The Spark

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

Issue no. 1032 — April 24 - May 8, 2017

Editorial:
Trump Continues Bush & Obama’s Wars

Apr 24, 2017

Accusing Bashar al-Assad of using nerve gas against civilians, Trump ordered a cruise- missile attack on a Syrian airbase.

Al-Assad is a vicious dictator, and this would not be the first attack he directed against civilians.

But we’ve been lied to before by U.S. presidents. Afghanistan supposedly directed the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Saddam Hussein supposedly stored nuclear weapons. Both accusations were fabricated, to justify the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003.

In any case, the U.S. didn’t attack Syria to support the Syrian people. In fact, the U.S. was already bombing Syria as part of a much larger war it has been carrying out throughout the Middle East.

Since mid-2014, the U.S. carried out 18,900 air strikes on Iraq and Syria – targeting these countries with 72,000 bombs and missiles. This violent campaign, which started under Obama, continues under Trump.

In mid-March, U.S. air strikes killed hundreds of civilians near the Syrian city of Aleppo, and in the Syrian city of Raqqa. On March 17, U.S. air strikes flattened a big part of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. In early March, the U.S. sent 40 bombing raids against Yemen in less than a week.

For years, U.S. officials pretended that the wars Bush had launched in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003 were over. The wars going on in Syria, Yemen and Sudan were supposedly “civil wars,” with the U.S. playing no role.

In reality, the U.S. never stopped being the major player in these wars.

Most of the troops were sent by others: allied governments like Turkey and Saudi Arabia; puppet regimes like those in Iraq and Afghanistan; war lords with their militias and terrorist gangs; “private U.S. military contractors” with their mercenaries. They all may wear different uniforms, but they all get their money and arms from the U.S., no matter who is president.

Even if the U.S. never sent another of its own soldiers into the region, these wars would still be U.S. wars – run by the U.S. military, paid for by the U.S. government, fought to rob the region of its oil.

But today the U.S.’s own official troops ARE going back in: to Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Syria and to Yemen. They may be mostly special forces, but they are there to command a vast collection of troops, from militias to private military contractors to armies coming from other countries.

The whole region is an intensifying catastrophe. Millions are dead. Masses of people have no place to live, no food to eat, no hospitals, no clean water, etc. The numbers are staggering. The United Nations recently warned, for example, that more than half the population of Yemen faces famine and starvation because of the war, while more than half the population in Syria has been forced from their homes and are living as refugees.

These are U.S. wars. And we pay a big price for them. We pay in a practical way because the money to pay for them is taken from our children’s schools, from our roads, water systems, from all the things needed for us to have a decent life.

But above all, we pay a price humanly. If we ignore them, we give free rein to the U.S. ruling class, which wants these wars, and carries them out in our name. In front of the whole world, they become wars owned by the American people.

Maybe the news we get about the Middle East hides reality, when it’s not an outright lie. But we should understand enough about this country’s ruling class to know that, if they go to war, it is not in the interest of any people. It is for the profit of U.S. corporations and banks.

The big companies and their government are our enemy in this country. They systematically and viciously drive down our standard of living.

They are every bit as much our enemy when they take this country to war. They are the enemy of peoples everywhere, here and around the world.

Pages 2-3

France:
A Presidential Candidate Stood Up for the Working Class

Apr 24, 2017

The first round of the French presidential election took place on Sunday, April 23, with eleven candidates. Two weeks later, there will be a run-off between the top two candidates, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Claiming they can change people’s fate, in order to get votes, both are preparing to carry out the policy that big business wants. Whatever promises, whatever demagogy toward the working population they use, they are ready to serve the interests of those who rule society.

This is exactly what happened with the socialist Francois Hollande in the presidency, and what happened before with the right-wing president Sarkozy. Those politicians may have carried out somewhat different campaigns because they do not address the same electorate, but once in power they both carried out a policy aimed at making the working population pay for the crisis of the capitalist economy. Their goal was to boost still higher the profits of the biggest companies and the dividends those companies issued to their share holders.

