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. 1170 — February 6 - 20, 2023

The Bosses Are the Workers’ Enemies, Not China

Feb 6, 2023

The first week of February, a Chinese “spy” balloon floated over the United States. It was the lead story on every TV news program, in spite of the fact that the military said clearly, and early, that it posed no threat. After milking it for every drop of propaganda against China they could, they shot it down.

Whatever this balloon is or isn’t, undoubtedly, the Chinese government does spy on the United States—just as the U.S. spies on China. But to imagine that China is somehow threatening the U.S. is to turn reality on its head.

Look at a map. The U.S. has long had military bases or close military alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Taiwan. In the last few months, it signed new deals to increase its military presence in the Philippines. The U.S. is making closer military ties with India. The U.S. has a massive fleet of aircraft carriers with all their support ships stationed close to Chinese waters at all times.

The U.S. has China militarily encircled, and it has been drawing that circle tighter.

On the other hand, there is not one Chinese military base in Latin America, or Canada, or the Caribbean. Rather, the U.S. complains that China is trying to extend its control into the South China Sea. You don’t need a map to know that sea is right next to China, not the U.S.!

The rulers of China and the U.S. have many interests in common. For decades now, U.S. corporations have made huge amounts of money, investing in China to exploit Chinese workers. This investment profited the Chinese ruling class as well.

But the Chinese state came out of a nationalist revolution that gave it the means to act more independently of U.S. domination than most underdeveloped countries. And while the ruling classes of the U.S. and China share in the profits extracted from Chinese workers, they fight over how big a share each one gets.

So even as the two economies are deeply intertwined, their ruling classes have become rivals in many parts of the world. More recently, China has begun investing abroad to extract profits from other countries, just like U.S. companies have done for a century—though China does so on a much, much smaller scale.

This remains a deeply unequal rivalry. The U.S. has budgeted $858 billion dollars for its military in 2023, not counting military support for Ukraine or the cost of veterans’ benefits. In 2022, China spent about $230 billion on its military.

But in reality, the U.S. advantage is much bigger. For all its recent growth, China remains an underdeveloped country. One measure of this: with more than four times as many people, the Chinese economy is still officially smaller than the U.S. economy.

The U.S. also has at its disposal the militaries of most of the rest of the world—after all, the U.S. largely built those militaries after World War II! The U.S. has 750 overseas bases. China has one.

On top of that, China has only recently ramped up its military spending, while the U.S. has been spending so much for so long that it has an enormous reserve of weapons, bases, and experience. This gives the U.S. a massive advantage not just in a war with China, but in the ability to maintain control over huge parts of the globe.

Nonetheless, in some places, including Indonesia and many countries in Africa, China is able to give another option to governments looking for outside investment, presenting itself as an alternative to the U.S. or Europe. The U.S. ruling class thus has an interest in checking the growth of China’s power, so it can continue to wring profits out of every corner of the globe.

The latest spy balloon incident may be a bit of a joke. But it’s part of a campaign to convince workers in this country that “the Chinese” are our enemies, to convince us to accept to live even worse in order to “contain” China—or maybe even fight an open war.

The working class has no interest in any of this.

That $858 billion spent on the U.S. military is taken from our pockets, and away from the services we need. It is more than double the federal government’s combined budgets for the departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation!

And if a war with China does come, it won’t be the wealthy who fight it—it will be workers. We’ve seen the costs of war in this country, borne by workers in body and mind. By one count, more than 125,000 veterans have died by suicide since just since 2001. And a shooting war with China would be incomparably destructive, posing the threat of nuclear annihilation for humanity.

But beyond that: we are the same class as the workers in China. Many of the goods workers make in this country are partially worked up in China. Every factory, warehouse, hospital, and school in this country uses equipment and products made by workers in China—and they use equipment produced here.

And we have the same enemies as the workers in China—the bosses who exploit us all. Does Ford care more about its workers here than those it exploits in China? No—it cares about just one thing, profit. Walmart pays as low as it can to its Chinese contractors—and also, as low as it can to its U.S. workers.

Workers in the U.S. have no interest in the buildup toward war, whether against China, or Russia, or whatever country the U.S. will threaten next. Our enemies are right here: the ones who drive down our wages every day, take the money needed for our children, for the services we need—and pull us into one war after another so they can continue to dominate the world.

Pages 2-3

Tech Layoffs:
The Bosses’ Attack on Organizing Workers

Feb 6, 2023

Tech companies have been laying off thousands of workers in recent months. According to, a website that tracks layoffs, the tech industry has laid off nearly 250,000 employees in the 13 months since the beginning of 2022.

These companies are enormously profitable and an important source of wealth for the capitalist class. Alphabet, which owns Google, for example, laid off 12,000 workers so far, even though it just announced a yearly profit of 60 billion dollars for 2022—and that’s AFTER taxes! And it has been shoveling all that money directly to its richest stockholders by buying back its own shares to the tune of 150 billion dollars over the past five years.

Apple and Microsoft have been doing the same thing. Apple bought back 409 billion dollars of their own stock over the past five years, and Microsoft bought back 170 billion dollars!

These layoffs are an open attack on workers, who have begun organizing over many different issues.

At Google, for example, workers formed AWU, or Alphabet Workers Union (named after Google’s parent company Alphabet). They are demanding, among other things, that all workers, regardless of employment status, have the same benefits and that the company hold higher-ups accountable for retaliation, harassment, and discrimination against workers—in particular against female workers. At the Microsoft subsidiary ZeniMax, workers formed the first union ever to be recognized by the company.

Tech workers have also been vocal on political issues. Google workers protested, successfully, against a defense contract that the company dropped as a result. At Facebook and Twitter, workers spoke out against their companies’ allowing Donald Trump to stay on their platforms after January 6. At Microsoft and Amazon, workers demanded that their companies reduce carbon emissions.

No doubt, these huge layoffs are a way for tech bosses to crack the whip on a workforce that is increasingly defiant—a way to put fear in workers and increase the pressure on them.

