The Spark

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

Issue no. 1128 — April 26 - May 10, 2021

Chauvin Convicted of George Floyd’s Murder

Apr 26, 2021

Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin is now in jail for killing George Floyd, convicted on all 3 counts of murder and manslaughter.

For many who witnessed the killing, there may have been a sense of relief that, for once, a cop was held at least partially accountable for killing a black man.

But this conviction changed nothing in the way the police will continue to function in this society.

Even during the trial, when you would expect the police to be on their best behavior, murders by cops didn’t even slow down. During the days of the trial, police killed an average of three people every day in this country, which is equal to the average of the 1,000 people killed every year by police. While the trial was going on, Daunte Wright was killed by cops 10 miles away from the courthouse. At the very moment that the verdict was being announced, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot 4 times and killed by a cop in Columbus, Ohio. The day after the verdict, cops shot and killed Andrew Brown, Jr., an unarmed black man, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Killings by cops continue, day after day. How could it be otherwise? The role of the police in this capitalist society has always been to control the population, to enforce vast inequality. That means they use violence against the population.

In the South, police forces developed out of the slave patrols that were used to catch and brutalize runaway slaves. In the North, the first large-scale police forces were organized to break strikes and attack striking workers. The role of the police has always been to support and maintain the exploitation of the laboring population.

About half of the people killed by police are white men, almost all of them from the working class. This number is mostly proportionate with the number of whites in the population.

But in this society founded on slavery and deformed by the racism that was institutionalized by it, black men are killed by the cops at three times the rate of white men. The repression and violence by the police fall most heavily on the black population, often the most exploited section of the working class.

The exploitation of the whole working class is increasing today, our standard of living is being lowered, the disparity of the wealth between rich and poor is growing. In this situation, the violence of the cops in working class neighborhoods, especially the black neighborhoods, is increasing.

The videotaped murder of George Floyd sparked millions of people to go into the streets in protest, something that we haven’t seen in this country in many years. The protests were a culmination of anger, not just about this one murder, but also anger about all the other people, especially black people, who were killed by cops before George Floyd.

There is no doubt that these protests in the streets directly led to Chauvin being convicted and sent to jail. It seems clear that the authorities, fearing more protests, worked to get Chauvin’s conviction. Chauvin became the scapegoat for the system that uses violence against the population every single day.

Is this a system that can be reformed with some changes, as some politicians would want us to believe? Of course not! A system where it took millions of people in the streets and months of protests, just to get one cop convicted, cannot be reformed. If one young woman hadn’t been there and had the courage to videotape the murder of George Floyd, would Chauvin even been put on trial?

By unanimously voting to convict Chauvin, the jury proclaimed that George Floyd’s life mattered. But it does not represent “justice”. We will have a just society only when the working class finds the way to throw out a capitalist system that sends the police against the population in order maintain its exploitation.

Pages 2-3

Ford Makes a Show on Vaccinating

Apr 26, 2021

If Ford actually cared to see us vaccinated, they wouldn’t be asking people to come to Gate 4 Fitness Center on their own time, and also not offering it to family members. Vaccinations are now more available elsewhere, closer to home.

It would make more sense to park mobile clinics on-site or do it in Medical. Have them available for all three shifts and relieve people so they can go, like they do for blood drives.

They should be making it as easy as possible for workers who want to get vaccinated. After all, it’s a damn pandemic!

U.S. Supreme Court Issues a Barbaric Ruling

Apr 26, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing judges to sentence juveniles to life without parole. The case they were considering in making their decision was that of Brett Jones, from Mississippi, who was 15 when he stabbed his grandfather to death. His grandfather found him with his girlfriend in his bedroom and the two had argued before the stabbing.

With this decision, the current justices effectively overturned a previous Supreme Court ruling from 2012 banning mandatory sentencing of life without parole by judges without taking the defendant’s age into account. A later Supreme Court decision, in 2016, said the 2012 decision should be applied retroactively. It was those two decisions, in fact, that eventually allowed Brett Jones to appeal his current sentence of life without parole before the Supreme Court.

Since 2012, 32 states in the U.S. have changed their laws regarding sentencing of juveniles to life without parole, although 26 states still allow for that possibility, and others allow for long sentences that virtually amount to the same thing. The number of prisoners serving life without parole who were sentenced as juveniles dropped from around 2,500 in 2012 to 1,465 today.

Every other country in the world besides the U.S. recognizes sentencing of juveniles to life without parole for what it is—barbaric! The United States is the only country in the world that allows such sentencing. In fact, the United Nations banned the practice in 1989 in its Conventions on the Rights of the Child, and the U.S. and Somalia are the only two member countries that refused to ratify them.

Every other country recognizes what most people know and what scientists have confirmed, that adolescent brains are not fully developed and have less impulse control. Life without parole completely eliminates the possibility for young offenders to be rehabilitated. Many of those who have benefitted from having their sentences reviewed since the 2012 and 2016 decisions have shown they could be rehabilitated and become productive members of society.

Sentencing of juveniles to life without parole is a symptom of a judicial system that favors the wealthy over the working class, poor, and minorities. A 2012 study by The Sentencing Project showed that prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life without parole were more likely to have witnessed violence in their homes regularly, grow up in public housing, been enrolled in special education classes, have not attended school at the time of their offense, and been physically abused. Most girls reported histories of physical and sexual abuse. Black juveniles were more likely to receive the sentence for killing a white person than a white juvenile was for killing a black person.

