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. 1177 — May 15 - 29, 2023

Public Works Handed Over to Speculators

May 15, 2023

Workers have adopted a saying for finding the short way of getting to the bottom of a situation called “Follow the money.” Today, huge amounts of money to the tune of 370 billion U.S. dollars are changing hands as investors gear up to claim federal subsidies for development of a new, nationwide power grid as mandated by the Biden Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. There is no question that capitalism has created a climate disaster that is causing huge disruptions today and an unthinkable future tomorrow. The transition of current systems away from fossil fuels is a huge endeavor.

The problem is, those charged with “following the money” are politicians and capitalists, the so-called professional money handlers of a for-profit system. The Biden administration’s proposals for future energy systems are harnessing the U.S. Treasury, our tax dollars, to this very system of profit-making at the public’s expense.

After having depleted the treasuries of cities, towns and municipalities decade after decade by running budgets on bare bones while transferring tax dollars to subsidize private corporations, now the plan put forward is to harness the entire power grid we depend on for day-to-day life to giant, global asset managers. These asset managers are completely removed from any day-to-day consequences of production and distribution. Their sole role is to increase profits to the highest possible rates for their Wall Street investors.

The New York Times gives an example of a government agreement to contract with Brookfield Renewable Partners, an investment entity under Brookfield Asset Management, to invest around two billion dollars in Scout Clean Energy and Standard Solar.

These huge asset managers, in this case carrying over 800 billion dollars of accumulated capital assets, are being allowed to buy up companies entrusted with building and developing wind and solar power generating plants.

These huge capitalist enterprises are not being asked to work for the government while being overseen by them. They are being allowed to take over the public sector, like utilities and infrastructure that are currently publicly owned.

They will be financed to the tune of minimally 370 billion dollars. Like most deals under capitalism, the capitalists are being entrusted with billions of dollars of tax money, on the promise of the creation of new products. As the saying goes, based “on a wish and a prayer.”

The strategy is not new. Using the excuse that the public administrations are unable to finance or oversee these major transformations, the money is given to the private sector. Of course, they have the money, having stolen it from the U.S. working population for decades!

We have seen the results of allowing private equity investment in large systems vital to society, like water, housing and transportation already. And they are not good.

For example, a private equity company was able to take over water distribution in Bayonne, New Jersey. They installed new piping and equipment that delivered clean water, but increased the cost, for starters, by 50%, after promising a four year freeze on rates!

Or, the financing of housing on the west coast and famously, in Los Angeles. After buying up the housing industry, the privates are charging astronomical assessments and rents that are totally unaffordable, which is why we see such high levels of homelessness. If you can’t pay the rent, you are evicted.

Worldwide, this strategy of harnessing government spending to financial giants has had crippling effects on British care facilities, schools, and water supply. In South Korea, private equity companies agreed to run subway systems, hiked rates by 50%, then flipped the systems in a trade, leaving commuters more than just stranded.

While these strategies are not new, the scale of the problem posed by the Inflation Reduction Act takes them to an unprecedented level. If the private asset speculators are allowed this level of control over the very energy grids we depend on for life, these systems could become even more unstable and subject to disruption, even to the point of collapse. We workers built the current infrastructure, paid for it over and over across the decades. Now, existing power systems on a large scale will be taken over, not for improved service, but solely for profit.

It is long past time that these huge systems were taken out of the hands of capitalists and their apologist mouthpieces in local and federal government. Obviously, neither Democrats nor Republicans nor any existing political powers will do it for us. A future of real planet-saving, green energy depends on the working class finding the way to take power back from the capitalists strangling us all.

Pages 2-3

Alabama:
Plenty of Money, None for the Population

May 15, 2023

A small rural county in Alabama just agreed, after a lawsuit, to stop penalizing its residents for raw sewage. The problem is that the county itself, Lowndes, says it doesn’t have the money to pay for a water and sewage system. This has meant poorer residents had been paying fines, and suffering health problems, from sewage running out of pipes they put in.

But Alabama also is a state with car manufacturers Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Honda and Toyota, not to mention other companies that make money from the defense industries and food processing. Whatever deals were made to bring in these corporations in recent years, they did not lead to prosperity in most of the state.

Lack of funds is the excuse in Alabama for not being able to afford decent schools and waste-water systems for all. So why does the state have the lowest property tax collections in the country? In 1920, property taxes provided 63% of state revenues. Today, thanks to legislators changing state law, the Alabama constitution prevents the counties from collecting property taxes, so that such taxes now make up only two percent of state revenues.

Alabama has also had a history of preventing black and white people from voting. Lowndes County, in the 1960s, only had one black voter in the entire county. That’s why the county was part of Dr. King’s Selma to Montgomery march in 1963.

Sixty years ago, Lowndes County black residents found a way to sign up black voters and get a new party on the ballot; today they found a way to sue the county for charging them for a sewage system that doesn’t exist.

There’s money in Alabama—but it will take organizing and fighting on the part of the majority of people in Alabama to gain the services their government is set up NOT to provide. And the same is true everywhere else.

Central California:
Bracing for Major Floods with Poisonous Water

May 15, 2023

The unusually wet winter in California has piled up a very deep snowpack on the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in some places nearly three times the average depth. Since the snow will begin to melt in the coming weeks, residents in California’s Central Valley are bracing for big floods this summer and fall.

