The Spark

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

Issue no. 1041 — September 18 - October 2, 2017

Immigration Deals:
Playing with Peoples’ Lives

Sep 18, 2017

Democratic Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have reported they have reached an agreement with Donald Trump to work out a deal to reinstate DACA (or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This would be in exchange for much more money spent on further militarizing the U.S. borders.

This was treated as a big Democratic coup – and maybe it was good politicking on the Democrats’ part, to score points against the Republicans. But it was NOT a move to help these young immigrants out.

Trump played a vicious game when he announced he was revoking DACA – throwing 800,000 young people into fear for their futures at the stroke of a pen; then saying that he would like to keep them in the country but that it was up to Congress to pass a law within six months to do so. Six months in which the DACA recipients have absolutely no idea what will happen or whether they will have a home.

Since DACA required that all those who applied for the program give the government their names, addresses, etc., they now live with the very real fear that the information could be used to round them up and deport them at a moment’s notice – no matter what Trump may assure them in his tweets.

But DACA itself was a vicious move, putting these young people into a constant state of uncertainty. DACA, authorized by Barack Obama when he was president, allowed undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 who were brought to the U.S. as children to get two-year, renewable work permits.

Billed as a way to give these young people a chance to stay and work in the only country many of them have ever known, it is more a way to ensure a docile, controllable workforce for the companies that would hire them: DACA gave these specific immigrants a legal status, but only for two years – and only on the condition that they are enrolled in school, or have a job ... or join the military. That means the threat of having their status revoked can be constantly hanging over these young peoples’ heads, if they cause any problems whatsoever for their bosses – like complaining about their wages or working conditions.

This was not a favor to undocumented immigrants – it was a favor to employers!

Pelosi and Schumer make it sound like the Democrats are being the more humane, more reasonable of the two parties in this. But really, the Democrats are just as monstrous as the Republicans. They are willing to make the same attacks on the immigrant working class, as shown by their agreement to support the further militarization of the border.

But really, this is not at all surprising. Immigration “reform,” carried out by both Democrats and Republicans over the past forty years, has always been about giving the capitalist class what they want in the way of a workforce they can use and control as they see fit. It has never been about doing what is right for millions of people trapped in poverty and fear.

This is not only an attack on undocumented workers; it is also an attack against all immigrant workers, now that they see that a supposed legal status can be taken away at any moment. Beyond that, it is an attack on all workers. When one section of the working class can be held down and forced to accept low wages and lousy working conditions, that drives down the wages and conditions of all the rest of the workers too.

It is in the interest of ALL workers to fight for full rights and protections for all immigrant workers, no matter how they came here. Only then can the working class overcome this division and effectively fight the bosses’ endless drive to pull down everyone’s wages and working conditions.

Pages 2-3

Racist Attack on 8-Year-Old in New Hampshire

Sep 18, 2017

An 8-year-old boy, Quincy, was nearly lynched in Claremont, New Hampshire. Quincy and his 11-year-old sister Ayanna went outside to the park two doors down from their house. They encountered some older kids, with whom they’d had a run-in earlier that day. “The teenagers had been jumping Quincy and she stopped the fight,” said Cassandra Merlin, Quincy’s mother.

Later, when they ran into those teenagers again, “the kids started hitting Quincy in the legs with sticks and throwing rocks at him.” They also started making comments about the fact that he was black and saying things like “white pride” at him and Ayanna, Merlin continued.

“There was a tire swing at the back of this house and one of the kids had put ropes around their necks and they told Quincy that it was his turn to do it. And Quincy got up on the picnic table and put the rope around his neck and another kid came up from behind him and pushed him off the picnic table. And then walked away and left him there hanging.”

Merlin said Ayanna began screaming for help and described Quincy kicking his feet, grabbing his neck and turning purple before he ended up dropping to the ground.

Merlin said when she got there and saw Quincy’s wounds, she immediately called the police. She said the two older boys and a girl ran.

After putting a neck brace on the little boy and giving him oxygen, the doctors at the local hospital decided to airlift him to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

The Claremont Police Chief, Mark Chase, claimed “these people need to be protected.” Was he referring to the injured child and his sister? No, he was referring to the teens who tried to lynch Quincy. He continued by saying, “Mistakes they make as a young child should not have to follow them for the rest of their life.”

