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
Sep 17, 2018
A couple of weeks before Hurricane Florence slammed into North Carolina, President Trump bragged about what a great job he did helping the people of Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria a year ago. This was such an insult, even Republican Party officials distanced themselves from what Trump said.
But Trump’s lies were just more crude than those told by the rest of the political establishment from both big parties.
Look at what’s happening right now with Hurricane Florence. When the storm approached, public officials exhorted people to flee for their lives. The politicians said nothing is valuable enough to risk your life for.
But these same officials carry out policies that put the interests and profits of big business, the banks and their richest stockholders, over the lives of working people.
They provide big business with ever more tax breaks and subsidies and pay for them by repeatedly cutting budgets for vital infrastructure, from 911 emergency response systems, to dams, sewage and water systems.
At the same time, government officials systematically allow big companies to boost their profits at the expense of health and safety of people and the environment. In the path of the storm are more than 40 Superfund sites containing dangerous chemicals that the government took over from big polluting companies. There are also dumps filled with radioactive waste next to nuclear power plants and coal ash next to other power plants. These sites should have been cleaned up decades ago. Instead, they are like ticking time bombs, ready to release their toxic contents during big storms like Florence.
Major livestock companies also raise and slaughter tens of millions of pigs and chickens every year. The earthen lagoons containing the manure regularly spill out their contents during big storms.
So, the flood waters filling up streets, homes, schools and workplaces are made poisonous and dangerous.
And what will happen after the storm?
For an idea, look at what happened after Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area a year ago. Sure, the capitalists and big parts of the middle classes have recovered from the effects of the hurricane, partly because they were more protected in the first place.
But it’s a different story for everyone else. Many are still homeless, forced to live with relatives or friends. Many, who can’t live in their homes, still have to pay taxes and insurance on them. Others live in flood-damaged, mold-infested houses. Still others live in trailers and even shipping containers.
These are the results of the drive to protect the profits and wealth of the capitalist class, at the expense of working people and the rest of society.
To actually protect the population from storms like these would require up front planning and intervention. First, bigger and more powerful storms are becoming more likely because of global warming. So, society and production would have to be reorganized to greatly reduce the harmful emissions that cause it. Second, society would have to stop doing the kinds of things that magnify the damage from the storms, like paving over flood zones, heaping dangerous chemicals into toxic waste dumps and letting the infrastructure fall apart.
Today, this social planning – so crucial to human welfare – is impossible because society is dominated by the capitalist class with its chaotic, profit-motivated functioning. Only a society run by the working class in its own interests can carry out this kind of planning in the interests of everyone.
Sep 17, 2018
On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed, sparking the financial crisis. Today, the news media and most politicians insist “the economy” has recovered.
But talking about “the economy” is just a way for defenders of capitalism to hide who in the economy is doing well, and who is getting hammered.
For the capitalist class, “the economy” is great. The Dow is up more than 80% above its peak in 2007. If you own a lot of stocks, that means you have gotten much richer.
But working people are falling further behind. The average household in the U.S. – which doesn’t have stocks – has 20% less wealth than it had before the crash, even as the total wealth in the country has gone up. All that increase in wealth has been taken by a sliver of rich people.
Workers can see with their own eyes that wages are so low and jobs are so insecure that even with a job, it’s very difficult for many people to make ends meet. Almost half of U.S. workers earn less than $12 an hour. And almost all the jobs created in the current “recovery” have been part time, temporary, or Uber-like jobs that workers can’t count on. Today, one in three U.S. workers relies on the “gig” economy of these undependable, no-benefit, low-wage jobs!
Wages aren’t down because workers are producing less wealth. They’re down because we’re getting a smaller share of what we produce. Despite the propaganda, factories are actually producing more – U.S. manufacturing reached a new record of total output in 2016, and has continued growing since. But employment has gone down, from about 14 million manufacturing workers in 2007 to about 12.4 million today.
Fewer workers are producing more – and the bosses are taking the difference.
And working people are drowning in more debt than ever. One example: in 2008, total student loan debt in the U.S. was about 670 billion dollars. Now it’s over $1.5 trillion!
It should be no surprise that poverty remains very high, between 12 and 14 percent, depending how you measure it. And extreme poverty is way up. About three million children in the United States live in a family with an income of $2 or less per person per day – and most of these kids live with an adult who worked at least part of the year!
And what about the bank bailouts? According to Bloomberg News, the U.S. lent, spent, or guaranteed 12.8 TRILLION dollars to bail out the banks. That money came out of our taxes, our roads, our schools, our emergency services.