And the floods are expected to be the worst in the Tulare Lake Basin. Considering that this now-dry lake once covered nearly 700 square miles, it offers the flood waters a lot of low land to fill—including hundreds of square miles of farmland, several towns and California’s largest prison.

There is one more problem, and a big one. The flood waters will be poisonous.

First, there are tons and tons of animal waste, collected in so-called manure lagoons on hundreds of dairy and chicken farms in the area—many of them large farms, as is typical for California’s agriculture. These manure lagoons teem with all kinds of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms and fungi, as well as antibiotics and pesticides. If flooded, all those toxins would begin to poison the soil, groundwater, streams and rivers in the area.

On top of that, for years, Los Angeles County and other municipalities in Southern California have been using parts of the Tulare Lake Basin as a dumping ground for their sewage.

L.A. County owns a 175-acre area (the size of about 150 football fields) on the western edge of the Tulare Lake Basin, called the Tulare Lake Compost Facility. Every day, big rigs have been bringing hundreds of tons of sewage sludge (dried sewage concentrate) from L.A. County and dumping it on that land.

L.A. County officials tried to reassure the public that the facility is safe. They said they would stop sludge shipments to the facility as of mid-April, and promised to process all the sewage sludge at the facility as quickly as possible to kill the disease-causing germs.

But even if that’s true, how about all the other kinds of poison that sewage sludge contains, such as medical waste, pharmaceutical substances, pesticides, industrial waste, petroleum products, asbestos, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury? If flooded, all those toxic materials would begin to spread into a large farming area, and would stay there after flood waters recede.

Of course, this problem has always spelled disaster for the tens of thousands of farm workers who worked and lived in the area, sickening them and their families. Now the imminent flooding of the Tulare Lake Basin will probably turn this disaster into an even bigger one, affecting many more people.

Drinking Water Contamination in Illinois Schools

May 15, 2023

For many years, children throughout Illinois and the country, especially in poor and working-class communities, have been exposed to deadly lead-laced drinking water in their schools. And for many years, capitalist politicians have looked the other way, trying to shield the scope of the problem from public view, and avoid meaningful action to correct the problem.

Since the Flint, Michigan water crisis in 2016, fueled and deepened by inaction of city government officials, the dangers to children of lead in drinking water have been widely known. Even in very small amounts, consumption of lead damages developing brains, lowers IQ and can cause attention deficit disorders, hearing loss, slow growth, and other medical and behavioral problems.

Some state governments were prodded into taking some action. In 2017, Illinois passed a law that required schools to test for lead content in school faucets and sinks, and report results to a state agency by the end of 2018.

Although the program was very limited, excluding schools with students in sixth grade and up, and those built after 2000, it required schools to inform parents if drinking water lead content exceeded five parts per billion.

But the law failed to require any action to replace lead water pipes that are known to cause the problem, even in the most contaminated schools. And most critically, both capitalist parties, and the state and federal governments they run, failed to provide the desperately needed funding to aid schools that needed to do so.

A recent investigation revealed that the testing program, as limited as it is, was never completed. The Illinois Department of Public Health, responsible for overseeing the law, never ensured that the eligible schools conducted and submitted test results, and never made public or kept accurate records of the results. As a result, the full scope of the problem in Illinois remains unknown.

But the incomplete data compiled did reveal that deadly drinking water contamination is present in schools throughout the state. Eighty-six percent of the 2100 Illinois schools that performed testing found lead in their schools drinking water. Sixty-four percent reported lead content in excess of the five parts per billion level that required parent notification. Kankakee District 111 identified lead in each of the district’s 11 buildings. Six of these buildings had lead levels over 1000 parts per billion. Twain Elementary in Kankakee recorded a staggering 6,800 parts per billion, a level that the EPA classifies as hazardous waste!

In Chicago, where more extensive testing was performed during this program and in subsequent years, 70% of the 550 schools tested had at least one drinking water source that registered above five parts per billion.

Some school districts, in wealthy suburbs, spent millions on programs to replace their schools’ lead pipes. But most took little or no action due to lack of funding.

A civilized social system, one that would outlaw trillions upon trillions in war spending, would have no problem ensuring its children were safe from toxic chemicals and other hazards while at school.

Pages 4-5

U.S. Military’s “Comfort Women” in South Korea

May 15, 2023

The U.S. has long pointed to the systematic sexual abuse of Korean “comfort women” by Japanese occupation forces in order to portray itself as “the good guy” in World War II. But recent court cases have revealed the extent to which U.S. forces did the same thing in South Korea, not just during the Korean War, but into the 1990s.

Last September, 100 women won a landmark case against the South Korean government, which the court found guilty of “justifying and encouraging” prostitution in camp towns set up near U.S. military bases. The South Korean court also found the government guilty of a “systematic and violent” policy of detaining the tens of thousands of women who worked in these camps and forcing them to get rough and dangerous treatments for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Despite the court ruling in their favor, the survivors were only awarded between $2,270 and $5,300.

Some say they plan to take their case to a U.S. court. After all, the U.S. military was at least as complicit as the South Korean government. U.S. officers gave monthly classes instructing the women to avoid getting STDs, issued numbers and ID tags, kept photo files, and helped in the process of detaining them and shooting them full of penicillin if they were suspected of being sick. Survivors recounted stories of women dying of untreated penicillin shock.

