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. 1154 — May 23 - June 6, 2022

$40 Billion to Escalate War in Ukraine

May 23, 2022

Joe Biden has signed into law a bill passed by Congress to send massive amounts of mostly military aid to Ukraine—40 billion dollars worth. This is even more than Biden initially proposed. Republicans and Democrats in Congress, who haven’t addressed any of the problems faced by the population here, agreed with little to no discussion to 40 billion dollars for war.

All this money and military weaponry is in addition to what the U.S. had already been sending weekly to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion. And it is on top of the weapons and military training that the U.S. had been providing to Ukraine for many years prior to this. The U.S. and NATO’s military aid to Ukraine is now more or less equaling the entire military budget of Russia.

Biden signed this latest military aid just a few days after he had welcomed the leaders of Finland and Sweden to the White House and encouraged them to join NATO. Sweden and Finland had already been somewhat militarily aligned with the U.S. and NATO. But with these countries officially joining NATO, it will encircle Russia militarily, because Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia. It will also strengthen NATO’s control over the Baltic Sea and could limit Russia’s access to it.

These latest moves by the U.S. government are not a move toward bringing about any kind of peace. It was the U.S. and NATO’s policy of encircling Russia and arming the countries on Russia’s border that pushed Putin to invade Ukraine in the first place. And the U.S. sending more and more military weapons to Ukraine is not going to end this war any time soon, either. Just the opposite, it looks to extend this war.

While the U.S. media has proclaimed the success of Ukrainian forces in driving back the Russian military in some places, it is also true that, with its capture of Mariupol, Russia has now consolidated its control over southeast Ukraine. Russia is building defensive military fortifications in this area, and it has begun to organize economic and political control over southeast Ukraine. If the U.S. government’s goal is to push Russia out of Ukraine, it will mean an even greater escalation of this war.

Whatever their intentions are in Ukraine, the latest actions of the U.S. government show us the future that they are planning for the people of Ukraine, for people in this country and for people in the rest of the world—a future of wars.

Yes, it was Putin who ordered this brutal and criminal invasion of Ukraine. But it was U.S. imperialism’s policies which laid the groundwork for this war. It is the U.S. government which organized NATO after World War Two to militarily threaten Russia. It is the U.S. government which has military bases in 75 different countries. It is the U.S. government which sends its troops to every corner of the world, including right up to the border of Russia. And the latest moves by the U.S. government show that they are doubling down on this policy of aggression, a policy which can only lead to more wars, future wars, bigger wars.

Today the people of Ukraine are the ones who know what that means. Thousands have been killed and millions have been forced from their home. The Ukrainian economy is in shambles, grain is not being shipped and its effects are being felt around the world.

If the people of this country and the world want a different future than what is happening in Ukraine today, then we can’t leave the future in the hands of those who run a system based on wars.

The working class of Ukraine, the working class of Russia, the working class of the U.S., the working class of the entire world does not benefit from this war, or any war. We are its victims. But the working class of the entire world, including this country, also has the power to fight for a different future, a future without wars.

Pages 2-3

Legal Hocus Pocus Used Against Women—Again!

May 23, 2022

The so-called “great” and “eminent” legal authority, Sir Matthew Hale, is mentioned eight times by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in his legal arguments for ending Roe v. Wade. Who is Justice Hale?

This wealthy English Lord believed in witchcraft. In 1662, Judge Hale presided over an infamous “witch trial” that ended with the execution of two elderly women. Hale’s trial was used 30 years later as the model for the Salem Witch Trials that led to the execution of 14 women and 6 men.

Hale was the originator of the legal opinion that marital rape does not exist. He was the “legal authority” who originated jury instructions—used to this day—that more or less put the rape victim on trial.

Hale was known for his legal philosophy that women having enforceable rights over their own bodies was a threat to men’s freedom. Hale wrote legal texts that became British common law—a foundation of the U.S. legal system to this day.

Justice Alito cited this man in his legal opinion because today’s laws stand on these horrific traditions. Justice Alito appears to be proud of that fact. Disgusting!

With the advent of science, these draconian ideas should have been long buried. But the class system that initiated them keeps them in place. If women were not subjected to these punishments, they would have long ago flown out of the “household” to take their rightful place in society alongside the male gender. No more free, unpaid labor.

Women, to be free, must lead the fight to get rid of capitalism and to replace it with a new society without classes.

What U.S. Military Leaders “Forget” to Mention

May 23, 2022

The New York Times just won a Pulitzer Prize for a series reporting on civilians killed by U.S. bombing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, and on how the U.S. military essentially covered up these deaths. That’s worth remembering when U.S. military leaders—starting with Biden—have the nerve to express dismay about civilians killed by the Russian military in Ukraine.

To give just one example: in March of 2019, the U.S. bombed and killed dozens of people including women and children gathered by a riverbank in Syria. A military analyst said on an internal chat: “We just dropped on 50 women and children." Yet the military did nothing about it until the New York Times broke the story two years later.

Only then did the military carry out an “investigation” which did not dispute the basic fact that U.S. planes killed dozens of people, women, and children among them. But this “investigation” found no wrongdoing by anyone in the U.S. military. A military spokesperson had the nerve to say "Yes, we killed some innocent civilians, women and children. We actually do feel bad about this." But he added: "It was in the midst of combat, in the fog of war."

This case was no exception. A Times reporter investigated the sites of hundreds of airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. She found evidence of huge numbers of civilian deaths, many of them children. And yet, when she went over the U.S. military’s official accounts, she found that "Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action."