Whoever is elected on May the 7th, he or she will wage a war against working people who will have to defend themselves.

This is what Nathalie Arthaud, who was the candidate put up by Lutte Ouvrière, a French revolutionary communist organization, was advocating during her campaign. She said that she was running in order to have the working class side heard in these elections. She put forward the interests of the workers, saying that they should come first since the working class produces all the riches and makes the whole society function.

She pointed at all the needs that should be addressed, as well as the measures that workers would have to impose on the government and on the bosses not to be pushed further backward into poverty.

She insisted that everybody should have a good job with good wages. She said that it is necessary to ban layoffs and to share the work among everybody without decreasing anyone’s wages – on the contrary, raising all the wages and pensions a lot so that everyone has the means to have a decent life, to get healthcare and to provide education for their children.

And she said that the workers should oversee and control the accounts of the companies. Then they would see that there is plenty of money to meet the basic needs of the population.

But she also said that the elections cannot bring all that, only large struggles can.

Nathalie Arthaud was the only candidate to put her campaign on the grounds of the class struggle and she was the only communist candidate in this election.

And she called people to vote for her if they agreed with that program – even if she could not be elected – rather than vote for people who will win but be the enemy of the workers. She called for a vote of class consciousness, a vote of workers’ dignity.

Nathalie Arthaud, Communist Candidate:
A Vote for Workers’ Dignity and Struggle

Apr 24, 2017

We reprint below a speech by Nathalie Arthaud, presidential candidate for the French revolutionary workers’ group Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle). On Monday, April 10, the French electoral campaign officially began, and with it, the candidates’ broadcasts on the public T.V. and radio stations. Nathalie Arthaud called to “make the workers’ side be heard.”

I am running to make the workers’ side be heard.

We factory workers, employees, technicians, teachers, railroad workers, homecare aides, housewives, functionaries, cashiers ... we make the whole society run. We produce all the wealth. Including the superprofits taken by a minority. And including the deluxe products reserved for the rich.

The progress in transportation, in medicine, in all kinds of technical processes – that’s us! We make the whole economy function, we make the whole society live.

When I speak of the workers’ side, I obviously include those whom the capitalist class turn into the unemployed, by laying off workers. I also mean independent workers, artisans and storekeepers who live by their work and who are also held hostage by big capital.

We must impose our interests, our jobs, our wages, our retirements, our conditions of work and of life, against the dividends of the stockholders, against the fortunes of a capitalist minority, against the golden parachutes of the C.E.O.’s.

We must stop what’s been happening for years, where a privileged minority profits from the crisis by enriching themselves even more, by attacking the conditions of existence for those who work.

Women and Men Workers

All the candidates explain that if they get in office, things will not be like before. This is a lie. The day after the election, what will change for us?

Many will try to get day labor, go to temp agencies, or be stuck doing odd jobs to make a living. In the workplaces, we will face the same big bosses, the same invisible but all-powerful stockholders. And they will continue to impose a more and more ridiculous pace of work on us, less consistent work schedules, for insufficient wages, because they build their fortunes and grow their profits by increasing our exploitation.

And we will still face the banks or the landlords who won’t hear about any kind of reduction in rent. We will still be faced with the power of the state, that rolls out the red carpet for the rich, but which shows no mercy to ordinary people.

The presidential election will not change our life because, no matter who is elected, they will carry out the policies dictated by the capitalist class. The candidates who might be elected have demonstrated, for their whole careers, their membership in and their devotion to the bourgeois world.

Voting for one of them is voting against our side.

We reject this fake game! We denounce this society, where the bourgeois have all the rights and the workers have only obligations. We affirm the collective interests of our class: To have a job, a wage, a dignified retirement that allows us to afford a place to stay, and to raise and educate our children.

It is a vote for the dignity and the struggle of the workers.

Together, we can make the workers’ side be heard!

