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. 1150 — March 28 - April 11, 2022

Biden’s Promise:
War Against Workers at Home and Abroad

Mar 28, 2022

The deadly and destructive war in Ukraine has only just begun. That’s what President Biden proclaimed in a major address in eastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine on March 26. Of course, this could all be part of an ongoing extortion and negotiation.

But taking Biden at his word, he is promising the Ukrainian people—as well as the Russian soldiers, most of whom are conscripts—years more of blood and destruction. “We need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead,” said President Biden, specifying that “this battle will not be won in days or months, either.”

This war is not just in Ukraine. Biden also proclaimed economic war to crush the Russian economy. The Russian oligarchs will not take the brunt of this onslaught. No, it will be the Russian working class and poor. Most were already struggling to make ends meet before the war broke out. Biden’s economic war will make conditions that much worse.

And for what? Certainly the U.S. government is not supporting Ukraine in order to protect Ukrainian “democracy” from Russian “autocracy,” as Biden lied about in his speech. The Ukrainian government might formally have elections. But those elections are little more than a cover for the domination of the same kind of oligarchs and gangsters as the Russian government.

No, the U.S. government and military are supporting the Ukrainian fight in order to trap Russia in an endless war in order to weaken and bleed it. For Biden and the U.S. military, the Ukrainian people are just pawns, a way to get at Russia.

Yes, Putin is a dictator. He represents the Russian oligarchs. His regime tries to crush the Russian working class and poor. And the blood of the invasion and ongoing occupation of Ukraine is on his hands.

But this war is much more than the work of one dictator. It is a product of U.S. imperialist policy that has been aimed against Russia for decades.

In 1991, the bureaucrats at the head of the old Soviet Union—out for their own aggrandizement and enrichment—split that country into 15 separate countries. This split-up also broke apart the old Soviet economy, leading to an unprecedented economic collapse. The U.S. ruling class took advantage of this collapse by incorporating many of the former Soviet republics into the U.S. imperialist world order, one by one.

But the U.S. had a very different policy toward Russia, which was, by far, the biggest of the former Soviet republics. It was the rump of what was left of the old Soviet Union after the 1991 break-up. It had maintained a small amount of independence, due to the gigantic accomplishments set in motion by the workers revolution in 1917. But that revolution, which was isolated because revolutions in other countries had failed, was partially strangled and degenerated, to the advantage of the growing bureaucracy.

After the 1991 break-up, U.S. imperialism gradually surrounded Russia with military bases, troops and missiles—all aimed at Russia.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was meant to relieve that isolation somewhat by the usual methods of the Russian bureaucrats, through violence and extortion. But it backfired. The invasion dug a ditch of blood between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples and played directly into the hands of the U.S. imperialists, which brought in even more military might aimed at Russia.

So far, the leaders of both the U.S. and Russia have been careful to avoid a direct military confrontation. Most likely, this war is only just beginning. But no matter what happens, the policy of the U.S., the lone superpower, is taking the world one step closer to a global conflagration.

Workers in this country have every reason to oppose U.S. imperialist expansion in Ukraine and against Russia. For this policy serves the interests only of the big owners of the U.S. banks, oil companies, military contractors, and other big companies. These same big companies are using inflation against us, driving down workers’ wages and laying waste to our public schools and health care—all for their own profit and enrichment. They are the ones behind Biden, when he drags U.S. workers into their ever more disastrous and barbaric wars that threaten to engulf the entire world.

The working class in this country has nothing in common with these billionaires, these warmongering barbarians.

Pages 2-3

In the Bullseye of the Pandemic and in the Frontline of Workers’ History

Mar 28, 2022

On Sunday, March 6, at a meeting organized by The Spark, two women who ran for U.S. Congress as Working Class Party candidates, Andrea Kirby and Kathy Goodwin, addressed the situation of women workers. They shared the hidden history of International Women’s Day and highlighted the role women played in the Phelps-Dodge Miner’s Strike in Arizona and the BCBS Strike in Michigan. The following is an excerpt of their presentation focused on the weight of the pandemic on working women.

Now let’s get to the gaps between working men and women that the pandemic has brought to the forefront. There is a gap in the risk of bringing COVID home to the family, because of the work women do. In the U.S., slightly more men than women have died of COVID. Yet a lot of the workplace stress of COVID has fallen on women.

According to a study about the pandemic by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 64% of frontline workers are female. Here are some of the main job categories this study looked at: 1.) grocery store workers; 2.) clerical workers; 3.) nurses, other healthcare and childcare workers; 4.) housekeepers or cleaning industry workers; 5.) warehousing and trucking workers; 6.) bus drivers and public transportation workers; 7.) postal service workers; 8.) fast food workers and 9.) emergency services and community workers.

Only one category had many more men than women—warehousing and trucking. Another category for COVID exposure—manufacturing—has about two-thirds men and one-third women and it really should have been included here. Restaurant workers, at 52% female, and teachers, at 76% female, should also have been included. All these jobs were called essential at the height at the pandemic, although they were NOT treated as such.

More Than Just a Pay Gap

So, as we approach International Women’s Day, let us be reminded the fight for women’s equality is far from over. During this month, the media may focus on wage disparities, but we all know that even after decades-long struggles, women’s wages are NOT equal to men. Women struggle every day for equality of more than just wages. So, while the pandemic has put pressure on every person in this society, the pandemic has highlighted the continued disparity and pressure on women.

