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. 1185 — September 18 - October 2, 2023

Billionaires, Racism, and Antisemitism Go Hand in Hand

Sep 18, 2023

After billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter in October 2022, he opened the door to a big increase in the most vile and despicable racism, sexism, antisemitism (anti-Jewish and anti-Arab attacks), and conspiracy theories. This wasn’t just about freedom of speech, as Musk claimed. Musk openly bragged about sexual harassment and how many people he fired. He spouted some of the same conspiracy theories. In other words, Musk turned Twitter, now called X, into a showcase for his own extreme-right-wing viewpoints.

When many disgustedly stopped using Musk’s social media web site and ad revenue plunged, Musk blamed it on the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization that opposes antisemitism. In other words, he attacked the very people who had called attention to some of this poisonous content. These attacks opened the floodgates of antisemitic stereotypes, caricatures, and neo-Nazi conspiracy theories of global Jewish domination.

The fact that one of the richest billionaires in the world pushes racism and antisemitism is not a surprise. It comes with the territory. Just look at Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, who Musk is often compared to.

In the 1920s, as Henry Ford’s business took off, he used his own newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, as a big propaganda machine. For 91 straight weeks, Ford’s paper ran a series of articles called, “The International Jew—the World’s Foremost Problem,” that charged that Jews were behind every problem. The Dearborn Independent also dug up and republished an old forgery called “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” that claimed there was a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

The Dearborn Independent wasn’t just a small-town independent newspaper. Ford made sure that his network of dealerships distributed Dearborn Independents across the country. The newspapers were in the cars that buyers drove off the lot. The spread of this antisemitism had a worldwide impact. Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler later praised Ford as an inspiration for his own antisemitic writings.

Billionaires have a material interest in spreading these kinds of poisonous lies. For Ford and the auto, steel and tire magnates at the time, the lies were a call to battle in their war against the working class to keep wages low, break strikes and keep out the union. After the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression hit, they stepped up the rhetoric as a justification for their war against revolutionary militants and communists.

Today, for Musk and other billionaires, including Silicon Valley venture capitalists and real estate, oil and financial tycoons, it is a way to deflect anger away from their unending accumulation of great wealth amidst worsening impoverishment and misery. It serves to divide the working class against itself. They seek to spur the growth of the extreme right that openly calls for greater repression and violence on different parts of the working class, while feeding on peoples’ desperation as conditions worsen.

Today, those economic conditions are worsening quickly, which even the government has been forced to admit. Just last week, the U.S. Census Bureau published its annual report that showed that U.S. family income declined for the third year in a row. The number of people with incomes below the poverty line in 2022 shot up by 15.3 million. The poverty rate for children more than doubled in 2022, the largest spike in child poverty in decades.

The capitalist system, which is based on the enrichment of a tiny minority at the expense of the majority, can only produce ever more poverty and desperation. To be caught up by the propaganda of a bunch of billionaires who seek to divide and rule is a trap. Workers need to find a way to organize and mobilize together as a class.

Pages 2-3

More Handouts to a “Green” Company

Sep 18, 2023

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Senator Tammy Duckworth have been crowing about landing a new factory. Gotion, the tenth largest battery maker in the world, plans to take over a former Kmart distribution center in Manteno, just north of Kankakee, at the edge of the South Suburbs. It will be a new battery plant, set to have 1,600 workers next year, they say, and 2,600 some time further in the future. Gotion says it will make enough batteries for half a million cars every year.

Gotion is based in China, but it is largely owned by Volkswagen. To “land” this factory, the politicians are dangling 536 million in taxpayer dollars, largely out of money the state has set aside for electric vehicles.

Apparently, companies, particularly electric vehicle companies, don’t make their money by producing anything. They promise to open up, and then milk the government for all that they can get—more than half a billion dollars in this case. The politicians are only too happy to oblige, handing billions from our taxes over to wealthy corporations like Volkswagen, while necessary public services like education and healthcare starve and rot.