Make the Elysée Palace ... A Meeting Hall

Apr 24, 2017

On April 13, Nathalie Arthaud was on the T.V. show President Tomorrow, where the hosts asked what she would do with the Elysée Palace, the French equivalent of the White House, once elected president:

I can’t imagine taking power alone. If I take power, if my ideas take power, that would mean a social overturn. It would say that millions of women and men had decided to fight and to take their fate in their own hands.

In this context, the symbolic measure I would propose would be to turn the Elysée over to the population, that is to say, to transform the Elysée into meeting rooms. That is to say to give open access, without charge of course, and that would let people see the meetings and discussions of the people running the state....

It is more than a symbol. To hand the Elysée over to the population would also be to say that the new government would help the working population impose those measures I have raised before in this campaign.

Who Wins and Who Loses in Flint’s New Water Deal?

Apr 24, 2017

The mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, recommended the city switch back to receiving its water from the Detroit water system for the next 30 years. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder praised the agreement reached between city, county, state and federal officials for providing “incentives” for the city to make the move. The news media were filled with reports of all the money the city will “save” compared to the cost of its original arrangement with the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) to build a new water pipeline from Lake Huron that led to the city’s lead contaminated water crisis. The new arrangement will “only” cost the city 269 million dollars compared with the 482 million dollars for the most expensive option.

Snyder, Weaver, and the media play it up as a win-win all around, saying the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), the agency that has taken control of the Detroit water system, has agreed to pay for the deal by giving Flint credits on the water it receives from Detroit. They say that Flint residents, who currently pay the highest water rates not only in the country but in the world, will not see their water bills double by 2022, as had been predicted. Their bills will “only” go up by 4 percent a year.

But if the GLWA is picking up the tab for Flint’s debts to the KWA, someone will have to pay for it. Residents from all the other areas that get their water from the GLWA, in other words.

And what nobody mentions is that the KWA still gets paid to continue building their pipeline. They’re the real winners. They and the fracking industry and big agricultural interests that want the new pipeline to provide large quantities of untreated water for their purposes, that is.

When the bosses’ politicians crow about a “great” financial arrangement, you can be sure there are some powerful monied interests behind it.

Pages 4-5

Lenin’s Return and the April Theses

Apr 24, 2017

These articles continue our series on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

The February revolution marked the end of czarist power and the installation of a provisional government that included socialists, Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. The soviets, or workers’ councils, gave their support to this government, with the agreement of the leadership of the Bolshevik Party. Lenin arrived from his Swiss exile on April 3 (April 16 by our calendar) and immediately started to fight this policy. Here is how the arrival of Lenin is described by the Menshevik historian Soukhanov: “The crowd filled the whole square in front of the Finland Station, blocking the tramways. A magnificent banner with the inscription ‘Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik)’ embroidered in letters of gold, dominated the innumerable red flags under which stood military units with a band.... The inside of the station was just as crowded: delegations, flags, banners, so no one could pass.... At the platform, the preparations were just as spectacular: troops ready to present arms, flags hung, red or gold arches of triumph, signs inscribed with greetings and revolutionary phrases.”

“Long Live the World Socialist Revolution”

Here’s how Lenin responded to the speech of greeting from delegates of the Petrograd Soviet: “Dear comrades, soldiers, sailors, and workers! I am happy to greet in you the victorious Russian Revolution, a detachment of the vanguard of the world proletarian army ... the predatory imperialist war is the start of a civil war all over Europe ... the hour is not far when, at the call of our comrade Karl Liebknecht, the people will turn their weapons against their capitalist exploiters ... the dawn of the world socialist revolution shines ... In Germany, everything is coming to a boil. From one moment to the next, every day, we can see the collapse of European imperialism. The Russian Revolution that you have accomplished marks the beginning and lays the foundation for a new epoch. Long live the world socialist revolution!”

