The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Issue no. 1121 — January 18 - February 1, 2021

The Power to Boot up the Economy Lies in the Working Class

Jan 18, 2021

We are witnessing a political crisis in this country, the likes of which we have not seen in decades—the result of an overrun of the Capitol Building by some hundreds of right-wing rioters while thousands of Trump supporters looked on.

Though the real State, those millions of administrators and the armed forces they command, was never in danger, the news media, joined by government officials, have projected helplessness and panic and have called for thousands of armed forces to protect the inauguration. But after that push, then what?

The growth of the right wing in this country is a serious problem. But the dual crises that determine our futures are the pandemic and the ongoing economic crisis and destruction of the infrastructure.

The promised defense against COVID-19 has not been forthcoming. With millions of vaccines available in the U.S., only a small percentage of the population has received a shot. Shortages are already impeding the process; the second shot that is necessary to boost immunity may not be delivered, undoing the effectiveness of the vaccine. Already officials are saying that the main population won’t receive vaccines until the fall.

Pfizer, the drug giant producing one of the two vaccines developed and paid for by U.S. tax dollars, has proposed to slow down—yes, slow down—vaccine production as national death tolls climb to four thousand a day! New infections are at record levels, and the economy has been slowed to a crawl. A million more have joined the unemployed in just the last week.

Who can stop the drug companies from making decisions that are against the public interests? Who can make them open their hands and bank accounts?

Certainly not those who are participating in the multimillion dollar inaugural event at the Capitol.

The troops that are being mobilized across the country for this one event could be dispensing vaccines! Building hospitals!

Isn’t that more important than the event they have planned to attend? Isn’t it apparent already that this system has no real solutions to offer? Isn’t it clear that we are about to be told to be patient and wait a little longer?

The new government under Biden will put forward plans to address the pandemic and the economic disaster that is getting deeper. But they have no authority to release the billions necessary to accomplish a speedy fix. Wall Street tells them what to do! The handfuls of rich powerful families who control all the corporations and banks and constitute the U.S. ruling class also control the government.

And the only power that can force them to release the money needed to boot the economy back up, while fighting the virus, is the working class. In every neighborhood, in every town, in every city, the forces are there to get to work, to produce vaccine, to distribute it, to reinforce the failing hospital systems, to feed the hungry and to build housing for the population. Ask the people around you if they would be willing to mobilize. Most will say “Yes!”

We have seen the beginnings of organization in hospitals where doctors, nurses, aides and attendants demand protection against the virus. We saw the power of withholding our labor when people walked off the job to protect against the virus. We shut whole plants and industries down.

In every workplace links can be made to neighboring workplaces, to make real decisions about real problems like vaccine production and distribution. To work alongside engineers and scientific research teams to ensure that it is safe. To defend ourselves against not just the virus, but against those who would try to stop us from doing what we have to do.

Hard? Not harder than what we are enduring under this pandemic and economic crash. Through organizing, people can find their voices again, and overcome the divisions that have been created between us.

We see the population knit itself together during disasters like floods and fire and earthquake. No one cares about the skin color or ethnicity of the person lifting them into an emergency vehicle.

We can make this change in direction when we pull our eyes away from the sideshow of national politics and focus on our real possibilities.

Pages 2-3

The Capitol Building:
A “Symbol of Democracy”?

Jan 18, 2021

Joe Biden said that those individuals from right-wing organizations like the KKK who stormed the U.S. Capitol building, “do not reflect the true America.” In fact, the history of the Capitol building itself shows the opposite.

Inside the Capitol dome, there are frescoes, friezes, and giant oil paintings portraying scenes from U.S. history. They show European explorers and “founding fathers,” as if they are the only ones who built the country. Some depict Indians, as if they were “saved” by these explorers: one even shows Pocahontas kneeling for baptism, surrounded by standing white men.

They do not show slavery at all. No Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, or Sojourner Truth. The only representation of a black person in the whole Capitol Rotunda is a small bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Only in 2012 was a small marker placed in a corner of the re-named “Emancipation Hall,” commemorating the work of the enslaved people who did much of the work to build the Capitol.

The official website of the Capitol gives a long description of its construction that leaves out any mention of the enslaved people who laid foundations. Instead, it makes it sound as if architects “completed the work” themselves. You have to go to a separate section of the website, about the 2012 historical marker, to learn that “the majority of the work fell upon the laborers in the area, who were comprised mostly of African American slaves.”

Philip Reid, a slave, even cast the Statue of Freedom statue on top of the Capitol dome, and figured out how to transport and install it!

Rich racists telling a “fake news” version of history, and asserting with their symbols that they’re the only ones with a right to this country?

American as the Capitol building itself!

COVID-19 Vaccine:
Public Dollars Go to Private Profits

Jan 18, 2021

The big pharmaceutical companies, starting with Pfizer and Moderna, which are selling the COVID-19 vaccines, are expected to make between $60 and $80 billion in profits in 2021, with unprecedented profit margins reaching above 60%. These profit levels are expected because governments handed over taxpayers’ money to these companies through contracts signed during the pandemic.

These companies claim that they deserve this bonanza since they are the ones working hard and taking the risks. But there is no grain of truth to that, since the actual research and development of these vaccines were carried out by scientists working in universities and government institutes over many decades. In other words, paid by public money, the taxes they took from us.

The efficacy of the current vaccines was validated through processes paid for by taxes. Governments and other public institutions shouldered the bulk of the risk, financing the advance production of experimental vaccines while clinical trials were still going on.

