Jun 10, 2019
It appears Donald Trump has avoided yet another catastrophe of his own making. After threatening to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico if the Mexican government did not do something to address what he labeled a crisis at the border, Trump has pulled back from his threat and announced a “big, beautiful” deal on immigration.
Apparently Trump was responding to a video showing 1,000 immigrants crossing the border, a day after 5,000 had crossed, a single-day record for border crossings. He tweeted the video shortly before he tweeted his tariff threat to Mexico.
Newspapers reported that there is in fact nothing in the new “deal” that is new. Everything the U.S. and Mexico announced, they had agreed on months ago, as far back as December.
The Mexican government had already agreed to detain asylum seekers from Central American countries in Mexico, before they cross the border. Already, more than 10,000 families are being held in Mexico while they await court decisions on their asylum cases. Human rights advocates point out that this is a violation of their rights for fair representation in court, and forces them into indefinite detention.
Of course, workers and poor people in the U.S. are very familiar with indefinite detention. One estimate states that more than 460,000 people in the U.S. are sitting in jail despite not being convicted of a crime – forced to stay imprisoned for months or years before their trials, because they cannot afford the bail. The treatment of poor workers from Central America is similar to the treatment of poor workers in the U.S.
As soon as Trump tweeted his tariff threat, he received pushback from everyone from U.S. auto companies to members of his own party and administration, who warned that such a move would be hugely disruptive to the economy and could hurt his and Republicans’ chances at reelection in 2020. So, he withdrew his threat and announced a phony deal to save face.
Trump just couldn’t resist his tariff threat – after all, it combined two of his favorite dog whistles to his base: trade, and “illegal immigration.”
They also happen to be two of the biggest lies used to divide the working class, repeated over decades by Democratic politicians and union bureaucrats long before Trump picked up on them:
First, the idea that “free trade” means that jobs are leaving the U.S. for other countries, especially Mexico and China.
Second, the notion that immigrants, especially “illegal immigrants,” are stealing “our jobs” and draining limited resources like welfare, health care, etc.
Both of these are lies. These lies serve to focus workers’ attention away from the real source of the problems confronting us, and onto other groups of workers–who should be allies in our fight, not competitors, and certainly not enemies.
The workers in other countries, and the immigrants to this country, ARE our allies. We are all part of one working class, internationally. Our enemies are right here at home–the corporations that exploit us, whose profits we create. THEY are the ones who lay off workers, and who keep wages low; who dump more work onto fewer workers. They are the ones who get the government to issue more visas when they want more immigrant workers to exploit – and to deport workers when they don’t want them anymore. They do not make their decisions in order to provide jobs; in fact, it is in their financial interest to cut jobs – to pay as few workers as possible, as little as possible.
The capitalists love it when workers blame each other, and compete against each other, for the few scraps they give us. Keeping us divided keeps us weak. Trump–and all the politicians, Republican and Democrat, help to spread those lies that keep us divided.
But it’s in our interest to join forces – with workers across the border in other countries, and all workers who have joined us here in this one.
Our united fight is where our strength lies.
Jun 10, 2019
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, came to an agreement with Republican state legislators and signed a new auto insurance “reform” law. Politicians from both parties trumpeted it as “historic,” with fanfare about all the benefits it will bring.
It certainly is true that most of the state’s residents have been clamoring for relief from auto insurance rates. The state currently has the highest rates in the country. State law allows auto insurers to use non-driving related factors when setting rates, like education level, credit scores and zip code.
That’s resulted in people in the poorest areas, in cities like Detroit and Flint, paying the highest rates. Detroiters pay an average of $5,414 per year, twice as much as the state as a whole and four times the national average.
The law that passed will lessen coverage for drivers. It encourages drivers to purchase lower Personal Injury Protection (PIP) levels, from no coverage to $500,000. This is potentially a death threat for Michigan drivers left with spinal cord or brain injuries, of which there currently are at least 16,000. Those with lower PIP levels will have to depend on whatever coverage their own medical insurance covers, and many will be pushed into Medicaid, which covers practically none of the specialized care like physical therapy that severely injured patients require. The politicians claim the law lowers rates for PIP, but it does so only slightly and only for eight years.