In the first year of the pandemic, an estimated 5 million women left the U.S workforce, a number significantly higher than men. Many were women who were working multiple part time jobs and women working full time, earning $11 an hour or less—poverty wages.

We have seen three major exploitations of women during this pandemic, the first of course is the lesser pay and benefits for women doing the same job as a man. Second, would be the enormous amounts of unpaid labor needed to raise children and run a household. Women report 30 or more hours per week spent on cooking, cleaning, shopping, childcare, and of course love and support. Men reported about 20 hours spent doing the same thing. And lastly, during this pandemic, women have been asked to take on additional jobs: teacher, lunch lady, and at home custodian. Virtual or online learning requires adult supervision and most often women filled the job.

The first year of the pandemic saw a sharp increase in the number of women in the U.S who died during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. A New York Times article quoted a study by the National Center for Health Statistics, which “found that the number of maternal deaths rose 14%, to 861 in 2020 from 754 in 2019." That is 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020. To understand how outrageous this is, let’s compare it to other developed countries such as Norway and New Zealand with fewer than 2 deaths per 100,000 live births! Or to France and Canada with less than 9 deaths per 100,000 births! Prior to COVID, the U.S. already had one of the highest maternal mortality rates among developed countries. COVID just made it worse. We are one of the richest countries in the world, yet we still haven’t found a way to provide safe obstetric care.

Progress Through Struggle

The progress women have made has always come through struggle, a struggle we continue today over our bodies. The right to abortion or the right to have health insurance cover contraception have come with a price. It meant that women and men have had to stand up to religious, legal, and political prejudices in society. Many women have always refused to accept to be put in “their place”.

In 1973, the Supreme Court recognized, in Roe v. Wade, that women had certain rights to choose an abortion. In 1976, Democrats held the majority in Congress and passed legislation to block Medicaid from paying for abortion. What was praised as a win for women was immediately attacked and poor women were the first target. As we can see now, they didn’t stop there. Over the past 50 years, the attacks have rolled us back so far, we are back in court asking for the same rights over our bodies that we did with Roe v. Wade.

Today, most women don’t have direct access to abortion care or other reproductive healthcare. There are no medical facilities or doctors to perform abortions in 90% of all U.S. counties. There are six states with only one facility in their state; 27 major cities are without a women’s care facility, and in rural areas there are none. This is an attack on women—especially working-class women that can’t afford to get someplace where abortion is legal. Women will not establish the right to control what happens to their bodies without fighting for themselves—again!

To share a personal story, Kathy explained that her grandmother was so happy to see abortion made legal in 1973. She said that in her lifetime she was happy to see women no longer treated like dogs. Her grandmother was told as a young girl she could not go to high school. Her father, who came from the old country, did not value a high school education for girls. The grandmother took a beating for trying to go to school. She ran away from home. She found a place to live with the superintendent of schools. She looked after that family’s children. She was able to go to high school. Later in life, her father apologized for being caught up in the old ways and they reconciled.

Working women, to not be pushed backward, must learn how to fight. Look at the strike at Phelps-Dodge in 1983 in Arizona. Look at the strike at BCBS in 1987 in Michigan. The working class of the whole country was in that first decade of what has now become almost 50 years of the standard of living for the working class going backward, going down. In both strikes, women fought hard and then appealed to the rest of the working class to take up their fight, to join them, to take the fight further. Did prejudice of male workers—not to want to follow the leadership of women—play a role in the fight not being picked up and spreading? It is impossible to know. Maybe the time just was not right. But how about now. Is the time right? Are workers going to let the divisions that have been around for hundreds, even thousands of years, stop us from improving our standard of living?

Poverty and Pregnancy

Mar 28, 2022

Babies have been in the news since the start of the war in Ukraine. The horrific bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol injured 17 and led to the death of a mother and baby.

In addition, babies are in the crosshairs of this war because the Commercial Surrogacy Industry is huge in Ukraine. Childless couples in the United States, in Europe, and in China have been utilizing the “services” of poor women in Ukraine for the past 20 years. In most cases, technology is used to unite sperm and egg from the wealthy couple to produce their own biological baby in a substitute womb. There are hundreds of newborns trapped in bomb shelters because their surrogate mothers gave birth, but the biological parents cannot pick up their babies because of the war.

The poorest country in Europe, Ukraine is the world’s second largest provider of “surrogate motherhood” services to infertile couples. Experts say that between 800 and 2500 young women a year in Ukraine must turn to surrogacy to have money to live. There is grinding poverty in Ukraine. In 2020, the average yearly income per person (GNI or Gross National Income) was $3,540 a year! That is an hourly wage of roughly $1.75 an hour!

Childless couples pay commercial companies between $30,000 to $120,000 per baby. But the Ukrainian woman who carries and delivers the baby is paid as low as $3,000 for her “services.” Even before the war, surrogate mothers were forced to deliver the baby in the cheapest dilapidated hospitals, often lacking hot running water. Under these conditions, mothers risk infection and complications. The newborns, even during the war, are much better cared for because these babies are treated as a commodity that is making the surrogacy company money.

The war brought attention to this situation in Ukraine. But guess what country is number one in producing babies for money? That’s right, the U.S.A.!

This largely underground industry is legal in 10 states plus in Washington, D.C. Global Market Insights estimates that U.S. commercial surrogacy will be a 27.5 BILLION dollar a year industry by 2025.

