The Spark

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

Issue no. 1102 — March 30 - April 20, 2020

Working People:
The Link to Socialism

Mar 30, 2020

How many millions around a world already ravaged by imperialism will die from COVID-19?

How many will die in this country, the very center of the imperialist system? Today, no one knows for sure. But every credible estimate based on scientific analysis of real medical data indicates the number will be enormous.

It is not the virus that is killing so many people. Of course, viruses can carry the threat of serious illness and death. But there are well-known ways to confront these threats, so that the numbers of seriously ill and dead don’t mount so drastically.

This human tragedy is the direct result of decisions made by human beings, and specifically of the deadly decision made by the capitalist class to pursue profit, no matter the human cost; and of deadly government decisions to reinforce the pursuit of profit, no matter the human cost.

People are being put to work under conditions that guarantee not only that they will get sick, but that they will spread the contagion to many other people, including the most vulnerable people in their own homes. This comes from the attempt to drain every bit of profit possible out of every enterprise, under even the most dangerous conditions.

Medical personnel are deprived of the equipment they need even to begin limiting the spread of the virus because yesterday there was not enough profit to be made in producing such things.

Trump proposes to start up production in the country—against all medical advice—in order to help his own re-election hopes, and his own hotel chains. He may be only a petty, conniving, self-serving oaf. But he is the U.S. president, a symbol of all that is wrong.

In this world, where poverty is rampant, in this country where wealth is concentrated among a very few people, while the majority do without, we really didn’t need yet another reason to get rid of this capitalist system. But we got it anyway, with the way capitalism has made the spread of the virus many times worse.

The working class has the capacity, when it pulls its forces together, to get rid of capitalism. Not only to get rid of this system as it is, but to build a new, completely different one.

Workers know how the society runs. Those who work in the medical field know what the problem is today. Nurses and doctors and medical technicians could overcome this specific problem if they were linked with all the other workers—the ones who know how to design things, to produce them, to find the resources needed to do it, to ship them, to get them distributed. More than that. All of them together could begin to create a society that puts human needs first.

The knowledge and capacity to do this already exists among all those who do the work of capitalist society. Working people are the link between this worn-out, degenerating society and to a new, humane society, socialism, communism.

Already today, many people in the medical field are working to solve the problems that self-anointed despots like Trump only helped make worse. Some workers forced to work on assembly lines that would condemn many of them and their family members to severe illness are refusing such conditions, demanding to have their income anyway. They are, effectively, insisting that decisions be made based on human need.

These are only the first actions. But they are happening, and they are beginning all over the world. It is with such beginnings that the door to socialism might ultimately be opened for the whole world.

Pages 2-3

Risk for All

Mar 30, 2020

Baltimore City shelters for the homeless are full and crowded, filled with people more at risk for all illnesses, and especially the coronavirus. Hundreds more sleep outside around Baltimore.

In the third week of March, two homeless people appeared at the Baltimore clinic, Health Care for the Homeless. These two homeless people were screened and found to have worrisome symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. Nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital was willing to test them. City officials had agreed to provide transportation. They didn’t. The two sick homeless men left the clinic, untested, likely to spread the virus.

Two days later, Baltimore’s mayor came out with a statement about the city helping the homeless, opening another shelter, testing for symptoms of the coronavirus and transporting those needing it for the actual coronavirus test.

And how quickly will a city with many functions shut down actually help the homeless and keep the virus from spreading?

Coronavirus in Cook County Jail

Mar 30, 2020

As of Friday, March 27th, 38 inmates and staff at the Cook County Jail are confirmed to have the Covid-19 virus. Only two of those who have been tested had gotten negative results. The deadly virus could be sweeping through this confined population.

Cook County houses 5,500 people—none of whom has been convicted of a serious crime. Many serve short sentences for minor crimes. Others languish there while waiting for trial because they cannot afford bond.

Two weeks ago, the Office of the Public Defender called for the release of as many people as possible. The sheriff even verbally agreed. But only a hundred have been released, because a judge ruled that every case must be heard individually.

This is what “justice” looks like in Cook County, where money can determine if you live or die.