These clinical trials were achieved thanks to the trial volunteers, doctors, FedEx and UPS workers making deliveries, nurses donning PPE to administer the shots ... all the way down to the first person being vaccinated! Yet, pharmaceutical companies and their executives have been the only ones that profited handsomely from the vaccine process.

The CEO of Pfizer, Bourla, sold more than $5 million worth of his shares the same day he announced that they had come up with the first vaccine. Pfizer has already made an estimated $975 million from the vaccine in 2020, according to Morgan Stanley.

Considering that $100 billion in sales are expected to be made from the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021, this vaccine lets these companies make a real killing. Since it is unlikely that these vaccines will 100% cure or eradicate the COVID-19 virus, there will be more vaccination programs, with enormous profits extracted well into the future.

Only the Public Should Own Vaccines

Jan 18, 2021

In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. The discovery of penicillin transformed the practice of medicine and saved countless millions of lives. This discovery led to the development of antibiotics, which were used to heal wounds and overcome many diseases such as syphilis, gangrene, and tuberculosis. Fleming decided that this science had to be released into the world to serve the greater good. He transferred the penicillin patents to the U.S. and U.K. governments, which were able to mass-produce penicillin in time to treat many of the wounded in World War II.

Similarly, both Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk, who developed polio vaccines in the 1950s, declined to patent or profit from them. When asked about who gets the patent for the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk famously replied: “The people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Thanks to these vaccines, polio was nearly eradicated from the world.

Like penicillin and polio vaccines, the public should have owned the COVID-19 vaccine and the public should have been vaccinated for free.

Nursing Homes:
Death Traps for the Elderly

Jan 18, 2021

The pandemic has been ravaging nursing homes. People in nursing homes account for about 40% of all COVID deaths in the U.S., even though they make up less than one percent of the U.S. population!

This is because nursing homes were death traps way before the pandemic ever hit. They are overcrowded facilities, with minimal levels of staffing to serve the needs of their elderly residents. The average pay in the nursing-home industry is $13 an hour, which forces many workers to take two and sometimes even three jobs, trying to stay afloat. These workers typically don’t have health insurance or paid sick leave either; so they go to work even if they have symptoms, then they go to other nursing homes and spread the disease.

But behind these dismal places that warehouse the elderly and infirm are enormous profits. For nursing homes are a huge business with a revenue of $166 billion in 2017. That makes nursing homes a bigger industry than the U.S. hotel industry. Seventy percent of the nursing homes in the U.S. are run by for-profit companies. And it has been increasingly attractive to big financial companies, whose general business strategy is to buy companies, squeeze as much cash out of them as possible, and sell them at a profit.

For these big financial companies, nursing homes have a guaranteed cash flow provided by government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, with almost no government regulation. So these companies literally get away with murder, given the conditions they impose on the residents and staff alike.

In fact, one of the reasons for such a high death count at the nursing homes was that the regulators at many public agencies even designated them as recipients of COVID patients, including facilities that had already had many COVID deaths—as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health did, for example. And the nursing-home companies welcomed these COVID patients, because they would collect Medicare payments for them. It wasn’t until September, more than six months into the pandemic, that the federal government’s CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) even required nursing homes to test residents and staff!

The majority of nursing home deaths could be avoided—if nursing homes were not treated as places to deposit elderly people, who don’t have enough money to pay for better care. These are our elders—people who, throughout their lives, helped build the society we live in today.

Big capital, which calls all the shots in this society, has not found actually caring for people in their old age profitable enough. So it continues to condemn a majority of society’s elderly members to an abominable existence in “normal” times, and to outright death in the time of the pandemic.

Supreme Court Further Restricts Abortion Rights

Jan 18, 2021

A pill to end pregnancy was approved in the United States in 2000, but almost from that date, states began to prevent women from obtaining this medication.

On January 12, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 6 to 3 a federal judge’s ruling that requiring women to get these pills from a hospital or doctor’s office was dangerous during the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking for the majority, the chief justice wrote that their ruling to make a pregnant woman obtain this medication from a hospital or medical office “did not place an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion.”

So, during a pandemic that is currently killing more than 4,000 people per day, a pregnant woman wanting to obtain a pill to end a pregnancy must put herself at risk by going to a hospital or medical office to obtain it, rather than being able to buy the pill from a pharmacy.

And of course, it is hardly the first time the courts have ruled to make it harder for a woman to obtain an abortion. Almost from the 1973 decision to make abortion legal in the United States, the states have put restrictions on a woman’s right to a legal abortion. For example, 43 states restrict a woman’s right to an abortion under certain conditions; 19 states say an abortion must take place in a hospital, not in a clinic or doctor’s office, at a certain point; 45 states allow health care providers to refuse to pay for an abortion. The list is long.

A majority in the U.S. agree it is a woman’s right to choose an abortion; state and federal politicians and judges ignore that majority to impose laws that more or less make it difficult or impossible for women to have an abortion.

Pages 4-5

L.A. Pandemic:
Third Rate Healthcare

Jan 18, 2021

In Los Angeles, which is now the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the entire world, the pandemic has been made worse because there are fewer hospital beds available for the working class and poor than in most big U.S. cities.

The lack of funding is the main reason.

Since almost half of the workforce in Los Angeles is considered “low wage,” much of that workforce also has either no health insurance and has to depend on charity care, or they have second-rate health insurance such as Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California) or insurance provided by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That second-rate insurance pays the hospitals at much lower rates than Medicare or private insurance do, and therefore most private hospitals rarely accept it.