In the face of the Derek Chauvin convictions, the Court made a clear demonstration that there will be no change to the American system of “injustice”—if the Supreme Court has anything to say about it!

The Auto Chip Crunch

Apr 26, 2021

A recent court case about microchip supply exposed the crazy world of auto industry subcontracting.

The big automotive companies like Ford, GM, and Chrysler (now Stellantis) have created ever more layers of contractors in their never ending demand for cheaper labor, down to absolute rock bottom. It’s called “lean manufacturing.”

Complicating this supply chain is the “just-in-time” supply method. Subcontracted parts are computer-coordinated so that there are no warehouse expenses, no stocking of supplies. Parts are loaded on trucks at the supplier and delivered “just-in-time” to the loading docks for vehicle assembly. The companies calculate that the costs of the occasional late truck, due to traffic jams or storms, will be less than the savings they get from not using warehouses.

This extreme cost-cutting results in a supply chain always at the point of breaking at any vulnerable point—and the vulnerable points are many!

Today, stresses of the COVID-19 epidemic, plus storms in Texas, plus a factory fire in Japan, suddenly resulted in an extreme shortage of semiconductor microchips. Chip makers routed their scarce supplies to the highest-profit buyers—the computer and consumer electronics industries.

The auto industry, with electronics built into everything, was left out in the cold. It started to shut down. Workers at assembly plants were laid off for a week—then another week—then another. Even the highest-profit vehicles could not run full schedules.

The resulting pressure for chips is enormous. One mid-level supplier actually tried to sue to get more chips! JVIS-USA sued in federal district court to force the Dutch company NXP Semiconductors to put shipments to JVIS ahead of everyone else, so that a Jeep plant in Detroit would not shut down.

JVIS, you see, makes a computerized heating/air conditioning module that they ship to Mayco Industries, which puts it in instrument panels that Mayco then ships to Stellantis’s Jeep plant. No chips, no module, no panel, no Jeep!

It’s extra crazy because JVIS doesn’t even buy the chips directly. Layers and layers of other subcontractors have to work on them first!

The judge threw the case out. NXP said their Texas plant was doing the best it could. They said JVIS “ordered a box of cereal, and we are shipping it to them one cornflake at a time.”

The judge said she had no grounds to favor one company over another because “there’s really a drought of the semiconductors that are needed.”

The situation is really comical for all but the investors, who are furious that their flow of profits is smaller, and the executives, whose bonuses depend on pleasing the investors. But hey. They brought it on themselves. It’s their very own system—one big tangled mass of crazy.

Breathing Polluted Air Day After Day

Apr 26, 2021

Over 4 of 10 people living in the U.S., or 135 million people, breathe polluted air, according to the American Lung Association.

Smog and soot are the main sources of air pollution. Both smog and soot can contribute to many very serious health issues, which include asthma and other lung diseases, respiratory infections, heart diseases, and reproductive and developmental issues. This air pollution is a particular threat to the elderly, children and those who already have lung and heart problems.

The burden of living with unhealthy air is not shared equally. Working people are more than three times more likely to breathe the most polluted air than are wealthy people, as the report implies.

So, we are getting sick slowly or rapidly, but surely, day by day, by breathing the polluted air created by capitalist industry in pursuit of profit.

The Working Class Pays the Taxes

Apr 26, 2021

At least 55 of the largest companies in the U.S. paid no taxes last year although they reported billions of dollars in profits, according to an analysis done by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. These companies include FedEx, Nike, Dish Network, Salesforce, Archer-Daniels-Midland and Consolidated Edison. Twenty-six of the companies listed were able to avoid paying any federal income tax for the last three years even though they reported a combined income of 77 billion dollars.

Not only that, but several companies got a total of $3.5 billion in tax rebates last year. That is, these companies got money from the government on top of their complete freedom from paying any taxes!

Amazon, one of the largest companies in the world, is another striking example of how much these companies skate, paying few if any taxes. Amazon’s profits surged to $20 billion last year as people shifted to shopping online. But the company paid just 9.4% of its profits in federal corporate income taxes. That low amount is actually a whole lot more than what it paid before. In 2018 it paid zero taxes, and in 2019 it paid less than one percent of its profits in federal taxes.

The difference, of course, is made up by all the taxes paid by the working class.

Pages 4-5

Adam Toledo Killing:
Violence and More Violence

Apr 26, 2021

On March 29, a Chicago cop chased 13-year-old Adam Toledo down an alley at 2:30 in the morning before shooting him dead.

The bodycam video shows that Toledo had his empty hands raised as he was shot. The head of the Chicago police union still called the shooting “100% justified” because the cops say Toledo had a gun in his hand that he threw away at the last second. But the argument over whether or not this shooting was “justified” misses the fact that if this cop was not sent to chase him down and provoke an “armed confrontation,” Adam Toledo would still be alive.

And Toledo is not alone. Just two days after he was killed, Chicago cops chased 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez, though they haven’t said why. Again, they shot him dead on the street, after they claim he pulled a gun.

Police always justify killings like these by the violence of the streets. And it’s true that in places like Adam Toledo’s Little Village, there is plenty of violence. Who can be surprised by that, given the poverty of so many of Chicago’s black and Latino neighborhoods? Huge numbers of young people are thrown out, offered barely an education, with few if any jobs on offer.

This society’s basic functioning creates the poverty that breeds violence. It cannot offer 13-year-olds like Adam Toledo a real future.

Instead, this society’s only answer to the violence it creates is more violence, more men with guns chasing children down dark alleys—except this time with the authority of the police.