—Yet Another Pandemic Epicenter

Mar 30, 2020

The coronavirus crisis hitting the rest of the country has reached Michigan. The number of cases in the state ranks fifth in the country.

The state’s epicenter is in the tri-county metropolitan Detroit area and it’s worst in the city of Detroit and Wayne County, where Detroit is located.

Politicians and the media keep drumming into our heads the need for social distancing and hand washing. They never acknowledge that pandemics, like most public health issues, are not simply medical. They are social problems and require social solutions.

It leads people to blame those who contract the disease themselves for not practicing good hygiene and social behavior.

While the population is not as densely packed as in a city like New York, people still live in closer proximity than those in other parts of the state. Yet there are practically no major grocery chain stores inside the city. Many residents have no car and are forced to take Ubers or Lyfts or ride buses to get groceries or to go work, for those with jobs who cannot work from home. Workers have complained of being forced to work in too close conditions. Bus drivers shut down the bus system and forced the city to provide them with better protection against the disease.

It is estimated there are almost 11,000 homeless people in the city of Detroit, and many long-term residents have faced foreclosure on their homes and water-shutoffs for years.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced officials to at least pay lip service to providing some relief. They say they have increased access to shelters for more of the homeless, but what are the chances that means they can maintain adequate social distancing and have access to adequate showers and washing their hands frequently?

More “run-of-the-mill” diseases like the flu already kill thousands annually. Conditions like these endanger the public health at all times and are criminal in a society with such tremendous wealth and the technology that exists.

Los Angeles:
Nurses Protest Lack of Protective Gear

Mar 30, 2020

Nurses at Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center (LAMC) went out into the street on Monday, March 23 to protest shortages they are facing in the midst of a surge of COVID-19 patients—a staff shortage; inadequate training and information; and, above all, a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Nurses at Kaiser facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area have been holding their own protests.

A Kaiser LAMC nurse at the rally said: “Nurses cannot get a N95 mask issued to them until a patient tests positive for the coronavirus, and by the time test results of the corona test returns, nurses may have contracted the virus themselves, and brought the virus home to their families.”

Nurses said their bosses were also telling them to reuse N95 masks (also known as respirators), which is unsafe. In downgrading their standards for protective equipment, however, Kaiser bosses have been following in the footsteps of government regulators. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) and California and L.A. County Public Health Departments have all weakened their safety rules for treating COVID-19 patients. Authorities admit that the basis for these rule changes, which compromise health care workers’ safety, is a shortage of equipment. In a countrywide survey sponsored by National Nurses United, only 24% of 8,200 nurses surveyed said their employer has enough PPE on stock to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients.

Alerted by health care workers on social media about the shortages, some people who have masks (leftovers from the fire season, for example) are responding with donations. But what these private citizens are doing obviously cannot nearly make up for what executives of some of the largest health care companies, and government authorities, have not done—despite the warnings of health care workers, and for weeks, before the big crisis finally hit.

—A Life and Death Choice

Mar 30, 2020

The COVID-19 virus is vastly more contagious than the common flu. Hospitalization required is significantly higher. Of those hospitalized, larger numbers require Intensive Care Unit (ICU) treatment. And most of those require ventilators.

Having a ventilator means life or death for COVID-19’s sickest victims. In U.S. cities hardest hit, patients are already being denied access to ventilators.

States, cities and counties have been calling for assistance with ventilators for weeks. In the face of numbers that showed New York needing as many as 30,000, the Feds sent them 400.

Of course, Trump and his cronies understood early on that this expensive equipment would be at a premium. Because companies are allowed to profit on them, even in a crisis, the ventilators run between $18,000 and $48,000 dollars apiece.

It is estimated that at this time, the U.S. needs 100,000 ventilators. These are expensive, sophisticated machines built with 156 parts from 14 countries around the world. Major international suppliers have backlogs of orders at this time.

In hospitals across the U.S., administrations are putting out policy statements to protect themselves from lawsuits. At a major hospital in Detroit, they warn that those with underlying health problems will be on a “not eligible” list for having access to a ventilator. Those with severe heart, lung, kidney and liver failure, terminal cancer, severe trauma, and the old, will be denied access if other patients need ventilation.

