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. 1129 — May 10 - 24, 2021

We Need a Lasting Recovery for the Working Class

May 10, 2021

So now, we are supposed to believe that the reason things are so bad is that workers don’t want to work. And that if workers just suck it up and go back to work, the economy will recover and things will return to normal.

What a bunch of bullshit! The news is full of this performance being acted out by those who speak for Wall Street.

Some Republican governors have gone so far as to stop the extra 300 dollars in weekly unemployment benefits that the federal government allows. They claim that the reason workers have not all gone back to work is that we are getting too many handouts.

Democrats are arguing to give the recovery time, saying it will straighten itself out. But remember, the extra unemployment money stops in September. No rent control, no price controls. Small, temporary fixes.

After the bullying and nasty threats of the Republicans, the more moderate approach of the Democrats looks outright revolutionary, right? Wrong. Same old carrot and stick game that was being played before Biden, before the pandemic.

Yes, we are in a world of trouble. Did anyone ever think that it would all end in April by a total recovery where everyone went back to work? Come on. The capitalists claim to be disappointed by the slower than anticipated job growth in April when just 266,000 jobs were added to the economy.

Even if it had been a million, how does that make up for the 8.2 million jobs still disappeared since the beginning of the pandemic! And let’s look at even before that. Only around 6 out of 10 workers able to work have been employed for the past decade. This capitalist system, in its period of decay, is incapable and unwilling to provide work to much more than half of all available workers in what they call “good times.”

The capitalists, the real power brokers in this society, are not interested in full employment. They are interested in profits. They produce for profit. They add and cut jobs for profit. Profit is their only motivator. And they don’t need all of us to keep their profits high. They have always kept an unemployed pool of labor. They have always swung workers back and forth, on and off jobs, paying only for what they need at the moment, keeping wages low.

Have you looked at the stock markets lately? They are flush. The capitalists are making money hand over fist on speculation. They have no intention of creating full employment. Getting people “back to work” in even the insufficient numbers of pre-pandemic times would require them to spend some real money to fix workers’ problems.

Because, of course, no worker in their right mind wants to run back into a work environment full of coronavirus if they have been off. The bosses have done nothing to address that. Millions of workers stayed on their jobs throughout the pandemic. And look what we got for that. Sickness, death, stress and worse health.

No one can leave their children unattended, to hurry back to one or two or three shitty jobs the bosses have given us. They haven’t gotten rid of the virus, so our kids can’t return safely to school.

If they are so concerned about employment, why do they continue to lay off? Why the low wages and “temporary” jobs? Not just in the service industry, where restaurants and entertainment have had to shut down. But in manufacturing.

Getting even a minimal recovery going would require the capitalists to take responsibility and fix the virus pandemic. They want us to believe that getting a vaccine one by one is the only answer, just like masks and washing hands. They know that it is not. They destroyed the public health departments that warned them that a pandemic was unavoidable. Refused to prepare for it. They took apart the wretchedly inadequate hospital and medical systems that we did have before the pandemic. Gutted them for “savings” that went to Wall Street speculation.

They have decided to let the virus run. They have decided not to fully intervene to stop it. The unspeakable tragedy unfolding in India is proof of that. Viruses have no borders and they know that. They have decided to let us live and die with the virus into the future.

The U.S. ruling class has demonstrated that it cannot serve the interests of the population. More than that, they have condemned millions to suffering and misery in their ongoing pursuit of profits at all cost.

They and their spokespersons, those in the leadership of this ongoing debacle, have to be prevented from further decision-making over the population. There are no answers to the profound problems we as workers face until we begin the fight to bring down this for-profit system.

Pages 2-3

“Vaccine Hesitancy”
—An Excuse for the System’s Own Failings

May 10, 2021

In the first week of May, the rate of vaccination in the U.S. dropped to under 2.3 million shots a day, from 3.4 million shots a day in mid-April. Scientists now say it is unlikely the U.S. will ever reach herd immunity. So COVID may become like the flu, returning every year to kill tens of thousands more people.

President Biden’s administration has accelerated a propaganda campaign aimed at convincing people to get the shots: “Now that we have the vaccine supply, we’re focused on convincing even more Americans to show up and get the vaccine that is available to them.” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed black residents of Chicago, saying: “We need to send out the alarm to everyone to make sure that Black South Siders understand: You must get the vaccine. It is safe.”

Once again, this country’s political leaders throw the responsibility for this disaster we continue to live through on each individual, as if it’s up to us to protect ourselves from the virus, as if the main reason only one third of the population has been vaccinated is that people are reluctant to get the shot.

But the reality is that the entire rollout of the vaccine—as with every other part of society’s reaction to this virus—has been a shambles.

When vaccines were first approved, the federal public health authorities handed off responsibility for distributing the vaccine to the states. State public health systems had already been cut to the bone and were overwhelmed dealing with all the other aspects of the disease.

Between 2008 and 2017, the U.S. cut 50,000 jobs in its already woefully inadequate public health system. The government spent trillions to bail out the banks and big companies, not the hospital systems. In the pandemic, health officials had to rely on this country’s system of private hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies.

Many places lack these services. On top of that, each pharmacy, each clinic employs as few people as possible—meaning in most cases there is no one to even answer the phone to make an appointment. Instead, each site set up its own complicated internet sign-up system.

So to get a vaccine appointment took time, internet access, access to the medical system, and means to travel to wherever appointments were available.

