Jun 7, 2021
Millions of families will soon be facing a housing crisis. The eviction moratorium mandated by the CDC will expire on June 30. Even if the moratorium is extended, the back rent will still be owed and families will eventually face possible eviction.
The government has not provided exact statistics, but estimates by Bloomberg News and Moody’s are that between 9.4 and 11.4 million families are behind on their rent, owing an average of about $6,000 per family. And the real financial and housing crisis is even much greater than that because many families have paid their rent or mortgage payments or paid partial payments only by putting off paying other bills, or by depleting their savings, or by maxing out their credit cards, or by getting loans from friends and families, or by using their temporary stimulus checks, or all of the above. These families may also soon face a crisis and possible evictions.
When the Covid pandemic hit in 2020, over 20 million people were thrown out of work. The failure of this system and this government to responsibly deal with the virus has meant, not only millions of deaths, but also has prolonged the economic crisis. Today there are 7.6 million fewer jobs than there were in February of 2020. And this unemployment is on top of the millions of people who couldn’t find a job even before the pandemic hit. And there are many other people who still haven’t been able to work for Covid-related health or child care reasons.
This unemployment crisis, combined with the low wages of the jobs that are available, has been a financial and economic disaster for the working class. No job or no full-time job or no adequate wages means no way to keep up with the rent or to buy a house, especially as housing costs are skyrocketing. It could soon mean no place to live for many more families.
The answer to this crisis by the federal government, under both Biden and Trump, was to provide temporary stimulus checks and temporary unemployment pay, mandate an eviction moratorium that is temporary and give some temporary rental assistance that falls far short of what working people would need to catch up on their rent and all the other bills they owe.
Meanwhile, on the rich side of town, the capitalist class is not facing any such problems. The stock market keeps setting records, corporate profits are booming again, and the banks and hedge funds are awash in so much money that they are using most of it for speculation. The capitalist class is not having any problems buying or paying the rent on their mansions and their multi-million dollar condos. And this isn’t “temporary”!
In the midst of so much wealth, working people are struggling just to have a place to live. This is an indictment of an economic system that isn’t working for the working class.
Denying people a right to affordable housing is denying them the right to live. Why shouldn’t every family have the right to a decent place to live? Everything needed for decent housing is right here. There are vacant houses and unused apartments that can be fixed up; there are unused office buildings that can be converted into comfortable housing. There is unused land on which new houses and apartments can be built. And there is plenty of wealth available to pay for all this.
But this capitalist economic system, with all this wealth in the hands of a few, cannot even provide for the most basic of human needs, cannot provide decent housing for all. What the hell good is it? It is a system that needs to be gotten rid of.
Until the working class, which produces all the wealth in the society, brings itself together to get rid of this system, there will be no answer to the problems we face.
Jun 7, 2021
Governors in half the states have announced they will cut off the extra $300 per week to all those getting it in unemployment benefits by the end of June. These are federal funds, due to the pandemic, not funds being spent by the states’ politicians from the budgets they oversee.
Some of these politicians blame those getting unemployment benefits for not taking jobs offered. Businesses claim there are two million jobs they cannot fill.
Even before the pandemic, there were at least one million jobs supposedly being offered but not gaining applicants. Yet the media was not filled with stories blaming the unemployed.
The reality has been the same not just for a year or two but for a decade or two. The majority of jobs offered are minimum wage, without benefits, not even full-time.
In other words, just as working people could barely make ends meet before the pandemic, they can barely make ends meet now. An extra $300 per week never solved this problem—the inability to pay the rent, the inability to afford wi-fi and computers in every household, not to mention the ridiculous amounts people pay to for-profit companies for water and heat and electricity.
For the 140 million people filing individual taxes in 2019, at least 14 million of them reported living on $15,286 or less and another 14 million had less than $30,000 per year as income. So at least one in every five adults has difficulty with eating or paying the rent ... in the world’s richest country measured per person.
In the 21st century, we live in a society where one in five adults barely gets by and where one in three adults is NOT even in the work force. Of course, some are retired or disabled, but that is millions more adults who might be able to work ... if they were paid a decent wage.
Neither the governors nor the businesses nor the media talk about those figures!
Jun 7, 2021
Facebook just announced that Donald Trump is banned from posting on its site for two years. Trump’s posts to his millions of supporters about storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was the reason given for his suspension. And maybe it was a relief to some.
But Facebook also removed the posts of some Palestinian activists protesting the Israeli government’s policies—the bombings that cost many civilian lives and destroyed homes in Gaza. In April, Facebook went along with the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, who insisted that Facebook stop allowing criticisms of how the government was handling the coronavirus pandemic, with its high number of deaths of Indian people.
So Facebook allows some politicians to post in ways that contribute to human rights violations, while it denies others, usually the protesters, a way to post criticisms of those politicians.
Some Facebook employees expressed their disappointment with the company’s policies. But Facebook publishes on behalf of Zuckerberg and big investors, to make money, not to truthfully inform or protect human beings.
Jun 7, 2021
More than 100,000 U.S. soldiers died during World War I; more than 400,000 U.S. soldiers died in World War II; the U.S. dead in the Korean so-called conflict and the Viet Nam war also number at least 100,000 together.
And these figures do not include those who carried wounds the rest of their lives from taking part in these wars. And these figures certainly ignore not thousands but MILLIONS of soldiers from countries around the world who also died and were wounded in these wars.
Politicians love to give speeches on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, claiming that all these deaths and wounds were in the cause of “freedom.” And that’s Republicans and Democrats alike, mouthing such lies in every city or town across the U.S.