The law supposedly bans the use of non-driving factors in setting rates, but this is smoke and mirrors. While it bans the use of zip code and credit scores to set rates, it still allows insurers to use “territories,” including areas like census tracts, which are smaller than zip codes, to set rates, and to use individual driver’s credit reports to look for previous accident claims. In other words, expect insurers to continue to redline and discriminate against the most vulnerable to maintain high rates!
The law reduces payments to medical providers, which is likely to force smaller traumatic brain injury providers out of business and make it difficult for accident victims to get the care they need. Health insurers will likely increase premiums to cover whatever auto insurance will no longer cover.
Meanwhile, profit-takers will continue to feed at the trough at every level of the game. Both auto insurance and health insurance companies will take their cuts, as will the bigger health care providers and the financial institutions. The new law may allow the auto insurers to gobble up the 20 billion dollars the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association collected over the years to cover the severely injured, according to Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press.
This is the kind of “reform” we can expect if we leave it in the hands of the politicians of the bosses’ two parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. Stopping these kinds of insurance company rip-offs requires the working class to take matters into our own hands.
Jun 10, 2019
The homeless population in greater Los Angeles increased by 12 percent to 58,936, according to a new report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in Los Angeles County. This authority concluded that the two main reasons for homelessness are housing and economic crises.
While the median household income decreased 3 percent between 2000 and 2017, a renter needed to earn $47.52 per hour to afford the median monthly asking price for rent. More than two million county residents pay more than 50 percent of their monthly income on housing.
So, one of the richest cities in this world, with many competent people around, cannot solve the homelessness problem due to low wages and high rents! This is because this capitalist system is the source that produces the homelessness. Without changing this system, the misery it creates will stay with us.
Jun 10, 2019
A former warehouse has been newly rehabbed and open for leasing in Corktown, in Detroit. Known as the “Assembly,” its parent company, billionaire real estate developer Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock LLC, received six million dollars in historic tax credits. Its 32 residential units range from $1,500 to $6,500 a month to rent.
What a bargain! Because these new apartments are in a market where the average monthly rental costs currently range from $1,637 for a one bedroom to $8,296 for four bedrooms in the same neighborhood.
So who can afford these apartments? Certainly not the ordinary residents of Detroit, whose median household income is $26,250. Renting the cheapest “Assembly” apartment would take $18,000 a year, or 69% of one person’s income, for a one bedroom! Or $78,000 a year if you have a family!
It’s not a coincidence that the so-called “Revitalization of Detroit” is sometimes referred to as the “Tale of Two Cities.”
Jun 10, 2019
Newly seated Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has posed parents in the city of Benton Harbor with a false choice of biblical proportions: close your high school, or else see your entire school district dissolved – and perhaps turned over to charter schools.
Benton Harbor High School is the only high school serving a town of 10,000. Currently, 700 students from this low-income largely black town go there; under Whitmer’s plan, they would be pushed out into the neighboring school districts.
Benton Harbor students, parents and community residents staged a rally and held several community meetings to protest the destruction of their high school. One sophomore at the school questioned, “how can you have a community when you don’t have a high school?” Parents also note that students pushed out of Benton Harbor are likely to get a chilly reception – the surrounding school districts are predominantly white, and all are more affluent.
The Benton Harbor School Board, threatened with dissolution by Whitmer and the state government, has so far refused to agree to any plan that involves closing the high school. They observed in a public letter that the property on which the high school sits is near the town’s waterfront and possibly coveted by real estate developers.
Whitmer and other politicians say they must act, because the Benton Harbor schools are in crisis. Yes, but it is a crisis wrought by the capitalist class and their politicians. Whirlpool, which for decades employed thousands, shut down its last plant in Benton Harbor in 2011. Benton Harbor is now among Michigan’s poorest communities, which means a poor student population. Rather than shoring up the schools in need of the most support, Michigan politicians allow students to transfer out of poor school districts – taking funding with them. So students have fled poor districts like Benton Harbor. This is why the district has been losing money, and why it owes $18 million to the state.
Benton Harbor teachers are the lowest paid in the state, taking home only $28,000 a year – a salary that qualifies some for food stamps. The low pay makes teachers hard to hire and hard to retain, so the district is forced to rely on substitutes.