This society sacrifices people every day in the service of profit. Now, the marginal population to be sacrificed is the elderly and very ill. While the wealthy men who own and drive this economy will get treatment, in this crisis, being middle-class is not enough. In the words of one administrator, “those unlikely to survive” (the virus) won’t get a chance.

Do we accept this? Do we let the tiny minority who control the wealth decide to continue business and war as usual? To pay one and a half billion for fighter jet planes while, in Trump’s words, “government officials expressed concern about the possibility of ordering too many ventilators, leaving them with an expensive surplus”?!

Or do we organize, sick or not, to tear this rotten system apart, to pull it up by the roots and refuse to let them make one damn more life-and-death decision!

No Bailout for Workers Without Regular Jobs

Mar 30, 2020

All across the country, many people work without having a regular job. They sell incense, body oil, or tamales on the street. They work as handymen or day laborers. They organize parties to sell makeup or jewelry to their friends.

Millions of people have been pushed into this “informal economy” because they can’t get an official job.

These workers are not going to get unemployment money, nor are they going to get the $1200 the government is supposed to distribute, which will be based on tax returns. So, many will have to continue working if they can. They won’t be able to “shelter in place” or practice “social distancing.”

This insane capitalist system leaves millions of us to find our own “hustle” as a way to make it—putting all of us at greater risk.

Pages 4-5

The Virus of Imperialism

Mar 30, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

The Covid-19 epidemic broke out in 42 of Africa’s 54 countries on March 22. Introduced by travelers from Europe, the disease apparently spread. Authorities across the continent took measures to quarantine or close public places.

The virus could wreak incomparably more havoc in Africa than in Europe. Poverty makes sheltering at home and quarantining impossible, because a large proportion of the urban population lives from day to day, with side jobs only. The virus can be stopped from spreading by washing hands. But of Africa’s 1.3 billion people, some 320 million live without clean water. Sixty percent of the 470 million Africans living in cities are crowded into slums in dire need of water service.

African countries lack medical equipment. In West Africa, there is only one hospital bed per three thousand two hundred inhabitants, compared to twenty times that many in France. The lack of equipment makes it impossible to assist patients in respiratory distress. Hospitalization or even contacting a doctor is impossible for the vast majority of Africans, because they are poor. And how to help the millions of internally displaced persons and migrants crowded into refugee camps? France’s soldiers in West Africa have equipment and logistics but will be of no help.

“Africa must prepare for the worst,” the Director General of the World Health Organization said. The poverty to which the great imperialist powers condemned Africa threatens to increase the severity of the disease.

It will wreak more havoc in Africa because for more than a century the African continent has been plundered and cut up by these powers and by the corporations to get raw materials and agricultural products, with the complicity of local strongmen and dictators.

The Six Trillion Dollar Bailout

Mar 30, 2020

In the middle of the national shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the passage of Congress’s economic stimulus bill at the end of March was greeted with nearly unanimous praise from the news media and Congressional leaders alike. Supposedly the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as the Trump White House, finally came together to save the economy and jobs.

That certainly is the most blatant lie told by a politician in a long time. Yes there are temporary extensions of meager benefit programs. Yes there is some money supposedly for states battling the coronavirus. But first of all, the bailout includes 500 billion dollars for the corporations.

Targeted for massive cash infusions by the government are airlines, big hospitals, cruise ship operators, retail stores, restaurant chains, hotel chains, big agricultural growers, ranching companies and distilleries, among others. Also included in the bill are further tax breaks and subsidies to many other companies. It’s obvious this 500 billion is a snow job.

But That’s Just the Beginning

Not mentioned in all the hoopla is all the aid to Wall Street. Buried in the bill, Congress gives the Federal Reserve the express authority to buy up trillions of dollars of toxic private debt from big banks and financial institutions. This includes corporate debt, as well as commercial and home mortgages. Congress also extends government guarantees to trillions of dollars of more bad loans as well as certain private investment funds.

Taken together, between the cash infusions, tax breaks, and enormous bailout of the financial sector, the cost to the government comes to at least six trillion dollars. But the news media didn’t bother to pick up on this small “detail.” And neither did any of the politicians. Only White House advisor Larry Kudlow let the cat out of the bag on the night the bill passed, bragging that the bailout is actually a six trillion dollar deal.