Cities have organized some mass vaccination centers and pop-up events—but announced them and set up appointment systems on the internet, again leaving out those without access or who don’t know how to use the internet. These have been again organized mostly through medical centers. In Chicago’s majority Latino neighborhood of Hegewisch, for example, there have been few such events. The president of the local Business Association explained why: “When it comes to Hegewisch, we don’t have an infrastructure. There’s no operating medical center.” How many neighborhoods, how many rural areas are like Hegewisch?

For working people who can get an appointment, there is no requirement that jobs give time off to go to it. And how many employers in this country give no personal days, no sick days at all? No wonder many people have gotten a first shot, and failed to show up for the necessary second appointment.

So of course, those least likely to have good transportation, internet access, health care, and paid days off are also those least likely to be vaccinated—meaning especially black people, Latinos, the rural poor. In fact, vaccination rates reflect class society.

Of course it’s true some people are hesitant to get vaccinated. After the whole disaster of this virus, who can be surprised that some don’t trust this medical system, these drug companies? These same companies that pushed opioids on the population, so they could profit from addiction? The same medical system that already produces a 30 year difference in life expectancy between the richest neighborhoods and the poorest within a city like Chicago?

And with all of these obstacles to getting vaccinated, who even knows how many people would actually refuse if vaccines were readily available, at their home, at their place of work? Until that is done, all the talk of vaccine hesitancy is just an excuse for the system’s own failure.

No, the slowing rate of vaccination is not the fault of individuals who are hesitant. It is the result of capitalism, a system that chases each small profit while systems that require millions are left to fall apart.

WTO Requests Patent Waivers on Vaccines

May 10, 2021

In October of 2020, India and South Africa asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive patent protection for the Covid vaccines. This would have allowed other countries to make more of the vaccine to use for their own populations. So far, most of the vaccines are going to people in the wealthier countries. The governments of the U.S., Britain and the European Union (EU) opposed any such waiver.

On May 5, facing pressure from around the world, Joe Biden finally said that the U.S. government would agree to a temporary, limited waiver of patent protection. Britain and the EU still haven’t agreed to the waiver and any decision by the WTO must be unanimous. Biden’s representative to the WTO said that any such agreement would “take time.”

The WTO won’t even meet again to discuss the issue until next month. And even a temporary waiver of the patent doesn’t solve the whole problem because other countries would still need the technical knowledge of how to produce the vaccine.

So far, the drug companies have been unwilling to share this knowledge. Biden’s announcement said nothing about this issue.

The governments of the U.S., Britain and the EU have been opposing sharing of the patent and the technical knowledge. They have put forward many reasons, but the end result will protect and enhance the profits of the drug companies based in their respective countries. Pfizer and Moderna already made a combined profit of 5.2 billion dollars from their Covid vaccines, in just the first 3 months of the year!

Covid does not respect national borders. As Covid continues to spread and mutate around the world, the populations in the U.S., Britain and the European Union will continue to be at risk. Maybe the capitalist governments in these countries will eventually agree to some limited sharing of patents and the technical knowledge to produce the vaccine.

But 8 months have gone by since India and South Africa first asked for this patent waiver. Since then, tens of millions more people around the world have contracted Covid and over a million more people have died. Only the profits of the drug companies have been fully protected.

The outrageous inhumanity of a capitalist system that puts the profits of a few wealthy corporations before the lives of millions of people cannot be denied. It also cannot be denied that, in the interest of humanity, it is a system that needs to be gotten rid of.

Prices Are Outrageous!

May 10, 2021

The price of gasoline is up. Meat prices are up. Vegetable prices are up. The price of diapers, toilet paper and cereal prices are up. (Or, if you look closely, when the price is the same, the package is smaller!)

Rent prices are up. Prices are up for home buyers. The price of lumber is up for home repairs.

Vehicle price increases show another part of the picture. One researcher described used car prices going up more last month than any time in the last 68 years! New car prices are also up.

The current computer chip shortage is related to vehicle price increases. But the push to use the computer chip shortage to maximize profit for the few at the top better explains the price increases.

If the wealthy want to raise prices, then why should workers suffer because of it? The sensible thing to do is to raise wages automatically whenever prices go up.

Otherwise, with wages that do not stretch far enough, workers change what is in their shopping cart. The food that workers eat becomes less healthy. No worker, no retiree, no disabled person should have to substitute cat food for hamburger!

If you pay attention, you might notice that Democrats, Republicans AND the media are NOT making the problem of prices going up for working people a top priority. The truth is that we, the workers, CAN insist it IS a top priority.

Until our wages go up every time prices go up, the highway robbery will continue. Workers are robbed every day. We are underpaid for the work we perform. Then we are overcharged for what we need to buy. It has to stop!

The power of the working class, organized, is the foot that needs to come down.

Clearly, workers have kept society going during this pandemic. We have every right on the planet earth to defend our standard of living!

Pages 4-5

Murder in California:
A Carbon Copy of the George Floyd Murder

May 10, 2021

In the middle of the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, where police higher-ups themselves were calling Chauvin’s choking of George Floyd unacceptable, 26-year-old Mario Gonzalez lost his life in Alameda, California at the hands of cops—in almost exactly the same way Chauvin killed Floyd.

It can all be seen on video from the cops’ body cameras. Gonzalez appears drunk and incoherent in a city park, but he is calm when he is talking to several cops. Then the cops pile up on Gonzalez, with one of the cop’s knee on Gonzalez’s back for more than four minutes—until the cops end up choking Gonzalez’s life out of him.

