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. 1152 — April 25 - May 9, 2022

Stealing for Profit:
Inflation Hits Food, Gas, Housing

Apr 25, 2022

Price increases are taking a bigger and bigger bite out of working peoples’ paychecks. It isn’t just that inflation increased by 8.5%, officially the highest rate in more than 40 years, according to the latest government report.

What’s worse is that prices increased at much, much higher levels on household essentials, especially energy, food, and housing. Over the last year, gasoline prices shot up 48%. The cost of meat, chicken, fish, and eggs increased by 14%. And rents—by far working peoples’ biggest expense—jumped up 20% in the 50 largest metro areas—in one year!

For the working population, there’s no escaping those price increases. We need to put food on the table, pay for a roof over our heads and put gas in the car to get to work. We’re trapped.

Forget about all the lies justifying these high prices, strangling our standard of living. Big corporate monopolies and banks aren’t just “innocently” passing along rising costs created by supposed “shortages.”

Sometimes, corporate monopolies and banks engineer shortages by simply refusing to produce enough, such as the global oil and gas companies are doing in order to increase prices.

Or else they refuse to reinvest their profits in anything useful, despite the tremendous need. That’s what’s behind the historic shortage of affordable housing that gets worse every year and the insanely high rents. Real estate and financial titans almost never build affordable housing because it’s more profitable to build and market luxury housing. But they do buy up big swaths of older apartment complexes and single-family homes, driving rents up sky high.

And sometimes, there aren’t any shortages or increased costs. But monopolies use inflation as the excuse to raise prices. That’s what the companies that dominate food processors and supermarket chains do, creating their own “profit-price spiral.”

These high prices are part of a war carried out by the biggest capitalists against the working population, in order to extract ever more wealth from the working class.

On the one hand, companies increase their profits by squeezing wages and benefits, forcing workers to work harder for longer hours. The capitalists then add onto these profits by raising the prices they charge the population for the same products and services.

Inflation is part of the capitalists’ double whammy. It’s a supplementary weapon that they use against the working population in order to extract even more wealth from us.

For the capitalist class, times have never been better. Corporate profit margins are higher than they have been in 70 years. And big corporations forked over 1.5 trillion dollars in dividends last year, augmenting the wealth of their biggest stockholders—another record.

The capitalist class will continue to enrich itself at the expense of the working population until workers respond to these attacks.

The capitalists are a tiny minority. They produce nothing. They live off the labor of others. They are nothing but parasites. Their ability to extract all that wealth from the working population only comes from their private ownership and control over a bunch of monopolies in industry, finance, and commerce.

This is sheer madness. It is the working population that is the majority. It is the working population that produces all the wealth and makes everything run. Workers can use their place in the economy to make sure they benefit from the fruits of their labor.

The working class, when it mobilizes together, can impose its own demands, starting with decent wages. To assure that those wages are not eaten up by inflation, wages have to increase as soon as the capitalists increase prices.

The working class has the power to fight and win that demand, given its essential position in the economy and society. If the capitalist class refuses and stands in the way of workers gaining these demands—demands that are completely reasonable and attainable—the working class has the power to throw the capitalists aside, and to take over the running of society for the benefit of everyone.

Pages 2-3

Lifesaving Covid Meds Made Unavailable

Apr 25, 2022

Promising treatments for Covid exist finally! Whether in pill form or via non-vaccine injection, these medicines can save lives. Any day now, the United States will reach a horrific milestone—officially 1 million deaths from Covid. The impact of so much death has been immense. The pandemic has created over 200,000 “Covid orphans.” These children have had their lives turned upside down by the loss to Covid of one or both of their parents or of their live-in caregiver.

Clearly, to prevent further suffering, available treatments for Covid should be free and accessible in every corner of the United States. It will come as no surprise that medications and treatments are NOT getting to where they are needed.

As public health protections disappear—such as mask requirements on public transportation—the need for these medications increases. In addition to vaccination, these drugs are needed to provide extra protections for vulnerable people who are immune compromised.

Paxlovid, an antiviral pill by Pfizer, reduces hospitalizations and death in high-risk patients. Merck’s Lagevrio pill looks promising as well.

In his State of the Union address in 2022, Biden announced a program called "Test To Treat.” Treatment pills were to be available in pharmacies to be dispensed immediately when someone tests positive. In reality, there are huge swaths of the U.S. that have zero pharmacies providing this service. How many clinics exist with both a pharmacy AND a doctor/nurse practitioner/physician assistant onsite to write the prescription?

On April 15, a reporter for Kaiser Health News decided to see how things stand where Biden lives. The reporter drove for three hours in Washington, D.C. to various CVS MinuteClinic locations, before he could finally find both a same-day testing appointment AND the Covid meds in stock!

One physician who provides this “Test To Treat” service to low income and uninsured people in San Francisco said her clinic is not even listed on the federal website because it is up to each state to provide that information to the federal government.

Since no new federal funding was provided for “Test to Treat,” if someone with symptoms manages to find that rare bird of a location that works, they must have very good health insurance coverage. Otherwise, they will pay out of their own pocket for this service.

Even those with health insurance are finding out their doctor does not feel educated enough to be comfortable prescribing Covid treatment. Because these new meds were approved for “emergency use,” it is against federal law for pharmaceutical companies to market them, or in other words, to provide the education to physicians that normally happens with a new medication. So, doses are sitting on shelves, collecting dust, because of lack of knowledge among doctors.

Another type of Covid treatment, monoclonal antibodies, is a preventative injection. The federal government has bought up a larger supply of these treatments for Covid than any other country in the world. They are to be administered free of charge. So where are they? Also largely sitting on shelves because doctors have not been widely educated about their use!