Here is part of what Veterans for Peace said this Memorial Day:
“We are filled with rage as we continue to watch the empty political platitudes from the two largest political parties praising soldiers and veterans as they continue to send them off to wars that line the pockets of the rich.”
Jun 7, 2021
President Biden has said that the U.S. will share 80 million vaccine doses to countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well as Palestine.
This is AFTER the U.S. and other wealthy countries bought up far more of the world’s share of vaccines than they actually needed, shutting out the poor countries that Biden now pretends to help.
It’s also after Biden and other world leaders refused to lift the patent restrictions on those vaccines, so that all of those poor countries could cheaply make the vaccines for themselves. They already have the means—much of that vaccine supply bought by the rich countries, was produced IN those poor countries.
It is also a tiny drop in a very large sea of need: 11 BILLION doses are needed to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population. Only about 1.7 billion have even been produced at this point.
Biden’s pledge does nothing to meet that crying need in most of the world, which continues to be ravaged by the Covid pandemic even as cases drop in the U.S. and Europe. But the U.S. gets to look generous, while the profits of the pharmaceutical companies are assured.
Jun 7, 2021
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Donald Trump, QAnon, and others on the right-wing promoted the idea that Chinese scientists engineered the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus as a bioweapon and intentionally released it on the world. Trump and others, clearly intending to whip up hatred against China and Asian-Americans, inferred such a connection by referring to the disease using xenophobic terms like the “Kung Flu,” the “China virus” or the “Wuhan virus.”
These same views are gaining currency again today as right-wing news commentators look to defend conspiracy theories in support of Trump policies.
In reaction, many on the left considered the idea a crackpot conspiracy theory, and in doing so, dismissed even the possibility that the virus may have accidentally leaked from a lab. They insisted that COVID-19 simply came from direct contact between humans and infected bats.
Recently President Biden, under political pressure, came out in support of an investigation into the origins of the virus. It appears possible that as far back as 2012, six Chinese miners may have been infected with a similar virus while shoveling bat guano, and three died. It is possible that while the miners were hospitalized, the virus evolved into a new human form. Blood samples from some of these patients were sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
Some scientists have suggested that researchers at the WIV may have been involved in what is called “Gain-of-Function” research that led to the evolution of the human form of the COVID-19 virus from the original bat virus.
In other words—these are only little hints, just as previous reports about a “wild meat market” were only hints. Based on what science currently knows, while it is not correct to insist that the COVID-19 virus was “engineered” in this Chinese lab, it is also not correct to insist that it was not. It is also not true that this was solely an activity of the Chinese scientists. U.S. government agencies allocated funding for this research conducted in China and seven other countries in Southeast Asia.
It is certainly true that infectious viruses and bacteria leak from labs all the time. The World Health Organization linked an outbreak of SARS to a leak from a lab in Beijing. Chinese labs are hardly alone, however. A deadly bacteria leaked from a primate research center in New Orleans and infected monkeys which were not part of any research there. There is even evidence that Lyme disease spread from a U.S. bioweapons lab.
It would certainly be in the interest of humanity to learn the origins of the COVID-19 virus, but that is not the primary concern of politicians and scientific officials clamoring for investigation of the Wuhan lab. Whatever the source of the virus, their concern is to hide their own responsibility and that of their capitalist bosses for the horrible mismanagement of the pandemic that has resulted in the loss of millions of lives and chronic health problems for many more.
While some officials are more willing than others to openly declare their racist attitudes, others use an “appeal to science” to encourage the view in the population that the enemy lies in some other country, in this case China.
It’s how for decades they’ve used anti-free-trade rhetoric to make workers believe the source of their problems lies in China, Japan or Mexico. While some of them decry the recent horrifically violent attacks against Asian-Americans, in the end they stoke the flames behind those attacks.
In the end, it all shows just how distorted science is under capitalism. Solving mysteries like the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing others like it requires getting rid of the system whose main goal is putting profits before human lives.
Jun 7, 2021
On May 18, President Joe Biden spent 5 hours touring the Ford Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford got publicity for their new electric truck. Biden got publicity for his infrastructure plans. Auto workers got vague promises resembling “Hope and Change.”
Biden said, “The future of the auto industry is electric.... We’re at an inflection point in history.” But auto workers today carry the weight of other “inflection points.” The downsizing of the industry in the early 1980s. The spin-offs of parts plants into separate low-wage companies like Delphi, Visteon, ACH, and Acustar. The outsourcing of parts production once again to even lower-wage companies. The “quick rinse” bankruptcies of 2008.
Each of those “inflection points,” said to “save” and “re-invent” the auto industry, were used to take enormous concessions from the workforce. Pension benefits for new hires disappeared. Wages froze. New two-tier (now 8-tier) wages were imposed on new hires. Workloads on each worker doubled or tripled. Mandatory overtime expanded. Absence penalties tightened, and tightened again. Use of temp workers exploded. Jobs were outsourced to ever-lower-paid tiers of suppliers.
At all of those inflection points, workers were told that they had to accept concessions to save the companies. But the companies didn’t disappear. Only the workers’ gains, hard-won over decades, disappeared.
Biden spoke of making the future electric-vehicle jobs “good paying union jobs with benefits—jobs that will sustain and grow the middle class.” The electric truck plant he visited will have 300–500 workers. If there is a transition to electric vehicles, the auto companies are planning job losses in engine and transmission plants of tens of thousands of jobs, while the battery plants that would replace them will only be a few thousand—and they will be second-tier, lower-paid suppliers, if nothing changes. Not exactly “jobs that will sustain and grow the middle class.”
When the drum-roll is over, if and when there is a conversion to electric, workers will have familiar problems to face. The constant lowering of wages and benefits, the punishing mandatory overtime, years of temporary status, outsourcing, you name it. And worst of all, the expected reduction of the workforce. Capitalism has long since instituted a policy of permanent unemployment for a section of the workforce, in order to force competition for jobs and lowering of wages.