So, these low-wage workers have to depend on the public health care system of the County of Los Angeles, whose funding has been slashed repeatedly, resulting in a drastic reduction in the number of hospital beds in the public hospitals. Thus, the main public hospital complex for the county on the eastside of Los Angeles has 40% fewer hospital beds than it had in the 1990s. As for Martin Luther King Hospital, the public hospital in South Los Angeles that was built in response to the Watts Rebellion in 1965, the number of hospital beds was slashed from 400 to only 120.

At the same time, many other community hospitals that serve working and poor people have also closed over the last several decades. Between 1995 and 2005, for example, 25 acute care hospitals in Los Angeles closed, resulting in the loss of thousands more hospital beds, even as the population of the county continued to increase.

As a result of this drastic downsizing, for a big part of the working population there has been a chronic shortage of hospital beds, and the lack of staffing to go with it, even during so-called normal times. During the current pandemic, it has meant that countless thousands of people have lost their lives as ambulances have no hospitals to take their patients, or hospitals that do serve working people plant patients in gift shops or in tents with a greatly reduced and overworked staff to take care of them.

So, in Los Angeles, which has some of the finest and most advanced medical and scientific institutions in the world, during the pandemic much of the low wage workforce is condemned to the kind of health care found in much poorer countries.

L.A.:
Hospital Closing Costs Lives and Jobs

Jan 18, 2021

On New Year’s Eve, the corporate owner of Olympia Medical Center, a 204-bed hospital in the heart of Los Angeles, announced it will be completely closing on March 31—that is, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic—right as infections and hospitalizations surge to their worst levels nationwide and statewide, and as Los Angeles reports zero percent ICU capacity.

The 74-year-old hospital cares for a very high percentage of elderly and low-income patients. In early January the hospital was so packed with COVID-19 patients, the staff had to convert several non-ICU units to accommodate the overflow. “If we close, it’s going to overwhelm all the surrounding hospitals that are already struggling to care for all these patients,” said Jorge Burruel, an intensive care unit RN at Olympia.

Closing the hospital only makes the pandemic and severe economic downturn worse by destroying both lives and jobs. But for Alecto Healthcare, the owner of Olympia, all that counts is a very big profit from the sale of the site of the hospital.

On top of that, Alecto also pockets tens of millions of dollars in government stimulus money that it already got for running Olympia. While government officials claim that the stimulus money is meant to preserve jobs, in reality, it is little more than a taxpayer-funded giveaway to companies that take the money and cut jobs anyway.

This is no different from what Alecto Healthcare does in other parts of the country. It buys up rural or independent hospitals, makes deep budget cuts and then shuts them down. Only recently it closed three rural hospitals in West Virginia and Ohio near the Ohio River, severely cutting that region’s capacity to treat COVID patients by 530 licensed hospital beds ... even as it pocketed millions in government COVID stimulus money.

No, the biggest threat to working peoples’ lives and livelihoods in this pandemic is not the coronavirus, but the virus of capitalism.

CPS
—Re-Opening Schools Unsafely

Jan 18, 2021

Chicago Public Schools opened its doors back up to in-person learning on January 4 for the first time since the pandemic, as ordered by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Already there have been Covid cases at 35 schools.

Yes, in-person learning should be available to some students. But the plan CPS has implemented has very little to do with education. For instance, Lindblom High School has a Cluster Special Education program, for disabled students with high needs. This program services about fifty students, staffed by about 18 adults.

Currently, three of the fifty students have come to school. But the district is requiring all adults who work with these students to work from the school building. Only four adults work with the students in person. The rest have to come to school, then work from their computer on remote classes—putting them at risk for no reason. Lindblom has had eight positive cases of Covid just since September—and those were with smaller numbers of adults in the building.

Lightfoot and the district promised parents clean schools and new air purifiers. But the teachers who have gone in have reported dirty classrooms and unemptied trash cans—no different from before the pandemic. And the thousands of purifiers they bought are meant for small rooms like a living room in a home.

Some school workers who take care of vulnerable relatives have been denied accommodations and have refused to come into work. They have been locked out of their virtual classrooms and cut off from their students.

Businesses all over the city want to get back to making profits. For them, that means kids back in school and workers back at work. The school reopening has been a shit-show, geared not to safety or education, but to satisfy capitalists’ demands.

Wall Street Fakes Political Correctness

Jan 18, 2021

Corporations and banks are making a grand show of “fleeing the Trump brand,” after the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

New York’s Signature Bank and Deutsche Bank announced no future business with the Trump organization. The Shopify website shut down trumpstore.com. The PGA canceled plans to hold its 2022 Championship at a Trump golf course. And New York City just terminated contracts for Trump’s company to run a carousel, two ice rinks and a golf course in city parks.

In so many words, they all claim that being associated with Trump’s brand would besmirch their brands. After every outrageous thing that Trump has done, NOW they have a problem?

By publicly declaring that their campaign contributions are on pause, or that they are ending past business relationships, all of these big corporations and banks have more or less declared that their campaign contributions and contracts were funding Trump and his allies and his racism all along!

Many big businesses and banks have also put campaign contributions to some or all politicians on pause. The list includes top hitters on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ.

But don’t worry. After a very brief pause for show, the campaign contributions from top banks and corporations will begin flowing again under the Biden Administration.

Corporations are doing what they always do, switching from the outgoing administration to the new administration, looking to move away from a situation that got a little chaotic.