This speech already announced the program that Lenin would propose the next day under the name The April Theses. He reaffirmed that he stood for no support for the Provisional Government whatsoever. Instead “the utter falsity of all its promises should be made clear, particularly of those relating to the renunciation of annexations.” For him, it was necessary to unmask the imperialist character of the Provisional Government’s policies. Otherwise, it would spread the illusion that this capitalist government could change. It was necessary to “Recognize the fact that in most of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies our party is in a minority, so far a small minority, as against a bloc of all the petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, who have yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie and spread that influence among the proletariat.... The masses must be made to see that the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are the only possible form of revolutionary government ... our task, as long as this government yields to the influence of the bourgeoisie, is to present a patient, systematic, and persistent explanation of the errors of their tactics, an explanation especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses.”

These theses caused a crisis in the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, where Lenin found himself isolated. The paper of the party, Pravda, wrote: “As far as the general schema of comrade Lenin, we find unacceptable his proposal to achieve the bourgeois democratic revolution and immediately transform it into a socialist revolution.”

This discussion within the Bolshevik Party went on for days, until finally the support of the workers at the base of the party for Lenin’s ideas forced the party to his side.

“All Power to the Soviets!”

A few days later, in a speech he gave to soldiers, Lenin made his revolutionary program concrete with the slogan “All power to the soviets!”

“Comrade soldiers! The question of the state system is now on the order of the day. The capitalists, in whose hands the state power now rests, desire a parliamentary bourgeois republic, that is, a state system where there is no czar, but where power remains in the hands of the capitalists who govern the country by means of the old institutions, namely: the police, the bureaucracy, and the standing army.

“We desire a different republic.... The revolutionary workers and soldiers of Petrograd have overthrown czarism, and have cleaned out all the police from the capital.... The revolution, once begun, must be strengthened and carried on. We shall not allow the police to be re-established! All power in the state, from the bottom up, from the remotest little village to every block of Petrograd, must belong to the Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’, Agricultural Laborers’, Peasants’, and other Deputies....

“Only this power, only the Soviets of Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, can solve the great question of the land in a non-bureaucratic way and not in the interests of the landowners.... The peasant committees must take the land away at once from the landowners.... All the land must belong to the whole nation, and its disposal must be the concern of the local Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies. In order that the rich peasants – who are themselves capitalists – may not wrong and deceive the agricultural laborers and poor peasants, it will be necessary for the latter either to confer, to combine, to unite separately, or to set up Soviets of Agricultural Laborers’ Deputies of their own.

“Do not allow the police to be re-established, do not let the state power or the administration of the state pass into the hands of the bureaucracy, who are not elected, not removable, and paid on a bourgeois scale; get together, unite, organize yourselves, trusting no one, depending only on your own intelligence and experience – and Russia will be able to move on with a firm, measured, unerring tread toward the liberation of both our own country and of all humanity from the yoke of capital as well as from the horrors of war.

“Our government, a government of the capitalists, is continuing the war in the interests of the capitalists ... the capitalists of all the other countries are carrying on the war only for a division of capitalist profits, for domination over the world.... There is only one way to get out of this frightful war and conclude a truly democratic peace ... and that is by transferring all the state power to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The workers and poor peasants, who are not interested in preserving the profits of the capitalists and robbing the weaker nations, will only be able to do effectively what the capitalists only promise, namely, end the war by concluding a lasting peace that will assure liberty to all peoples without exception.”

April 20-21:
The Workers’ First Clash with the Counter-Revolution

Apr 24, 2017

In the middle of April, two months after the revolution of February 1917, demonstrations against the war began. These were motivated by opposition to the declarations of Miliukov, a liberal minister, in favor of Russia’s conquest of Constantinople. By this time, a fraction of the working class, behind the Bolshevik Party, began to think about the overthrow of the Provisional Government, while the bourgeoisie and its supporters mobilized their forces to defend it. This is how Trotsky described the events of April 20 (May 3 by our calendar):