Of course, the U.S. military has no interest in investigating or punishing anyone for all those ordinary people it has killed across a wide swath of the world. The sheer numbers the U.S. has murdered show that thousands of civilian deaths are essential to these types of wars of imperialist domination, carried out by the most modern fighter jets and drones against cities and villages full of people. Any real list of those responsible for blowing up and burning to death these thousands of children and adults over the last twenty years would have to start with Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden.

Oops!
George W. Admits It!

May 23, 2022

During a speech in Dallas last week, George W. Bush denounced Russia’s lack of democracy, saying, “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion—of Iraq. … er, Ukraine.”

Just goes to show, even an idiot like George W. can see the parallel.

Commentators jumped all over it: He admitted it! The invasion of Iraq was wholly unjustified and brutal! And it only took 17 years!

But George was right: in the U.S., we have a “democracy”, which meant that the criminal invasion of Iraq could not happen just because of one man. It took all the politicians of both capitalist parties to commit that crime!

Baby Formula Shortage Caused by Profit Drive of Companies

May 23, 2022

Because of the dire shortage of infant formula in the U.S., families are having tremendous difficulties feeding their babies. Shortages started to increase last July, and infant formula stockpiles in the U.S. are now 56% below normal—a true disaster.

Faced with this crisis, parents are often being forced to drive for hours, only to find stores with empty shelves. Parents are going across state lines just to get a can of formula or two, while others are driving to Mexico and Canada. Others have resorted to feeding tubes in their children to just get the babies to hold down oatmeal and fruit.

This crisis was really set off after a recall of infant formula this February led to a shutdown of the only plant that produces Abbott’s baby formula products in Sturgis, Michigan.

This Abbott plant has had long-standing health and safety problems. In 2019, an inspection of the Abbott plant by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered dilapidated and failure-prone formula drying machines, ungloved workers (no access to gloves), falsified safety records, puddles of contaminated water inside the plant, and traces of deadly bacteria thriving in baby formula. But the plant remained open.

The FDA waited until February 2022 to launch an investigation into a whistleblower complaint filed in October of 2021. Only after it was determined that four babies had been hospitalized and two babies had died due to deadly bacteria in Abbott’s formula, did the FDA finally decide to announce a recall and close the plant.

How could the closing of one plant lead to such a dire national shortage? Three companies control almost the entire market for infant formula: Mead Johnson, Nestle, and Abbott. These companies sell 98% of all baby formula in the country, with Abbott having the lion’s share—43% of the entire market. Parents in the U.S. pay twice as much for infant formula as parents throughout most of Europe.

The super-profits of these companies are enforced by the U.S. government itself. The federal government guarantees to these companies over 50% of all sales of baby formula through its WIC program, the supplemental nutrition program for working class families. WIC contracts to buy baby formula from one company in each state. WIC gives Abbott exclusive supplier contracts in over 34 states. The other companies often don’t even bother selling in a state where they don’t have a WIC contract, giving a virtual monopoly to one company in each state.

This very capitalist system has created and ensured this baby formula crisis that millions of working-class families are facing. These companies are not in the business of providing safe and healthy baby formula in sufficient quantities. They are in the business of making money. The actions of both the regulators and politicians only ensure the super-profits of this cartel. All while an increased number of working-class parents and their babies face a life-and-death situation.

U.S. Covid Deaths Pass One Million

May 23, 2022

Last week, the official U.S. Covid-19 death toll passed one million. Two years ago, 100,000 was an unspeakable tragedy to news outlets like the New York Times—now, we have passed 10 times that many.

And as reported by the World Health Organization a few weeks ago, the number of people killed as a result of Covid is actually much higher than that.

One million is more than all U.S. soldiers who died in World Wars I and II combined. Nearly everyone knows someone who died from Covid-19. And many are filled with the anger of knowing that it did not have to go this way.

The Covid-19 death toll was not an act of nature. It is the result of a rotten health care system that protects profits first and foremost.

A stark illustration of that is a comparison with Australia. Australia’s Covid death rate is only one-tenth that of the U.S. One-tenth! That means, if the U.S. had Australia’s Covid death rate, over 900,000 people would still be alive today!

One main reason why Australia has a lower death rate is simply because it actually has a public health care system worthy of the name. But the U.S. chooses to pump up a for-profit system and to spend money on war to maintain its dominance around the world.

The U.S. health care apologists like to say that it has the “best health care in the world.” But how can that possibly be, when 900,000 people died needlessly from Covid-19 infections?

Those 900,000 deaths are blood on the hands of the U.S. capitalist class.

Pages 4-5

Maryland Hospital:
To “Do No Harm” Requires More Workers

May 23, 2022

Workers at University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. protested against understaffing in March. After one year of operation, the hospital just got a D grade from a national watchdog organization that rates hospital safety.

The hospital had high levels of patients getting bacterial infections from equipment or staff. Too many patients fell while unassisted. Too many patients developed blood clots and breathing problems, even compared with many other hospitals. All these problems happened because there weren’t enough workers in the building.

The facility’s owners had 543 million dollars to build the hospital. But they don’t have money to hire more staff? Staff whose job it is to keep patients healthy and safe!

Strike at CNH Industrial

May 23, 2022

At noon on May 2, 1,000 UAW workers in three Wisconsin and Iowa plants went on strike against CNH Industrial. CNH workers make farm machinery like tractors and combines, and construction heavy equipment like backhoes and end-loaders.

The workers’ six-year contract expired, and the company decided to stonewall. In fact, CNH had contracted with a strikebreaking firm to bring in temporary workers the very next day at the Burlington, Iowa plant. After a few hours’ standoff with the picketers, the local sheriff enforced access to about 35 out-of-state vans loaded with temps. This action proved how much CNH lied in their official statement, when they said, “we will continue to negotiate in good faith.”

