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. 1151 — April 11 - 25, 2022

Biden Decries Civilian Deaths While Preparing Future Wars

Apr 11, 2022

The U.S. news coverage of the war in Ukraine has been filled with images of the dead for weeks. In recent days, the bodies of executed civilians were shown, found in Bucha, following the pullout of Russian soldiers. Subsequently, the train station at Kramatorsk was hit by missile strikes which killed civilians.

U.S. president Joe Biden has turned up the volume on his expressions of shock and horror at these deaths, citing Putin as a war criminal, calling for justice.

Truly, the situation is horrific. But it is less than believable that Biden and his state officials are shocked. After all, the U.S. government has engaged U.S. troops in deadly wars, one after another, in our recent lifetime. Afghanistan and Iraq, to name a few.

Atrocities? The U.S. war machine holds the world record for executions and war killings. The U.S. dropped more bombs on one city in Iraq in the first day of war during Desert Storm than Russia dropped in the first four weeks of war against Ukraine. The U.S. killed over 200,000 civilians in the ensuing war. Current U.S. sanctions have caused the deaths of one-and-a-half million Iraqi civilians from starvation. Today, millions are also near starvation in Afghanistan after U.S. forces reduced city after city to rubble.

And this is only the most recent, partial, body count. In Japan, an estimated 230,000 civilians were murdered in the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII. An estimated 25,000 civilians were firebombed to their deaths in Dresden, Germany.

So, no, Biden and U.S. state officials are not shocked by the recent death and destruction in Ukraine. Their words have a purpose though, and that purpose is to rally the U.S. population around an extended U.S. war they know will come, even if they don’t know exactly when or who will be on what side.

Their determination to pursue and escalate the war in Ukraine demonstrates a deliberate policy of no compromise. Providing billions of dollars in armaments, they demand all or nothing from Russia. They have used the opportunity of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia to hugely increase the number of weapons of mass destruction in Europe and in the border states surrounding Russia.

Not to save Ukrainian lives. Not for some false promise of defense of democracy. Not to provide money for the living. To provide billions to the U.S. military machine for death.

The capitalists look to take back Russia. On the world scale, Russia and its surrounding territories have existed outside of the control of U.S. imperialism since 1917. While Russia has been forced to engage with the capitalist world economy, capitalism has never been able to integrate Russia with its vast territories and resources fully back into the capitalist system.

Those who run the system today see an opportunity to change all of that, to use Putin’s dirty war to force open the gates that keep the Russian economy outside of direct capitalist control.

The goal of the U.S. government, and its allies in NATO, representatives of the junior capitalists who follow in its wake, clearly is to weaken the Russian regime to the fullest extent possible; to use the Ukrainian population as a proxy in a wider war.

Are U.S. workers ready to go to war for U.S. capitalism’s interests? The recent pain of U.S. wars may have made the U.S. population less willing. But even today, we are told we must pay the costs of war, sacrificing our health and our standard of living to military pursuits.

Biden and his cronies and the wealthy bosses and bankers they represent will not be sacrificing. They won’t be shedding a drop of blood. They will be feasting on war profits.

Ukrainian workers and Russian workers have been forced into a conflict not of their making. Will they find a way out? Will they refuse to be decimated and separated by a ditch of blood when together they could refuse to fight each other and fight for their own interests? While today’s war forces the working classes of these countries into a patriotic alliance behind their exploiters, it doesn’t mean it will remain that way.

Workers of Russia and Ukraine may find their way to another solution as they did in 1917. War has been known to carry revolution in its wake. Workers of earlier generations have refused to fight for their oppressors and have used their forces to take power and themselves run society.

American workers, when they see where their true interests lie, can do the same. But in the meantime, we must refuse to be pawns in yet another capitalist war. Why should we accept more misery, more poverty, a lower standard of living than we suffer today so that the true warmongers, a handful of U.S. billionaires, can get even richer?

Pages 2-3

U.S. Life Expectancy Sinking

Apr 11, 2022

When Covid-19 first blazed around the world in 2020, many people lost loved ones. Studies showed that in 2020, life expectancy dropped across the world. This was shocking because life expectancy had been steadily going up for 100 years in developed countries.

A study just published in April looked at life expectancy in the second year of the pandemic, in 2021. The study looked at the U.S. and 19 similarly wealthy countries. It was found that in 2021, life expectancy went down in the U.S.—again. But in 17 similarly wealthy countries, life expectancy actually went up—in the middle of the pandemic! To place this study in context, understand that the U.S. is the only wealthy country that does NOT guarantee a right to healthcare.

In 2021, U.S. life expectancy was lower for what gets called all racial groups. Whether categorized as hispanic, black or white—all people in the U.S. had lower life expectancy compared to 19 other wealthy countries.

Another study, from Oxford University, looked at the 29 wealthiest countries. The U.S. had the biggest drop in male life expectancy during the COVID-pandemic.

A third study, The Poor People’s Pandemic Report, compared the poorest 10% of U.S. counties with the richest 10% of counties. People in poor counties died at almost twice the rate of those in richer counties.

Differences in death rates were not always due to difference in vaccination rates. Vaccination rates were about 50% on average for all groups in the study. The biggest difference was that the poor areas had twice the amount of people without health insurance!

Bishop William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign that helped produce the report, said, "The neglect of poor and low-wealth people in this country during a pandemic is immoral, shocking and unjust, especially in light of the trillions of dollars that profit-driven entities received."

During the pandemic, the federal government forbade states from taking away Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people. Any day now, the Biden administration is expected to end those protections. What ending Medicaid protections will do to accelerate deaths in the U.S. is horrible to imagine. With the pandemic still not over, the U.S. government eliminating healthcare protections is criminal!

The Future They Are Planning for Us

Apr 11, 2022

Ford CEO Jim Farley was recently interviewed in the Detroit Free Press about the future of the auto industry. He said that they are planning for a future in which the prices of vehicles will be so high that many people will not be able to afford their own vehicle. Farley said “electrification is going to make it worse, actually.” Ford plans to make even higher profits on each vehicle sold and then make money off of ride-sharing. So what is Farley telling autoworkers that they are planning for our future? Fewer vehicles built means fewer jobs for autoworkers, or at least that is their plan. We need to have our own plan to fight for our jobs.