But the workers have not been staying idle either. Laid-off workers have been using their ties, strengthened through their own organizing efforts, to remain in solidarity and to support each other. This is already a step forward, directed against companies’ permanent efforts to keep workers isolated and to turn them against each other.

Utility Shutoffs Spiraling out of Control

Feb 6, 2023

Utility shutoffs for nonpayment are increasing, according to a report, “Powerless in the United States.” Electric companies cut off power to households more than 1.5 million times from January through October of 2022 in 30 states and Washington, D.C. where data is available. The seven worst offending utilities’ disconnections equaled 3% of their total customers. If this rate prevailed across the U.S., the report estimates a total of 4.2 million household disconnections in the first 10 months of 2022.

Ten states accounted for nearly 84% of the shutoffs documented by the report. Those states in order of most shut-offs are: Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Maryland, Connecticut, Kentucky, and New York. Seven utilities perpetrated the most shutoffs. Two of them, Exelon Corporation and DTE Energy, include half of those top ten states.

Illinois leads the nation in electric shutoffs. Two investor-owned utilities, Exelon’s Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and Ameren reported 225,827 and 57,888 disconnections in Illinois, respectively. Illinois gas utilities also reported a combined 82,496 shutoffs for nonpayment last year. Illinois is one of the many states where shutoffs resumed in 2021 after the expiration of COVID-related moratoriums.

Maryland saw an 80% increase in disconnections from 2021 to 2022 and came in seventh for most cut-offs. Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BG&E), and Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) are both owned by parent company, Exelon. In fact, Exelon is the parent company for utilities in Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

DTE Energy which provides electricity and gas to customers in Michigan reported 128,806 electric and gas cut-offs last year. “Whether it’s the middle of winter, heat of summer, DTE doesn’t care. No thought or respect to consumers; shameful conduct generally,” according to a DTE customer who was disconnected three times for owing less than $200.

The seriousness of the problem was made plain by the late December superstorm that battered the United States. Frozen gas lines and downed power infrastructure led to at least 60 fatalities and left millions of people unsafe, without power and heat.

Access to electricity should be considered a basic human right. Every worker knows that people rely on electricity for water, physical safety, food security (refrigeration), medical care and telecommunications. Disconnections foster instability. Without power, people struggle to maintain employment, keep their kids in school, and even stay alive.

Across the country, utilities are stepping up shutoffs while spending more for executive salaries and shareholder dividends. The utilities that were most active in shutoffs could have avoided all of them by redirecting just 1% of their dividend outlays. The 45 utility companies studied raked in 185 billion dollars in profits in 2021, a 71% increase from 2020.

It’s obvious there was plenty of cash to prevent these shutoffs. But this capitalist economy has nothing to do with what humans need to survive and thrive. No! It is all about making profit and making shareholders—who do no work—happy and fat.

Meanwhile the rest of us, who do the work, who produce the electricity and everything else, are expected to live in the dark and the cold. But we don’t have to accept this situation. It doesn’t have to be this way. And we, who do the work, are exactly the ones who can change things.

Economic Freak Out!

Feb 6, 2023

The January U.S. government jobs report was supposed to be so good, the New York Times proclaimed, “The American labor market is still soaring.” Harvard economist Jason Furman reacted even more strongly: “Stunning job numbers… it took time for me to recover.” And Dean Baker, the liberal economist, expressed pleasant surprise: “In summary, this is a surprisingly strong report.”

But behind the headlines and praise reported in the news media, the government statistics show a very different picture.

Take the government report that the unemployment rate dropped to 3.4%, which was advertised as the lowest it’s been since 1969. In fact, that unemployment rate encompasses only a small part of those without jobs. In another part of the same report the government admits that 38% of the workforce is not working! That amounts to 100,130,000 people age 16 and older.

Most of these jobless are so discouraged by the lack of job prospects, they just gave up looking for work. But because they are not looking for work, the government doesn’t count them as unemployed ... despite the fact that they are not working! And this huge reserve of people without jobs has been growing steadily for at least two decades—despite all the happy talk from the government and news media.

The government also reported that wages had increased by 4.4% over the last year—which Harvard economist Jason Furman said was “reasonably strong.” But that too is very misleading. Even the government’s own statistics show that prices have been rising much faster than wages.

So, less and less can most working people afford to buy the same things that they had bought before. Retail sales, as well as spending on services, including rent, haircuts and the bulk of bills are all dropping. And spending on big ticket items, such as on homes and cars, is dropping even faster.

"The U.S. Consumer Is Starting to Freak Out,” was the headline of a January 31 article in the Wall Street Journal.

Of course, most working people don’t believe the economy is improving, no matter what the news media and the “experts” say. In an AP-NORC survey, three-quarters of Americans described the economy as “poor,” with only 25% saying it was “good.” Another poll found that 75% of the population believes that the economy is either in a recession or about to go into a recession.

They are absolutely right! The economic crisis is getting worse. The working class, which produces everything and makes everything run, is increasingly being impoverished. All the more reason for workers to organize together to fight to defend their interests.

Pages 4-5

The Working Class Divided

Feb 6, 2023

The first hundred migrants of an estimated 250, many of them asylum seekers from Venezuela, moved into the Wadsworth Elementary School shelter this week in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

Wadsworth Elementary was one of fifty schools closed in 2013 by mayor Rahm Emanuel, almost all in working class Black neighborhoods. The building was then left to rot for the last decade.

The Democratic politicians who lead cities like Chicago make a show of running “sanctuary cities,” providing a few resources to a few migrants for the cameras—while many other migrants sleep in bus stops or are otherwise left to fend for themselves. And so, the city spent 1.5 million to fix up this shuttered school.

There have been several protests against the shelter in the past few months with as many as a hundred people turning out. One longtime resident, now a candidate for alderman and organizer of a January rally against the migrants, said “The resources that they’re pouring into the building for the migrants, we don’t have those.... So, it’s unfair to say we’re going to provide all these resources for the immigrants, but we disregard the people that are already here.”