The economy of the capitalist class has certainly recovered from 2008. But their recovery has been built on our backs.
Sep 17, 2018
Rahm Emanuel dropped a bombshell at a press conference, when he announced he was dropping out of the Mayor’s race.
Working people in the city have plenty of reasons to say “good riddance.” Emanuel closed over 70 schools in his first two years, almost all of them in working class, black neighborhoods. He closed six mental health clinics, in the same neighborhoods. He took a raise away from teachers, while at the same time blaming them for the poor performance of the schools. At the same time that he was crying that the school system had no money, he handed tax moneys that should have gone to schools over to wealthy developers. And then, most notoriously, his police suppressed the release of the video of officer Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times.
So yes, many are happy to see him go. Emanuel was a tool of capital – but when he leaves, they will replace him with another who will do their bidding. The oppressive system will remain. The TIF zones will continue, siphoning money from schools and services. The police will still weigh most heavily, and violently, on the black population. The schools will continue to operate without the necessary resources – until the working class fights back to change its situation.
Sep 17, 2018
Nicholaus Mims, father of six, spent $400 to take his family to Six Flags America amusement park in Maryland outside Washington, D.C. While at the pool area, he and his wife suddenly realized their 12 year old son had wandered off. Mims raced through the park to find him.
Several security guards told Mims, who is black, that he needed to be wearing a shirt. He explained he was rushing to find his son and his wife was keeping his shirt by the pool. Finally Mims found his son playing arcade games and called his wife to come there. Immediately a white security guard told him he needed a shirt. She called two other guards, who approached with Mace and made Mims leave the park. Three more guards joined them and outside the park, one tried to grab him. Yelling, “Cuff him! He's being resistant!” the guards slammed Mims to the ground in front of his family, bloodying his face. They chained him to a post in a security office for half an hour before letting him leave.
The family is suing Six Flags for the brutal behavior of their guards towards this man for being a father, a good father, while being black.
Sep 17, 2018
“It becomes a choice between your house and your life,” Ken Fitch recently told a Baltimore Sun reporter. On January 1, 2019, Fitch’s out-of-pocket prescription drug co-pays are scheduled to increase from about $930 a year to over $11,680 a year!
Fitch is one of four Maryland State retirees who are suing the state and Governor Larry Hogan to try to stop the termination of their state prescription drug plan. Their lawyers are seeking to make their case a class-action suit that would apply to 38,000 Medicare-eligible state retirees who will be forced to enroll in Medicare Part D for their prescription coverage after January 1. The monthly premium charges for Part D plans are similar to the current premiums for Maryland retiree prescription plans, but ... the co-pays are MUCH BIGGER.
The biggest union among Maryland state employees – AFSCME – says they support the lawsuit. But this plan to end state prescription drug coverage for retirees was first approved and put in motion back in 2011 by a governor they vigorously supported – Democrat Martin O’Malley. And in both houses of the heavily Democratic- controlled legislature, almost all the delegates and state senators voted to approve the termination plan. The current Republican governor, Hogan, simply said since taking office in 2015 that he would not stop it.
“The state has forgotten that its employees and retirees are human beings,” the attorneys for the retirees wrote in the lawsuit. But in fact, the state has “forgotten” nothing. The State of Maryland, like every other big organization – public or private, Republican or Democrat – has always remembered to take what it can from working people, and give that in huge tax breaks and subsidies to the big developers, corporations and banks. It has only recognized that its employees and retirees are human beings when it was forced to do so.
Sep 17, 2018
On August 31, in the very last hours of its two-year term, the California legislature gave the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), a huge gift, probably worth billions of dollars, to be paid for by PG&E customers!
Earlier this year, CalFire, the state’s fire-fighting agency, found that PG&E power lines had caused 16 wildfires last October, which destroyed thousands of homes and killed 18 people. In 11 of these cases, CalFire found PG&E in violation of state safety regulations.
Now PG&E is facing billions of dollars in liability in more than 200 lawsuits, filed by people who lost their homes and loved ones in the fires. And that number may well increase, as Cal Fire has not yet released its report on the Tubbs fire, the most destructive, and deadly, of the October 2017 fires.
So politicians rushed to the rescue of PG&E – encouraged, no doubt, by the millions of dollars PG&E and other utility companies have been spending for “lobbying” in Sacramento.