We Can’t Afford Them Now

The average price of a new vehicle today is $45,596. The average transaction price for a 2022 pick-up is $54,949. Many of us can’t even afford to buy a new vehicle right now. The future that Ford is planning would mean that none of us could afford to buy the vehicles that we build. Farley is threatening our future livelihood. We need to understand and act accordingly.

Engineers Kicked to the Curb

Farley also said that, as Ford's transitions to more electric vehicles, many of the salaried engineers who currently work on gas-powered vehicles are expendable and will not be retrained to work on electric. They will just be thrown out the door and Ford will hire new engineers. Ford can be just as cold-blooded with salaried workers as they are with hourly.

Big Oil Hikes Gas Prices While Handing out Billions to Stockholders

Apr 11, 2022

The corporate news media keeps telling us the huge hike in gas prices is a result of the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia. Yet the war and sanctions don’t seem to be hurting the profits of the Big Oil companies.

So you might expect Big Oil to be spending their profits to expand oil production in this country or perhaps invest in alternative energy sources, right? Not exactly. Instead they’ve authorized 45 billion dollars in stock buybacks and dividend payments to their stockholders.

These companies are among the 77 fossil fuel companies that received a total of 8.2 billion dollars from the Covid-19 CARES Act stimulus package. All while laying off nearly 60,000 employees.

It’s not hard to see the real cause of why a tank of gas is costing us so much.

Silver Spring, Maryland:
Apartment Gas Explosion

Apr 11, 2022

A massive gas explosion devastated 41 apartments on March 3 in the Friendly Gardens apartment complex in Lyttonsville in Silver Spring, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C. Only because most residents had already left for work or school did nobody die. But 124 adults and 36 children were displaced, and three of the six buildings were ruined.

A Quaker congregation from D.C. built the 85 apartments in 1971 to provide affordable housing in Lyttonsville. The historically black town was founded by people formerly enslaved on Montgomery County plantations, and was surrounded by towns that prohibited black renters or homeowners. Now the apartments house many African immigrants as well.

The explosion happened because gas built up in one building when a maintenance worker trying to fix a clogged drain cut through a one-and-a-half-inch gas pipe that was undistinguishable from the water pipes. He snaked the pipe and capped it, but the three-story building had become a bomb. Someone somewhere sparked a fire .…

In over 50 years of maintenance, no one spent time to mark the gas pipe so people could tell it apart from the water pipes. Not even when all the units were renovated for over two million dollars six years ago.

There are thick gas pipes like this in thousands of apartment buildings everywhere. Many are unmarked. They are all bombs waiting to explode.

Pricing Workers out of College

Apr 11, 2022

Parents at Blue Cross, like parents across the U.S., would like for their graduating children to have the opportunity to go to college. Following the pandemic and all of the problems working people went through, including increased depression of school age children, you would think that those who run the system would try to make opportunities for the kids to get up and get ahead.

Not so. The average cost of college has increased drastically. For a Michigan resident, going to a public college in Michigan is averaging over $15,000 a year. One source points out that, with the cost of tuition comes the average student debt of $31,000! This same expert can only encourage students to study hard and go to a cheaper school.

Where? Working people are being priced out of higher education entirely. Workers’ fights for public education resulted in grade schools for the population, a “right” that has been badly eroded. Workers’ fights for higher education will have to be made for the “right” to go to college.

April 15 Fun Facts

Apr 11, 2022

Hate paying taxes? Be like corporate America. Fifty-five of the largest corporations once again last year did not pay any taxes whatsoever to the federal government. And they got back more than three billion dollars in tax credits, to use for future tax bills not to be paid.

These corporate citizens who do not follow the same rules ordinary taxpayers follow include such big names as Nike and FedEx plus Archer-Daniels-Midland, a large processor of foods, and Consolidated Edison, the New York utility.

How is this possible when the U.S. government is running such a huge deficit in the trillions of dollars? Corporate America has friends in the right places—that is, their buddies in Congress who give them free passes in exchange for campaign contributions.

That’s why we pay and they don’t.

The Cost of COVID

Apr 11, 2022

This two-year-old pandemic has killed six million or more people worldwide, and hospitals overseas are again filling up with sick people.

The cost of COVID has been paid by everyone, all those who got sick, all those who know sick people or those who died. If we just take our own work place, it is still like a ghost town, with few people coming in every day.

Human beings developed by interacting with other human beings, so even if we are healthy, we have experienced lack of human contact. For people working from home, Zoom does not make up for human contact, as was shown by what happened to school children.

Governments everywhere failed to face down a crisis. Two years later health care is still a field that lacks enough workers and enough resources. We only get the health care we can afford.

Pages 4-5

Ketanji Brown Jackson Appointed to Supreme Court

Apr 11, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first black woman appointed to the Supreme Court in its 233 year history. Far too long to wait! Jackson is still only the third black person appointed to the Court, out of a total of 116, and the sixth woman.

Many people are glad to see a black woman on the Supreme Court, that it’s one more institution that has been pried open. But just as the election of Barack Obama did not change the nature of the presidency, the appointment of Jackson does not change the nature of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is held up as a “blind arbiter of justice,” but it is anything but. For starters, what kind of body supposedly representing the population carries lifetime appointments?

The Court is an institution that, over these 233 years, has defended the interests of the ruling class above all. The court affirmed the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, upheld slavery for decades, then segregation for decades after that. A conservative court removed segregation and granted the right to abortion—but only when forced by the pressure of the Civil Rights and then Women’s movements.

These are the only forces we can depend on: ourselves, working people, organized and fighting for what we need. The Supreme Court, and elected officials, will not save us. They can only represent our enemy.

Los Angeles:
No Housing for the Homeless

Apr 11, 2022

One year after authorities cleared a homeless encampment at Echo Park in Los Angeles, more than 90% of the former residents of the encampment have not received long-term housing, according to a report published by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

When, in March 2021, the LAPD forcefully evacuated the homeless people from Echo Park, authorities signed up 183 of the camp’s residents for a “placement list,” promising them housing—which turned out to be an empty promise. The UCLA study found that only 17 of these 183 people remained in long-term housing. Of the rest, the study found that the L.A. Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) has lost contact with 82 of them. Considering that more than 200 people were actually camping at Echo Park before the LAPD cleared it, LAHSA has not even kept in touch with more than half of them.