As Gonzalez appears to lose his breath, one cop suggests to roll Gonzalez on his side. The cop kneeling on him answers: “I don’t want to lose what I got, man.” It’s a video that’s very hard to watch.

After Gonzales was killed, the official explanation was that Gonzalez had died of a “medical emergency.” The protests and outcry from Gonzalez’s family and other community members finally forced the Alameda Police Department to release the body camera footage NINE DAYS after the incident,

No, the George Floyd murder was not the action of a rogue cop. Every day across the U.S. and especially in poor neighborhoods, cops bully and brutalize poor people, leading to officially sanctioned killings somewhere in the country every single day.

L.A. Latest Solution to Homelessness
—$5,326 a Tent!

May 10, 2021

As homelessness continues to rise in Los Angeles, the city sanctioned the opening of a 120-tent encampment at a parking lot. The program provides two people a 12-foot-by-12-foot space and a tent.

The city has contracted out the staffing and running of the site to Urban Alchemy. The company charges the city a whopping $639,120 a month. That is, $5,326 per tent per month. This is more than double the price of a two-bedroom apartment in the same neighborhood.

The authorities claim that the outrageously high cost is due to the 24/7 staffing required to run this encampment. People who live on the streets for any amount of time quickly lose many basic life skills. It will take 24/7 services to redevelop these skills. And yes, it does cost.

These services are what the city and county governments are supposed to provide. In fact, in 2017 Los Angeles voters agreed to Measure H, a self-imposed tax increase in order to increase services and counseling for homeless people.

Instead, officials are turning over all these services to private companies.

If officials take any action, it is not to house as many people as possible and provide the proper support, but to allow private companies to make easy money in the name of “helping” the homeless.

L. A.:
Companies Dump Their Waste Next to Homeless

May 10, 2021

The City of Los Angeles’s illegal dumping problem is worsening, according to a report released by the city comptroller’s office. In 2019, Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment workers picked up nearly 16,000 tons of illegally dumped waste in public spaces, practically twice as much as in 2015.

Homeless people are usually the scapegoats for this enormous amount of waste on Los Angeles streets. But city investigators found that businesses are responsible for more than 75% of this illegal dumping in order to avoid having to pay waste removal fees. Individuals, but not homeless, were found to be responsible for most of the rest of this dumping.

And city investigators found that businesses often dumped their garbage next to homeless encampments to cover up their illegal dumping and make it easier to blame defenseless people.

The Los Angeles businesses pay very low wages and demand high rents; and lay off people any moment that suits them. And when their workers become homeless because of their actions, these businesses use living spaces of homeless on Los Angeles streets as a cheap dumping ground.

Stealing from Retirees in Michigan

May 10, 2021

Henry Ford Village in Dearborn, Michigan is a large retirement community with over 1,000 units. To live there, seniors and retirees pay fairly high rent, but they also have to put down large deposits that range from tens of thousands of dollars to as much as 350 thousand dollars.

These deposits totaled 112 million dollars. The deposits are supposed to be 100% fully refundable. The company owning Henry Ford Village would hold this money, investing it or accumulating interest on it. When a resident moved out, they would get their deposit back. If a resident died, the deposit would be paid to their family.

But the last couple years, people had trouble getting their deposits back. It seems that Henry Ford Village was running a sort of Ponzi scheme. They would pay people their deposits back using money from the deposits of new residents moving.

And when there were fewer people moving in, the owners claimed they couldn’t afford to pay back the deposits.

Last October, Henry Ford Village declared bankruptcy, leaving former residents and their families due a lot of money.

Now a new company, Sage Healthcare Partners, has bought Henry Ford Village. But, using the bankruptcy laws, they also don’t plan to pay all the deposits back. Residents who already moved out or families of those who died would get zero. Current residents would only get a portion of the deposits back, from 8 to 60%. But it is payable only by how many more years they continued to live there. To get the maximum paid back, they would have to live there another 15 years!

These seniors and retirees will be out of a lot of money that they saved up after working their entire lives. But the laws of this system make this robbery perfectly legal.

L.A. Metro Vaccination:
Again Passing the Buck to Us

May 10, 2021

Metro is complaining that not everybody is getting vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated on our own terms needs planning, and finding and going to a healthcare facility. All this takes from our private time, time that many of us don’t have. It also requires health care knowledge. Metro could have very easily organized the vaccination drive to make all this possible.

For example, Metro could bring the vaccines and the health care staff to our divisions on MTA buses.

Instead, Metro is passing the buck to us, putting it all on us. Blaming others is the manager’s daily task.

The Union Station Oscars

For the Oscars ceremony, Metro bent over backwards several times for the film industry. Metro rerouted the commuters to the east entrance. Bus stops, ride-share and parking were also rerouted for about a month. On the day of the awards, there were street closures.

Metro did all this to accommodate the Oscars at the main entrance of the Union Station.

But they made it a lot harder for commuters, especially the handicapped who have difficulty getting around.

Oscars vs. Vaccination Drive

Metro knows how to organize for the benefit of movie companies and Oscars. But they refuse to organize the vaccination drive that could save a lot of our lives!

Will the Rich Be Taxed?

May 10, 2021

Joe Biden said that he will pay for his economic program by raising taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.