Workers can build vehicles and anything else we need. If we want the future to work for us—electric vehicles, hydrogen, whatever—we will have to get rid of capitalism, share the work out, and share in the benefits of advanced technology.
Sound hard? No harder than the future they have designed for us!
Jun 7, 2021
Jasmine Moawad was arrested in northern Virginia’s Fairfax County near Washington, D.C. on May 12. She was accused of scamming immigrants by pretending to be an immigration lawyer and charging to help them with immigration legal papers, services she never provided. County police had charged a man with similar offenses in 2012.
Complicated laws and high fees make it hard to apply for citizenship or legal residence. That’s why some people fall for scams. The federal government charges $725 for most immigrants to submit the 20-page application to become a citizen. It charges up to $1,225 to apply for a green card and $540 to renew one.
Since colonization, the bosses have wanted and needed immigrants to do much of the hard and low-paid work. But the bosses also want to use immigrants’ legal status against them, to control them. And the bosses know immigrant workers are scapegoated. In this way the bosses continue to divide and rule.
Moawad is small fry. The big scam is how the bosses use the state to control and divide working people.
Jun 7, 2021
Three generations of residents of the Brookland Manor apartment complex in Washington, D.C. protested on May 27 against the landlord’s plans to add over 2,000 expensive, small apartments and replace hundreds of existing large units with small ones.
Brookland Manor’s private owner MidCity Financial recently paid off a federal loan which for decades had required the company to lease to poor people whose rent was paid mostly by federal or city voucher programs. This meant steady income for MidCity, but now the company is free to squeeze much higher amounts of rent from the property. The city government plans to borrow 47 million dollars to pay toward MidCity’s construction costs—free money for the developer, with no requirement to provide voucher housing.
MidCity promises to reserve hundreds of new units for rent-subsidized households, and to let existing tenants have them. But months ago, MidCity fenced off the yards and the pool area and had security guards write people up for even touching the fences.
At the protest, residents said this is part of a campaign to force long-time tenants—many with children—to leave, so the company won’t have to give their families new apartments after the redevelopment. And MidCity plans not to provide a basketball court or park in the new complex, even though tenants have requested them.
Housing in the D.C. area is increasingly unaffordable for working-class people. The shameless displacement at Brookland Manor is just the tip of the iceberg.
Jun 7, 2021
Homelessness in Los Angeles is not due to a lack of housing. According to the latest official count, there are 41,290 homeless people in Los Angeles. At the same time, there are over 93,500 vacant housing units in Los Angeles, according to UCLA Law and two other research institutes. That is twice as many vacant housing units as the number of homeless people, at least according to the official statistics.
There are many reasons for these vacancies. Speculators purchase homes and condominiums as investments and leave them vacant, betting on long-term increases in property values. Some big landlords keep vacant apartments off the market in order to keep rents high. Other times, in rent control buildings, landlords leave buildings nearly empty for months or years at a time, while they drive out the old tenants in order to re-rent the units to new tenants at much higher prices. For all of these reasons, downtown L.A., where there is currently a building boom, has a vacancy rate of 22%.
Nor is the lack of affordable housing due to a lack of vacant land in Los Angeles. In reality, major real estate companies currently own 22 square miles of vacant lots just within the city of Los Angeles.
The main problem is that housing, like everything else under the capitalist system, is viewed as a profitable commodity for the wealthy few, regardless of the human cost.
Jun 7, 2021
A year ago, the massive George Floyd protests in Los Angeles forced public officials to appear to be more caring. They promised to reduce spending on the LAPD budget and “reform” how the police operate. Now, a year later, funding for the LAPD is on the rise. And—despite promises to the contrary—“elite” units of the LAPD carry out random vehicle stops, “stop and frisk in a car,” in many working class neighborhoods, such as South Los Angeles.
That means cops are using minor vehicle infractions, like having tinted windows or a busted taillight, as pretexts to search cars and then invent reasons to arrest people and railroad them to jail. In Los Angeles, police are given wide latitude to designate people as gang members. Prosecutors use crimes in the neighborhood to infer guilt, therefore judge them guilty by association.
So, one year after the George Floyd protests, little has changed. The LAPD is carrying out exactly the same kinds of confrontations that led to the police killing of George Floyd ... and thousands of others.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s justification for this is the spike in murders over the last year and the big increase in illegal guns on the street. But in a recent interview with the New York Times, even Chief Michael Moore of the LAPD had to admit how horrendous living conditions are for so much of the population.
“I won’t argue that there is substandard housing, education, broken families, substance abuse, the systems that are racist and have systemic issues that have gone on for generations,” said LAPD Chief Moore.
Ever since the massive 1992 L.A. rebellion following the Rodney King verdict, Los Angeles mayors, Republican and Democrat alike, have increased, not decreased, the ranks of the police by 30%, while slashing spending for sanitation, street lighting, street repair, capital improvements, parks and recreation, libraries, housing, etc.
The target of policing is to suppress the city’s working class and poor, for whom real wages and living standards have been steadily declining. Unwilling to provide a decent living environment for the population, the authorities and the wealthy have opted to just keep a foot on its neck.
Jun 7, 2021
Evan Solano, the Chicago cop under investigation for killing 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez, is now under additional scrutiny for his involvement in a road rage incident.
A bystander video shows an angry shouting match between Solano, driver of a white vehicle, and the driver of a red car. The video shows Solano circling the red car with his service weapon drawn, threatening the driver and children inside.