Culture Corner:
The Many and the Few & Four Little Girls

Sep 18, 2023

Book: The Many and the Few: A Chronicle of the Dynamic Auto Workers, by Henry Kraus, 1985

The book tells the story of the 1937 Flint Sit-Down Strike, written by a man who took part in the events. He sets the stage by describing the ramshackle homes, forced overtime, constant speed-up and lay-offs, crippling jobs with no health care, and indiscriminate pay cuts. Workers tried to organize: strikes had succeeded in other cities, but in Flint the bosses so far had held them at bay. The UAW, newly affiliated with the CIO, sent in battle-tested organizers. And some workers had been reading and discussing on how to fight the class system, learning how communism and socialism said that workers should be the ones running society.

The time was right: the constant speed-up and firing of anyone who spoke up caused bubbling eruptions. Finally, it was decided to “sit-down,” that is to occupy the plant, a relatively new kind of strike, at GM’s Fisher Body Plant #1. The book describes the democracy of the strike, how decisions were made, how work was organized during the occupation, how disciplined the strikers had to be, how it involved the women and the community. They organized committees for cleaning, exercise, security, entertainment, and defense.

GM and their goons tried all kinds of dirty tricks and attacks, but the workers fought back and stood firm. Eventually the strike spread to 17 GM plants, lasted 44 days and involved 136,000 workers. The UAW finally won a raise and union recognition with a guarantee of no reprisals against the organizers.

Film: Four Little Girls, directed by Spike Lee, 1997, streaming on Max and available to rent on other services

On Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama, murdering four young girls who were there attending Sunday services. Birmingham was the scene of regular violent attacks on the civil rights demonstrators by the police or the Klan. They used trained attack dogs, firehoses, beatings, and bombings.

The film develops the individual personalities of the four girls and lets us get to know them, and to mourn for their lives cut so short. It shows the role of this church in central Birmingham in the life of the Black community and its place in providing an organizing center for the civil rights efforts.

Maryland Officials Call Congested Toll Highways “Rational”

Sep 18, 2023

Top Maryland officials agreed to give 225 million dollars to three companies to prepare to add lanes to a section of the Washington, D.C. beltway in Montgomery County, as well as the American Legion bridge to Virginia.

Their plan continues the last Republican governor’s scheme for a private, for-profit corporation to construct the lanes and then collect tolls from drivers who can afford to use the new fast lanes. But the new officials, all Democrats, insist on pushing his old corrupt boondoggle, which will cost working people many billions of dollars in taxes.

The Washington beltway is part of the interstate highway system that our taxes already pay for. But widening the highway and adding toll lanes is very expensive to build. Then not everyone will be able to use all the lanes.

The new officials try to make the scheme look environmentally friendly by promising a few more express buses—on the same overcrowded, clogged beltway.

Politicians from both parties support this capitalist system, where transportation is just another way for the rich to get richer at the expense of working people.

California Pharmacies Are Harming Our Health

Sep 18, 2023

California pharmacies make an “estimated” five million errors every year, according to the Board of Pharmacy, a department of the State of California responsible for regulating pharmacies.

Such medication errors include prescribing the wrong medicine, wrongly providing another patient’s medicine, and typing the wrong instructions on how to take a medicine. Because such grave errors are not immediately corrected, some patients take the wrong medication for months.

Such errors can have deadly consequences. Two major U.S. pharmacy organizations, the American Pharmacist Association, and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, reported in 2019 that more than 10% of malpractice claims against pharmacists were for injuries that resulted in death. The leading cause of death was the pharmacies making a mistake in the dosage of the medication.

The State officials say that this horrendous number of errors is only an estimate because the State does not oblige pharmacies to report their errors in providing medicine to patients—because that would force the State to penalize and shut down many California pharmacies. In other words, the State is complicit in allowing such a very high number of pharmacy errors to happen.