The police chief called these white teenagers “young children,” and rushed to protect them while an 8-year-old boy was hung from a tree.

A black boy was nearly lynched by a gang of white teenagers – and the chief of police is concerned for the perpetrators – daring to treat them like the victims.

Cassandra Merlin spoke out about the incident, saying the reason she had publicized her son’s story was to “show this country that racism does in fact still exist.”

Wrongful Deaths at Florida Nursing Home

Sep 18, 2017

Eight people died at a Hollywood, Florida nursing home or shortly after arriving at hospitals after losing air conditioning during hurricane Irma. These deaths were unnecessary and preventable.

This is especially true since the facility is located across the street from a medical complex that includes the Memorial Regional Hospital – where the patients were finally taken after the scope of the problem became evident.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is a private, for profit, corporate ownership nursing home. It was acquired by Hollywood Property Investments in 2015. The facility has been rated below average on inspections, staffing and quality care according to a federal scorecard. In other words, like many nursing homes, it is essentially a warehouse for elderly and frail people.

Long before Irma came along, the facility had been cited for failing to maintain the emergency generator. After multiple inspections showed there was a problem, in the end, nothing was done to fix it. How many other nursing homes have similar deficiencies?

The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration said conditions at the facility present a threat to the safety of residents and it suspended the nursing home indefinitely from taking patients paid for by Florida Medicaid. It’s true, the nursing home is clearly a threat. But it is also true that this threat existed long before Irma came to town. Inspectors were aware of deficient generators, insufficient staffing, poor quality of care. Why didn’t the state shut them down earlier? What were they waiting for – people to die? The nursing home and the state of Florida are responsible for these horrible deaths.

St. Louis Judge Acquits Killer Cop

Sep 18, 2017

A judge in St. Louis acquitted a cop, Jason Stockley, of the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, a 24-year-old black man. Stockley shot Smith five times after stopping Smith in his car.

This should have been an open and shut case of first-degree murder. Stockley was caught on his dashcam video just one minute before the shooting saying he was “going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it.” He could also be heard in the video telling his partner, who was driving the vehicle he rode in, to ram Smith’s vehicle. After his partner did so, Stockley got out of the vehicle carrying a pistol and an AK-47, which is illegal, and then shot Smith not just once, but five times.

Stockley claims it was in self-defense. He claims Smith had a gun, but DNA tests showed the gun had only the cop’s DNA on it. A bystander’s cellphone video shows Stockley walking back to his cop car, digging into something in the back seat, and then getting into and sitting in Smith’s vehicle. This gave him plenty of time to plant the gun.

Despite all this, the judge who decided the case after Stockley waived his right to a jury trial said there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Smith’s killing was pre-meditated murder!

This is nothing more than one more legal lynching. There are many people who aren’t cops who have been convicted of murder on much slimmer evidence. There’s no question in this case of where and when the killing took place or who did the shooting. It’s been proven the cop planted a weapon and falsely claimed self-defense.

It may be true that Smith fled the cops, but Stockley made himself Smith’s judge, jury and executioner. The judge who heard Stockley’s case, Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson, gave Stockley his stamp of approval.

People in St. Louis were naturally outraged and immediately took to the streets in protest. The St. Louis cops had prepared for unrest in advance by putting up barricades around police headquarters. With the experience of the events that occurred in nearby Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown, the state’s governor put the Missouri National Guard on standby.

This is just the latest example to show that working people, and black people in particular, cannot expect justice from the courts nor the politicians when it comes to killings by the police. It will take even stronger fights than we’ve seen in recent years to put the cops on notice.

Massive Data Breach Affects Millions

Sep 18, 2017

Equifax, a credit scoring firm, revealed on September 7 that the personal data of 143 million U.S. consumers was hacked.

Equifax and its two major competitors, Experian and TransUnion, create profit by collecting enormous amounts of personal information and selling this information to credit card companies, banks and marketers. These three firms together collected profits of nearly $1.5 billion last year.