The majority of the evacuees were initially placed in hotel rooms within the framework of what was called “Project Roomkey,” funded with federal money. But it took some of the people less than a week to return to living on the streets. The most common reason was isolation. People were sent many miles away from anybody they knew or any support services available to them.

In other words, this “Project Roomkey” was just a gimmick. And as for permanent housing for homeless people, it’s just not there—despite years of promises from authorities. So when residents of an area complain about homeless people or their encampments, the authorities just send in the LAPD, rough up and arrest people who resist, and clear the area by force. The homeless then are left on their own again, looking for a new spot to pitch their tent on.

The officials knew it was going to end up like this because the conditions themselves are only getting worse. LAHSA itself is expecting double-digit increases for this year. They forecast the official homeless count to pass 80,000 in 2022 as compared to 60,000 in 2019. In a report last year, the Economic Round Table provided a more accurate picture of homelessness by including people who “couch surf”. The study predicted total homelessness to increase from 150,011 in 2019 to 194,487 in 2022.

Homelessness is a huge social crisis driven by low wages and high rents—by the normal workings of the capitalist system, that is, since these are two things business and property owners do to increase their profit. Politicians and government officials will not solve this problem, because they actually front for capital, and especially big capital. That’s why even the money that’s allocated for housing just goes to developers, with nowhere nearly enough housing materializing.

The cruelty of homelessness and its ever-increasing presence shows the incapacity of the capitalist class and their politicians at addressing a crisis of their own doing.

Chicago Grocery Workers Confront Wage Theft and Pay Cuts

Apr 11, 2022

Over 4,000 Chicago area grocery workers are demanding a retroactive pay raise and reversal of wage cuts at 182 Jewel-Osco stores.

Food giant Albertsons Inc., the parent company of Jewel, violated a contract it previously signed with the Food and Commercial Workers Union and refused to implement a 30 to 50 cents per hour wage increase for the store’s meat, fish, and deli workers.

Since August 2021 when the new contract took effect, workers’ paychecks have been shorted, and retroactive pay has been denied. Many workers were also shocked to discover their wages had actually been cut by $2 to $3 per hour without notice of any kind.

For months the company has blamed all this on a “computer glitch” and a “payroll snafu” of some kind, acting as if they’re a simple “mom and pop” shop with some understandable technical limitations—a real joke!

At the height of the pandemic Albertsons was “honoring” as “essential” and “heroic” the exact same workers they are screwing today! When Albertsons’ CEO recently announced an 18% increase in profits during the pandemic, he cynically attributed it to "A favorable economic backdrop together with the heroic performance of our frontline retail teams."

Workers are angry, but so far their response has been limited to exposing Albertsons’ actions in social media and the press. By now it is clear to many that a signed union contract is not enough, and a much bigger fight is needed to turn back Albertsons’ attacks.

Workers at other Albertsons chains continue to face similar wage issues and can be important allies.

Companies Pay Less than $15 per Hour to 52 Million U.S. Workers

Apr 11, 2022

One-third of U.S. workers, close to 52 million, earn less than $15 per hour ($31,200 per year), according to a new report from Oxfam America, an anti-poverty advocacy organization. Close to 90% of these workers are older than 20 years old, showing that these are not entry level jobs for young workers.

A big part of the workforce is paid even less than 15 dollars per hour. The federal minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour, thirteen years ago, in 2009. And that is still the minimum wage in 20 states that never enacted a higher minimum wage law. Moreover, agricultural workers, domestic workers, workers with disabilities, workers who depend on tips, and student workers sometimes are paid even less, when there are no state or local regulations. The tipped wage workforce, about 4.3 million people, is stuck at $2.13 an hour federal minimum wage. Tipped workers, when the tips are included, have a median wage of $10.22. The bottom line is that the U.S. has no federal law or actual enforcement to stop companies from paying poverty wages.

Millions of these low-wage workers are parents, struggling to raise children on their poverty-level wages. For example, 11.2 million single workers with children earn less than $15.

And the living standards of workers earning those low wages are constantly being eroded due to the current record-breaking inflation rate of close to 8%, with the prices of essentials such as housing, food, and gasoline skyrocketing. So, a huge section of the workforce is daily struggling to make ends meet on wages that are losing against inflation big time.

While we are getting pushed down into the dirt, the companies report record profits, and their owners and managers have heavenly lifestyles. For example, last year, the average president of a company made close to 14 million dollars a year, while a federal minimum wage worker earned $15,080 a year. That is, an average president got 930 times more than a poverty-level wage worker. This disgusting difference in pay is nothing but a class war waged by the companies and their owners against workers to enrich themselves.

Chicago:
Lightfoot
—Gas for a Few More

Apr 11, 2022

Chicago’s Mayor Lightfoot does plan to run again. So ... she announced last week a plan to distribute 7.5 million dollars on gift cards for gasoline: 50,000 cards with 150 dollars on each. And she will not leave out the CTA riders: 100,000 will get a $50 transit card. Everyone who wants to try will put their name in—for a lottery—if the proposal gets through the City Council.

Nobody thinks that this is anywhere close to addressing the problem in a real way. It’s just one more proverbial “drop in the bucket.” Of course the oil companies won’t mind having some more government money going straight into their pockets!

Chicago Public Schools:
Budget Cuts Amidst Covid Cash

Apr 11, 2022

Students at public schools have great needs, coming off of a year-and-a-half where their education was disrupted by the pandemic. The federal government sent Chicago Public Schools (CPS) 1.8 billion dollars, to be spent by Fall of 2024. It’s by no means enough, but it is substantial money, even in a system as large as Chicago. But coming toward the end of the academic year, very little of that money has found its way into students’ classrooms.

CPS put 536 million of the Covid money into its budget this year. Only two months remain in the school year, and yet only 166 million was actually spent so far. The district promised to hire 850 tutors to work with students in the schools, but they only ended up hiring a little more than half of that. A member of the school board said she was "a little discouraged by the low amount of investment so far." That’s an understatement!