The main reason for such errors is that giant pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens operate their stores understaffed. As the Board of Pharmacy determined, a pharmacist fills hundreds of prescriptions during only one shift while handling many other tasks simultaneously, such as vaccinating people, calling doctors’ offices to confirm prescriptions, and working the drive-through. In some cases, poorly trained minimum wage “technicians” fill the prescription without rigorous inspection by the pharmacist. Sometimes, a pharmacy is run by only one pharmacist.

So, by understaffing their stores and overworking their staff, these giant pharmacies cause horrific medication errors and gravely harm our health. But for these companies, paying the lawsuits that result in deaths and injuries are just a cost of doing business.

Need COVID Test—Need Cash

Sep 18, 2023

During the COVID-19pandemic, many health services related to it were covered at no cost through the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) mandate. But this mandate requiring health insurers to provide no-cost coverage for COVID testing ended on May 11, 2023.

So, while even more variants of COVID have been on the rise since July, unfortunately, many people falling ill are finding out the hard way that at-home COVID tests are no longer free.

While people who have health insurance will continue to have coverage for laboratory COVID 19 tests, subject to their plan’s cost sharing, they may have to pay out of pocket for the at- home tests, and then jump through hoops to submit claims for reimbursement to their insurance companies. Medicare is no longer required to provide coverage for at-home testing. And people with no health insurance coverage have to come up with the cash if they want to have an at-home COVID test.

The end result is that many people who need to test will not be able to. Not because they choose not to. Because they can’t afford to.

It’s crazy—and yet another proof that this lack of public health care system has to go!

Pages 4-5

A Woman’s Right to Vote:
Hard Won

Sep 18, 2023

It’s 2023 and women still have the right to vote. This amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920, but women had been raising the question since the 1820s. Almost 200 years ago some outspoken women, for example, the famous Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as well as Marie Louise Baldwin, who was both Native and French, and a black teacher, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, asked why women could not vote. At the same time, other reformers questioned why black people were still enslaved.

One hundred and ten years ago, in 1913, women marched in Washington, D.C. for women’s suffrage, on the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. At least five thousand women marched for suffrage along Pennsylvania Avenue, led by Alice Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. They were attacked by an angry mob of men, and the police told the women to go home. Some women were hurt; 100 went to the hospital.

The suffrage movement lacked support from the start. Susan B. Anthony had already proposed a national amendment for suffrage in 1878. But the men in Congress had other priorities, like ending the Reconstruction of the South and turning Southern black people over to the terror of the KKK.

Even in the 1913 suffrage parade, the issue of how black suffragists were welcomed, or more to the point not welcomed, remained. Many white women could not overcome the prejudices they had learned against black people, and against poor people and immigrants.

The year before, 1912, there was a much larger suffrage parade in New York City, and it was not attacked. One of its leaders was a young Chinese woman, Mabel Ping Hua Lee, who had come to Brooklyn in 1905 to study. She brought a delegation of Chinese women to the 1912 New York City suffrage march.

Ms. Lee faced a large amount of discrimination in the United States, but she continued to agitate, pointing out in a 1915 speech, "No nation can ever make real and lasting progress in civilization unless its women are following close to its men…. that nation is badly handicapped which leaves undeveloped one half of its intellectual and moral resources."

Ms. Lee hit the nail on the head.

Child Poverty Is a Sign of a Decrepit System

Sep 18, 2023

The U.S. Census Bureau recently said that the child poverty rate more than doubled between 2021 and 2022, from 5.2% to 12.4%. It was the largest one-year increase on record. That amounts to 5.1 million more children pushed into poverty.

The reason for the increase is mainly that the politicians decided to end the one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit they had allowed during the Covid pandemic.

Some liberal commentators point out that it would have only cost 105 billion dollars per year to keep the expanded tax credit in place, a relatively small amount compared with the cost of Social Security and Medicare. They don’t even mention the nearly trillion dollars spent on the military every year.

They point out that experience with other spending on programs to assist the poor, like food stamps and Medicaid, have been shown to be “highly cost-effective,” in that recipients of those programs tend to be healthier, more educated, and require less government assistance later on.