Woodlawn is a predominantly black, working class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Its average income is half of the city average, and its unemployment is double. The people who run Chicago have shown how little regard they have for the thousands of working class folks who live in Woodlawn and neighborhoods like it. So, those who point to a lack of resources for Black people who have lived in the neighborhood for generations, get a response.

Some politicians may benefit by pitting different parts of the working class against one another—in this case Black Chicagoans against Venezuelan immigrants.

But it serves no one to try to block the few crumbs handed to needy migrants. All sections of the working class are denied the services they need in this society because the wealth we produce is stolen by the capitalist class. This same capitalist class exploits workers in Chicago and uses our tax money to build up the U.S. military and squeeze countries like Venezuela. So in fact, whatever motions politicians make to pit workers against each other, the Black population of Woodlawn and the migrants fleeing the poverty of Venezuela have the same enemies.

It may seem difficult, but workers can find the ways to unite in their common interests, against their common enemies. Together, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

Dangerous Parking “Dibs” in Chicago

Feb 6, 2023

Imagine coming home from work and not being able to find a place to park because in all of the free spots you see old plastic chairs, broken appliances, fake plants. This is a common problem that hits Chicago every time there’s a snow storm. While the city cleans the streets, it is up to individual residents to clean the parking spot around their car. If snow is bad, this can take up to two hours of hard work. People then save these spots for themselves by placing an item as a way to call “dibs”.

Many residents fear moving these things because of the real possibility of retaliation. Cars have been keyed, tires slashed, and worse, people have been physically assaulted. Because the city doesn’t fix the problem of snow removal and inadequate parking, people take matters into their own hands. This ends up setting people against each other. Neighbor against neighbor.

As with many other issues, the city pretends that there are no resources to fix it, but there are. Working people’s problems are just not their priority!

California Mushroom Farm:
Poverty Leads to Violence

Feb 6, 2023

A farm worker, Chunli Zhao, was charged with killing six of his co-workers and one supervisor and wounding another co-worker at two farms that grow fancy mushrooms and herbs in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco. According to witnesses, Zhao appeared to target the specific workers he knew and spared those he didn’t. He was settling his grievances, said local officials.

Chunli Zhao is 66 and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 55. All killed were senior and middle-aged Chinese and Latino immigrants: Zhishen Liu, 73; Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50; Aixiang Zhang, 74; Qizhong Cheng, 66; Jingzhi Lu, 64; Yetao Bing, 43; and Jose Romero Perez, 38.

Businesses that run these farms pay $9 an hour to these workers, well below the California minimum hourly wage of $15.50. These businesses also do not pay for healthcare. All these senior workers, including Zhao, were trying to survive on such miserly wages to produce fancy groceries to compete in supermarkets with those produced in South American countries where farm workers are paid a fraction of their wages.

Half Moon Bay, located next to a spectacular beach, is a coastal town where rich people have their “vacation” homes. They vacation in multimillion-dollar houses or ultra-luxurious hotels and spend their days golfing, surfing, and “unwinding.” The housing costs are therefore sky high, and the wages of these farmworkers are so woefully low that these farm workers are forced to live in trailers, shacks, and shipping containers on the properties of the farms being worked. Outdoor kitchens and bathrooms are shared. The monthly rent of each one-room unit is $300, quite high for the farmworkers. Zhao and his wife lived in one of these make-shift housing units for over seven years.

“In general, farmworkers are always under a lot of duress. They’re working 40 to 70 hours a week; they’re working hard labor; and they’re living in poverty. They’re under a lot of stress,” as explained by Darlene Tenes, a social worker who started distributing supplies to farmworkers during the pandemic. And such stress can spark violence. One of the very same farms was the site of another shooting seven months earlier.

Ann Arbor Students Protest

Feb 6, 2023

A group of about 100 students walked out of Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Thursday, February 2, after the death of another student. The students were protesting a lack of mental health resources in the school.

Their classmate, Adriana “Addy” Davidson, had been found dead on school grounds the Monday before, after having been missing for several days. It was an apparent suicide.

Davidson’s friends reported that it had been clear for a while that she had not been doing well. Friends said she had been missing from classes or sleeping through classes for weeks, and yet teachers and school authorities did nothing.

One friend, Ximena Rowe Avila, said, "The school system needs more mental health resources and awareness and more flexibility and awareness of kids who are struggling…. I think first of all, mental health help would have most likely prevented this. Addy was showing clear signs of struggling."

Students walked out of their classes at 10:15 Thursday and demonstrated outside the school. Some carried signs proclaiming, "Justice for Addy." They vowed not to return to school until the next day.

Students were also angry that it had taken so long to find her after she went missing. She had last been seen in the school the previous Friday at 11 am, yet the school and grounds were not searched until Monday. Her body was found beneath the bleachers by the athletic field. Students also noted that it is far too easy for students to disappear from the school during the school day without any notice or follow-up by teachers or administrators.

Another Pioneer student died last May after jumping from a bridge into the nearby Huron River—in the middle of a school day.

Avila said it was clear among Davidson’s friends that something was wrong by noon Friday. After Davidson did not show to their second hour class, "friends texted her and asked if she was OK. She said no and stopped responding." Previously, she would always respond, even when struggling.

The Ann Arbor Schools Superintendent issued a statement acknowledging the "short walkout" and said it was "supported by the Pioneer administration"—that is, it supported their First Amendment rights to express themselves. What the Superintendent particularly appreciated, the statement said, was that the demonstration was done in an orderly fashion and didn’t disrupt anything!

The administration can say that the demonstration wasn’t disruptive, but it clearly got their attention.

The students were absolutely justified in disrupting their own school day to draw attention to something that is hitting so many of them. Ann Arbor is one of the wealthier school districts in Southeast Michigan. If students at this school feel this lack of support toward their wellbeing and mental health, we can safely say that this lack exists much wider. How many schools lack even one actual counselor on school grounds, let alone enough to adequately address the needs of the student population? And if demonstrations can take place in one school, they can take place in many.