Pages 4-5

Food Prices Out of Control

Mar 28, 2022

Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs led the price increases, rising 13% in the last 12 months. Beef is up 16.2%; eggs up by 11.4%. High price increases for milk, butter, fruits, and vegetables—you name it, the very food staples that families count on, are more and more out of their reach. Grocery bills have doubled. And even cheaper food items, like hot dogs and mac and cheese are no longer a cheap option.

But even before inflation hit hard, a city like Detroit was a food desert. No big, chain grocery stores in the city. Ordinary people, especially without transportation, forced to go to little neighborhood grocery stores—often party stores or gas stations—for food purchases. And so today, if one can of Progresso soup, that USED TO BE 4 for $5 at a major chain store, like Meijer, is today selling for 2 for $5, at the local party store, it is $3.59. For one can of soup. So, the poorer you are, the more you pay.

So how are ordinary people dealing with these exorbitant price increases? They are being forced to cut back on foods like fruits and vegetables, because healthy food is too expensive. Families are having to decide how to carve out money budgeted for their electricity or water bills toward buying groceries. Parents, most often women, and other primary caregivers of children, are forsaking food for themselves, in order to guarantee their kids and grandkids have enough. And many families are going into even more debt, buying food on credit, so they can put something on the table.

Something is very wrong with this picture, when, in the wealthiest country in the world, it’s getting to be nearly impossible for ordinary families to feed their families.

Yes, it’s true that there used to be pandemic-era assistance programs—but, for the most part, they have ended. Yes, it’s true that there are food banks and food distribution centers—but is the answer really for people to line up every two weeks in growing lines to wait for boxes of donated food?

No, the working class doesn’t need “food assistance.” It doesn’t need charity. Workers today need jobs, and to have their wages increased so they are indexed to prices. Workers need to organize committees on price controls that can expose the speculators who are betting on “food commodities” causing the price increases, and the corporations that are passing on the cost of the crises they have created, onto the workers.

In other words, to have the right to even eat, the working class will have to be organized to get rid of this class society and replace it with one where human beings have the right to food, housing, health care, and culture. After all it is the working class that produces everything by their labor, including food.

Texas Primary:
A Sign of Things to Come

Mar 28, 2022

Nearly 23,000 mail-in ballots were rejected outright in the recent Texas primary that finished March 1.

These rejections came as a result of a new law passed last year that created greater restrictions on mail-in balloting. Each application for a mail-in ballot must include the person’s driver’s license or Social Security number, AND it must match whichever of those numbers was used when the person first registered to vote—which may have been decades ago, since most applicants are over 65. This caused thousands of applications to be rejected. THEN, the actual ballot must also include the correct driver’s license or Social Security number, also a new requirement. Most ballots were rejected because they did not include a number or had the wrong number.

The 23,000 rejected ballots accounted for 13% of all mail-in ballots. Experts say that any number higher than 2% is highly unusual and cause for concern.

This wasn’t the only restriction passed in Texas. In addition, stickers pre-printed with the applicant’s address are no longer included on the ballots; and no one is allowed to apply for another person’s ballot—even when the other person is a relative, even a spouse, living in the same household!

These restrictions amount to attacks on all working class and poor people, for whom any extra hurdle to getting, filling out, and returning a ballot may be the final strike against it being submitted and counted. They are done deliberately to cancel out the votes of anyone not likely to support the Republicans, including sections of black voters.

And it’s not just Texas. At least 17 other states have passed tougher restrictions on voting that will impact the elections this year. Texas is just the first one to have its primary in this election year.

It’s another sign that as the ruling class increases its attacks on working people, it is less and less interested in allowing us to participate in their “democracy” at all.

Profits over Customers

Mar 28, 2022

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, DTE Energy has cut power to its customers 260,000 times for nonpayment, according to a report from Detroit’s Outlier Media and ProPublica. The 178,200 disconnections for 2021 is the highest number since 2016 and DTE’s rate is higher than that of the six other utilities in the state.

Cutoffs like these force those with limited incomes to make choices between keeping their heat and lights on or paying for food or doctor visits, all while a pandemic rages on.

DTE uses the excuse that it must carry out these disgusting practices to avoid raising rates on its paying customers. Yet the company has already raised its rates during this period and is currently seeking another increase for later this year. The company had no trouble handing out 539 million dollars to its stockholders in 2020, which was 76% more than they received in 2010. It also found 9.7 million dollars in total compensation for its CEO, Jerry Norcia, for his first full year on the job.

Under capitalism, putting profits into the hands of top executives and wealthy stockholders comes before the well-being of the population. It needs to go.

Sewage in the Water

Mar 28, 2022

Baltimore area homeowners have been paying higher and higher water bills that also pay for sewerage treatment. Yet the two main sewage treatment plants have been failing for many months to properly treat sewage.

A recent state inspection of the biggest treatment plant found that it was discharging millions of gallons of only partially treated sewerage every day into a river leading to swimming areas in the Chesapeake Bay. Problems were found throughout the plant, including in the primary settling tanks, denitrification filters, secondary clarifiers, and biological reactors.

These problems aren’t new. Months ago, the state filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Department of Public Works for violating permit limits on the amount of polluted water the treatment plants discharge. Yet the recent inspection of the biggest plant revealed that the situation is now even worse that earlier.

So, on March 24, the Maryland Department of the Environment issued an order that the plant must be brought into compliance with its permits within just 48 hours!

This order sounds like a mission impossible since it appears that there has been a shortage of operating workers at the plant needed to carry out maintenance and repairs.

