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. 1044 — October 30 - November 13, 2017

In Puerto Rico, It’s U.S. Capitalism That’s Bankrupt

Oct 30, 2017

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20th of this year. Now, five weeks later, almost 80 percent of the island is still without electricity and as a result, large areas are without running water.

Reports of illness and death caused by contaminated water are on the rise. Each day the numbers mount, with more than 74 suspected cases of illness and at least two deaths attributed to leptospirosis, a bacterial disease. With no access to clean running water, residents of the island are turning to natural streams for drinking, bathing and cooking water. This water is often contaminated from dead animals and debris. The bacteria causes acute illness with a high percentage of fatalities.

And so, obviously, it is a life and death matter to get clean water to the population as quickly as possible.

Most experts agree that it is critical at this point to restore the current power grid on the island. The lack of electricity is interfering with the relief effort, and preventing the infrastructure from being restored. Internet and cell phone communication cannot be restored without electricity.

Equipment to treat sewage and for drinking water doesn’t work without power. Power for lights, power for cooling, for cooking, for refrigeration of food - these are essential to human life.

Restoring power will require heroic effort in the best of circumstances. The island’s grid is antiquated, and hasn’t been upgraded in years. Power outages were a daily occurrence before the storm.

Now, power lines that must traverse the center of the island, which was the area hardest hit, have to be replaced. Debris has to be cleared and three of the four lines delivering power across the island are out of commission.

So what are the authorities doing?

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and its population are U.S. citizens. There are just over three million people in Puerto Rico, with another five million living on the mainland U.S.

While the focus has been on President Trump’s shortcomings in relief delivery and his outrageous comments about the population being “unable to fix their own problems,” the bigger villains remain behind the scenes.

Wall Street, the bankers and hedge fund billionaires, who have forced Puerto Rico into punishing debt and bankruptcy, already are busy scheming to impose more debt on the island before the lights are even turned on.

Before the storm, residents were already paying double the rates that residents in the mainland U.S. pay. Now, they will be expected to pay the cost of repairs and replacement of the electrical grid while Wall Street profits from it in the future.

A federally appointed control board has just announced that it intends to put the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa), the only power source on the island, under the direction of an emergency manager. He will be assigned with turning the electric authority over to private companies.

Having already impoverished the people of Puerto Rico–by years of exploitation; by massive tax breaks to corporations; by allowing huge speculation by hedge funds on Puerto Rican bonds, which led to 72 billion dollars of debt; Wall Street is looking to do what? Gouge the population even further. To use a continuing disaster to make even more profits in the future, through debt and privatization. And while they continue to make their plans, Puerto Ricans continue to suffer and die.

What clearer example could there be of the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, a system that profits on the misery of the population and should be thrown out with the garbage!

Pages 2-3

U.N. Keeps Peace and Causes Misery

Oct 30, 2017

The following article is translated from Combat Ouvrier (Workers Combat) of October 21, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

After the troops of the “United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti” or MINUSTAH occupied the country for 13 years, now there is a name change to the “United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti,” or MINUJUSTH.

Under MINUSTAH, the “blue helmets” were used by successive governments to contain the anger of struggling workers and attack them when they protested.

During the occupation, where the soldiers stayed there was a rise in prostitution spurred by misery and in sex crimes committed by the soldiers against Haitian women and children.

And in October 2010, a cholera epidemic broke out, starting from the contingent of peacekeeping troops sent from Nepal. Since then, more than 10,000 Haitians have died of this disease. The eradication of cholera cannot be imagined as long as the majority of the population has to live in sub-human, unhygienic conditions.

The U.N. refused to accept any legal responsibility and did not apologize until six years after the outbreak began.

When MINUJUSTH was set up on October 15, the U.N. representative presented its program: “to support the professionalization of the Haitian police and to strengthen the rule of law and respect for human rights.” And also “to consolidate the political stability achieved during the last years in order to give to open and give a voice to a democratic, stable and prosperous future for all Haitians.”

With justice in the service of those who have money, weapons and power, the professionalization of the police will enable only the wealthy to enjoy a prosperous and democratic future!

This will not be the case for the 50 people lost at sea by boat on the same day, October 15. The seven shipwrecked survivors said they were trying to reach the Turks Islands north of Haiti to escape miserable poverty.

Poor people and workers in particular know from experience that international missions are not carried out in their favor. Nothing is given to the poor and workers by governments. What they managed to get was what they won through their struggles.

Spain and Catalonia:
The Arm Wrestling Continues

Oct 30, 2017

The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière [Workers Struggle], the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

For months, the status of Catalonia has dominated Spain’s political life. On October 1, 2017, the Catalan independence parties—those on the right, the left, and the far left—organized a referendum on independence. The central government in Madrid declared the referendum illegal.

Neither the banning of the referendum nor the deployment of the police stopped two million Catalans from voting and from expressing their discontent with the politics of the central government by voting for independence. As it had said it would, the central government in Madrid declared the results null and void.

Since then, the Catalan legislature declared independence, and the Spanish government responded by dissolving the legislature.

Today, with the economic crisis hitting Spain, like the rest of the world, and throwing society backwards, the growth of political currents pushing independence is the expression of multiplying social tensions. But these politics offer no positive perspective for the working class and poor.

The pro-independence parties and organizations use a radical language that doesn’t at all address the working class, neither in Catalonia nor anywhere else. The workers continue to suffer from low wages, unemployment, and more and more intense exploitation. In the factories, the public services, retail, the banking sector, tourism, or agriculture, workers have to declare if they are from Catalonia or Andalusia, or if they come from a different part of the country. It is a dangerous delusion to believe that someone has the right to better treatment because they were born in Catalonia or their family is Catalan. Asking about everyone’s origins divides the exploited—when they need to be united in order to assert their rights.

Many people in Catalonia have fallen into the trap of believing that they can find allies among their exploiters because they are of the same nationality. Puigdemont, the Catalan independence leader, is a bourgeois politician who defends anti-worker policies and is ready to negotiate for anything and against anything in order to participate in power. And his predecessor, Arthur Mas, is a high-finance swindler who was caught up in well-known scandals and who also tried to direct the anger of the exploited into dead-ends.

It is true that it’s necessary, throughout Spain, to fight the politics of the central government in power in Madrid, and to denounce the violence of the police directed by the Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy with the complicity of the Spanish Socialist Party. But we can’t stop there.

The repression organized by Rajoy and the effort today against those who oppose the government’s policies by proposing independence, can also be used to attack those who fight to defend the rights of workers. And it’s on all those problems that we must struggle: the budget cuts, the privatizations, the attacks against retirees.

Those like Puigdemont on one side, and those like Rajoy on the other, fight to better serve this or that fraction of the bourgeoisie. But they are all ready, one like the other, each one in his own way and on his own political terrain, to attack the workers.

Yet Another Detroit Area Boil Water Alert

Oct 30, 2017

A break in a 48-inch water main forced the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) to issue a boil water advisory to almost 305,000 residents of Oakland County, just north of Detroit. The boil water alert caused the closure of all schools in cities and dozens of additional individual schools. Hospitals were forced to cancel elective surgeries and transfer some patients to hospitals outside the affected areas.

Some cities had no water flowing at all, and some still remained under the boil water alert up to at least six days later.

It was the third such boil water alert issued by the GLWA in just over six months, after one affecting Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck and another in Livonia.

The GLWA is a regional board that took control of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) as part of the bankruptcy agreement imposed on the city in 2014 by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and his hand-picked city emergency manager Kevyn Orr. For many years prior to the takeover, suburban politicians had stoked animosity against the DWSD over supposedly exorbitant rates suburban residents were charged for their water. But the DWSD system was considered one of the best in the world, thanks in part to its highly skilled, experienced workforce.

The GLWA hired the consulting firm Veolia North America (VNA) to find ways to cut costs. Together they have since reduced the DWSD’s workforce by more than 40 percent, shut off water to tens of thousands of residents, and slashed the budget for maintenance of the water system.

VNA, incidentally, also had a role in the Flint water crisis. The State of Michigan sued VNA in 2016 for “professional negligence, fraud, and public nuisance” after the firm declared Flint’s water supply “safe” and “in compliance with drinking water standards” despite complaints of health problems from many residents.

There were already water main breaks occurring before the GLWA’s takeover of the water department, but the layoffs and budget cuts have only made things worse.

The exact cause of the latest water main break has yet to be determined. The GLWA has floated the theory that a nearby power station failed, causing valves in the water system to shut down. The closing of the valves may have caused pressure to build up, so that when the valves re-opened, a back and forth wave called a “water hammer” resulted and caused the water main to burst.

In other words, this latest breakdown may have been due to a combination of both a broken electrical system AND a decrepit water system!

This is yet another example of an aging infrastructure falling apart at the seams. It’s a product of the decay of capitalism, and politicians serving only their own short-term interests and those of their wealthy benefactors.

Pages 4-5

The October Insurrection in Petrograd

Oct 30, 2017

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

The Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC) prepared the October insurrection working closely with the Petrograd Soviet and the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, both headquartered in the Smolny Palace. The plan was to launch the uprising during the night of October 24th-25th (November 6th-7th by our calendar), and it relied on the joint action of workers’ detachments from the Red Guards, the Petrograd garrison, and the Baltic sailors. But the first actions of the insurrection actually broke out as early as the morning of October 24th, in reaction to the Provisional Government’s efforts to preemptively strike at the revolution, such as the attack on the Bolshevik printing presses or the transfer of troops to different parts of the capital—as Trotsky, who was president of the Petrograd Soviet at the time, remarks in his History of the Russian Revolution:

“Kerensky had collected in the Winter Palace cadets, officers, and members of the women’s shock battalion. …

The Kerensky Government was casting about for help from one quarter to another. It recalled two new cyclist battalions from the front and a mortar battery, and tried to call out some cavalry. The cyclists, when on their way, sent a telegram to the Petrograd Soviet: ‘We are being taken to Petrograd. We do not know for what purpose. Kindly explain.’ We asked them to stop and to send a delegation to us. When the latter arrived, they declared at the meeting of the Soviet that the battalion was entirely on our side. This aroused a new storm of enthusiasm. The battalion was ordered to enter the town immediately. …

The Ministry of the Marine gave orders to the Aurora to get under way and leave Petrograd waters. The crew immediately informed us of this fact. We countermanded the order, and the cruiser remained ready, at any moment, to use all her forces on behalf of the Soviet authority.”

The Smolny Palace: The General Staff of the Insurrection

The day of the 24th, according to the testimony of the Bolshevik Raskolnikov, the Smolny Palace was converted into a defensive camp: “Cannon were in position out in front of the columns. Machine-guns alongside them … Almost on every step those same ‘maxims,’ looking like toy-cannon. And through all the corridors … the swift, loud, happy tramp of workers, soldiers, sailors and agitators.”

Worker delegates arrived from all over, ready to receive the MRC’s instructions: “At Smolny, in the Factory and Shop Committee room, delegates from the plants stood in line to get orders for rifles. The capital had seen many people waiting in lines during the war years—now for the first time it saw them waiting in line for rifles.”

The Workers and Soldiers Take Power

On the evening of October 24th, the uprising was launched. The revolutionaries took control of the central telegraph station and the government’s telegraph agency: “Two soldiers from the regiment, standing by the commutator with rifles, proved sufficient to attain a compromise with the hostile telegraph officials, among whom were no Bolsheviks.... The main operation began at two o’clock in the morning. Small military parties, usually with a nucleus of armed workers or sailors under the leadership of commissars, occupied simultaneously, or in regular order, the railroad stations, the lighting plant, the munition and food stores, the waterworks, the Palace Bridge, the Telephone Exchange, the State Bank, and the big printing-plants. The Telegraph Station and the Post Office were completely taken over. Reliable guards were placed everywhere.”

Within a few hours, the focal points of the city had passed under the control of the revolutionaries, practically without resistance, fighting, or victims. The insurrection, which had been openly proclaimed and organized in countless meetings organized by the Bolsheviks, was everywhere welcomed enthusiastically. Trotsky cites the occupation of the printing-plant of the reactionary paper Russkaia Volia, which was entrusted at the last minute to the Semenov Guard regiment in order to avoid making a commotion: “The printing-plant was needed to issue the Bolshevik paper in large format and with a big circulation. The soldiers had already lain down to sleep. The commissar briefly told them the object of his visit: ‘I hadn’t stopped talking when a shout of “Hurrah!” went up on all sides. The soldiers were jumping out of their bunks and crowding around me in a close circle.’ A truck loaded with men from the Semenov regiment approached the printing-plant. The workers of the night-shift quickly assembled in the rotary-press room. The commissar explained why he had come. ‘And here, as in the barracks, the workers answered with shouts of ‘Hurrah! Long live the Soviets!’ ”

Mensheviks and Socialist- Revolutionaries: With the Bourgeoisie, Against the Insurrection

At the same time, in the middle of the night, the preliminary session was being held for the second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which was to open the following day. The Bolshevik Party would have had a majority from that point on. Trotsky went there to announce that the insurrection had been launched.

The supporters of the Provisional Government protested and left the room one after the other. In the night, they proclaimed a Committee for Salvation of Country and Revolution, uniting with bourgeois officials from the Kadet Party in the Duma [legislature]. The journalist John Reed was present and observed: “Nothing could be more striking than the contrast between this assemblage and the Congress of Soviets. There, great masses of shabby soldiers, grimy workmen, peasants—poor men, bent and scarred in the brute struggle for existence; here the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary leaders—Avksentievs, Dans, Liebers—the former Socialist Ministers—Skobelievs, Chernovs—rubbed shoulders with Kadets like oily Shatsky, sleek Vinaver; with journalists, students, intellectuals of almost all camps. This Duma crowd was well-fed, well-dressed; I did not see more than three proletarians among them all.”

All Power to the Soviets!

During the day of October 25th, some skirmishes broke out around the Winter Palace, where the Provisional Government was entrenched, protected by the last troops that were still faithful to it. Several dozen victims fell on both sides. However, a few rounds of cannon fire from the cruiser Aurora and the determination of the revolutionaries were enough to carry the victory. The ministers of the Provisional Government were arrested. Kerensky was able to escape and fled to the front, where he still hoped to rally the troops. The second Congress of Soviets, acclaiming the victorious insurrection, took power into its own hands.

Starting on the morning of October 25th, a proclamation signed by the Military Revolutionary Committee circulated through the streets of the capital:

“To the citizens of Russia!

The Provisional Government has been deposed. State power has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies—the Revolutionary Military Committee, which heads the Petrograd proletariat and the garrison.

The cause for which the people have fought, namely, the immediate offer of a democratic peace, the abolition of landed proprietorship, workers’ control over production, and the establishment of Soviet power—this cause has been secured.

Long live the revolution of workers, soldiers, and peasants!”

Syria and Iraq:
Endless War, Caused by U.S. Imperialism

Oct 30, 2017

On October 17, U.S.-backed forces declared Raqqa, the last major city in Syria held by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters, to be “liberated.”

During the four-month battle over Raqqa, thousands of civilians were trapped in the besieged city without food, water and other necessities. And most of the city was destroyed by relentless heavy bombardment–by the U.S. military. One report says that this newly “liberated” city is now 80 per cent uninhabitable. In other words, the U.S. military had a policy to “destroy the city to save it,” as a U.S. major called it almost exactly a half century ago, during the Vietnam war.

Out of the 200,000 people who lived in Raqqa when the war in Syria began in 2011, no more than 45,000 people are still there. And for these survivors, the ordeal is not at all over. Many there do not feel liberated at all–they have just replaced one occupying army with another. ISIS, which adheres to the Sunni interpretation of Islam, has attacked, and largely driven away, residents from other religious groups in areas under their control. But other groups fighting ISIS–and sometimes each other as well–also identify themselves based on religion or ethnicity. So the “liberated” people of Raqqa now have good reason to fear being attacked for “supporting ISIS”–whether they did or not–because they don’t match the religion or ethnicity of the new invading army.

A similar scenario is playing out in Kirkuk, an Iraqi city about 300 miles east of Raqqa. Kirkuk, a much larger city located in an oil-rich area, was declared liberated on October 21, around the same time as Raqqa was. Except that there, the roles were somewhat reversed. While ISIS was defeated by mostly Kurdish fighters in Raqqa, in Kirkuk it was Kurdish fighters who were driven out–although the conquerors are, once again, allies of the U.S., in this case Shiite-led Iraqi government forces.

The current rivalries and wars in Syria and Iraq are direct results of the U.S. policy in the Middle East. In 2003, the U.S. military invaded Iraq and overthrew its dictator, Saddam Hussein, on the false claim that he was hiding “weapons of mass destruction.” In place of Hussein’s Sunni-based regime, the U.S. installed a government led by Shiite clerics. As ethnic Kurds set up an autonomous government in northern Iraq, a civil war ensued in the rest of Iraq, with Shiite and Sunni militias attacking civilians belonging to the “rival sect” in a bloody pattern of ethnic cleansing.

While Shiite militias were sponsored by the U.S. and the Shiite regime in neighboring Iran, Sunni militias, often led by remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime, began to operate with funding from U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia and other Sunni regimes in the region–and the U.S. itself! Some of these Sunni militias later joined ISIS, in both Iraq and across the border in Syria. When protests against the Syrian regime began in 2011, that country was quickly thrown into a bloody war through the intervention of foreign powers–not only regional ones such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but also big powers such as the U.S., its European allies, and Russia.

More than 12 million Syrians (half the country’s population!) are now refugees, with six million in Syria and another six million in other countries, according to UN statistics. And this on top of the millions of refugees from other war-torn countries in the region, including Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries invaded by the U.S. military. It’s a human catastrophe of enormous proportions–caused by the U.S. ruling class in its bid to control the world.

Pages 6-7

Amazon’s Game of Extortion

Oct 30, 2017

More than two hundred cities and states throughout the country met Amazon’s deadline in October to bid on the second headquarters they propose to build. Amazon claims they will contribute five billion dollars to build the second headquarters and hire up to 50,000 people who will be offered “high-paying” jobs.

City after city, state after state has proposed billions of dollars in tax breaks to one of the world’s wealthiest corporations. The governor of New Jersey has proposed seven billion dollars in incentives to lure Amazon to Newark, which counts a quarter to a third of its population living in poverty. The mayor of Chicago talked of two billion in tax breaks. The mayor of Baltimore, a city like Newark in terms of population living in poverty, proposes to put Amazon into a development that is already wringing 660 million dollars of taxpayer financed bonds and millions more in tax breaks from the state of Maryland.

But tax “breaks,” and utility “rebates,” and income tax deductions–all proposals to Amazon–come at the expense of residents of those areas. The rest of us will pay for those missing taxes, will pay for new roads, or new buses or trains, will pay for new water lines or power lines for the company.

In addition, an influx of thousands of people looking for nice houses or condos raises the price of housing for everyone. Look at the experience of Seattle, which got thousands of new jobs when Amazon placed its first headquarters there. The cost of housing has pushed poorer people, who don’t get half the pay of Amazon’s officials or computer programmers, farther and farther away from the city. They cannot afford the prices of rents or mortgages in the Seattle area.

As Seattle shows, huge corporations like Amazon come into a location as a double-edged sword–good pay for a few and a worse tax burden for everyone else.