Charges in Flint Water Crisis Leave Out the Big Fish

Jan 18, 2021

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced charges against nine former state and Flint officials related to the Flint water crisis. Those officials included former Governor Rick Snyder, two of his close aides, two emergency managers he appointed to run Flint, three former officials from the state health department, and Flint’s former Public Works director.

In 2013, under the guise of fixing the city of Flint’s financial crisis, Snyder appointed Darnell Earley as the city’s Emergency Manager. Under his direction, the city of Flint chose to break away from the Detroit city water department and created the new Karegnondi Water Authority. This move was supposedly aimed at saving the city money, but it meant building a new intake tunnel to bring water from Lake Huron to Flint. Detroit’s system was already doing the same thing, so it really meant spending from 275 to 600 million dollars just to duplicate the old system.

This plan was, in fact, a boondoggle to benefit construction companies and supply untreated water to companies involved in fracking, DTE Energy, big agricultural players in the area, and companies with factories nearby.

While this unnecessary tunnel was being built, the city chose to draw its water from the Flint River.

This water was so corrosive that it caused lead to leach into the water from pipes leading into the homes of as many as 100,000 Flint residents. Thousands of Flint children were found to have elevated levels of lead in their blood, which interferes with healthy brain development and leads to learning disabilities.

It remains to be seen which of Nessel’s charges will stick and whether any of them amount to more than a slap on the wrist. They do not include, however, any charges against the corporate financial interests behind the push away from Detroit’s water system and the construction and creation of the new water authority.

Is this an oversight? No way—the State isn’t about to go after the very corporate interests it serves!

Pages 6-7

Attack on the Capitol Shows the Danger of the Far-Right

Jan 18, 2021

The following is the text of the Spark presentation given by Gary Walkowicz in Detroit on January 10.

On January 6, maybe 20,000 or so people were in Washington, rallying to support Donald Trump’s claim to somehow overturn an election that Trump lost by 7 million votes. But there was more than just a rally. A crowd of several hundred people, led by white supremacists, invaded the U.S. Capitol. Encouraged by Trump’s racist rants, they were waving Confederate flags, wearing racist T-shirts, wearing T-shirts celebrating the extermination of Jewish people, they even built a gallows with a noose. They took over the U.S. Capitol for a few hours. The white supremacists who invaded the Capitol had obviously planned and prepared for this, since many of them were armed with weapons, bats, shields, chemical spray and even had ropes to scale the walls.

The Police Did Not Stop Them

How could the police and authorities allow this to happen? Were the police totally incompetent and unprepared for this attack? Not very likely, since the police have been dealing with protests all year and there were many posts on right-wing social media talking about “storming the Capitol” and “bringing civil war” to Washington. Many people who planned and led this invasion were from well-known white supremacist organizations like the Proud Boys, the 3 Per-centers and QAnon. They were from known militias, neo-Nazi groups, gun rights groups and anti-abortion groups. Were the police so stupidly blinded by the racism of this society that they didn’t believe that white people would do something like this? Maybe. Was it a deliberate decision to let these white supremacists have their way? Possibly.

What is clear is that the response of the authorities was completely different with how they responded to Black Lives Matter protests. All summer BLM protesters were often confronted by police in riot gear using tear gas, batons and rubber bullets against protesters, arresting tens of thousands of them. We saw that at times in Detroit, and we saw it even more so in other cities where protesters were attacked by the cops. We saw what happened at BLM protests in Washington this summer, where the authorities overnight erected a perimeter wall that went for blocks to protect the White House; where they called in the military to clear the streets of peaceful protesters and arrested hundreds of people. This past week in Kenosha, Wisconsin, authorities erected barriers and called in the National Guard BEFORE they announced a decision to not charge the cop who shot and paralyzed Jacob Blake. And in Minneapolis in November, the cops arrested or charged 650 people who were briefly walking on a freeway protesting police brutality. It is clear whose side the cops take when it comes to people protesting racism. What do you think would have happened if it had been BLM protesters trying to invade the U.S. Capitol?

The Far Right: Deeply in This Racist Society

After the riot at the Capitol this week, the media, political leaders and business leaders were quick to throw blame and shout outrage, most of it aimed at Donald Trump. Twitter and Facebook shut down Trump’s account. Yeah, after 4 years of social media making millions of dollars off of Trump’s lies and racist rants, now they decided it was a problem.

There is even talk about removing Trump from office, now, less than 2 weeks from the end of his term. As if they just now realized that Trump is a liar and a con man, who has spent the last 4 years inciting racism, hatred and encouraging right-wing violence.

One way or another, Trump will soon be gone from the White House. But the real issue for us, the real issue confronting the working class is not about Donald Trump, it’s about the growth of the right wing in this country.

Trump has always made clear he was racist against black people; he spewed hatred against Muslims and immigrants; he despised women and tried to restrict their rights. Trump encouraged and pushed all the things that divide the working class. But Trump’s words and actions wouldn’t have meant much if there were not already right-wing forces and racist, right-wing attitudes in the population. The only difference between Trump and these far-right organizations is that the white supremacist groups are even more explicit about saying that they want a whites-only nation or that women have no place, like the Proud Boys say.

Right-wing forces like these have always been here under capitalism. Sometimes they are quietly in the background. And sometimes they appear openly. But they are always ready to carry out violent attacks. In times of economic and social crisis, like today, if the working class is not fighting, these right-wing forces can grow stronger, pulling in some white workers, especially from small towns and rural areas, people who are desperate and looking for a radical change. Trump certainly pulled some of these people to support him.