The Superintendent’s statement also said, "As everyone is aware, mental health needs are an ongoing concern throughout our communities, and additional support is needed."

On that, everyone can agree! So, what are the schools doing to secure that additional support?

Chevron Stock Buyback:
Robbing the Working Class to Fatten Billionaires Even More

Feb 6, 2023

Oil giant Chevron announced that it will buy back 75 billion dollars of its own shares, starting on April 1. This is one of the largest corporate stock buybacks in history, and a continuation of Chevron’s previous, 25-billion-dollar buyback ending on March 31. Stock buybacks are used to lift the price of the stock and enrich the richest stockholders, the capitalist class.

Last year, Chevron reported 36.5 billion dollars in profit, more than twice as much as the company’s profit in 2021. ExxonMobil’s 2022 profit was even bigger, more than 55 billion dollars—the biggest annual profit for any oil company ever. The huge profits in the oil industry come as no surprise, of course, as we all have been getting ripped off at the pump—and everywhere else too, since gasoline prices affect the price of everything.

To justify the high price of gasoline and other oil products, oil companies have been telling all kinds of lies. They blame high prices on various disruptions in trade brought on by the sanctions on Russian oil that the U.S. imposed with the war in Ukraine. Or else they blame them on the reopening of the world economy following the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

But these companies have been laughing all the way to the bank. In 2022 alone, five of the biggest oil companies known as “the Majors,” ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, and Total made a combined profit of 190 billion dollars, according to the estimates of experts. And all the oil companies have done what Chevron does with the profits: hand them over to the capitalist class through massive stock buybacks. ExxonMobil, for example, also announced a big stock buyback last December, to the tune of 50 billion dollars.

As a source of energy and other products such as plastics, oil is a very valuable resource for humanity. But under the control of the capitalist class, the oil industry has become a major source of pollution, and a conduit for channeling the wealth produced by the working class into the pockets of a tiny number of obscenely rich people.

Pages 6-7

The U.S.Military Budget and War

Feb 6, 2023

The following is the text of a presentation given at a meeting in Detroit on January 29.

There’s an expression—"in the dead of night,” which means how something can take place without people knowing. Well, Congress, in the dead of night, in the week before Christmas in December, when nobody was paying attention, passed a record-breaking U.S. military budget of 858 billion dollars. 45 billion dollars MORE than what President Joe Biden said he asked for.

It is an 80 billion dollar increase in military spending over the 2022 bill, and 118 billion dollars more than when President Biden took office in 2021. As one journalist put it—it was "celebrating Christmas early for the War Industry.”

It’s the highest level of military spending (adjusted for inflation) since the peaks in the costs when two major wars were going on: Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011.

It’s far more than the military budgets at the height of major wars—the Korean war and the Vietnam war; or even during the peak years of the Cold War.

It’s nearly 300 billion dollars more than the budgets for the 10 largest cabinet agencies all put together—including Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, State Transportation—that is, budgets that directly affect everything from schools to health care, to housing, to roads.

And this 858 billion dollars doesn’t even include all the spending justified in the name of national security, including the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Homeland Security; nor does it include the cost of veterans’ benefits.

858 billion dollars is larger than the military spending of the next 9 largest military powers in the world, combined: the combined military budgets of China, India, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea.

The U.S. spends three times more than China, at 293 billion dollars, and 13 times more than Russia’s military budget, at 66 billion.

This budget was passed with bipartisan support. When it comes to military spending, cloaked in the terms of “for national defense”, both parties agree.

And let me make something clear. There were no big fights on the floors of Congress. There was no yelling and threatening among these politicians. And so, there was virtually no sensational media coverage, with made-for-TV drama played out on CNN, Fox, and other channels. And absent any substantive coverage in the media, as I said before, passed in the dead of night, most people in this country had no idea even that it happened.

Making the World Safe—for U.S. Capital

Over the last hundred years, U.S. capitalism has expanded to envelop the world. The U.S. military has 750 bases in 80 countries. In contrast, Russia has about 3 dozen bases, mostly in the former republics of the Soviet Union, and China, five bases.

The U.S. superpower uses its military to pry open new markets and new sources of profit for U.S. companies and banks. Those 750 U.S. bases exist in order to make the world safe, not for democracy, as we are always told, but safe for U.S. corporate investment and profit-taking. They exist so U.S. companies can take advantage of workers all over the world, paying them lower wages, submitting these workers to horrible working conditions, while at the same time, they can lay off workers in this country.

But the issue doesn’t stay there. Ultimately, the existence of these hundreds and hundreds of military bases all over the world has led, and can lead, to more wars.

This expansion has been accomplished with a great deal of military force, sometimes directly in wars, other times through proxies, like the war in Ukraine, and sometimes by the threat of war.

For it’s the United States that has plunged the world into more wars than any other country: since WWII—in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Iraq War, the war in Northwest Pakistan, again in Somalia, and Syria—and those are only the direct wars where the U.S. sent its own troops.

This doesn’t count the indirect wars, wars by proxy—wars that the U.S. pays for, provides the military and technical and intelligence for, and trains the militaries in those countries—sometimes training them IN THE U.S. Exactly what they are doing today in Ukraine.

I would be up here for another half an hour if I listed all of these wars.

Everywhere this military-backed expansion of U.S. capitalism has been in the interests of the U.S. capitalist class, not the workers here who provide the troops or the workers in other countries those troops are sent to repress.

A Money Trough for Contractors …

But even without this military-backed expansion, look at the amount of money that goes to military contractors: 452 billion of the 858 billion will go to military contractors like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, and General Dynamics.

Just these top 5 contractors alone will split between 150 and 200 billion dollars in Pentagon contracts. They’ll pay their CEOs an average of 20 million dollars a year and engage in billions of dollars in stock buybacks designed to boost their share prices.

It’s no accident 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.