However, the big speculators sure knew it already. With trillions in government money set to pour into corporate coffers, the stock market suddenly did an enormous U-turn and skyrocketed upward, after a month-long historic collapse!

Saving the Banks Didn’t Save Homes

Of course, all the justifications for this latest massive giveaway to the biggest, wealthiest companies, banks and others are pure hogwash. No, the giveaways will not stimulate either economic or employment growth.

Recent history proves it. In 2008, when the collapse of the mortgage market led to a generalized financial crisis, the government carried out a massive bailout of the banks, under the guise that this would allow the banks to save homeowners. Instead, the bailout juiced bank profits, while the banks foreclosed on over two million households.

Tax Cuts Didn’t Save Jobs

And in 2017, before Congress passed a massive corporate tax cut worth over 200 billion dollars per year, they all promised that there would soon be a boom in investment and jobs. But the exact opposite happened. Once the corporations got their tax breaks, corporate investment shrank, while the job market remained lousy. Instead, once the companies got all of their tax savings, they simply funneled them to their biggest investors through massive stock buybacks and increased dividends. And they went even further than that, taking on even more debt simply to give it all away to their capitalist owners.

Government handouts and bailouts to corporations and banks only profit the capitalist class, who use that money to carry out wild speculation, bringing about ever more destructive crises.

Locust Invasion in East Africa:
The Capitalists Hoard the Solution

Mar 30, 2020

Translated from Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (Power to the Workers), the newspaper of UATCI, the Internationalist Communist African Workers’ Union, active among African workers in France.

Hundreds of billions of locusts invaded the Horn of Africa. They fly in gigantic swarms that devour all vegetation in their path. These locust clouds cover approximately 25 by 40 miles. Scientists say these insects can eat as much food as 80 million people.

Devastating swarms have already reached Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, and South Sudan. The locusts could prove catastrophic for South Sudan where 60% of the population is already threatened by hunger because of war and drought followed by floods. Adding to these calamities is imperialist looting and plunder which does not spare East Africa.

Huge quantities of fruits, vegetables, and flowers leave Kenya, Tanzania, and other countries every day en route to big wholesale markets all over Europe. Natural riches such as oil make the shareholders of big companies happy.

The U.N. says it is the “worst situation” in the Horn of Africa for a quarter of a century. There were six major locust invasions last century, most recently in 1987–1989. The U.N. estimates 70 million dollars will be needed to launch a cross-border campaign to deal with the most pressing damage. Combating this invasion in a sustainable way would require colossal means beyond the reach of the budgets of each of the concerned countries. Their government coffers may be empty, but the bank accounts of the leaders are often filled. It is no secret that these corrupt people cheerfully divert public money.

The means to combat this calamity exist. In this world, the capitalists hold the purse strings. They will only untie them when the exploited, who produce the wealth unite with the populations, who are victims of this disaster. They can force the capitalists and the authorities to provide the necessary means to fight against the locust invasion.

Stop Playing Russian Roulette with the Health of Workers!

Mar 30, 2020

Translated from the frontside of the March 22 workplace newsletters put out by Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Every day’s morbid count of death and disease makes it obvious how serious this epidemic is. The point of confinement measures is to protect ourselves and others.

Confinement means sacrifices, particularly for working class families. But precautions are undermined because big bosses and the government want business to carry on as usual!

At the weekend, workers are ordered to stay home, and get funny looks if they dare take a walk with their children. But on Monday, it’s back to work—using crowded public transport! Going to work for companies like Airbus and Amazon, in confined workshops with 50, 100, 200 other workers who share the same tools.

The lives of millions of workers, employees and technicians are being risked by the government. The benefit of the stay-at-home order is being sabotaged. Why? So that the capitalists can continue to make profits.

Building cruise ships and combat helicopters or producing lipstick isn’t helping fight the virus! Labor Minister Pénicaud has encouraged construction to start up again. We could understand if they were building field hospitals, like they did in China, but that’s not the case!

Medical personnel are begging us to stay at home. So in this context, the government’s decision to keep companies operational is a criminal decision. It’s intentional and thought out: it’s a class choice.