The federal government in Washington, D.C.—the chief centralized organization in the U.S.—would be uniquely positioned to organize the delivery of these lifesaving meds to every corner of the U.S. and to create an army of public health educators to get the word out. Yet the medications are not getting to where they are needed. Why?

Clearly the health of ordinary people is NOT a priority for the U.S. government nor for the corporations and the wealthy they serve. Outside the U.S., every other developed country has some type of federal public health agency. Two-plus years into the pandemic, the federal government refuses to organize a central healthcare policy. They prefer the profit-driven organized chaos that is the U.S. healthcare system. To have something better, the working class is going to have to take power and build it.

30 Years Since Rodney King

Apr 25, 2022

It has been 30 years since a jury acquitted four Los Angeles cops, most of whom were white, involved in the brutal beating of Rodney King, a black man.

A bystander videotaped King’s beating with a camcorder and the video was seen widely across the world. The falseness of the jury’s decision was so obvious to most people, the verdict provided the spark that lit the tinder box of racism, inequality, lack of opportunity and poverty in L.A. The angry black population of Los Angeles erupted in revolt, or what the media referred to as “rioting.”

The so-called “rioters” first took aim at the stores in the richer neighborhoods, but officials quickly mobilized the National Guard, Army, Marines and California Highway Patrol to protect the wealthy neighborhoods. They pushed the “rioters” back into South Central L.A., the heart of the black community, where they looted and torched markets and small stores.

The outpouring of anger by the black population drew in immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries who had themselves been victimized, as well as some young whites. The bosses’ media gave a lot of attention to the beating of a white truck driver, Reginald Denny, by the people in the neighborhood. Denny perhaps found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he was also a victim of long-simmering racial tensions.

It took six days for authorities to establish some kind of control. When it was over, it is estimated over 60 people had been killed, none of them cops, almost 2,400 injured, and over 12,000 arrested. L.A.’s Chief of Police Daryl Gates resigned.

These riots, for a moment, made the authorities at least step a bit more lightly. Changes—most, but not all of them, cosmetic—were made in the police department. And repercussions from the Los Angeles riots were felt far away. In Detroit, cops accused of killing a young black man, Malice Green, under similar circumstances were quickly arrested, put on trial, and convicted. City authorities felt the tremors spreading through Detroit after the L.A. riots.

These changes, however, were short-lived. The federal government provided funding for “victims of looting and arson” and the Rebuild L.A. program promised 6 billion dollars in private investment to create 74,000 jobs. Yet a survey of local residents in 2010 found 77% thought the economic situation had worsened there.

One long-lasting change did come out of the beating of Rodney King and its aftermath. The widespread viewing of the video of the incident captured by a bystander with a camcorder has encouraged others to do the same and has been made much easier with the advent of smartphones.

We’ve all seen far too many, far too outrageous examples of police brutality caught on video, which has resulted in some fights being made to stop them in the 30 years since. There was a similar, though smaller revolt in Baltimore over the horrific treatment of Freddie Gray by the Baltimore police. The Black Lives Matter movement, which gained even more momentum after the murder of George Floyd, has brought more attention to the issue.

Nevertheless, incidents of police brutality have not stopped and far too often the cops have gotten off scot-free. Cops have killed around 1,100 people each year since 2013, according to Mapping Police Violence, a non-profit research group, with little change since George Floyd’s murder in 2020. While half of those shot are white, black people are killed at a rate disproportionate to their numbers in the population. Black people are twice as likely as whites to be killed by the cops.

The cops serve a role as a repressive force to maintain order for the ruling class in this racist capitalist society that always defends inequality in the distribution of wealth and leaves a portion of the population out. They will continue to do so as long as the system is allowed to remain in place.

Pages 4-5

California Medicaid Delays Cause Mortality

Apr 25, 2022

A series of recent exposés have brought to light the deadly wait times for people who are under MediCal, California’s Medicaid system.

MediCal is the single largest provider in the State. This system serves 14 million people, that is, one in three Californians. Two million in Los Angeles alone. Yet, California ranks 48th, third lowest in the country, in Medicaid reimbursement rates.

The way the authorities finance MediCal has caused deadly wait times to begin with. Low reimbursement payments, making MediCal a second class insurance, contribute to doctor shortages in working class neighborhoods like South Los Angeles. The shortages are so severe, experts call them medical deserts.

Working class patients have to wait months and years just to see a doctor or have basic procedures, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Such delays mean life and death for the working-class patients who have MediCal.

Neighborhoods don’t have trauma centers or specialists within a five-mile radius. Often, workers who live in these neighborhoods die from car accidents because it takes too long for the ambulance to get to the proper hospital.

State and Federal authorities are starving MediCal of funding while patients wait for months and years to be seen. All the while countless people die from preventable conditions.

—Rip-offs at the Grocery Store or, “Honey, They Shrunk the Food”

Apr 25, 2022

In this day and age, anyone who has to feed their families or anyone who is on a fixed income is on the constant lookout for deals that will help them navigate the world of higher food prices—up nearly 9% in the past year. So, you go to the grocery store, get the store ads, and go through them to find out what is on sale; what is two for one; what is buy one, get second one for 50% off.

But there’s a catch. An insult heaped upon the injury of outrageous food price increases. And that is something that has been nicknamed, Shrinkflation: the downsizing of a product and keeping its sticker price the same. So, if you think you are getting a deal on that cereal, or juice, think again. Beverages, that used to come in 8 packs, now are 6 to a pack. Juice, that was in a 59 ounce bottle, is now 52 ounces. A “pint” of ice cream is now 14 ounces. Even toilet paper, like Cottonelle, has gone from 340 sheets/per roll to 312! Same price, less product.