With school communities continuing to suffer the effects of the pandemic, the district is imposing budget cuts. 162 schools out of over 550 are losing substantial amounts for next year. Most of the schools slated for cuts are in working class communities like Pilsen, Little Village and Lawndale. This, when they have more than a billion extra for the next two years.

Like a broken record, year after year the politicians tell us: “There’s not enough money for schools.” Well, now there definitely IS money. And they most definitely are not spending it in our students’ schools.

Credit Card Interest Rates

Apr 11, 2022

Have you paid attention to interest rates lately? Most credit cards have rates as high as 24.99%. These were considered loan-sharking rates years ago when the government was trying to bring down the mob.

It’s crazy how the credit card companies charge these exorbitant, predatory interest rates. Most have rates that run as low as 14.99% but who qualifies? For the most part, it’s not the working class. However, who did the finance companies come to for a bailout when Wall Street was in danger of collapse? The “government,” who used taxes paid by the working class for the bailout.

These high interest rates are just another way to keep the working class in debt!

Pages 6-7

Class Struggle Is Our Compass

Apr 11, 2022

The following are taken from remarks made by Lutte Ouvrière Presidential Candidate Nathalie Arthaud, at an April 3 public meeting in Paris. They are translated from the April 8 issue #2801 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France. The election was held on April 10.

In this run-up to the election, we hear candidates on the left reel off wonderful promises and even talk about “happy days,” without connecting with working people.… We have reason to be angry. These candidates disarm those who listen to them….

No single person can stand in for the balance of forces with the big bourgeoisie and make the bourgeoisie fear them, whether sitting in the Élysée Palace here in Paris, in the White House, or in the center of whatever government. Only the working class—mobilized in its millions and conscious of its strength—can do this.

Workers do not need merchants of illusion. They need clarity. Unlike all those who pose as supreme saviors, we must tell our people that we workers have the strength to change our fate ourselves.

Our strength is collective. It comes from the fact that we produce all the wealth, all the profits, and all the capital that the bourgeoisie monopolizes. Our strength is that we make the whole society run….

To substitute the vote for our mobilized power is to give up using the collective and social force of the working class. It means putting our fate in the hands of government institutions. It means handing our fate over to the big bourgeoisie that dominates the whole society. Not preparing workers for combat amounts to handing them over bound hand and foot to their enemy! Capitalism is class struggle. And tomorrow’s class struggle will be even fiercer.

Big business knows how to lead their fight. They have their armada of chiefs and deputy chiefs, their armada of politicians who are always present to justify their policies. To protect themselves, workers can only count on themselves: on their consciousness, their mobilization, and their determination. Just hearing politicians say that all of this is unnecessary and even dangerous is against workers’ interests.

The class struggle must be our political compass. There is no middle ground. Either we fight capitalism until its destruction, or we end up integrating into it and becoming one of its cogs….

The question is not which candidate will luck out and become president. The question is whether or not workers will succeed in organizing to defend their right to exist.

I defend the perspective of the organization of workers. My candidacy is a call for consciousness and mobilization! I am not here to say that in power I will do better than Macron. I am running to say that workers must aim to overthrow the bourgeoisie and its government. They must aim to establish their own power. Not just to ensure retirement at 60 or higher wages, but to change society as a whole!

Our Program: A Program of Struggle

Even if we feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task, or if we feel helpless faced with war and its consequences, the first step is to give ourselves a policy and a party capable of bringing the working class together around the idea that they have to be prepared to fight. This means equipping ourselves with a program of struggle to protect our conditions of existence….

2,000 euros per month net salary [around $26,000 take-home per year] is a minimum so as not to have to count each euro and not live in anguish that our car will break down or that we have a health problem….

Faced with the return of inflation, we must put forward a central demand of the labor movement: the sliding scale of wages. Wages, pensions, and benefits must be indexed to prices, month by month, week by week if necessary. We can’t let prices rise without our means of living rising equally.

The bosses have the power to pass higher expenses onto their prices, so their profits are not cut. Workers do not have that power. The only way to protect their purchasing power somewhat is the automatic indexation of wages to prices. In any case, it shouldn’t be up to workers to bear the cost of the bosses’ irrational economy!

… Yes, the working class has a policy to defend in terms of unemployment. Distribute the work among everyone. Force a reduction in work hours (without a reduction in pay) so that no one is unemployed.

Let us all work less, so we all have work!

End the Bosses’ Code of Silence

Abolishing business secrets would make it possible to make the flow of money transparent. This would reveal how big bosses gorge themselves on small bosses. How corporations increase their profit margins by strangling their subcontractors. How conglomerates evade taxes with their crafty shells of subsidiaries and sub-subsidiaries. And how bankers behave like feudal lords when dealing with small business owners who believe they are independent, but who spend their lives paying back their debts!

… If employees take up this claim and mobilize to exercise their own control over bookkeeping accounts and contracts, they will be able to measure the extent of exploitation. They will see that low wages only exist to ensure big profits and big dividends! They will realize that everything that is considered impossible today is perfectly achievable, like more hiring, higher pay, slowing down the pace of work, reducing hours, and providing pensions!

By abolishing business secrets, we would put an end to the corporate code of silence. This silence … allows big business to pollute, to deplete resources, and to destroy the planet. Putting an end to it will not require commissions of inquiry or other supervisory authorities. It can rely on the workers themselves, who are the element in companies not made blind by the profit motive! …

Up until now, the main contribution of working people to the war effort is the daily extortion they suffer because of oil and gas prices. The energy sector is a huge source of enrichment and speculation for the big bourgeoisie. Total, Engie, and their competitors are war profiteers.

Not a single gas or oil pipeline from Russia is shut off as of yet. The gas we are sold at the pump was purchased several months ago by the oil companies. But the prices at the pump are matched with the current price of a barrel of crude oil. Nothing justifies such price increases, except speculation….

What is true for energy is even more spectacular for weapons. Since the start of the war, all European countries have announced increases in their military budgets.

There was not a single euro in reserve to run hospitals, but hundreds of billions are available immediately for warplanes and missiles. What delight for arms dealers! Their stock prices soared.

And the 100 billion euro increase in Germany’s military has already given rise to a battle to determine who will corner the market for combat aircraft. More than ever, government leaders are becoming sales representatives for arms dealers.