According to the bill they passed, SB 901, if courts order PG&E to pay damages exceeding a certain amount (to be determined by the California Public Utilities Commission), then PG&E customers will be made to foot the bill through rate hikes – and not just this time but in the future also, that is, every time PG&E is found to have caused a fire and faces liabilities!
These corporate stooges added some icing on PG&E’s cake, too. They handed PG&E and other utilities an extra gift of one billion dollars over five years for clearing vegetation around power lines, even though that is the legal responsibility of the utilities which ratepayers are already paying for in their bills. And the bill is also easing some of the state’s fire safety standards, including how much vegetation utility companies have to clear!
The vote was not even close – 49 to 14 in the Assembly and 29 to 4 in the Senate, which are both dominated by the Democrats. And Gov. Jerry Brown, also a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill, given his past words in favor of such “help” for the utilities. Once again, these politicians have proven that they are nothing but bought servants of big corporations.
Sep 17, 2018
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza was a leading biologist who showed racism is not scientifically true. He died at age 96 on August 31.
Cavalli-Sforza went to rural small towns near his birthplace in Italy and compared ratios of blood types with marriage and birth records. He noticed how small variations progressively separated people who were more and more distantly related. With statistics, he showed that all people in Europe and throughout the world had come originally from the same place: Africa.
He explained that while migrating, people developed different skin colors, average heights, and other superficial changes to cope with different climates. He wrote, “Each population believes that it is the best in the world.” But he added that sufficient time didn’t pass for different races of people to emerge. He testified before the U.S. Congress that there is more diversity in general among people in any typical small community than there is between people from different countries. There are no human races, only one human race.
Cavalli-Sforza had seen prejudice during World War II when his anatomy teacher, who was Jewish, was fired under Nazi-like laws in Italy. Then Cavalli-Sforza went to study in England and experienced prejudice as an Italian!
Known for combining the studies of genetics, genealogy, math, and later also of the history of languages, and for a deep curiosity about nature and humanity, Cavalli-Sforza also believed everyone can learn scientific ideas.
Sep 17, 2018
In early August, thousands of Uber drivers refused to pick up passengers during the morning rush hour, to protest their pay and working conditions. Some drivers have organized in “Ride Share Drivers United,” which pointed out unfair pricing and low pay checks. Uber had changed the way it paid drivers, lowering their already low salaries.
One think-tank report said drivers are poorly paid, earning less than the minimum wage in Australia. It’s one reason Uber is successfully making profits there and all over the world. Taxi drivers, while hardly highly paid, earn more than ride-sharing drivers do.
That’s how Uber, Lyft and other such companies have taken away passengers from taxis, by offering lower fees for riders. But it is the drivers who pay the price, in lower wages and hourly jobs that leave them in a precarious situation.
Sep 17, 2018
The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
Ebola broke out again in early August in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in West Africa, following a previous outbreak that killed 33 people in two months.
This is the tenth outbreak since 1976, and has killed 50 people and sickened dozens more in just a few weeks. The virus killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa from 2013 to 2016.
Labs in the rich countries neglected Ebola until the 2013 epidemic showed the virus can cross borders. Some experimental vaccines were developed and one is being used. But even with the vaccine, West African countries face big obstacles fighting the virus. The countryside is poor, with little electrification, while the vaccine has to be kept extremely cold. Rural areas hardly have a health infrastructure and face huge difficulties fighting other diseases as well.
While 12 foreign medical teams struggle to function in abysmal conditions to fight Ebola, the mining industry in the province of North Kivu is flourishing. Medical teams encounter constant civil war between the army, militias, and criminal gangs, while the army intervenes on behalf of American and South African-owned Alphamin company to protect their profits by attacking independent tin miners.
After all, tin was selling for over $20,000 per ton, and that is the authorities’ priority, not human life.
Sep 17, 2018
It has been a year since the Rohingya people fled Burma, now called Myanmar, after massacres, torture and murder by the Burmese army. They are protesting their treatment by the Myanmar government while living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
One year ago, the Burmese army led an enormous attack against these people, who have lived in the northwest of the country going back a thousand years. They are predominantly Muslim, in a country that is mainly Buddhist. Since 1982 they have been discriminated against by nationalist Burmese, denied access to jobs, public schools and health care.
On August 25, 2017, the army entered their villages, burning them down, murdering at least 3,000 Rohingya, causing them to flee across the border. At least 700,000 now live in makeshift camps in one district of Bangladesh.