In the Portage Park neighborhood on March 31st, Solano shot Anthony Alvarez five times while in foot pursuit of the youth for a minor traffic violation. Police cam video footage revealed Alvarez posed no threat to police, and showed the fatal shot hitting Alvarez in the back as he was running away.
The police cam also revealed that Solano wanted to put handcuffs on the dying 22-year-old as he laid on the ground in agony after being shot. Solano then ignored protocol for administering medical aid and provided the wrong address to the ambulance service, delaying arrival of paramedics and desperately needed medical care.
The police know full well who Evan Solano is. His superiors know, and they’ve left him on the street to do the dirty work of keeping the population “in line.” This is who polices Chicago, and cities like it.
Jun 7, 2021
Black people ended up living in the Oklahoma and Indian Territories even before the Civil War. These two territories were the western and eastern halves of what is today the State of Oklahoma. Five native American tribes were forced out of Southern states by President Andrew Jackson in the 1830s. They were allowed to claim as their territory land in what would become eastern Oklahoma. At that time, some of the tribes had black slaves.
The end of the Civil War and the construction of the railroads set the stage for the enormous growth of capitalism throughout the United States. This system had consequences in what is now called the West for white, black and native settlers. A Massachusetts senator would later comment that “Native Americans [have in their culture] no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilization.” What he really meant is that their culture believed in communal sharing of all resources including land, as opposed to capitalist society, in which some white men were growing ever richer.
In both the Indian Territory and the Oklahoma Territory, politicians promoted land ownership, to spread settlers over the entire continent. So individual land ownership was forced on the native tribes. Everyone had to claim 160 acres for themselves, if they wanted to be able to farm in these areas. In this way, some black people, freed after the Civil War, became landowners out west.
Black people in the South, following the Civil War, wanted to leave the horrors of the plantation system, as well as the share-cropping system, which was a different form of slavery in the South. Thousands chose to move westward. The Northern states already had in place segregation in law and in work, so that black people were not welcome after the Civil War, and those who already lived in the North had already faced decades of brutality. Again the western areas beckoned to black people trying to make a new life for themselves.
But race relations in the U.S. were not cordial then, any more than they are now. White settlers out west carried with them all kinds of prejudices, first against black people and native people, but also against immigrants. And many men could not overcome the attitudes they had learned demeaning women.
No sooner had black people, white people, native people become landowners, than scammers found ways to get their land away from them. The 1897 Land Act transferred some two million acres of tribal land to black freedmen, but land developers and railroad companies were already out west working to trick those who lacked education or to buy up land for a dollar an acre, far below the going price for land. In the late 1800s, the Ku Klux Klan was setting up chapters in the Oklahoma Territory and local politicians ensured the laws helped segregate black people. The “sundown towns” prevented black people from entering or moving around after dusk.
By the early 1900s, the U.S. Congress was considering laws to make new states out west, and to include provisions of segregation as tortured as those already in the South or North!
Jun 7, 2021
At 5:08 AM on June 1st, 1921, a loud whistle blew in Tulsa Oklahoma. Thousands of armed white Tulsans, some in military uniform, marched on the city’s Greenwood neighborhood. Greenwood was a prosperous black community. White rioters shot black people in the street, looted their houses and businesses, systematically setting them aflame. Bullets rained down from planes overhead. By the end of the day, 35 city blocks lay in ashes, with as many as 300 black people killed, hundreds more injured and between 5 and 10 thousand left homeless.
Oklahoma had been seen as a refuge for black people. It had been “Indian Territory” until 1906. Many black people found in it an environment freer than much of the rest of the country.
The first black people came to Oklahoma as slaves of Native tribes such as the Cherokee. These tribes were uprooted and forcibly removed from Georgia to “Indian Territory”—what came to be known as the Trail of Tears. When the Civil War ended slavery, the black “freedmen” were accepted into some tribes as equals, or nearly so. Some tribes distributed land to freedmen—“40 Acres and a Mule” was put into practice. Other freedmen worked as sheriffs. Other black people migrated to Indian territory to take advantage of the relative freedom found among the already established black community.
Tulsa became a boomtown early in the 20th century, with the discovery of a gusher of oil. The town mushroomed, creating work and commerce for black workers and businesspeople. Greenwood soon boasted a 60 room hotel, two theaters, a newspaper, doctors, lawyers, and many shopkeepers.
World War One, and the economic boom that came with it, set off the Great Migration of black people out of the South, away from the circumstances that they faced there.
Many black men fought in Europe, returning with both training and a new militancy. They had traveled abroad, fought, risked their lives. They were able to escape some of the suffocating racism they saw in the States. They were determined not to return to the same. Many in the ruling class singled out this militancy as a threat to their order.
Once the war was over, jobs became more scarce, setting workers into competition with one another. With a tightening job market, the ruling class encouraged a widespread attack on the black population. The white working population was encouraged to violently reaffirm white supremacy, and to maintain second class citizenship through racist violence.
World War One created a violently reactionary environment. Members of the IWW, a radical union organization, sought to build a union among the oil field workers. Tulsa business leaders decided to give them a “lesson in patriotism.” They organized the “Knights of Liberty,” the local KKK, who then rounded up 17 IWW members and took them to the edge of Tulsa. There they whipped them bloody, before tarring and feathering them. The Knights were backed by the city’s ruling class—their action gave a glimpse of what was to come.
This period was full of racist violence against black people. In East St. Louis in 1917, white workers attacked and killed dozens of black people. In Chicago in the summer of 1919, white mobs attacked black people all over the South Side for three days. In both East St. Louis and Chicago, racial tensions were brought to a boil after the bosses hired black workers as strikebreakers. White workers attacked black people, instead of their own bosses.