Right from the start of the epidemic, every decision the government has made has been calculated according to capitalist interests. The only value attributed to workers’ lives is how much profit they can sweat out.

Stop the lies about “national unity”! Workers must defend themselves and refuse to be profit fodder while leaders and shareholders hide safely behind the lines. It’s time for us to impose collectively that all companies not essential to fighting the epidemic or keeping society going cease their activity.

It’s time to make sure that all possible resources are available for disease control. We’re paying the price today for the hospital and bed closures of the last decades. In 2011, the health minister decided to stop stockpiling masks to save money. It’s easy to see just how criminal these savings are.

We’ve seen this catastrophe coming for more than two months. But while Macron claims to mobilize the country to fight a health war, the medical troops still don’t have masks and diagnostic tests! Home health care workers are assisting people who are at risk without even knowing if they’re carrying the virus. What should they do? Cross their fingers that they’re not spreading the epidemic? Yes, all healthcare workers have bravely responded to the call of duty. But they’re being sent to the front lines in atrocious conditions and have already paid for it with a number of deaths.

As for supermarket cashiers, garbage-collection personnel, electricians, truck drivers, bus drivers, mail delivery workers and others who do essential jobs, the government has been so uncaring that there are protests and workers declaring their right to withdraw from unsafe work conditions. Now the government suggests employers pay a 1000-euro bonus. Is that what their health and that of their family is worth? That’s offensive!

Workers in vital jobs are showing their collective conscience. But they never said they were willing to play Russian roulette with their lives! In Parliament, the microphones are cleaned after every speaker… Well, there’s no reason not to treat the foot soldiers who are essential to society in the same way!

This health crisis is like a magnifying glass that amplifies the inequalities and the class contempt inherent in this capitalist society. It’s directing a harsh light on the mismanagement of those who rule us and the irresponsibility of the organization of our society. We must turn it into an electric shock, one that feeds revolt against the current social order that is designed to help the few get rich off the backs of the many!

Pages 6-7

Two Disasters—One Cause:

Mar 30, 2020

The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of March 23, 2020.

We are being hit by two disasters. The disease caused by a newly discovered virus has spread into an international pandemic. The global economic system is collapsing. Whatever the immediate causes, both stem, finally, from the fact that unfettered capitalism is bent on the pursuit of profit, all else be damned.

The new Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may have started in China, as Trump likes to say. But its spread around the world is based on the veins of trade through which European, Japanese and American capitalism pumped out blood for two centuries.

China was hit by a new, and then unknown virus. Chinese researchers, in the midst of the epidemic, were forced to work out the genome sequence for the new virus. But once they worked it out, they made it public. And that gave the rest of the world a precious gift, a chance to prepare.

A few researchers in this country and Europe individually began to work on the test that would be needed. But they got no money from government, and very little from elsewhere.

Every government ignored the problem. Trump even declared there was no problem. As recently as two weeks ago, he accused the media of spreading rumors trying to besmirch his reputation.

But as self-serving and blind as Trump is, he is only a small part of the problem. Since the 1980s, public health has been starved for resources. Federal and state budgets cut back money for scientific research into the issues public health deals with. Stocks of supplies needed for any contagious epidemic were reduced—and reduced again. The human networks needed to organize a concerted response to any new disease were practically dismantled. Public hospitals were eliminated.

Government money that should have gone to public health instead flooded into the banking system and into every big capitalist concern in the country. Everything of use to the population was deprived of money: not only public health, but roads, bridges, tunnels, water and sewage systems, public transit and, of course, public schools.

Today, a new virus is running riot. The public health system needed to mobilize a targeted, scientific response doesn’t exist. Government ignored the risk until the last moment. And so today, it can only shut down a very large part of society, thus bringing about an economic collapse.

The virus did not cause the economic collapse. It simply gave the final push to an economy that has long been sitting right on the edge of an abyss, ready to fall off.

The Federal Reserve bailed the economy out of the 2008 crisis by issuing nearly free money and unlimited credit. The big banks took the money, loaned it out to big corporations at very low interest rates. Corporations didn’t invest in more production and jobs. Instead they rewarded their big stockholders—and they speculated, driving up the prices of shares on Wall Street. But their debts to the financial system had to be repaid. Each year, as corporate debts came due, companies took out new loans—just to pay off old debts.