Many of these women were forced into sexual slavery. Some reported being kidnapped as teenagers and sold to pimps. Others reported suffering severe beatings and worse at the hands of U.S. soldiers, with no recourse. They reported being drugged by pimps, who took the money they earned. And the U.S. military and its South Korean “ally” either knew all about this brutality or consciously chose not to know. As one survivor said, "we were just like comfort women for the Japanese military. They had to take Japanese soldiers, and we, American G.I.s."

The U.S. is building up for war once again. Even for those not directly threatened with death, this means the further degradation of human life and human relations for soldiers and civilians, men and women, alike.

Abortion, Comstock, and Capitalism

May 15, 2023

A law from 1873 called the Comstock Law was used by a Texas judge last month to justify a ban on mailing the abortion pill mifepristone, also called RU-486. The Supreme Court temporarily allowed the drug to be mailed while a lawsuit goes on. But who was Comstock? How did he get this law passed 150 years ago, which puts limits on how women decide to run their lives?

Most accounts repeat the fable that Anthony Comstock went on a prudish one-man campaign to Washington to convince senators and congressmen to outlaw the mailing of printed material about sex. But, contrary to the fable, he had personal connections with men of enormous industrial and banking fortunes. Men like John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Samuel Colgate, the treasurer of the New York Stock Exchange, and other leading capitalists.

These captains of industry bankrolled Comstock. These wealthy men had an interest in controlling women’s lives as part of their control over the working class. They paved the way for Comstock, connecting him with politicians like the vice-president of the U.S., a U.S. Supreme Court justice who co-wrote his law, and a congressman from New York who sponsored it. They had an interest in trying to force backward ideas on a rapidly changing, industrializing society after the Civil War.

These wealthy men and their politicians had the U.S. Post Office appoint Comstock as a special agent with powers of arrest and seizure on all mail lines. But he refused a federal salary. Instead the YMCA paid his salary with money from his capitalist friends.

Comstock arrested more than 3,000 people. He burned millions of books, newspapers, magazines, prints, photographs, and circulars. These dealt with atheism and homosexuality as well as contraception and abortion—which was widely practiced, then as now.

Not one man or one male judge—no matter how rich or connected—should be able to make decisions that affect the lives of millions of women.

Culture Corner:
Dear Mama & We Kept Our Towns Going

May 15, 2023

Film: Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur, 2022, streaming on Hulu

This five-part docuseries, directed by Allen Hughes, tells the story of Tupac Shakur through his own words, his hip hop music, his movies, frequent flashbacks to his mother’s life and activism in the 1970s, and numerous interviews with her and the people who were close to them. His mother Afeni Shakur was a Black Panther in New York City in the 1970s. The film shows through interviews and archival footage the growth and philosophy of the Black Panthers, and the role Afeni played as an articulate and powerful militant.

In the 1980s, when crack ravaged the cities, Afeni fell victim. Tupac absorbed it all. The film shows how all these events caused him to be able to passionately give voice to the ravages, the pain, the power. His songs “Dear Mama,” “Keep Your Head Up,” and “Brenda’s Got a Baby” are showcased and convey his ability (like his mother) to be a voice for his community. By moving back and forth in time, the film reveals how much has and has not changed.

Book: We Kept Our Towns Going: The Gossard Girls of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, by Phyllis Michael Wong, 2022

We Kept Our Towns Going is a 2023 Michigan Notable Books selection. The book tells the stories of the Gossard Girls, who sewed undergarments at piecework rates in factories in Ishpeming and Gwinn from the early 20th century to the 1970s. As the Upper Peninsula’s mines became increasingly exhausted and its stands of timber further depleted, H.W. Gossard Co. employed more than 1,000 workers, mostly women and often first- or second-generation immigrants.

The women worked incredibly hard each day to achieve a minimum rate, and, since they were paid by the piece, had to work even faster to make needed extra money. The book recounts the published history of events and, in large part, interviews of women who worked there and who share their stories: about the time-studies, the favoritism, the problems with the sewing machines, but also about the women working together to keep the minimum sewing rate achievable by all, and how the women would help each other on the job and in all aspects of life.

The women relate how for years they secretly organized for a union under threat of firing, and how finally in 1947 they went on a militant four-month strike for a union contract. Above all, we see how these working women impacted and supported themselves, their families, and their community.

The Supreme Court:
In the Service of Big Capital

May 15, 2023

For years, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been getting sizeable gifts from a Texas billionaire and not reporting about them, apparently in violation of rules for government officials. Two other members of the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts, have also been accused of securing “improper” monetary gains by using their position as Supreme Court justices.

In a society dominated by the wealthy, it is not a big surprise that government officials take bribes—many forms of which are not even illegal. But big capital’s grip on government is much more deeply-rooted than the personal corruption of government officials. In capitalist society, government institutions are run in the interests of big capital. The government makes, and enforces, laws that facilitate the rule of big capital over the whole society—and in particular over the working class, whose labor is the source of society’s wealth.

Throughout its history, the Supreme Court has consistently sided with property owners. One notorious example of this is the 1857 Dred Scott decision, where the court upheld a slaveowner’s property rights over a person’s rights as a human being. The Supreme Court has also been used to legitimize policies that would not necessarily be approved at the ballot box—such as the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The Supreme Court is not elected by the population, and there is no legal mechanism for the population or, for that matter, any other government body, to hold the Supreme Court accountable. Such an institution is very useful for the U.S. ruling class.