The order also sounds hypocritical since the Department of the Environment has been under attack itself for not having enough inspectors. Otherwise, why did it take so long before the latest inspection took place, when it was known for months that there were problems with the operation of these treatment plants?

Clarence Thomas:
What Credibility?

Mar 28, 2022

Ginni Thomas, wife of a Supreme Court Justice, longtime conservative activist who has long traded on her husband’s position and fame, has now been exposed as an active participant in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.

Dozens of texts from her to Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have now been released, with her urging him to do everything he could to contest and overturn the results.

Of course, these have come to light because Democrats in Congress have a vested interest in leaking them NOW, in the wake of Republican attacks on Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. The Congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack has had Meadows’ documents for months now.

Democrats say that these texts, and Ginni Thomas’s other activities, raise questions about Clarence Thomas’s objectivity. In January, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s request to block the release of White House records relating to the January 6 attack. The only dissent to that rejection came from Clarence Thomas, and he wrote a vehement dissent.

There are now calls for Thomas to recuse himself from any future cases stemming from the January 6 investigation. But, unlike any other court in the country, there is actually no mechanism to MAKE a Supreme Court justice recuse himself or herself from any case, even in situations of an obvious conflict of interest. And since he never has before in cases directly involving his wife, why would he start now?

And of course, there’s a lot of hand-wringing about how this is further discrediting the Supreme Court in the eyes of the American public. As if we should give the Court any credit at all! It has ALWAYS been an arm of the capitalists’ state apparatus, and often the MOST reactionary arm at that. It has played a big part in upholding slavery, segregation, union-busting, and many other attacks on the population. Its few progressive rulings are a drop in the bucket—and only came on the heels of mass movements that forced its hand.

The Court’s recent conservative majority is just a return to form. And the latest news about Clarence Thomas’s compromised credibility is just more of the same.

Pages 6-7

80 Years Ago:
Japanese-Americans Incarcerated

Mar 28, 2022

In March 1942, the U.S. government began rounding up ALL Americans of Japanese descent living on the West Coast. Within seven months, more than 110,000 people were imprisoned in ten concentration camps in remote areas inland. The barracks that families were herded into lacked plumbing and sanitation and were often furnished with nothing more than cots and blankets. Armed soldiers guarded the camps surrounded with barbed-wire fences.

Starting with President Franklin Roosevelt, who signed the executive order that authorized this mass incarceration, civilian and military officials spoke for, organized, and enforced it, while they continued to claim they were waging war in Europe and the Pacific in the name of freedom and democracy. And some of them did not even shy away from the crassest kind of racist talk. General John DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command, told Congress: “I don’t want any of them here. They are a dangerous element.… It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese.… We must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map.”

The price paid by the Japanese-American community was enormous. The government froze and confiscated assets of Japanese people, who lived in the U.S. but were not citizens. But being a U.S. citizen was not a protection either. People were forced to leave the “exclusion zones”—which included the entire states of California, Oregon, Washington, as well as part of Arizona—within days of receiving official notice. Being allowed to take only what they could carry with them, people lost their homes and jobs. Those who owned property and businesses were forced to sell them for fire-sale prices, which meant nearly total loss for the owners—and a huge bonanza for speculators.

When the concentration camps were dismantled in 1945, many former camp inmates did not get any compensation for lost or stolen property, because they were not able to “prove” ownership under the stringent requirements set up by the courts. One obstacle, for example, was that the IRS claimed it had destroyed most of the claimants’ tax records from before 1942! And the racism and violence against Japanese-Americans continued, especially in rural Central California.

This was, clearly, a decades-long, systematic persecution of the Japanese-American population, and not the result of some momentary panic and frenzy caused by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In fact, racist scapegoating of Japanese-Americans had been festering on the West Coast for decades. It came directly from the highest ranks of the business and political elite, aiming at sowing resentment among white farmers against successful Japanese farmers.

Already in 1913, California had passed the Alien Land Act, prohibiting Japanese immigrants from owning land—while federal immigration law prohibited the same immigrants from becoming citizens! In speeches and editorials, some California politicians and newspaper publishers openly and systematically attacked Japanese people. Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, Austin Anson, head of the Vegetable-Grower Association in Salinas, California, told the Saturday Evening Post: “We’re charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We might as well be honest. We do.… They came to this valley to work, and they stayed to take over.… If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we’d never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we don’t want them back when the war ends, either.”

In other words, the attack on Japanese-Americans was a huge money grab for big agricultural bosses. In 1942, half of employed Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were in agriculture, and experts estimated 35% of California’s truck crops to come from Japanese-American growers that year. Speculators descended on Japanese-American owners like vultures—one owner had to sell his strawberry farming operation for $2,000, for example, and the buyer resold it for more than $10,000. Together with the commercial property stolen from Japanese-Americans in this fashion in cities also, the loss of the owners—and the loot of the speculators—easily amounted to billions of dollars.

On behalf of the speculators, some of California’s most prominent politicians and government officials joined the attack on Japanese-Americans. Among them was California’s attorney general Earl Warren who, a decade later, would be the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled against the segregation of Black people. But in February 1942, when Congress held hearings on the supposed “threat” of Japanese-Americans, Warren argued for the removal of all Japanese-Americans from California, including U.S. citizens!

The Japanese-Americans responded to this grave crime against them with different types of resistance. When the government tried to make the inmates of the concentration camps pledge loyalty to the U.S., for example, many refused, knowing full well that it could mean harsh punishment under imprisonment, not only for themselves but also their family members. There were also acts of direct defiance, individual and collective—including a mass revolt at the Manzanar camp in California in December 1942, during which the guards shot and killed two young men and wounded many others.