In 1919, in Elaine, Arkansas white mobs hundreds of black sharecroppers who had begun to assert their rights. Later, in 1923, a white mob destroyed the black town of Rosewood, Florida.
In Tulsa, on May 31st, 1921, a black worker was accused of attacking a young white woman during an elevator ride in a downtown office tower. The same story played out over and over—a black man accused of rape or assault on a white woman was at the heart of many of these atrocities. It’s worth noting that after all was said and done, the woman in Tulsa dropped her charges in court.
One of Tulsa’s newspapers called for the black man to be lynched. A group of black people, upon learning of the lynching threat, armed themselves and gathered at the courthouse—some in army uniform. A white lynch mob confronted them. A scuffle broke out, and several, black and white were killed.
That became the signal the KKK was waiting for. Many white people were deputized and given badges, under the pretense of “restoring order.” The mob, which included the police, set upon Greenwood the morning of June 1st. Eldoris McDonichie, 9 years old at the time, remembered her mother saying, “Wake up! The white people are killing the colored folks.” Her family joined others streaming out of town. Eldoris saw men firing down on fleeing black people from planes—planes probably belonging to Sinclair Oil Company.
WD Williams was 16, his family owned a pastry shop and the neighborhood theater. He watched his father arm himself to fend off the mob. But the mob was too large to hold back. Williams witnessed a looter carrying his mother’s fur coat out of his home. Many black people would witness white people wearing their clothing on the street, like trophies, in the following weeks.
In the wake of the destruction, witnesses recounted “cattle trucks, heavily laden with bloody, dead, black bodies.” No one was ever brought to trial for the atrocity. In fact, the massacre was erased from official history for several decades.
100 years later, even President Biden admits to the violence carried out in Greenwood—though it is presented as an isolated incident, motivated by greed and envy.
The violence in Tulsa was not the exception—it was the rule. This society continues to carry racist violence within it. And to use racism to keep black and white people divided against each other. This division in the U.S. working class has held back unity and combativeness for generations, and has kept a rotten social system in place. It continues to keep the working class divided today, exploited by a united ruling class.
Jun 7, 2021
The Tulsa massacre of 1921 is only one in a long list of racist massacres against Black people in the U.S.
During the half century or so after the Civil War, stopping Black people from using their voting rights was a common reason for organized racist attacks, such as in Colfax, Louisiana in 1873, Wilmington, North Carolina in 1893 and Ocoee, Florida in 1920. Dozens of Black people were killed in each of these massacres.
In 1923, two years after the Tulsa massacre, a similar scenario was staged in Rosewood, a Black town in the Florida pine woods. A White mob burned the town to the ground—supposedly in revenge for an assault on a White woman, a much-used, and tired, excuse for racial attacks that targeted the whole Black population.
Race riots against the Black population were so widespread in the summer of 1919 that it became known as the “Red Summer,” referring to the blood that was spilled. The riot in Chicago began at a segregated beach, when a Black youth swam into an area customarily used by Whites, where he was stoned and drowned. When Chicago police refused to take action against the attackers and young Black men tried to retaliate, a 13-day riot ensued, resulting in 38 deaths, of 23 Black and 15 White people. White mobs destroyed hundreds of Black homes and businesses on the South Side of Chicago, leaving 1,000 Black families homeless. That same summer in Washington, D.C., where Black people again fought back a race riot, 39 people were killed.
The bloodiest race massacre of the Red Summer happened in rural Arkansas, where estimates of the death toll among Black farmers ranged between 100 and 237. Five White people were also killed. The Black farmers were organizing a union to fight against the exploitation of the sharecropping system, at the same time that a general strike was going on across the U.S.
Again in 1919, the effort of the bosses to divide the work force at Bogalusa, Louisiana, the largest sawmill complex in the world at the time, led to a massacre. When Black workers, who were brought in as strikebreakers, joined an ongoing unionization campaign along with White workers instead, both Black and White organizers were killed by the private army of the Great Southern Lumber Company. The company thugs then proceeded to massacre Black workers, who were trying to organize their own union.
Two years earlier in East St. Louis, Illinois, the bosses’ race-based divide-and-conquer game had already led to one of the largest race riots and massacres in U.S. history. In response to unionizing efforts by workers in the meatpacking and aluminum industries, companies had hired Black workers, trying to use them as strikebreakers. At union meetings attended by White workers, rumors were circulated about ... Black men pursuing White women (what else!). In July 1917, White mobs descended on the Black neighborhoods in East St. Louis, attacking every Black person in sight. Police and National Guard not only stood by, but actually joined the widespread lynching of Black people and the burning down of their neighborhoods. The NAACP estimated that between 100 and 200 Black people were killed. In addition, 6,000 Black people were left homeless.
These are some episodes in the long, bloody history of racist violence targeting Black people in this country, usually initiated by racist mobs organized for this purpose, and often used by capitalists to divide workers, both Black and White, organizing against exploitation. The resulting deep divide between White and Black workers has persisted to this day, ever standing in the way of the unity of the U.S. working class.
Jun 7, 2021
For more than a month, days of demonstrations and strikes have followed one another in Colombia. Demonstrators organize roadblocks in various parts of the country, and the day’s protests continue into the evening and night with clashes against the repressive forces of the Colombian state.
This social explosion was ignited when, on April 28, major unions, indigenous organizations and student groups called for a mass protest and strike against the government’s plan to raise taxes. Even though the government was forced to withdraw its tax plan, even though the finance minister who proposed it resigned, the protests and strikes have continued.
Like many countries in Latin America, Colombia is heavily indebted to banks in the rich countries, especially the United States. When the credit rating agencies threatened to downgrade Colombia’s debt, the country’s right-wing government attempted to impose a “tax reform” that would have increased the price of many basic goods by almost 20%. This is what touched off the protests. But the anger of the population goes much deeper.
