The Spark

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

Issue no. 1059 — June 11 - 25, 2018

Good Jobs Report?
A Crock of Bull!

Jun 11, 2018

On June 1, the U.S. Department of Labor engaged in its monthly Festival of Lies to convince us that our job situation is actually good.

According to the Labor Department, 223,000 jobs were added in May to the economy, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, the lowest since the year 2000. This 3.8 percent approaches what the economists call “full employment.” Corporate media outlets and economists trumpeted the figures as showing a strong, or even “gangbusters” economy.

That sounds fantastic!

So, why are so many people we know still struggling to find work?

Because the numbers are basically BS, that’s why. In many ways.

First, it’s acknowledged that these early monthly figures are really inexact, and often get revised extensively – usually toward lower job growth. That 223,000 jobs? It could be off by as much as 115,000!

Second, that “official” unemployment rate is a fraud. It doesn’t take into account all those who have stopped looking for work (“discouraged workers”), or all those forced to work part-time when they would like full-time work, or all workers only marginally attached to the labor force. If all those are included (the “U6” rate), unemployment goes up to 7.6 percent.

If we look at the “Labor force participation rate,” the picture gets even worse. According to that stat, of all possible workers in the U.S. ages 16 and older, only 62.7 percent ARE actually in the workforce. That’s lower than at any time since the 1970s.

That’s a LOT of people who could be working, who aren’t – who are not being counted in the official unemployment rate.

But those people could be put to work because there is certainly a lot of work that needs to be done.

Look at the infrastructure crumbling around us. Roads are in dire need of repair – in Detroit, for example, potholes cause damage to cars on a daily basis. Eleven years after the massive bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people, experts say there are still thousands of bridges across the U.S. that need fixing. Aged, corroded water pipes are bursting, flooding streets and buildings and causing sinkholes, and sickening people who depend on them for water. People across the country can give many other examples from their own states, cities and towns.

Look at the electric grids across the country. It has become customary for power companies to blame big, long power outages on “forces of nature” – never mind that, for a long time, these companies have been doing little maintenance work, because they have reduced their maintenance crews drastically. The same is true for schools, whose buildings are in utter disrepair. Not to mention how overcrowded classrooms are, making it impossible for students to learn.

The list goes on and on. All this work that society needs urgently would create jobs for millions of people. If it is not happening, it’s because the economy is organized to maximize profit, not to take care of the needs of the population.

The bosses have never given anything to their workers unless they have been forced to. The ONLY thing that has given workers a raise in pay, or better working conditions, or anything else, has been a tipping of the balance of forces – when workers have organized and fought, collectively, massively, and dragged that wealth out of the bosses’ hands.

That massive, collective fight has been missing in the last few decades. Workers have seen fewer and fewer strikes, of smaller and smaller sizes. No wonder the corporations and their governments have taken more and more from us – even in the supposedly “boom” times like the 1990s ... or today.

But we’ve started to see an increase in fights in recent months – like the teachers’ strikes that shut down schools across six states. Those fights won something. And they show the way forward for the rest of the working class.

Pages 2-3

Juan Rey’s Results in California Primary

Jun 11, 2018

The following articles comes from a news post on the independent website:

In California’s June 5th primary, Juan Rey, who ran in the 29th Congressional District in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, received 624 votes, or 1.4% of the votes in this district.

It’s a small vote – in fact, it was only a small proportion of the more than 4,000 people who signed to put him on the ballot. In part this reflects the usual very low vote turnout during primaries. This year only 13% of registered voters in Los Angeles County voted. But it also reflects California’s convoluted election system. All candidates run in the same single primary in June, regardless of party affiliation. Only the top two in the primary advance to the general election. This usually prevents any of the minor parties or individual candidates from being heard in November, when most people pay attention to the election.

However, Rey’s campaign did succeed in its main goal: to reach out and discuss on a person-to-person level with thousands of workers about the problems that workers face, the need for workers to fight back and the need to build a working class party in order to help unite those fights and overcome so many of the divisions inside the working class. In eight weeks, from mid-December to early February, these discussions resulted in 4,082 people signing their name to a petition that allowed Rey, an independent working class candidate, to get on the ballot and present himself in the primary election. And again, in the two months preceding the primary, volunteers working on the Rey campaign discussed with thousands more workers at a community college, street festival, and at shopping malls, strip malls and on city streets in front of post offices throughout the district.