In a society where profits come first—it’s business as usual that Wall Street speculates on food commodities, causing price increases. The most profitable grocery store chain in the country, Kroger’s, returned 2.2 billion dollars to wealthy shareholders in 2021. Manufacturers and grocery store chain CEOs hope we won’t notice the sneaky, yet legal way they are trying to pass price increases onto us.

But we do. Rising prices call for higher wages and pensions to be able to absorb all the price increases that are coming our way now. So, whether it’s bread, or cereal or milk that goes up, our wages and pensions should go up too.

And when major companies say they don’t have a choice but to raise prices because they won’t be able to stay in business, workers say, you’re right. You can’t continue to stay in the “business” of making profits on the backs of our families. Take it from your major stockholders and your billionaire owners.

Gout Treatment Rip-Off

Apr 25, 2022

If you’re a worker, and one of the 13 million people in this country suffering the agonizing effects of gout, then you probably can’t afford one of the most effective medications to treat it.

Colchicine’s history as an herbal remedy for joint pain goes back to ancient Egyptian civilization over 2000 years ago. Ben Franklin used it successfully to treat his chronic gout in the late 1700s and popularized its use in the U.S.

It was widely used for just pennies a pill until 2009 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry got their hands on it. They colluded in massive price gouging in search of super-profits.

Today, if you’re plagued with chronic gout, pharmaceutical scam artists charge the astounding sum of $896 for a three-month supply of Colchicine. It’s impossible for a worker to even dream of paying this amount! Even with Medicaid or Medicare and a supplemental drug plan, the cost exceeds $140, way beyond affordable.

Medicare and Medicaid costs for Colchicine have skyrocketed—for Medicaid a mind-boggling 2833% between 2009 and 2017. And the drug companies require full payment from the government for the balance of their retail price, and that cost is pushed right back on us with the taxes we pay.

So today, a large section of the working class can’t afford the gout treatment Ben Franklin used in the late 1700s! Makes no sense? None at all!

D.C. Streetcars:
Mass Transit Goes off the Rails

Apr 25, 2022

Sixty years ago in 1962, the last streetcars were removed from service in Washington, D.C., as in many cities across the country. Streetcars had served D.C. for 100 years.

Also called trolleys, streetcars were the form of mass transit that developed with the growth of many cities in this and other countries. Streetcars were short electric trains, one or two cars each. They ran very frequently, as often as every other minute. They had many intersecting east-west and north-south routes, making it relatively simple to travel across town.

Then the automobile industry arose. Cities were pressured to replace streetcars with buses and to reduce the overall service provided. This forced people to buy cars to get around.

It’s exactly what happened in Washington, D.C.—with the twist that the federal government was convinced to help fund a monumental but completely inadequate subway system in the 1970s. The subway lines now total 106 miles of track in D.C. and the suburbs. But the streetcars at their height in 1946 ran on 100 miles of track in D.C. alone, plus another 100 miles in the suburbs. And the streetcars provided nearly 400 million rides per year, almost twice as many as the subway was carrying before Covid. As for buses, in 1946 they provided nearly 200 million rides per year, while buses before Covid provided basically half that. The missing riders? Stuck in traffic, stressed about paying for car loans and gas!

Today, big corporations and their governments are pushing electric cars. What about electric mass transit systems?!

"Don’t Say Gay” and Anti-CRT Bills:
The Latest Attacks on Public Education

Apr 25, 2022

The state of Florida recently passed laws enforcing what can and cannot be presented in its public schools. One is the so-called “don’t say gay” law that is loosely worded enough to ban discussions of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity in elementary schools—and maybe up through high schools. Another bans any teaching of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) in public schools—meaning, in effect, any discussion of race and the history of racism in the U.S.

Florida is not the only state passing such laws restricting what can be said in the classroom. At least a dozen states across the country have passed or are pushing to enact some version of “don’t say gay” or anti-"CRT” bills.

These bills go beyond simply stifling what can be said and discussed in the classroom. They all position parents against teachers by citing “parental rights” and referring to the “dangerous indoctrination” pushed on their children by the Public School systems.

These bills attack the very idea of public education itself. Some pundits and politicians have come right out and said it. Christopher Rufo, a right-wing blogger who got onto Fox News, stated in a speech that "to get universal school choice you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust." Part of the right-wing works to undermine confidence in public education altogether, so that they can more successfully push vouchers and other means to take money away from public schools and give it to private and religious schools. They want to dismantle the public school systems across the country.

And in fact, it’s not just the right-wing that has been attacking public schools. Both the George W. Bush and the Obama administrations attacked teachers and schools in different ways that amounted to the same thing—withhold funds and get that money into private hands: charter schools, schools of choice, corporations. Both Democrats and Republicans have been attacking public schools because the capitalist class has been salivating over all that public money for decades. To them, it’s wasted if they are not making profit from it or if it’s not diverted for other uses. And both parties defend the bosses’ interest.

The Republicans and the right-wing are willing to stoke a culture war to bring out votes in the elections. Democrats say nice things about diversity and inclusion. Both attack the public schools and look to divert funds away from public education for working class children.

There is a lot that is wrong with public education in capitalist society. But one thing that is NOT wrong is the fact that the schools ARE public—and free to all, stating an intent to give at least a basic education to all children in their districts.