Already before the pandemic, Colombia was one of the most unequal countries in the world, and the government’s response to the virus has made the situation worse. Many people survive without regular jobs, buying and selling food or other goods on the street, and working odd jobs. During the pandemic, much of this work became impossible or was halted by police. By one estimate, the poverty rate rose from about a third in 2019 to almost half of the 50 million Colombians today.
But even for those with jobs, wages are extremely low. One nurse caring for COVID patients who participated in the protests, for example, reported that her wages are only the equivalent of $13 per shift—well below the official minimum wage.
Colombia’s police and military forces, like many in Latin America, were armed and trained by the U.S. They carried out all kinds of brutal tactics during that country’s long-running war with guerilla groups in the countryside. The government signed a peace treaty with the largest of these groups in 2016, promising to reintegrate its fighters into society with social programs and jobs, but little of that has materialized. Instead, more than 200 have been murdered.
Working class activists, indigenous protestors, and anyone else who organizes openly against the desperate situation of the population also face the murderous brutality of this state apparatus. The Colombian NGO Indepaz has recorded more than a thousand militants assassinated since 2016.
And the government has unleashed this force against the strikes and protests as well. Nearly 60 people have already been killed, with thousands more wounded and hundreds missing.
But instead of tamping down resistance, police violence has further enraged people, encouraging the movement to continue and deepen. In late May, protestors and strikers blocked the roads and almost completely shut down the major city of Cali and the surrounding region. And when President Ivan Duque called for the “maximum deployment” of the country’s security forces there, a new day of protests and a national strike was called for June 2.
At the same time, Duque’s government has been negotiating with the leaders of the organizations that called for the original mobilizations. But it seems that this social explosion has gone far beyond anything directly controlled by the organizations represented in those negotiations.
Protestors, including many young people who feel that the country offers them no future at all, say it’s better to risk COVID and the police and army in the streets than accept a life of hunger. It remains to be seen how much further their revolt can go.
The problems facing the Colombian population are driven by a ruling class and state apparatus tied to the U.S. from top to bottom. In standing up to their own oppressors, the Colombian strikers and protestors are ultimately facing the same enemies workers face in this country. We have every reason to stand in solidarity with them.
Jun 7, 2021
Since 2010, when the 2022 soccer world cup was awarded to Qatar, at least 6,750 migrant workers have died in this small oil emirate, which has been transformed into a massive construction site in preparation of the big sports event.
The figure of 6,750, which came out of an investigation by The Guardian, includes only workers from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The actual number is probably much higher, considering that countries that have sent large numbers of workers to Qatar, such as the Philippines and Kenya, were not included in the investigation.
Qatari officials say the vast majority of deaths were unrelated to work, pointing to official causes such as heart attack and respiratory failure—without discussing, of course, why such ailments are so common in such a young work force. These officials have also turned a blind eye to the oppressive working conditions (construction workers toil 60–70 hours a week in scorching heat); as well as the lack of safety in migrant workers’ living quarters. One Bangladeshi worker, for example, was electrocuted because of an exposed electric wire at his dormitory—which could have been easily avoided if basic safety measures had been taken.
It’s not only Qatari officials who look the other way. Officials of FIFA, the international soccer federation that organizes the World Cup, have called the rate of work accidents and deaths in Qatar “low”—just like they have also been silent about the low wages and blatant exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar.
All these officials, local and international, see it as their job to enable the big contractors—the construction companies, sports suppliers, big media, etc.—to make huge profits off the World Cup. Workers’ lives be damned.
Jun 7, 2021
The following is a translation from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary group of the same name.
The X-Press Pearl, a 610-foot-long container ship, has been on fire since May 20 a few miles off Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Part of the cargo burst into flames; another, a mixture of tens of tons of plastic balls and combustion waste, has polluted miles of coastline and an entire sea; the rest will sink with the ship. Sri Lanka is already announcing the worst pollution in its history.
The X-Press Pearl was a new vessel, outfitted by the world’s leading coastal shipping company, taking containers from giant ships to ferry them to smaller ports and shallower draft on the Indian Ocean circuit. Having spotted nitric acid leaks on a container, the crew requested the right of stopover in Qatar to unload the cargo. The authorities having refused, affirming that the port did not have the technical means, the ship therefore set sail with its acid leak.
The fire started on May 20, within sight of Colombo. The crew, with two injured, were able to be evacuated, but emergency services were unable to stop the fire or prevent pollution.
The ship contained at least 25 tons of nitric acid, a cargo of caustic soda, a cargo of 50 tons of marine fuel and 278 tons of heavy fuel oil in its bunkers, plus 28 containers of plastic pellets for packaging, and many more things, since it carried 1,486 containers.
The fire having broken out near a coast, the pollution is spectacular and documented. But this kind of fire is quite common—insurers count on average one every two months! More than half are due to the crew not really knowing what’s in the boxes—so exposed to the tropical sun, at the top of the pile, can be a container which SHOULD remain cool, at the bottom of the hold. And above all, once the fire has started, workers don’t know what to fight it with, because they don’t know what is burning.
As authorities sent the Pearl X-Press to disaster, an International Maritime Organization security meeting was drawing its conclusions. A proposal to better control containers in order to fight fires had been tabled. IMO took note of this and promised that it would be considered ... at some point. A proposal to require an emergency towing service will also be examined ... at some point.
Everything for profit! Too bad for the crews! Too bad for pollution! They will look at that later. Neither the stranding of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal in March, nor the fire of the X-Press Pearl in May will have diverted the big shipowners and the public authorities from their policy.