After the First World War, Anatole France wrote: “You think you are dying for your country; you die for the industrialists.” Well, in order not to die for the profits of the industrialists, we must popularize the idea of workers’ control over energy and military-industrial capitalists.

To oppose sacrifices imposed in the name of the sacred union in a nation at war, our watchword must be: confiscate war profits and expropriate companies profiting from war such as energy companies. Not a euro for weapons dealers! Not a euro to gorge Total’s shareholders!

I know that in the voting booth many who agree that capitalism is leading us to a dead end will choose what they believe is a useful vote for the left. It’s like tossing a bottle into the ocean. You tell yourself it can’t hurt anyway.

Yes, it can hurt. The working class always wakes up from its electoral illusions with a hangover. Electoralism leads to resignation and passivity. When you are conscious that the strength of workers is not in the ballot box, you have to make a militant vote, a vote to show what side you are on. To show your perspectives to other workers.

Of course we go against the tide. But against what tide? Individualism? The love of money? Nationalism? War? Yes, a thousand times yes! Society’s future is not on that side!

Our ideas can only become strong when they are taken up by the masses. But it is vital to prepare for the future, to defend our ideas against all odds and to be able to express them in all circumstances—including in an election such as this.

It is in these troubled times that you have to hold on. This is the only way to be able to offer a political perspective when the time comes. This is illustrated by the story of the revolutionaries who withstood the shock in 1914. Imprisoned at the beginning, they came out of prison to find themselves at the head of a revolution. Because a revolutionary idea can have tremendous consequences!

So on April 10, make the workers’ side heard….

This War Concerns Us. We’re Already Halfway In

Biden and the other leaders of NATO countries repeat that they are not at war with Russia. And formally, they are not at war. But they provide military intelligence, missiles, and drones to Ukraine’s army and militias, after aiding and training them for the last eight years. In fact, they are waging war against Russia by way of Ukrainian bodies. And the risk is that war will escalate….

Until now, war took place far away from where we are. War broke out in places like Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and Mali.

War stayed an abstraction because it happened on other continents. Deaths, destruction, and refugee camps were only images on TV.

But let’s not forget that our grandparents, our parents, and the oldest among us here experienced the Algerian War, the Viet Nam War, or the Second World War.

And 30 years ago, it was not Mariupol that was bombed but Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, and Belgrade, all in what had been Yugoslavia. NATO planes pounded these cities for 78 days in 1999. These were drastic episodes in the fratricidal war that butchered Yugoslavia.

The threat is getting closer. After all, capitalism and war are inseparable. After all, a society that creates staggering inequality—unimaginable luxury on the one hand, and absolute poverty on the other—a society where competition and rivalry are the engines of the economy—can only live by war!

For years, the U.S. and behind it lesser imperialisms like France have been preparing public opinion for the eventuality of war against China. Since 2014 at least, the notion of a war involving Russia has been brewing. For one thing, the war in the Donbass region dragged on and claimed more than 14,000 lives.

So to repeat over and over that Putin has gone mad or that we didn’t see it coming is to rewrite history. The imperialist camp and Putin’s Russia have had a showdown for decades.

The fact is that for 30 years NATO has exerted constant pressure on countries neighboring Russia to join NATO. NATO has surrounded Russia with military bases, equipped with missiles. The imperialist policy of the U.S., NATO, and the Western powers has made Ukraine the field of their showdown with Russia. The circumstance that Putin took the initiative of invading Ukraine changes nothing.

The number of American soldiers currently in Europe has risen from 70,000 to 100,000. NATO is deploying its battalions all over Europe. France’s aircraft carrier is deployed in the Mediterranean. These governments are stocking up weapons.

This outright arms race shows that all the imperialist countries, and their generals and diplomats, are preparing future butchery. They are the workers’ worst enemies.

Against War, Revolution!

… the proletariat has always been confronted with war. Sometimes workers are enlisted in prison factories, sometimes in armies. Sometimes they are fodder for profit, sometimes they are cannon fodder. The two have always been interconnected.

In 1871 in France, the Paris Commune was born at the end of the war between Napoleon III’s Second Empire and Prussia….

On March 18, 1871, insurrection gave birth to the Paris Commune, the first workers’ power in the world, aiming for a universal republic of working people….

When we affirm that the only positive outcome for peoples will come from the working class, this perspective is not a dream!

All wars catch workers by surprise at first. But the longer a war lasts, the more damage and suffering accumulate. The more visible warmongers and profiteers of war become, and arouse anger and revolt. The more that those who pay for the war with their lives seek a way out by their own methods.

This already happened just over 100 years ago specifically in Russia and Ukraine. Revolution by the workers, soldiers, and farmers of the Tsarist Empire put an end to combat on the Eastern Front during World War I.

The Russian Revolution showed that the exploited could decide the fate of war. Simply enough, those who carry the weapons are generally ordinary people, workers, and exploited. They can also decide to silence their weapons.

Not only are workers able to stop wars, but in the course of their struggle they are able to establish their own power. Using this power, they can carry out an international policy not to negotiate with the brigands of the ruling class, but to address the rebellious workers of other countries. And to build another world with them!

Pages 8-9

Stepped-up U.S. Military Spending:
Preparing for Generalized Wars

Apr 11, 2022

President Biden proposed a whopping ten percent increase in the U.S. Pentagon budget for next year, for a total of 773 billion dollars. This proposal is 40 billion dollars more than the Pentagon budget was under Trump, and 30 billion dollars more than it was under Obama, when the U.S. was still fully engaged in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

This stepped-up spending is not just a reflection of monumental waste and the drive for profits by the biggest military contractors, as many liberal critics often point out. Of course, military contractors are enormous beneficiaries of the military build-up. During the first months of this year alone, the stock prices for two of the biggest military contractors, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, increased by 25 and 30% respectively—obviously on Wall Street, speculators expect that those company profits will mushroom with all of the big increases in military spending.

But the main point for the increased military spending is the rising tensions and risk of war between the U.S. and its two biggest rivals, China and Russia. The war in Ukraine, which top Pentagon general Mark Milley has told Congress will go on for many long years, is fueling a big U.S. military build-up throughout Eastern Europe. At the same time, the U.S. is also building up its military forces in Asia in heightened military confrontations with China. That means more ships, jets and military vehicles.