“Today the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks had called for the demonstration. In spite of the counter-agitation of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, immense masses of workers advanced to the center from the Vyborg side, and later too from other districts. The Executive Committee sent to meet the demonstrators their most authoritative pacifiers with Chkeidze (one of the leaders of the Mensheviks) at their head. But the workers firmly intended to speak their word - and they had a word to speak. A well-known liberal journalist described in Rech this demonstration of workers on the Nevsky: ‘About a hundred armed men marched in front; after them solid phalanxes of unarmed men and women, a thousand strong. Living chains on both sides. Songs. Their faces amazed me. All those thousands had but one face, the stunned ecstatic face of the early Christian monks. Implacable, pitiless, ready for murder, inquisition, and death.’ The liberal journalist had looked the workers’ revolution in the eye, and felt for a second its intense determination....

“Today as yesterday the demonstrators did not come out to overthrow the government, although a majority of them, we may guess, had already seriously thought about this problem....”

In response, the regime mobilized its own forces on April 21: “The Nevsky, the chief artery of the bourgeoisie, was converted into a solid Kadet meeting. A considerable demonstration headed by the members of the Kadet Central Committee marched to the Mariinsky Palace (seat of the government). Everywhere could be seen brand-new placards, fresh from the sign-painters: ‘Full Confidence to the Provisional Government!” “Long Live Miliukov!” The ministers looked like guests of honor. They had their own ‘people,’ and this was the more noticeable since emissaries of the Soviet were doing their utmost to help them, dispersing revolutionary meetings, steering workers’ and soldiers’ demonstrations towards the suburbs, and restraining the barracks and factories from going out.

“Under the flag of defense of the government, the first open and broad mobilization of counter-revolutionary forces took place. In the center of the town appeared trucks with armed officers, cadets and students. The Cavaliers of St. George were sent out. The gilded youth organized a mock trial on the Nevsky, establishing on the spot the existence of both Leninists and of ‘German spies.’ There were skirmishes and casualties. The first bloody encounter began, according to reports, with an attempt of officers to snatch from the workers a banner with a slogan against the Provisional Government. The encounters became more and more fierce; shots were interchanged, and towards afternoon they became almost continuous. Nobody knew exactly who was shooting or why, but there were already victims of this disorderly shooting, partly malicious, partly the result of panic....

“No, that day was not in the least like a manifestation of national unity. Two worlds stood face to face. The patriotic columns called into the streets against the workers and soldiers by the Kadet Party consisted exclusively of the bourgeois layers of the population – officers, officials, intelligentsia. Two human floods – one for Constantinople, one for Peace – had issued from different parts of town.”

Pages 6-7

Paying Off the Stadium

Apr 24, 2017

Baltimore’s Orioles Park at Camden Yards baseball stadium is finally paid off, after 25 years. Revenues from the Orioles’ games has paid 255 million dollars over this period.

The original price of the land and stadium was 225 million dollars. But there’s a catch: there is another 215 million dollars of interest owed on the bonds. That money is coming every year from Maryland Lottery revenues, another 15 million per year, and won’t be paid off finally until 2020.

But wasn’t the lottery money supposed to be part of the money promised for improving the public schools?

In other words, taxpayers pay twice, once for the stadium and once for the falling-down schools that don’t get the money needed.

Washington, D.C.:
Families with Children Not Wanted

Apr 24, 2017

The owner of a housing complex with big, inexpensive apartments in Washington, D.C.'s stable, black working-class neighborhood of Brookland now has aggressive plans to tear the buildings down and replace them with smaller units.

The owner plans to eliminate all five-bedroom apartments, all four-bedroom apartments, and half of the three-bedroom apartments.

It’s more profitable for the landlord to rent a lot of one- or two-bedroom apartments than to rent big apartments. But where are families supposed to go?

This society treats housing as a source of profit, not as a necessity for every person. So developers get to keep their profits, while families with lower incomes have nowhere to live.

Veterans’ Health Threatened in Washington, D.C.