Because of this security breach, thieves acquired nearly half the U.S. population's very sensitive information, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, former and current addresses and phone numbers, payment histories, and driver's license numbers – along with more than 200,000 sets of credit card numbers. By exploiting such critical information, these thieves can validate an identity, and open a bank or credit account using this false identification.

Equifax says that the security breach of this massive amount of data started in mid-May, around three and half months ago. They "discovered" the breach on July 29, around six weeks before they informed anyone, delaying countermeasures to protect against this breach.

Worse yet, the software vulnerability, which allowed the thieves to hack Equifax computers, was widely announced in March among cybersecurity professionals, together with clear and simple instructions on how to fix it, according to the Financial Times.

Equifax concealed this information to cover their own act, showing that they were more concerned with protecting themselves rather than us. For example, while they were delaying to inform us, three Equifax executives, including its chief financial officer, sold their shares in the company within a day after Equifax “discovered” the breach.

Equifax is currently offering a year of free credit monitoring. But, because we are exposed forever, we will need constant monitoring of our credit forever, and Equifax, and the two other credit scoring firms – Experian and TransUnion – are “offering” this constant credit monitoring service with a price tag of $20 per month!

So, this data leak about us is turning into yet another profit opportunity for these irresponsible schemers.

Is this what is meant by “land of opportunity?!”

Pages 4-5

September 1917:
Faced with the Impending Catastrophe

Sep 18, 2017

This article continues our series on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

More than six months after February 1917, the crisis had become generalized in Russia, especially at the economic level. At the same time that the influence of the Bolsheviks’ policy was growing in the Soviets, the capitalists were sabotaging the economy, assisted by the inaction of the Provisional Government. In this situation of an intensifying struggle between social classes, Lenin wrote The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It. In this work, he affirmed that the revolutionary proletariat, confronted with the passivity of the government and the maneuvers of the bourgeoisie, should impose its control and surveillance of the economy. This was the only way to avoid a generalized crisis, while at the same time rallying the mass of poor peasants to the cause of the revolution.

“Unavoidable catastrophe is threatening Russia. The railways are incredibly disorganized and the disorganization is progressing. … The capitalists are deliberately and unremittingly sabotaging production, hoping that an unparalleled catastrophe will mean the collapse of the republic and democracy, and of the Soviets and proletarian and peasant associations generally, thus facilitating the return to a monarchy and the restoration of the unlimited power of the bourgeoisie and the landowners. …

Yet the slightest attention and thought will suffice to satisfy anyone that the ways of combating catastrophe and famine are available, that the measures required to combat them are quite clear, simple, perfectly feasible, and fully within reach of the people’s forces, and that these measures are not being adopted only because, exclusively because, their realization would affect the fabulous profits of a handful of landowners and capitalists. …

This measure is control, supervision, accounting, regulation by the state, introduction of a proper distribution of labor-power in the production and distribution of goods, conserving the people’s forces, the elimination of all wasteful effort, economy of effort. Control, supervision, and accounting are essential for combating catastrophe and famine. …

To explain this most important question more clearly (a question which is essentially equivalent to that of the program of any truly revolutionary government that would wish to save Russia from war and famine), let us enumerate these principal measures of control and examine each of them.

We shall see that all a government would have had to do, if its name of revolutionary-democratic government were not merely a joke, would have been to decree, in the very first week of its existence, the adoption of the principal measures of control, to provide for strict and severe punishment to be meted out to capitalists who fraudulently evaded control, and to call upon the population itself to exercise supervision over the capitalists and see to it that they scrupulously observed the regulations on control – and control would have been introduced in Russia long ago.”

Lenin then listed and explained the principal measures that would allow the masses to have this control over the economy, among which were the fusion of all banks into a single bank whose operations would be controlled by the state, the nationalization of the largest monopolistic capitalist associations, and the abolition of commercial secrecy.

On the question of the banks, he emphasized: “Only control over the banks, over this center, over the pivot and chief mechanism of capitalist circulation, would make it possible to organize real and not fictitious control over all economic life, over the production and distribution of staple goods, and organize that ‘regulation of economic life’ which otherwise is inevitably doomed to remain a politician’s phrase designed to fool the common people.”

He ended the text in this way: “To be really revolutionary, the democrats of Russia today must march in very close alliance with the proletariat, supporting it in its struggle as the only thoroughly revolutionary class.