Prior to being nominated by Biden, the current Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, came from the board of directors of Raytheon, one of the top weapons suppliers of drones, guided missiles, and air defense systems. This board position paid him $300,000 a year. Not an annual salary for a job. But $300,000 just to sit in a couple of board meetings of Raytheon.

He was also on the boards of a steel company and a medical company. Before that he had been a 4-star general in the U.S. army. This human link between corporations and the military is standard practice.

… Taken from the Population

Military spending is fundamentally a redistribution of wealth. It is taking public money and using it for the profits of private companies. It is public 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 the consequences of money spent on wars and to profits for arms manufacturers. We sit in the middle of this empire, and pay the price for it, an enormous price that has hemorrhaged our well-being, as well as the lives of the soldiers sent to patrol the world.

Take a look at education, as an example. This government, that serves the interest of the capitalist class, can spend 10 times more on the military budget than it can spend on Education for the nearly 50 million school-age children in the U.S.

It can give lucrative contracts to arms dealers. At the same time, Congressional lawmakers DID NOT reinstate the expanded child tax credit before the end of the year.

And the program that began in early 2020 where the Dept. of Agriculture issued waivers for schools to give free meals to all students, regardless of income, was ended. No more free breakfasts and lunches. As one parent who depended on this program said, “I can’t imagine who would think it’s OK to take food away from kids.”

Money spent on the military, and I am not talking about ordinary soldiers, is money that is not spent to keep the roads and bridges in repair. Money that should have kept Social Security pensions in pace with inflation, instead goes to pay the interest on the debt run up by these exorbitant military budget expenditures.

And what about ordinary soldiers—who in their vast majority are from the working class. While this Defense spending bill includes a 4.6% across-the-board pay increase for military personnel and civilians, a proposal for an additional 2.4% for troops making less than $45,000 a year to account for inflation, would have benefitted 783,000 service members and 37,000 civilians. It was removed by House and Senate negotiators before the vote.

For years, veterans have fought to obtain much needed cancer benefits—veterans who served in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, exposed to toxins when they burned substances in burn pits that the military knew were cancer-causing. In July of last year, a bill to expand veterans’ coverage for cancer was voted down.

Of the 582,000 homeless in this country, 13%, or over 76,000, are veterans. (To give you some kind of idea of that amount, 76,000 is the population of Southfield, Michigan.)

There Is an Answer

They’re not going to stop spending this obscene amount of money on the military—it is part of this system’s life blood: Militarism is in the genes of capitalism.

So, staying within the framework of this system is not going to get rid of obscene military spending or war or any of the other ills that plague this system. You cannot remove cancer from one part of the body, when it is part of all its vital organs, and hope that this will solve the problem.

But there is a surgery, so to speak, a force, that exists in this society that is capable of ridding society of this cancer of capitalism: the working class. It’s the working class that produces the armaments, like the Abrams tanks, built by General Dynamics. It’s the working class that is sent to wars. It is the working class that is in the center of production, world-wide, that has the reason to replace it with a system that is rational—that works for human beings and not profit. AND precisely because it produces everything, the working class has the power to do it.

We know today that workers are fed up. They want something different. And yes, maybe a lot of people today don’t see that they are that force.

But tomorrow things could change very quickly. Workers could decide to rise up. We don’t know what will set off the next spark—maybe it will be because this lousy increase in Social Security doesn’t even cover the cost of the increase of food; maybe it will be because they don’t want to see their sons be sent to a war in Asia with China.

We don’t know. But what we do know is that it isn’t enough to wait for the day workers will begin massively to rise up. What we do know is that there are people who understand it is capitalism that is at the root cause; who understand that the only social force capable of getting rid of this system and building a new one is the working class. These people today can do the work to build up revolutionary organizations in the working class, so that when workers do begin to move, the organization needed will exist, able to draw out the battle lines and goals to get rid of this system and replace it.

We don’t claim to be the revolutionary party—but building it is the goal of all the work we do today. This is what will let humanity have a future.

Raw Materials and the Hunger of the Greedy

Feb 6, 2023

This article is translated from the January 27 issue #2843 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

The fabulous enrichment of companies trading agricultural raw materials and fossil fuels due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine was highlighted in a report published by Swiss non-governmental organization (NGO) Public Eye.

The world’s number one agricultural trader, Cargill, broke profit records with 6.7 billion dollars. The family of company founder William Wallace Cargill is one of the richest in the world. Its fortune has increased by 20 million dollars a day since 2020, according to the NGO Oxfam. Its main competitors are not to be outdone. They also have raked in unprecedented profits. For example, Trafigura with 7 billion dollars doubled its previous record from 2021. Archer Daniels Midland and Louis Dreyfus Company’s half-year results exceeded their previous annual results.

The top five oil, gas and coal trading companies also saw their profits soar. Market leader Glencore raked in 5 billion dollars in profits in 2021, a 661% increase over its pre-pandemic average. In the first six months of 2022, its main competitor, Vitol, exceeded its own record with 4.5 billion dollars.

The domination of this handful of companies is not limited to delivering raw materials. They operate plantations, mines, and refineries. They control supply chains and shipping. Their size is such that Public Eye claims that eight of the 10 Swiss companies with the highest turnover in 2021 were traders. They now account for as much of the country’s GDP as the entire financial sector.

If pandemics and wars are calamities for workers, they are boons for big capitalist groups. This shameless enrichment has repercussions for the entire planet. According to the World Bank, around 95 million people fell under the absolute poverty line since the pandemic started. Workers everywhere find it harder and harder to feed themselves in the face of soaring prices. Food distribution centers are overwhelmed by the needs of new people at the door.

The Secretary General of the United Nations hypocritically denounced this “grotesque greed”. But the only solution to stop it would be to expropriate these greedy bosses and put the production and exchange of essential products under workers’ control.