Washington, D.C.:
Using Property Taxes to Remove Working Class Park

May 15, 2023

Longtime and new residents of the Talbert Terrace neighborhood in Washington, D.C.’s black, working-class Anacostia neighborhood joined to protest a developer’s plans to destroy their longtime park.

The neighborhood association won a lawsuit in 1976 to acquire the park from a developer. Neighbors have hosted block parties and sports games there since the late 1960s. But in the early 2000s the city government decided to begin taxing the park as “vacant” and “blighted.” The city assessed enormous property tax bills on the property, including over $130,000 one year. The shaded park is only half the size of a football field. The neighbors couldn’t pay all that, and in 2019 the city seized the park and sold it at tax sale to a developer who now plans to build properties there.

The city government is dead set on doing dirty favors for the rich. The community has settled in for a long, hard fight.

Parents Need Flexibility

May 15, 2023

Last week two Detroit area schools were closed due to unexplained illnesses at both schools. Authorities say that the schools are not connected in any way, yet multiple kindergartners are getting severely sick, with one death. School officials say that schools will be closed for a few days for a “deep cleaning” before children are able to return.

Working parents are once again hustling to find child care without there being any answers. Where are the emergency child care services? Where are the breakfast and lunch services?

Parents are forced to find their own solutions to problems they didn’t create. Wish management was as flexible as schools require parents to be.

Pages 6-7

U.S. Policy Continues the Bloodbath in Ukraine

May 15, 2023

For the last six months, the news media has been advancing the idea of an upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russian forces, often referred to as “the Spring offensive.” While the U.S. military may very well have planned and coordinated such an offensive with the Ukrainian state, it is not clear what is really evolving. What is clear is that the bloodbath in the Southeastern part of Ukraine, specifically around Bakhmut, is continuing with both Russian and Ukrainian forces struggling to maintain position in this completely devastated area. And also, what is clear is that the Ukrainian forces are struggling to continue.

Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost on both sides. In the face of this horrific loss of life, the policy of the U.S. government has been as it was in the beginning, to coordinate, to arm and to fund this war. The U.S. government just announced another 1.2 billion dollars in military aid to Ukraine. This is on top of the estimated 75 billion dollars that the U.S. has already sent to Ukraine since the war started.

It has been estimated that at least 350,000 Ukrainians and Russians have been killed and wounded in this war. At least 6 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes, and much of the Ukrainian economy and infrastructure has been decimated. The Russian economy and the lives of the Russian population have also been impacted.

But for the U.S. government, the war in Ukraine seems to be serving its purpose. This war began when Putin ordered the Russian military to invade Ukraine. But the theatre for this war had been set years before as the U.S. and its NATO allies put military bases and weapons right on the border of the former Soviet Union and of Russia. When the U.S. brought some of the former Soviet Republics into the NATO alliance, this further threatened Russia. The policy of the U.S. and NATO may have been to deliberately provoke Putin into his brutal invasion of Ukraine. In any case, the U.S. government is clearly intent on using this war, perhaps even deliberately dragging the war out, to weaken Russia and the Putin regime.

The consequences of this war go far beyond Ukraine and Russia. Any war has the possibility of escalating beyond what either side is planning—spreading to other countries or bringing in the use of nuclear weapons. The war has already disrupted and realigned parts of the world economy.

Whatever the direct consequences and outcome of the war in Ukraine, the U.S. and the NATO countries are using this war to justify massively increasing their military spending, building up their military forces, in preparation for a future war, and a bigger war.

It was economic crises in the capitalist system that led directly to World War One and World War Two. Today the ongoing economic crisis of capitalism is pushing toward another world war. For the Ukrainian and Russian working people, the current war has already been a disaster. A spreading war, a world war, today threatens large parts of the world population with sharing directly in the same disaster.

The Bank Crisis:
Big Banks Profit and Grow

May 15, 2023

On May 1, the federal government seized the First Republic Bank and immediately sold it to JPMorgan Chase. The First Republic bank failure is the second-largest in U.S. history, after the collapse of Washington Mutual in 2008, and it was the third bank to fail this year after Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank collapsed in March. These first three bank failures are already very large, far larger than the first 25 banks that collapsed in 2008. And that previous bank crisis was the worst bank collapse since the Great Depression.

A Much Wider Crisis

These three bank failures are only the first stage in an ongoing financial crisis. Other large regional banks, including Comerica, M&T Bank, PacWest and Huntington, have been forced to borrow from federal programs just to be able to keep their doors open and continue to pay their bills.

Why? Right now, all the banks in the United States, including some of the biggest banks in the world, are sitting on literally hundreds of billions of dollars of potential losses. According to the Federal Reserve’s own figures, at the end of 2022, the securities that the banks had on their books had lost about $620 billion of their value, which was equal to about 28% of all their capital.

On top of that, these banks have trillions of dollars of loans and mortgages, with very low interest rates. Banks buy and sell loans all the time. But if they would sell those loans and mortgages now, when interest rates are much higher, those loans and mortgages would be worth much less money and they would have to sell them at a loss.