These politicians are leading the population backwards in their attacks on public education. Working class people need to move forward and create a society that truly guarantees a good education for every child in this society.

Mother of Fourteen Slated for Execution

Apr 25, 2022

Melissa Lucio, a mother of fourteen, is due to be executed by the State of Texas this Wednesday. Ms. Lucio was convicted in the death of her daughter Mariah more than a decade ago, with a highly suspect trial.

At the time of Mariah’s death, Lucio had twelve children, and was pregnant with twins. She had great difficulty just keeping the large family fed.

Mariah died of a head injury. Lucio’s lawyers say Mariah had fallen down a flight of stairs while the family was moving out of their apartment. She then died of her injury several days later while taking a nap. Police who arrived on the scene felt Lucio did not fit their idea of a grieving mother; from the beginning they painted her daughter’s death as a murder. They sweated her for five hours straight, turning off their camera for part of the interrogation. At the end, they had coerced her into saying what they wanted her to say: that she had beaten her daughter to death.

Lucio’s partner was given a brief sentence for failing to seek out medical attention. But somehow Melissa Lucio was sentenced to die—despite the fact that Lucio had no record of violence or child abuse.

Her lawyers, including prominent anti-death penalty activists, point out that the trial did not consider evidence; they are demanding a new trial. Five jurors in her trial have called for a new trial or a reprieve of the sentence.

Texas legislators held a hearing, calling on the District Attorney to put a hold on the execution. His response was outrageous: "For me to sit here unilaterally and just pull the plug on it, then what do I say to the other 195 poor souls that are on death row right now, who by the way are also innocent?" Well, that’s simple: Stop the executions!

Pages 6-7

Sarajevo, April 1992:
From Nationalist One-Upping to War

Apr 25, 2022

This article is translated from the April 22nd issue, #2803 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Thirty years ago, on April 6, 1992, the army of Serbia began its siege of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These were among the six republics of Yugoslavia.

The siege lasted nearly four long years, with nonstop bombing by the Serbian army, camped high in the city’s outskirts. Deaths totaled 11,541, including 1,500 children. Tens of thousands more were injured by random shelling which sowed terror among the city’s 350,000 inhabitants, trapped in what became a hell hole.

“Fire! Fire non-stop! […] We have to make them crazy,” said Ratko Mladic, the Serbian general who led the fighting against Sarajevo under the orders of nationalist Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The whole population sank into the hell of war.

The country was crumbling. A year and a half earlier, Yugoslavia was still a federation of six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Each was based on a majority nationality, but they did not have hard and fast borders. Except for Slovenia, the various nationalities were generally intermixed. Bosnia and Herzegovina was the best example. In Sarajevo, people of various nationalities lived together in harmony.

Yugoslavia was created in 1918 from the ruins of the defeated Central Powers (the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria). It was under the control of the victorious imperialist powers. In this multi-ethnic state, a certain unity was forged during World War II during the fight against Nazi occupiers, which was led by partisans directed by the Yugoslavian Communist Party and its leader Josip Broz Tito.

After the war, Tito maintained a relative balance between the republics of the Yugoslavian federation, and he personified their unity. But his death in 1980 whetted the ambitions of bureaucrats who carved out fiefdoms in their respective republics.

The poison of nationalism was injected from above. In 1987 in the context of political and economic crises causing a rise in social tensions, Milosevic as head of the Communist Party of the Republic of Serbia adopted nationalist perspectives to consolidate and extend his power. He claimed to be protector of the Serbs and said they were threatened throughout the country’s other republics. He called for creating a “Greater Serbia.” Constantly throwing oil on the fire, he provoked reactions by nationalist leaders of the other republics, such as President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia. They feared having their power challenged on their own turf.

The Republic of Slovenia seceded on June 26, 1991. Then Croatia announced its desire for independence. In response, the Yugoslavian federal army, acting more and more to defend Serbian policy, and aided by various paramilitary groups, occupied parts of Croatia which had significant Serb minorities. The army attacked the city of Vukovar in August 1991 and laid siege to Dubrovnik on October 1, 1991. Vukovar was practically razed to the ground by bombings, and 1,100 civilians were killed and 5,000 taken prisoner in Serbian detention centers. The Serbian army expelled 22,000 Croats and other non-Serbs from the city. Villages were emptied of their inhabitants, Serbs on one side, Croats on the other.

When Bosnia prepared to proclaim independence, recent enemies Serb Milosevic and Croat Tudjman agreed to divide Bosnia, and unleashed war to that end. But Bosnia was 31% Serbs, 17% Croats, and 44% people considered “Muslim nationality.” These populations lived completely intertwined. In Sarajevo a third of the couples were mixed. War unleashed among them could only result in disaster. The entire population was dragged into a spiral of war that no one had wanted. Militias armed by Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian Muslim nationalist leaders all carried out massacres and so-called ethnic cleansing.

Although power struggles among the Serbian, Croat and Slovenian nationalist leaders were the immediate cause of the war, intervention by the imperialist powers made the situation worse. Just as before World War I, once again the Balkans became a battlefield for influence between them. France and Germany each rediscovered their pre-1945 allies, with whom ties had never been completely broken. German imperialism had relied on Croatian nationalism in the past and hastened to recognize Croatia and Slovenia’s independence. The government of France supported Serbian leaders, as it had done during the period of the monarchy between the world wars. But after thousands of deaths and atrocities, France’s position became difficult to defend, so France pivoted to defend Bosnia’s independence from Serbia.