Today, tax rates for corporations and wealthy individuals are the lowest they have been in 70 or 80 years. For the past decades, tax rates for the rich have been reduced on corporate profits, personal income, stock dividends, stock holdings, capital gains and inheritances. And then there are all the tax loopholes written into law, where taxes are reduced even further to the point that many corporations pay no income taxes at all, or even get tax refunds without paying any taxes!

Today, taxes paid by corporations, as a share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), are only about one-fourth of what they were in the 1950s and 60s.

Biden says he will do something about that. So let’s see ... the federal corporate tax rate was about 50% in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. When Trump took over in 2016, it was 35%. Trump’s tax law reduced that to 21%. Biden said he wanted to bring it back up to 28%. When some Republican senators complained that was too much, Biden said well, maybe he could live with 25%.

The personal income tax rate on the richest individuals was over 70% in the 1930s, and was as high as 91% for the top one-tenth of one percent in the 1950s and 60s. But it has been steadily reduced ever since. Today it’s officially about 37%. Biden wants to raise that back to 39.6%. And, of course, whatever the official tax rates end up being, there are so many loopholes for the wealthy and the corporations that they never end up paying the official rate anyway.

In any case, the wealthy classes don’t seem too concerned by Biden’s proposed increases, if they even happen. The richest of the rich never had it so good.

A Small Drop in a Big Bucket

May 10, 2021

Joe Biden laid out his economic plan that calls for more money for infrastructure and social programs. It’s not clear how much of this program will actually be passed by Congress. Biden has said that he is willing to discuss with Republicans who are against spending as much money as he proposed. But even if Biden’s whole program passed as it is, what does it really amount to?

Certainly it does not come remotely close to restoring all of the massive cuts in public spending that have taken place over the last several decades. For years now, the federal and state governments, led by both Republicans and Democrats, have been cutting social spending. Money for education, infrastructure, public health care and social services has been reduced, year after year.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities keeps track of what they call “Non-Defense Discretionary Programs,” basically all government spending on social programs. (Social Security and Medicare are funded separately.) Their statistics show that spending on infrastructure and social programs has been steadily reduced since the late 1970s and reached its lowest recorded level in 2019.

But for most of the population, especially the working class, we didn’t have to see these statistics to know the truth. We have suffered, first-hand, the effects of these cuts in social spending. Schools in working class areas have gotten steadily worse. Roads, bridges, sewer and water systems are failing. The cuts to public health care meant that this system was not prepared and able to deal with the Covid virus, leading to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

Does Biden’s program address these problems? There is no big amount of money to restore public health care programs or fix the public schools. The money Biden proposes for infrastructure is about 600 billion dollars. The American Society for Civil Engineers says that the amount really needed is over 3 trillion dollars, which is 5 times what Biden proposes! Biden’s plan for public spending is a very small drop into a very big bucket.

The money that is really needed is there. For decades, politicians from both parties have drained the money from public services in order to give it to the corporations, the banks and the wealthy in the form of tax cuts, tax breaks, subsidies, grants and giveaways. To get the money that is needed for public services will mean taking it back from the 1%. The politicians who helped them take that money in the first place certainly will not be the ones who do that.

But the working class has the reason to take back that money. And when we use all of our forces, the working class has the power to make the kind of fight that is needed.

Pages 6-7

The Military Stands Ready to Intervene

May 10, 2021

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that an F-15C fighter jet had been placed on high alert status by the California National Guard during the George Floyd protests last spring and summer. Obviously the only purpose of such a mission would have been to terrify and disperse protesters by flying low at window-rattling speeds, with the jet’s afterburners streaming columns of flames.

Ultimately the F-15C fighter jet was never deployed against protesters in California. But the fact that this possibility was even considered pushed several people in the National Guard to contact the Los Angeles Times, which printed the story after viewing documents which verified the claims.

Not surprisingly, Major General David Baldwin, who heads the California Military Department, refused to acknowledge such a mission was ever contemplated. But that didn’t stop General Baldwin from firing a top general and suspending another a few days after the story was published, even though Baldwin continued to deny what he called the “F-15C narrative,” which he labeled a “fictional event.”

That wasn’t the only military mission aimed against the George Floyd protests that Baldwin claimed to know nothing about. Last June, the Los Angeles Times reported the California National Guard had sent two spy planes, an RC-26B reconnaissance plane, as well as a Lakota helicopter, to hover over and monitor small, peaceful protests in the normally sleepy, but affluent Sacramento suburb of El Dorado Hills ... where General Baldwin happens to live!

Five current and former Guard officers with knowledge of the flights expressed their surprise to the Times that the military was engaged in such a way. “El Dorado Hills was the most monitored place in California,” said Dan Woodside, a recently retired Guard pilot who has flown the RC-26B. A current Guard officer, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak about the mission, said, “We hear ‘El Dorado,’ and it’s, ‘What? What the hell is happening in El Dorado?’”

Of course, the civilian authority, run out of the governor’s office, is supposed to be ultimately responsible for the policy of the National Guard in each state. But in both instances, California Governor Newsom’s spokespersons admitted that Newsom had no advance knowledge of what the National Guard was doing—basically, that it acted on its own. All the governor’s office could do afterwards was issue some weak assurances that it was writing stricter rules and regulations to prevent such actions in the future.

This ridiculous use of the military does illustrate something serious: just how quickly the democratic rights that are supposed to be the bulwark of this country can be disposed of, when a few military officials deem it necessary. It shows how easily the military can circumvent, push aside, or ignore the civilian authorities during times of crisis.