Apr 24, 2017

In the main Veterans Affairs hospital in Washington, D.C. serving nearly 100,000 veterans, inspectors found nearly 200 cases of missing supplies that put patients at risk. Nurses have had to run out during procedures to buy supplies at private hospitals. The center hasn't inventoried materials in over a year. And 18 of the 25 storage areas that are supposed to be kept sterile were found to be dirty, meaning supplies could become contaminated and then infect patients.

No surprise: like many hospitals, the center has too many job vacancies. Eight positions of chiefs are vacant including in radiology, mental health, and … human resources! Nine jobs in logistics remain unfilled. The VA, like every other department funded for the needs of the population, doesn’t have enough funding.

Lack of staff causes chaos, like a war zone, according to conclusions drawn after the investigation. Meanwhile, phony politicians continue to wax on about “supporting the troops!”

California Raises Taxes on Driving

Apr 24, 2017

California politicians have passed increases in gas and vehicle taxes. The bill increases the tax on gas by 12 cents per gallon as of November 1, bringing it to 30 cents. On top of that, Californians will pay a new vehicle license fee, ranging between 25 and 175 dollars based on the value of the vehicle, starting January 1.

The politicians say the tax increases are necessary to fix the state’s crumbling roads, highways and bridges. No one would dispute the urgency. Potholes, small and large, have been plaguing California motorists for a long time – just two months ago, for example, a 20-foot-deep sinkhole in Los Angeles swallowed two cars. And hundreds of aging bridges are at risk, as engineers have been pointing out for years.

Taxes on gas and cars, however, are regressive taxes. By charging everyone at the same rate, they put a disproportionately heavy burden on people with limited incomes – the working class, that is.

California Democrats Fleece the Population

Apr 24, 2017

Democrats, who used their two-thirds “super-majorities” in both houses of the state legislature to pass a bill increasing taxes on fuel and driver registration, pretend that the state has no money for the infrastructure. “Here’s what it costs, and we’re going to pay it,” said Governor Jerry Brown, who pushed for the tax hikes. By “we,” Brown means the working class, whom he is presenting with a bill amounting to 5.2 billion dollars per year, for the next ten years.

This is the same governor who, just a year ago, announced an 8-billion-dollar surplus in the state’s budget. Where’s all that money?

Brown and his fellow Democrats hand the state’s money over to big companies instead, in the form of subsidies, tax cuts and overblown contracts. If anyone doubts whose interests these politicians represent – even in this tax hike bill the Democrats snuck in an extra amendment, allowing trucking companies to use their older and polluting trucks for longer.

The money to fix the infrastructure – and to pay for all the services that are being cut – is there already. But it’s in the coffers of the big companies and banks, where the politicians have been funneling it to.

Look Who’s Using Slaves from North Korea

Apr 24, 2017

The North Korean government “rents” out 50,000 workers to other countries for labor in textile, mining, and construction. The government takes in between one and two billion dollars a year from these arrangements. But who pays?

In Poland, for example, 800 American, European, and Asian companies employ North Korean workers. The bosses hold their passports. Their working conditions are particularly tough: 12 hours a day, six days a week. Conditions are also dangerous. One of these workers was fatally burned in 2014, because the boss provided a synthetic fiber garment to wear during welding.

Western governments and media denounce the bloody dictatorship in North Korea, but not the near slavery by which Western companies exploit North Korean workers!

Page 8

80 Years Ago, another War on Civilians

Apr 24, 2017

On April 27, 1937, a squadron of German bombers flew low over a small Spanish village called Guernica, dropping wave after wave of fire bombs. Burning as hot as 2500 degrees, the bombs incinerated the buildings of this ancient market town in northern Spain, along with much of its population and farm animals.

The German commander of the bomber squadron, Wolfram von Richtofen, noted a few days after dropping the payload on Guernica, “town of 5000 inhabitants, literally razed to the ground ... complete technical success....”

This hideous destruction of a Spanish farm village was not directed at a clear military target; rather, it hit its intended civilian target. Richtofen wrote, “Continuously repeated air attacks have the most effect on the morale of the enemy.”