But legal challenges to the mass incarceration did not go anywhere. In 1944 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was “constitutional” for the government to indiscriminately round up and lock up an entire population based on their ethnic background. So much for “freedom and democracy”!

It wasn’t until 1988, when most of the victims were either dead or near death, that the U.S. government officially admitted the incarceration of the Japanese-Americans during World War II was wrong. The “compensation” of $20,000 for each victim could obviously not even begin to cover the material losses suffered by tens of thousands of people, let alone the irreplaceable loss of the lives people had built before 1942, and would have built afterwards if they were not robbed and locked up under government orders.

The mass incarceration of the Japanese-American population in the 1940s had nothing to with “defending the country in war,” as authorities claimed. Besides the huge money grab by capitalist vultures, this kind of persecution serves another purpose in capitalist society. Direct terror used against one part of the population is used to divide the population and impose deprivation and austerity on the whole population more easily. There are many other examples of this throughout American history, and not only in a time of war—such as driving Native Americans out of their land, the enslavement of Africans, racist immigration laws targeting certain ethnic groups, the mass deportation of Mexican-Americans in the 1930s, the scapegoating of undocumented workers … it’s an endless list.

Japanese-American Prisoners Did Not Just Go Along

Mar 28, 2022

Over the decades, little attention has been paid to one chapter of the horrible history of the internment of Japanese-Americans—that they did not simply go along with it as willing victims!

It was possible for prisoners at the camps to simply refuse to work, but if they had any special dietary needs, they needed money to buy food. If they did work, they needed money to buy work clothes. Camp directors also “offered” work as a way for prisoners to “prove their loyalty” to the United States.

In June 1942, however, 1200 prisoners at the camp in Santa Anita, California walked off their jobs producing military camouflage netting. They demanded a 4-hour workday and $41 per month, a considerable increase over the $8 to $16 per month they were being paid. A pamphlet later found by FBI agents spoke of unsafe working conditions due to working with ropes with no gloves, causing blisters, and no masks, leading to dry, bloody coughs from inhaling fibers. The pamphlet also raised the question, "Where is DEMOCRACY?... We are in a camp, now we are worse than prisoners."

In August 1942, there were two uprisings at the same camp of 3,000 and 4,000 Japanese prisoners when camp police raided prisoners’ living quarters and seized “contraband” articles like sugar, silverware, towels, and, heaven forbid, whiskey! It took 200 armed soldiers to put down what the authorities called “riots.”

In fact, Japanese-Americans carried out a series of work stoppages at camps in the fall and winter of 1942–43. The authorities often described these strikes as “riots.”

Japanese-American prisoners also resisted in smaller ways. Some spoke out against their treatment and of their pride in being Japanese. Though it was prohibited for them to hold meetings exclusively in their Japanese language and with no Caucasian present, they often did so. Reports of FBI agents tell of numerous cases in which those seen as collaborators with authorities were treated roughly.

None of this should be surprising to anyone who understands that any oppressed people will eventually resist, yet this is a history most Americans have never heard. It deserves to be told.

Jackson Subjected to Congressional Racism

Mar 28, 2022

What started as a joyful moment for family and friends of U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson did not remain that for long. The televised Senate confirmation hearings for the first black female nominee were historic. The humble origins of this former high school debate champion whose parents grew up under segregation, became educators, and raised a daughter who graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, are compelling.

Many who tuned in to hearings to become acquainted with Judge Jackson and her qualifications ended up viewing something very hard to watch. What viewers witnessed were attacks many black women in professional roles are familiar with. In this case, those doing the attacking were far-right senators. They seemed to be auditioning for a role in the next Jackass movie!

Two Republican senators who are rumored to be running for President in 2024, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, acted like the spotlight needed to be on them and their political ambitions. Because the actual record of Judge Jackson is exactly what the U.S. government traditionally requires of a Supreme Court Justice, there was nothing substantial to criticize.

These two and their accomplices created problems out of whole cloth. Like a broken record, disrespectful questions were asked about past cases involving sentences for adults convicted of child pornography charges. It was a gut-punch to watch as these senators exploited the suffering of traumatized children, treating victims as mere stepping stones for their political ambitions!

These election-year antics sought to slander and demonize the nominee. They were not successful. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson alternated between patiently explaining how the U.S. legal system works and deftly putting these clowns in their place.

After three days of grueling hearings, Judge Jackson is expected to be confirmed with a vote along party lines. But the condescending behavior, the racism and sexism on full display at these hearings, was truly disgusting. Anyone who perpetrated this racist garbage should have been thrown out. And those who tolerated it without taking action go with them!

Pages 8-9

Neo-Nazi Forces in Ukraine
—What the Media Stopped Talking About

Mar 28, 2022

In the current war in Ukraine, those forces supporting the Ukrainian government include a number of far-right, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi groups. Many of these groups have been funded by wealthy Ukrainian oligarchs. Some of these far-right groups have been incorporated into the official Ukrainian military forces, like the Azov Battalion. Others operate as paramilitary groups. Some of these far-right groups trace their roots back or at least claim to be inheritors of the Ukrainian fascist groups who helped the German Nazis exterminate Jewish people during World War Two.

These current far-right Ukrainian organizations are well-known to the U.S. government. The U.S. government, through clandestine means, has armed some of them with weapons. The CIA and some U.S. National Guard units have trained them. These far-right Ukrainian groups are also well-known to the major media organizations in the U.S. They have written many articles about them. Or at least they did—until the current war started. Here are some of the things they have written—in the past.