People Pulled to Support Trump

When you saw on TV the people at the Trump rally in Washington; I’m not talking about the people who invaded the Capitol; I’m talking about those people who are at the rally outside the Capitol. You saw what looked like a lot of ordinary people—people who maybe work in a small shop or are self-employed, small business owners—people who work for a living. A lot of them are from smaller towns and rural areas. These are people from areas where Trump got his biggest votes.

Trump was able to get their votes in different ways. Some of them agreed with or at least went along with Trump’s racism and his attacks on immigrants. Others liked Trump’s opposition to abortion. But there have been other politicians who espoused these views. What seemed to make Trump different is that he portrayed himself as an outsider who attacked the establishment. He attacked politicians from both parties, he denounced the “elites” who looked down on ordinary people. The more these elites and politicians denounced Trump, the more support and votes he got from a section of ordinary white people. And in the last election, Trump picked up more votes from black people and immigrants, people who work for a living, but are in desperate situations today and were looking for radical change.

Those 20,000 or so ordinary people who came to Washington, and many others like them, see Trump as the only person who they believed took their side. Were these people fools for believing that Trump was on their side, when Trump’s only major legislative achievement was to give trillions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations and to rich people, like Trump himself? Were they fools for supporting someone whose executive orders were designed to make rich people richer and make ordinary people, like themselves, poorer? Yes, we can say they were fools. But they supported Trump because, in their minds, he sounded radical; someone who would shake things up, and they didn’t see anyone else who sounded radical.

Without Trump, the Danger Remains

Sooner or later, Trump will be gone. But white supremacists and right-wing organizations will still be here and they can pull people, like these Trump supporters, and other working people behind them. They already have pulled some behind them. And that is what the real danger is. The danger is these right-wing organizations are not going away.

Incoming president Joe Biden scolded these right-wing forces who invaded the Capitol for not being nice. But so what? Those are just words. And words sound pretty weak compared to what just happened in Washington. Actions speak louder than words.

Now that there has been a big outcry about the invasion of the Capitol, some of these right-wing people will probably be arrested. But will they face any serious charges or jail time? But regardless, look at what they just did; they invaded and shut down part of the U.S. government. They chased all the Congressmen and Senators out of their chambers and into hiding. Certainly, these right-wingers must have been emboldened by what they did.

We saw similar things on a smaller scale here in Michigan. First, the right wing organized protests outside the Capitol building in Lansing to “Unlock Michigan". Next, armed-to-the-teeth right-wingers marched into the Capitol building. They brought their weapons in, not to protect themselves, but to intimidate and demonstrate. Then you had militia members plotting, or at least talking about, kidnapping and killing the governor. All these recent actions have only emboldened the right wing.

And make no mistake about it, this is a danger for the whole working class. Many black workers understand this today. Many Latino workers, too. Maybe a smaller section of white workers also understand.

Today the capitalists and their politicians and their mouthpieces in the media may denounce Trump and those white supremacists who invaded the Capitol. But tomorrow, the capitalists would not hesitate to use the right wing against the working class. They have done so before. They tolerate them today, so they can use them tomorrow.

The capitalists, and the politicians and police forces who work for the capitalists, they have always known of the existence of violent right-wing forces, but they let them continue to exist. The capitalists sometimes fund them behind the scenes. And sometimes the police forces are part of these right-wing groups. That certainly was the case with the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK was organized after the Civil War to terrorize the former slaves and the poor whites who tried to build better lives for themselves. The KKK has been used against the black population for 150 years. The Black Legion was a right-wing organization in the 1930’s that attacked working class militants and union organizers, with the complicity and support of the capitalists and their police forces. We know the capitalists will not hesitate to use these kinds of extra-military forces again.

Working People Can Defend Ourselves

So the working class faces a dangerous situation. The only answer is for the working class to make a fight for its own interests. I know I am saying the same thing that many people have heard us say before, many times before. But there is no other answer.

When workers in a big city or a big workplace begin a real fight for their own interests, they will pull along with them other workers. Look at the GM strike in 2019, look at how many other workers supported the strike and came to the picket lines. When workers begin to fight, they can also pull along with them those ordinary working people from smaller towns and rural areas, people who are also exploited, people who maybe support Trump today. When the working class begins to fight, they can even pull along with them some of those ordinary people who followed the extreme right to Washington on January 6.

When the working class is fighting, it can organize to defend itself against any attack from the right wing, as we have seen the working class and black population do in the past. When the black population was fighting, they found the ways to push back the KKK. When the working class was making a fight, they were able to deal with the Black Legion. An organized working class is stronger than these right-wing forces. They can deal with them.

When the working class is fighting, as a whole class, for its own interests, it can take that fight even further—to fight against the whole system that exploits all working people, and fight for a system run by the working class.

Pages 8-9

Mexico Femicides:
The Murders of Women Continue

Jan 18, 2021

Early last year, Bianca Alejandrina Lorenzana posted to social media: “Don’t we deserve more than a grave in a garbage dump, in an empty lot, or on the side of a road?” Ten months later, authorities in Cancun found her dismembered body.

Statistics show an average of ten women are murdered every day in Mexico. In response to Lorenzana’s murder and many others, women’s groups organized a protest at Cancun city hall in November. But instead of offering women protection from violence, the police fired on the protestors with live ammunition!