Western leaders were less concerned with the fate of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia than with the risk that the conflict would destabilize the entire region. This preoccupation was seen in the attitude of the troops Western leaders sent under U.N. cover to Croatia and Bosnia. Often these forces were content to watch massacres, without intervening. And American imperialism supported the butcher Milosevic during the negotiations held in Dayton, Ohio in 1995. Accords were finally signed under American leadership on December 14, 1995, which ended the fighting. The siege of Sarajevo ended two months later. But the result was the partition of Bosnia between a Serb Republic and a Croat-Muslim Federation, which effectively gave official endorsement to the aftermath of ethnic cleansing.

Today, 30 years later, this division carried out through reciprocal massacres is reinvigorating tensions. Ordinary people are still suffering the effects of nationalist poison spread by power-hungry politicians, and the actions of imperialist leaders ever ready to speculate on division.

Media Coverage of War in Ukraine Is What They Want Us to See

Apr 25, 2022

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the U.S. television networks have devoted an extensive amount of daily coverage to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The news shows of the highest-rated networks—NBC, ABC and CBS—have shown much more of this war than they showed of all the recent wars where the U.S. forces were directly involved. The U.S. military invasion of Iraq in 2003, and of Afghanistan in 2001, as well as smaller U.S. wars in Panama (1989) and Somalia (1992) never got nearly as much media coverage.

Not only is the U.S. media showing much more coverage of the war in Ukraine than these other wars, the media also chooses what to show, and what not to show, of these wars. Today the U.S. media shows us the horrors of the war Russia is waging in Ukraine—showing all the destruction and deaths of Ukrainian civilians from Russian bombs and missiles. But the same U.S. media chose not to show all the horror of the wars the U.S. waged in Iraq and Afghanistan; they chose not to show all the destruction and deaths of Iraqi and Afghan civilians killed by U.S. bombs and missiles. The U.S. government, in fact, dropped more bombs and missiles on Baghdad in the first day of the war in Iraq than the Russian military dropped on Ukraine in the first 4 weeks of this war.

The U.S. media shows us the pictures of people executed in Ukraine, allegedly by Russian soldiers. But when videos were made of Ukrainian soldiers executing Russian prisoners, the major U.S. media chose not to show these videos.

The war in Ukraine has forced millions of Ukrainians to become refugees. All the major U.S networks sent their main anchor hosts to Ukraine to show us the Ukrainian children who were forced to flee their homes. But did the U.S. media send their anchor hosts to Iraq and Afghanistan? No, they chose not to show us all the Iraqi and Afghan children who had to flee their homes. The media today shows us the Ukrainian refugees being welcomed in other European countries. But they had little or nothing to say about all the refugees from the Middle East, fleeing wars the U.S. was involved in, who were turned away at the very same European borders.

Every day the U.S. media talks about the “war crimes” the Russians are responsible for. Yes, Putin and the Russian regime are war criminals in Ukraine. But the U.S. government was just as responsible for the same and bigger “war crimes” during its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. media chose to pretend it wasn’t happening.

Today, there is another war being waged, and war crimes being committed, in Yemen. The Human Rights Watch organization says the U.S. government, by arming Saudi Arabia, may be responsible for “war crimes” in Yemen. But the U.S. media chooses to ignore these U.S. war crimes and, in fact, ignores that whole war.

If the U.S. media chooses what to tell us, and not tell us, about these wars, it is for a reason. All of the major media—NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and the rest—are all owned and controlled by capitalist billionaires who are part of the U.S. ruling class. This ruling class, including the military contractors who profit from wars, have their interests served by the U.S. government.

When this government goes to war with its own military, or when it arms and finances a war waged by others, like in Ukraine, they are carrying out a policy to serve the interests of this same ruling class. The U.S. ruling class seeks to dominate the entire world, militarily with bases in 75 different countries, and economically, with U.S. corporations seeking higher profits in every country of the world. The policy of the U.S. capitalist class, and its government, is a policy of aggression around the world. When the U.S. media tells us the war in Ukraine is solely about Russian aggression, they are covering up how the U.S. government and NATO have had a history of aggression toward Russia, a history that led to this war.

The U.S. media corporations, lying, distorting, or covering up the news, are part of that policy of aggression. They serve the interests of the rest of their capitalist class.

Profiting from Starvation

Apr 25, 2022

The rising price of food is threating millions of people around the world with famine. After two years of rising prices, according to the UN, in the last two months food prices have risen by another 30 to 50% in many of the world’s poorest countries. Especially in countries on the horn of Africa that have already been suffering from years of drought, these price increases threaten many millions of people with outright starvation.

But while millions starve, others are profiting. One family controls the Cargill Corporation, which is among the world’s biggest distributors of grain and other foods. They inherited the company down the generations from its founding in 1865. When food prices go up, this one family reaps enormous profits. For instance, just out of its 2020 profits, Cargill paid out 1.3 billion dollars in dividends, mostly to members of this family. The company’s profits were even higher in 2021—and that was before speculators used the war in Ukraine to push food prices up even more.

All these increasing prices have launched three more of Cargill family heirs onto Bloomberg and Forbes’ lists of the 500 richest people in the world. They join two others from this family already on the list—and that doesn’t even count three other Cargill billionaires who aren’t quite in the world’s top 500. All this makes the Cargill heirs the 11th richest family in the world.

Pages 8-9

Skilled Nurses Lured Away from Poor Countries

Apr 25, 2022

Imperialist powers always steal away resources and skilled workers from poor countries, but this expanded widely during the pandemic, including an aggressive drive for more nurses. One thousand nurses arrived in the U.S. each month from African nations, the Philippines, and the Caribbean at the height of the pandemic. Capitalist governments streamlined immigration rules to fast track new hires into the workforce.

Nurses in poor countries work under increasingly deplorable conditions. Hospitals and clinics are few and far between. Those available are grossly under-equipped and understaffed. Even nurses with specialized skills receive little more than poverty wages with no benefits.

Like vultures, the profit-hungry health industry owners target those most exploited. They lure skilled poor-country nurses by offering measly pay increases and a pathway to residency. To escape poverty with hopes of a better life, many accept these offers.

The consequences are calamitous for health systems in the poor countries, which can least afford to lose these skilled workers. Already in ruin prior to the pandemic, health care infrastructure is near total collapse under the strains of the current health crisis. The media reported that a doctor in Zambia, the sole doctor in a district of 80,000 people, makes less than $1,000 per month. He works in a hospital that wasn’t able to use ventilators because simple C-clamps weren’t available.

As the crisis deepens and patient care plummets worldwide, health industry capitalists thrive. Infused with billions in government tax-payer give-aways, huge conglomerates rake in massive profits. HCA Healthcare, one of the largest providers in the world, recorded 3.75 billion in profit in the 4th quarter of 2020 alone!

These billions of dollars of profits should be confiscated and re-directed to the massive health needs of the world’s population, along with all the other stolen billions.

Half-Buried War and Government Violence

Apr 25, 2022

This article is translated from the April 22nd issue, #2803 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

One year after the awful days of deadly violence in East Jerusalem and Israel’s bombing of Gaza, this Easter weekend new clashes took place outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. More than 170 people were injured, mostly Palestinians, after the Israeli air force destroyed an alleged arms factory in Gaza.

Since March 22, armed attacks against Israelis—attributed to Palestinians or to ISIS militants—have alternated with counterattacks by the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank. After an initial attack in Tel Aviv, Israel’s far right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, head of a fragile coalition government, ordered “total freedom of action” for the army and gave the intelligence services a blank check.

His strengthening of the apparatus of repression, his deployment of more soldiers and police to carry out more surveillance and arrests, has resulted in many more raids of Palestinian towns and neighborhoods as well as more administrative detentions of Palestinians without charges or trials. As of April 20, the death toll was 11 Israeli dead and 23 Palestinian dead, with many more Palestinians injured, and hundreds arrested by Israeli police.

Bennett’s administration was cobbled together after many negotiations almost a year ago. It was weakened on April 17 when conservative Islamic party LAU defected, its four deputies condemned the repression of the Islamic faithful outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Bennett also recently saw the resignation of one of his colleagues, a member of the far right Yamina party. His very small majority was threatened. His opponent, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is waiting in the wings to overthrow Bennett, despite ongoing corruption trials against Netanyahu.

In fact, this latest episode in the latent and permanent war of Israeli armed force against the Palestinian population has no other cause than the policy of settling Jewish colonizers on Palestinian lands. Settlements continue to spread throughout East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Arbitrary arrests and raids by the army and by far-right settler militias are daily occurrences for Palestinians in the West Bank, who suffer more and more humiliation and restriction of their movement. Simply getting to work is often haphazard or dangerous.

The great powers, like France, consider the state of Israel to be imperialism’s outpost in the Middle East. It recently was reinforced by support from Arab countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco. At the hands of racist rulers of the extreme right, Israel continues to thrust Jewish and Arab populations alike into endless war.

Not for Macron, Not for Le Pen:
For the Workers

Apr 25, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all Lutte Ouvrière’s workplace newsletters, during the week of April 18, 2022.

It’s striking to see how next Sunday’s election has got Macron and Le Pen worried about what happens to the workers. Only ten days ago, Macron said he was going to impose a retirement age of 65. Now he’s saying he’s ready to rethink it and make it age 64. Le Pen says she’s going to be “socially-minded” and, if she’s president, retirement age will continue to be 60 or maybe 61 or 62.

But whether it is Macron or Le Pen elected, neither will care about what they said during the campaign. Either will govern in the interests of big business whose power resides in its economic domination and is neither elected nor controlled by anyone. The whole point of elections is to keep that power hidden by letting every citizen believe that they have a right to vote on what the state does, when in fact they are obliged to choose between candidates who are all on the side of the bourgeoisie.

During the five years of his presidency, Macron’s decisions have favored the capitalist class that is now richer than ever. Workers, on the other hand, have paid the consequences of the health crisis with dismissals and short-time work. And today’s skyrocketing prices are making the capitalists even richer and eating away the buying power of the poor, all with the complicity of the government.

Le Pen, who has never governed, would like us to believe she’ll be different. Although she’s an extreme right-winger, she’s presenting the carefully censored image of a cat-loving single parent. But she didn’t appear out of nowhere. Her political party was started by former military partisans of “French Algeria”, many of whom were members of the Organisation Armée Secrète (literally “armed secret organization”), the fascist organization that carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks and thousands of murders in Algeria and France in the 1960s.

The way that the scores of the extreme right-wing presidential candidates have progressed reflects the growth of their influence on today’s society. The threat doesn’t just come from extreme right-wing groups of varying levels of virulence but also and above all from the state apparatus itself, namely the police and the army.

We need to remember that a petition was published a year ago, signed by retired generals threatening army action to stop what they called “the disintegration that is striking our homeland.” At the time, Marine Le Pen was quick to send them a letter of support to show that she was on their side.

To believe that Macron would be a barrier to any of this would be a big mistake. If he’s re-elected, he’ll mask the threat of this extreme right-wing that is ever-present in the state apparatus. He’s certainly not going to touch the army or the police, the main instruments of power.

Nothing good for the workers can come out of the ballot box on Sunday. Once elected, even the so-called left-wing candidates like Mitterrand or Hollande, despite their having the support of the Socialist and French Communist parties (parties created long ago by the labor movement), pursued a policy that served the capitalists. So, it’s not in the workers’ interest to be divided over a vote in which the two candidates aren’t even hiding the fact that they are servants of an economic system that is based on the exploitation of workers.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, states have begun to rearm and, in the aggravated economic crisis, the capitalist class intends to make the workers pay the bill. Simply defending our standard of living will demand struggles with a clear consciousness of our class interests and of all the threats we are under, including that of a more repressive and tougher government.

No political party or organization exists today that is big enough to make the interests of the working class heard. The objective of the propaganda of the bourgeoisie and its political leaders is to destroy the very idea that the workers, who constitute a social group, could represent a political group that is conscious of its class interests. But the fact remains that workers are a considerable social force. They are the basis for all the production and services that are essential for society to function, and they know it. That’s why all hope is not lost. And a good thing too, because they are the only social class that can confront and overthrow the capitalist class. They are the only force that can offer a different perspective than the chaos and war toward which the current ruling class is driving us.

Nathalie ARTHAUD

Earth Day 2022:
Going Backward

Apr 25, 2022

April 22 was Earth Day 2022. Earth Day is an annual event started in 1970 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was supported by some politicians and many environmental activists. More than 20 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have protested on Earth Day 1970 for environmental protection.

Soon after that first Earth Day the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created, and legal limits began to be set on how much air and water pollution businesses, cars and other transportation vehicles are legally allowed to emit.

But where are we today? Actually, the main pollutants causing climate change—carbon dioxide and methane—are going up rather than down. The U.S. and other countries all over the world are not meeting the reduction targets they set for these two most important pollutants causing climate change. And according to a recent United Nations report, even if they met these targets, there would still be a 14% increase in emissions by the end of this decade.

The main reason is because in most cases it is cheaper for businesses to use the air and water as dumping grounds for the wastes they produce than to recycle or eliminate them.

This is the normal functioning of capitalism—to maximize the profits of the capitalists. If it continues, the entire planet may become unlivable for humans and many other species.

Pages 10-11

Executed by the Police—for a Traffic Stop

Apr 25, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of April 18th, 2022.

Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old who recently came to this country to avoid violence in the Congo, was shot in the back of his head by a cop on April 4—for what was called a “traffic stop.”

The Grand Rapids police chief declared it was a tragedy but said he would wait on the investigation to decide if “deadly force was needed to prevent death or great bodily harm to that officer.” The mayor said, “My heart aches like so many people in this community about this tragedy and it aches for the Lyoya family.”

Officials say the words expected, but words have never yet stopped heavily armed police from killing or brutalizing civilians.

In Grand Rapids itself, apologies were offered after five 12-to-14-year-old black youths were held at gunpoint by cops. Apologies were offered after an 11-year-old black girl was handcuffed by Grand Rapids police. More apologies after two incidents when young black teens were handcuffed in 2018, held at gunpoint. Commissions about Grand Rapids police in 2017, 2018 and 2019 declared that the cops needed to change. And yet, Patrick Lyoya was executed.

Is this behavior unique to Grand Rapids? Of course not. In 2020, the entire country could watch a police officer strangle George Floyd to death in Minneapolis. Despite protests reaching across the country, the police have continued to stop, brutalize, traumatize, and sometimes kill people. In Los Angeles in 2021, the police shot 37 times, fatally killing 17 people. Only a year ago, Chicago police shot and killed a 13-year-old Hispanic youth, Adam Toledo. In February, an 18-year-old black youth, Donnell Rochester, was killed by a Baltimore police officer.

People have been killed under similar circumstances all over the United States. Going back to 2016, police have killed almost 1,000 people each year.

The black population has suffered the worst from such violence—out of all proportion to their numbers in the population. They are also stopped for the same “routine traffic stops” many times more often than are white people—traffic stops, which are the single most common incident leading to a shooting.

Still, black people are not the only ones to suffer. Because, finally, the police act as if they have been given a license to kill anyone. And they use it against people of all backgrounds. What is common, whether someone is black, white, immigrant or native born, male or female, is that the people killed usually come from the less-privileged, lower-income parts of the population.

The question is: do white laboring people, who can also face such violence, recognize they have a common cause with black people?

Politicians are famous for whipping up hatreds, doing everything possible to inflame racism in the population. Spewing racist poison, they have been well-supported by big-dollar donors in both of the big parties, even by some ministers, or news broadcasters.

These stupid mouthings repeated over and over are aimed at preventing white workers from seeing other workers as brothers and sisters, people who experience the same never-ending exploitation by the same tiny minority that has always sought to keep working people divided. If white workers, or any workers, fall for these stupid ideas, they will find no way out of the misery of capitalism, which is destroying this country and the entire world.

The police are a military force. They do not “protect and serve” the population. Their main role is to serve the capitalist class, to preserve their “order” so the capitalists can go on raking in wealth, in a system which is chaotic and brutal.

No individual, no few individuals can take on this system and its cops themselves. It is only the working class, when organized collectively, that has the force to do that—and, by doing so, overcome the prejudices fostered by the beneficiaries of racism.

Culture Corner—The Wobbies & Libertie:
A Novel

Apr 25, 2022

Film: The Wobblies, a 1979 documentary, restored

Directed by Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer. Released for May Day showings in some cities, and online.

This documentary presents vintage footage interspersed with interviews of older workers who, in their youth, were militants of the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, nicknamed the Wobblies. In a time period where unions were exclusive craft unions, the IWW was instead a union open to all workers; no one excluded by trade, skill, race, sex, age, workplace or nationality. Their motto was “an injury to one is an injury to all”. They were organizers and fighters in many notable militant strikes in the desperate times of the early twentieth century. They stood fast against the brutal attacks of the bosses and lit a light that shone over all the world. The story of their bravery and leadership shines on for us today.

Book: Libertie: A Novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge, 2021

The award-winning book Libertie: A Novel is a coming of age story and also historical fiction. The story starts in 1860 and is told from the point of view of Libertie, the daughter of the first black female doctor in Brooklyn, New York. The book is full of historical details: the choice to participate in the Underground Railroad in New York; the place of community; the role of science, research, and herbs in medicine; her travels to Haiti and much more. It tackles the dynamics of mother-daughter relationships, the social causes of mental illness, the crippling legacy of racism and sexism, and the search for freedom. It beautifully conveys age-old dilemmas that we still face today.

Page 12

L.A. Rents Out of Reach

Apr 25, 2022

Average monthly rents in the U.S. increased 14.1% last year, according to Redfin, a real estate firm. Rents were up over 30% in many major cities. Because of skyrocketing rents, there is not a single state, metro area, or county in the United States where a typical minimum-wage worker can afford a rental, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

In Austin, Texas, rents are up 40%. In Los Angeles, where 54% of the households are renters, a worker needs to earn an hourly wage of close to $31 to rent a one-bedroom apartment and close to $40 to rent a two-bedroom apartment. The minimum wage in Los Angeles is slated to go to $16 per hour in July. How does this compute?! Right. It doesn’t!

Tennessee Nurse Convicted of Homicide for Fatal Mistake

Apr 25, 2022

Former nurse RaDonda Vaught was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and abuse of an impaired adult on March 25 in Nashville, Tennessee. She faces up to eight years in prison.

On December 26, 2017, Vaught was working her usual 12-hour Neuro Intensive Care Unit (NICU) shift at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She went to get a sedative for patient Charlene Murphrey, who was anxious about entering a brain scan machine.

But the hospital uses an automated drug dispensing cabinet that did not recognize the sedative’s brand name. So, Vaught followed a dangerous procedure that Vanderbilt instructed nurses to do. She overrode the program so the cabinet would dispense a drug for which she inputted the first two letters of the name. In fact, Murphrey’s treatment had required nurses to do 20 overrides in just three days!

Instead of the sedative, the machine gave Vaught a paralyzer starting with the same two letters. It is also used for the death penalty and should not be available from drug cabinets anyway. Vaught administered the drug. By the time she realized her error, Murphrey had suffered severe, permanent brain damage, and soon died. Vaught immediately took responsibility for her fatal mistake.

One consequence was that the hospital changed the automated cabinet procedure to require entering five letters, not just two, which can avoid many similar errors. There are procedures to deal with non-intentional mistakes, like discipline or taking away nurse’s or doctor’s license. State health officials decided not to discipline Vaught or take away her nursing license.

But the city’s district attorney chose to charge Vaught with homicide. This does not heal anyone or prevent horrors like this which ruined two families’ lives. Fatal medication errors kill between 7,000 to 10,000 people each year in this country.

All too often, healthcare workers are forced into a predicament by procedures that lead to mistakes. But this district attorney is treating a mistake as if it were a crime.

Maryland Stadiums:
“Fields of Schemes”

Apr 25, 2022

Maryland’s governor and legislature have agreed for Maryland to borrow 1.8 billion dollars to renovate sports stadiums and subsidize nearby development. This includes 600 million dollars each for the Orioles baseball and Ravens football stadiums in Baltimore, which each only cost 100 million dollars to build 20 and 30 years ago. The rest is 400 million dollars for developers in the area around the Washington Commanders football stadium in Prince George’s County, and 200 million dollars for various minor league stadiums.

Officials have not explained exactly what the money borrowed will pay for. Luxury viewing rooms for richer fans, maybe? These stadiums are not falling apart. Pricey renovations have been ongoing for years, costing around 20 million dollars per year for a long time now.

And how will the 1.8 billion be repaid, plus all the interest? By raising prices for tickets, food, and drinks at sports events, no doubt! What used to be affordable enjoyment for working class people has become a bottomless source of profits for big investors.

Hertz Has Its Customers Arrested and Jailed

Apr 25, 2022

Hertz Rent-A-Car admits that it files around 3,500 theft reports per year on customers, although these customers legally rented Hertz vehicles, and Hertz already has payment information such as a credit or debit card number, according to the Los Angeles Times. Hundreds were falsely arrested and faced prosecution for felonies. And many of them were even jailed, even though they had returned their rented cars to Hertz and paid their bills.

When these customers, with supporting documents, pointed out errors in the theft reports, Hertz refused to withdraw the reports and told the customers to “address this matter through the legal system.” Rather than admit that it had filed baseless theft reports, Hertz prefers to have its customers arrested and kept in jail!

Hertz’s abusive treatment of its customers is typical of how this company operates. Two years ago, when the pandemic hit, Hertz declared bankruptcy in order to stiff its workforce and consumers. It cut 20,000 jobs, half its payroll. It also sold off almost 200,000 cars, nearly one-third of its fleet.

Then last summer a big financial company, Apollo Global Management, swooped in and bought Hertz for very little money.

The capitalists who own Hertz don’t even pretend to provide an essential service or product. They are just out to loot and destroy everyone and everything in their path in order to fatten their bank accounts.

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