CNH ended 2021 with 33.4 billion dollars in revenue and a 21% increase in profit, 1.76 billion dollars. They are passing out 400 million dollars in dividends and buying back 100 million dollars in shares.

CNH has plants worldwide. It is part of the Agnelli family’s empire, through their holding company Exor, which also controls the newly named Stellantis auto manufacturing conglomerate. The Agnellis are Italy’s fourth wealthiest family.

A CNH worker said, “We didn’t ask for the world. Just give us what John Deere got.” The 10,000 John Deere workers struck for 34 days last October and November to win an initial 10% pay increase and a cost-of-living formula that will make up about half of their inflation losses. Meanwhile, the CNH workers’ pay is even $5 below local non-union manufacturing. It’s been six years since the workers’ last wage negotiations.

Workers also want the mandatory 12 hours rule changed, and the freedom to schedule their own vacations instead of being forced to take their vacation time at the company’s convenience.

Workers are supported by their community. A village near the Burlington, Iowa plant donated their fire station for a strike kitchen. Food donations began piling up immediately. Struggles with agricultural companies like Deere, Caterpillar, McCormick, Case and New Holland (now merged in CNH) have gone on for over a century in the upper Mississippi valley. Families work in these plants. Solidarity in a pinch is strong. A manufacturing engineer even resigned his job on the first day of the strike, rather than cross the picket line.

Much of the work building big machinery is skilled, specialized. CNH is using temp workers to threaten the strikers, but actual production is another story. A skilled welder said, “Without the parts I do, they can’t run that combine head.” Another from the paint shop said, “There are so many different ways that you have to know to hang that stuff to get it to go through the paint line and, quite honestly, there’s no managers down there now that I think know how to do it. That’s going to be rough for them.”

The CNH workers took the first step and decided to fight. They are up against a large international company backed by an immense family fortune. One local president said, “I have told my members to be ready to be out 3 to 6 months.

But the strikers could have backing as well — the immense power of their fellow workers, who also need immediate wage adjustments, and immediate relief from punishing work schedules day in and day out.

The sooner this power gets put to work, the better for us all!

California Officials Want to Turn Library into Police Station

May 23, 2022

The City Council in the town of McFarland in central California’s Kern County has announced its plans to turn the town’s only public library into the town’s police headquarters.

Much of the community relies on this library, even though it is open only two days a week. Many students walk to the library after school. Other students are dropped off at the library and stay there until 6 p.m., when the library closes. Besides being a safe place with access to books and computers, the library offers young students a variety of activities, such as arts and crafts, story time, and tutoring.

But the City Council and the rest of the town’s top officials—including the superintendent of the school district—are determined to convert the library into a police headquarters. In a letter to the county, the City Council even said that there was little opposition in the community to the conversion of the library into police headquarters—even though no one had asked community members what they thought about it.

And sure enough, community members of all ages have openly opposed closing the library after the City Council revealed its intentions. The police chief (and city manager), said that the library would be in better use as police headquarters, because it’s being used only two days a week. Eight-year-old Francisco Hernandez had a logical, and simple, answer for him, saying: “It should be open every day!” More than 1,700 people—about one out of eight residents of McFarland—have already signed an online petition to stop the closure of the library.

Wealth in Kern County
—Not for Libraries, Though

May 23, 2022

In all of Kern County, officials don’t want to put money into the library system. This 8,000-square-mile county has only 22 libraries, most of which are open only two or three days a week. The central branch in Bakersfield is the only library in the county that’s open five days a week.

It’s not that there is no money in Kern County. It is a major agricultural center in California (with 100 million pounds of almonds annually, for example, among other crops), and most of McFarland’s 14,000 residents work in the fields surrounding the town. Kern County is also California’s top oil-producing county, with nearly 80% of this oil-rich state’s oil wells!

All that wealth flows into the coffers of Big Agriculture and Big Oil. As for the workers who produce all that wealth, these huge, and hugely profitable, businesses pay them poverty-level wages, and government officials deny them some of the most basic services and infrastructure, including libraries.

Chicago Imposes Curfew on Young People

May 23, 2022

Ever since it began to get nice out, large groups of mostly black young people have been gathering in various spots around Chicago’s downtown and near North Side. Apparently using social media, they have organized to “take over” places like North Avenue Beach and Millennium Park that are usually “sanctuaries” for tourists and the city’s middle and upper class. The night of May 14, a teenager was shot and killed during one of these meet-ups, near the city’s iconic Bean sculpture.

This gave Mayor Lightfoot and the police the excuse to act, imposing a 6 p.m. curfew at Millennium Park for all minors without a “responsible adult,” from Thursday through Sunday. Of course, everyone knows exactly what kind of young person will be targeted for this enforcement.

Chicago has vast impoverished black and brown neighborhoods where teenagers are shot just about every day, and also has safe, well maintained, mostly white, rich neighborhoods with every amenity. As long as the violence stays in the poor neighborhoods, the city government can throw up its hands and bemoan all the social problems it can’t solve, while the rich people who really run the city can ignore the poverty and violence their system creates while enjoying the beautiful parks and lakefront.

And when teenagers from the poor neighborhoods decide not to “stay in their place,” the only answer they have is to crack down, to try to keep the effects of the city’s poverty bottled up in the poor neighborhoods, to say in word and deed: the nice places like Millennium Park are not for you.

But that doesn’t mean the young people will necessarily accept it.

Los Angeles Police Department Goes to Hollywood

May 23, 2022

Following violent confrontations with the public, police agencies release edited and packaged videos in order to spin the cops’ viewpoint.

In one case in 2015, private cellphone footage showed the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies firing 33 rounds at Nicholas Robertson, shooting him first as he walked away from the deputies and then crawled on the ground. But after protests started because of this killing, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department produced a different video showing Robertson holding a gun when the deputies shot him. Following the release of this video, protests died down.

But, two years later, another video emerged that contradicted what the Sheriff’s Department said. It showed that Robertson did not point the gun at deputies, and the gun was unloaded when the deputies shot and killed him. The family sued the Sheriff’s Department, and the jury agreed with Robertson’s family, finding the deputies responsible for unjustifiably killing Robertson.

The cops’ faked-up version of the Robertson shooting was produced by the Sheriff’s Department’s media division, which employs 42 people.

All major police departments now have similar large, expensive media departments. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Media Relations Division (MRD) employs 24 cops whose average pay is $217,766 a year. These media divisions cherry-pick events and spin out stories to justify cops’ brutal actions. Half-truths are often the biggest lies.

Police departments also pay private companies to do a lot of this work. In fact, producing slick videos to replace raw police bodycam footage of police brutality is a growing business. One company, Cole Pro Media has contracts with 100 police departments across the country, according to the Vallejo Sun. Companies like Cole Pro and universities also teach courses to police departments on how to control media coverage when controversy might arise. All of this at considerable expense, paid for by taxes from the public.

The cops shoot and kill poor and working-class people, disproportionately those who are black, for little to no reason. Police terror is one method the capitalist ruling class uses to keep the population in check, amidst rising poverty and misery. They pay these spin masters to come up with Hollywood-style fiction to whitewash their murderous acts.

Pages 6-7

The Le Pen Vote in the French Overseas Departments:
A Rejection of Macron

May 23, 2022

This article is translated from issue #2804, April 29th, of Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group active in France.

Marine Le Pen, the far right presidential candidate in the recent French elections, got a very large majority in the second round of that election in France’s four overseas departments: the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, the South American colony of French Guiana, and Reunion, an island in the Indian ocean.

She got a very high score, almost 70% of the vote in Guadeloupe; more than 60% in Martinique and Guiana, nearly 60% in Reunion.

Some time back, nationalist militants of the far left prevented Jean-Marie Le Pen [Marine’s father and also a far-right candidate for many years] from landing in Guadeloupe and Martinique, with the assent of the population. This was replayed more recently, before this second round of the presidential election. Just a few weeks ago, Marine Le Pen came to Guadeloupe for the first time. Fifty nationalist and communist revolutionary militants demonstrated in front of the local television outlets and then at her hotel. The interview she was to give did not take place. The organizers of this demonstration did not find supporters from the population outside of their own narrow political circles. What came back to them the most was “you have to let them talk,” then “they should be given a chance, even her.”

Marine Le Pen has been successful in sanding off her father’s sharp edges. The argument of her racism, to which the Black and Indian majority is so sensitive, has carried little weight for some time already. Moreover, with the collapse of the big left parties, the Socialist and Communist Parties, and of the right, the very ideas of right, left and extreme right no longer carry much meaning with the population.

The one point that marked her was her opposition to the sitting president. The same voters voted massively for Melenchon, a “socialist”, who came in first by a very large margin in the first round. These voters gave their votes to Le Pen by a large majority in the second round. For example, the five towns in Guadeloupe that gave Le Pen the biggest votes had given their votes to Melenchon massively on the first round. So, one cannot say, as some do, that the vote for Le Pen was a vote for the program of the National Rally party—far from it. In the second round, there was Macron, and his opponent. The electorate in the Caribbean voted for the opponent.

Anger is very widespread in the heart of the French Caribbean population. The big rises in prices these past few months only reinforced that anger.

Poverty is gaining ground; unemployment varies between 18 and 25%. Delinquency among the youth in the neighborhoods is endemic; a giant desperation looms among the youth. Public services are more and more decrepit: the postal service, and especially running water, especially in Guadeloupe.

The government’s vaccination policy has also played a role in this vote. November’s social revolt in Guadeloupe and Martinique was a reaction to the suspension without pay of thousands of healthcare workers, doctors, and nurses. The government’s only response was repression, reinforcing the sentiment within the population that Macron holds nothing but scorn for them.

That the discontent of a big part of the working population could weigh so massively in the vote for a leader of the extreme right, fascistic, in thick with the racists, allows us to measure the political responsibility of Macron, but also that of the big government parties, both left and right. Those parties and Macron made the bed for the extreme right by increasing the desperation of the population through their anti-worker attacks, and by weakening income.

Among the 50%+ who abstained, there are many who are discontented, who refuse to choose between cholera and the plague. Just as in France.

Happily, the workers of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guiana, and Reunion have been combative against their exploiters. For example, the workers at Carrefour Market [a company similar to Walmart] in Martinique, who voted for Le Pen, are on strike today.

Their combativeness and their fights represent a hope for the future.

Finland, Sweden, and NATO:
Putin’s Policy Strengthens Imperialism

May 23, 2022

This article is translated from the May 20 issue #2807 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

Finland officially applied to join NATO. The country has a long border with Russia. Sweden is preparing to apply to join NATO, too. So, these two governments are putting an end to the neutrality they have shown until now.

In reality, the alignment of Finland and Sweden with the Western side doesn’t just date from the last few weeks, but from the collapse of the USSR in December 1991 at least. They joined the European Union three years later. As early as May 1992, Finland replaced its air force fleet, which included Soviet MIG-21s, with F-18s bought from the United States. Finland is now replacing them with F-35s, also American. Preference is given to this type of aircraft, which can integrate with NATO’s fleet in joint maneuvers now, or in a future war.

If Finland and Sweden’s neutrality was less and less a reality, most of their populations still believed in it.

Has anxiety over the war in Ukraine really caused a change in the populations’ mindset? Do they now view NATO as protection against possible Russian aggression? In any case, the social-democratic-led governments of both countries no longer hold back from declaring themselves in favor of joining NATO. They agree with NATO’s goal of completing the encirclement of Russia along its 800 mile border with Finland. Russia’s second largest city, Saint Petersburg, is less than 90 miles away from that border. Along with the Baltic countries, which are already part of NATO, their fleets and their systems of surveillance for Russian submarines will make the Baltic “NATO’s ocean.” In the far North, Sweden’s military faces Russia’s.

Far from protecting people from future war, NATO membership will contribute to increasing tensions with Russia. This same NATO policy of encirclement pushed Putin to invade Ukraine. NATO is not a peaceful institution designed to protect people. This military coalition is the armed wing of American imperialism. Its leaders have as little concern for the interests of the people as the Kremlin’s masters do.

The Finnish and Swedish governments offer the U.S. and its allies new fields of maneuver to prepare war in the scenario of confrontation with Russia. The populations of northern Europe are on the front lines.

Palestine:
A Crime by the Israeli Army

May 23, 2022

This article is translated from the May 20 issue #2807 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist with Al-Jazeera TV, was shot in the face on May 11 while reporting on an Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the north of the West Bank.

She was wearing a bulletproof vest marked “Press” and was indeed targeted as a journalist. According to Reporters Without Borders, she is the seventh journalist killed in Palestinian territory since 2018. Abu Akleh had denounced the violence of the Israeli state for more than twenty years. She was famous in the Middle East and throughout the Arab world. Her assassination aroused great emotion.

Thousands of Palestinians gathered for her funeral on May 13 in front of the hospital in East Jerusalem where her body lay. Israeli cops charged the crowd, raining baton blows on people including the pallbearers. The cops used smoke bombs and stun grenades and tore down Palestinian flags. Bullets wounded 13 Palestinians in and around Jenin.

This outbreak of violence reflects what Palestinians have experienced for weeks. Since March 22, following a series of attacks that have left 19 dead among the Israeli population, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has multiplied his gestures to the far right, where he originates. He is trying to save his government as the head of a heterogeneous coalition that goes from the religious right to the labor left, weakened by several defections. Traffic restrictions and humiliations have increased. Military sweeps and arrests have become daily occurrences in the West Bank, particularly Jenin. The Israeli government continues and intensifies its pro-settlement policy in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. On May 12, Bennett announced the construction of nearly 4,500 more housing units in West Bank settlements.

After the images of the lifeless body of the journalist were broadcast around the world, the U.S. and the European Union could only condemn her assassination and the brutality of the Israeli police during her funeral. But the great powers have nothing to say about the state terrorism that Israel’s leaders inflict daily on an entire people—because they are complicit in it.

Sri Lanka:
From Crisis to Bankruptcy

May 23, 2022

This article is translated from the May 20 issue #2807 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

The Rajapaska family controls the top of the government of Sri Lanka but was forced to sacrifice older brother Mahinda after being shaken by weeks of protests.

Mahinda resigned his post as Prime Minister on May 9 in the attempt to save his younger brother Gotabaya’s presidency. Several other members of the clan already resigned their ministries in recent weeks.

The Rajapaskas owe their rise to their role in the army’s repression of the Tamil minority, putting a bloody end to the rebellion of the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Mahinda was president from 2005 to 2015 but had to cede to the opposition after losing an election. But the clan retook power in 2019, taking advantage of emotions aroused by Islamist attacks that caused 258 dead and nearly 500 injured. The family is never stingy with nationalist demagoguery, flattering the Sinhalese and Buddhist majority.

Sri Lanka has been sinking into an unresolved economic crisis ever since. The pandemic amplified the effect of the attacks in depriving the island country of tourists. The country is heavily indebted and has no foreign currency reserves. Accelerating inflation worldwide has made imports unaffordable. Sri Lanka’s currency, the rupee, lost 30% of its value in March. Electricity only works intermittently. Patients can’t find medicines, or the medicines are too expensive. Even shoes are considered non-essential goods. Imports of shoes were halted. The government saw fit to disguise the financial impossibility of importing chemical fertilizers—the prices of which are soaring on international markets—as a positive environmental move. But agricultural production has dropped. Food shortages are happening. Poor people skip meals.

Demonstrations have happened daily in the capital Colombo for a month and a half. They demand the resignation of the president. Even Buddhist priests, who supported the Rajapaskas’ violent nationalism, turned against the ruling family, and took to the streets. Demonstrators tried to reach the presidential palace and the ministries, were pushed back by police, and set fire to the houses of some government ministers.

On May 8 the Rajapaskas mobilized their supporters, who attacked anti-government protesters with sticks—accompanied by tear gas from police. Two deputies fired on demonstrators. Nine people died and 300 were injured. Curfew was declared throughout the island. But the prime minister still had to throw in the towel, after trying in vain to convince the opposition to join his government to stabilize it. As soon as the space opened for them, opposition politicians formed a new government, under the weakened authority of President Gotabaya Rajapaska.

New prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is back for his fourth round. Given the economic collapse, he could only offer sacrifices to the population, announcing, “The next two months will be the most difficult months of our lives.” He said the economic crisis “will go from bad to worse before it gets better.” On May 16, he had to admit there was only one day’s supply of fuel. Four tankers were financed by an emergency line of credit opened by neighbor India. But once they dock, the reprieve will only last a few days. Wickremesinghe and his economic minister begged people to stop lining up at gas stations. When people meet on those lines, spontaneous protests start! The new government helplessly signaled that it would print more banknotes, even while acknowledging that this will worsen inflation.

The administration would like to put an end to the demonstrations and the political instability they cause. But the working class and the poor population can expect nothing from the government in terms of loosening the grip of the global economic crisis in which Sri Lanka struggles.

Pages 8-9

The Federal Reserve, Stock Market Chaos, Cryptocurrency Crash

May 23, 2022

The slow-motion crash in stock prices that started about six months ago has begun to speed up. By mid-May, all the major U.S. stock market indexes had fallen for seven weeks in a row, the longest losing streak since 1980. This has created some spectacular losses. Some formerly high-flying individual stocks, such as Netflix and Peloton, are now down about seventy percent.

Other speculative markets, especially cryptocurrency assets, such as Bitcoin and Coinbase, have seen even bigger losses. Ever since big money got in on the cryptocurrency game—including famous billionaires, like Elon Musk, and some of the biggest Wall Street banks—a great deal of expensively produced advertisements, such as the “Don’t Miss Out on Crypto” ad, which featured Larry David and ran during the Super Bowl, have been hyping these highly speculative and risky financial instruments to the general public as a “sure thing.” But over the last two months, the total value of this “sure thing” has lost over a trillion dollars. Bitcoin, the biggest and oldest of the cryptocurrencies, is now worth only half what it was worth two months before.

Easy Money and the Financial “Boom”

The reason the news media, economists and public officials have given for this sudden drop in the stock market and other speculative markets, like cryptocurrencies, has been a shift in policies of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Ever since 2008, that is, the last major financial crisis, the Federal Reserve had kept interest rates on its loans to the biggest financial institutions at near zero. In other words, the Federal Reserve had been practically giving money away for free to the biggest banks.

At first, the justification of this “easy money” policy was that it was the only way to restore confidence in the financial system and keep it from crashing. But what started out as a supposed emergency measure to forestall economic disaster has continued, almost without interruption, up until 2022. Every time the Federal Reserve even hinted that it would simply slow down lending the big banks money at near zero interest rates—stock prices began to tumble, threatening a new financial crash. So, the Federal Reserve relented and boosted its lending still more.

In fact, the entire financial system, all the banks and various other financial companies, had become addicted to continual injections of practically free money from the Federal Reserve, just like drug addicts need ever more drugs just to stay “well.”

Of course, all the promises of how Federal Reserve policies would benefit everyone by encouraging the banks to make loans to businesses that would, in turn, boost production and investment and create jobs—all those promises—were complete lies. The banks and other big financial institutions channeled most of that free money into various speculative ventures, including the stock market, the bond markets, real estate markets and various commodity markets, from oil and gold to wheat and other grains. With all that “easy money” floating around, it was inevitable that “new and innovative” speculative instruments, such as cryptocurrencies, were invented—as a kind of “flavor of the month” for speculators out to make a quick million or even a quick few billion dollars.

That flood of money drove up prices on all those speculative markets, starting with the stock market and real estate. The news media and economists hyped what they called the stock market “boom,” the real estate “boom” and the cryptocurrency “boom,” like somehow it was a good thing. In reality, those rising prices were nothing but inflation in the financial sector of the economy. That is, the so-called financial booms were not a sign of economic health, but a sign of economic sickness. It was a sign of just how sick this capitalist economy really is.

Growing Economic Chaos

It was only a matter of time before that inflation in the financial sector would spill over into a general inflation of all prices, the every-day prices that ordinary people pay for the things they need to survive, such as food, lodging, transportation, health care, etc.

The fact that those prices are now rising at rates not seen in 40 years has forced the Federal Reserve’s hand. In order to try to reduce the rate of inflation, it has started to slow the flood of money into the financial system and gradually increase the interest rates it charges the banks for lending money. This is what has set off the slow-motion financial crash we are now witnessing, with all of its wild swings up and down of speculative prices.

Federal Reserve officials promise that they will bring about a “soft landing,” that is, there won’t be either another recession or a complete financial collapse. But so far there has just been financial and economic chaos—which shows that the Federal Reserve is in control of nothing. And no matter what happens in the near term, all this is a sign of just how fragile, as well as completely irrational, the capitalist economy has become.

For instead of using the wealth created by the working class to build up the economy and produce the things that people need, increasing amounts of that wealth are simply being funneled into the financial sector, in order to increase speculation, that is, gambling. All so that a tiny minority can get ever richer, create more multi-millionaires and billionaires—even as everything rots around us, and the economic system threatens to crash over and over again, leading to catastrophic unemployment and crashing living standards for the working masses.

Art Market:
Toxic Speculation

May 23, 2022

This article is translated from the May 13 issue #2806 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

One of Andy Warhol’s five portraits of Marilyn Monroe was sold at auction for 195 million dollars in New York on May 9. That price would buy five leading hospitals in Europe. The portrait became the most expensive piece of modern art.

The price shows nothing about the quality of the work, its maker’s potential for genius, or its subject’s flair. But it does expose the vast amount of capital seeking profitable investment, and the tendency of the super-rich and multi-billionaires to overreach. Because these few thousand people’s desire to dazzle, together with the sordid need to accumulate, drives up prices on the art market. It’s speculation like in any other market, and like everywhere else, the biggest sharks snatch up the greater part.

For one single billionaire to write a check for 195 million dollars requires how many rotations of the millstone that grinds up workers around the world?

City Year:
Teach for Pennies

May 23, 2022

A nationwide program called City Year, part of AmeriCorps, hires young people for super-low wages to work extra-long hours mentoring students in public schools for a year.

City Year hires people as young as 17 years old, gives them two weeks training, and then places them out to “systematically under-resourced public schools” to mentor around a dozen students each in literacy and math. They are expected to help with before-school, after-school, and weekend activities and homework assistance, to call parents, and to make videos and posters.

For this work, City Year pays them what they call “A stipend to cover the basics,” recently raised to $20,000 for the year. That comes to about $9.60 an hour if these “student success coaches” work a 40 hour week. And since their responsibilities often go over that time, it’s even less money per hour.

The promotional website for the Washington, D.C. placements says: “There are plenty of cheap eats and free activities around the city, or look into D.C.s Food Assistance Program.” In other words, City Year knows that the money given to these tutors may not even cover basic living expenses.

And meanwhile, its CEO makes nearly half a million dollars a year, and at least 11 other officials earn over $250,000 each.

Flight Attendant Job:
Fly for Free
—No, Work for Free

May 23, 2022

The job of a flight attendant has often been portrayed as some kind of glamorous career—like it’s not a job. Why, you can travel the world, you can fly for free.

But if truth be told, in fact, it’s that all flight attendants in the United States are not on the paycheck clock UNTIL ALL PASSENGERS ARE SEATED AND UNTIL THE DOOR CLOSES on a flight. So, all boarding, loading, greeting, helping customers with their luggage, serving drinks to first class, helping families get their seats together—all that work has been done for FREE. It’s like going to the factory or office and not getting paid until after you have worked for 35 to 40 minutes!

But recently, Delta Airlines announced they will begin paying attendants boarding pay, at half of flight attendants’ hourly rates, starting June 2.

Why now? Is it because, as Delta has publicly explained, it’s a testament to Delta’s longstanding commitment to deliver industry-leading pay?! Or is it the fact that Delta is the only major U.S. airline whose 20,000 flight attendants aren’t unionized and that they may be trying to head off a unionization drive currently taking place at Delta?

According to a spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants, the country’s largest flight attendants’ union, “As we get closer to filing for our union vote, management is getting nervous.”

Whatever the reason for this change in pay policy—it doesn’t begin to make up for the fact that hundreds of thousands of flight attendants have been robbed of pay for their labor time for decades. And getting paid for 35 minutes/flight, at half of their hourly rate for boarding time, starting June 2nd, doesn’t begin to make up for this historical theft of their labor!

Pages 10-11

An “Unhinged” Young Man Produced by Big Money which Stokes “Unhinged” Ideas

May 23, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK workplace newsletters during the week of May 16, 2022.

An 18-year-old man gunned down 13 people in a Buffalo supermarket. Ten people died at the scene.

Porting a military-style assault weapon, protected by military-style equipment, he methodically carried out a plan to take as many lives as he could. Black lives. Eleven of his 13 victims were black.

In his 180-page Internet manifesto, he wrote that he purposefully chose Buffalo because it has the highest percentage of black people near the small rural New York town where he lives.

A local news source called the killer’s manifesto “ugly and unhinged.”

But the problem is not simply one “unhinged” young white man, whose perception of the world is detached from reality.

His manifesto spouted a theory on which other killers based murderous rampages—the idea that “white, Christian people” are being “replaced by dark-skinned, mostly non-Christian hordes.” This “theory” motivated a white man who killed nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina; a white Christian who killed 11 Jewish people at a Pittsburgh synagogue; a white Christian who killed 51 Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand; a white man who killed 23 people, aiming at Mexican-Americans in an El Paso supermarket.

This “unhinged” theory certainly pervades parts of the Internet today. But the responsibility for such insanity does not rest with the Internet, even though it spreads crazy ideas rapidly.

“Unhinged” theories bloom there because big money is behind them. The same money is behind media giants like Fox News and Tucker Carlson, who proclaim this “unhinged” “replacement theory” as though it is truth. The same big money funds politicians who make a name for themselves by standing on the border with Mexico, pretending to stop “hordes” from “invading” the country. The same big money is behind white politicians who don’t want children to hear about what slavery did or the way it still has consequences today.

Big money is behind all these poisonous attitudes, and the violence they have produced.

Racism plays a big role in maintaining the grip of a wealthy capitalist class because it divides the working class—the only class which has the capacity to replace the capitalist class.

Since 2008, capitalism has given us two economic collapses, from which employment has still not recovered. Inflation is out of control because every company takes advantage of “shortages” to raise prices, and thus their profits. The pandemic has run out of control for over two years because public money that should have gone to public health went instead for tax breaks to the very wealthy. Subsidies for the corporations deprived school systems of the money needed to provide a safe and healthy situation in which children could learn. All of this was made worse because public money is directed into wars fought all over the globe—for the enormous profit of a large part of the American capitalist class.

This is the balance sheet of the capitalist system: greater wealth in the hands of the very rich, greater deprivation for the majority—and racist violence.

That majority, the working class, has every reason to rise up today. That is exactly why racism and all these “unhinged ideas” are stoked today: to divide the working class, to weaken it.

But the working class is still the large majority. Centered in the workplaces, it still can control the whole economy. Divided it may be, but all those separate parts have common interests, and they have a common enemy, the capitalist class. The situation will bring workers to fight alongside each other and thus transform the situation.

In fighting together, we will find the way to root out the racisms that deform our class today.

Culture Corner—We Own this City, The Groveland Four, and Devil in the Grove

May 23, 2022

Film: We Own this City, 2021

We Own this City, 2021, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, on HBO Max

The miniseries was developed and written by George Pelecanos and David Simon, the authors of the series The Wire. Both series are based in Baltimore and based on real events. We Own this City is based on the book by Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton and chronicles the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force. Unchecked power and thefts of drug money speak to its horrifying corruption and moral collapse and the state of policing today.