Such is the conclusion prompted by an analysis of the means of combating an impending catastrophe of unparalleled dimensions.

The war has created such an immense crisis, has so strained the material and moral forces of the people, has dealt such blows at the entire modern social organization, that humanity must now choose between perishing or entrusting its fate to the most revolutionary class for the swiftest and most radical transition to a superior mode of production.”

Lenin’s Letters on the Insurrection

Sep 18, 2017

This article continues our series on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

By mid-September, the Bolsheviks had won a considerable influence in the Soviets. The idea that the Soviets should take power gained support among the masses across the whole country as they became more conscious that their vital demands, in the most literal sense, could not be satisfied by the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government had convoked a Democratic Conference that began meeting on September 14th in order to reconstitute a ruling authority at the greatest possible distance from the Soviets and the influence of the Bolsheviks. During this period, Lenin, who was still forced into hiding, sent two letters to the Party’s Central Committee defending the idea that the situation was ripe for an insurrection and the taking of power.

In his first letter, The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power, written between September 12th and 14th, Lenin wrote: “The Bolsheviks, having obtained a majority in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of both capitals, can and must take state power into their own hands. They can because the active majority of revolutionary elements in the two chief cities is large enough to carry the people with it, to overcome the opponent’s resistance, to smash him, and to gain and retain power. For the Bolsheviks, by immediately proposing a democratic peace, by immediately giving the land to the peasants and by reestablishing the democratic institutions and liberties which have been mangled and shattered by Kerensky, will form a government which nobody will be able to overthrow. …

The Democratic Conference represents not a majority of the revolutionary people, but only the compromising upper strata of the petty bourgeoisie. … The Democratic Conference is deceiving the peasants; it is giving them neither peace nor land.”

Lenin developed this idea in Marxism and Insurrection, which he sent to the Bolshevik Central Committee on September 15th: “To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy and not upon a party, but upon the advanced class. That is the first point. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. That is the second point. Insurrection must rely upon that turning-point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. That is the third point. And these three conditions for raising the question of insurrection distinguish Marxism from Blanquism.

Once these conditions exist, however, to refuse to treat insurrection as an art is a betrayal of Marxism and a betrayal of the revolution.

To show that it is precisely the present moment that the Party must recognize as the one in which the entire course of events has objectively placed insurrection on the order of the day and that insurrection must be treated as an art, it will perhaps be best to use the method of comparison, and to draw a parallel between July 3-4 and the September days. On July 3-4, … the objective conditions for the victory of the insurrection did not exist.

(1) We still lacked the support of the class which is the vanguard of the revolution.

We still did not have a majority among the workers and soldiers of Petrograd and Moscow. Now we have a majority in both Soviets. It was created solely by the history of July and August, by the experience of the ‘ruthless treatment’ meted out to the Bolsheviks, and by the experience of the Kornilov revolt.

(2) There was no country-wide revolutionary upsurge at that time. There is now, after the Kornilov revolt. The situation in the provinces and assumption of power by the Soviets in many localities prove this.

(3) At that time there was no vacillation on any serious political scale among our enemies and among the irresolute petty bourgeoisie. Now the vacillation is enormous. …

(4) Therefore, an insurrection on July 3-4 would have been a mistake; we could not have retained power either physically or politically. …

Now the picture is entirely different. We have the following of the majority of a class, the vanguard of the revolution, the vanguard of the people, which is capable of carrying the masses with it.”

Hurricane Irma Exposes Poverty

Sep 18, 2017

The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

Hurricane Irma was the most powerful hurricane to hit the Caribbean in living memory. But it didn’t affect everyone equally. The damage it inflicted most cruelly affects the poor and powerless, and this can be seen very clearly in the two French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy.

Many billionaires have homes on Saint Barthelemy, starting with Donald Trump. In Saint Martin, opulence and wealth are neighbors with extreme poverty. Paradise for billionaires, vacation refuge for famous French or American singers and actors, these islands, above all Saint Martin, are a hell for the workers, the unemployed, and the poor in certain neighborhoods. Saint Martin has a large number of immigrant workers. Dozens of nationalities are represented, though the majority are Haitians fleeing the extreme poverty of their country.