Many working people responded to the main message of the campaign. Thousands of working people in this district told Rey and the other campaigners that an independent working class party is necessary and long overdue.

The vote may have been low, but without this campaign, there would have been no working class voice heard.

Juan Rey continues at his job as a mechanic for the Los Angeles Metro, as well as his duties as an elected union steward representing the workers in his division. But at the same time, he and others, who supported his campaign, are looking for more ways and opportunities to discuss with broader layers of the working class about the need to build a working class party. The situation that workers face everywhere demands it.

An Idea to Ponder?

Jun 11, 2018

President Trump made headlines by saying he could possibly “pardon himself,” which suggested it might be necessary.

But right now Special Prosecutor Mueller has not proposed a single charge against Mr. Trump.

Perhaps Trump could pardon himself for cheating on his wife.

Perhaps Trump could pardon himself for referring to half of humanity, that is, women, as instruments for his personal sexual gratification.

Perhaps Trump could pardon his earlier self, when the apartments his family owned in New York refused to rent to black people.

Perhaps Trump could pardon his use of the bankruptcy courts six times, a move that meant he didn’t have to pay back the enormous amount of money he borrowed and in addition, he could, and did, screw small vendors out of their payments so they would be ruined.


G-7 Meeting
– All Bosses, All Enemies

Jun 11, 2018

Trump has caused a big fuss at the Group of 7 (G7) meeting of the world’s economic powerhouses, saying long-time allies like Canada, France, England, and Germany are “robbing” the U.S. And Trump talks about wanting to make the G-7 back into the G-8, by bringing Russia back into the fold.

The leaders of France and Canada responded by threatening to make it the G-6, by excluding the U.S. It sounds like a big fight. The media expresses concern that Trump is attacking “our” friends, while cosying up to “our” foes.

But what has actually come out of all this so far is ... a lot of hot air. All of the debate ignores the reality that the U.S. remains the world’s dominant economic power. That’s why Trump knows he can get away with all his grandstanding – there’s not too much Europe, Canada, or Japan can do. The real economic relations among these countries are not shaped by negotiations. They are shaped by the economic realities underneath, in which U.S. capital remains dominant.

And in reality, while the capitalists of each country use their own national governments to seek an advantage here or there, these capitalists are also deeply interconnected. The big corporations and the banks are international – they trade across borders, set up international supply chains, and most importantly, they invest across borders.

Whatever his game at the G-7, one thing is for sure – Trump is playing to his base, trying to make it look like he is playing hardball to get a better deal for U.S. workers. He wants us to think that our problems come from abroad, from workers or companies in other countries. But the reality is, all these bosses, whatever country they’re from, are our enemies.

Friend or foe? None are our friends. All are our foes, including the ones from right here in the USA.

Don’t Blame Mother Nature

Jun 11, 2018

Ellicott City, Maryland, a few miles south of Baltimore, faced its second “thousand-year flood” in just two years, when Maryland was hit with record amounts of rain at the end of May.

Millions have viewed the Ellicott City photos and videos that showed rushing waters, cars floating like toys in a bath tub. One person died there. And sadly, the merchants on the main street had not yet recovered or rebuilt from the same kind of flooding that also rushed in two summers earlier.

The county where Ellicott City is located estimated a price tag of more than 100 million dollars to try to get the overflowing streams and rivers under control, the ones that will continue to flood the area. The floods will continue because the politicians decided they could not afford to spend that amount.

The storms, hurricanes, floods we’re now seeing may be part of global warming, but it is the free rein given to developers that really damaged Ellicott City, and many other places.

The ones who can really afford to pay, since they are the ones behind these problems, are the developers, the banks that lend them money, and Wall Street that encourages them to grow at all costs. They are the ones who should pay for such damage all over the country.

Of course nature can be a problem, but in a rational society, we would control growth and infra-structure for the benefit of the entire population, not for the profits of the capitalist class.

Kevin Cooper:
Framed for Murder

Jun 11, 2018

For more than 30 years, Kevin Cooper has been on California’s death row, even though there is overwhelming evidence that he did not commit the 1983 murders he was convicted for.