While all this is true, it begs the question of why there is so much poverty in the first place, in one of the wealthiest countries on the face of the earth. Though anti-poverty programs might be “cost-effective,” there’s always the issue of who’s paying the costs.

In this country especially, the working class pays a disproportionate share of its income in taxes, while the very wealthy and the corporations take advantage of all kinds of tax breaks.

Here’s an idea: Workers have the power to get together and force bosses to pay higher wages so people can stay out of poverty altogether. Make the bosses provide funding for everyone to get an education, including the working class and the poor of today.

When the politicians decide to end a tax cut or program that benefits the poor, it’s not out of ignorance. It’s because in the end, the politicians of both parties serve the ruling class. To put an end to poverty, the working class can organize to fight for what it needs.

Washington, D.C.:
911 Is Unreliable

Sep 18, 2023

A recent audit of Washington, D.C.’s 911 emergency assistance system found only minimal progress has been made since the system had been cited for substandard functioning last year. D.C. officials failed to implement most of the recommendations by the city’s auditor to improve the 911 call center. These improvements might have allowed first responders to be dispatched more quickly to emergencies and ensure they reach the correct address.

The 911 call center came under scrutiny again after firefighters were sent to the wrong address for a newborn in cardiac arrest in July, and mistakes delayed the arrival of paramedics trying to reach a 3-month-old boy who had been left in a car in August. Both children died.

This is not a new problem. In June of 2020, a teenage girl called 911 because her mother was dying in front of her. The girl gave her correct address, twice, to the 911 operator. “414 Oglethorpe Street Northeast Washington, D.C.” She had to wait and wait and wait some more because the emergency workers were sent to the wrong address: 414 Oglethorpe, Northwest Washington, D.C. Twenty-one minutes after the call was first initiated and 15 minutes after she had been instructed to perform chest compressions on her mother, help arrived. Her mother was dead.

This is what it means when people have to wait for long periods in an emergency situation. Someone dies; a house burns to the ground. Last month, 10 dogs drowned after it took emergency responders 23 minutes to arrive at a flooded dog daycare. It was fortunate that the seven workers trapped inside didn’t drown as well.

Why is 911 failing D.C. residents? In a word: understaffing. Last month alone, 40% of D.C. 911 center shifts were understaffed. Multiple callers were kept on hold for 4 minutes or longer. In an emergency, 4 minutes is an eternity and can have dire consequences. According to national standards, 90% of 911 calls should be answered within 15 seconds. D.C.’s 911 center only met that 90% metric on one of the eight days in the audit.

D.C. residents don’t need any more studies on the 911 center. They need for the problems to be fixed. That means: hire and train many more 911 call-takers immediately. Anything less will mean more deaths.

Child Care Money Stolen

Sep 18, 2023

In the wealthiest country in the world, child care has long been starved of federal funds. Families pay more for child care in the U.S. than in the rest of the industrialized world. The arrival of the Covid pandemic and the school and child care closings that came with it, pushed women out of the workforce to care for children. A labor shortage developed. Suddenly the federal government “found” more money for child care!

A 2021 Covid relief package put 24 billion extra dollars into child care funding in the U.S. This money added 5 years’ worth of “normal” federal funding to what providers were getting. Child care centers were able to stay open and even add spots. Some child care workers got modest raises. Today, with child care somewhat available, women have rejoined the workforce in almost record numbers.

Yet this way-too-little money is about to be stolen from working families and child care centers. On September 30, 2023, the federal Child Care Stabilization Program will expire. That 24-billion-dollar federal subsidy will disappear. Child care costs to families will rise. Already between 2005 and 2017, about 100,000 licensed child care facilities went out of business, making child care harder to find.

This money disappearing will add a new crisis to the old child care crisis. Record inflation has meant child care centers saw costs skyrocket for food, rent, utilities, and instructional materials. Once this stabilizing money disappears, there are estimates that 70,000 more child care centers are expected to close.

Lack of child care will force parents, often women, to again leave the workforce. Or it will force a cycle of quitting jobs for each child care crisis before going back to work. A 2022 study found that one in four parents of children under the age of three were fired due to problems resulting from a breakdown in child care.