An economic researcher called it “the unexploded bomb of corporate debt.” Well now the bomb has exploded. And the increase in joblessness is faster than anything that happened even in the Great Depression.

We haven’t seen the worst of it yet, not for the economic collapse, nor for the deadly spread of an unconstrained virus, both of which will play back on each other.

This is what capitalism has bequeathed to us. This is the significance of Marx’s idea that if humanity doesn’t find the way to socialism it will have barbarism. Barbarism is the future directly in front of us unless the working class begins to pull together, to fight so that human need, not profit, is the measure of economic and political decisions. This is the fight for socialism, the fight that only the working class has the capacity to lead.

Gamble Meets with Feds

Mar 30, 2020

UAW President Rory Gamble recently offered to meet with the U.S. Attorney who is leading the federal government’s investigation into corruption in the union. It is not clear, at this point, what this meeting will lead to. But it IS clear that the federal government intends to continue its attack on the UAW, weakening not only the UAW, but the whole labor movement.

The federal government has been investigating the UAW for nearly 5 years. The actual indictments have been few and far in-between. But every couple weeks, leaks from the federal prosecutor throw out another detail to the media. Certain parts of the media, like the right-wing Detroit News, take that one detail and tell the same whole story, over and over again. They have worked to create the perception that every leader in the UAW is corrupt, from top to bottom, when the truth is that only a few have been indicted. The feds even called in the media for a made-for-TV spectacular raid on the houses of then-President Gary Jones and former president Dennis Williams. They timed this to happen just days before the UAW national contract with auto expired.

During the years of the government’s investigations, Gamble was never named or linked to any part of the corruption investigation. But almost as soon as he assumed the UAW presidency and began to work against what corruption did exist, the federal government leaked to news media that Gamble was being investigated. And the media keeps repeating that Gamble is under investigation, even though in the months since, no charges have been filed against Gamble and there have been no concrete details of any wrongdoing. Nothing there, but they created a perception of guilt.

Is it any surprise that there would be some UAW leaders who took advantage of their positions to put money in their own pockets? This society itself is corrupt. The head of the Justice Department, which is investigating the UAW, was appointed by the big boss himself, Donald Trump. And Trump has openly used the presidency to enrich his own hotels and resorts. The whole society is corrupt. The whole UAW is not.

UAW members have every reason to want to see an end to corruption in their union, including the removal of any leaders they decide were guilty of these charges. But this is something that workers have the power to take care of themselves—if they are active in their union. And this kind of organized activity by the workers would make the UAW stronger to deal with what the unions need to do, which is to defend the interests of the workers against attacks by the corporations.

The federal government has a whole different reason for investigating the UAW and pressuring the union leadership. Its real goal is not to root out corruption, but rather to gain some control over the UAW. And there’s a reason for that. We live in a time period when the corporations have been pushing and want to go on pushing to take more from the workers. Any union, even as weak as the unions are today, is a threat that could slow the bosses’ money grab. The UAW strike against GM last fall is not what the bosses want to see.

Maybe some UAW members are hoping that the government will be “reasonable” and just step in to clean up some corruption and make a better union.

But there is no reason for any of us to believe that will happen. None.

Auto workers should remember what happened with the Teamsters 30 years ago. There was corruption among some Teamster leaders, even more so than what we see today in the UAW. The government threatened these leaders with substantial jail time and got them to consent to a federal government takeover. The government then let most of the corrupt Teamster leaders walk away. But it used its control over the union to get rid of the Teamster president who had led a militant and well-known strike at UPS. The Teamsters have been a weakened union ever since. And the corporations who employ Teamster workers have taken advantage, increasing their profits at the workers’ expense.

The government’s goal is to do the same thing to the UAW. The government serves the interests of the corporations, the bankers and the wealthy in this society. It’s always been true, it’s still true.

Workers can have confidence only in themselves.

Page 8

It’s the Economy, Stupid, Not the Virus

Mar 30, 2020

Trump pretends that without the virus, there would be no problem with the economy.

That’s a lie!

The economy is collapsing today because the economy was already severely unbalanced by financial speculation and the extreme chase after profit. For a long time, it has not been able to provide an adequate, full life for the majority of the population, even as unimaginable wealth accumulated in the hands of a few.