From the very beginning, many pieces of evidence clearly pointed away from Cooper, then a 25-year-old black man. The sole survivor of the murders, then eight-year-old Josh Ryen, told a social worker that the killers were three or four white men. Two witnesses also reported seeing three white men in the Ryens’ van shortly after the murders. Blond and brown hair were found in the victims’ hands. It’s a long list.

And yet, San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies arrested Cooper for the murders. Cops claimed they had found a bloody button and some cigarette butts linking Cooper to the crime, but only after second searches of a house and a car. At the same time, the cops claimed they had lost bloody coveralls and a shirt linked with the murders! A sham trial, complete with racist crowds holding “Hang the Nigger” signs, sentenced Cooper to death.

Cooper appealed the verdict. A DNA test in 2002 did find Cooper’s blood on a T-shirt discovered near the murder site – but it was tainted with a chemical preservative, meaning that the blood had come from a test tube!

In any “justice” system, which can claim a semblance of justice, that finding alone would have been enough to not only throw out Cooper’s conviction, but to put the cops and prosecutors on trial for framing an innocent man. A judge and former FBI official said publicly that the cops had obviously framed Cooper. Five of the jurors who convicted Cooper signed statements calling for new, more advanced DNA testing.

But courts have rejected Cooper’s appeals, and Governor Jerry Brown has refused to allow new DNA testing.

Another California politician, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, has now called on Brown to allow the testing. This is actually an about-turn by Harris who, at her former job as California’s attorney general, had also refused to allow new DNA testing for Cooper! But now Harris is reacting to a recent New York Times article, which criticized her for that.

These two prominent California politicians turned their backs on Cooper, probably because they did not want to expose a corrupt, racist justice system that railroaded Cooper to death row; they did not want to risk a weakening of the police and courts – which are there to control the population on behalf of the ruling class.

Kevin Cooper, who said he did not think the governor or courts would stop his execution, put it plainly: “I’m frameable, because I’m an uneducated black man in America. ... Sometimes it’s race, and sometimes it’s class.”

Pages 4-5

Historic YES Vote for Women’s Rights

Jun 11, 2018

Ireland saw a record high turnout of 61.4 percent of voters for a May 25th referendum to allow abortion to be legalized. This vote overturned the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution. Passed in 1992, the 8th Amendment banned any changes to the country’s abortion laws that originally had been created in 1861.

In this largely Catholic country, yes votes were at 64.4 percent in favor of having more liberal abortion laws.

In large numbers, it was young women who organized and militantly pushed for the yes vote.

In line with the #MeToo movement, more and more women in Ireland had spoken out publicly about their own abortion experiences. They expressed the difficulties and the shame they faced when they had to get an abortion.

Out of 40 voting districts in Ireland, 39 voted yes. The one area where voters said no was Donegal. Here, turnout was low but even in this very rural area, the no vote was only 51.9 percent.

Many people hesitated to vote yes because of Catholic tradition. But the grip of the Church on life in Ireland has lessened after a series of scandals came to light.

Through the fights of ordinary people, the truth of abuse that was covered up by the Catholic Church hierarchy has been exposed. In one case, the sexual abuse of thousands of children by pedophile priests became public. In another, corpses of malnourished children were discovered near a former Catholic home for unwed mothers.

But the tragic death of a 31-year-old woman, a dentist of Indian descent, seemed to be what broke the hold of the Catholic Church. This young woman, Savita Halappanavar, had a miscarriage and died of sepsis – of a massive infection – after being denied an abortion.

Under the total abortion ban in Ireland, doctors risked life in prison for performing an abortion. In Savita’s case, doctors waited too long to act and Savita died. With the approval of her family, many of the “vote yes” signs in Ireland pictured this young and vibrant woman, gone too soon.

Part of why this vote for women’s right to abortion was successful was that after all the scandals, Catholic church leaders remained silent around the vote.

When news of the yes vote hit the news, this brought many Irish people out into the streets to rejoice and celebrate.

This vote was a good beginning! The next fight for women in Ireland will need to be over how abortion will be paid for.