Shortly thereafter, a U.N. report accused non-commissioned officers and a Burmese general of following a policy of genocide. The report also criticized Nobel Peace Prize recipient and prime minister Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to use her position as head of the government or her moral authority to prevent these events.
The Rohingyas want justice, which they won’t get from the U.N. This international institution represents the great powers, who pretend today to fault the Myanmar government, while they actually support the interests of international corporations, like Chevron and Total, exploiting the resources of Myanmar.
Sep 17, 2018
Since July 8, protests about the lack of water and electricity and against the corruption of the ruling politicians have rocked Basra, the main city in the oil-rich south of Iraq. The Iraqi army has responded with live ammunition, killing more than 20 people.
Basra used to be known for the beauty of the channels at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and for its cosmopolitan population. But it has been devastated by forty years of war and U.S. embargo. Water has become such a rare and polluted commodity that more than 20,000 people were hospitalized this summer after being poisoned by it. There is ten times more salt in the water than normal, which kills the farms that rely on irrigation.
Even though this region contains some of the biggest oil reserves in the world, exploited by giant western companies, the government has to import refined gasoline to generate power. If people want electricity, they have to use the private generators installed on every street corner, that are expensive and highly polluting. In summer, with temperatures breaking 120 degrees, the polluted air is unbreatheable.
Since the 2003 U.S. invasion, more than a million refugees have come to Basra, living in immense slums. Unemployment has passed 30%. To have a job in the government, according to one Basra resident, “you have to pay $5,000 or belong to a political party.” The oil companies employ very few local workers, because they are not docile enough or qualified in their eyes. Many young people in the region joined the Shiite “patriotic militias” to fight ISIS in Mosul, in the north of the country. Thousands lost their lives or were badly wounded, and they are today abandoned by the politicians in power in Baghdad and Basra.
All of these injustices combined to spark the first wave of protests on July 8. The Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, cut off access to social media and had the demonstrators shot, killing 14 and wounding 250, before firing the Minister of Electricity. Nothing changed, and the conflict reignited on September 5. This time the demonstrators set fire to the headquarters of the political parties representing Basra and then to the governor’s palace.
To the extent that we can tell from the press, the demonstrators dismissed one after another the two Shia coalitions that have been fighting for power in Baghdad since the legislative elections last May 12, one directed by Moqtada al-Sadr and the other supported by the old Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
But, in fact, the U.S. leaders and their western allies have a direct responsibility for the situation faced by the Iraqi population after their multiple invasions.
Sep 17, 2018
September 20 marks one year since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. President Trump referred back to that storm, and the death count on the island, when he was warning people in North and South Carolina to flee Hurricane Florence.
He said that the death count in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria – reported in recent studies to be over 3,000 people – was fake.
Trump defiantly excluded any number larger than the handful originally reported, including all the people who died after the storm as a result of the failure of the U.S. government, backed by Wall Street, to provide the massive federal emergency aid required to stop the death toll from rising.
Puerto Rico is an island about the size of Connecticut with a population of about 3 million people. It is a territory of the U.S., acquired through U.S. military occupation. While citizens of the U.S., Puerto Ricans have no representatives in Congress. Since the U.S. invasion, the island has been used by U.S. corporations as a source of cheap labor.
Working class people have a far lower standard of living there than in any state in the U.S. The poverty imposed on the Puerto Rican population by U.S. imperialism means that in general they have few resources to survive a disastrous storm like Maria. So the poverty imposed on much of the population by U.S. corporations and banks contributed to the high death count on the island.
Even more deadly was the poor condition of the infrastructure: bad roads, water, and sewer lines, deteriorated power grid, power plants and other infrastructure. Deeply indebted to U.S. banks and other financial companies for decades, Puerto Rican government officials tried to renegotiate a crushing debt load in 2016. But U.S. banks, hedge fund managers and speculators imposed the Financial Oversight and Management Board, whose members the banks chose, to run the island’s finances. The board simply continued to drain the economy by cutting infrastructure spending in order to guarantee loan repayment.
When FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) delivered life-saving emergency water, shelter materials, and other supplies to the island after the storm, most of it couldn’t be taken inland because heavy equipment wasn’t available to clear the roads, build emergency bridges, or get downed power lines out of the way. No telecommunications were available to coordinate things. There was even a shortage of truck drivers, because many had either been injured, couldn’t get to their jobs, or were completely pre-occupied with trying to find food, water and shelter for their families.