In the midst of this crisis, 700 of the 8,000 dollars allocated for each student goes to paying back the debt to the state instead of providing an education. The high school’s library was shut down until volunteers came in and used their own money to re-open it. Enid Goldstein, one of those volunteers, called the situation “the Flint water of education. It’s education apartheid.”
Whitmer campaigned in Benton Harbor, promising to support education. In office, she proposes to tear apart the school system. Pointed words from one protestor: “As far as I’m concerned, Governor Whitmer, you can take your policies and send them straight to hell.”
Jun 10, 2019
There are only two things assured in life, the old saying goes: death and taxes. Working people will have plenty more taxes to look forward to, after the legislative session just wrapped up. Democrats and Republicans both signed off. And the bourgeoisie in the state looks forward to seeing that money end up in their pocket, in one way or another, because many of the taxes will go toward funding a 45 billion-dollar infrastructure program.
License plate fees for every car owner in the state go up $50, from $101 to $151 – $50 that applies to a beater just the same as a Bentley. The gas tax doubles, from 19 cents a gallon to 38 cents – 45.5 cents for those using diesel fuel, like truck owner operators. Moreover, that tax will be indexed to inflation, so it will automatically go up – unlike our wages. And it opens the door for cities in Cook County to pass their own three cent-a-gallon taxes.
Parking will be taxed: 6% daily and 9% monthly – as if parking wasn’t already one of Chicago’s biggest headaches.
Cigarette smokers will have to pay a dollar extra for every pack of cigarettes – yet another tax falling more heavily on the working class. Those trying to escape the scourge of cigarettes by vaping will find no tax relief – e-cigarettes fall under a new 15% tax. And online sales will have to pay sales tax.
Both the working class and businesses need Illinois’ roads and bridges fixed. The working class will pay, while construction and trucking businesses profit.
Jun 10, 2019
Translated from DAS ROTE TUCH (Workers Red Banner), a revolutionary workers’ journal in Germany.
More and more nursing homes in Germany are being bought by hedge funds – nearly 100 last year. Hedge funds take out loans to buy nursing homes. Then they pitilessly cut corners on everything – staff, equipment, food, etc. – to pay back the debt and to make the nursing homes “lean” enough to sell at a profit.
In this society, nothing is spared from the profit motive. Capitalists speculate on everything: food, housing, and even the health and dignity of the elderly.
Jun 10, 2019
Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.
Thirty years ago, in 1989, Deng Xiaoping, head of the Chinese state, sent the army to clear Tiananmen Square in Beijing, on the night of June 3rd to 4th. 100,000 students had occupied the square since mid-April of that year. This massacre put an end to a two-month political standoff by a movement which demanded “a fifth modernization,” by which they meant a multiparty democracy.
For ten years, Mao Tse-tung’s successor Deng Xiaoping led a policy of opening the Chinese economy to the capitalist market. He opened special Economic Zones to attract western industrialists, encouraged personal enrichment and fostered the development of a Chinese capitalist class under the aegis of the state. Economic liberalization accelerated the widening of the social gulf between the newly rich and the immense mass of poor people in the country.
These reforms, the so-called “Four Modernizations,” were carried out under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, without any loosening of the political regime. Corruption, speculation and inflation took off.
In 1949, Mao succeeded in reunifying China against the pillage of the imperialist powers by harnessing the revolt of the peasant masses. But his Communist Party was communist in name only; it was, above all, a nationalist party.
Deng’s reforms did not have unanimous support within the Chinese Communist Party. Some leaders feared they might provoke social revolts and destabilize the country. Deng maneuvered between currents. As a concession to the conservatives, he fired reform-minded Prime Minister Hu Yaobang in 1987. It was Hu’s death in April of 1989 that touched off the student revolt. Students in Beijing called for reforms, in particular for democracy and the freedom to have multiple political parties. Their professors demanded salary increases. On April 21st, 100,000 students occupied Tiananmen Square, which was quickly blockaded by police. Giant political posters were thrown up in the Square and on high school and college campuses in Beijing and other cities, flourishing with slogans hostile to Deng.