Child care is a broken system in the U.S. The capitalists who run this whole society have no desire to pay for high-quality free child care. A decent society would provide free daycare and early childhood education as a bare minimum. Just like public education for workers’ children was won only by struggle, free early childhood education and care will only be won by struggle.

Drugs That Don’t Work

Sep 18, 2023

On September 12, an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a decongestant used in at least 250 oral flu and cold medicines sold in pharmacies all over the country doesn’t work.

The evidence that this decongestant ingredient, phenylephrine, doesn’t work in oral medicines is not new. Some pharmacists petitioned the FDA to remove this drug from the market all the way back in 2007—16 years ago. Perhaps the FDA’s slow action is because about 1.8 billion dollars worth of these medicines—including some Sudafed, Tylenol, NyQuil, Theraflu, Mucinex and other products—were sold just last year alone.

While the FDA panel is finally now saying that phenylephrine is not effective as an oral decongestant, it is not saying that it is unsafe—it just doesn’t work.

It is expected that the big drug companies involved will challenge any action the FDA may take—in the courts, Congress and maybe even in the White House—to delay oral phenylephrine being banned. Not surprising when they are making money hand over fist in their sales of their ineffective products.

Pages 6-7

50 Years Ago:
A U.S.-Backed Bloodbath Destroyed What the Working Class Had Built

Sep 18, 2023

Newly declassified documents show what everyone has known for fifty years: the United States played a key role in the September 11, 1973 coup in Chile. That coup overthrew the country’s elected government and installed an anti-worker dictatorship that tortured and killed thousands. Among other things, these documents show that then-President Nixon gave direct orders to the CIA director to “save Chile” by instigating the coup.

These events illustrate not just the extent of U.S. lies when it pretends to stand for “democracy,” but also the need for the working class to organize itself independently and to count on its own forces when it mobilizes. They also illustrate who the enemies of the working class will be during such a mobilization.

We reprint below what we published on the fortieth anniversary of this coup:

On September 11, 1973, a military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet took power in Chile, overthrowing the Popular Unity government led by the Socialist Salvador Allende.

Allende came to power three years before, in September 1970, at the head of an electoral alliance called Popular Unity, whose main members included not only the Socialist Party and Communist Party, but two bourgeois parties.

Worldwide, many on the left hailed Allende’s rise to power as the proof that it was possible to achieve socialism through the ballot box. One slogan from those days that became popular was: “The people united will never be defeated.”

Reality started showing otherwise. The newly elected Allende government might have promised reform and change during a time of economic crisis and a mounting working class movement, but it quickly tried to tame that movement and safeguard the profits of the ruling classes.

A Society in Crisis

By the mid-1960s, the looting of the Chilean economy by the big U.S. companies and the rich Chilean families that owned the mines, industry and banks had plunged the country into a desperate economic crisis. And the working class bore the brunt of the crisis, through mass layoffs and pay cuts.

The Chilean working class was one of the best organized in Latin America, with a long tradition of struggle and building organizations. By the mid-1960s, the number of strikes had increased considerably.

To quiet that movement, the Allende government instituted a series of social reforms. Every child was given one half-liter of milk a day; wages were increased by 35% for white collar workers, by 70% for soldiers and state employees, and by 100% for blue collar workers and farm workers. More than 200,000 jobs were created. The Allende government also carried out a land reform, breaking up some of the big landholdings held by the wealthy.

But at the same time, Allende told the workers, the miners, and the peasants that they had to limit their demands in order to not “provoke” the ruling classes or the military.

The Rise of Social Tensions

But the economic crisis worsened. The price of copper, which was Chile’s main export, fell on world markets. Food shortages and inflation grew worse.

The right wing and the far right exploited the discontent of the middle classes. They organized demonstrations by the privileged layers of society hostile to Allende. On October 10, 1972, all of the forces of reaction—the Chilean bourgeoisie, the management of companies tied to U.S. capital, as well as the far right and part of the military—supported a big strike by independent truckers, shopkeepers and professionals, the so-called bosses’ strike against the Allende government.