Dental Care for Seniors Limited in Chicago

Apr 26, 2021

Since dental coverage is not included in Medicare benefits, finding dental care can be a daunting task for unemployed seniors.

In Chicago, you can’t find dental insurance with decent coverage at a price that isn’t sky high.

Over the last several years, many dental offices have converted to “Smile” centers that specialize in providing expensive “smile makeovers” to high income customers.

Basic dental work like cleaning, cavity repair, and periodontal maintenance are not as profitable and take a back seat to cosmetic procedures.

One Illinois HMO plan requires the patient to pay 70% of teeth deep cleaning and crown procedure costs. So all you get for your insurance premiums is a discount on the total cost!

And once you sign up, there are a lot of hoops to jump through.

It’s hard to find a dentist close by that accepts the plan, since most dentists only accept higher income patients who can pay for more expensive insurance and more extensive dental procedures.

Once you have paid for the HMO plan, it isn’t until the following month that service is available to you. You can’t set up an appointment or get service until you are listed on the monthly “roster” of HMO patients accepted for service. If your name doesn’t appear on the “roster” for some reason, you can be denied service for that month. HMO patients also must contend with long wait time for appointments.

But this plan and some others like it are the only options for many low-income seniors.

Chicago’s Pandemic Money
—Either Way, the Banks Win

Apr 26, 2021

Biden’s latest pandemic bailout is sending 1.9 billion dollars to the city of Chicago for “pandemic relief.” How will Chicago’s City Council spend the windfall?

The economic collapse in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic left the city $965 million dollars short in its 2020 and 2021 budgets. Mayor Lightfoot covered the shortage by taking out loans from banks—what they often call “scoop and toss,” or “kicking the can down that road.” They make up for the shortfall now by borrowing, and promising to pay it back to the banks later—with plenty of interest, of course! By paying down that debt, Lightfoot’s proposal would save the city from handing millions in interest payments over to the banks.

Some aldermen on the City Council object. They say, wouldn’t it be a shame to just use the bailout to balance the city budget?

So the debate is: Do the banks get a lot of our money now? Or even more of our money later! It’s a win-win, for them—as it always is, under capitalism.

Blues Settle Suit
—Individuals Shouldn’t Expect Much

Apr 26, 2021

The national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association settled a lawsuit filed against it for prohibiting individual state Blue Cross plans from competing in another state. The total amount of the settlement was about 2.7 billion dollars. Blue Cross of Michigan will be on the hook for about 125 million dollars of that.

Some of the money will go to fully insured individuals, some to small and medium sized businesses, and some to large companies with self-funded insurance plans, like GM.

If you’re a fully insured individual, don’t expect a huge amount. About 30% of the settlement money will go to lawyers fees. BCBSM insures six million people around the state. While the number who are fully insured is certainly much less than that, it’s not likely individuals will get much out of it.

In the end, this is a fight between the big Blues plans around the country, like Anthem, to be able to go into other states and undercut the smaller Blues plans for contracts. Anthem already controls the Blues plans in 14 states. Ultimately, this will end up with greater concentration in the health insurance industry.

The Shelter Shuffle Is No Solution to Homelessness

Apr 26, 2021

Countless number of people are being left penniless and homeless by Los Angeles’ sky-high housing costs and minimal wages. Homeless can be seen throughout the city.

So, when Los Angeles riot police cleared the homeless people out of the Echo Park encampment of 200 tents filled with more than 300 people, the L.A. city officials and politicians promised that every person living in the encampment would get accommodations.

However, the city funneled only 180 into shelters and motels. And most of those were bounced around from one motel to another. Others were kicked out of the motels and soon found themselves on the streets all over again.

Only one person of the hundreds in the encampment was able to get permanent subsidized housing. In the end, the city’s promises to find some form of shelter for everyone were completely empty.

This is exactly how city officials have handled the entire homeless crisis so far. Last year, city officials claimed that they “housed” 20,690 people, who had been homeless. But, according to city officials, if a homeless person stays with someone for more than 3 days, that person is “housed.” If a homeless person moves from one temporarily subsidized unit to another, that person is “housed.” If the city purchases a bus ticket for a homeless person to leave town, then that person is “housed.”

As such, the city’s numbers of people “being housed” is nothing but a sham.

Los Angeles Schools Reopen ... Sort of

Apr 26, 2021

On April 13, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) opened the doors of 61 elementary schools and 11 early education centers to students—after a complete shutdown for more than a year. District officials are promising that all of the district’s 1,400 campuses will be opened by the end of May.

The problem is, no reasonable person can call what’s going on a “reopening” of schools. Children are in class for only three hours, from 8 to 11 a.m. There is after-school care until 4 p.m.—but that is also less than what schools offered before the pandemic, when after-school supervision went until 6 p.m.

No wonder that, in the schools that have opened, a big majority of the parents have opted to continue with “remote learning.” Many parents mentioned the risk of students bringing the virus home as a reason for their decision not to send their children back to school.

There is no doubt that district officials could have done a lot more, especially since the district is supposed to be getting $5 billion in extra state and federal funding, specifically for making the schools safe to open. Instead, district officials have come up with a plan that’s nothing but a show, and a short one at that—the school year is ending in less than two months.

A large majority of the LAUSD’s 465,000 students are from working-class families, and 80% qualify as low-income. For most of these working-class students, they are condemned to school via the internet, which has simply meant getting no education for a whole year. LAUSD’s so-called “reopening” plan guarantees that working-class children will continue to be cheated of an education.