It has long been dangerous to fight the killing of women in Mexico. For instance, after her daughter was murdered in 2014, Miriam Rodriguez tracked down the killers one-by-one, sometimes capturing them herself, gun in hand, before turning them over to authorities. Mrs. Rodriguez asked for protection—but received none. On Mother’s Day, 2017, she was gunned down in front of her home.

Mexico’s current president, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), was elected in 2018 claiming to lead a “People’s Movement” that would help the poor and vulnerable. His Interior Minister even claimed that his movement is “feminist.”

But nothing has changed for women facing violence. When he was asked about a spike in 911 emergency calls about violence against women during the pandemic, he claimed without evidence that 90% of the calls were erroneous, and asserted that Mexico’s “family oriented” culture would make home confinement safe!

In reality, the pandemic and economic crash have made women’s situation much worse. According to Bloomberg News, women have experienced almost two-thirds of Mexico’s job losses. Access to abortion had been legal in only two out of 32 states in Mexico, and for most women it disappeared totally as clinics closed and it became harder to travel. As they lose jobs and control over their own bodies, women become even more vulnerable to violence. A collective of women’s crisis shelters reported an 81% increase in the number of people it served from March to June of 2020 compared to the previous year.

In the face of the government’s refusal to protect women’s lives, the demonstrations continue. In September, feminists occupied the country’s Human Rights Commission. That occupation continues, as do protests highlighting specific murder victims across the country. These protestors risk their lives by speaking out and refusing to allow women to continue to be killed in silence.

The Battle of Vertieres and the Victory of the Haitian Revolution

Jan 18, 2021

Translated from Combat Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active on the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the West Indies.

On November 18th, 1803, an army of black Haitian ex-slaves defeated an army sent by Napoleon at Vertieres, on the northern coast of Haiti. Napoleon’s army was the most powerful army of that time. Haiti had been the richest colony in the world, producing sugar off of the labor of slaves. The army had been sent to reestablish slavery on Haiti, to regain that production for France. The ex-slaves’ victory opened the way to independence. On January 1st, 1804, the former colony became the independent Republic of Haiti.

Slavery was abolished in August of 1793, at the peak of the French Revolution. But abolition only passed because the English were about to invade Haiti, to take the island for itself. Throughout Haiti, slaves rose against the plantation owners, under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

In 1802, Bonaparte sent 86 ships carrying 22,000 soldiers to Haiti to reestablish slavery. The troops took Toussaint L’Ouverture prisoner. He died in a French prison.

But a new insurrection soon rose up in the north of Haiti. The French General, Leclerc, wrote to Napoleon: “It wasn’t enough to imprison Toussaint, now there are 2,000 leaders to imprison.”

New black leaders rose to command the army of the insurrection. Jean-Jacques Dessalines was named supreme commander in May of 1803, under the slogan: “Liberty or Death.”

Bloody battles raged between Napoleon’s army and the insurgents, from May to November of 1803.

The Battle of Vertieres of November 18th was the last major fight—the ex-slaves put a definitive end to French domination and slavery.

Dessalines ordered the capture of the fort at Vertieres, which stood on a hill near French Cape (now called Cape Haitian). Francois Capois, called Death-Capois by his troops, commanded a half brigade. Many were mowed down by cannon fire from the fort. Death-Capois launched four assaults on the fort, without success. His troops did not lay down their arms—they awaited reinforcements from Dessalines. Once these arrived, they renewed their attack. By nightfall, two thirds of the French soldiers lay dead or wounded.

Negotiations between Dessalines and the French officers took up all of the next day. They signed an accord at nightfall. The French had ten days to evacuate the fort, gather what remained of their army—and leave Haiti!

At Vertieres, on November 18th 1803, under-equipped, undernourished black soldiers defeated Europe’s most powerful army, which had invaded to reestablish their slavery. They had taken the same path of the Roman slaves, who, massed in an army led by Spartacus, had shaken the Roman empire before going down in glorious defeat. The Haitians, however, had gloriously triumphed!

During the war, the poor, exploited Haitian masses showed themselves able to find the resources and weapons they needed to fight the oppressor. Haitian slaves, at the bottom of that world’s social scale—“the wretched of the earth”—won their own liberty.

Such a victory feeds our own revolutionary optimism. It is an example for all the exploited on the earth. It can only reinforce our faith in the future for the slaves of today—wage-slaves, the workers of the entire world. They also will find the way to free themselves from the yoke of their exploiter: the bourgeoisie.

Haiti:
Popular Self-Defense against the Terror of Armed Gangs

Jan 18, 2021

The following is a translation of excerpts from Voix des Travailleurs, the paper of the revolutionary workers organization active in Haiti.

Doctors spontaneously took to the streets after the kidnapping of an intern from the general hospital. In Carrefour, the population resisted a group of gangsters for three days. Armed with picks, batons, and machetes, some parents bring their children to school in groups. These are signs people are fed up by the violence of armed gangs: the generalization and organization of all these initiatives in the working-class neighborhoods of the whole country is the only effective way to stop the criminal gangs.

Robberies, kidnappings for ransom, summary executions: violence against the population is taking on alarming proportions. The armed gangs certainly have sophisticated arms. With the complicity of the government, they take advantage of the chaos of the fight for political power. But they are only a tiny minority. Faced with these cowards who go after isolated and disarmed people, including young girls, women workers, pregnant women, and elderly people, we must put forward the conscious and organized fight of the majority of the population....