Guatemala Volcano:
A Human Disaster

Jun 11, 2018

A toxic shower of red-hot debris hurtled down the Fuego mountainside in Guatemala on June 3, swallowing whole towns. At least 100 people died, and 200 more are missing.

It turns out the Guatemalan disaster agency only began warning people to evacuate as the debris was hurtling towards their homes, even though the country’s volcano scientists had warned of an eruption eight hours earlier. “We saw people from CONRED (Guatemala’s disaster agency) passing by in their cars, but my wife only realized what was happening when people came fleeing,” one local resident reported. The disaster agency blames the scientists, saying its reports were not clear. But one thing is clear – hundreds of people died because they were not warned in time.

People in Guatemala knew the Fuego volcano was dangerous – its name means “fire” in Spanish. Early warning systems for disasters like this exist throughout the world – but not in impoverished Guatemala.

This country has been dominated by the U.S. for more than a century. The bulk of its wealth has been sucked out by U.S. corporations during that whole period, instead of going to set up basic services like volcano early warning systems. The Fuego deaths are a direct consequence.

Amazon Workers Organize in Spain

Jun 11, 2018

Nearly 2,000 workers at Amazon’s San Fernando de Henares warehouse in Madrid, half of them temporaries, went on strike for two days in March. Ninety-five percent of the workers participated in the strike, which included meetings and picket lines in very cold wind.

Amazon wants to end the 2015 contract with the warehouse’s four unions, and impose a regional contract that cuts sick leave days, reduces raises and overtime pay, and divides the workforce even more.

A week or so after the strike, the company announced a raise. But two weeks later, Amazon shifted work away from the warehouse to other facilities and laid off 100 temporary workers.

Organizing and strike actions will have to spread to the other workplaces in order to win against this corporation which makes over two billion dollars profit per year.

Amazon Sucks Wealth from All

Jun 11, 2018

Amazon has got cities, counties and states fighting over which can offer it the most in tax breaks for a second headquarters. Recently, it was disclosed that Michigan’s politicians had offered Amazon 4 billion dollars in tax incentives to open its second headquarters there! That means less money for schools and services wherever Amazon opens its operations.

At the same time, Amazon pays so low that thousands of its employees qualify for food stamps, the program now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

In Pennsylvania, which gave Amazon 25 million dollars to subsidize 10,000 warehouse jobs, one in ten of its workers is on SNAP. In Arizona, the figure of Amazon workers on SNAP is one in three.

In 2017, Amazon’s federal taxes declined below zero. The company paid no income taxes on over five and a half BILLION dollars in profits, and has tax credits left over for future years.

It’s a great deal for Amazon – they get tax breaks everywhere, while taxpayers fund food stamps for thousands of its underpaid employees.

The One Device

Jun 11, 2018

Last year the iPhone reached its 10th anniversary. Brian Merchant, in his 2017 book The One Device, explains the technical and intellectual details of this small popular rectangle. It contains not only a phone, but a computer connected to the Internet, a radio, a camera, and many other “apps” that consumers can buy.

While Apple and Steve Jobs presented the iPhone with a lot of hoopla, it didn’t jump ready-made out of corporate heads.

First of all, like all technology, it was built on decades of research by many scientists who made advances in many different fields. Author Merchant uses many examples: Alexander Graham Bell filed a patent for the telephone in 1876. But Bell’s work was based on the work of earlier scientists, on the telegraph and on electric currents.

In the 20th century, the land lines of Bell came to be used by almost 100% of the population in richer countries. Then, 20 or so years ago, engineers began to experiment with phones not attached to land lines.

In the book, Merchant also gives a tour of the development of the personal computer. He interviews scientists and engineers. It was only 15 years ago that Apple’s computer scientists began working on shrinking the computer into a small slab that fits in a pocket.

Beyond the work of the scientists, the work to produce these “magic” devices depends very directly on the labor of millions of workers – inadequately paid labor.

Merchant traveled the globe in writing The One Device, to see what goes into making this phone. He looked in Shenzhen, China, at a FoxConn factory campus, where thousands of workers make the Apple iPhone. They work 12-hour shifts inspecting three phones every minute. Most can only tolerate this labor for a year.

Merchant calculated that the metals in a cell phone only cost about one dollar. But there is another cost for human beings: men, women and children scrabble at hard labor to find tin in Bolivia; they face armed militias and soldiers in order to mine precious metals in war-torn Africa.

Merchant points out that workers’ wages are exceedingly low, while the iPhone cost to consumers is high. And Apple racks up the big bucks in profits that keep shareholders happy.

Merchant clearly understands that technology keeps changing to whatever is the next “big” thing. But he doesn’t point out that all this scientific research and all this difficult labor profit only a few people. Steve Jobs is presented as a U.S. entrepreneurial star. He’s actually a prime example of the thievery behind capitalist exploitation.

Book Review:
Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Jun 11, 2018

They work for Amazon, sell refreshments at spring training games, guard oil fields, and clean toilets in campgrounds. They pick raspberries, apples, and blueberries and work the sugar beet harvest. Yet they have no permanent homes. These are the “houseless” – mostly elderly people living in their R.V.s, vans, and fifth wheels – who populate Jessica Bruder’s 2017 Nomadland.

This beautifully written book shows the resourcefulness of the uncounted thousands who can no longer afford permanent homes. Sixty-five-year-old Linda May lives in a 10-foot-long fiberglass trailer she calls the Squeeze Inn. It’s better than living on the couch at her daughter’s overcrowded place. Linda May figures out how to survive from the network of nomads who maintain an internet presence full of crucial advice – where you can safely park without getting hassled by the cops, where to use the bathroom or even take a shower, what jobs might be out there and what they’re like, when and where nomads might meet up for some companionship.

At the same time, this book shows the desperate situation that a growing share of the working class finds itself in. Like most of the nomads we meet, Linda May worked her whole life in many different jobs, as a building inspector, a long-haul trucker, a Home Depot cashier, and a waitress in a casino. But she never got a pension from any of these jobs. And her Social Security check isn’t nearly enough for rent and food. So she is forced to keep working.

And in more and more places across the country, the kinds of jobs that actually exist do not pay enough to afford rent. At the time of her writing, Bruder points out that there was only one metro area in the country where a person working full time could afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.

Some companies like Amazon take advantage of this workforce very consciously. Thousands of workers drive to campgrounds near gigantic warehouses in isolated places around the country to help with Amazon’s Christmas rush for a little more than minimum wage. Workers in their 60s and older do most of this hard physical labor. “Some walk 15 miles on concrete floors, stooping, squatting, reaching and climbing stairs as they scan, sort and box merchandise.” These workers are not beaten down – they laugh about everything from working with incompetent and sometimes dangerous robots, to the incredible variety of sex toys and rubber poop that Amazon sells. Some workers take pride in being like Santa’s elves, but others see their work as being one cog in the world’s biggest, most useless vending machine.

In explaining this situation, Bruder invokes stories of the past, of Okies trekking across the country. But it is also a warning for the future. This is what faces a whole generation of aging workers, as pensions disappear, wages go down, and the cost of housing continues to increase beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Pages 6-7

Suicide Is on the Rise in the U.S.

Jun 11, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control reported the rate of suicides in the U.S. increased by 25 percent since 1999. Suicides increased across age, gender, race and ethnic groups. Recent suicides by prominent people like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade illustrate that this problem also cuts across class.

Suicide experts point to a number of possible immediate causes for the increasing suicide rates: strained relationships, stress with work or finances; substance abuse and health conditions.

They say the foreclosure crisis contributed to the increasing rates, particularly among white males. The opioid crisis has led to an increase in drug abuse that is also partly to blame.

Mental illness plays a role. Other studies have shown a high proportion of those who kill themselves had underlying mental conditions, like depression, yet the latest report suggests it may often be missed. In states that document suicides most carefully, 54 per cent of suicides involved people not diagnosed with mental illness.

What’s clear is suicide is on the increase in this country. It’s a social problem, and the various immediate causes the experts point to have their roots in capitalist society. The connection can be direct, as when someone takes a hit financially. War is a constant presence under capitalism, particularly here in the seat of U.S. imperialism, and it leaves its effect on veterans. The report found suicide disproportionately high among veterans, who made up 18 per cent of suicides but make up only 8.5 per cent of the U.S. population. More Vietnam vets committed suicide than soldiers who died in the war itself.

It can also be more indirect, from people feeling isolated and alienated from others. Seeking help for mental illness can carry a stigma that causes people to worry about their jobs or relationships. This is especially true in rural areas, where someone may not want their car to be seen parked in front of the only mental health facility in town.

Capitalism encourages individualism and despair, which is made worse in the absence of any social movement that might provide more people with a sense of hope for the future. We’re likely to see similar increases, until working people make a real fight to put society on a different footing.

Gas Prices:
They Collect, We Pay

Jun 11, 2018

Gas prices hit a four-year high this past Memorial Day. The average price for regular gas is about $3.00 a gallon. Compared to $2.40 a year ago, that’s a crushing 25% increase. In certain regions, the increase was even worse. For example, in California, gas averages $3.73 per gallon, compared to $3.10 a year ago.

Everyone driving will pay at least $320 more this year as a result of these skyrocketing gas prices.

The rich will benefit, as always. Not only do higher prices hit richer people much less than poorer ones, many also collect income from the profits of the oil industry.

Reverend Pinkney’s Conviction Overturned

Jun 11, 2018

In May, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled unanimously to overturn the conviction of the Reverend Edward Pinkney. The court ruled that Reverend Pinckney was “improperly charged,” “improperly tried and sentenced” and “improperly served 30 months in prison.” Reverend Pinkney had been wrongfully charged with changing 5 dates next to five signatures on a petition to recall the mayor of Benton Harbor.

Pinkney has been the leader of the Benton Harbor NAACP. He’s a community organizer, leading the fight against Whirlpool, the major corporation that closed all its factories while receiving tax breaks. He fought the State of Michigan for imposing a dictatorial emergency manager system that helped Whirlpool to take over Lake Michigan beachfront property and public parks in Benton Harbor, a predominantly black poor and working class community, for its private profit.

He was and is an integral part of people’s efforts to fight against police repression. He spearheaded the recall campaign of the mayor who was backed by Whirlpool. These were, in fact, the real “crimes” for which he was judged and convicted in 2014 by a jury of white people from affluent communities.

It’s a good thing that Reverend Pinkney’s conviction was overturned. Certainly the long, determined work of the people who fought in his defense made all the difference. But justice was hardly served by this ruling: Pinkney has spent two and a half years in prison.

While those who fought for justice in this case have succeeded in briefly checking Whirlpool’s arrogance, this giant corporation continues to dominate Benton Harbor’s political and economic scene. To checkmate Whirlpool will take a deeper and broader fight.

Medicaid Cuts Move Forward in Michigan

Jun 11, 2018

In Michigan, awful legislation is on its way to passing. After the national news media denounced racist content in proposed new Michigan Medicaid legislation, some changes were made. But the new Healthy Michigan Medicaid bill that just passed both houses in Lansing on June 6th remains horrible. “Work requirements” of 80 hours a month for poor people to continue to receive Medicaid will soon be signed into law by the governor.

The House Fiscal Agency estimates that this legislation will “save” Michigan 5 million to 20 million dollars a year. The House Fiscal Agency also estimates that the computer upgrades and administrative costs needed to implement this law’s red tape will be at least 30 million dollars.

So, this legislation is NOT about saving money. This legislation is NOT about the dignity of work. This legislation is part of a propaganda war — part of a divide and conquer strategy.

The goal of this legislation is to TRY and trick one half of the working class into thinking the other half of the working class are “moochers.”

There will be casualties from this legislation. Denial of healthcare coverage through bureaucratic hurdles causes death just as surely as the sun rises each morning.

Page 8

75 Years Ago:
Los Angeles “Zoot Suit” Riots

Jun 11, 2018

June marks the 75th anniversary of what is known as the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles. On June 3, 1943, a group of sailors – Navy draftees for World War II – broke into a movie theater in L.A. and began to attack young Mexican-American men in zoot suits, stripping them of their clothing and beating them. (The zoot suit was a style of men’s clothing that was in fashion in American cities at the time, and not just among Mexican-Americans. Malcolm X, for example, was a zoot-suiter in his youth.)