As an added threat, the Pentagon is completely modernizing its nuclear weapons programs, everything from intercontinental missiles and naval submarines to nuclear warheads, with stepped-up spending increases already built in to the military budget through the next eight years, at least.

The Pentagon is also requesting roughly 40% more money for the Space Force in the coming year. Thus, the Pentagon is not only militarizing the land and the sea, but outer space.

As it is, the sheer size of the Pentagon budget is monumental. The U.S. spends more on the military than the next ten largest countries combined. As a comparison, the U.S. spends about 12 times as much on the military as Russia, one of its two main rivals. In fact, the Pentagon hands out more in military contracts every year to one company, Lockheed Martin, than all of the money the Russian government spends on its entire military.

But what else can one expect from the dominant super power in the world? To impose this domination, the U.S. maintains about 750 military bases in over 80 countries. The U.S. military also controls a significant number of small ports, repair complexes, warehouses, fueling stations, and surveillance facilities. And—last but not least—the U.S. government directly pays for fifty bases for the militaries of other countries.

And for what? The monstrous militaristic apparatus of death and destruction is nothing more than the extension, the tool, of the biggest U.S. capitalist groups, which are the biggest and richest in the world. These military forces are meant to defend the U.S. imperialist world order, against all rivals in their competition to grab the most profits and wealth, a competition that is quickly degenerating into a generalized war that threatens to engulf the entire world.

The Ukrainian Oligarchs, Their Regime, and the West

Apr 11, 2022

This article is from the March 2nd issue, #2796 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

For a long time, Ukraine has been considered to have one of the most corrupt regimes in the world, though the press here stopped talking about it once the Western powers began to openly advance their pawns against Russia.

They don’t want to discuss the fact that the Ukrainian head of state, Volodymyr Zelensky, an actor and entertainment entrepreneur, came to the presidency in 2019 with the support of Igor Kolomoisky, one of the main oligarchs in the country.

He got his start in politics under one of the godfathers of local politics, a mafioso, according to the justice departments of several countries. Unlike many Ukrainian politicians, he hasn’t had 30 years in the spotlight to discredit himself. That’s good for propaganda, because in this confrontation with Putin, the U.S., France and Germany can cast him as a David to the Russian Goliath, a “fighter for freedom.”

Between Contradictions and Opposing Poles

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, those in power in Ukraine have had to navigate between contradictory pressures. Lines were cut with the rest of the Soviet Union, Russia first of all. But the Ukrainian economy was a heritage of the Soviet economy, which had functioned as a whole for 70 years; it could not move beyond its Russian suppliers and markets. Even if Ukrainian politicians and business people had to swear by the search for capitalist profits now, that didn’t really change anything.

The so-called oligarchs, that is, those who laid their hands on businesses through privatizations, of whom only the luckiest were able to become big business people, have sought to protect and maintain their business with their Russian counterparts. They did this despite the many abrupt changes to the head of Ukraine in recent years.

The big political convulsions that have struck the country in recent years—the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Maidan events in 2014—have only weakened the Ukrainian state. Out in the provinces the local authorities are totally in the hands of the oligarchs, who sometimes maintain their own paramilitary groups. They only recognize the formal authority of Kiev. As for the central government, even the politicians who have made the biggest overtures to the West have never ceased to play a double game. For example, in 2004 prime minister Julia Timoshenko had made a fortune on the gas trade with Russia. In 2014, Poroshenko, a businessman with many interests in Russia, was brought to power in a kind of coup d’état backed by the United States. These oligarchs wanted to cultivate Moscow while making political overtures to the West at the same time. But without much success: calls for Ukraine to join the European Union, still unfulfilled, go back at least to 2004.

Over the past 30 years, through the presidencies of Kravchuk, Koutchma, Yushchenko, Yanukovitch, Poroshenko and now Zelensky, the balance between these two poles within Ukrainian politics at its summit have fluctuated. Most recently, it has been to the detriment of Moscow, with the West providing arms and military advisors as well as increasing “financial aid,” tying Kiev more closely to the West. In fact, Ukraine continually finds itself on the brink of bankruptcy. That comes from the dissipation and corruption of the state apparatus and the pillage of local resources by local bureaucrats, oligarchs and Western trusts. The aggravation of the world crisis helps to strangle the country and plunges the population deeper into poverty.

Militarization and Nationalist Poison

Putin’s war has pushed masses of Ukrainians to flee the country. But millions of others had already left their country over the years in order to find a living abroad, first of all in Poland. Of course, Western media forgets this. They much prefer to show the little refugee girls in the Kiev metro, whose Russian mother asks them in Russian to sing the national anthem in Ukrainian, or other people who evoke Ukrainian patriotism.

Those in power in Kiev want to use Putin’s invasion as an opportunity. They have decreed a general mobilization of the population. Those who resist can be arrested in the street or at home. The government has also organized a million men and women in “territorial defense groups.” That they carry no weight against Putin’s tanks matters little to Zelensky or Biden. Their existence, and their death, will help maintain a “sacred union” on a nationalist basis between the poor and the rich, between workers and those who exploit them, what the oppressors call “the people,” behind those who give the marching orders.

Haiti:
Boat People Flee Hell!

Apr 11, 2022

This article is translated from the March 26th issue, #1282 of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of comrades in Guadeloupe and Martinique, two islands that are French overseas departments in the Caribbean.

A rickety boat carrying more than 300 Haitian migrants capsized March 6 off Florida’s Key Largo. Nearly 100 swam to the beach near a luxury hotel. The Coast Guard and swift attention from people ashore let the castaways meet up … before they were expelled back to Haiti.

That same week police intervened when three boats grounded while carrying Haitians trying to reach the U.S.

The number of people who perish by drowning during these crossings is not counted. The mirage of a better life is always attractive to those who have nothing left to lose—people for whom nothing is worse than living in the Port-au-Prince area or country towns where gangs rule the streets.