The revolt barely touched the workers, much less the peasants – but it was popular nonetheless. 1989 was the same year that Russia and the Eastern Bloc shook under the impact of Gorbachev and Perestroika. This spurred the revolt in China. Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing in May brought with it a horde of journalists, giving the revolt international visibility.
After several weeks of hesitation, Deng Xiaoping decided to send the army against the students in Tiananmen Square, who had gone on hunger strike. The troops stationed near Beijing were thought to be unreliable, so 22 regiments were mobilized to encircle the capital.
The massacre, with students crushed under tanks, had a big impact in the West. The image of a lone man blocking a column of tanks circulated around the world. The regime claimed 600 had died; the Chinese Red Cross estimated 2,500. The leaders of the great powers may have lightly denounced the method used, but the massacre did not slow trade with China.
China’s political stability over the thirty years that followed Tiananmen, the absence of social unrest in spite of the obvious exploitation of the workers, goes far in explaining why China became the workshop to the big western conglomerates. General Wei Feng, China’s defense minister, acknowledged as much in Singapore recently. Asking himself why the world reproached China for “not having acted correctly in that event,” he concluded “thanks to the measures taken at the time ... China has enjoyed stability and development.” A cynical truth.
In China, the regime has done everything it can to erase the 1989 revolt from the collective consciousness. Those survivors of the massacre not able to flee the country, were condemned to long prison terms. Ex-detainees and family members who try to keep the memory alive are hounded. One of the leaders of 1989, Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, died in prison in 2017. State repression and control of the population seems to have increased under current president Xi Jinping.
This has led some commentators to say that revolt is no longer possible in China. One French journalist explained that the Chinese “had renounced freedoms in exchange for an improvement in their living standards.” What scorn! If many students in 1989 took places within the ruling apparatus, others – lawyers, historians, journalists – have worked alongside China’s interior migrants or persecuted minority populations, despite grave risks.
As for workers, who in China are counted in the hundreds of millions, they fight. They fight locally: to be paid their wages, they fight factory closings, they fight the bosses’ corruption. It’s precisely because they represent an immense collective force that the regime and its western accomplices fear their potential for revolt. Exploitation and the crisis of capitalism will provoke the Chinese working class in the end, in spite of dictatorship.
Jun 10, 2019
On Monday, June 3rd, the Sudanese military and police violently dispersed a public assembly that had continued day and night in Khartoum, the capital. At least 60 people were killed and hundreds of others wounded.
For weeks, the military figures who replaced Omar al Bashir in power have had to put up with this ongoing meeting where thousands came, sometimes from far away, to discuss the future of their movement. After forcing the heads of the military to throw out the dictator, the demonstrators demanded a civilian government. The heads of the military then had to open negotiations with the coalition of the opposition parties: the Alliance for Freedom and Change, and the Association of Sudanese Professionals, who have organized the movement on the ground since December.
The heads of the military have clearly shown that they intend to hold on to power and organize the “post-Omar al Bashir” country as they like. They have called for a “sovereign Council,” which would have the military leading the country for three years before holding elections. The civilian opposition called for a general strike for May 28th and 29th. That strike paralyzed the banks, transportation, hospitals, and commerce, and saw wide participation, despite the intervention of the Rapid Support Forces. These Forces are in fact the former Janjaweed, the militia that had been recruited to sow terror in Darfur before being integrated into Omar al Bashir’s repressive apparatus. The Janjaweed forced their way into banks on strike and electrical power generating stations in Khartoum, but they did not succeed in forcing strikers back to work.
The following Friday, May 31st, the military organized a counter-demonstration to shore themselves up. They brought thousands from the countryside to Khartoum to chant “all power to the military”, and “all power to Islam.” They thought their “moment” had ended the popular movement which placed them under pressure. At the dispersal of the assembly, the repressive forces put on display all the kinds of violence of which they are capable.
The leaders of the popular movement immediately called for a general strike and civil disobedience. The last word has not been spoken. The demonstrators have learned of struggle and organization over months of battle, first against the increasing price of bread, then against Omar al Bashir’s regime, and finally to continue to express themselves and to fight. They have become conscious of their power, a power that the military repression has not yet defeated.