Book: The Groveland Four: The Sad Saga of a Legal Lynching, 2004 and Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, 2013

The Groveland Four: The Sad Saga of a Legal Lynching, paperback, 2004, by Gary Corsair; and Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, 2013, by Gilbert King. A video documentary on PBS is also available.

Highlighted today are two books on the case of the Groveland Four in Lake County, Florida, 1949, where four innocent black youths were accused of the rape of a white woman. These young men, aged 16 to 26, two of whom were recently-returned WWII veterans, were falsely accused and wrongfully convicted. Two were murdered by police. All to maintain white supremacy. Only last year, in 2021, did Florida finally admit its wrongdoing and exonerate all four.

Both books show the KKK on the rampage: wanting to lynch them, burning homes, terrorizing communities, and showing the KKK’s deep ties in the white community. The first book provides extensive painstaking research of all the people involved, and even adds details unearthed 50 years later. The second book provides more background material of how the police and the KKK violently enforced a class system which benefited the citrus growers who needed cheap labor.

Page 12

Temporary Migrant Farm Workers Super-Exploited

May 23, 2022

Three men in southern Georgia were sentenced to federal prison for practically enslaving hundreds of farm workers in 2018 and 2019. Mostly from Mexico, the workers had special H-2A visas to tend and harvest onions and various fruits on U.S. farms for a few months. But the three traffickers held the workers in near bondage, confiscated their passports, paid them less than promised and less than legally required, kept them in cramped rooms—some without air conditioning or fridges—and worse. Two workers died from this treatment.

This kind of horrendous abuse on U.S. farms has spread like prairie fire over the last 15 years. More farmers are choosing to use the H-2A visa program for seasonal farm and ranch workers. They now are one in every 10 crop farm workers, three times as many as in 2006. And around one third are brought in by barely-regulated labor recruiters who file the paperwork for the farmers. Last winter investigators accused two dozen labor traffickers of stealing over 200 million dollars from more than 71,000 H-2A workers over six years. That’s a drop in the bucket!

The legal system in this country has always supported exceptionally harsh exploitation on farms, dating back to the days of slavery. New Deal overtime regulations don’t cover farm workers. The government adopted programs to bring in seasonal farm workers from Mexico and other countries during World Wars I and II to replace farm workers sent to fight overseas. To replace, also, black people who left the rural South to seek northern industrial jobs.

It is easy and profitable for labor contractors and commercial farmers to brutally exploit farm workers. The H-2A visa is very restrictive, remaining valid only so long as the worker works for the same boss. Once fired or laid off, workers become deportees.

How Meatpacking Industry Executives Decided Government Policies on Covid-19

May 23, 2022

New information from a Congressional investigation shows how the meatpacking industry exerted pressure on the Trump administration and government agencies and succeeded in keeping its plants open during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic there were many cases and deaths linked to the meatpacking industry. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis is conducting an investigation into these outbreaks and says that 59,000 workers at meatpacking plants caught the virus by February of 2021 and 269 of them died. Other researchers estimate that by July 2020 about 6% to 8% of all cases in the U.S. were tied to packing plant outbreaks, and by October 2020 community spread from the plants produced 334,000 cases and 18,000 deaths.

When state and local governments began imposing lockdowns, officials in the meatpacking industry sprang into action to make sure their plants could continue to operate. Knowing they had friends in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in March 2020, they called for the USDA to play a role in the White House Coronavirus Task Force in order that meatpacking workers would be considered “critical infrastructure” workers and be exempt from any stay-at-home orders issued by state governors.

Within weeks, Trump’s agriculture secretary arranged a call between several meatpacking industry CEOs and Vice President Mike Pence. Later that day in a White House press conference, Pence told meatpacking workers to "show up and do your job." The companies, however, ignored government warnings to prepare for a possible pandemic by purchasing masks, and by coming up with plans to space workers apart, who are typically closely packed together on meat processing assembly lines.

When Smithfield Foods’ plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was shut down, and the Centers for Disease Control put out a draft of recommendations to reduce Covid-19 at the plant, emails released by the House subcommittee show the company’s CEO Kevin Sullivan sent a copy back to the CDC with portions marked “problematic.” The CDC altered its subsequent recommendations to include phrases like "if feasible" and "whenever possible."

Soon after, executives at both Smithfield and Tyson put out warnings the country was in danger of running out of meat. Data released by the House subcommittee show that the very same month, the meatpacking industry exported a record amount of meat to China. The North American Meat Institute put out a statement letting customers overseas know there was plenty of meat for export.

That didn’t stop Tyson and Smithfield executives from getting together to call on then-President Trump to use his powers under the Defense Production Act to keep the meatpacking plants open. The House subcommittee’s records detail extensive communications between industry officials, the USDA, and the White House. Trump took part in a call with industry executives early on the very day he issued the executive order that they were hoping for. Emails released by the House subcommittee show Trump essentially used a proposed draft from Tyson’s legal department as his executive order. It did not require the meat processing plants to remain open but exempted them from legal liability if they did.

This information clearly shows how corporate pressure determined government policies that could not help but speed up the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Now that Trump is gone, Congress is making some effort to bring these machinations to light.

The question remains, however, whether this represents anything more than the Democrats using it as political capital for the upcoming elections. Now that Biden is in office and the Democrats control both houses of Congress, what policies have they enacted to require the corporations to protect the lives of workers? The Democrats may write their orders using a different language from Trump, but in the end, they carry out policies that serve the same corporate interests.

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