As the mayor of San Antonio, Texas said in publicizing that San Antonio would NOT offer to bid on the Amazon proposal, it is a “race to the bottom.”

High Paid Investors Pretend Workers Paid Too Much

Oct 30, 2017

Chipotle workers are lucky if they are paid $11 an hour in some locations, and these workers’ hours have been cut since Chipotle experienced two health scares about their food. But a stock analyst says Chipotle staff are paid too MUCH!

Even if a Chipotle worker got a full week’s work, he or she would only make $22,000 per year. Few places exist where that wage would not mean food pantries for the family. No Chipotle lunches for them, as bosses cut hours, eliminate benefits, and keep wages as low as they can get away with.

Those facts tell the entire snapshot of capitalism today: overpaid executives want to guarantee their privileges by pushing the work force to its knees.

Los Angeles and Homelessness

Oct 30, 2017

Los Angeles City and County, with a homeless population of 43,854, has the second highest rate of homelessness in the country. New York, with a total homeless population of 73,523, has the highest. Boston, Washington, D.C. and Seattle also have very high homelessness rates.

One main reason for this homelessness crisis is the sky-high cost of housing. And another reason is low-paying jobs and joblessness. Third, there is the cut in government programs that used to help people out. These issues are the product of the very same large corporations who ask us to pay for their misdeeds.

The Biggest Drug Pushers Are Pharmaceutical Companies

Oct 30, 2017

Last week at a press conference, Trump called the opioid epidemic “a national shame” and declared it a public health emergency. But this crisis was not discovered last month. It has been in the making for decades since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved OxyContin, a powerful and highly addictive opioid, in 1995. After its approval, the sales of this opioid, a drug that acts on the nervous system to relieve pain, increased by 2,000 percent in a span of just five years through powerful marketing by its manufacturer Purdue Pharma.

Everything about this real social crisis is undeniably shocking. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 59,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States just in 2016–that is, 162 people each day. Approximately 80 percent of the global opioid supply was consumed in the United States in 2015, according to CNBC. About 240 million pain prescriptions were written in the U.S. in 2015, which amounted to at least one bottle of pain killer for every household that year. So, people are flooded with opioids up to their neck, in every corner of the U.S.

Causes of this epidemic include aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies and in the process, downplaying addiction risk; payments to physicians and medical journals by pharmaceutical companies to encourage the prescribing of their drugs; and doctors who then, in turn, prescribe and overprescribe these drugs to patients without fully explaining their side effects. From the giant pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the opioids, including Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson, to giant drug distributors like McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, which provide these opioids to the pharmacies; and pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, which sell these opioids to the public, it’s giant companies that form the supply chain of the opioid industry.

The cost of manufacturing one opioid pill is no more than a few cents. But, each 30-pill vial of one opioid, oxycodone, is worth $900 when re-sold by a street dealer. So, the opioid industry is a mainstream and hugely profitable business cornered by giant companies, the biggest pushers of these drugs.

Trump’s War on Drugs:
No Money Where His Mouth Was

Oct 30, 2017

Trump declared the opioid crisis in the United States as a public health emergency.

But the Public Health Emergency Fund presently has a grand total of $57,000 in it! His announcement doesn’t direct any new money to treatment or prevention programs. And critics were quick to point this out, saying that the president “offered the country a band-aid when we need a tourniquet.”

Not true. To address the opioid epidemic in this country, we need nothing less than full scale surgery to remove the cancer of a system that puts profit-making before human needs–a system which allows drug companies to make billions, while our children die of drug overdoses.

Page 8

Weinstein Affair:
Sex, Money and Power

Oct 30, 2017

Since the news broke on October 5 that two women had accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, a number of other actresses dared to say they too were victims.

The fact that well-known actresses didn’t dare say this until now shows what is happening to women, and not only in Hollywood.

Weinstein, with a fortune of at least 150 million dollars, was considered one of the most important movie producers in the U.S. Time magazine called him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012. He used his power to hire and fire, it seems, to demand sexual favors from actresses, with the complicity of the rest of Hollywood.

