same number of workers – or fewer.

Trump’s message about jobs is dangerous because he would have us believe we lost jobs in this country because workers in other countries took our jobs. It is the core of the message Trump pushes when he blames NAFTA for the millions of manufacturing jobs that have been lost in this country over the past decade.

What Trump will do, once again, is help the auto executives. He announced, “My administration will work tirelessly to eliminate the industry-killing regulations, to lower the job-crushing taxes.” THIS is the REAL REASON for Trump’s visit – to promote gifts to auto bosses and to Wall Street under the guise of creating jobs.

In reality, cutting regulations will create pollution, not jobs. Cutting business taxes will shift those taxes onto the backs of workers. Create jobs? Not so much.

If workers believe that bosses are our friends and that other workers are our enemies, then we are disarming ourselves. We are not seeing who our real enemy is.

Russia 1917:
The Revolution in the Army

Mar 20, 2017

This article follows one on the Russian Revolution in the previous edition of the SPARK. More articles will appear in subsequent issues to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the revolution.

The revolution, victorious in Petrograd on February 27 of 1917 (March 12 by today’s calendar), soon reached the front, where the Russian army had been getting trampled on by the German army for three years. A soldier recounts below one of the many meetings held to announce the revolution:

“Once everyone quieted down and formed ranks, the first speaker of the workers’ and soldier’s delegates, Comrade Kossurayev, made an impassioned speech explaining what we were doing: ‘We are celebrating the freedom of Russia, and honoring the memory of our comrades who fell for that liberty, and those locked away between prison walls oozing with filth.’ He spoke with such emotion that no one could hold back their tears.

“The next speaker, Tsiglov, expressed our needs and our suffering, and described the punishments in store for the officers who had acted in such a revolting way. To hear such beautiful words, every soldier’s soul was touched, all had tears on their faces.

“It has to be said: ‘Here you are, you rascals, you behave this way with the soldiers. Now, look at us eye to eye. Who has reason on their side, and who is guilty? You drink our blood, you force us to say light is dark and dark is light, but the darkness has fallen from the eyes of the soldiers, and is transformed into light, and then into red, as if suddenly the deep darkness of the night had lifted!The soldiers didn’t let the officers speak because they used to have all the rights and now they have to shut up, while the soldiers express all the accumulated misery of the previous years.”

At the front, soldiers built their own soviets. In the towns, the soldiers sat next to the workers in the soviets. Under their direction, on March 1st, the Petrograd soviet adopted the famous Order Number One. It called for every unit to elect a “committee of representatives made up of simple soldiers.” It said that: “In all political acts, every military unit will obey the soviet of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies and its committees.

– “Arms of all kinds must be at the disposition and under the control of the committees, and under no case given to the officers, even if they call for them.

– “When they are not on duty, in their political, civic, and private life, the soldiers are not to be denied any of the rights enjoyed by all citizens. In particular, standing at attention and saluting superior officers are abolished when soldiers are not on duty.

– “All the former forms of address demanded by officers such as “Your excellency” are also abolished.

“Bad treatment of soldiers of any kind is forbidden.”

This was how, even at the front, Russia in the spring of 1917 had become “the freest country in the world,” as Lenin expressed it. The soldiers, organized in their soviets or committees, commanded their officers. In the middle of the war, this was certainly a revolution in the army!

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