Thousands died and many more suffered permanent disability from the effects of a lack of electricity: no refrigeration for food and medicines, no protection from the heat, no clean water. It was almost a full year before electricity was restored to the entire island. And the electrical system is still decrepit and frequently fails.
Today, the banks and financial companies continue to use the hurricane destruction as an excuse to impose even more cuts in social services and school funding on the island, and the privatization of as many previously public functions as possible.
For Trump to claim that the Puerto Rican death count is fake is outrageous and disgusting – and a coverup of the continued devastation of the island and its people by the banks, hedge funds and other debt investors who leach off of the misery imposed on the Puerto Rican population.
Sep 17, 2018
The following article is the editorial reprinted from Spark’s workplace newsletters, the week of September 10.
With Labor Day, it’s time for working people to take stock of our own situation.
Too many of us still don’t have a job – and this after nine years of a so-called “recovery.” We certainly don’t have the jobs we need. New jobs are part-time or temporary. Even when full-time, they are two-tier, low-wage, not enough to keep a family out of poverty. According to United Way, close to half the U.S. households don’t earn enough to pay the monthly bills.
This is the deadly consequence of capitalism. The wealth we create through our work is being funneled into the bank accounts of every big corporation. Year after year, they report big profits, while our situation slips backwards. Those extra profits for big business came out of the extra exploitation of those who work.
And profit, finally, goes into the bank accounts of the very wealthy.
Our very living conditions are held hostage to capitalist profit. All over the country, water systems have deadly contaminants in them. Roads are in such bad repair that they are a major cause of accidents. Almost half the bridges need immediate repair to avoid a catastrophe. Dikes and levees crumble in the face of high water. Sewers back up.
Public money should go to public services – instead, it goes in subsidies to the biggest corporations, helping to prop up their profits.
Every state’s records show that education provided to working class children is inadequate. For decades, money has been drained from the schools, handed over directly and indirectly to some of the biggest profit-making companies in the country. So there’s not enough money to hire teachers and support staff, nor to pay them enough so they can concentrate on the work. Not enough money for supplies, for up-to-date books, for technology that could aid instruction.
Young people are told they must go to college if they want a job – but college increasingly is priced out of the reach of children of the working class. Many can’t go – so are denied the new jobs being created today, the technically advanced jobs. Those who do go depend on loans, which mean profit for some of the biggest banks in the world – and debt hanging over students’ futures.
Capitalism is unfair – the large majority of us suffer extra exploitation so a very tiny minority can bask in ever increasing amounts of wealth.
But capitalism is not only unfair. It is a deadly threat even to its own society. The extra profits stolen from our labor don’t go into anything productive. Instead they flood into speculation of all kinds – speculation on the future price of oil, of grain and other food products, on the stock markets, but above all on real estate. This speculation is what caused the financial collapse of 2007-08. It’s what threatens a new collapse today.
Trump and others may try to convince us that other workers are the problem, other workers in this country, workers in other countries.
No, other workers are not the problem. Capitalism is the problem.
The capitalist system is rotten to its core. It creates inequality of all kinds. Its drive for profit sits underneath the problems we face.
There is no answer to problems capitalism has created, without taking on capitalism itself.
The working class, at the very center of production, has the possibility to stop things running for the capitalist class. But the working class has much greater capacity than just stopping things. The working class can have the power to uproot the capitalist class and get rid of it – when workers begin to feel their own organized strength.
Collectively, all of us taken together know how everything is produced. In every factory and office, when we put our heads together, we know how the whole thing runs, where supplies are, where they go, what comes next, etc.
Well, in society as a whole, the same thing is true. We know how things run. Collectively, working together, the working class could begin to open the way for a new society, one that would benefit everyone.
Sep 17, 2018
For the fourth year in a row, less than half of Michigan students in grades 3-8 passed the English language arts portion of the M-STEP, the state-wide assessment of “student educational progress.”
This result was reported as showing that the schools are failing the students. A series of programs have been passed in recent years that are supposed to be addressing this – including a requirement that any 3rd-grader who does not pass this test be held back a grade. So, punish the student for the supposed failure of the school! Studies have shown that holding a student back does more harm than good. But this is supposed to show that Michigan is “getting tough” about the schools.
Matinga Regatz, Michigan’s Teacher of the Year in 2011, put it very well in a recent interview. She noted that these tests have various problems and they do not accurately measure student achievement or progress. What they DO measure very accurately is poverty – the economic level of the students, and the lack of resources in the schools where the students score lowest.