This triggered a massive counter-offensive by workers and peasants. Workers re-occupied the factories and restarted production. Everywhere workers organized food distribution, setting up their own rationing system. Thanks to voluntary labor, public services, particularly hospitals, kept operating. Self-defense militias were set up to protect working class districts from far-right gangs and the police. Committees of all sorts sprang up everywhere, formed by delegates of local factories and peasant councils. The same thing happened in rural villages, with committee members elected by the villagers. The masses were beginning to feel their strength, and their mobilization was beginning to weaken the bosses’ strike.

Instead of resting on what the working class had done, the Allende government declared a state of emergency and called in the army to restore order. Just as the bosses’ strike was beginning to collapse, Allende invited the army’s three most prominent leaders to join the government. Since the president and general secretary of the biggest workers’ union, the CUT, were also offered posts in the Allende government, the CUT called on workers to end the occupation of workplaces.

But the working class continued to fight. The courts and the government failed to get workers to leave the occupied factories. The military was unable to take away control of food supplies from the workers’ committees. Many of the committees set up during the October strike continued to operate.

The Working Class Disarmed

Far-right vigilantes and the army carried out increasing numbers of attacks against the population in the countryside and in working class neighborhoods. The workers and peasants organized and defended themselves against these attacks.

But Allende demanded moderation on the part of the working classes and efforts to increase production that he claimed were necessary to “fight fascism.” The Communist Party launched a petition campaign called “No to Civil War.” The leaders of the Popular Unity government disoriented and thus demobilized the working class.

The army first tried to carry out a coup on June 29, 1973, but failed. In response, Allende sought to placate the army by bringing several generals into his cabinet. The army, backed by the far right, began to take control of entire regions.

Faced with the impending army takeover, the working classes waited in vain for arms and direction from Allende and the other leaders of the Popular Unity government.

On September 11th, the military, under General Augusto Pinochet, carried out its takeover. In a matter of days, tens of thousands of people, workers, peasants, and militants were arrested and tossed in stadiums and vacant property. Many were tortured, thousands were executed. Among those killed was Salvador Allende, who was said to have committed suicide.

In a month of blood and terror, the military dictatorship completely destroyed the complex of organizations which the Chilean labor movement had built through a half-century of struggles and efforts.

Salvador Allende is today celebrated as the victim and martyr of reaction and military violence. But this hides the reality of what happened to the working class. Allende and the reformist parties of the “Popular Unity” government bowed down to the bourgeoisie and the army. They refused to call for a social mobilization that could have become revolutionary. Thus, they led the workers to the slaughterhouse.

Allende, who preferred to commit suicide rather than organize a major struggle of the masses, remains the symbol of the dead end of reformism.

Staff Shortages:
The Deepening Crisis in Schools

Sep 18, 2023

As another school year is underway, thousands of students across the U.S. are finding themselves in a situation that is worse than it was the previous year. In Lancaster, Texas, for example, fifty ninth-graders have been cramming up in a cafeteria for a biology class, because there is only one teacher available to teach it.

Hundreds of other students at the same school don’t even have a teacher—67 classes are being taught “virtually,” where students watch a teacher on a big screen—while an adult supervisor in the room is supposed to keep the students “engaged.”

This school in Texas is one example that one media outlet, CNN, reported on, but it’s certainly not unique. The Learning Policy Institute found that one out of ten teacher positions in the U.S. is either vacant or filled by a teacher not certified to teach the subject. So, across the whole country, classes are doubling up in school cafeterias and gyms—to get instruction on a screen, from a teacher who is often hundreds of miles away, working for a contractor company.

It’s a mockery of education.

Surveys show that, since the end of the school shutdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of teachers quitting their jobs has been increasing. The reasons teachers give mostly revolve around working conditions: large classes, extra workload, and the stress and burnout that come with them.