If you include all the loans and mortgages that these banks have out, estimates are that their losses could amount to 1.75 trillion dollars, or 80% of all their capital, if they were forced to sell them right now, as First Republic, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank were forced to sell some of their securities.

JPMorgan Chase to the Supposed “Rescue"

This system-wide crisis has hastened and accelerated the increasing concentration in the banking sector, as depositors and businesses flee from the smaller and weaker banks to the biggest banks. The biggest banks’ underlying financial situation is no less disastrous. But they appear to be safer simply because they are so huge and powerful. As the Economist magazine recently pointed out in an article called How Deep Is the Rot in America’s Banks, "Banking is a confidence game."

The biggest banks have so far profited greatly from the collapse of regional banks. Thus, JPMorgan Chase moved in to take over First Republic—but only after the FDIC paid 13 billion dollars to cover all the losses, while also promising to cover most future losses in their entirety. No wonder JPMorgan Chase’s stock soared by two percent on the day of the bank collapse and takeover, while it announced that it would make a profit of over two billion dollars from the deal!

In fact, it has been through past banking crises that JPMorgan Chase has grown spectacularly, by picking up troubled banks at bargain basement prices. Some of its biggest deals took place during the 2007–08 crisis, when JPMorgan Chase picked over the carcasses of both Washington Mutual Bank and Bear Stearns, the bankrupt investment bank.

A Profit Bonanza

These takeovers have helped fuel a huge growth in profits. In the past decade, between 2013 and 2022, the six biggest banks (JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) made a trillion dollars in profit for the first time. Each bank made more than almost any other company in the country. And as the banking crisis began to take shape, those profits have continued to flow. In the first three months of the year, JPMorgan Chase alone made 12.6 billion dollars in profits, beating last year’s totals by more than 50%.

No, the biggest banks never let a crisis go to waste. They find a way to profit, no matter how much their system falls apart and people suffer.

Far-Right Extremism Is Behind Many of the Mass Shootings

May 15, 2023

On the afternoon of Saturday, May 6 a gunman opened fire at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, killing eight others and injuring seven. This was the 22nd mass killing of at least four people in the U.S. so far this year. It puts the number on pace to set a new record if it continues, according to researchers at Northeastern University who keep a database of such killings.

The shooter in this case was 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia. Garcia was wearing a patch with the initials “RWDS,” according to officials, which stands for “Right Wing Death Squad,” a term used by white supremacists. Garcia had a history of posting "rants against Jews, women, and racial minorities," and had posted on far-right online forums like 4chan, including content from white supremacists like Nick Fuentes, known for his antisemitic views and for his meeting with Kanye West and Donald Trump.

Certainly there are different causes behind the different mass shootings that are taking place; nevertheless there have been many in which the shooter was similarly inspired by the far-right. July 4 of last year, Robert Crimo opened fire on an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois, killing seven and wounding 48. Highland Park is known for its large Jewish population, and Crimo had previously been asked to leave when he entered a Jewish synagogue. He had made antisemitic posts online and was seen in a video of a “Stop the Steal Rally” in support of Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 election had been stolen. He and his friends were seen doing Nazi salutes, making anti-communist statements and referring to “Antifa scum” and Black Lives Matter “monkeys.”

Last May, 18-year-old Payton Gendron opened fire with an assault rifle modified to accept high-ammunition magazines at a Buffalo, New York supermarket. He killed 12 people and injured seven others. All of his victims were black. He livestreamed the shooting. He had written a 180-page manifesto describing himself as an ethno-nationalist and a white supremacist and motivated to commit acts of political violence. He posted the manifesto online shortly before the shooting. He also had kept a diary about his plans and discussed initially setting a date to coincide with the anniversary of a shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019.

In response to the high number of mass shootings, politicians, the media, and some law enforcement officials almost exclusively point to the widespread availability of guns and call for background checks to prevent potential killers from being able to easily purchase weapons. Certainly, access to guns in this country contributes to the rise in mass shootings, but the increasingly widespread influence of the far-right behind many of these attacks gets little mention. The fact that the far-right is being supported by wealthy billionaires gets even less attention.

Those who wish to stop mass shootings like these should not look to politicians who serve the wealthy ruling class to do what’s necessary to stop the spread of right-wing ideas behind many of them. That requires the organization of the working class to fight against the many divisions the right-wing encourages.

Immigration:
Biden Continues Attacks on Migrants

May 15, 2023

The media was hyperventilating about the imminent expiration of the COVID Emergency Order, and what they said would be a “flood” of migrants. This is because Title 42, which allowed border agents to expel migrants without hearing asylum claims, would expire along with the order. The order expired on Thursday, May 11 … and no “wave” appeared. The situation the day after was more or less the same as the day before.

Biden ran for president saying he would be different on immigration: that he would end detention of migrant families by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, that he would raise the limit on the number of refugees who could settle here. He has done none of that.

For more than a year after his election, Biden kept Title 42 in place, even defending it in court. His administration attempted to end the policy, but was blocked by a Republican lawsuit. Under the Title, border patrol agents can remove migrants found in the U.S. back to Mexico without any asylum hearing. All told, migrants were expelled from the U.S. 2.7 million times under the policy.

Many immigrant rights advocates say Biden’s new restrictions are much the same as Trump’s. As before, migrants must seek protection in another country first, or apply for an appointment for a hearing using a phone app. Moreover, migrants who enter the U.S. against the rules will be banned from applying for five years. For desperate families fleeing violence, these policies become one final hurdle.