So the events should properly be called Sailors Riots. But they were named after the victims because that’s whom the authorities blamed. When police intervened, they arrested zoot-suiters who were being attacked!

This only encouraged racists. The next evening, hundreds of sailors raided the Mexican-American neighborhood of East L.A. and attacked young people in the streets. Police stood by, and so did military authorities. The press encouraged the attacks. The L.A. Times featured the front-page headline, “Zoot Suiters Learn Lesson in Fight with Servicemen.”

The attacks continued, and grew, for three more nights. Thousands of sailors, soldiers and white civilians raided downtown L.A., attacking not just zoot-suiters but Mexican-Americans in general, and some black and Filipino people also. Police often accompanied the attackers, and continued to arrest Mexican-Americans, more than 500 of them, claiming to “prevent fights.”

After five nights, the racist attacks finally ended when military authorities declared Los Angeles off-limits to military personnel – which they could have done days before, of course. But to the contrary, military brass had also encouraged the attacks. The commander of the naval district, Rear Admiral D. W. Bagley, for example, said that the sailors acted in “self-defense against the rowdy element.”

In fact, the entire ruling class of L.A. was directly to blame for this shameful episode in U.S. history. For years before the riots, the press and authorities had drummed up racism against Mexican-Americans, associating them with crime.

Today also, at a time when the living standard of the entire U.S. working class is deteriorating fast, authorities – including the president – have stepped up the drumbeat against certain parts of the working class. The only difference is that today, 75 years later, their target is not “criminal zoot-suiters,” but “criminal illegal aliens.”

Immigration Raids:
An Attack on All Workers

Jun 11, 2018

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is making lots of noise with its workplace raids, stretching from restaurants in suburban Chicago, to a meat-processing plant in Tennessee, to a garden center in Ohio.

And they are intentionally publicizing the brutality of the border patrol. They brag about separating families. They defend a border patrol agent who shot and killed a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman in Texas.

The attacks against immigrants are not new. The Obama administration deported record numbers of immigrants. But Trump is viciously boastful about these attacks.

Trump’s goal is not to drive immigrants out of the country, no more than that was Obama’s goal. Even the spectacular raids only result in the deportation of dozens of people.

No, the main goal of all this is to terrorize immigrants into staying in the shadows, staying obedient – and cheap – workers for the bosses.

Trump also boasts about these attacks to play to his electoral base and reinforce anti-immigrant attitudes, especially in the working class. The workplace raids even make a show of going after employers. But ICE makes sure they don’t disrupt business too much. Employers in suburban Chicago were warned of raids in advance, allowing them to tell their workers to stay home. When the Ohio Landscape Association complained about a shortage of workers in light of the raids – the government agreed to issue 15,000 new visas for “guest” workers.

In fact, the attacks on immigrants are attacks on all workers. Most immediately, they are aimed at keeping wages low for all of us. But they are also an attack on us morally and politically. We are all part of the same class, and we cannot accept inhuman treatment of workers, no matter where they were born.

The only way workers will reverse the decline in our standard of living will be when we stand up to the bosses – the ones who have actually stolen the wealth. And when we do that, the more workers involved – including immigrant workers – the stronger our struggles will be.

Hawaii Lava

Jun 11, 2018

Some workers expressed concerns about the people affected by the devastation caused by the volcanic eruption in Hawaii. It’s a natural human reaction to feel sympathy for those losing their homes.

Some commentators in Hawaii have expressed concern that the state government encouraged building near the Kiluea when it created an association to provide insurance to homeowners who had been denied by regular insurers due to the risks.

The deeper reasons have to do with the land being cheap for people who couldn’t afford to build elsewhere. In a society built on inequality, people sometimes make risky choices.

Puerto Rico:
the System Is the Disaster

Jun 11, 2018

Due to Hurricane Maria, deaths in Puerto Rico were originally reported as 64. So how is it possible that the death toll from Hurricane Maria reached almost 5,000 and no one noticed for a year?! It’s because the U.S. government didn’t want to intervene to save people from the effects of the storm.

With no electricity and contaminated water, the ill, the old, the very young were especially at risk.

The U.S. government can spend billions to invade and bomb the Middle East region over oil profits, but they let an entire population face a disaster without “sending in the troops.”

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