Pages 8-9

A Corrupt and Anti-Worker Regime

Feb 6, 2023

This article is translated from the January 27 issue #2843 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

A recent wave of dismissals at the top of the Ukrainian government says a lot about the true nature of this regime that the media and Western governments present as the beacon of democracy in Eastern Europe and the defender of the interests of the Ukrainian population.

Four ministers, five regional governors, and four very senior officials have been sacked. Deputy Minister of Defense Vyacheslav Shavalov, Deputy Head of Presidential Administration Kyrylo Tymoshenko, and Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko resigned. Or rather, they were forced to resign. As a statement from the Ministry of Defense indicates about its former number two boss: he apparently left “to preserve the confidence of society and international partners”.

If the regime takes such measures, there must be an urgent need for it, at least vis-à-vis the population. Recently, media began revealing cases of deals reached by the Ministry of Defense. It bought food for soldiers at prices two to three times higher than in stores. Readers learned that the Ministry paid 17 hryvnias (42 cents) per egg, where stores charge 7 hryvnias (19 cents). Potatoes at 59 cents instead of 23 cents. In late December the media published not the unit purchase prices, but the total amount of the contracts concluded: 13 billion hryvnias (357 million dollars) for the military regions in Cherkassk, Poltava, Zhytomir, and Chernihiv only.

These are basic necessities, which the working population struggles to buy. The price differential is shocking. Every Ukrainian has one or more relatives in the army. These deals show very clearly that the top leaders are taking advantage of the war to enrich themselves as well as intermediaries and their supplier friends.

Zelensky says every day on television that the entire population is mobilized to defend the fatherland. But these revelations highlight the fact that war profiteers are active at the top of the government, including among those who organize national defense.

These people think they can get away with everything. Symonenko was supposed to enforce the law. But among other escapades, he was able to go on vacation in Spain, regardless that any trip abroad is prohibited for military-age men. And it is no surprise that he went there in the car of a businessman, with their bodyguard. In fact, it’s common knowledge that most of the oligarchs and wheeler-dealers of some importance fled for months to take shelter abroad. Symonenko, Zelensky and others were left with the job of rounding up fighters to serve as cannon fodder against the Russian army.

Shortly before these revelations and forced resignations, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Vasyl Lozynsky was ousted. He had received $400,000 to facilitate the purchase of generators, while part of the population is plunged into darkness and cold due to Russian strikes which destroyed much energy infrastructure.

Tymoshenko, the number two boss of the presidential administration, who has held power alongside Zelensky since his election in 2019, was also involved in embezzlement linked to the reconstruction of the country, a job for which he was partly responsible.

Perhaps even more than his fired comrades, this character, who is typical of the Ukrainian high bureaucracy, somehow bridges the gap between the current regime and that of before February 2022. Indeed, he was involved in a series of financial scandals both before and after the outbreak of war. But they have had no consequence so far.

The Ukrainian government is no less hostile to workers than Putin’s. The regime remains based on corruption, the wholesale plundering of state resources, and an unbounded contempt for the fate and suffering of the population.

Infant Mortality:
Failure of the System

Feb 6, 2023

This article is translated from the January 13 issue #2841 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

Around five million children younger than five died worldwide in 2021, as many as the year before, according to United Nations child protection office UNICEF.

Infant mortality went down in the first decade of the 21st century, but progress has stalled since 2010—a consequence of the 2008 world economic crisis and its long-term consequences.

To save newborns and young children, what is most necessary are access to medications, a modern health care system, clean water, and decent food. It’s no surprise that the infant mortality rate in sub-Saharan Africa is twice the global average. Children born there are 15 times more likely to die under the age of five than children born in North America or Europe. The harshest conditions are seen in Somalia and South Sudan, and as for Asia, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The under-five mortality rate is a gauge measuring the progress of a society. It shows capitalism is unable to let all of humanity benefit from progress in science and technology.

Capitalist Neglect of Mental Healthcare:
A Mom and Two Children Froze to Death

Feb 6, 2023

In the richest country in the world, the warmest, most welcoming, and non-demeaning mental health facilities could exist. The money is there to nurture a struggling parent having a mental health crisis. Children could stay close, getting lots of extra help and attention. But what calls itself a mental health system in Michigan—and the rest of the country—is the stuff of nightmares, not dreams.

News reports described a 35-year-old mom, Monica Cannady, seen walking outdoors in freezing cold weather in Pontiac, Michigan on January 13. With her were her 10-year-old daughter, a 9-year-old son, and a 3-year-old son, all without warm coats.

Earlier in the day, Monica had fled her own apartment after an argument with a family member trying to help her. Later she fled a hospital emergency room, seemingly uncomfortable with intensive questioning by police. That night, the mother and her three children laid down to sleep in a vacant field in the bitter cold.

Monica and her two youngest sons died of hypothermia. Her daughter survived, went for help, and was hospitalized.

Childhood friends told reporters they were shocked. Monica had been a capable young woman. What happened? Why was she in a mental health crisis?

A reporter at the Detroit News learned that Monica’s domestic partner—the father of her 3 children—was brutally murdered one year ago. Not long after the one-year anniversary of his death, Monica fell into a mental health emergency. The jury trial of the alleged killer of her companion was scheduled to start the very week she lost all ability to cope.

Family told investigators that Monica “was exhibiting signs of paranoia and believed someone was trying to kill her, and that everyone around her was involved.”

Whatever the causes, the mental health crisis on full display here would have been treatable—and these deaths preventable—if the comprehensive mental health care system that all humans deserve, existed for ordinary working people!

Instead of a well-organized, well-funded free mental health care system with walk-in offices and trusted professionals in every neighborhood, Michigan has a jigsaw puzzle system—with most of the pieces missing!

In this system, it is nearly impossible for most people to find any mental health services, and certainly not at the moment they most need it.

The responsibility for these tragic deaths lies at the feet of a capitalist system—organized to maximize the wealth of a few—destabilizing life for everyone else.