Jun 10, 2019
The following is an editorial that appeared in the May 19, 2019 workplace newsletters of Lutte Ouvrière, the French revolutionary workers group of that name.
In the European Parliamentary elections, everything was done to convince voters that they had no alternative but to vote either for Macron, the bankers' representative, or for Le Pen, the far-right millionaire. The score of the LR list (Les Républicains) was low, as a large part of right-wing voters now vote unhesitatingly for Hollande’s former minister, Macron, who is pursuing an anti-worker policy that fully satisfies them.
To some extent, the ecologists' higher-than-expected results reflect legitimate concerns for the future of the planet. But when environmental protection fails to question the functioning of the economy, it can only capitulate to the interests of the major capitalist groups. So far, ecologist ministers have been mere alibis for French governments which are first and foremost concerned about the profits of Total (a multinational oil and gas company) and other polluters of the environment.
Most workers, whether they have a job, are looking for a job, or are retired, showed little interest in the election. In many working-class districts, working people abstained and immigrant workers didn’t vote because they are deprived of the right to vote despite the fact that they live and pay taxes here.
The whole political system was perceived for what it is: a farce in which the capitalists are sure to remain in control, whatever party wins in the polls. And it is even more obvious in the case of the European Parliament, the purpose of which remains unclear.
There was a time when the political alternation between the right and the left worked. That was when the left wing was still historically linked to the labor movement and it attracted the sympathy of the working classes. But over time it has stood up for the existing institutions, explaining to workers that they could change their fate by voting. Today, after years in power, the left is totally discredited. As for Le Pen's RN, its electoral results are on the rise, as are the results of other xenophobic political movements which favor authoritarian regimes, in Italy, Hungary and Belgium.
Faced with this situation, some politicians have the ambition to rebuild the left, to return to government and manage the capitalists' affairs, as Hollande and others have done.
This is not the way to oppose the extreme right and its reactionary policy. What needs to be rebuilt is not the governmental left but a workers' party that really does defend the interests of labor.
The capitalists are waging a social war. Following in the footsteps of Sarkozy and Hollande, for two years Macron has orchestrated their attacks. And more attacks are already planned against pensioners and the unemployed. When we talk about “working people” and their interests, we describe a social reality. A reality that could be the basis of a conscious political choice. In order to defend their interests, working people must wage the class struggle.
However modest the results of Lutte Ouvrière may be, with 176,433 votes, they confirm the existence of a political current that maintains the revolutionary tradition of internationalism against the rise of nationalism and xenophobia. Reinforcing this current and giving it the strength to intervene in the class struggle is essential in a period marked by the offensive of the capitalist class. It is essential to build a party that truly represents the interests of workers and won’t sell them off for a few government seats.
Today, society is ravaged by the economic crisis and poverty. It is under the threat of wars and environmental disasters. The greed of the bourgeoisie, the class that rules the world, makes it incapable of responding to the problems facing humanity. The functioning of capitalism requires constantly strengthening and perpetuating the exploitation and oppression of the proletariat. Sooner or later, this oppression will lead to revolts which will empower the working class to put an end to the domination of big capital.
Working people have the strength to do it. But they lack the awareness of their phenomenal abilities. This awareness must be embodied in a party whose objective is to lead social revolution. In other words, a revolutionary communist party. The future of the working class, of the whole of humanity even, depends on it.
Jun 10, 2019
The artificial intelligence software tool called Google Assistant is supposed to answer your every question and request, from how to cook a chicken soup to purchasing airline tickets to learning about pyramids, setting timers, booking hotels, etc. In fact, it takes about 121,000 temps, vendors and contractors (TVCs) to develop its "miraculous" artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant, according to The New York Times. By comparison, Google has about 102,000 full time employees.
In order to become effectively operational, artificial intelligence software needs to learn or understand how human beings communicate, interact and work, and how they naturally function. To do this, the computer is fed vast amounts of information related to languages, sounds, images, human culture, etc.
Each piece of information needs to be carefully "annotated or labeled," for example as a cat, parrot, tree, etc. Each “parrot” needs to be labeled with different colors by painting a parrot photograph on a computer screen with different colors. There are different parrots, so sufficient numbers of parrots need to be colored. The parrots may appear within foliage or amid many different other animals. Thus, in order for the computer to identify a specific parrot among a large number of animals and foliage, a vast array of information needs to be entered into the computer. In the end, millions of images need to be labeled with names and colors.