Washington, D.C.:
Wage Theft in Construction

Apr 26, 2021

Nearly half of construction workers on commercial sites in Washington, D.C. interviewed recently by a labor group were either paid in cash or by check without the required payroll deductions or benefits including overtime rates, the group reported. In D.C., particularly in drywall, mechanical, and electrical work, bosses hire many immigrants through labor brokers who do not treat workers as regular employees. One worker from Mexico said she complained to her boss about being paid under the city’s minimum wage and he replied, “We don’t owe you an explanation. You can take the work at the rate we pay or get out.” A worker from El Salvador said he was told he could only cash his paycheck at a certain store in the suburbs, which charged a two percent fee.

As there are at least 15,000 construction workers in the city and 45 construction cranes operating, the problem is big. The billionaires are pocketing huge fortunes on the backs of those who raise the buildings.

Pages 6-7

What’s Behind the U.S. Trade War with China?

Apr 26, 2021

The following is taken from a SPARK presentation given on April 18th:

In 1949, China made its own nationalist revolution against the various powers dominating, controlling and strangling its national economy, the most notable of which were powers like the U.S., Japan, Great Britain and France. So, the U.S. and the other big imperialist powers tried to strangle the Chinese revolution and economy by cutting it off from most world trade and investment.

To survive, the Chinese state nationalized big parts of the economy and invested heavily in building up its basic industrial infrastructure. Instead of profits going to shareholders, they poured back into developing more industry. In a period of less than 40 years, China went from being primarily a peasant country, to a country with a very large working class of hundreds of millions in huge factories, mainly in the coastal zone that extends from Hong Kong to Beijing. At the same time, the rest of China remained agricultural, farmed essentially by peasants using little technology. All during this time, U.S., Japanese and European companies were blocked by their own governments from coming in to make profits in China.

By the early 1970s, the U.S. government began to change its policy toward China. This opening was symbolized by U.S. president Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. China’s huge population of 554 million, the largest in the world, in 1949 was nearly 4 times larger than that of the U.S., which stood at 149 million then. For the U.S. capitalists, the aim was first of all to exploit and profit from China’s enormous working class, as well as gain entry into the Chinese domestic market.

Gradually, the U.S. and other big imperialist powers got China to open up its economy to foreign investment, that is, to Western (and Japanese) capital investment—including to U.S. companies like GM, Ford, Motorola, Procter and Gamble, GE, Apple, etc.

China Becomes Imperialism’s Workshop

As a result of opening up that door, China developed primarily as the workshop of the world in the 1990s and 2000s, especially for imperialist countries like the U.S. The U.S. localized some of its production of goods in China with its low wages and nearly inexhaustible workforce, the largest in the world. Today the industrial workforce alone stands at 260 million workers, out of a total workforce of close to 800 million.

U.S. businesses have made comfortable profits by subcontracting their work to China or by integrating Chinese-made products into the U.S.’s own products. Companies like Walmart import goods made in China. Companies like Apple use the Chinese working class to assemble components produced all over the world. When Apple sells iPhones that are “Made in China,” the profits don’t go to China, but primarily to capitalists in the West, mainly in the U.S., who hold controlling shares in Apple.

We are told that foreign competition with China and other countries has undercut U.S. manufacturing, when the reality is that the manufacturing process in China is dominated by U.S., Japanese and European companies—but above all, the U.S. U.S. capitalism has spread its tentacles all over the world—all through other parts of Asia, especially China. U.S. companies dominate the global supply chain and global assembly line.

Yes, Apple iPhones that are sold all over the world might be stamped with a “Made in China” label. But their design, development, marketing and software are all carried out in the U.S. And some of its most expensive parts, such as the processors, are also made in the U.S. Most of the revenue and profits stay in the U.S. with U.S. capitalists. “Made in China” just means that is where final assembly took place, the least profitable part of the operation.

Even cell phones made by Chinese companies, such as ZTE and Huawei, also use the same U.S.-made processors, the guts of the cell phone. So, U.S. companies still grab a big part of the profits from many products that are made by Chinese workers at Chinese companies as well.

U.S. Policy: Integrate and Contain China

During the 1990s, United States policy consisted of integrating China into international institutions the U.S. controlled—like the World Trade Organization. George W. Bush codified U.S. policy toward China as something called “congagement,” a strategy combining containment and engagement. That meant the U.S. was going to invest in China, that is, “engage,” but it was also going to limit what China could do and how much value it could take from production carried out in China, and above all, that China should be “contained” under terms that continue to benefit U.S. capitalists.

The Obama administration in fact toughened the “containment” part of this double aim under the name of a “strategic pivot to Asia,” notably through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This “pivot” continued to recognize China as a relatively powerful state, all the while reinforcing the United States’s weight in the region through trade and military partnerships with China’s neighbors and economic rivals, including Japan, Vietnam and India. It was a way to ring China, to build a wall, so to speak, around China—not preventing its development, from which U.S. companies were first to profit, but to set boundaries for it.

The U.S. has not only set up trade pacts with China’s neighbors and rivals. It has also sent in warships, part of the Seventh Fleet, into the South China Sea and near Taiwan, as demonstrations of force, under the guise of keeping shipping lanes open and upholding international law. These U.S. naval vessels are within 12 nautical miles of some of China’s territories.