Jun 7, 2021
The following is a translation from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary group of the same name.
Under American pressure, the Israeli government agreed to put an end, as of Friday May 21, to its bombardments on the Gaza Strip. Hamas, for its part, pledged to stop its rocket fire.
Israel’s missile interception system, as effective as it is, did not prevent the rockets from claiming 12 lives among its population. By showing that it could target the population of the cities of Israel, Hamas wanted to politically exploit the outrage of the Palestinians at the crackdown carried out by the Israeli police on the Mosques plaza in Jerusalem. But the toll of terrorism practiced on a large scale by the Israeli state is beyond that of Hamas: Israeli missiles, shells and drones have killed more than 240 Palestinians, mostly women and children, often entire families.
For the two million inhabitants of the Gaza enclave, the ceasefire does not mean the end of the ordeal. According to United Nations accounts, 24 health centers, 50 educational establishments, and Gaza’s only Covid-19 screening laboratory were affected by the bombings. There is a dramatic lack of water, fuel, electricity and concrete. However, the Israeli authorities have not announced an easing of the blockade they have imposed on this territory for years.
This ceasefire can only represent a very relative truce before further outbursts of violence, because nothing at the origin of the current murderous escalation has been resolved. The fate of Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem—threatened with eviction in favor of Jewish settlers—awaits the decision of an Israeli court. Protests by Palestinians to oppose the creeping colonization of the Arab part of Jerusalem and the West Bank continued, despite the crackdown on Israeli soldiers whose fire left more than 25 dead.
For his part, the Israeli Prime Minister has found an almost personal interest in prolonging the state of war. With the March elections failing to secure a majority and his political future appearing to be jeopardized by his legal wrangling, Netanyahu is hopeful that the reflex of unity provoked by the conflict will help him stay in power.
But whoever the future leader of the government is, he will be the hostage of the far-right parties which, thanks to the number of their deputies in Parliament, are in a position to demand in particular a new acceleration of colonization.
Fortunately, part of the Israeli population is aware of the impasse it is being driven into. A demonstration brought together several thousand people on Saturday, May 22 in central Tel Aviv to call for coexistence between Jews and Arabs and demand equal rights. It is in the path of a common struggle, both against the colonialism of the Israeli state and against the oppression suffered by the Palestinians, that the only hope for the Palestinian and Israeli populations lies.
Jun 7, 2021
The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of May 30, 2021.
Eight people, working in a light-rail yard in California, were killed by a co-worker, who apparently then killed himself. The idea that someone comes in, prepared to gun down as many people as he can, horrifies us.
But there is a horror far beyond that: the ongoing, every-day violence that pervades modern-day American society. Not mass murder. Just “simple” every-day murder, one-on-one murder, someone-who-kills-by-gun-or-by-knife-or-by-club-or-by-fist murder.
In 2020, there were more than 20,000 people murdered in this country, 5,000 more than the year before. Almost double that many people were victims of “aggravated assaults,” subjected to the trauma of sudden physical attack.
The vast majority of this violence was not tied to car jacking, nor to drug gangs, nor to ordinary criminal activity. Most murders and assaults were unplanned. They were sudden physical explosions, up-close and personal. A large share were carried out by someone the victim knew or at least had been around.
Last year, this violence was many times worse than before, even while crimes against property once again decreased.
This “every-day” violence speaks to the incapacity of modern-day American society to answer the grinding problems in which the population is caught. The rapid increase in violence also points out to what extent the problems are created by capitalist society itself—along with profound frustration in the population.
The United States, with all its wealth, was unable medically to meet the threat of a new virus. It reverted to means coming straight out of the Middle Ages. For month after month, we were quarantined, caught in a virtual lockdown. Cut off from much of the human contact we knew before, we might have been in prison.
Many of us found ourselves without work—many still do. But even if we had work, we were “locked down.” Some worked holed up at home. Some were physically at work, separated from each other by “social distancing” and masks. Some were at “essential workplaces,” in real danger from contracting the virus, one of the major places where it spread, along with nursing homes and retirement facilities. These facilities, without adequate medical means, locked the elderly away in their rooms, shut off from family and almost all human contact. And children were deprived of their grandparents and their education.
For most of us, there was no place to go. It was a human catastrophe, and not only because of the many people who died.
This crisis, which seemed like a medical crisis, was in fact just another crisis produced by an economic system that puts profit before all else. Capitalism and its government had stripped public health and other medical facilities bare, leaving them inadequately prepared to meet the virus when it got here.
The capitalist system prioritizes putting money in the hands of “investors,” instead of protecting the health of the population. It prioritizes profit, over improving conditions of work. It prioritizes streams of wealth sent to the sharks of Wall Street, at the expense of an ever growing number of people unable to find decent jobs at decent pay.
The consequence of this drive for profit, even in the midst of Coronavirus, gave Wall Street banks an enormous increase in their wealth, while the population suffered.
We have lived through an intolerable year, which created enormous frustration. Increasing violence is only a symptom.
Until the system that creates the problem is done away with, until it is ripped up and replaced by a humane system, there is no remedy.
What can give us hope is the fact that the working class, simply because of its position in society, has the potential to rip it up and replace it.
Jun 7, 2021
The following is a translation from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary group of the same name.
The city of Chennai, formerly Madras, in the state of Tamil Nadu in south-eastern India, is an agglomeration of 11 million inhabitants. It is home to large car manufacturing plants, whose employees have not gone to work for fear of Covid.
This state is one of those where the number of people infected with the coronavirus is very high. Given their working conditions, the thousands of workers who run the factories of a dozen car manufacturers in Chennai have felt particularly threatened. Demonstrations of discontent had taken place at the end of May at Hyundai and Ford, before the leaders closed the factories, unable to cope with the contagion—of the virus as well as the rising anger.