This is not an accident. Behind all the political games, the elections and the screen of democracy, there is an armed state apparatus, ready to act on its own in the name of supposedly “safeguarding law and order.” All military personnel are trained to believe that beyond all the political twists and turns, it is up to them to preserve order ... against the working class and most oppressed layers of the population.

And the politicians not only won’t stop this, but most of them will hop on the bandwagon mouthing the usual rhetoric of “patriotism” and “country.”

A Warning to All Workers

May 10, 2021

The following is the editorial from the workplace newsletters of Lutte Ouvrière, the revolutionary group active in France, for the week of April 26, 2021.

In an op-ed article published by the far-right weekly Valeurs Actuelles, some twenty retired generals and more than a thousand military personnel discussed the threat of a putsch in France.

According to them, the country is under threat from “heinous anti-racism,” “Islamism” and “mobs from the projects.” Their conclusion is menacing: "If nothing is done, laxity will continue to spread inexorably in society, ultimately causing an explosion and the intervention of our comrades in the active forces."

To dispel any ambiguity, the co-authors took care to publish their appeal on April 21, 60 years to the day after the Algiers putsch of 1961, which attempted to replace the already authoritarian power of De Gaulle with a fascist dictatorship.

This is not the first provocation from a fringe group of the fascist far-right—and it won’t be the last! But it is also, and above all, a warning to all workers. The article appeared in an old-fashioned magazine and was signed by an unarmed group of decorated reactionaries, but it expressed the opinion of many active soldiers.

Society is wrought with the racist and xenophobic demagogy used by so many politicians. The police and the army, trained to maintain order, are more attuned to this than anyone else. And, unlike politicians who dream of keeping the country in line but are reduced to making speeches, the army and the police have the means to take action.

The military constitutes an organized, disciplined force at the service of the big bourgeoisie’s social order. In the past, they formed the base of all dictatorships, from Mussolini’s Italy to Nazi Germany, from Franco’s Spain to Salazar’s Portugal. Today, from Algeria to Egypt and Myanmar, many countries are in the same situation. The French military’s declaration was meant to remind us of that fact!

Behind the political games, elections and the smokescreen of democracy, there is a state apparatus that is armed and ready to override national institutions in the name of the homeland in danger.

All soldiers are taught that they are the ultimate upholders and guarantors of the Nation. They are trained with the idea that, over and above the ups and downs of politics, it is their job to maintain order by getting rid of those who do not agree with their views. And let’s make no mistake, the authoritarian regime that they would impose would be an attack on all workers!

The present health, economic and social crises have stirred up a lot of anger and revolts. The generals’ critique reminds us that the capitalist class has watchdogs that are ready to bite. It tells politicians that, if they are incapable of ensuring order, the army can do the job!

For the moment, words and saliva are the only weapons they are using openly, but that could change very quickly. As for the politicians, we can’t count on them to protect us!

The only reaction of left-wing leaders was to ask Macron to condemn the generals’ divisive words, as if they didn’t know that he is on the same side of the barricade as these generals. For Macron and for all those in power, the greatest danger is the workers, the poor, the oppressed, who might cease to accept the hardships imposed on them.

In an attempt to minimize the matter, the Minister of the Armed Forces declared, on behalf of the government, that there was no need to worry, since the army has a duty of “neutrality and loyalty” toward political power!

The military know full well that their so-called duty has never prevented a coup d’état and that power belongs to those who are armed.

Far-right leader Le Pen, despite repetition of her democratic and republican beliefs and despite her strategy to reverse the demonization of her party, has warmly welcomed the declaration made by these would-be faction leaders and has called them to join her party!

We must be aware of the danger that threatens us. The big bourgeoisie knows what it wants and will do whatever it needs to obtain it—in spite of the crisis and even if it means compelling workers to go back to the living conditions of decades ago.

To get what they want, the wealthy may have to rely on the army or on the most reactionary political forces, or even on both at the same time. This should convince us that our fate is in our own hands. No one else will fight for our basic rights, starting with the right to exist. But we are strong enough to win if we organize collectively on the basis of our class interests.

It Wasn’t Just Agent Orange

May 10, 2021

During the last week in April, the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter in Fargo, North Dakota, in partnership with the Fargo Air Museum, held a week-long event that included special exhibits on the Vietnam War.

Local Vietnam veterans roamed through the Fargo exhibit. Some were discussing their health struggles with side-effects from Agent Orange, the highly toxic herbicide sprayed over the countryside of Vietnam from 1965 to 1970 by the U.S. Air Force.

Veterans were surprised when they came upon an exhibit: “The Rainbow Herbicides of the Vietnam War Era.” For the first time, they learned that more than one poison was sprayed and for a longer period of time! Chemicals sprayed included Agent Green, Agent Pink, Agent Purple, Agent Blue, Agent White, and finally, Agent Orange. Instead of happening over a 5-year span in one country, chemicals were dropped in Vietnam, Eastern Laos, and parts of Cambodia. And this happened for 11 years from 1961 to 1972. Twenty million gallons worth!

These toxic herbicides contained the chemical dioxin, which is classified as a human carcinogen. It is a chemical that accumulates in the food chain, and finally destroyed millions of acres of forest life and hundreds of thousands of acres of crop lands.

Spraying these chemicals resulted in widespread famine in the Vietnamese population and untold destruction of human life: an estimated four million Vietnamese suffered from their effects.