Irma revealed these inequalities very starkly. Victims of the hurricane say“the whites got priority evacuations to Guadeloupe,” and “black people were not allowed onto the planes.” These sentiments reflect the reality of life and a common attitude among the poor population of Saint Martin.

It is true that the rich are white, and the great majority of the powerless are black. For the black population, the word “white” also means “privileged.”

It shocked people that, for example, an evacuation ship from Saint Martin unloaded in Guadeloupe in the night, like a secret operation, with essentially just American tourists and only three black people from Saint Martin. And that on the ship there were open berths.

Even six days after Irma passed, evacuations were made very sparingly. The distribution of aid and of drinkable water also came only in drips and drabs. A large part of the population is still waiting for emergency help for water, for food, for everything. There is nothing in Saint Martin – no water, no food, no gas, no medicines.

The impatience and anger of the population is understandable. The government has done next to nothing. But the emergency services knew days in advance that Irma was coming towards these two islands and that it would be extremely dangerous. It would have been possible to make millions of gallons of water available on the nearby island of Guadeloupe, ready to be sent immediately to different parts of the islands after the hurricane passed. Aerial evacuations and disbursements of supplies could have been planned. But relief didn’t start until days after the hurricane passed.

As for the looting that the media made a big deal about, for many people, it was a question of survival. Of course, some people took stereos, but the majority is so poor that you can understand why they would want to take advantage of the windfall.

We see “looting” in all countries when there are disasters. The scandal is not that people loot; it is the permanent existence of this poverty! It’s much easier to rail about “looters” than to explain the slowness of aid, easier to reinforce the presence of the military, saying they must secure the island before giving out any help.

But the workers and poor showed that they know how to mobilize and demonstrated an immense solidarity like we saw after the earthquake in Haiti. This solidarity is a force, and it is a positive sign for the future of the working class and poor on these devastated islands of the Caribbean.

Pages 6-7

Homeless Pushed Out

Sep 18, 2017

About 40 people living in a tent city under a viaduct are being forced out by the city of Chicago to make room for bridge construction. This viaduct is in Uptown, a neighborhood near the lake on the North Side that is being gentrified – a fancy word for areas being taken over by wealthier people. The city government has designed the project to add a bike lane so that even when the work is done, the homeless will not physically be able to come back.

The city offered the residents of this tent city a spot in the Pacific Gardens Mission shelter. But many people living under the viaduct made clear they do not want to go to Pacific Gardens. That shelter is across the city from Uptown. People can’t bring their larger belongings, like tents, with them. Shelters also only accept people for 12 hours – with no guarantee of a spot the next night. Tent city residents also said they fear bed bugs, the theft of their belongings, and the destruction of the community they have created with each other which gives people a sense of security and belonging.

The Uptown Tent City Organizers launched a lawsuit to block their removal, saying that the visibility of their tents was a form of free speech. But a federal judge ruled that they were trying “to fit the square peg of the issue [of homelessness] into the round hole” of the law. Alan Mills, one of the lawyers representing the Uptown Tent City Organizers agreed, saying “the Supreme Court so far ... has not held there is a constitutional right to housing.”

Uptown Tent City Organizers point out that many of these same homeless people had already been driven out of an earlier tent city, cleared to make way for development of an upscale apartment and retail complex. They protested on Lake Shore Drive demanding “Give us a Home or Leave us Alone!” and “Homes Not Shelters.” But the city’s only response was to arrest a number of them for blocking traffic.

According to homeless rights groups, 80,000 people in Chicago struggle with homelessness. But to the people who run Chicago, the only problem is that the homeless get in the way of development. And the only solution they provide is to sweep the homeless out of sight of the wealthy people that the politicians serve.

Education Denied

Sep 18, 2017

Picture a wealthy public school. Imagine what would happen IF wealthy students at that school, week after week, had no teacher, no desk, no chair, no book. Would THAT be considered providing an education?

Seven Detroit schoolchildren brought a lawsuit against the State of Michigan over this very problem. In their poor district – Detroit Public Schools – a basic environment to allow for learning and literacy is no longer provided. Their lawsuit asks Michigan to do better in the future. The State of Michigan’s answer so far? No!