All this labeling is done by hand! That is, a worker sits in front of a computer and clicks pixel by pixel on an image, tagging a photograph or entering text word by word, spoon-feeding a computer with knowledge all day until the software tool becomes functional. To enter millions upon millions of information points to a computer, Google uses an army of workers without spending much on them, to have this process be profitable.
Thus, these workers who do the labeling are paid low wages and have poor benefits. Google's US-based contract workers labeling information receive $31,200 a year, if they work full time. By comparison, Google charges its own full time employees $38,808 a year to place an infant in its onsite daycare facilities!
On top of that, these workers are pressured to work unpaid overtime. One former Google employee said: “The 40-hour thing was just not respected. It was made clear to us that we were never to log more than 40 hours, but we were never told not to work more than 40 hours. The work that they assign often takes more than eight hours. Every week you fill out a timesheet. One person one time did submit overtime, and that person was later chastised. No punishment, but definitely told not to work overtime.” Sound familiar?
“It's smoke and mirrors if anything. Artificial intelligence is not that artificial; it's human beings that are doing the work,” said one current Google worker. So, there is nothing miraculous in this 21st century artificial intelligence technology: old fashioned exploited human labor and sweat shop conditions are at work.
Jun 10, 2019
The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters for the week of June 3, 2019.
On Thursday, May 23, Trump quietly let it be known that he intends to rescind his 25% tariff on aluminum and steel. The next day, his administration even more quietly dropped the tariffs he had threatened on autos and auto parts. But two days later, he threatened to impose tariffs on Japanese cars. The day after that, while in Japan, he declared he might put more tariffs on Europe and China. Several days later, he threatened tariffs on goods imported from Mexico.
Maybe it was just a typical chaotic week led by Trump, veering from one position to its direct opposite, without offering any explanation.
But behind all the tariff babble, a deeper, darker scam was being played out. Its aim is to convince American workers that the problems in our lives can be overcome if trade is stopped from coming into the country.
Like all scams, it depends on dazzling people with what appear to be “facts,” so they stop looking at what their own lives tell them to be true.
Here’s what is true: the capitalist economy isn’t working for us. The steady jobs that part of the working class used to know are no longer there. Auto wages have crashed. Pension benefits for public workers are increasingly a thing of the past. And every basic industry has seen a near collapse in the number working.
Increased trade didn’t do that. The bosses’ incessant drive for profit did. Those industries where jobs are disappearing are making larger profits than ever before – by driving some people to work faster, using machines and computers to eliminate other people’s jobs.
Not a single thing is wrong with greater productivity IF the increase were used to improve our conditions of work and to reduce the hours we all work. Fighting for that is how the working class got from the 80-hour work week down to the 40-hour week, with higher weekly wages.
But where’s our fight today? Nowhere, not while we sit back quietly, praying for tariffs to bring back jobs.
Trade didn’t steal jobs from the construction industry and motor vehicle industry – the lack of public investment in maintaining, replacing and upgrading roads, bridges, dams, levees and water systems did. Without public investment, construction jobs disappeared, and so did the jobs producing the vehicles needed in construction. And when construction jobs and motor vehicle jobs disappeared, other jobs producing the goods bought by those workers also disappeared.
The same thing can be said about lack of investment in school buildings – or the refusal to hire the number of teachers who are needed to provide a decent education for every child. Jobs disappeared because government hasn’t invested in what society needs. It’s been too busy handing money over to the big corporations and the wealthy class.
Trade didn’t steal jobs when Sears or J.C. Penney stores closed. The parasites who closed these stores to make a quick buck are what cost those jobs.
To believe we will get jobs back if more tariffs are imposed is to fool ourselves. Whether the call for tariffs comes from Trump, from Democrats or from union leaders, it’s nothing but chump change, making us forget what our real enemy is doing to us.
To get jobs, we have to fight against who and what is taking them – and that is the capitalist class that profits by cutting jobs.
We have to fight against the government that drains money out of public services and education and into the capitalists’ accounts. We have to fight to put our hands on public money.