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers paid the price as well. After all, they drank or showered with the water that was highly contaminated, or used the empty barrels of herbicides as makeshift BBQ grills to prepare their food!

Touting the lie that this war was one to make the world “safe for democracy,” U.S. politicians, starting with President John F. Kennedy, all the way up to Richard Nixon, pitted the U.S. working class against the Vietnamese working class and peasantry.

And U.S. imperialism didn’t think twice about systematically using chemical weapons to destroy a country, and its population, in order to control it.

Companies like Dow Chemical, and other U.S. military contractors, made out like bandits. The populations of that area of the world, and the U.S. soldiers and their families, are still paying the high price for this war.

Pages 8-9

A Revealing Health Tragedy

May 10, 2021

The following is reprinted from Lutte Ouvrière, the journal of the revolutionary group of the same name, active in France.

With 400,000 new infections and 4,000 officially recorded deaths daily, the Covid-19 epidemic is now spreading uncontrollably in India’s big cities and even in the Indian countryside.

The dramatic images of people dying on the sidewalks, and funeral pyres set up in public parks, symbolize this tragedy.

All observers agree in estimating that this massacre is, deliberately or for lack of means, largely underestimated by the central government as well as by the various executives of the states that make up the Indian Union. The real death toll could be 50,000 a day!

One of the most pressing problems is the shortage of oxygen to compensate for situations of respiratory distress. Its production is largely insufficient, especially since the government has allowed several industrial sectors, including steel and petroleum, to continue to receive the enormous volumes of oxygen they consume.

For the transport of this gas, India has only 1,172 trucks equipped in a country six times the size of France and whose road network does not allow rapid delivery. The few trains put into service, called Oxygen Express, and the army planes that transported empty trucks to speed up rotations, are not enough to alleviate this situation. Many hospitals are also not even equipped to store the oxygen they need.

The very limited international aid beginning to be channeled will be completely inadequate for slowing down the current dynamic. But it allows the leaders of the great powers, whose record in this area is pitiful, and whose companies are plundering India even now, to pose as saviors and givers of lessons.

An economy both as unequally developed as that of India, and entirely organized according to the sole interests of the richest and of imperialism, is quite incapable of facing the crisis and meeting the needs of its population. This tragedy highlights in particular the crying under-investment in the health system for decades. The bourgeoisie has access to modern equipment, often in private establishments. The government prides itself on having transformed the country into “the world’s pharmacy”: the pharmaceutical industry employs 2.7 million people and provides 60% of the world production of vaccines, as a subcontractor for large pharmaceutical companies. But very few of those doses are going into Indian arms. They’re being shipped to wealthy countries like the United States!

Accessing healthcare remains a real struggle for the vast majority of those who are exploited. India has only five hospital beds and eight doctors per 10,000 inhabitants, which places it in 137th place in the world. Ninety percent of the poor have no health coverage at all, and have to pay the entire cost for any medicine.

Faced with government carelessness and contempt, anger is growing against Prime Minister Modi. For months, ignoring doctors’ warnings and hiding the true numbers, he preferred to engage his troops in the election campaign and flatter his most religious supporters, allowing a pilgrimage of millions of believers from all over the country.

The second wave of Covid came shortly after Modi claimed victory over the disease, saying India’s success could not be compared to any other country and that he had "saved mankind from a great catastrophe by effectively controlling the coronavirus.” Denying all the evidence, Modi still claims to have the situation under control.

In reality, the government has done nothing, especially to alleviate the oxygen shortage. And Modi continues to accuse the state governments and especially the population, including millions of small peasants who have been fighting against his agrarian policy for months, of being responsible for the resumption of the epidemic! The government’s only response is to decree a containment that plunges tens of millions of workers into extreme poverty and reduces them to starvation.

Faced with the contempt of their leaders—servants of the interests of the Indian bourgeoisie and the imperialist powers—the working class and the poor peasantry constitute a considerable force: The only force capable of pulling this country out of the underdevelopment and barbarism to which capitalism condemns them.

A Nightmare for Poor Countries

May 10, 2021

The following is reprinted from Lutte Ouvrière, the journal of the revolutionary group of the same name, active in France.

For a little over a year, we have known that the new coronavirus has been circulating all over the planet, completely insensitive to borders, multiplying at will in unvaccinated populations.

We will therefore only be able to get out of this pandemic at the scale of all of humanity, and the fight cannot be won as long as there are epidemic centers. For more than ten months, we have discovered and developed the vaccines necessary to win the battle, and yet ... Entire countries, large areas of the planet, have no or very few doses—for the one and only reason that they are poor and that vaccines are commodities like any other.

In France alone, by Sunday April 25, 14 million people had received at least a first dose of vaccine against the coronavirus—a little more than 20% of the population. A few days earlier, Emmanuel Macron trumpeted the sending to West African countries of ... 100,000 doses of vaccine!

A few months after the start of the pandemic, the richest states, first the United States and then the European states, poured floods of money on the laboratories of the pharmaceutical industry. As of February 2020, Trump offered them 10 billion dollars in order, he said, to fund research. Then the richest states bought in advance, and at a high price, astronomical quantities—4.6 billion doses for a total population that barely exceeds one billion—of vaccines that were still only hopes. Tens of billions of dollars and euros have thus flowed in to the laboratories of the big pharmaceutical industry.

At the same time, the so-called Covax program was set up by the World Health Organization, which had to discuss it with pharmaceutical companies, to negotiate, buy and distribute the doses thus obtained among poor countries. One year later, the noble objective declared by Covax of "guaranteeing fair and equitable access for all countries of the world" is obviously very far from being achieved.