A first attempt by a New York Times journalist to investigate similar cases in 2004 was swept under the rug. It took a lot of courage for more than 30 women to step forward with accusations against Weinstein, some actresses, some employees of his production company, breaking the silence.

The Weinstein affair has been much in the news because the actresses who stepped forward were well-known. Other recent scandals about sexual harassment or assault have come out against bosses in the big tech firms of Silicon Valley, not to mention the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, who was forced to resign last June due to sexual harassment and intimidation complaints.

These women stepping forward encouraged others to do the same. And on the internet recently, the hashtag “metoo” received millions of tweets from women who had also experienced workplace sexual harassment or assault. This could be just the tip of an iceberg of women who have had to defend themselves from the predations of men at one time or another during their working lives.

It also shows what women put up with in society everywhere. Too many of them have had to defend themselves against verbal or physical attacks. And often when they make the accusations, they face the loss of a job and a heavy weight of prejudice working against them in the court system. It is rare that any woman receives justice or that those responsible face the penalties they deserve.

As women and as workers, women must lead a struggle to defend their rights, faced with men who have profited from their power, given to them by a society based on exploitation.

Washington, D.C. Harassment Case:
Little Has Changed

Oct 30, 2017

Some brave women have shone the spotlight on sexual harassment in the workplace by speaking out about how a big movie producer, Harvey Weinstein, assaulted them. These women may be rich and famous, but sexual harassment happens on any job.

More than 30 years ago, a bank teller, not an actress, filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Michelle Vinson had been fired from her job at Capital City Federal Savings Bank in Washington, D.C. In the lawsuit, she said that during the four years she had worked at the bank, the branch manager, Sidney Taylor, repeatedly sexually assaulted her. Taylor threatened to fire her if she refused his demands.

In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that sexual harassment violated federal laws against discrimination and that companies could be held liable for sexual harassment committed by supervisors–even if the company was unaware of the harassment.

That ruling has certainly not stopped or even slowed sexual harassment and assault. It has not changed the fact that the justice system more often attacks the victims of sexual assault than it does their victimizers.

Women who are harassed or assaulted can only count on themselves and others who support them to stop this disgusting state of affairs.

Cuts to Special Ed Go Public

Oct 30, 2017

A reporter in Chicago has blown the lid off what every special education teacher in the city already knew: Chicago Public Schools (CPS) made a concerted effort to balance its budget on the backs of special education students. Sarah Karp, working for the local public radio station, found that the School Board had a secret policy manual, prepared by bean-counting consultants.

Teachers had already seen the impact of the policies called for in this manual. First of all, CPS tried to prevent students from getting services by putting bureaucratic and paperwork hurdles in front of them. For example, the process of getting a one-on-one aide for students with high needs used to involve filling out a six-page form. At the beginning of last year that was replaced with a form that was more than 40 pages long!

They also added a requirement that an adult log student behavior every 10 minutes. Right when they were cutting staff, they were asking teachers and aides to stop teaching so they could enter useless data in a form–making it impossible to provide special education services.

CPS also cut bus services for many disabled pre-school students–at least until parents made enough of an outcry that CPS reinstated the buses.

And CPS cut participation in the extended summer school program in half. Again, they did it by placing a huge paperwork hurdle in front of teachers and parents.

CPS claims that it undertook these policies because many students in special education showed little improvement on their test scores. CPS proved the lie of this excuse by doing the opposite of logic. If test scores aren’t going up very fast, how will cutting programs and adding paperwork help?

They also claimed that black and Hispanic boys are more likely to be identified as needing special education than white boys. This should be no surprise given the higher rates of poverty faced by these students. Any teacher can tell you that poverty contributes to all kinds of learning problems. And how exactly does CPS think cutting services would help these students?

It’s clear that the policies CPS put in its manual, dictated by private consultants, were NOT about educating anyone. They were about saving money–at the expense of the students who need the most help.

Search This Site