Biden works for the same masters that Trump did—he is carrying out nearly the same policy and for the same interests. The working class—both immigrant and native born—have our own interests.

Pages 8-9

Haiti:
The Road to Liberation—the Population Revolts against Gang Rule

May 15, 2023

This article is translated from the May 6 issue #1306 of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of comrades in Guadeloupe and Martinique, two islands that are French overseas departments in the Caribbean.

Residents of the Canapé Vert neighborhood in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, captured one dozen gang members on April 24 and killed them.

For two years the capital’s population has lived under the dictatorship of the gangs, with the constant threat of being kidnapped for ransom. People suffer extortion, brutality, and rape. Battles between rival gangs have caused hundreds of deaths of ordinary people. The entrances to Port-au-Prince are blocked by gangs which impose tolls on main roads.

After isolated, defensive reactions in some provincial towns, the city population’s outrage at ransom and murder reached its peak. Their anger showed itself that day. The revolt began when residents of Canapé Vert put 10 gangsters to death. The thugs belonged to a gang led by Ti Makak, who had been killed the week before. The gangsters were caught off guard by the angry residents’ violent reaction. Shortly afterward, two other thugs were killed in nearby Turgeau.

Residents kept watch during the night to prevent a new offensive by the gangs. Neighbors remained vigilant all week, armed with machetes, pikes, and other bladed weapons. They guided the police in the hunt for bandits. Several dozen gangsters were caught during operations launched by self-defense groups which erected barricades in several neighborhoods and checked vehicles and their occupants.

These actions led to an improvement in the situation. Traffic resumed on the capital’s main arteries. No cases of kidnapping have been reported in recent days. At the city’s south, motorists noted the gangsters and their tollbooth were gone. This is the first time in three years they were not there. The thugs fled or went into hiding. This time, fear seems to have traded places. Facing armed groups of the population, the gangsters retreated. This example was followed. People are raising their heads in some other neighborhoods.

Members of the government are offended by the violence of residents fighting back. The Haitian police call on people not to take justice into their own hands. They call for a United Nations military intervention to stop what they call barbarism. But this barbarism was established by the wealthy and by politicians who use their armed henchmen to control neighborhoods in support of their police and their army. Poor people in the neighborhoods and factory workers suffer this barbarity in this capitalist system. Their response is level with the barbarism they suffered.

Some workers are confronting bosses at some companies. By organizing in significant numbers they are managing to push back certain bosses in the industrial zone. They defend their interests, with some good results. They are acquiring class consciousness.

The same workers also find themselves facing the gangs in their neighborhoods. Now the inhabitants are starting to fight back by defending and arming themselves. Politicians, rich people, capitalists, and the international community all fear that this response against the gangs will turn into a general revolt which could turn against the government which protects the wealthy and the exploiters. This is what all these people fear the most. They are terrified that the poor population will revolt and take their fate into their own hands. This is proof that the workers and poor people are on the right track.

May 1st:
A Success to Follow

May 15, 2023

This article is translated from the May 5 issue #2857 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

May Day 2023 was a great success in France. More than one million people demonstrated across the country. There were parades and rallies in some 300 towns, including some very small ones. This was one of the biggest May Days in a long time.

The union coalition had decided to make this international day of workers’ struggle a 13th day of mobilization against the government’s attack on retirement. This offended journalists loyal to the government, such as at Les Echos newspaper. They say they did not anticipate this tidal wave. News channels replayed nonstop images of thugs in the attempt to ignore the motivations of the vast majority of demonstrators. The media tried to frighten everyone who did not protest. But the working class responded.

The retirement law has been signed and the first decrees to implement it have been written; French President Emanuel Macron and his ministers would like to move on to their next attack. But no. Millions of workers continue to refuse to lose two years of retirement or to retire with a poverty pension. The anger is deep. Workers do not feel demoralized or defeated by the fact that Macron legally forced the law to pass and was supported by the supposed “wise men” of the Constitutional Council. Workers’ refusal to give up is a thorn in the side of the government. This gives workers hope.

In addition to refusing to work for two more years, there is anger and concern over soaring prices and falling wages, which slip behind inflation every day. Meanwhile capitalists’ profits and the fortunes of a handful of leading bourgeois people skyrocket.

Many workers see more or less clearly that behind Macron and his arrogance is the bourgeoisie on the offensive. The bourgeoisie is waging a constant struggle to suck in the maximum amount of wealth. They will never stop. They demand continuously that their representatives in office—Macron today and his successors tomorrow, whatever their political color—carve endlessly into the living conditions of working people.

This is why we must target the real players behind Macron: the capitalists and bankers. Because workers have immense collective power, due to being concentrated in companies at the heart of the economy, they can stop the profit machine. There will never be a good president, legislature, or constitution to defend workers’ interests. What will change the balance of power will be the awareness that the class struggle never stops as long as the bourgeoisie rules.

Imperialism Created the Powder Keg in Sudan

May 15, 2023

Two generals have been fighting for power in Sudan for nearly a month, creating a crisis for the population there, with nearly a million people fleeing their homes already. Abdel al-Burhan, the general in charge of the military, has been fighting Mohammed al Hamdan, known as Hemedti, who heads the Rapid Support Forces, which grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militias that violently put down a local rebellion in Darfur in the early 2000’s.

Both sides have backing from imperialist forces. Hemedti, who controls the country’s gold resources, has ties with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, as well as with a warlord in Libya. Both Hemedti and al-Burhan sent troops to fight in Yemen with funding from the United Arab Emirates. Al-Burhan is backed strongly by Egypt next door. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia all have ties to U.S. imperialism.

Sudan has been subject to the whims of imperialism since 1898, when its current borders were drawn. Sudan was created as a buffer state between British and French zones of colonial domination. Its borders were drawn with no regard to the different ethnic and religious populations living there. During the Cold War, the U.S. poured in over a billion dollars to arm its side in a long running proxy war with Russia. Some called Sudan “the arms dump of Africa.”

There are negotiations ongoing in Saudi Arabia, but they are only between the two generals who are tearing the country apart. That is, if a truce is negotiated, the goal is for the situation to go back to where it was in March: a military dictatorship under al-Burhan and Hemedti.

In 2019, thousands in Sudan rose up against a hike in the price of bread. Dictator Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan for thirty years, was thrown out—with al-Burhan and Hemedti helping to show him the door. But in 2021 the same generals collaborated in a military coup against the new civilian government. Both of these generals have foreign backers—they are armed and funded. Those governments did not lift a finger against their coup—so much for their words about “democracy!”

The big capitalist countries in their drive for profits have stretched their tentacles to every corner of the world. In countries like Sudan, they arm and finance warlords like these generals who keep their population in line.

This most recent war has the potential to break out and spread to nearby countries: Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Chad. It’s one more symptom of the crisis of capitalism.

Pages 10-11

Capitalism on the Road to War

May 15, 2023

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters during the week of May 7, 2023.

The signs of war are everywhere. Military spending has ramped up. News programs turn the war in Ukraine into something heroic, instead of the inhumane disaster it is for both peoples. And they produce toxic propaganda turning people of other countries into our enemies.

Look at what they say about Russia. Yes, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. But long before that invasion, U.S. policy in the region was aimed at chopping off former parts of the Soviet Union in an attempt to strangle Russia. The U.S. provided military goods and money to extreme right-wing forces in eastern Ukraine attacking the Russian-speaking people who had always lived there.

To understand the current war in Ukraine, you must look at what the U.S. did before the war. The Ukraine War is a direct result of U.S. foreign policy for 30 years. This is something you will not learn about on the nightly news.

Consider China. This enormous country is a major industrial producer of everything from auto parts and machinery to shoes and furniture. When China shut down for Covid, this led to shortages and blockages. But blockages are a two-way street. The U.S. produces many of the most advanced machines and tools that are vital for the functioning of China’s economy, and the U.S. has prevented China from getting them to modernize its industry. The media doesn’t talk about this.

Capitalism has always been marked by competition. The capitalists compete with each other. Its marketplace is marked by commercial wars, not to mention shooting wars when national states send their armies to protect the position of their own capitalists. This is just a regular part of the way that capitalism functions.

But nightly news shows don’t talk about this. They don’t ask why capitalist competition inevitably leads to war. They don’t, but we should.

Capitalism has always needed war. It turns to war when it cannot escape the chaos which the functioning of its system causes.

In 1907, a financial panic broke out on Wall Street. It was the public eruption of an unresolved global economic crisis. In 1914, the crisis pulled Europe, using its colonies for cannon fodder, into World War I. In 1929, the New York stock market crashed, setting off another unresolved global crisis, leading directly to World War II in 1939.

In both wars, the U.S. spent the first years arming one of the sides, just like today, using the bodies of other people to carry out the blood bath. But the U.S. jumped in, in 1917 and 1941. It has dominated the world militarily ever since.

Since 1971, U.S. capitalism has bumped along from one economic crisis to the next: the monetary crisis, the first “oil shock,” the second “oil shock,” the third-world debt crisis, the 1987 stock-market crash, the collapse of the dot.com bubble, followed by the “sub-prime” real estate crisis of 2008, followed by the current crisis of international inflation based on speculation in currencies, raw materials and agricultural products.

Each time, the government bailed out the capitalist system. But government debt built up, tearing resources away from vital public services, driving down the standard of living of the laboring population.

Today, capitalism is mired in another unresolved economic crisis—like the ones ushered in by the 1907 panic and by the 1929 market crash.

The world situation also has this in common with those years: the U.S. has been building up its military forces for decades. It is the only country to have bases all over the world, the only one that spends more than all the other top military powers spend altogether. The U.S. has accumulated the kind of war machine that could let it carry out another world war whenever it wants.

American capitalism and the government that stands behind it pretend that this military machine is only a “defensive” machine.

The news media will spread propaganda, pushing this view. People who believe it will go into the next world war with their eyes wide open, seeing nothing.

Strike Tracker

May 15, 2023

Here are some strikes that are currently going on or have recently taken place in the U.S.

Writers’ Guild of America

Writers of movie studio shows continue on strike against the Motion Pictures and Television Producers Alliance. Popular TV shows are doing reruns. The Alliance refuses the 11,500 writers’ demands for better pay and more security against gig work.

Coca-Cola, West Virginia

Teamsters Local 175 went on strike May 9 and 10 against Coca-Cola distributors at five locations in West Virginia. The 200 drivers protested work being sent to a non-union firm.