In response to the U.S. military show of force, every so often the Chinese state has sent its naval vessels and fighter jets into the zone. But for us in the U.S., there are banner headlines and pronouncements on national news that it is China threatening OUR national security! They make it sound as if Chinese warships were 12 miles off the coast of Key West—when, in fact, its ships are eight thousand miles away.

Under Trump, with the economic crisis and general slowdown of the economy, the U.S. stepped up its pressure against China, making a point not only of engaging in a trade war, but by making a big show of announcing it in order to force the Chinese government to make certain concessions. Trump began his campaign in January of 2018 with the rise of import taxes on over 1000 Chinese products, from steel and aluminum, that is, the basic building blocks of basic industry, to consumer items like washing machines, solar panels and LED lighting.

But Trump’s tariffs produced a huge mess. U.S. manufacturing companies that use imported steel and aluminum then flooded the U.S. Commerce Department with 20,000 applications for product exemptions from tariffs, claiming that they couldn’t get their specialty steel or aluminum from anywhere else.

Other large U.S. companies, from semiconductor chip makers to diesel engine manufacturers, also lodged complaints with the Commerce Department about suddenly having to pay tariffs on their own products.

Amping Up the Conflict

In all the conflicts so far, whether diplomatic, or military, or part of a trade war, announced or quiet, the U.S. has been careful, up to now, not to let it go to a shooting war. But this conflict continues.

The trade war against China may have amped up under Trump. But the trade war continues today under the Biden administration. You can hear it on nightly news, in daily newspapers, at White House press conferences, and in widely publicized cabinet meetings of the Biden administration. There has been unrelenting coverage painting China as the main threat to the U. S., and verbal threats from the U.S. In the words of Biden’s press secretary: “We won’t rule out any action.” Or his Secretary of State: “It’s never a good bet to bet against America.” When a country as powerful as the U.S., with its vast military, uses this kind of rhetoric, it’s an open threat.

Be careful, however. I am not predicting there is going to be a shooting war—I am certainly not saying tomorrow. But there’s a logic to this situation and the proof of it is the rhetoric/propaganda directed against China, and events can develop faster that we realize.

The U.S. government is already preparing us for the idea of a clash with China. For Trump, even the coronavirus was Chinese, and the pandemic was an act of war! Now, Biden’s readiness to sign on to the anti-Chinese policies of Trump, even if not all the extravagant language, shows that the talk about China was not only a way to hide Trump’s regime’s obvious inability to fight the spread of the virus, it’s also a way for us to blame other people for the loss of jobs here.

The Enemy Is Right Here

We are told, over and over again, the reasons for the tremendous gutting of jobs, especially in certain sectors of the economy, like manufacturing, is because of foreign competition. And in this time period, the enemy is supposed to be China. In an earlier period, it was Japan.

It’s true that 5.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost in the U.S. in last 30 years, from January 1989 to January 2018. But it is ludicrous to attribute this drastic drop in manufacturing jobs to foreign competition. In that same time period when jobs here were lost, industrial production in the U.S. increased by 60%, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve. With this kind of increase there should be more jobs, not fewer. But there aren’t. If workers had taken their share of this increased production, more people would be working many fewer hours for more pay—maybe 25 hours a week, and maybe $100,000 in wages. Enough value was created out of this extra production to allow this to happen.

But over this past 30 years, workers haven’t fought to keep the benefit of their increased labor for themselves.

Today there are millions fewer workers in the U.S., producing substantially more, creating much more wealth for U.S. companies and the capitalist class. That’s the problem. Not China.

Trump made a big deal about supposedly saving steel workers’ jobs, whose numbers dropped by 400,000, or 75% between 1962 and 2005. But what he covered up was that steel shipments did not decline, according to a study published in the American Economic Review in 2017. No, what changed was a new technology called the minimill, which allowed the steel companies to push one worker into doing the work done by 5 workers 43 years before. Other studies have shown that there have been similar increases in productivity in other sectors, such as computers and electronics manufacturing. Even textile manufacturing, which was also said to have migrated out of the country, has been transformed in the U.S. into a high tech industry producing enormous amounts of expensive, specialty fabrics with many fewer workers.

So it’s not foreign competition that is taking U.S. jobs, but U.S. companies right here in this country that are eliminating manufacturing jobs. And these same U. S. companies have further capitalized on these job losses by using them to threaten those still working with the loss of jobs, getting them to accept lower pay, less benefits, longer work hours, less security—just in order to keep a job. So rather than competing against foreign workers, workers here are really competing against themselves. This capitalist system does everything in its power to drive down wages and increase its profits.

And during this period of the economic crisis IT created, the capitalist class is using protectionism as a pretext to heighten workers’ exploitation and to lower wages and raise prices, all in the name of competitiveness—in this case its victims in the trade wars are workers in both China and the U.S.

The capitalist class here, and their politicians, want workers to be mad at workers in China, or Mexico, or Japan, or wherever, rather than understand it is our own U.S. capitalist bosses here—who extract every ounce of value they can, out of the labor of U.S. workers.

The Working Class Is International

U.S. capitalism is a part of an international capitalist system, where it sits on top, draining profit out of the productive forces, the working classes, around the world. But not only capitalism is international. There is a whole international working class in the world.

The Chinese working class is the largest one on the planet. Their class enemy is their own Chinese capitalist class, and their own dictatorial state, as well as all the capitalist classes of all the imperialist countries, like the U.S., that relegate the vast majority of China’s population to abject poverty, working for an annual income of $150 or less.

But despite their own repressive government, several years ago Chinese workers knew how to fight for higher wages, at least on a local level.