Opening arguments were heard on August 10th at a federal courthouse in Detroit. Arguing on behalf of the children was Public Counsel, a national pro bono law firm. They took on this case because Detroit has the lowest educational outcomes in the U.S.

According to 2015 national test results, in 8th grade, only 7 percent of Detroit students are proficient in reading and only 4 percent are proficient in math.

The lawsuit describes crumbling schools with rats and mold. Classrooms are overcrowded, essentially warehousing students, often without teachers.

Arguing on behalf of Michigan is the Office of the Attorney General. Led by Bill Schuette, candidate for governor in 2018, the state argued it has no responsibility to ensure students in Detroit Public Schools have access to materials or to teachers – in other words, access to literacy.

The State argues that the equal protection clause of the U.S. constitution, invoked by this lawsuit, didn’t mention literacy. The State of Michigan even argues that when the state appointed emergency managers – to run Detroit Public schools – THAT was local Detroit control!

Judge Murphy, who will make a ruling in this case, hinted a decision will be reached by the end of September. If he rules against Detroit’s children, he is an educated fool!

Little Caesar’s Arena
—a Monumental Rip-off

Sep 18, 2017

Detroit’s new Little Caesar’s Arena opened up with great fanfare, complete with a series of concerts by Kid Rock. Rock at one time flew the confederate flag at his concerts and recently slammed Colin Kaepernick for protesting police brutality by refusing to stand for the national anthem.

The choice of Kid Rock is not the only disgusting symbol being directed at the city’s residents. The entire project to develop the arena and the surrounding area stands as one giant monument to a huge scam run by state and local officials, all to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars to the family of the late billionaire Mike Ilitch.

The Ilitch family are the owners of Little Caesar’s Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings hockey team, the Detroit Tigers baseball team, and the Motor City Casino. They and their partners stand to receive at least close to 400 million dollars in direct funding from the Detroit Downtown Development Authority (DDA) toward much of the cost of building the new arena, which will be home to the Red Wings.

The city’s contribution was initially announced as 250 million dollars but rose to 345 million when Ilitch’s entertainment arm, Olympia Entertainment, came to an agreement with the Detroit Pistons owner to also move the basketball team into the arena.

The funds the DDA is throwing into the construction will come from bonds it sold, which it will pay back through the use of tax increment financing (TIF) collected from property taxes on businesses in downtown. Even before the DDA sold the initial 250 million in bonds for the arena’s construction, it had already handed over 35 million dollars in TIF money from 2010 to 2014!

The Ilitches also get another 74 million dollars if they show they “caused” another 200 million in added development.

Proponents of the deal like to say that “private funding” will pay for part of the arena’s construction. But this is all just sleight of hand.

As part of the deal cut with the DDA, the Ilitches will receive all the revenue from the arena, including parking, food and beverage sales, souvenirs, TV and radio broadcasting contracts, fees for luxury suites, and naming rights. The DDA, on the other hand, will get back nothing in tax money from the arena, because it technically owns the property and simply “leases” it to Olympia Entertainment. In other words, in reality the DDA is paying for 100 percent of the arena’s construction.

In 1982, Mike Ilitch bought the Red Wings for 8 million dollars. After the announcement of the new arena, Forbes magazine valued Ilitch’s Red Wings at 450 million dollars and the Tigers, also owned by Ilitch, at 643 million.

In addition to the financial handout the DDA contributed, it also handed over 39 parcels of land to the Ilitches for a $1.

All this means the Iitches stand to reap well over a billion dollars from their deal with the city, while the rest of Detroit and the schools are left to rot.

Page 8

Earthquake in Mexico Reveals Social Fault Lines

Sep 18, 2017

The 8.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico killed at least 96 people, with many more injured and thousands left homeless.

This is not the first deadly earthquake to hit Mexico. In 1985, a massive quake killed about 10,000 in Mexico City as high rises pancaked. In response, the Mexican government took serious measures to protect the capital. Mexico City has stringent building codes and it was the first city in the world to install a public earthquake warning system. In fact, this system worked well in the most recent earthquake – it gave residents of the capital about a full minute’s warning before the quake hit, time to run outside or hide under tables.