Holland, Ohio

On May 8, UAW Local 12 struck Clarios (previously Johnson Controls), a battery maker near Toledo. The 500 workers need better pay and limits on forced overtime. The company’s contract offer was rejected by a 98% vote. “We’ve been grinding. We’ve been working. We’ve been making a lot of batteries for this company. And even with inflation and everything going on right now, they’ve been cutting our rates, cutting our wages,” a Clarios striker said.

Redding, California

More than 800 public employees of Shasta County, California, started a two week strike for a living wage. The workers of LIUNA—UPEC Local 792 work in every department of the county. New hires are desperately needed for the workloads.

Oakland, California

On May 4, 3000 teachers struck against the Oakland United School District. Issues include pay, smaller class sizes, more mental health and disability services for students, and attention to student homelessness.

Marlborough, Massachusetts

On May 8, Teamsters Local 170’s 55 school bus drivers struck the Marlborough Public Schools over contract demands including pay, benefits, pensions, and abusive scheduling practices. A tentative contract was then reached after 3 days on strike. A vote is pending.

Eastpointe, Michigan

Students at Eastpointe High School walked out of classes for an hour on May 10 to protest the unjustified firing of their principal. “My grades have improved and I don’t think she should leave,” said one. The firing happens to come four months after the principal, a union member, filed a grievance against supervision’s toxic work environment.

Page 12

Troubled Homeless Man Cries for Help, Gets Choked to Death

May 15, 2023

On May 1, Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old black homeless man, boarded a New York City subway train and began shouting. “I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up", he screamed and added, "I don’t mind going to jail and getting life in prison. I’m ready to die."

Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old white ex-Marine, walked up to Neely from behind and put him in a chokehold and took him to the floor of the train. Video from a passenger on the train shows other riders helping to subdue Neely when he tried to free himself. Penny kept Neely in the chokehold for several minutes until he stopped breathing and went limp. Even then, Penny did not immediately let him go. When he finally did, others attempted to revive Neely, without success. Police arrived only when the train reached the next station, and soon after Neely was pronounced dead.

The chokehold is a technique known to cut off someone’s blood supply in seconds, yet Penny maintained his hold on Neely for several minutes. None of the passengers on the train saw fit to intervene to keep Neely from dying.

The cops talked to Penny on the night of the killing, but then let him go. In the days that followed, many people protested that Penny was not charged. Only after 11 days did the cops, under the direction of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, arrest Penny on a charge of second-degree manslaughter.

Juan Alberto Vázquez, a freelance journalist who recorded what happened, said Neely "didn’t seem like he wanted to hurt anyone." Neely never directly contacted Penny in any way prior to Penny putting him into the chokehold.

Neely had been homeless for years and his mental health struggles were well known to homeless outreach workers in the city. Neely’s mother was brutally murdered by her boyfriend when he was just 14 years old. In high school, Neely found an outlet by impersonating Michael Jackson and after dropping out of school became known at subway stations for performing as Jackson as a way to earn money.

The killing of Jordan Neely, the failures of others to intervene and the treatment of the man who killed him by legal authorities show a lot about this society. It’s the story of someone left on his own at a very young age, forced to scramble to survive in a society incapable of caring for the mentally ill, in which it’s considered acceptable when someone is obviously crying out for help, for someone to choke the life out of him.

A society that treats the lives of so many poor homeless as worthless and disposable. A society that treats humans this way is one that needs to be tossed aside.

Detroit:
Leaders Targeted

May 15, 2023

The City of Detroit is attacking free speech and the right to protest. Three years after 2020 protests broke out against police brutality and the murder of George Floyd, the City of Detroit has gone out of its way to prosecute protest leaders.

Nakia Wallace of Detroit Will Breathe is being prosecuted for blocking traffic and allegedly interfering with a city employee. Another leader, Tristan Taylor, faces four misdemeanor counts in a jury trial that begins June 8.

Those singled out had won a federal civil rights case against the Detroit Police Department. Their suit accused Detroit police of using illegal tactics and injuring protesters. The city was ordered to pay one million dollars in damages. Police were ordered to refrain from certain practices.

Charges were dropped against roughly 400 demonstrators, yet charges have been pursued against Wallace, Taylor, and two other Detroit Will Breathe leaders.

The City of Detroit has spent money to review hours of video footage—two times—looking specifically at those who had sued them in federal court. A former city attorney testified that the first video search tried to prove police never harmed protestors. Obviously that video review was unsuccessful—they lost in court!

The former city attorney testified the second video review was to try to bring criminal charges against these individuals who had sued them.

Beginning on May 29, 2020, there were 100 consecutive nights of spirited marches. Right from the start, police threw tear gas and used pepper spray and made mass arrests. A civil rights attorney representing defendants said, "We had to get a temporary restraining order entered. They were massively arresting people without any probable cause to do so. No matter what’s going on, you have a right to not to be arrested without any probably cause."

Nakia Wallace said it well: "It’s just clear that the City of Detroit is very interested in setting an example and quelling dissent, and really repressing the right to protest."

These latest charges are more of the same—not only to attack those who successfully sued the city, but to send a message to anyone who might protest in the future that the city is ready to do whatever they can get away with to shut those protests down.

It is crucial to stand up and show support when such attacks are made. Attempts to quell dissent deserve to backfire!

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