Fights that the working class makes there can come back and help the working class fight that can be made in this country—and vice versa. But it is the working class of this country that sits in the middle of the most powerful capitalist country in the world, the citadel of capitalism, that system which steals the value of workers’ labor all over the world. And the fact that we sit here gives the U.S. working class the possibility to free itself and the whole world.

Pages 8-9

Workers Confront Armed Gangs

Apr 26, 2021

Trotskyist activists of the Organization of Revolutionary Workers (OTR) active in Haiti reported in the latest issue of their monthly, Workers Voice (La Voix des Travailleurs) how criminal gangs were created and armed by the government.

... Confronted by the criminal gangs’ campaign of terror against the population, President Jovenel Moïse had to respond. But his response showed he is no longer running anything. Faced with the armed gangs’ advance, which brought him to his knees, he made a desperate appeal to the U.S. through the Organization of American States and the United Nations.

“I asked the UN for technical and logistical support for the PNH [Haiti’s national police], in order to combat thuggery in Haiti and to strengthen the poverty reduction program,” he announced in a tweet.

Militias, paramilitaries, and criminal gangs are a permanent fixture in the country’s politics. Given the inability of the ruling classes to meet the demands of the majority of the population, all governments always have resorted to gangs of thugs to grab and hold power. So Moïse is not the first president to use armed gangs to drown the aspirations of the working class and the exploited masses in blood for the benefit of the corrupt political class and the bourgeoisie.

Moïse really turned to the gangs during the economy-paralyzing mass protests in winter 2018–2019 to counter the advance of his political opponents. He encouraged the gangs, financed them, and armed them, to maintain his power. As they evolved, these criminal gangs broadened their field of action by engaging in all kinds of crimes, including trafficking, and selling their services to the highest bidders—aiming to free themselves from the tutelage of the head of state.

With money from kidnapping and selling drugs and weapons, criminal gangs occupy many parts of the country. They are heavily armed and use the residents as shields. They are a real thorn in the side for Moïse, but especially for workers and the exploited masses who suffer their crimes.

Moïse’s appeal to the U.S. government is a diversion. As much as the armed gangs thwart his directives, make his authority look make-believe, and pile ridicule on the police, he has neither the will nor the means to confront them.

But ordinary people have clearly shown a number of times, on the streets and in the media, their desire to go and do battle with the bandits holed up in working-class neighborhoods. They have said loud and clear that the solution will come from their own involvement and from their struggles. They are right. Faced with a rebellious and determined population, even an army cannot resist. But it is not enough to get rid of the gangs, it is also necessary to destroy the political and economic system that gave birth to them.

The Government Is Both Inspirer and Hostage of the Gangs

Apr 26, 2021

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

On April 11, seven Catholic priests including two from France were kidnapped by an armed gang in the suburbs of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.

The gang demanded one million dollars and threatened to assassinate the hostages if the ransom was not paid.

The media in France seemed to suddenly discover, and rage against, the existence of this type of brigandage in Haiti. But this kind of event is not new. The gang, called “400 Mawozo” (400 Losers), doesn’t stand alone. At least a hundred such gangs spread terror in the country, racking up brutal acts—rapes, assassinations, and kidnappings for ransom, not only of rich people but also of poor people who have nothing to give them.

The people are fed up with this terror and have expressed this again and again through demonstrations. On April 3, hundreds of women took to the streets of Port-au-Prince to denounce the violence of these gangs and the inability of President Jovenel Moïse’s government to put an end to these actions. It’s no surprise. For years, successive governments in Haiti have armed the bandits to suppress all opposition with terror and death and help them stay in power. And the leaders of the so-called democratic countries haven’t lifted a finger.

The “Forever War” Continues

Apr 26, 2021

It’s time to end the forever war,” said President Biden when he formally announced that all 2,500 U.S. troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year.

But in no way is the U.S. finally ending the war it is waging in Afghanistan.

Less Visible, But Just as Deadly

The Pentagon and U.S. spy agencies make clear that they intend on continuing this war long after the troops leave. These agencies are “refining plans to deploy a less visible but still potent force,” confirmed the New York Times (April 15).

The U.S. military has a lot more forces in Afghanistan than just the troops that are being removed. These forces include special operations and CIA paramilitaries, who operate under a total veil of secrecy, which is an advantage for U.S. policy makers. Besides that, the U.S. has an unknown number of trainers and technicians. Combat forces from other agencies and departments—like the DEA, State Department and FBI—operate under the guise of battling drugs, human trafficking and corruption. These forces may remain and also be beefed up.

Added to that are all the private contractors operating in Afghanistan. Currently, the private contractors outnumber soldiers 7 to 1. As U.S. troops are withdrawn, the private contractors’ role will most likely grow. This is confirmed by the fact that 54 different defense companies are right now advertising job openings in Afghanistan, looking for technicians to do everything from intelligence analysis and “terrorist” targeting to air conditioning repair.

The U.S. military also has massive military forces that have been targeting Afghanistan from outside the country. These include dozens of squadrons of manned attack aircraft and drones stationed on land bases and on aircraft carriers in the surrounding countries, and hundreds of cruise missiles on ships and submarines.

The “War on Terror” Backfires

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is almost two decades old. How did the U.S. military get bogged down in such a “forever war” from which it can’t extricate itself?

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, a brief but powerful U.S. attack was supposed to demonstrate to the world that the U.S., as the only superpower, was still to be feared.