“Volunteer Ukrainian Unit Includes Nazis”—USA Today, 3–10–2015.

“Post-Maidan Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces. The Azov Battalion was initially formed out of the neo-Nazi gang Patriot of Ukraine…. Azov’s commander once wrote that Ukraine’s mission is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade against the Semite-led inferior races”—The Nation, 2–22–2019.

“Recruits training in August 2019 with the military wing of Ukraine’s far-right Azov movement which has inspired white supremacists around the world.”—Time Magazine, 1–7-2021.

“The Azov Battalion … became known for its embrace of self-confessed neo-Nazis into its ranks … the Battalion is now an official part of Ukraine’s National Guard…. Azov has hosted neo-Nazi concerts replete with swastikas, tried to recruit foreign right-wing extremists, openly assaulted feminists, LGBT and leftist activists and cleared a Roma camp with hammer and axes."—Foreign Policy magazine, 4–15–2019.

“Groups of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists are committing war crimes in the rebel-held territories of Eastern Ukraine, according to the report from Amnesty International.”—Newsweek, 9–10–2014.

In 2016, Facebook designated the Azov Battalion as a “dangerous organization” and banned it from its platforms, similar to its policy for groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

But as soon as the current war in Ukraine began, Facebook reversed its ban, saying it would allow praise for the Azov Battalion. In fact, the entire major media in the U.S. is now ignoring what they themselves had written in the recent past. Once the war started, suddenly there is no mention of the Ukrainian far-right groups. The media now praises as heroes all those Ukrainians fighting against the Russian forces, without mentioning that some of them are avowed neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who are fighting for their own far-right cause.

The fact that the media is now covering up the far-right Ukrainian forces is no accident or oversight. The major media is doing its part to get us to support the policy of the U.S. government to fuel the Ukraine war, a government that represents the wealthy ruling class in this country, who own and control the major media.

This is a preparation for the next war. The capitalist governments of the world have engaged in two world wars—sending working people of different countries to fight each other. And they have engaged in many, many smaller wars. These governments couldn’t do it by telling their populations the truth about wars. They had to lie and cover up the truth. We must recognize that how they cover up the truth in Ukraine today could well be a preparation for the next world war—a war that would directly involve U.S. soldiers and the U.S. population.

Starvation Driven by Capitalism

Mar 28, 2022

The war in Ukraine threatens to make a world food crisis even worse. Ukraine and Russia together produce nearly 30% of the world’s wheat, plus a large share of its vegetable oil. Even more critically, they are key sources of fertilizer used by farmers all over the world.

A shortage of fertilizer, a drought or flood in a major food producing region, and the disruption of shipments of food from Russia and Ukraine themselves could cause a real shortage of food next year.

But while there is the real danger of a food shortage next year, as of today, there is no actual shortage of food in the world. Nonetheless, just between the beginning of February and March 25, the price of wheat jumped 60%. And this comes on top of the 80% increase in wheat and corn prices between April 2020 and December 2021.

Wealthy speculators are making fortunes betting on the prices of wheat, corn, and other food, just like they do with oil. Speculation drives prices up enormously whenever there is a rumor of war or drought, even when it hasn’t happened yet. And three giant U.S. companies, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Bunge, plus the European company Louis-Dreyfus, dominate the world trade in grain. Just like the oil companies get even fatter when the price of gas goes up, these companies stand to profit enormously from food price spikes.

The profits of these speculators and giant companies come at the expense of the world population. In the U.S., workers will eat cheaper, less healthy food and there will be continuing hunger and food insecurity. In poorer nations where a majority of income is spent on food, price increases will mean constant hunger. In Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and northern Nigeria, where people were already facing serious disruptions to the food supply because of war or U.S.-imposed sanctions, there will be more starvation.

Millions of people are facing hunger, all over the world, not because of Russian aggression, but because of the functioning of the capitalist system, in which the profits of speculators and giant agribusiness companies come before feeding the population.

NATO Bombs Belgrade

Mar 28, 2022

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France, issue 2799, March 25, 2022.

When the war started in Ukraine, the media repeated nonstop that it is the first war in Europe since the end of the Second World War, and that NATO is an institution of peace.

But on March 24, 1999, NATO planes began bombing Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo, which were what remained of the federation of Yugoslavia, which had started falling apart nine years earlier. This bombing lasted 78 days. Hundreds of civilians were killed, and hundreds of thousands had to flee the bombs and take refuge in neighboring countries. There was much material destruction in Serbia, most of all in the capital city Belgrade. Government buildings, bridges, power stations, and factories were demolished.

NATO justified these bombings by the need to protect people on the ground from “ethnic cleansing” organized by the regime of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo, formerly a province of Yugoslavia and north of Albania. Milosevic’s regime had been committing abuses for years. Since 1987 he had relied on Serbian nationalism to cement his power, especially at the expense of the Albanian-speaking population. Calling himself the defender of a Greater Serbia, he constantly whipped up national antagonisms. The people of Yugoslavia had lived together for decades but were drawn into war by this nationalist posturing. The other local leaders were motivated by the same thirst for power as Serbia’s boss.

The leaders of the imperialist countries—American and European—saw nothing wrong with Milosevic’s criminal actions which set the stage for ethnic cleansing. When they changed their minds, it was not because of the interests of the people. Their only objective was to make sure that they would maintain control over the Balkan region.