The population must remember and be inspired by the fights that it has led against gangs like the criminals beholden to the Raoul Cedras regime, FRAPH, the death squads under the reign of Regala and Namphy, and the militia of grim memory, the Tonton Macoutes. The power of the state, at the service of which these gangs functioned, did not stop them. Indeed it took the fight of millions of residents of the popular neighborhoods. The workers put themselves out of harm’s way.

The police and the government of Jovenel have shown that they are on the side of the assassins by dispersing the start of the demonstration of medical interns in solidarity with their kidnapped colleague last Saturday at the Champs de Mars, and by going after with full force all the initiatives of the population to protect itself. And so, to defeat the armed gangs, the popular masses can only count on their numbers, their determination, and their fights.

Senegal:
A Boy Drowns Escaping Poverty

Jan 18, 2021

Translated from Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (Power to the Workers), magazine of the revolutionary workers’ group Union Africaine des Travailleurs Communistes Internationalistes (Internationalist Communist African Workers’ Union) active in Africa and France.

In November a 14-year-old teenager from Senegal who dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player in Europe died while trying to cross the Atlantic aboard a pirogue, a small boat. His death was highly emotional for people there. He joins the long list of migrant castaways. In one week alone recently, 480 people lost their lives at sea trying to reach Spain on these boats.

This child’s story shocked people all the more because the government of Senegal pressed criminal charges against his father, supposedly to convince other parents not to “encourage” their children to emigrate illegally. A two-year prison sentence was requested for him for “manslaughter and complicity in smuggling migrants.” Two other fathers were arrested for “endangering the lives of others,” although their sons were saved. In December they were found guilty and sentenced to jail time.

For years, the government has proclaimed that it wants to help Senegalese youth to live and work in Senegal, repeating this message nonstop through the media and in schools and mosques. But what has it done concretely so that young people are not tempted to risk their lives on these makeshift boats? Did the government create enough jobs for them? To the contrary: most of these young people blame the government for hunting down those who try to get by through selling merchandise on the street. They are fed up with the moralizing and accusatory speeches of the authorities. They prefer trying their luck under other skies rather than dying slowly under the weight of extreme poverty.

This poverty is the result of the capitalist system, which throws more and more people into destitution while a minority of parasites and exploiters accumulate fortunes. The Senegalese government is a cog in the gear of this inhuman system, like all other governments. The leaders of these governments are the ones who should be fought for “endangering the lives of others!”

Pages 10-11

White Supremacy Raised Its Filthy Head

Jan 18, 2021

The following is the editorial from SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of January 11, 2021.

We’ve all seen the pictures. Gangs of white supremacists led the way into the Capitol Building, Confederate flags and Trump flags flying, racist slogans held aloft. Latter-day KKK masqueraded as Proud Boys, 3%ers, American Nazis, QAnon, Michigan Militia and other paramilitary groups. Mixed in were off-duty cops from California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and other states.

It looked almost as though the Capitol police had melted away when these gangs reached the doors.

It was clear something would happen in Washington, D.C. on January 6. Trump was calling on his supporters to overturn the election. Social media was filled with calls for “action.”

And it wasn’t just words. In December, just as Electoral College electors met in all the states to cast their votes, some of these extreme-right thugs had paraded through an area of DC, surrounding people they met, defacing black churches.

In May, militia gangs invaded the Michigan legislature, hoisting their guns in a show of force. In the summer, Proud Boys and Boogaloo Bois rammed truck caravans through Portland Oregon, long guns poking out of windows. Other gangs attacked Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Louisville and Kenosha. People were killed.

Any rational person, listening to Trump, looking at these groups’ social media posts, would have prepared for an attack on January 6.

DC and federal police authorities did not.

DC cops certainly have a long tradition of controlling crowds. Even for an ordinary demonstration—like those calling for action on climate change or protesting the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—they act with military precision and planning.

Not this time. The police might as well have invited the marauding bands to come in and make themselves at home. The DC police, who not very long ago shot up a car with black children in it, gave white hoodlums a pass.

Yes, what happened on January 6 reflects the ever-present official racism of U.S. society. But it was also a signpost, pointing out future dangers.

Whatever Trump does when he leaves the White House, these forces that were part of his support aren’t going away. And the invasion of the Capitol could only have made them bolder.

These gangs may still be marginal today. But they can become a real force, pushing everyone back. These gangs, who want a “white, Christian nation,” target black people, immigrants, Jews, Muslims. They work to get rid of unions today, as the UAW discovered in its organizing campaign in Tennessee. And they rail against communism.

These gangs potentially are a dagger pointed right into the heart of the working class, ready to rip the working class apart. And there is a very real danger that their radicalism will pull a number of white workers, whose lives are deteriorating, to fall in line behind them.

Against a danger like this, we can’t count on the cops or the federal government to protect us. Didn’t January 6 show that? As for the Democrats, listen to Biden and you hear only platitudes, him saying, “This isn’t what America is.” Yes, this IS what capitalist America is—and has long been.

There is only one answer that can serve all of us in the period of crisis we live through today—and that is for working people to fight to improve their situation, not at the expense of other working people, but taken out of the hide of the capitalist class that exploits us all.

The only force in this society that has the capacity to do that, to lead the way to a decent future for all of us, is the working class. Its central role in production gives it the possibility to carry on a real fight against the capitalist system, to start the work of building a new one, that is, to attract to ITS side all those fed up with capitalist society today.

Those who would oppose these racist bands must rest on the capacities that working people have as a class: their own class, made up of all the multitude of workers who produce all the products and services that society needs today.

Remote Learning
—Widening the Social Divide

Jan 18, 2021

The pandemic has been a disaster for education across the country. Like much in this society, its ills do not fall on all students equally.