Whatever It Takes to Care for Our Elders

Feb 6, 2023

In a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services, it was revealed that from 2011 to 2019, 8 in 10 nursing home residents on Medicare were being prescribed psychiatric drugs. They include anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and anti-psychotic drugs being administered to about a million residents a year.

For the most part, these drugs weren’t being prescribed because these elders had been carefully evaluated and tested to determine that they, in fact, were legitimate candidates for these serious psychotropic medications. Instead, according to nursing home resident advocates, they were being used to sedate difficult patients, particularly those with dementia. They have been referred to as “chemical straitjackets”—a reference to the use of straitjackets to subdue patients, used in what used to be called insane asylums in the 19th century.

For we live in a society where often-times, human services are run as businesses—from nursing homes to day care centers. In this society, profits are to be made on the old and the young—the most vulnerable of populations. And to keep costs down and profits up, facilities can be notoriously understaffed—in the case of nursing homes, where employees are assigned way too many patients to be able to adequately provide the quality care the most vulnerable need. And that’s where the drugs, the “chemical straitjackets”, can come in.

In his State of the Union address last year, President Biden said that federal officials should set “higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and respect.” He said this almost two years into the Covid pandemic where we know that conditions in nursing homes that were already problematic became worse.

Well, federal officials can “set higher standards” all they want. But when the standards are only on paper, this will not change the face of nursing home care, or any other human service field care. True higher standards that include the quality care of our elders—that can even mean multiple, well paid, trained staff for every dementia patient—if that’s what it will take, will only exist when the profit motive is cut out of everything.

Ford Focus Is Finished in Profit-Driven Market

Feb 6, 2023

In the same week that Ford announced its 10.4 billion dollar profit for 2022, it “bid farewell to a best-seller”, the Ford Focus, that it will discontinue by 2025. This comes in the wake of Ford getting rid of the Ford Fiesta, in 2022.

Smaller cars have lower price tags and are better on gas mileage than trucks and high-end SUVs. They are more affordable vehicles for the vast majority of the laboring population.

But Ford is not in the business of producing what it is that the population needs. It’s not in the business of selling more popular vehicles for ordinary people’s use. The Focus may be a “best-seller”, but Ford would rather make more money from the sale of one fully-loaded Lightning at $97,000 than from the sales of 3 Focuses.

Ford, like all capitalist corporations, is in the business of making the most profit as possible. And if it means producing fewer vehicles, with higher price tags, so be it, as far as they are concerned.

Pages 10-11

The Gangs That “Own the City”

Feb 6, 2023

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of January 29, 2023.

Five men beat an unarmed man viciously. Those who beat him had guns, hardwood clubs, Mace, Tasers, pepper spray—as well as their fists and boot-shod feet.

It was a gang beating, it happened on the streets of Memphis, Tennessee, and it ended with the death of another young man. Another young Black man.

The gang, as most people probably know by now, was a gang of cops, the "Scorpion" unit. It didn’t matter that they were black. They were cops.

As many people have known for a long time, cops like this, organized in gangs, exist in almost every big city in the country. They are the "special squads," the "elite forces," the goons that politicians claim are needed to keep order in poor neighborhoods of the country.

Maybe they aren’t all so foolish as the ones in Memphis who let their murderous attack be caught on video. But all of these gangs are constituted to show, as in the case of Baltimore—or Memphis—that they "own the city."

These gangs of cops are part of the capitalist system. Poverty and the oppressive conditions that come with it are produced by the system’s ordinary functioning. And this leads straight to official violence, to the gangs of cops who "own the city."

To produce profit, to amass still more profit, capitalist society not only drives down the standard of living of the working class in the midst of this long-running economic crisis. It needs at the same time a large number of permanently unemployed who serve as a threat to maintain the low wages in the productive economy. "If you don’t work for what we want to pay, there are others who will."

Does this army of the permanently unemployed contain a large proportion of young Black men? Yes, a system that developed out of slavery, that continued many of slavery’s oppressive conditions even after slavery was "officially" done away with, can’t help but be racist. The worst of capitalist society’s ills have always rested on those already disadvantaged. And particular oppression has often produced more official violence.

The Memphis police chief says this special "Scorpion" unit is now disbanded. Just like L.A. disbanded the unit which beat Rodney King almost to death in 1991. Just like Detroit disbanded the "Big Four" unit that killed Malice Green in 1992. Just like NYC disbanded the unit that killed Amadou Diallou in 1999. Right up to Louisville and Minneapolis, which disbanded the units that killed Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in 2020.

But killings by such units have never stopped. Last year, 1176 people were killed on the streets of this country—or in their own homes, or even their own beds—by cops.

Consider that number: 1176. Almost 100 a month. More than three every day of the year. And 287 of the 1176 were Black, that is, 24% of the total. That is disproportionately high compared to the percent of Black people in the U.S., about 14%.

But this also means that other people are killed by cops each year: Latino, Asian, Arabic-speaking, other immigrants, Native Americans, white Anglo-Saxon. All of us.

These gang units are part of what Marx and Engels, 175 years ago, called the "special bodies of armed men," which a society organized into classes requires to maintain exploitation.

They have existed since the beginning of capitalism. They will exist until capitalism is put in its grave. But like the other ills of capitalist society, they can be overcome by the working class organized together, which has the potential of amassing a much bigger force than all these "special bodies of armed men" put together, including the army.

Because the working class occupies the very center of the productive economy, not only can it get rid of capitalism, it will be able to produce a society, socialist society, in which there will be no gangs that "own the city."

Culture CornerStolen & Say Hey, Willie Mays

Feb 6, 2023

Book: Stolen, a novel by Ann-Helén Laestadius 2022

The book begins the story from the point of view of Elsa, a nine-year-old Sámi girl. The Sámi are a people who live in the northern Scandinavian Arctic Circle, herding reindeer. The book is a family saga, an examination of the Sámi way of life, of the effects of climate change, and a quest for justice for indigenous people. Elsa sees her way of life under attack. Schools were set up to take away their culture. Swedish hunters torture and brutally kill the Sámi reindeer. Corporations want to mine minerals on the reindeer grazing lands. Elsa sees it all and watches the different responses, the frustration, and the anger of her family members. The story continues when she’s a young woman and she decides she needs to fight back, even if only on her own. A powerful and heart-wrenching story.