And it’s not just teachers. Across the U.S., there is also a shortage of school nurses, instructional aides, cafeteria workers, maintenance techs and bus drivers—practically all areas of work that a school needs.

Just in the first week of September, school bus drivers went on strike in three school districts in Connecticut and Ohio. School bus drivers in New York City, the largest school district in the country, are also threatening to strike. In all these school districts, the bus drivers are facing the same problems: low pay, lack of benefits, and long work days.

Short-staffing leads to the doubling up of bus routes, which in turn results in delays, cancelled classes, students not getting home until late at night—and to ten or twelve-hour days for drivers.

Behind this crisis in public schools are decades of cutbacks and neglect by the politicians and officials who run the public school system.

But not every school in the U.S. has staff shortages. There are also many schools in this country, including public schools, which have enough workers. They have small class sizes. Many of the teachers at these schools stay for many years, building relationships with students and their parents. And when a teacher leaves, these schools never have difficulty finding another qualified teacher to fill the position, because teachers know these are good schools to work at. The same is true for other school workers.

These good public schools are in wealthy neighborhoods. When these schools face cutbacks, parents pitch in financially, making sure the schools are still adequately staffed and the buildings well-maintained. But in working class areas where parents don’t have such means, schools are overcrowded and buildings fall apart.

Those who call the shots in capitalist society, big capitalists, do not want to put society’s resources in the service of the working class. They are not interested in providing much of an education to the children of workers. So, they don’t have answers for the deep problems in working-class schools, which their own neglect has created. They have only excuses, such as blaming the problems on the Covid-19 pandemic, or on workers who, supposedly, “don’t want to work.”

That’s why the crisis in education never gets solved for the working class—nor do any of the other crises workers face. In fact, these crises will continue to get worse, until the working class takes control of the society in its own hands.

Pages 8-9

Disaster in Derna, Libya:
Rotten Fruit of U.S. Imperialist Policy

Sep 18, 2023

After a major storm, two dams collapsed above the Libyan city of Derna. A tsunami of water destroyed whole neighborhoods, sweeping people into the sea. At least 11,000 were killed and more than 10,000 are still missing. The destruction of the city’s water and sewage systems and the thousands of unburied bodies raise the threat of mass disease to the surviving population.

The failure of these dams was predicted time and again. Just last year, an engineer published a paper warning that people in Derna were "extremely vulnerable to flood risks” and these dams, built in the 1970s, were on the verge of collapse. A storm in 1986 damaged the dams. In 1998, a Libyan government study showed they had cracks. Finally, in 2010, a Turkish company began work to repair the dams. If this work had been completed, perhaps the disaster would never have happened. But only four months after repair work began, fighting broke out that would lead to the overthrow of the Libyan government, and work stopped, never to be started again.

This disaster is certainly the fault of the warlords who control Derna and failed to listen to the warnings and restart the repairs. But more fundamentally, it is the result of policies carried out against the Libyan population by the major imperialist countries for decades, starting with the United States.

In 1967, Muammar Gaddafi came to power at the head of the Libyan state. He led a nationalist party that sought a bit more independence from imperialist domination and needed the support of the population to do this. So, it used a little of the country’s oil wealth to develop schools, medical care, free electricity, and other programs. The construction of the dams near Derna was part of this policy. Libya became one of the most prosperous countries in Africa, with the continent’s highest life expectancy, even as it was highly repressive.

Because of this somewhat independent stance, the United States repeatedly moved against Libya. U.S. forces bombed the country in the 1980s, and the U.S. supported Islamist rebels against Gaddafi’s secular government in the 1990s. By the early 2000s, the U.S. had “housebroken” Libya, to quote a report by the right-wing Cato Institute. But Libya remained a state that the U.S. did not dominate quite as directly as most of the others in the region. When, in 2011, a rebellion began against Gaddafi’s government, the U.S. and other NATO powers rushed in. The U.S. bombed Libya, supported various forces in the Libyan military opposed to Gaddafi, and helped topple the government.