But the main seismic faults that cause earthquakes do not run through Mexico City – they are further south, along the Pacific coast. While Mexico City has millions of workers and poor people, it is also the center of the Mexican bourgeoisie and the center of its state apparatus. Not so the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca where the most recent quake hit. In these states, more than two thirds of the people live in poverty. Large areas are rural and isolated. Some people have to walk two hours a day just to get water.

Some wealthier and touristic cities on the Pacific Coast, like Acapulco, have early warning systems for earthquakes. But the regions that were hit the hardest do not. Nor do they have sufficient hospitals, emergency crews, transportation infrastructure, or disaster plans.

The earthquake killed at least 36 people and destroyed the town hall and the only hospital in Juchitán de Zaragoza, a town of 100,000 in the southern state of Oaxaca. This town lacks any kind of earthquake warning system or the most basic infrastructure to deal with a disaster of this type. Ordinary people worked day and night themselves, pulling apart the rubble, looking for survivors.

After going for days without help, people began to get angry. “They are withholding the food and donations and hoarding them, so they can get a picture of themselves giving out food,” a taxi driver in Juchitán said. A youth activist saw a truck full of donations parked at a municipal official’s house: “I saw it and got infuriated and confronted her, telling her if she didn’t give us the supplies we would take it by force.” He reported that the official then called the police.

No one expects the Mexican state to provide serious help. As a Chiapas state senator observed, “When disaster strikes where poverty is prevalent, the impact is exponential. It makes reconstruction and seeking aid less possible.” The reality is that the Mexican state responds to the needs of the wealthy – but not to those of the poor.

As with other so-called natural disasters under capitalism, this one has revealed the social fault lines dividing the rich and the poor. Ordinary people in Mexico, as in every other country, cannot rely on the government that serves the wealthy – only on themselves.

Behind the North Korean Crisis:
The Drive of U.S. Imperialism

Sep 18, 2017

According to U.S. officials and the news media, the North Korean government is supposedly run by “dangerous mad men,” who are threatening the world with “weapons of mass destruction,” because the North Korean military has carried out several tests of both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles over the last year.

In fact, the real aggressor, armed to the teeth with a vast arsenal of the most barbaric weapons of mass destruction, is none other than the U.S. government and military itself. For the last 65 years, the U.S. military has threatened North Korea with nuclear annihilation on a regular basis.

During the Korean War (1950-53), the U.S. considered using nuclear weapons seven times. Starting in 1958, the U.S. placed “Honest John” nuclear missiles, atomic cannons, and nuclear cruise missiles on the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. ended this program in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union. But that didn’t end the U.S. military and nuclear threats against North Korea. The U.S. has been conducting war games every year on that country’s border, rehearsing invasion, occupation and the assassination of top North Korean officials.

The war games that began this spring involved over 300,000 U.S. and South Korean troops, and included carrier battle group and submarine maneuvers, amphibious landings of mechanized brigades, naval blockade, live fire drills, special forces infiltration, as well as B-1B, B-2 and B-52 nuclear bombing runs.

These war games are no idle threats. During the Korean War, the U.S. military carried out one of the most destructive and vindictive wars in history, exterminating one-quarter of the North Korean population and bombing the country into a moonscape, dropping 50,000 gallons of napalm every single day for over three years!

Many were rightfully horrified by Trump’s recent talk of letting loose “fire and fury” against North Korea. But that is exactly what the U.S. did during the Korean War. And it is exactly what U.S. leaders have threatened ever since. General Colin Powell, for example, twice threatened to turn North Korea into a “charcoal briquette.”

No, the Korean War is not over. And not only because the mighty U.S. super-power aims to continue to punish the country and its people for daring to stand up to U.S. dictates. The U.S. military is using the North Korean crisis, that U.S. imperialism itself provoked, as an excuse and cover for “the Asian pivot,” that is, the U.S. military build-up throughout Asia, a build-up aimed against its big competitors in the region, China and Russia.

And as the U.S. military extends its tentacles ever deeper into one of the world’s fastest growing regions, trying to impose the domination of U.S. imperialism, it is turning the entire world into an increasingly more dangerous powder keg.