At Renault-Nissan, nearly 9,000 workers and employees, many of them temporary, threatened to strike, through their union representatives. The management was accused of running the lines without any physical distancing or hygiene measures. The trade unionists sued the authorities who let the car manufacturers continue the activity on the pretext of the urgency of the orders.
On May 31, the court ordered an inspection of the facilities, while asking workers to return to the factory. Although most builders resumed activity that day, many workers do not trust management’s promises to institute safety measures. They demand, as long as the epidemic lasts, that the workforce be spread over several teams.
Those in charge are all named, the bosses of Renault-Nissan having only offered vaccination to 200 workers out of the entire workforce. Quite a symbol....
Jun 7, 2021
More people are choosing to read books on tablets, phones or computers after downloading the books from the internet. During the pandemic, it has been safer. But Amazon doesn’t let public libraries buy the digital versions of many of the books it publishes. And other companies like Macmillan restrict when libraries may buy their digital books.
Of course, Amazon and the other publishing companies will sell people digital books. But readers without money, who depend on public libraries, are more and more left out.
It’s another way the capitalist system stands in the way of raising everyone’s cultural level.
Jun 7, 2021
Naomi Osaka, the 23-year-old women’s tennis player ranked 2nd in her sport, declined to participate in grueling post-match press conferences during the French Open. She explained that she needed to protect her mental health, but said she would pay contractual fines.
The leaders of the International Tennis Federation were aghast! Press conferences are money makers. Advertising is sold and displayed behind the athletes.
Instead of offering support to this amazing athlete who produces immense wealth for the sport and the entertainment industry in general, they threatened her with suspension. Naomi Osaka then did something women are taught NOT to do—she prioritized taking good care of herself.
She stated she would withdraw from the tournament, explaining she has “suffered long bouts of depression.” She explained she would “take some time away from the court,” but promised to later “discuss ways we can make things better for the players.”
Osaka, who is of Japanese and Haitian ancestry, supported nationwide protests last year against racism. During the U.S. Open, she wore face masks that said the names of victims of police and vigilante brutality.
In stepping away from the game, Osaka showed support for athletes. Press conferences, held AFTER grueling tournaments, are the equivalent of the boss forcing workers to stay an extra hour at the end of an exhausting work day.
As writer Cate Young put it in an opinion piece about Osaka, “Just as so many other workers have rethought—in a global pandemic—how work should operate, Osaka and her contemporaries are questioning the very frameworks under which they labor.”
Naomi Osaka put the value of human life, her own life, ahead of the financial interests that make money off professional sports. Fantastic!
Jun 7, 2021
Most of us understand how addictive junk food is. What people might not know is the lengths to which the multi-billion-dollar food industry has gone to get us hooked. There is a whole science around making junk food addictive, from the taste, smell, crunch, right down to the packaging and marketing.
The industry even uses a vocabulary that more than suggests addiction. “Bliss point” for the perfect amount of sugar. “Designer sodium” conjures up “designer” drugs. They have even perfected techniques that trick our brains into craving more by using carbohydrates that cause our blood sugar levels to spike and fall quickly—fooling us into believing we are hungry even though we just polished off a bag of potato chips. It’s ingenious and insidious. They actually figured out the perfect “break point” for potato chips (people like a chip that snaps with four pounds of pressure per square inch). This is big business and the CEO’s are serious about making profits at our expense.
They have spent decades searching for ways to increase our addiction to salt, sugar and fat.
At the same time, these CEOs are very aware of all the criticisms of the unhealthy snacks they are pushing on people. So they made “healthy” snacks using some of the same strategies they use for the unhealthy snacks. Baby carrots, for example, washed and ready to eat. Just open the bag and start crunching. Treat the carrots as a snack not a vegetable, promoting pro-junk food behavior in the anti-junk food establishment.
In other words, these capitalists have found a way to make big bucks selling “unhealthy” food as well as selling “healthy” food. What a racket! They get us addicted to junk food while they get rich, then they offer “healthy” alternatives so they can get richer still. It’s like arms dealers selling to both sides of a conflict.
Jun 7, 2021
A dingy sandwich shop called “Hometown,” located in the tiny town of Paulsboro, near Philadelphia, has a value on the Wall Street stock market of over 100 million dollars. This ordinary sandwich shop recorded just $13,976 in sales last year, as the Financial Times reported, and is losing about $70,000 every month. Yet, Duke and Vanderbilt universities, two of the most prestigious seats of higher learning in the U.S., bought a total of 2 million dollars of stock in this single sandwich shop.
On paper, Hometown is a so-called “special purpose acquisition company” or SPAC, which can raise capital on the stock market as an empty corporate shell and use its stock market valuations to go shopping for deals to purchase other companies. “We will not restrict our potential candidate target companies to any specific business, industry or geographical location,” Hometown’s owners told investors last March. That is, this dingy sandwich shop can raise capital through the sale of its stocks to purchase any business such as vaccine developers, electric car companies, computer chip manufacturers, etc. You name it.
So, this sandwich shop is like a front to launder illegal money gained, for example, from narcotics marketing, but with only one critical difference: it is legal under the U.S. law. In other words, Hometown is another Wall Street scam to suck up money.
This outright scam is capitalism’s craziness at its best. Like the subprime mortgage scam that ignited the Great Recession in 2008, these scams can easily cause financial catastrophes, and unemployment and misery among the working class.
While we need real education for personal development, good paying jobs, housing, and health care, Wall Street turns anything and everything in its path into a casino that can benefit only a few filthy rich. This rotting capitalist system is not working for the dominant majority of humankind.