Indeed, while the vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 began in December 2020 and a billion doses have been administered worldwide, Covax has only distributed 40 million doses—only 4% of the total doses injected in the world. In rich countries, on average, one in four people is vaccinated. In poor countries, it is one in five hundred.

The vast majority of the world’s population therefore has no vaccine. Nor does it have a sufficient quantity of screening tests of any kind, neither respirators nor oxygen nor even sanitary equipment worthy of the name. A real nightmare for the poorest populations, created by imperialism.

Politicians Divide, Workers’ Struggles Unite

May 10, 2021

At present, four Indian states are having assembly elections, and local politicians are trying to whip up any and every division they can think of: Hindu against Muslim against Christian, “local” against “outsider,” “Indian” against “foreigner,” etc. Despite the worsening economic crisis, none of the parties standing for election focus on the problems of workers.

At the same time, the possible reimposition of a lockdown in the western state of Maharashtra is raising fears of a repeat of last year’s migrant worker crisis—when an estimated 10 million workers walked from cities to their villages to ensure that they had work and food while the lockdown lasted.

Meanwhile, workers are finding ways to fight. In the public sector, trade unions in the railways, postal services, and electricity boards are contemplating strikes, and bank workers have struck, protesting privatization.

In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, this has developed into a significant struggle: the government’s decision to privatize the Vishakhapatnam steel plant, which provides employment to 100,000, has led to workers blocking national highways and organizing rallies for over a month.

In the private sector, after a year of the bosses taking advantage of the Covid crisis to extend working hours and intensify the speed of work, workers are no longer buying the bosses’ “Covid excuse” that they can’t improve conditions until the crisis is over. They are insisting that their demands be met immediately. In the last month, workers from JNS Instruments (2200 workers), Satyam Auto (1900 workers), and Sunbeam Auto (3000 workers) in Manesar (an industrial center near the national capital, Delhi) occupied their factories, demanding increases in wages; toilet breaks and holidays; and an end to arbitrary disciplinary measures, dismissals, and forced retirements.

In stark contrast to the poisonous electioneering taking place, these workers are showing that the only way forward for workers is to fight together, and bridge all divisions!

No Oxygen for India Hospitals

May 10, 2021

COVID-19 patients in ICUs need oxygen and lots of it, 2 to 3 gallons per minute, to help their sick lungs. Hospitals in India, crushed by the overload of COVID patients, are running out of oxygen, the same way the U.S. first ran out of ventilators and N95 masks. Patients can’t breathe on their own, and they die.

It’s not as if India lacks oxygen. Linde India is a branch of Linde Group, biggest supplier of liquefied atmospheric gases in the world. But with this enormous social resource being privately owned and operated for the capitalist owners’ profit, Linde India concentrates on supplying liquid oxygen to industry, particularly basic steel.

Linde is one of the big fish that has eaten the other fish. First buying up British Oxygen Corporation (BOC) in 2006, and then Praxair in 2018, as well as smaller fish along the way, Linde now commands half of the India market.

Operating on capitalist principles, Linde used its mergers not to improve social supplies, but to maximize profits. It cut costs by closing plants and cutting jobs, known as “wringing out excess capacity.” It restricted production to keep supplies tight and prices up, aiming at high profit margins, which were 25.5% in 2020. This is known as “maintaining price discipline.”

Hospitals are left gasping for life-saving oxygen. Air is now a commodity, available only to those who can pay. Most have been unable to afford the modern high-capacity liquid oxygen supply systems that could use Linde products. They are left dependent on truckloads of single compressed-gas cylinders, like the ones we see in stores filling up helium balloons. At 2 to 3 gallons per minute per patient, the cylinders don’t last long. The trucks can’t keep up. Patients die.

Every problem faced by society is made into a catastrophe by the way private owners of capital operate. The catastrophes will continue for as long as this system of capitalism is allowed to continue.

Pages 10-11

Another Child Killed, Another Thrown Away

May 10, 2021

This was SPARK’s editorial in our workplace newsletters during the week of May 3, 2021.

Ma’Khia Bryant was killed, shot by a Columbus, Ohio police officer. She is one more child, dead at age sixteen, the human cost of this system’s inability to provide for and protect all its children.

Before she was even in her teens, Ma’Khia was taken from her mother by Franklin County, Ohio, Children Services. She and three siblings were placed with their grandmother—only to be ripped out of that home in 2019 when the county declared their housing inadequate. Separated from family, Ma’Khia was sent 80 miles away to a group home in Dayton. Early this year, she was removed from the group home, sent to Columbus and placed with a foster parent who had her younger sister.

Being taken away from a parent at a young age is traumatic. How could it not be? And Ma’Khia Bryant, like so many others, was not just taken from her parent, she was bounced around, put in the care of one part of the system, then another.

Police say they are expected to deal with situations they aren’t equipped to handle, problems facing children shuffled around like this. They say poverty is a problem, social workers are needed.

The Ohio Department of Social Services says it doesn’t have enough funds to provide for all the care and services that are needed, not enough money to make sure the grandmother, for example, could have had “adequate housing” for the four children. Social Services says the state legislature doesn’t give it the money needed.

The Ohio state legislature says people don’t want to pay taxes, so it doesn’t have enough money to fund all the social services, public services and schools that are needed.