Remote learning is an isolating experience. Students find themselves cut off from much interaction with their friends and other students. That isolation leads to increased anxiety and depression among students. And it also places an additional barrier between themselves and their teachers, counselors and coaches.

Then, for working-class students, an obvious disadvantage is access to technology. Remote learning requires an up-to-date computer, a good internet connection, and a quiet place to work. Working-class students are more likely to have an older computer. Remote learning means every child needs access to their own computer. Some students are stuck trading off the family computer with their siblings. Students often want to speak in remote class, but hold back because their household is loud—with siblings, family life, or parents who are working remotely at the same time they’re trying to learn.

Older students whose parents perform “essential work” often take on childcare, or must oversee their siblings’ education at the same time as their own. Or if their parents are among the millions who have become unemployed during the pandemic, they may find themselves compelled to take jobs in grocery stores or takeout restaurants in order to fill in the gap in income.

For the millions of children who are homeless, hungry, and without health care, school is often the one place where they feel safe and where they are taken care of. Now, students living in an abusive situation find themselves trapped. One child specialist notes that many abuse reports originate from teachers and other school workers—as she says: “The more eyes watching out for a child, the better off that child is.” And with remote learning, at best, the teacher sees the child through a screen—if they see them at all.

Of course, the wealthy are able to solve problems with their money. They organize socially distanced learning pods, hire tutors. They even hire personal teachers—many of whom have quit their jobs, either out of frustrations with remote learning, or feeling at risk in person.

This society is awash in money—but very little is being put toward maintaining the education of working class students during this deadly pandemic.

Page 12

If Only There Were A Vaccine Against Capitalism!

Jan 18, 2021

The following is translated from the January 4 workplace newsletter of the French revolutionary group Lutte Ouvrière.

The questions raised by the Covid-19 vaccination drive show how capitalism and the pursuit of profit contaminate everything, including humanity’s greatest conquests.

The invention of vaccines was a leap forward that is widely recognized. Smallpox has disappeared. Poliomyelitis, which has lifelong consequences, has been virtually eradicated. In Africa, the Ebola disease is expected to be stamped out thanks to the vaccine developed by scientists, who now dream of developing vaccines against cancer.

And yet in France, where more than 64,000 people have died from COVID-19, over half the population is said to be reluctant to be vaccinated, despite the threat of a third epidemic wave. We are therefore in the absurd situation where an additional tool to contain this harmful epidemic is available, but many people are reluctant to use it.

The government says it regrets people’s mistrust, but it is actually using that mistrust to clear itself of responsibility. They keep repeating that “it’s the population’s fault”! But whose fault is it, if not the government’s? It has mismanaged the crisis for the past year, mixing irresponsibility with outright lies. Who is responsible for the ridiculously slow rate of vaccination, if not the government? Macron may pretend to be angry, but he is the one primarily responsible for the inadequate preparation!

As for the lack of trust in the COVID-19 vaccine, it is partly due to the fact that the pharmaceutical laboratories and capitalist companies that designed it attend to their shareholders before they attend to us.

The task of vaccinating three or four billion human beings is a bonanza that guarantees years of profit for shareholders. No laboratory could resist the temptation of financial gain, and they all joined the race to see who among them, Pfizer, Moderna, Sanofi or AstraZeneca, would hold the first clinical trials and whose vaccine would be approved first. When Pfizer and BioNTech announced the promising results of their vaccine, their stock market value soared, allowing Pfizer’s CEO to cash in several million dollars.

They carry out their maneuvers in complete financial opacity. How much have governments spent to help vaccine research and production? How much do they pay per dose? What is the cost price? What is the laboratories’ margin? Confidentiality clauses prevent the population from knowing the answers to these questions! One thing is sure, the pharmaceutical groups that are first on the vaccine market will also lead the stock market race.

Since the tainted blood scandal and the Mediator and Depakine drug scandals, we know that pharmaceutical companies will unhesitatingly lie about their products, going as far as poisoning patients to continue to make profits. These companies don’t deserve our trust!

We need to suppress trade secrecy which makes it illegal for employees to divulge information concerning the products they work on. Researchers, laboratory technicians, manufacturing workers, transporters, nurses and doctors must be allowed to expose the problems and dysfunctions they come across, without running the risk of losing their job or being submitted to any kind of pressure.

Only working people can control the pharmaceutical industry by imposing transparency at all stages of the vaccine manufacturing chain. They have no other interest than that of public health. Imposing an efficient control of this kind is the bare minimum.

Those who accept vaccination will be expressing their trust in the scientists, doctors, pharma workers and technicians who make the vaccines—not in the multinational companies and the governments that bow down to them.

In our everyday consumption of goods, we have no choice but to accept the conditions imposed by capitalist firms like Dannon, Nestlé, Renault, etc. But we place our trust in the workers and engineers who manufacture these goods. We trust their professional skills and dedication, not the greed and irresponsibility of shareholders.

That some people may be reluctant to receive a COVID-19 vaccination is indicative of how capitalist greed can undermine the efforts of thousands of researchers and the most promising scientific discoveries. It sheds light on the cost society has to pay when it leaves entire sectors of the economy, including the vital health sector, in the hands of groups that only believe in competition and profit-making.

For vaccination, as for everything else, the future depends on the ability of workers to wrest the major means of production from the hands of capitalists and put them to work for the general public. The best possible New Year’s wish for 2021 is for this idea to spread among all working people.

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