This economy was already set up to fall over the edge of a cliff. The spread of the virus just gave it the final blow. But it was the capitalist class that dragged its own economy right up to the edge and left it teetering there.

Essential Workers
—But Not Paid Like It!

Mar 30, 2020

When Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker announced his “stay-at-home” order, he said that “essential services will not close.” He specifically mentioned grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations.

The workers who make these services run make sure we can get the food, medicine, and fuel we need, at great risk to themselves and their families. Yet these essential workers are some of the lowest paid.

In this crisis, these workers have shown their importance—and their potential power. Society would grind to a halt without their work. There’s no reason for these “essential” workers to accept poverty wages.

The U.S. Did Nothing to Prepare

Mar 30, 2020

We are witnessing the surge of coronavirus (COVID19) illness in major U.S. cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit, with New Orleans not far behind. Following a worldwide model, the virus is also spreading at a more and more rapid rate.

The virus worldwide took three months to reach a total of 100,000 confirmed cases. Twelve days after, there were 100,000 more cases. Then, in four days, 100,000 more. Finally 100,000 more were added in one and a half days to bring a total of 400,000.

In the just over three months that it took to reach these staggering totals, the world witnessed the death and destruction brought in its wake; first in Asia and then in Europe.

The first U.S. case was identified in Chicago 47 days before the World Health Organization declared an international pandemic on March 11.

The U.S. authorities, given a precious lead of months, did nothing to prepare for what was ahead. Precious lessons learned from suffering and death in Asia and Europe, went without comment. Trump used the time to make his racist, xenophobic propaganda, calling it the Chinese Flu and worse; pretending that closing borders would keep the flu “over there.”

But one man does not run the U.S. show. Where were the more sane government officials, local and state? Where were the heads of hospitals and corporations who cost-analyze every penny? Instead of sounding the alarm for preparation and action, they mostly sat quietly, waiting to see what happened.

They knew that sicker and older people were at risk.

They knew that the U.S. health system had been chopped down to nothing, not just under Trump, but under administrations before his.

They knew that Italy had a higher death count than Asia because older people comprised 23% of the population.

They knew and did nothing!

Choking Vaccine Development to Extract Profit

Mar 30, 2020

“We would want to ensure that we work to make [the coronavirus vaccine] affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest,” said the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar. This response was expected from Alex Azar, who was pharmaceutical company Eli-Lilly’s lobbyist before joining the current government. Azar is representing and protecting his rich employers’ interests, after all.

The worldwide vaccine market has grown six-fold over the past two decades, worth more than $35 billion today. Four big pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Merck, and Pfizer, own 85% of this huge vaccine market. A few rich owners of these handful of companies immensely benefit out of this fully consolidated market.

Currently, more than 10 small and large companies are working on the coronavirus vaccine. But, the U.S. government and international health organizations know very well that the four pharmaceutical companies will ultimately own and/or practically commandeer manufacturing of any vaccine developed in a university, a government institution, or a small company lab.

While these companies are ensuring their profits and avoiding any liability, and spending their time on such self-serving activities, development of the coronavirus vaccine could be delayed and even choked off. And we would be the victims of this crazy system.

Where to Find The Spark in the Coronavirus Lockdown

Mar 30, 2020

The militants who work on The SPARK newspaper are caught in the same situation as everyone else, locked down, finding the way to survive. It will become harder to publish this newspaper, to distribute it, to get it to people with a subscription, and so on. It won’t appear many places you might be used to seeing it. It may soon be impossible to have it printed at all.

But even as everything is reduced, or even eliminated, you can find it on The SPARK website. You can read it there, finding it under the Publications menu on the top of the webpage. You can print it out, for your own use to pass on to other people, those few you see right now, and the many more you are trying to keep up contact with, electronically or however else. It’s important, in this disastrous situation, that these ideas continue to circulate, that we reinforce each other.

And, you will find other material on the website, including the editorials for our workplace newsletters, which appear every week there isn’t a paper. The editorials will continue, even if the workplaces are shut down.

Again, the address is:

If you want to send us an email about your situation, use this address: