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. 1153 — May 9 - 23, 2022

The Fall of Roe v. Wade:
To Defend Your Rights, Gather Your Forces!

May 9, 2022

Shock and anger that the U.S. Supreme Court will end federal protections for legal abortion in the U.S. sent protestors into the streets on May 3. A draft Supreme Court opinion on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, leaked to the media on May 2, made it clear that a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy will be used to strike down Roe v. Wade. The leaked draft was confirmed by the court and the official decision is expected in June.

Many people long assumed that Roe v. Wade had settled the issue, that women were guaranteed the right to determine what happens to their own bodies. They further assumed that once a right was granted, it couldn’t be withdrawn. As the draft shows, they were wrong.

After widespread popular mobilizations in the 1960s and early ‘70s—by women and especially by the black population—the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 struck down many federal and state anti-abortion laws.

This elimination of what seemed to be the federal right to abortion will mean the chaos of each state deciding how abortion is handled. The day after Roe is overturned, 58% of U.S. women between the ages of 12 and 51 will live in the 26 states considered hostile to abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

As many as one in four women has an abortion during their reproductive years. Federal statistics show 60% of women who have an abortion are mothers already, trying to be a better parent to the children they have. About 57% are young women in their 20s.

Women living below the federal poverty line seek about half of abortions. If you include a more accurate picture of poverty—under 200% of the poverty line—that is 75% of women seeking abortion.

This attack on abortion rights is nothing but an attack on low-income women, on working class women. Those with financial means will continue to be able to get to states where abortion remains legal.

Even with Roe, abortion has already become very restricted. There are no medical facilities or doctors to perform abortions in 90% of U.S. counties. There are six states with only one facility in their state. In rural areas there are none.

Because we live in a class society where those with the most wealth are in control, Roe never really protected low-income women. While Roe made abortion legal, it never made abortion attainable for all. To have an abortion requires money, access to transportation, the ability to take time off work, and often childcare for your other children.

The draft opinion of Justice Alito leaves the door open on the “personhood” argument or the argument that the fetus is a person more important than the woman. This adds a dimension to the criminalization of abortion. Low-income women have already faced prosecution for years now for “suspicious” miscarriages. Women have been charged criminally with harming the fetus. A law was just proposed in Louisiana to allow homicide charges to be brought against women who get abortions or those who perform them.

Additionally, in this draft, an argument is made that very few “rights” deserve the protection of the U.S. Constitution. Other “rights” could be stripped away in the future by this reasoning.

Did these reactionary Supreme Court justices, in trying to force their personal anti-abortion views onto the population, just kick over a hornet’s nest? It depends on the reaction of young people, of working women and the working class to see if this broad attack starts a period of struggle.

The capitalist class finds it financially necessary to exert control over women and their bodies. In order to control the whole society as they do, they need to control workers and finally to control women. The capitalist society we have right now is the one they want—the one that makes them the most profit. For women to have full control over their own bodies, capitalist society needs to be torn up, thrown out—in a word, eliminated. It can be replaced by a collective society the working class will build—with women in the lead.

Pages 2-3

The U.S. Government Escalates the War in Ukraine

May 9, 2022

In recent days, the U.S. government has escalated its rhetoric in the war against Russia that is being fought in Ukraine. Joe Biden proposed that Congress approve another 33 billion dollars of mostly military aid for Ukraine, almost double what they have sent up to now. The U.S. said they were sending more offensive weaponry, like tanks and long-range artillery, to Ukraine; whereas at the beginning of the war the U.S. had been supplying Ukraine forces with mostly “defensive” weaponry, like anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. U.S. officials purposely “leaked” that they provided the intelligence to enable the Ukrainians to kill a dozen Russian generals and sink a Russian warship.

It certainly is not clear at this point what the real long-term goals are for the U.S. government with its involvement in this war. At the beginning of the war, the U.S. government said it was sending military aid to a Ukrainian government that didn’t have the forces to stop the stronger Russian military forces that Putin had ordered to invade Ukraine. The U.S. government then continued, week after week, to send more and more military aid and weapons to Ukraine. The dollar amount of military aid that the U.S. has sent to Ukraine in the last few months, and is proposing to send in the near future, is now approaching Russia’s yearly military budget. All these additional weapons have bolstered the Ukrainian forces and have changed the dynamics of the war. It has become a war that the U.S. is fighting against Russia with U.S. money, U.S-provided weapons, U.S. intelligence, U.S. everything except the human cannon fodder to fight the war. The Ukrainian foreign minister described the deal between the Ukrainian government and the U.S. government as “you give us weapons, we sacrifice our lives.”

The U.S. government has shown no signs that it is pushing for negotiations or is looking to find an end to this war anytime soon. Instead, U.S. officials talk more openly about inflicting a military defeat on Russia. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “We want to see Russia weakened.”

Whatever the U.S. government’s ultimate goal is, what is clear about this war is the terrible price that is being paid by the people of Ukraine. Thousands have been killed in bombings, victims of this war. Millions of Ukrainians have become refugees, forced from their homes and across the borders into other countries.

The Ukrainian people so far have had no say in the goals and policies of this war or whether there should be negotiations. Even the Ukrainian president Zelensky is a bit player in this war, as the Ukrainian government is almost totally dependent on U.S. and NATO military aid. Basically, it is a war between Russia and U.S. imperialism.

U.S. imperialism has had a policy of aggression against Russia, since the revolution of the Russian workers in 1917. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. and NATO have been putting troops and weapons in the former Soviet states, right up to Russia’s very borders. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was certainly criminal, but he was responding to many years of the U.S. and NATO’s warlike aggression toward Russia. Russia’s military forces are dwarfed by those of the U.S. government, military forces the U.S. has stationed around the entire world.

The longer this war in Ukraine goes on, the more dangers are being posed, not just for the Ukrainians who are dying, but also for the people of the rest of the world.

Whatever the goals of the U.S. government or the Russian regime may be, wars can always take their own turn. And this war certainly has the danger of escalating, spreading and involving more countries and more forces. And this war in Ukraine is pitting two regimes against each other, which both have nuclear weapons. Leaving decisions about war and peace in the hands of these two regimes poses a threat to all humanity.

Covid Death Toll Much Higher Than Reported

May 9, 2022

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has reported that the worldwide death toll during the past two years of the pandemic has been much higher than previously reported.

Measuring “excess mortality,” the W.H.O. has found that nearly 15 million more people died in 2020 and 2021 than would be expected to die during “normal years” without a pandemic. This is nearly three times the official death toll of 6 million.

These excess deaths include people who died from Covid directly, those who may have died from unreported Covid, and those who died from other medical problems because overwhelmed health systems could not help them in time.

By far the hardest hit have been poorer countries, who experienced a much higher excess death rate than their official Covid death rates. Egypt’s excess death rate was twelve times their Covid death figures; Pakistan’s was eight times more. And India’s was nearly ten times higher than its official figure of 481,080: 4.7 million people, or nearly one third the total number of excess deaths in the world.

The U.S. excess death toll was 930,000, while its official Covid death toll was 820,000 in 2020 and 2021. But it already was among the highest Covid death rates in the world. (The official death toll now approaches one million people.)

Two thirds of those deaths, 10 million people worldwide, took place in 2021—when new, more contagious variants swept through countries—but also a time when vaccines and antiviral medications had already been developed and when effective treatments were better known. These vaccines did not get to poorer countries while rich countries hoarded them; and their hospitals and clinics were even more overwhelmed. Those are 10 million completely unnecessary deaths—this devastation an indictment of capitalism’s criminal failure to deal with the pandemic adequately.

Police Shooting in Roseville Is Murder

May 9, 2022

Cops in Roseville, Michigan shot and killed a man who got out of his car after crashing head-on with a semi-tractor trailer. Two cops showed up and approached Frank Robles.

One of the cop’s bodycam video shows Robles standing with his hands down by his sides with something in one hand. One of the cops approaches Robles, then moves away. Robles slowly takes about two steps when the cop shoots him four times, after which Robles collapses to the ground. As he tries to get up, the cop shoots him five more times, killing him. The cop is heard saying, "He’s got a knife. He came at me with a knife."

Robles, an avid fisherman, was holding a four-inch fishing knife, which he kept in his truck. He was certainly disoriented by the serious head-on accident.

Robles was a veteran who had served in the military in Kuwait and Afghanistan between 2008 and 2012. Friends of his say that he may have been experiencing some sort of mental crisis at the time of the incident.

Whatever was the case, the cops had other options than immediately pouring nine shots into his body.

Robles was white. The victims of police shootings in this country are disproportionately black, nevertheless white people, particularly poorer white people, are also killed by cops. In fact, over half of those killed are white.

It is also true that cops are generally quicker to shoot in a confrontation with a black person, but as the killing of Robles shows, they can also be quick to shoot a white person.

Whatever else they are, cops are an occupying force in working class and poor neighborhoods. An important part of the black population has long been aware of this reality. But white workers sometimes don’t realize the situation they can be put in, having viewed the whole problem through lenses coated by the racist propaganda we are subjected to in this country.

There is a commonality of interest among all parts of the working class. It is vital we recognize this.

Pages 4-5

Mental Health:
Harder to Get Service

May 9, 2022

Hundreds of health care providers in Maryland have had to spend months re-submitting paperwork to a private company to prove they gave services to tens of thousands of the state’s poorest mental health patients. The company, Optum, is trying to snatch back 200 million dollars these health care providers were paid in 2020 and 2021. The duplicate paperwork is an agonizing drain of time for care givers already struggling during the pandemic. Many are being forced to pay back money they already spent. Some are choosing to stop providing services to patients on Medicaid.

In the mid-late 1990s, Maryland, like some other states, introduced a whole new level of for-profit bureaucracy into its public mental health care system, all in the name of cutting costs. In the new privatized system, mental health care providers for 400,000 patients in Maryland submitted their bills to a private company that supposedly reviewed each bill and authorized the state to use federal funds to pay for each service provided, or not. From the beginning critics warned that administrative service companies have an incentive to deny payments for actual care, to make their own bloated contracts look worthwhile.

Maryland bounced the contract from one corporation to another, with the fees rising year by year. One company, ValueOptions, charged 10 million dollars in 2009 even though its software couldn’t tell different health care providers apart, which delayed plenty of payments. But in 2019 ValueOptions demanded four times as much! Maryland switched to a competitor, Optum, which “only” demanded nearly three times as much. But Optum did not bother to solve the same kind of software problems Value Options had back in 2009. That would take hiring people. Optum simply told Maryland to pay each care giver what ValueOptions had paid them. But now Optum says some were overpaid and must repay, and is making them dig up old bills they already submitted two and three years ago.

Privatizing claims processing was all about padding the profits of private companies, while cutting services for poor people with mental health issues.

Homeless Dying on the Streets of Los Angeles

May 9, 2022

In one full year, from April 2020 through March 2021, almost 2,000 homeless people died in Los Angeles County, according to a recent report by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. This is certainly an undercount, according to various organizations dealing with homelessness.

Most of the unsheltered homeless died in plain view of the world around them. Their lifeless bodies were scattered on public benches, alleys, pavements, and bike paths, crumpled under freeway overpasses, and stranded on the stunning sun-drenched beaches of Los Angeles. In some cases, bodies were left undiscovered and unnoticed for hours or days. Others went unclaimed at the morgue despite efforts to reach family members, according to The New York Times.

The majority of the homeless became homeless because of Los Angeles’s very high housing costs and meager wages, pushing those on low incomes onto the streets. Many of the homeless are mentally and/or physically maimed veterans of the wars the U.S. government waged abroad year after year to protect and increase the wealth of a few filthy rich people. Others are mentally ill and pushed to the streets because the state and city budgets for mental treatment for low-income workers have been cut continuously. And half of the women who are homeless were pushed onto the streets because of domestic violence and lack of sufficient financial and organizational support.

Los Angeles is a rich, ultramodern city … for the wealthy few. It not only is the home of the highest numbers of the homeless in the U.S. but also houses the richest people in the world. Yet, these appalling deaths of homeless, alone, on the streets, and the fact that there is homelessness on practically every corner, make this city resemble those in third world cities or war-torn regions.

"It’s like a wartime death toll in places where there is no war," said Maria Raven, an emergency room doctor in San Francisco. Actually, these homeless deaths and homelessness are a product of the class war waged by the wealthy against the working class.

Chicago:
Englewood Whole Foods Closing

May 9, 2022

Whole Foods announced two weeks back that it will be closing its Englewood store. Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s previous mayor, welcomed this Whole Foods with much fanfare just six years ago. Englewood, a working class black neighborhood, has long been a so-called “food desert”—that is, a place with few grocery stores where working people can get food, especially healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Whole Foods was skeptical about opening there, but Emanuel gave 10.7 million dollars in TIF funds to upgrade the space, and the store received 13.5 million in federal tax credits. Amazon took over Whole Foods in 2018. Their management never committed to maintaining the store.

Working people in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods need to be able to buy food—healthy food, and at affordable prices. Emanuel’s Whole Foods was a political showpiece. It was a drop in the bucket, compared to the need in the city. Said one resident, "They said they were going to have lower prices for Englewood but they didn’t make that promise real."

CPS Unfair Budget

May 9, 2022

On Tuesday, April 26th, a number of parents, teachers, community members and elected officials met outside Emiliano Zapata Academy. This elementary school is in the Hispanic Little Village Community. They were there to protest a proposed 894,000-dollar cut. This is about 6.8% from the school’s budget for the upcoming year. The proposed cut would mean losing eight or nine teachers. Which means increasing class sizes, among many other problems. Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez and other District officials said the cut is due to the school’s low enrollment. Two hundred other schools in the district have similar problems.

Community groups say there is no reason for this cut. The district has billions in federal COVID-19 relief funds to address this situation. They went to protest in front of CPS headquarters and called on Chicago’s Mayor to fix the problem.

Movie Review:
Bad Axe

May 9, 2022

A new 2022 documentary named “Bad Axe” was released in a small number of theaters recently. The movie is named after a city in Michigan, Bad Axe, a small, rural, working class and farming community. The movie chronicles the life of a family who has owned a restaurant in this town for many years.

The family is one of the few minorities in the town. The father escaped the “Killing Fields” in Cambodia in the late 1970s. The mother is Mexican American, and her father worked in the factories in Detroit. The boyfriend of one of their daughters is one of the few African Americans in the town.

The movie was produced by the son of the restaurant owner. He originally was planning on filming the life of his family but not intending anything controversial. However, the filming took place beginning in early 2020, right when Covid hit the world; so, he ended up documenting what happened in this small town and how the town and the family reacted to the pandemic.

The tensions in the town are evident throughout the movie. The movie begins with the daughter of the restaurant owners reading one of the hate letters that they had received. This is an almost all-white town in which a non-white family enforced Covid restrictions on customers skeptical about Covid. We see in the movie how Covid goes beyond being a health issue and becomes a political issue.

The tensions get worse when workers at the restaurant (including the restaurant owner’s daughter) are instrumental in organizing the protest following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The protest march in the town attracts not only supporters but also counter-protesters, including some armed Neo-Nazis.

Although there is backlash against the family for enforcing Covid rules and for their support of the Black Lives Matter movement (they get hate letters, threats, some people refusing to dine there anymore, arguments over the face masks, the daughter followed by armed Neo-Nazis), as it turns out, a number of people in the town do support the family.

The Cambodian-American father has a strong personality, and is well-regarded by audiences. His determination to protect his family shows bravery. His character portrayal is very patriotic, notwithstanding the role U.S. imperialism played by setting the stage for the violence inflicted in the Killing Fields following the Vietnam and Cambodian wars. However, when the Neo-Nazis in town were believed to be the ones following his daughter and making threats against them, he armed himself and his family and did not depend on the police for protection. He is a small businessman in a conflicted situation, wanting to guard his interests.

The film shows some of the political conflict that we see throughout this country, and the world. The election of Biden appears to be a relief to a family under attack by the right-wing Republicans. (The viewer might wonder what the family feels after a year of the Biden presidency.) But the film also shows that even in an area that politically is very right-wing, there are also people who are willing to show support for the family, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more.

UFW and Farm Workers in California Picket Governor Gavin Newsom

May 9, 2022

Cesar Chavez Day is a day that celebrates a farm workers’ leader who led the organizing of the United Farm Workers union. This year, Cesar Chavez Day was marked by UFW-organized protests in thirteen cities in California against Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, because Newsom vetoed a bill that would have allowed farm workers to vote from home if they want a union, as opposed to having to vote at the farm.

The Governor is a co-owner of the Plumjack Winery with billionaire Gordon Getty, who also owns vineyards! The governor was not acting alone in his own interest but on behalf of all the rich growers in California. The Democratic Party is the Party of the Rich in California, like the Republican Party is the Party of the Rich in Republican states.

Pages 6-7

Fifty Years of History Show Democrats’ Support for Abortion Rights Is a Lie

May 9, 2022

Following the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion revealing their intention to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Democrats are positioning themselves as the champions of abortion rights. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the Democrats will introduce a new bill to protect a woman’s right to an abortion, adding, "Every senator now, under the real glare of Roe v. Wade repealed by the courts, is going to have to show which side they’re on."

Sounds tough, but these are just empty words!

Just this year, back in February before the recent leak of the Supreme Court’s opinion, the Democrats put forward a bill to codify Roe v. Wade into law. The bill, which passed in the House, was defeated 46–48 in the Senate despite the Democrats holding a Senate majority. They knew the bill would fail before they introduced it, given that they would need 60 votes if the Republicans chose to carry out a filibuster to stop it.

In fact, within just a few years after the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade supposedly guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion, the politicians of both Republican and Democratic parties worked together to make abortions more difficult to obtain, particularly for poor and working class women, and have continued to do so ever since. In 1976, less than four years after Roe, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited Medicaid from paying for abortions for women without financial means. It could not have passed without wide support from the Democrats, since they controlled the Senate 60–37 and the House 291–144. President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, signed the Hyde Amendment into law.

In 1976, the last year before the amendment took effect, 300,000 low-income women obtained abortions through Medicaid. In the two years after it took effect, Medicaid paid for only 3,000 each year.

The Hyde Amendment requires approval every year, and the politicians of both parties have voted to do so, with some minor changes to it. This despite the fact that the Democrats held a majority in both the Senate and the House while Democrat Bill Clinton was president, as they do now under Biden. And under Obama, the Democrats not only controlled both houses of Congress, but had a filibuster-proof 60–40 majority in the Senate for a period.

While he was a Senator, Joe Biden voted consistently to maintain the Hyde Amendment, and in 1983 even attempted to add back in a ban in cases of rape and incest.

The passage of the Hyde Amendment set the stage for further restrictions on abortions at the state level. While these attacks have primarily been led by the Republicans, the Democrats have done little to stop them, even when they’ve held the presidency and both houses of Congress.

The Democrats plan to use the threat of the overturn of Roe v. Wade to convince supporters of abortion rights to place their hopes in winning more legislative seats, both at the federal and state level in this year’s elections. Their willingness to go along with attacks on abortion rights over the last 50 years shows that waiting for them to act is a pipe dream.

Opposition to Abortion—the Strategy for Building the U.S. Republican Party

May 9, 2022

The Supreme Court’s draft opinion that leaked on May 2 effectively overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on a nationwide level. If the official decision of the Supreme Court that will be released in late June or early July is anything like the draft opinion, this would be not only a triumph for the anti-abortion movement, but for the Republican Party, which had used the call to overturn abortion rights as one of the main ways to build an electoral base for itself.

When the Republicans Claimed to Support Abortion Rights

The position on abortion held currently by the Republican Party is very different from its position in the years leading up to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, such Republican political leaders as Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush all proclaimed themselves to be “pro-choice.” And they were not party outliers. In that same period, top Republican governors, Ronald Reagan in California and Nelson Rockefeller in New York, signed bills that eliminated most restrictions for women seeking abortions in their states. In Republican strongholds of North Carolina and Colorado, lawmakers made it easier for women to obtain abortions.

The 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision itself was to a great degree a product of the Republican judicial mainstream at the time. The Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade by a seven to two margin. Of the seven justices who ruled for women’s rights, five had been appointed by a Republican president, with Harry Blackmun, a conservative Nixon appointee, writing for the majority.

Of course, no one should be fooled. These reactionary politicians and judges were not defenders of women’s basic right. On the contrary, their position was forced on them by the widespread mobilizations of the 1960s and early ‘70s, which were battering down many of the reactionary limitations put on the population, especially the black population and women.

Looking for a Base

After Roe v. Wade, these same officials at the head of the Republican Party began to seek ways to expand their political base. They moved away from a pro-choice position to adopt what they called a “pro-life” position. They saw the evangelical movement as a vehicle for expanding the influence of the Republican Party.

At the time, there was not a lot of organized opposition to abortion from the evangelicals. The Southern Baptist Convention in 1974 reaffirmed its long-held view that abortion should be legal in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal deformity, or strong evidence of the likelihood of emotional, mental, or physical damage to the mother.

But much of the white evangelical movement had been a prop for segregation, along with the Ku Klux Klan. Those churches had been pushed back by the struggle of the black population. In the 1970s, some of these churches were thwarted by the courts and the Internal Revenue Service in their efforts to obtain tax-exempt status for “segregation academies” like Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg Christian School and Bob Jones University. These religious leaders that claimed to heed “a biblical mandate to keep the races separate” were blocked.

Republican strategists reached out to these church leaders, recognizing the potential political power evangelical voters would have if they were to vote as a bloc. They pulled them into the fold with issues they thought might appeal to their moralism, such as opposition to the proliferation of pornography, and abortion.

Anti-Abortion: Solidifying the Republican Base

Thus, the Republican Party—long the minority party in the country, based essentially only on wealthier suburbs and some rural areas, and completely shut out of the Democratic-controlled “Solid South"—was about to pander to the churches in a bid to establish a solid mass electoral base for itself, especially in the South, where the churches were the strongest.

The Roman Catholic Church originally took the lead on the abortion issue, circulating in 1975 the “Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities,” a campaign to be carried out by every priest in every parish. The aim of the Catholic hierarchy was to bring back into the theological fold those numerous Catholics who did not subscribe to the church’s views on abortion and birth control.

This then set the stage for the Republican Party to insert an anti-abortion plank into its official party platform in 1976. Then came the 1978 midterm elections, in which anti-abortionists campaigned for winning Senate candidates in Minnesota and Iowa. The following year Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority to support candidates for public office.

The Republicans and Falwell realized that opposing abortion could be successfully used to appear to be a moral issue cutting across racial and religious lines. In reality, of course, it was the way of putting the choices and lives of women, especially women from the working class, increasingly under the thumb of the government and religion.

In the following years, the litmus test for Republicans running for political office or nominated to the judiciary became opposition to abortion. By making the anti-abortion issue one of the most important planks of the Republican Party, the party was pushed in an ever more openly reactionary and religious fundamentalist direction on a host of other issues, from tax exemption for religious institutions to opposition to immigration, publicly funded healthcare, and same-sex marriage. And now, with the likely complete overthrow of Roe v. Wade, many other rights will certainly come under renewed attack.

It is impossible to understand the movement to ban abortion without looking at the cynical play of the Republican Party to develop a mass voting base. But this, in turn, has had an impact on the reactionary development of American politics in general.

“Trigger” States Have Already Failed to Provide

May 9, 2022

Thirteen states have “trigger laws” that would ban abortion immediately if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Anti-choice politicians try to claim that abortion is not a necessary choice because they will ensure that babies will be well looked after in their post-Roe v. Wade world. A quick look at the current conditions for mothers in those thirteen “trigger law” states shows just what a lie that is. Here are some facts:

In those states, the rates of uninsured women and maternal deaths are among the highest in the country. None of those states has guaranteed paid leave for new mothers. Women there are paid lower than in other states—$24,000 or $25,000 median per year. Quality child care is not easy to find, and in some cases is very expensive.

If the politicians in these states were serious about wanting to care for the children who would be born in those states, they would already have mandated all of those things for mothers: quality health care, paid family leave, and good pay. The fact that they haven’t, and currently have the worst ratings of all, is proof enough that they’re lying through their teeth when they say they care about the children.

No Good Solutions for Women in Red or Blue States

May 9, 2022

Already thirteen states have prepared laws to ban abortions, if Roe is overturned.

And in those states, where abortion is already severely restricted, the results show the opposite of real care for pregnant women. A recent study showed such states had a 42% higher rate of maternal deaths.

The health of women and children is not only a question of whether or not abortion is legal. Pregnancy has a number of dangers to the lives of both the mother and the fetus. And in the last few years, the number of women dying in pregnancy has risen everywhere, but especially in states where women have less access to health clinics, where check-ups take place, as well as contraceptive advice and even abortions. Black women are three times more likely than white women to die of complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

Maternal health problems usually have to do with lack of income, which leads to lack of health insurance. Lower paid jobs often lack benefits, like paid time off. Some states do not allow poorer women to join Medicaid, when they have no health insurance from their employer. In Idaho, Mississippi and Alabama, working women average $25,000 per year in income or less. In Texas, last year one quarter of all women under the age of 44 had no health insurance. These are states that have made it almost impossible to obtain an abortion.

The poorer a woman is, the less likely she can visit doctors thanks to the cost; she may trigger huge debt because regular childbirth costs thousands of dollars, let alone costs if bearing a child leads to special health issues for mother or child.

And the so-called blue states, where the Democrats win office more often than the Republicans do, also show differences between health care for women with insurance and women without insurance or on Medicaid. And these are the states that may already have made abortion legal or are more likely to pass laws that do so, if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

In California, the most populated state in the country by far, the death rate per 100,000 pregnancies is 4. In Maryland, which is considered the highest income state in the country, the maternal death rate is 20 per 100,000.

The rates of death for women in pregnancy and childbirth in Georgia and Indiana are twice that of Maryland, and in Louisiana, the rate of death is almost three times as high.

The right to an abortion appears to go along with slightly better health care for pregnant women.

But it is outrageous that so many women, especially poorer women, die in this day and age from becoming pregnant.

Pages 8-9

Africa:
Left Behind by Overseas Shipping

May 9, 2022

This article is translated from the May 6th issue, #2805 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The Chinese government’s policy of quarantine to fight the new wave of the epidemic is causing renewed congestion in the ports of the country called “the workshop of the world.” This is leading to renewed disruptions of overseas shipping—and in the world economy.

But the coming storm will not have the same consequences for everyone. The companies that own container ships will have a new opportunity to get even richer. The years 2020 and 2021 saw both the greatest disorder in maritime trade and the greatest profits for the conglomerates of shipowners who corner the market. But on the bottom of the pyramid of exploitation, tens of millions of workers in Africa whose survival depends on world trade fell one step deeper into poverty.

Impoverished as it is, Africa is integrated into the world market and depends on its ports. Almost all manufactured products are shipped in containers, and this shipping is monopolized by the world’s three leaders in piracy: Maersk, MSC, and CMA-CGM. Containers shuttle between continents on giant ships capable of carrying more than 20,000 of them. But, because they draft nearly 40 feet of water, these boats can only dock at five ports on the entire African continent. Two of them are transfer facilities for international lines serving Europe: Tangier-Med at the tip of the Mediterranean, and Port-Saïd at the entrance of the Suez Canal. The industrial port of Durban in South Africa and Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile in Egypt cannot serve the interior of the continent, given their geographical locations. What remains is Lomé in Togo in West Africa. East Africa has no such deep water port.

So containers have to be transferred to smaller ships at Tanger-Med or Lomé or carried from Europe, Asia, or America on much smaller container ships. But this reduces the profitability of the operation compared to the major maritime routes traveled by super-container ships.

The profitability of container transport is also limited by Africa’s peculiar situation. The continent has become an exporter of raw materials. But these are exported on different ships, not container ships. Yet Africa is a net importer of consumer goods. The containers that bring products to Ivory Coast’s Abidjan or Togo’s Lomé often leave empty, because of the lack of manufactured products to export. Shipowners then make their customers pay the price of this empty return voyage.

During the great post-Covid traffic jam and the simultaneous explosion in shipowner company profits, the companies clamped down even more on Africa by removing entire shipping routes. Planned stopovers were canceled and the affected parties notified at the last minute when ships arrived late. Companies charged customers to pick up their containers at other African ports. Up against the power of the world’s leading shipping companies, protests by Ivory Coast bosses or even Senegalese cabinet ministers carried little weight. So, prices rose even higher than elsewhere. Last December the average price on the Shanghai-Lagos line was 55 dollars per nautical mile per container, but only 20 dollars per mile per container on the Shanghai-New York line.

These gangster tariffs and the shutdown of the economy throw some workers in ports and nearby industrial zones out of work, and ravage the standard of living of everyone there. Meanwhile the profits of Maersk, MSC, and CMA-CGM are at record highs. If property is theft, then what is the concentration of capital?

Nigeria:
The Oil Company Curse

May 9, 2022

This article is translated from the April 29th issue, #2804 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The explosion of an illegal oil refinery in Nigeria on April 22 killed at least 110 people. It joins the long list of tragedies in the Niger Delta, where Western oil companies extract crude oil for export far from Nigeria.

Although Nigeria is Africa’s leading producer of crude oil, it does not have enough refineries to supply its own population. Ninety percent of the crude oil Nigeria extracts goes abroad. It is re-imported after being refined into gasoline, and is sold at prices most Nigerian people can’t afford. And recently the prices of gasoline and diesel—essential for vehicles and the country’s countless power generators—have tripled.

An entire contraband industry developed years ago in the Niger Delta oil region to take advantage of this dilemma created by the oil companies. Pirates specialize in tapping into pipelines and selling crude oil to small unauthorized refiners. These makeshift facilities take no safety precautions. Accidents are common. It was at one of these refineries that the charred bodies of the skeleton crew running the business and their crowd of customers were recovered. Customers bought gas there to resell in big cities.

Those active in this black market, whether drilling pirates or refiners, are often ex-fishermen or farmers ruined by the activity of the big oil companies. In fact the companies have turned everything in the Niger Delta toxic. Wastes dumped into the water join with pollution caused by oil well flares, attacking all living things. Fish die, trees are stunted, and groundwater is poisoned. Thousands of infants die prematurely.

In this way the oil giants murder the people of poor countries.

Heat Wave in India:
A Sign of Things to Come

May 9, 2022

Temperatures soared as high as 120 degrees in Western India and Pakistan this spring, with the months of March and April the hottest ever recorded there. Across the region, more than a billion people are at risk of heat stroke or other illness. With the high heat and humidity, "the body just cannot cool itself, a large fraction of our population in India still works outside in the fields, on building construction, in factories which are not cooled," said an Indian climate expert.

Working and poor people resort to wearing damp towels, and trying to rest in any shade they can find during the hottest hours of the day. For many workers, farm laborers or small outdoor vendors, the choice is a stark one between life and livelihood: to work under killing conditions or to starve from poverty.

Only the wealthy have air conditioning. Nonetheless the high demand for electricity for A/C and fans has led to widespread blackouts, amidst the worst electricity shortage in decades. As of May 5th, heat has killed 26 in India this season according to the government. This number is almost certainly an undercount.

The heat dries out reservoirs, leading to water shortages. It has ruined the harvests of fruit farmers, and dried up the wheat growing in the country’s wheat fields. And there is a growing risk of floods, when mountain glaciers melt and collapse suddenly in the high heat, wiping out villages.

Global warming is exacting a heavy toll. The World Meteorological Organization notes, "Heatwaves are more frequent and more intense and starting earlier than in the past." Indeed, twelve of India’s fifteen hottest years have occurred since 2006. Climate change is upon us, and we see it weighing most heavily on working people and the poor.

Bi-Partisan Brutality Toward Migrants

May 9, 2022

Since March of 2020, asylum-seekers have surrendered to U.S. agents at the Mexican border more than two million times, only to be immediately expelled without having the chance to apply for asylum. The right of asylum is supposedly guaranteed by U.S. law and by various treaties the U.S. government has signed, but the government has been using the excuse of the pandemic to invoke Title 42, a public health order, to refuse asylum applications and push migrants back to Mexico immediately.

These millions from Mexico itself, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East are fleeing violence, poverty, and outright starvation faced by people in much of the world. The U.N. reports there are more people forced out of their homes right now than at any time since the end of World War II.

Huge numbers of these people now wait in squalid, violent centers and camps in Mexican cities close to the U.S. border. “There aren’t basic necessities ... some of the conditions include kidnappings. They have included extortion by state and non-state actors. There has been anti-Black violence for migrants that are coming from Haiti or from many of the African countries…” reported Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s border program, in an interview on NPR.

For the few tens of thousands able to get an asylum application submitted, the Biden administration has made them wait for months in detention centers in the U.S. while their applications are processed. Human Rights First reported that these prisons are sites of “horrific abuse and mistreatment,” including sexual assault, solitary confinement, and family separation.

After maintaining Trump’s policies for more than two years, Biden finally decided to end Title 42 and allow migrants to apply for asylum, though a judge temporarily halted that plan. But even without Title 42, very few of those seeking it get asylum—the U.S. sets a limit of a few tens of thousands, and in 2021, only granted asylum to less than 9,000 people. And the Biden administration’s “six-point plan” to replace Title 42 will keep the basic brutality of immigration policies in place: building even more detention camps—what they call “soft-sided tent facilities”—and deporting people even more quickly.

Yet despite Biden essentially maintaining Trump’s policies, Republicans aren’t about to miss this chance to make a show of their own brutality. If Title 42 ends, Texas Governor Greg Abbott threatens to declare Texas under “invasion” and invoke wartime powers to send the Texas National Guard and State Police to the border—as if the 20,000 militarized Border Patrol agents aren’t already there! Other Republicans are threatening to impeach Biden or his Homeland Security Secretary.

In the end, underneath all the noise, both parties agree on the same basic immigration policy, rooted in brutality toward some of the world’s most desperate people.

Pages 10-11

War Is in Our Future, Prepared for Today

May 9, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of May 2, 2022.

The big media walk in lockstep with the U.S. government about the war in Ukraine. From the New York Times and Washington Post out to the Los Angeles Times; from the various networks, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, to Public Radio and Public TV, the story is the same. Even Fox News, which criticized Biden, fell in line to support the war.

There is a drumbeat for war. And this has implications for our future—dangerous ones.

The media play on our sympathy for the Ukrainian people, caught in the horrors of war. But they turn this valid human sentiment around against us, using it to build support for the system that led to this war, getting us used to the idea that the wars in which the U.S. is involved serve us.

There couldn’t be a bigger fallacy.

This country, which drips violence out of its every pore, has plunged the world into more wars than has any other. Korea, Viet Nam, Dominican Republic, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Haiti—and those are only the direct wars, and only since the end of World War II.

There are all the indirect wars, wherein the U.S. rested on proxies, whom it funded and trained: the 1961 invasion at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs; the Iran-Iraq war, in the 1980s, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1990s; Somalia, 1990s; Kosovo, end of 1990s; Kenya and Somalia, 2007 to present: Libya in 2011.

Today, there is Ukraine: a criminal invasion carried out by Putin, within the criminal framework which U.S. imperialism has imposed on the world.

Biden calls Putin a war criminal, citing the 400 and some civilians killed in two months of fighting in Bucha. What is Biden, but a criminal, who pushes to keep the war going, only to weaken Russia at the expense of more civilians killed?

In two days, August 1945, the U.S. killed over 200,000 civilians when it dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In three days of steady bombing of Dresden, February 1945, the U.S. and Britain killed 25,000 civilians. On the first DAY of its 2003 war against Iraq, the U.S. sent more missiles and bombs into Baghdad than Russia expended in the first four weeks of this current war.

These are not just incidental facts. They are the deadly consequence of what the U.S. military does to control the whole world, making it “safe” for U.S. companies to invest and take out profit. There is a close tie between those companies and the military, including weapons manufacturers, who couldn’t be more pleased by the continuation of the war in Ukraine. Every bomb, every shell exploded means more money in their bank accounts.

The current Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, came from the Board of Directors of Raytheon—one of the top weapons suppliers—as well as from those of a steel company and a medical company. Before that, he had been a four-star general in the U.S. Army. This human link between corporations and the military is standard practice.

It’s true that other countries do the same thing. We live in a world ruled over by capitalism—and its deadly offshoots, colonialism and imperialism. But the U.S. has carried out these wars on a vastly greater scale. Consider this: in 2019, the U.S. spent 778 billion dollars of public money on its military. The next 11 biggest military spenders spent less than that, all together, 761 billion dollars.

The money that goes to those wars is money not spent on the needs of the population in this country. Rotten roads, inadequate schools, a public health system unprepared to meet the virus—these are simply consequences of money spent on war.

In any case, we live in this country. A few people aren’t enough to stop its war-making machine. But we can pierce through the veil of propaganda for war. We can spread the word that the class that oppresses us here at home is the same one carrying out wars around the world. We can say what we know to be true: that there is no answer within this capitalist system. The only answer is to get rid of the system that spawns war.

The good news is that our class, the working class, has the capacity to do just that when it is organized collectively.

Culture Corner—Reversing Roe

May 9, 2022

Film: “Reversing Roe,” a documentary, 2018, directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg

This documentary “Reversing Roe” lays out the history behind the fight for legal and safe abortions: the partial victories, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized them in all states, and then the pushback that sought to outlaw them once again. The film gives voice to women seeking to control their own lives and bodies and the hard choices they make to live a decent life in this crazy society that offers only lower paying jobs and expensive health care. They face bad parental leave policies, exorbitant child care and no support system. The film shows how the right to abortion was under concerted and ever-increasing attacks from its inception until today. It reveals the laws passed that made it harder and harder to gain abortion access, and how clinic after clinic was forced to close. Visitors and workers at the clinics were harassed and even shot at and killed. As we face the imminent possibility of the repeal of the Roe v. Wade decision, this film is an important review of what happens when we let politicians make decisions over our lives.

Available on Netflix.

Page 12

El Salvador:
Government Crackdown on Gangs and the Working Class

May 9, 2022

On April 20, El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, announced that in the past 25 days, his government had arrested more than 14,000 gang members. The day before the raids began, on March 26, 62 gang killings had shaken El Salvador, the highest number of homicides in one day in that country in many years. Prompted by a tweet from Bukele, his allies in the Salvadoran legislature declared a state of emergency. Bukele himself declared war on gangs, and ordered harsh treatment for imprisoned gang members. He tweeted: “Message for the gangs: because of your actions, now your ‘homeboys’ will not be able to see a ray of sunlight.”

Faced with Gang Terror, Many Workers Support the Crackdown

It is a big crackdown which, according to human rights groups, includes many innocent young men who are not affiliated with gangs. But still, many working-class Salvadorans welcome the crackdown—which is consistent with very high approval rates (over 90%) for Bukele in recent opinion polls.

It’s not surprising. Since the end of a civil war 30 years ago, El Salvador developed into what commentators call one of the “murder capitals” of the world, as a result of gang activity and violence. Criminal gangs have been terrorizing working-class neighborhoods by extorting residents and recruiting teenagers—and attacking, kidnapping and murdering those who resisted. As a result, thousands of Salvadorans have fled their neighborhoods, and country, to seek refuge in the U.S. In recent years, thousands of parents have even sent their young children, often by themselves, to the U.S. border as refugees, despite the increasingly deplorable conditions that U.S. authorities have been forcing on refugees, young and old, at the border.

Not a Government for Workers

But Salvadoran workers cannot have illusions that this government would protect them from the gangs. Yes, Bukele, who calls himself the world’s “coolest dictator,” has promised to clean up neighborhoods from gangs, but previous actions of Bukele’s government show that this government is not on the side of the working class. In the spring of 2020, for example, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the Salvadoran government arrested thousands of people for breaking quarantine and curfew rules—including many essential workers, who were supposed to be exempt—on technicalities. Those arrested were then placed in overcrowded detention facilities, in fact increasing the risk of Covid outbreaks. These are certainly not the actions of a government that has the interests and well-being of working people in mind.

In fact, the harsh government repression unleashed after March 26 is a threat against Salvadoran workers also. After declaring a state of emergency, El Salvador’s Congress has also made changes in criminal law, lengthening sentences—including prison sentences of 10 to 15 years for journalists who “publish gang messages” and “cause anxiety among the people.” This is a direct threat to not only journalists but anyone who voices opposition to government policies.

And these laws can be used against workers who organize to fight for better wages and working conditions—in a country where wages are very low for most workers. For example, what the government calls “minimum wage” in El Salvador, $365 a month, is completely deceptive, because to earn this amount, workers are required to either have a college degree or be bilingual—in a country where the working class has very limited access to education, and where roughly one out of ten people is illiterate.

Salvadoran Gangs: Born in the U.S.A.

Today, the U.S. government is accusing Bukele of human rights violations, but that can’t hide the direct role the U.S. has played in shaping the current situation in El Salvador. The two dominant gangs in El Salvador today, Barrio 18 and MS-13, started out in Los Angeles in the 1960s and ‘70s. Like other gangs active in U.S. cities, these gangs were originally an attempt for a segment of working-class youth in L.A., in this case youth from Salvadoran immigrant families mostly fleeing a bloody civil war, to protect themselves in rough neighborhoods where young people have no access to a decent education or jobs. And like other gangs started under such circumstances, parts of these gangs evolved into criminal networks.

Life as a criminal, and prison, was then in store for many members of these gangs. It’s one of the ways in which capitalist society, where private capital does not provide jobs, and government does not provide a real education to the vast majority of working-class youth, railroads a large number of working-class youth to prison. And since the early 1990s, the U.S. has been deporting members of MS-13 and Barrio 18 from prison to El Salvador, where the gang leaders, once again, found a fertile environment for their criminal activities—thanks to the deterioration and impoverishment caused by the country’s civil war (1979–1992), which itself was driven heavily by direct U.S. support for the country’s brutal right-wing, anti-working-class government!

The problems Salvadoran workers face—low wages, crime and violence in their neighborhoods, lack of education, health care and other government services—are all problems workers in other countries, including here in the U.S., face. These are problems caused by capitalists’ endless drive for profit, which governments serving the big capitalists, in El Salvador or in the U.S., will not solve.

Search This Site