U.S. policy makers chose Afghanistan as the target for this demonstration because it appeared to be an easy target. It was one of the poorest countries on earth, and had already been devastated by 22 years of war and destruction, thanks to previous U.S. interventions.

When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, U.S. officials had assured the public that it would be out in a few months, that the U.S. was not in the business of “nation-building.”

In the first weeks of the war, U.S. forces, with substantial help from its allies that included Iran, easily drove the embattled Taliban government out of Kabul. The war was deemed to be a spectacular success at the time.

But instead of withdrawing, the U.S. expanded its targets to include not just the Taliban, but the Afghan population. The U.S. bombed and destroyed entire villages suspected of harboring the Taliban. To further terrorize the population, U.S. forces carried out systematic night raids, assassinations and mass arrests. At the same time, the Afghan warlords, whom the U.S. government installed as the heads of its new puppet government, used their positions to smuggle, plunder, rob and rape, cloaking themselves in brutal religious fundamentalism.

These attacks provoked the former Taliban and other warlords and tribal chiefs to take up arms against the Afghan government and the U.S. authority. Besides that, because the fighting had left the economy in a shambles, with so many people having lost their land and often their families, it provided a ready mass of people with no other prospects than to join up with local guerrilla commanders.

Thus, the U.S. occupation fed an ever growing cycle of violence and war. The more troops the U.S. military brought in, the more the U.S. bombed, the more U.S. forces created insurgents. U.S. occupiers became mired in an endless tug-of-war, with the Afghan population caught in the middle.

U.S. Escalates the War

The last years of the war have been among the most violent and chaotic. In 2019, the U.S. dropped more bombs on Afghanistan than any other year since the Pentagon began keeping a tally in 2006. According to figures released by the U.S. Central Command, U.S. warplanes dropped 7,423 bombs and other munitions on Afghanistan, a nearly eightfold increase from 2015. After 2019, the U.S. stopped publishing data about how many bombs it dropped.

At the same time, there have been a growing number of assaults by CIA-backed Afghan militia units that roll into villages at night and leave a trail of death and destruction. The units are “responsible for extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, indiscriminate airstrikes, attacks on medical facilities...” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

Total Destruction of Afghanistan

The toll has been truly barbaric. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Millions more suffer the physical effects of the war, not to speak of the mental trauma. The people live in constant fear.

And there’s nothing to live on. The country has been almost completely destroyed. There’s no infrastructure. The education system is horrible. So is healthcare. Even in the capital, Kabul, there is no regular electricity, nor water, food, etc.

And there’s no work. Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, himself admits that 70% of the population lives on a dollar a day. Millions have been driven from their homes. Currently, there are about a million-and-a-half internally displaced people, and another 3 million who have left the country completely, the Afghan diaspora, with many more looking for a way to get out.

With No End in Sight

U.S. imperialism perpetuated endless years of war, first as an example of their military might, and beyond that, to subdue and subjugate the population. Finally, instead, they further destabilized not only Afghanistan, but the surrounding region, something the U.S. military definitely had no interest in doing.

With no viable state, economy, or infrastructure to stabilize the country, the “forever war” will continue, but it will be hidden from the view of the U.S. population.

Pages 10-11

The Dirty Truth about American Democracy:
Impoverishment Enforced by Violence

Apr 26, 2021

The following is the editorial from SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of April 19, 2021.

Even while the trial of the cop who murdered George Floyd was going on, police continued to kill people. Among their victims were Adam Toledo, in Chicago, and Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb.

In Chicago, a gunshot supposedly was picked up by a street-level “listening device.” Cops took off after the first people they found. Adam Toledo was chased down a dark alley by a trigger-nervous cop. Adam ended up shot, dead at age 13, barely out of his childhood. In Brooklyn Center, the cops stopped Daunte Wright, supposedly because he had an air freshener hanging from his rear view mirror. An air freshener! A little four-inch, pine-scented piece of cardboard. Daunte Wright had his life taken from him, dead at age 20.

Neither Adam Toledo nor Daunte Wright would have lost their lives if the cops hadn’t engaged in what they call, “aggressive policing.” In other words, stop people on any pretext, hassle them to see what they do—and shoot if they run or give any resistance to being manhandled.

The U.S. has more people killed by cops in a week or two than many other countries have in a year. Last year, 1,099 people were killed by cops in this country. The year before that, 1,004 killed. No other wealthy country comes close to this, neither in absolute numbers, nor in the rate of people killed compared to the size of the population.

The U.S. also leads the world in putting people behind bars. No other country dumps as many people in prison as does the U.S.; no other country keeps people locked up nearly so long.

Murder by cop and imprisonment—those are simply two sides of the same repressive coin. Both reflect a dirty truth about American “democracy.” It rests on impoverishment, enforced by repression.

The gap between the wealthiest layers of society and the majority of the population is enormous—and it continues to grow. As it does, repression continues to grow. The wealth amassed at one end of society rests on violence directed against the rest of the population. In its unending drive to drain ever more of the value produced by labor, U.S. capitalism requires violence, including the violence of its military, which serves as the world’s cop.

This is the reality that every “reform” of the police comes smack up against. This is the reality that no “oversight” of the police will change, no trial of a particularly murderous cop will overcome.

The cop who killed George Floyd may be convicted of something—and even this isn’t sure. But even if he is, the reality of capitalist society is shown by one fact, and one fact alone: the National Guard is stationed in Minneapolis, not to overhaul the police, but to block people from protesting.