That fight isn’t only in this country. The U.S. capitalist class sits astride the whole world, exploiting workers everywhere. This government fights wars to help U.S. capital steal from the whole world.
Workers everywhere have the same fight to make, against the same enemies.
Jun 10, 2019
A powerful four-part mini-series, When They See Us, is currently available on Netflix. Directed by Ava DuVernay, this is a fictionalized version of the true story of five teenagers, known as the “Central Park Five”, who were maliciously and falsely prosecuted in the 1989 case of the rape and near fatal beating of a white female jogger in New York’s Central Park. Told from the viewpoint of the five innocent men who had their childhood stolen from them, it exposes the racism of the so-called justice system.
The brutally attacked woman jogger was a white investment banker from New York’s Upper East Side. The teenagers, four Black and one Latino, ages 14 through 16, were socializing with friends at the park and were from Harlem.
It’s the story of how five lives were forever changed – those of Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam – because the authorities wanted to pin the crime on anyone to quickly “solve” the case.
It focuses on the youth’s abhorrent treatment by the police and the rabid media response – ranging from a New York Times editorial: “How could apparently well-adjusted youngsters turn into so savage a wolf pack;” to the 85,000-dollar full page ads paid for by “billionaire” real estate developer Donald Trump. His ads read: BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY.
It shows how their false confessions were obtained through coercion, if not torture, with the police and prosecutor interrogating them for 14 to 30 hours, often without their parents present.
It shows the conspiracy mounted by the police and the prosecutors, who lie about time lines and overlook crucial evidence that could have cleared the teenagers, in order to push through a guilty verdict.
It shows that DESPITE EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY AND NO DNA EVIDENCE, these five teenagers spent six to 13 years in prison for attempted murder, rape and assault. Only one attacker’s DNA was found at the crime scene and it did NOT match any of these teenagers, but this did not stop the police from pinning the crime on them. It exposes that there was not one iota of scientific evidence linking any of the five to the attack. A forensic pathologist, the prosecutor’s own expert, could not testify that the victim had been attacked by more than one person. Yet false statements were made by the prosecutor, even in closing arguments.
This film series, in taking the perspective of the teenagers, shows how the criminal justice system grinds up young people, locking up kids as adults.
Twelve years after the five were convicted, in 2002, new DNA evidence proved that one person, Matias Reyes, was responsible for the attack. Reyes, a convicted serial rapist and murderer, had confessed. If Reyes had been identified at the time, additional rapes and the murder of a pregnant woman could have been prevented! Reyes had raped and beaten a second woman in Central Park earlier that week, but this earlier rape was not looked into.
And so in 2002 the Central Park Five’s convictions were vacated ... by a District Attorney who had participated in the original trial!
During the trial, the five youths maintained their innocence. And when they came before parole boards, they refused to concede they had anything to do with the attack, even though a “show of remorse” would have given them a better shot at leaving prison earlier.
One worker said, “when you see it, you want to know, why aren’t all these people who wrongly framed and convicted these innocent young men, in prison themselves?” And DuVernay’s own words about this series answers this question head on: “... the system’s not broken; the system was built this way.”
Jun 10, 2019
At the Fiat-Chrysler Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP) in Michigan, employing 7000 workers, a woman worker employed by a janitorial subcontractor found a noose hanging in an area she was cleaning. That’s a threat! That’s terrorism! The worker took a picture and put it up, to warn everyone.
Instead of finding the actual criminal who hung the noose – her bosses fired her for taking the picture! For issuing a public warning! For preserving evidence!
The fired worker, a mother of four facing eviction, stood up for herself. She got her story in the news and filed every possible legal complaint.
For what little it is worth, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) issued a statement that they have zero tolerance for hanging nooses at work. FCA, as the wealthy corporation employing the smaller janitorial company, always had the power to insist that this worker – who blew the whistle on racism – get her job back and fast.
But FCA had a problem doing the right thing. That is, until they were reminded strongly enough by workers at the plant and by the glaring spotlight shined on them when this story went national.
On Monday, June 3, the woman who spoke up and warned others – finally got her job back! She deserves a warm welcome for showing the importance of standing up for what is right.