Film: Say Hey, Willie Mays, an HBO documentary, 2022

The film tells the true life story of Willie Mays, some say the most spectacular baseball player that ever played. It shows his childhood in Alabama and shows the racism and segregation. He was poached from the Negro Leagues, and the film exposes how when the MLB took players, they often did not compensate the Negro League teams. It shows his influence on the sport and on his teammates, and his incredible career as a slugger and a center fielder. In the MLB, he played baseball for the New York Giants at night, and played stickball with the neighborhood kids in the day. He is 91 now, so viewers get to hear him as he narrates different events of his life. He was an exceptional athlete and yet just a man who loved competing and playing the game.

Page 12

Van Gogh in the United States

Feb 6, 2023

Exhibits of the painter Vincent Van Gogh have been shown recently in Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and New York. Shows of the painter’s life and work are opening at museums in other parts of the U.S. in 2023.

One hundred ten years ago, on February 17, 1913, Van Gogh was first exhibited in the U.S. at the New York Armory show of modern painters.

Perhaps Van Gogh’s most famous painting is “The Starry Night.” His “Sunflowers” painting is used on everything from bags to calendars to T-shirts to posters, and in all kinds of advertising.

But in his life-time Van Gogh never sold any of his paintings. Although raised in an artistic family, he tried to make his living as a preacher to the poor. By age 27, he had moved to Paris to try painting, and became immersed in the new artistic movement of the time, called impressionism. He took his own life in despair 10 years later in 1890.

It is ironic that in the last 20 years some Van Gogh paintings have sold for amounts from 50 to 83 million dollars, money he never saw a fraction of. Major art museums all over the world feature his works. Don’t miss these shows if they come to a city near you!

Double Amputee Murdered by Police in L.A. County

Feb 6, 2023

Police in Huntington Park, California shot Anthony Lowe, a black double amputee, 10 times, killing him.

The cops say that earlier, Lowe left his wheelchair and stabbed another man with a 12-inch butcher knife. When they arrived, they claim Lowe ran back to his wheelchair and fled in the wheelchair. A video someone shared on Twitter, however, shows Lowe leaving his wheelchair behind and crawling away as cops chased him with their guns drawn.

The cops claim Lowe charged at them with the knife. A witness stated that was not the case.

The cops also said they assumed Lowe was homeless, but he was living with his mother at the time of the incident and was carrying identification.

It’s entirely possible Lowe was dangerous enough to have stabbed the victim, who suffered a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. For the cops, however, to justify shooting Lowe, a double amputee with no prosthetics, outside of his wheelchair and armed only with a knife, because he was an imminent threat to them is complete nonsense. Does anyone believe they couldn’t have protected themselves long enough to eventually subdue him? Or that they couldn’t have done anything short of shooting him 10 times?

So far, the only action taken against the cops is that they’ve been placed on administrative leave without pay. Lowe’s family is pursuing legal action against the cops and local activists have begun protests and rightfully so. Yet this is just one more example of how quick the cops can be to shoot to kill, even when they’re under no real threat.

State Government Positions Unfilled as Services Decline

Feb 6, 2023

Maryland has 10,000 unfilled state job positions, according to the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. Some state agencies have 10% to 30% vacancy rates. This is why many Maryland residents and small businesses have been unable to get services in a timely fashion.

Maryland’s new governor claims he will fill 5,000 of these positions during his first year in office. Yet the biggest state workers union says it will take improvements in pay, child-care subsidies, housing down payment, and continuing education assistance and remote-work opportunities to achieve this goal. And the legislature has not yet approved funding for these things.

Maryland is far from alone in this situation. There are big numbers of vacant state and local positions all over the country. In California there are now about 100,000 fewer public sector workers than there were before the pandemic. In Illinois more than 5,300 weren’t filled in 2022 in the public schools alone. In New York City alone there were roughly 21,000 unfilled city positions at the end of 2022.

Politicians like to say they are going to cut down on waste in government agencies. But in fact, if they do anything, it is usually to cut back on government employment and on funding for essential government services while allowing waste and corruption to continue.

As a result, ordinary working people and their families suffer, whether it’s at the unemployment compensation offices, in the schools or elsewhere. Meanwhile the rich supporters of these politicians continue raking in the dough from inflated government contracts.

Only a big fight by working people has the possibility of changing this situation. Both Democratic and Republican politicians are part of the problem as they administer the funding in the service of the wealthy, not the working population.

Not Guilty but Sentenced to Life

Feb 6, 2023

Two working-class men are still being held in federal prison in Virginia, 21 years after they were acquitted of murder charges.

Terrence Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne were effectively tried twice for the same offense. A Virginia court sentenced them in 2000 for involuntary manslaughter in the 1998 killing of Waverly, Virginia police officer Allen Gibson. The state prosecutor threatened them with the death penalty, and they followed their lawyer’s bad advice to plead guilty, even though they denied killing Gibson.

But police groups dissatisfied with their sentences pressured the FBI to charge them in federal court. The FBI charged them with murder, under the “dual sovereignty” principle which lets a federal court try someone after a state court already has. The federal jury found them innocent of murder. They did not look like the suspects Gibson described before his death: different height, hair, and clothing.

But the FBI also charged them with drug dealing. On the basis of very flimsy witness testimony and no hard evidence, the same jury convicted them of drug dealing charges, which they also deny. The federal judge then sentenced them to life in prison, as if the jury had found them guilty of the murder charge.

According to the “acquitted-conduct sentencing” federal law, a judge may use a lower standard of proof when sentencing than a jury must use when deciding guilt. In effect, a judge can override a jury at will.

The capitalists’ legal system always has plenty of such loopholes when it comes to making sure the law oppresses working people.

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