The foreign journalists who made their way there the next day saw hundreds of corpses. The usual population of 5,000 had been swollen with refugees, for the year before Spain had divided into civil war.

The Nazi German government had sent its military to support the side of General Francisco Franco, who was trying to impose a military dictatorship over Spain and crush the Spanish population in revolt. Everyone understood that this intervention was also a dress rehearsal for the coming of World War II, during which the German military tested new weapons and new military strategies.

The German military’s bombing of Guernica was condemned in the U.S. as barbaric and inhumane. But the bombing of Guernica was a harbinger of atrocities carried out on a much more vast scale during World War II, by all the other big powers, the U.S. included. The U.S. military carried out horrific firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, and dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All of these bombings were barbaric acts of terrorism against civilian populations.

Guernica as Anti-War Statement

Apr 24, 2017

Guernica also became known for an artistic reason, thanks to a painting after the bombing of 1937 by the famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, then living in Paris.

After Picasso read what had happened in the village, he decided to create a painting about the human cost of the war. In just five weeks he created Guernica, in a style known as cubism. The style seemed suited to a work about death and destruction, because cubism breaks up figures and shapes into pieces. The final painting showed six figures of disaster, including a mother with a dead child, a soldier’s torn-apart body, and a dead horse and cow. Picasso said, “In the panel on which I am working, which I shall call ‘Guernica,’ and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death.”

Picasso sent the painting to circulate in Western Europe and the United States at museums and elsewhere, to raise money for the thousands of Spaniards who were victims, and often exiles, of the Spanish civil war.

He said the painting could not go to Spain until after Franco’s dictatorship ended. It now hangs in a museum in the capital of Spain, Madrid.

Picasso remained in Paris during the German occupation of the city. His fame gave him a certain protection, though he was sometimes harassed by the Gestapo. One Nazi officer searching his apartment saw a photograph of the painting Guernica. The German asked the artist, “Did you do that?” Picasso replied, “No, you did.”

French Guiana:
General Strike

Apr 24, 2017

On Friday, April 21, in the South American country of French Guiana, the French government signed an agreement with representatives who led a general strike by 37 unions. The movement shut down French Guiana’s economy for over a month. The group of 500 that led the strike called themselves the “Collective to Get Guiana Moving.”

Tens of thousands mobilized to shut down the country’s shipping port and to shut down Europe’s Guiana Space Center. The movement demanded financial help in a type of “Marshall Plan.” In French Guiana, Europe’s version of NASA launches satellites and rockets. But a few miles away, 30 percent of the population has no access to electricity, drinking water, education or healthcare.

Strike leaders rejected the French government’s initial offer of 1.2 billion dollars in emergency aide but later agreed to an offer adding 2.25 billion dollars more.

What follows are excerpts from articles in the French newspaper Lutte-Ouvrière.

“... The determination of the demonstrators and the decision to blockade France’s Guiana Space Center – played a key role in winning promises of money from the French government. On April 4, thousands came from all corners of the country to demonstrate in front of the Space Center. Members of the Autonomous Peoples Association, the Amerindians, were cheered as they marched in from their forest villages.

“A delegation was invited in to the space center to negotiate.... When negotiations went nowhere, protestors occupied a room at the space center and would not leave.

“... Strikers organized and staffed road blocks that stopped all deliveries of goods, all transportation, even schools and emergency services. The port was empty of workers.

“This movement was widespread in Guiana – showing that all parts of the population had reasons to protest. Demonstrators included small and medium sized business owners, professionals, drivers, students, teachers, lawyers, health workers.

“... So if in Guiana there is a new social movement, the workers, the unemployed, the poor people in the neighborhoods will need to develop demands to help those who are suffering the most.... It is necessary to come back to the needs of the workers and poor, the backbone of these protests and on whom rests this general strike. So this anger, these forces must be used to win their own demands, demands that today are put on the back burner. They can’t count on others to improve their situation, only on themselves.”