NATO’s so-called humanitarian intervention provided fuel for the nationalists and Milosevic’s paramilitary supporters. The imperialist leaders always serve up the same lies to make people forget their complicity in war.

The Dominican Republic’s Shameful Wall

Mar 28, 2022

Translated from Combat Ouvrier (Workers’ Combat), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active on the Caribbean islands Guadeloupe and Martinique, issue 1281, March 12, 2022.

On February 20, President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic launched the construction of a 100-mile concrete border wall separating the country from Haiti. He said this project aims to “control illegal immigration.” The wall was planned with Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse half a year before his assassination.

In Haiti the conditions faced by workers, small farmers, and poor people in general get harder day by day. Their neighborhoods have no public services, no water or electricity, and housing isn’t clean or decent. Public health and education are in tatters. Gangs control working class areas. In the factories, wages are between five and six dollars a day. Workers work themselves to the bone so their families can survive.

Given these miserable living conditions, thousands migrate in search of a better life. Around four years ago nearly 500,000 Haitians lived in the Dominican Republic’s capital.

Today the Dominican government disparages this migration, but it was one of the foundations on which the Dominican bourgeoisie built its fortune.

From the start of the 1900s through the fall of Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, the Dominican government bought Haitian sugar cane cutters, called “braceros,” from the Haitian authorities and rented them out to sugar refineries. In the 1980s, more than two million dollars were still allocated for bringing in immigrants under the pretext of “administrative recruitment costs.” Meanwhile Dominican construction companies hired more and more Haitian migrants, paying the lowest wages.

This exploitation of labor is inseparable from racism. Xenophobia against Haitian migrants has even taken the form of mass lynchings. Along these lines, in October 1937, Dominican President Rafael Trujillo organized the massacre of 12,000 Haitians at the border. During the 2000s, the method of deportation changed, but the Dominican bourgeoisie’s contempt remained. Immigration policy hardened with waves of expulsions last decade, and temporary border closings.

The construction of the wall is a consequence of the rise of nationalism throughout the world, which itself is related to the deepening international economic crisis. The Dominican government defends the interests of the bourgeoisie. To hold power, it panders to racist and xenophobic feelings.

Pages 10-11

Don’t Pay the Price of U.S. War!

Mar 28, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters during the week of March 21, 2022.

“Vladimir Putin is guilty of war crimes”—this was the message Biden delivered at a presidential press conference. And Biden called on us for sacrifice to stop Putin.

No doubt Putin is a criminal. One fifth of Ukraine’s population has fled their homes, attempting to escape Russian missiles and artillery. Big cities like Kyiv have been surrounded for four weeks, bombarded regularly. Cities like Mariupol were turned into morgues. The Russian army holds Ukrainian civilians hostage to war.

But if four weeks of war in Ukraine make Putin a criminal, what do decades of war in Afghanistan and Iraq make of U.S. presidents? Over a million civilians were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, 16 million displaced from their homes. Cities were leveled. From 2001 up to today, every U.S. president directed wars which held civilians hostage to war. Long before 2001, there were open U.S. wars in Viet Nam and Korea and clandestine U.S. wars in Iran, Chile, and Eastern Europe.

U.S. presidents always claimed they sent troops to war to “defend democracy” abroad and in this country.

But that was always a joke—and not very funny. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were carried out so U.S. capitalists could drain profit from the Middle East, along with its oil.

The U.S. military, far more lethal than that of any other country, has 750 of its bases in other countries. U.S. bases are demonstrations of sheer power, not beacons of “democracy.”

U.S. bases, in 80 other countries, exist to protect capital in the far-flung corners of the world where U.S. corporations seek profit. To put it clearly: the U.S. military acts so U.S. corporations can steal wealth from other peoples. (And don’t forget, U.S. troops have sometimes been used to break strikes in this country.)

In some ways, we share the fate of Russian working people. We pay the cost of wars carried out in our name, but which rebound back on us.

Russian conscripts, just like American soldiers before them, were sent to kill or be killed. Russian soldiers will come back from Ukraine, suffering physical and psychological wounds, just like American soldiers came back less than whole from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Russian workers are paying for Putin’s war with increasing militarization of their society. They have already paid with lost wages as the Russian oligarchs seek to pad their wealth. And now they pay as the U.S. and Europe tighten a noose around the Russian economy, harming working people more than anyone.

American society, too, is increasingly militarized, and we, too, pay a cost. The money spent on the military is money that was not spent to keep roads in repair, money not spent to keep bridges from falling and dams and levees from collapsing. The money spent on U.S. wars is money not spent on schools or clean drinking water. Money that should have kept Social Security pensions in pace with inflation, instead went to pay interest on debt run up by war. Money that should have prepared the public health system for a disease like Covid, went to war. Money that should have gone to workers who were out of work went, instead, to war. The population is deprived, its basic needs unmet because war is omnipresent.

We sit in the middle of a country that spends more on war in one year than Russia did in 15 years. But Biden wants us to blame Putin for the steady worsening in our situation. Really?

We need to blame those responsible for the problems we have here, the U.S. capitalist class whose drive for profit impoverishes us. We need to blame its henchmen in the U.S. government that defends the capitalist drive for profit, here and abroad. Instead of “sacrificing” to stop Putin, we need to pull our forces together to break the hold of U.S. capitalism here. In doing so, we would be giving the greatest support to working people everywhere. We would help shake the grip that U.S. militarization today has on the whole world.