Prime Minister Hariel Henry’s government knows how to unleash its police against demonstrating workers or high school students, but is unable to face up to the armed gangs. He funds some of them. The barest public safety is no longer maintained. Everyone has to fend for themselves. Life is filled with pressure by neighborhood gangs. Survival is dependent on rules unique to each neighborhood and the gang that controls it. There are daily scenes of panic during downtown kidnappings, as people scatter to avoid stray bullets. Some try to escape this horror by taking an illegal boat.

Despite all, the population offers some reactions. Two doctors were kidnapped from their offices on March 2. The Haitian medical association launched a strike from March 14 to 16. A delegate went with a ransom. The doctors were released. But the gang detained the delegate to demand another ransom.

Sometimes people refuse to submit to gang oppression. We saw this during demonstrations by workers at the Sonapi industrial park, where their massed numbers kept the gangs at bay. And there is the example of young people from Jacques Roumain High School. The director was kidnapped on March 11. For three days students demonstrated downtown. The police dispersed them. The director and his wife were finally released on March 17 after paying a ransom. But their driver was held for another ransom.

There are always sharks who take advantage of these situations. Since gangs block southern roads, escape by airplane to the city of Les Cayes has increased in recent months. Sunrise Airways flights and passengers increased a lot. The price of tickets suddenly soared. From March 19 to 21, residents and passengers blocked the runway at Les Cayes’ small airport to protest. They explained that Haitian Senator Hervé Foucand owns two of the airplanes. He socializes in the Senate and does nothing to free up the southern roads. This brings him money! Residents planned to demonstrate again.

Pages 10-11

Amazon Workers Face Down the Giant!

Apr 11, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, week of April 4, 2022.

Workers won an NLRB election to get their union recognized at an Amazon center in Staten Island, New York. Workers at an Amazon center in Bessemer, Alabama may also have won. The final result there hinges on 400 challenged ballots out of 2400 ballots cast.

Workers at Amazon have tried to organize a union before—many times. But the government procedures for union recognition are stacked against workers, even when an employer doesn’t play dirty. And Amazon plays dirty.

Amazon is the perfect symbol of American capitalism today. It is the second biggest employer in the country, and one of the most profitable. It had 55 billion dollars in net income over the last two years. Based on its own revenue, it was able to double its size in two years, with many more sorting centers, more delivery stations and more trucks.

Amazon’s fabulous wealth came from ferocious exploitation of more than a million workers. Working conditions are abominable: days are much longer than the standard eight-hour day. The speed of work is driven by impossible standards. Breaks are tiny, emergency breaks almost non-existent. Safety is nothing but a word: six workers were killed by a tornado that went through an Amazon facility because Amazon ignored the warnings—until it was too late. Wages may be more than the minimum, but they don’t pay for a decent life.

Ferocious exploitation of workers is what produced Amazon’s wealth. Ferocious exploitation enriched Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s executive chairman, making him the second wealthiest man in the world. Bezos used money coming from his Amazon holdings to buy the Washington Post newspaper and to found the space exploration company, Blue Origin. Amazon-derived money let Bezos set up several venture capital companies, whose aim in life is to invest in other companies—in order to make still more money. Along the way Bezos also contrived to buy up a share of Google, AirBnB and Uber—among dozens of other companies—using money which ultimately traces back to Amazon.

The workers at these two Amazon facilities faced down capitalism’s giant. Whatever comes out of the count at Bessemer, this is a real victory.

There have been other union-representation election wins recently in small workplaces like Starbucks. But these two Amazon facilities are the first such large workplaces which even came close to registering a union win: 8,000 workers in Staten Island and 6,000 in Bessemer—workplaces which are harder to organize.

What happened at Amazon is a victory, a big one. But it’s only a beginning. Amazon is still a giant; its other facilities are still untouched by union organization. There are all the other giants, equally untouched, including many companies where unions “officially” exist but do not represent the workers’ interests.

Beyond that lies the economic and political situation today. Think of what has been happening. In 2008, the economy almost collapsed. In 2020, it did collapse—facing the virus, the only thing government could find to do was to shut everything down. The inability of the government to stop the spread of the virus shows how decimated have been the public services on which the population depends. Money that should have gone to what we need went to war instead, and to increase the wealth of companies like Amazon.

The vast number of problems we confront won’t be addressed simply by setting up a union.

The problems we face today can be taken on by the working class organized as a class, that is politically. But the working class is not organized politically today. It doesn’t even have its own party.

But after the victory at Amazon, we have something important: the proof that workers can organize together, the proof we can get past our divisions and deal with our common problems. Amazon workers ignored the two big lies pushed on us: the lie that no one will ever do anything and the lie that we can’t depend on each other.

Amazon workers may have taken only a first step—but it was a necessary one. Bravo for them!

Amazon Workers Did Their Own Organizing

Apr 11, 2022

One thing in this Staten Island organizing drive that was somewhat different from other unionization campaigns was that this one was not organized by an established union. In most union drives of recent years, unions send in their own organizers who operate from outside the workplace, talking to the workers and trying to convince them to join the union. These organizers are the most visible face of the organizing effort. The unions sometimes have also engaged other forces—community groups, celebrities, ministers and others in support of the union vote. Those workers inside the workplace who want the union are mostly told to keep their heads down to avoid being fired before the vote.

Those who organized this campaign at Amazon started their own union—the Amazon Labor Union. Certainly it is possible, even likely, that some unions or others quietly donated money to this campaign and sent in people to work at this Amazon facility. But the day-to-day work of talking to workers, of organizing support for the union was done by workers inside the workplace, plus the main organizer outside the workplace was a former Amazon worker who had been fired.

That kind of organizing by workers was a strength of the campaign and gave workers a confidence in their own power and ability to stand up to Amazon’s threats and scare tactics. That organizing by the workers can also serve them well for what they will be facing next.

It is possible that Amazon might refuse to bargain with the union. Or Amazon might not accept this union vote and try to use the courts and the legal system to overturn it, hoping to drag the unionization process out for years. And even if Amazon does negotiate a contract, the company will have the advantage of only having to deal with one group of workers out of its whole workforce of over a million workers in this country.