It should be obvious that, in a country born in slavery and marked by racism, repression will fall more heavily on those who suffer all of racism’s injuries and indignities. Black people like Daunte Wright are killed by cops at a higher rate than anyone else. They are more likely to be stopped on invented pretexts like air fresheners. But they are not the only ones. Latino people like Adam Toledo are also killed. So are Native Americans. So are whites who are poor. Roughly half of all those killed by cops are white. There is a lower rate for whites, but this reflects the fact that a significant part of the white population is well off and ordinarily isn’t confronted by cops. But for less well-off whites, police violence is a reality.

Repression does not rest equally on the whole population. The poorer someone is, the more likely that person will end up in prison, or dead, killed by cop—even when they’ve committed no offense.

Official violence, prisons, the military—these are basic aspects of modern-day capitalist society; even more so, of modern-day American capitalism.

People who want an end to all this violence can only aim at and work for the end of this capitalist system that requires violence.

State Condemns Prisoners to Death by COVID-19

Apr 26, 2021

At least one in three prisoners in this country have contracted COVID-19. That is about three-and-a-half times the rate of infection in the population as a whole.

More that 2,700 prisoners have died.

This is according to multiple studies carried out by The New York Times, UCLA, and the Associated Press, among others. All agree that the numbers are undoubtedly even higher because of the lack of testing.

Officials from the highest levels on down have consistently tried to throw the responsibility for the pandemic on individuals. When there have been spikes, the media has been quick to blame families gathering for Thanksgiving or young people celebrating over Spring Break.

But prisoners are literally under the control of the state. Their protection from the virus can only be the state’s responsibility. And it has failed this most basic responsibility.

In doing so, this system has condemned thousands of people to death, when that was not their sentence.

It is this barbaric system that deserves to be condemned.

The Never Ending Story

Apr 26, 2021

Just when it seemed COVID was going away, the numbers have started going up again in Michigan. They have risen quickly since restaurants reopened, more schools opened, and kids’ sports started back.

The science exists to reopen safely. But it requires that the vast wealth of this society be thrown into spending on where it is needed: on rapid testing for all, contact tracing, immediate access to the best treatment for those diagnosed, income for those who must quarantine ... and so much more!

Page 12

Preventing Chokehold by Fellow Cops Gets You Fired

Apr 26, 2021

The New York State Supreme Court recently reversed the firing of a black female officer, Cariol Horne, who tried to stop another cop from using a chokehold on a suspect 15 years before. The ruling reinstates Horne’s pension, back pay and other benefits.

Back in 2006, Horne was called to break up a dispute between a woman and a former boyfriend, Neal Mack, whom she had accused of stealing her Social Security check. The man was arrested and handcuffed.

But, when Mack, who is black, was being removed from his home, Horne intervened when the white officer repeatedly punched the handcuffed man in the face and put him in a chokehold. When the man said, "I can’t breathe," Horne yelled, "Leave him alone."

Horne grabbed the officer’s arm and tried to pull him off the suspect. For that, the 19-year veteran lost her job months before she was eligible to receive her full pension. "Neal Mack looked like he was about to die. So had I not stepped in, he possibly could have. He was handcuffed and being choked," Horne told CBS This Morning in June 2020.

What made these courts, after so many long years of bureaucratic dragging, reverse their decision, finally recognizing Horne’s actions as correct? The judge very clearly wrote about the reason: "Recent events in the national news, including the death last year in the City of Minneapolis of George Floyd, who died from unreasonable physical force being applied for over nine minutes, have sparked national outrage over the use of this practice." That is, because people in large numbers protested against the brutal and deadly force frequently used by the police, the court and the city had to finally change their mind.

The judge even praised Horne: "To her credit, Officer Horne did not merely stand by, but instead sought to intervene, despite the penalty she ultimately paid for doing so."

But, as these events and court decisions show, in the absence of mass protests, the police will resort to this brutal and deadly force as a standard practice. And if you are a reasonable cop trying to prevent this awful practice, you will get fired.

Video Review:
“Where Are the Good Apples?” by Trevor Noah

Apr 26, 2021

“Where Are the Good Apples?” is a powerful April 15th video on by Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show. The topic is the job description that the police are asked to fill in this society.

Trevor explains that the video of the black lieutenant in the Virginia National Guard, being treated like trash by the cops, got him thinking. He realized that when black people go through bad experiences, even murderous experiences, society says these things happen because of “bad apples” in police departments.

Trevor then flips the script. He argues that if the police truly protected and served all of society equally, we would see many “Good Apples” jumping in to stop the “Bad Apples.” “Where are the cops who are stopping the cop from putting the knee on George Floyd’s neck?”

He then points out an argument used to misdirect the population to unconditionally take the side of the police. It is the argument that there IS crime in America and THAT is why police must act with violence.

Trevor says: “Go to any black community, any disenfranchised community in America and you will find people marching against that same crime... You see the community doing something. In fact, they call 911 when something happens, so that tells you something.

“But we don’t see a mass uprising of police saying, ‘Let’s root out these people!’ ... Honestly, I believe we don’t see them, not because there are no good people on the police force.... But I think it is because they themselves know, that if they do something, they are going against the system.

“The system is more powerful than any individual. The system in policing is doing exactly what it is meant to do in America. And that is, to keep poor people in their place.

“Who happens to be the most poor in America? Black people. You monetize them. You imprison them which monetizes them again. It’s a system. It’s not broken. It’s working the way it is designed to work.... We are not dealing with bad apples, we are dealing with a rotten tree.”

He is right! And the goal must be to chop down the rotten tree and build a better system.