Culture Corner—What Strange Paradise & Lead Me Home

Mar 28, 2022

Book: What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad, 2021

This award-winning book begins with the images of refugees washed up on the shore of an island, perhaps Greece, drowned in their attempt to escape famine caused by climate change or the terror of war. It presents the story mainly from the viewpoint of two children, one a refugee, one a local, and their bond. It is a lens to experience the horror of the journey in an overcrowded flimsy boat, and yet flips back and forth from that horror to life on the island and, with courage, a possibility for a better future, told through the eyes of the children. With beautiful writing, the author poses the dilemma, what way forward?

Film: Lead Me Home, 2021

Lead Me Home, available on Netflix, directed by Emmy-winning directors Jon Shenk and Pedro Kos, Oscar-nominated documentary, 2021.

This compelling and haunting short film features the homeless telling their own personal stories. It juxtaposes their individual life struggles with panoramas of the sprawling city of Los Angeles. It zooms in on people living in their homes drinking coffee, living their lives, and then zooms out again to aerial views of mile after mile of homeless encampments. Over half a million are homeless in Los Angeles and the number is climbing. This poetic examination shows the struggles of the homeless against starvation wages, crippling addiction, violent sexual abuse, unemployment, PTSD, discrimination, and ever-rising high rent. The film lays bare the fact that capitalism has no answer for any of this, and it’s growing ever worse.

Page 12

Government Cuts Covid Funding

Mar 28, 2022

The government’s Covid program that reimburses doctors and medical providers for the cost of testing, treating, and vaccinating the uninsured is set to end in early April. In 2020 there were about 28 million people without insurance, according to the Census Bureau. But even those who are insured will have to weigh whether or not they can afford to seek treatment. Think about those with large deductibles on their insurance. Maybe they can access testing and early treatment but are afraid of large medical bills.

Covid is not over. New variants keep appearing on the scene. But it is clear that the government doesn’t consider it their problem. Not them, and not the wealthy class that this government represents. Their problem is “getting people back to work” (of course, to raise their profit margins). They are taking advantage of the fact that people are tired of Covid. They are hoping the population will agree to live with Covid or die with Covid forever more. The ruling class is ready to accept more Covid losses just as they accept over 60,000 deaths from seasonal flu each year.

Covid may not be a problem for the government and the wealthy but it sure as hell is a problem for ordinary people, for workers. We are tired of Covid. The government has done precious little to stop Covid in its tracks.

If workers were in charge of making the decisions that affect our lives, we could come up with all sorts of ways to combat Covid. Imagine going to the local pharmacy and getting your free Covid test and if you test positive, the pharmacy gave you antivirals to treat it, right then and there, as just one example.

We know how to run things efficiently and we know how our lives work, better than any politician. We just need to be in charge of the money and the health care system! Taking profit out of it is Step One.

Free Gas for a Few

Mar 28, 2022

Businessman and former political candidate Willie Wilson recently offered a million-dollar gas giveaway in working-class Chicagoland areas, where customers got to fill their tanks without pay. Clearly Wilson’s donation was a ploy to secure votes for another potential political campaign ... but with gas prices this high? A free tank of gas is basically a life preserver for workers to make it through the rest of the week.

Lines of cars stretched miles from the gas stations, choking high-traffic streets during the morning rush. Some people, desperate for this free fuel-up, risked running completely empty while idling in line. One worker expressed, “I was literally driving the last of my gas to get there. It’s already hard with everything going on here in Chicago, the economy, the gas prices, rent still have to be paid.”

As gas prices and corporate profits continue to soar, wages continue to fall behind. Our wages should rise in proportion to increases in cost-of-living. How can workers possibly maintain otherwise? We can’t simply wait on the “generosity” of rich folks like Willie Wilson, who got their wealth in the first place off the backs of our labor! As workers have demonstrated in the past, increased pay is something that will only be realized when we organize and fight for it.

Chicago Cops Get Away with Murder

Mar 28, 2022

On March 15th, Cook County’s State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that there would be no charges against Chicago police officers Eric Stillman and Evan Solano.

A year ago, Eric Stillman shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo, after chasing him through an alley. Two days later, Evan Solano shot and killed 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez, while Alvarez was also running away. Both killings by cop provoked outrage when they happened.

But when she announced she would not press charges, Kim Foxx said that the police must act in a split second and that they had no criminal intent.

Her announcement made many people in the Hispanic community in Chicago really angry. Many felt that it proved once more that the police are not there to protect the community, but to victimize it—and the system lets them get away with murder.

Washington, D.C. Prisons Lose Disabled Man

Mar 28, 2022

Kevin Flythe disappeared early on January 27 on his way by bus from Charleston, West Virginia to Washington, D.C. His speech and his right arm are disabled by stroke last August, his left arm has been immobilized for years, and he has limited vision. His family and friends have tried everything to find him. But he shouldn’t even be missing.

Flythe was released from a federal prison in West Virginia holding prisoners from Washington, D.C. after he served 27 years for a crime committed in his early 20s. But prison officials simply dumped him into a bus station with a ticket for a 10-hour ride to D.C. with four stops in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland—without any money, without any food, and most likely without his four prescription medications. His attorney was only notified of his release hours later after requesting the information for days. But by then he had vanished.

If the prison system had anything to do with rehabilitation, this would never happen. But the prison system exists to oppress poor and working people. In D.C., where one in seven people has a criminal record, and in most years more than 10,000 former prisoners are released to return home every year, how many just barely escape whatever horror Flythe experienced?

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