If the Amazon workers accept that their new union will function in the manner other unions function today—only focusing on negotiating a contract, following the rules set up by a legal system that favors the corporations—then they have no real way forward to fight for what they want. But these workers who organized this union themselves have another choice, a real way forward. These Amazon workers can reach out to the workers in all the other Amazon workplaces and share with them what they just accomplished. They can reach out to workers in many other kinds of workplaces. Their successful organizing campaign at Amazon is certainly exciting and encouraging for other workers today who want to fight for something better. In that way, this vote at Amazon can be the spark for a much bigger fight.

Culture Corner—High Tide in Dorchester and Five Little Indians

Apr 11, 2022

Film: High Tide in Dorchester on YouTube.com

The stunning beauty of the eastern shore of Maryland, miles of a flat expanse of forest, farm and marshland, is under attack from climate change. Changing ocean currents, changing winds and rising seas and tides have already drastically changed the landscape and have threatened or destroyed wildlife habitats, farms, forests, businesses and homes. And it’s only getting worse. Salt water, erosion, flooding, and sinking land are wreaking havoc, and continue to do so each year with no end in sight. This film dramatically shows the effects on everyday life, and questions what does the future hold.

Book: Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, 2020

This award-winning book takes the true-life stories of five Canadian Native American people and weaves them into an emotionally impactful story. They were forcibly torn from their parents at the age of six, sent to religious residential schools, not allowed to speak their native languages or express any native customs, not allowed any contact with their parents or community, all the while suffering verbal, physical and even sexual abuse. They were literally thrown out at age 18 into Vancouver to make their way as best they could. This book shines a light on these events in a moving personalized testament.

Page 12

Demonstrators Protest Murder of Amir Locke by Minneapolis Cops

Apr 11, 2022

Many hundreds of protestors have demonstrated in Minneapolis against the murder of Amir Locke by the Minneapolis police. A police SWAT team shot and killed the 22-year-old Locke immediately after quietly opening the door to the apartment where he slept and waking him up by kicking the couch he slept upon. They were carrying a no-knock warrant for an entirely different person and shot and killed him within nine seconds.

After Locke’s murder, every news source around the country defended the cops’ actions by pointing out practically in unison that Locke pointed a gun at the cops. Locke was licensed to own and carry the gun, was still completely buried under his blankets, and naturally was frightened by being violently awakened by unknown intruders when he barely had time to lift the gun to defend himself before the cops fired three shots into him.

It’s just the latest example of police brutality by the Minneapolis cops, highlighted most prominently by the murder of George Floyd. Now it has come out that two of the cops chosen to participate in the no-knock raid that resulted in Locke’s murder were already being sued for attacks on protestors demonstrating in Minneapolis following Floyd’s murder. They were among the riot cops sent around the city, told to take aim at protestors and "Fuck ‘em up." A police commander later described their actions as "goin’ out hunting."

One of those suing the cops over those attacks is Jaleel Stallings, whom the cops fired on with foam-tipped bullets without identifying themselves while driving around in an unmarked white van. When Stallings tried to defend himself against what he thought was a deadly attack, they beat him and fractured his eye socket.

These are just some recent examples in a long history of police brutality that protestors in Minneapolis are voicing outrage against. Some have likened Locke’s killing to the no-knock murder of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville, Kentucky.

One of the recent demonstrations included many black mothers and women and called for the firing of the Interim Minneapolis Police Chief and the cop who shot Locke. Another demonstration involved more than a thousand students from the city’s Central High School who marched to the Governor’s Residence in nearby St. Paul and demanded the resignation of the mayor of and police chief of Minneapolis.

These protesters are absolutely right to speak out against yet another outrageous racist murder by the police. If they can continue their fight and spread it to others, it’s possible to push the cops back—though ultimately the fight against racism and police brutality requires an end to the capitalist system that depends upon them.

More Than 150 Years Late

Apr 11, 2022

On March 7, the U.S. Congress finally made lynching a federal hate crime, calling the bill “the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act.” They patted themselves on the back for a job well done. But Congress had more than 200 other opportunities to make lynching a crime before this, and never did.

Tuskegee University has documented 4,742 OTHER incidents of lynchings in the United States besides the horrific torture and murder of Emmett Till in 1955.

South or North or Midwest, white mobs have decided to kill other human beings, almost always black people, without trial and with pitiless hatred for over 150 years. That is the U.S. history that some in Congress say is too terrible to teach to children at school.

It was Martin Luther King Jr. who pointed out that "justice delayed is justice denied,” although members of Congress don’t usually admit their long hypocritical record. But it is song-writer Gil Scott-Heron who bitterly made the point: “I have become a special amendment for what included me all along: ‘All men are created equal.’ “

Solidarity with All Refugees

Apr 11, 2022

The images of Ukrainians crowding onto trains, looking for some way to escape the devastation of war, have filled the media. More than four million Ukrainians have fled the country since the Russian invasion began, in addition to about 6 million people who have been forced out of their homes within the country—a massive humanitarian disaster.

These join the tens of millions of people around the world already displaced by violence—many by U.S. wars. According to a study by The Costs of War Project at Brown University, over the last two decades the U.S. wars in the greater Middle East forced at least 38 million people from their homes. Millions more are fleeing the poverty and daily violence of gangs and police in parts of the world that the U.S. dominates, like Haiti, Mexico, Honduras, or Guatemala.

The U.S. let in almost none of the refugees created by its own wars in the Middle East. Most are stuck in camps or impoverished slums in their own country or a nearby country that is almost as poor. Nor does it let in many of those fleeing the violence and poverty bred by U.S. domination in Latin America and the Caribbean. Over just the last two years, the U.S. expelled about 1.7 million migrants who crossed the southern border, without even allowing them to apply for asylum.

If Biden promises to accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees today, it’s because it is useful for the U.S. government to use the Ukrainian refugee crisis to prepare the U.S. population for a new war. In this way, politicians like Biden aim to use our solidarity with those driven from their homes against us.

But workers’ solidarity can extend to those driven from their homes by U.S. bullets and bombs, as well as Russian ones. After all, workers here are also victims of this country’s imperialist wars. Real solidarity with those fleeing violence, whether in Ukraine, the Middle East, or Latin America, would mean refusing to support the next U.S. war, already being prepared against Russia. It would mean fighting this capitalist system that continues to make huge swaths of the globe unlivable.

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