In fact, tests like these have, in the past, been used to attack the schools and suck even more resources from them, even shut them down. They drain resources from the most needy schools, and then blame the schools and the teachers for failing the students. NONE of the programs in Michigan begin to address the one thing that could actually make a difference: flood the lowest performing schools with the money and resources they’ve been starved of!
Sep 17, 2018
The Detroit Public Schools started the school year by turning off ALL the water in ALL their schools. They’d been finding elevated lead and copper in the pipes all summer, so they decided that bringing in bottled water was safer.
The state was sure to get their money when the district was reorganized a couple years ago – and left the district with nothing to upgrade its pipes with!
Sep 17, 2018
August 17 marked the 100th anniversary of the end of one of the largest show trials in history, organized by the U.S. Justice Department and its Bureau of Investigation, precursor to the FBI. A hand-picked jury convicted 101 members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) of thousands of violations of the Espionage Act, merely for speaking out against World War I. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis sentenced the vast majority of defendants to years in prison.
The Justice Department did not even attempt to prove the charges against the individual defendants. Rather, it carried out a rabid propaganda portraying the IWW as German-sympathizing bomb throwers, and convicted these men for being members of the organization. The whole court system went along with this show.
The Justice Department prosecuted the IWW because of its class struggle leadership and its opposition to the war. The preamble to the IWW constitution, ratified in 1905, stated: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common... Between these two classes a struggle must go on, until all the toilers come together on the political as well as on the industrial field, and take and hold that which they produce by their labor....”
The IWW put this stance into practice. In the period before the First World War, it led strikes of thousands of workers throughout the country, who stood up against the bosses, the National Guard, the police, and the army. At this time, the American Federation of Labor included only skilled white men, but the IWW organized unskilled workers, immigrants, black and white workers, women and men and children (in an age when child labor was still common).
And the IWW continued to organize workers and lead strikes during the war. Between April and November of 1917, after the U.S. had declared war on Germany and as it was gearing up to send troops to France, workers carried out 3,000 strikes. The government moved to get the conservative American Federation of Labor to help it rein in those strikes – and the A.F. of L. complied. But the IWW remained steadfast in its opposition to the war.
The IWW had always faced repression, and had faced many frame-ups before the outbreak of World War I. For instance, during the massive strike of textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912, cops killed a young woman striker named Anna LoPizzo – and then had the nerve to arrest two of the main strike leaders for this killing! But the repression really ramped up during the war. Vigilantes linked to the companies murdered IWW organizers like Frank Little. The U.S. Army broke up workers’ meetings, arrested and held hundreds of strikers without charging them with any crimes. California passed a “Criminal Syndicalist Law” and sent hundreds of workers to prison for simply having an IWW membership card or song book. Even the Postal Service banned the IWW’s two main publications, and refused to deliver letters between IWW members, including letters pertaining to the show trial as it was being prepared in Chicago.
The recently founded Bureau of Investigation took the lead in the government’s attempts to destroy this organization. During World War I, the Bureau went from an insignificant branch of the Justice Department with just over 100 employees for the whole country, to a massive repressive organization that was largely dedicated to rooting out the influence of militants in the workers’ movement. In September of 1917, the Bureau raided every office of the IWW across the entire country within the space of 24 hours. Its agents stole more than five tons of material from the Chicago office alone, including membership lists, internal letters, newspapers, and even office furniture, pencils, and paper clips. The Philadelphia District Attorney said outright that these raids were carried out “very largely to put the IWW out of business.”
The show trial in Chicago, the jailing of many of its leaders, and the deportation and murder of others did not totally destroy the IWW. But they succeeded in denying the working class of some of its most experienced leaders during the massive strike wave of 1919 that began just after the end of World War I.
In years to come, the Justice Department and its Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would carry out further attacks on people who fought against exploitation and racism. It organized a series of campaigns against the Communist Party as soon as it was founded, starting with the Palmer Raids of 1919-1920, and reaching a peak during the McCarthy period of the 1940s and 1950s. The Justice Department arrested and tried the leaders of the Socialist Workers Party in 1941 as the U.S. prepared for WWII. And the FBI carried out systematic campaigns against the black movement, including trying to blackmail Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into committing suicide, and organizing the murder of militant leaders like Chicago Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in 1969.
Today, the press and the Democratic leadership characterize Robert Mueller as a hero in what they hope will be a successful campaign to remove Trump. But their history shows that the Justice Department, the FBI, and the rest of the state apparatus are not on the side of the working class. They were built to defend the interests of this country’s ruling class, at all costs.