In fact, every part of the system has its excuses. But Ma’Khia Bryant is still dead—Ma’Khia, and how many others like her throughout the country.

Every one of those excuses is an admission that this system is unable to provide a decent life for all its people; an admission it can’t even protect the most vulnerable.

That system has a name. Its name is capitalism, and it is driven by a drive for profit that pushes state legislatures and the federal government alike to systematically reduce funding for the range of services needed by the population—in order to hand it out to prop up profits for big corporations and pad bank accounts of the very wealthy capitalist class that owns the economy.

It’s the same system that gives cops a gun and, with it, a license to kill. The conviction of George Floyd’s murderer does not change this basic reality: the police exist in order to maintain the class division under capitalism. They not only protect the wealth accumulated at one end of the class scale; they also enforce the poverty which is its necessary result at the other end.

Sometimes that license to kill means that a young girl, put in an intolerable situation, trying to defend herself, is shot down like a dog in the street.

There are people who would fault the foster parent. Why was she not there supervising Ma’Khia and the other children when problems happened? Or the grandmother. Why didn’t she provide “adequate housing”? Or the mother. Why didn’t she take care of her children?

All of those questions are only cowardly ways of running away from this basic truth: in capitalist society, wages are often not high enough to provide for children. Social Security is not high enough to provide “adequate housing” for four children.

And so some children are thrown away.

There is something intrinsically wrong with a system that puts less value on the care of children, than on the profits of an already insanely wealthy class that seeks to make more profits.

The work to take care of children who need care—shouldn’t that be valuable in and of itself? No matter who is taking care of them, under what conditions—shouldn’t they have the means to do it?

There is something essentially wrong with a system that cannot do that. This capitalist system is what should be ripped out and thrown away. Not the children.

Page 12

What Is a Recovery Without Public Toilets?

May 10, 2021

Public bathrooms were always hard to find in Chicago, but during the pandemic it’s gone to another level.

In downtown Chicago, you can count the number of public bathrooms on one hand. In other parts of the city and suburbs, many fast food restaurants, gas stations, and stores that previously allowed the public to use their bathrooms have now closed them.

Even if they have a public restroom, most Chicago businesses only allow paying customers to use them, and they are stricter enforcing it than ever before. If you don’t have the cash to buy something, they send you packing, regardless of how desperate you may be.

And if you’re out of options, and are caught relieving yourself behind a trash can or in an alley, you face the indignity of being charged with a crime. Your fine is up to $500 and 10 days in jail. Then police are given “latitude” to tack on public indecency and indecent exposure charges if they so choose.

This problem falls on drivers, on pregnant women, on older people, on anyone who gets a cup of coffee while running errands. It limits a person’s normal shopping or errand day by requiring a trip back to the house before finishing. And forget hanging out for the day without a go-home deadline!

Buildings in the Indus Valley civilization had working toilets more than 4,000 years ago. Chicago itself built an efficient sewage system by about the year 1900—and the city’s boosters still brag about reversing the Chicago River so our waste won’t mix with the drinking water coming from Lake Michigan.

Like so much else, we have long had the necessary technology, but the short-sighted capitalists, who say they want economic recovery, see no profit in letting us shop unfettered by personal accidents!

DDT Contamination on Coast of L.A.

May 10, 2021

University of California and federal government scientists recently found that a 12-mile swath of seafloor, larger than the city of San Francisco, was covered with as many as half a million barrels of a very harmful chemical, DDT. These industrial barrels, bubbling 3,000 feet deep in the ocean, are scattered off the coast of Los Angeles.

In humans, exposure to DDT is linked to breast cancer, immune system deficiencies, obesity, birth defects, reduced fertility and testicular cancer. It also causes deadly diseases in fish, birds, and sea mammals, leading to widespread die-offs.

DDT was produced as a pesticide in Los Angeles by a company called Montrose Chemical Company, starting in 1947. Immediately after Montrose opened its plant, it started to dump DDT-contaminated manufacturing waste through sewers and in barrels.

The U.S. government banned the use of DDT in the U.S. in 1972, because of the harm to the environment that it caused. But the U.S. government allowed Montrose and other U.S. chemical companies to continue to produce DDT for sale to foreign markets for another ten years, allowing capitalist profits to trump health and safety of people and the environment.

At the same time, the U.S. government allowed Montrose to continue to dump the industrial waste in the ocean until the plant closed in 1982. The sale of DDT was finally banned worldwide in 2004.

Today, the ocean floor off the coast of Los Angeles is the largest known deposit of DDT in the world. As one scientist who found these deposits stated, “These chemicals are still out there, and we haven’t figured out what to do. They are an issue, and we still don’t have a plan.”

What plan? The companies won’t pay for it. The U.S. government won’t make them. They won’t clean it up for the same reason they dumped it there in the first place. Profit, before life.

Maine Dollar General Workers Walk Out

May 10, 2021

Three workers at a Dollar General in Eliot, Maine, got fed up and quit together, temporarily closing the store.

That Dollar General made one of the managers pull 70-hour weeks. Over those hours, the manager’s wages came to less than minimum wage—so she quit. The workers opened the store anyway, hoping Dollar General would call about how to staff it. No one called. Three of the four remaining workers decided to quit.

On their way out, they posted up signs on the door:

“Closed indefinitely because Dollar General doesn’t pay a living wage or treat their workers with respect.”

“Capitalism will destroy the country. If you don’t pay people enough to live their lives, why should they slave away for you?”

Good question!

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