Libya quickly descended into a chaotic civil war with various contending forces. Pieces of the old military, local government and tribal leaders, Islamic fundamentalists like ISIS: each tried to carve out their own piece of the country.

And as Libya disintegrated from 2011 on, the various powers have circled the country like vultures, desperate to pick the carcass clean. Each looks for a way to gain a share of the country’s oil wealth for its own companies, and perhaps a military base or two in this strategic region. They offer oil contracts, weapons, mercenaries, and political support to whatever corrupt Libyan warlord will back their interests.

Since 2016, Libya has been divided between two rival governments, each claiming the loyalty of part of the old state apparatus. One is based in the capital, Tripoli, and is backed by Italy, Qatar, and Turkey. The other is based in the country’s east, rules Derna and Benghazi, and is backed by France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Russia, with the U.S. standing above the fray as the ultimate imperialist arbiter. These two sides fought a long running civil war that finally ended with a ceasefire in October 2020, but they and their foreign backers continue to maneuver against each other.

Libya has thus become a land of corrupt, foreign-backed warlords, with each armed group seeking to find some way to get their hands on the country’s oil. In this situation, neither “government” has the least possibility or interest in maintaining the infrastructure that had been built up during the first decades of Gaddafi’s rule, including the dams.

The flood in Derna is thus the predictable rotten fruit of decades of imperialist policy directed above all by the United States, aimed at dominating Libya and its oil wealth, with no concern at all for the consequences paid by the Libyan population.

Against the Murderous Fury of Armed Gangs, Organized and Conscious Self-Defense of the Popular Masses

Sep 18, 2023

The following article is translated from the latest issue (#308) of Voix des Travailleurs, published in Haiti by comrades of the Organization of Revolutionary Workers (OTR).

Encircling the whole of the West department, with its population of around 4 million, criminal gangs have, over the last few weeks, stepped up the pace of the war they are waging on the masses of people in the various areas they control. Abandoning their lodgings and fleeing in all directions to escape the various attacks of the rogue gangs, with the indifference, or even complicity, of the police and government leadership, the exploited masses have an interest in building collective, conscious self-defense organizations to protect themselves.

The images circulating on social networks throughout August are terrifying. The echoes coming from working-class neighborhoods where gangs are rife are chilling. Here, the image of a teenager trying to rescue an elderly man by carrying him on his back, there, a pregnant woman fleeing with two other small children. Houses on fire, one with seven children from the same family. Before long, makeshift camps were springing up in public squares, schools, and sidewalks, in terrible conditions. Hundreds of fleeing families try to find shelter, perhaps until the police or town councils decide to dislodge them with batons or tear gas because their presence is disturbing, as happened in front of the American embassy or in the Hugo Chavez square near the airport.

But the more the population flees, the more blows they take, the more powerful the gangs feel. The gangs know they have to keep on intimidating, panicking, killing and massacring to survive, otherwise they have no chance of resisting a population that is mobilized, organized and determined to fight for its freedom.

Even with a spontaneous and partial mobilization involving part of the population in a few working-class neighborhoods, the struggles of the popular masses against the armed gangs have recently shown their effectiveness. The population of Carrefour-Feuille has resisted and continues to resist, despite the numerous massacres perpetrated by criminal gangs. These struggles need to be extended to the entire population.

Aware that it is up to them alone to organize to protect themselves, the exploited masses need to forget asking or waiting for the police, the armed wing of the bourgeoisie, to come to their aid, or for imperialist foreign military forces to liberate them. This attitude will only perpetuate the suffering of the population, handing them over to their enemies hand and foot. Present in the country since 1994, civilian and military missions under the aegis of the UN or the OAS have not prevented the development and proliferation of armed gangs against the population.

Across the country, organizing by the exploited masses and the working class into a collective force is the best way to resist the wrath of the bandits and their accomplices. Getting organized, setting up forces of conscious self-defense with the participation and under the control of the population, is the only way the popular classes can give themselves a chance to emerge victorious from this war imposed by armed gangs.

Coast Guard:
Fugitive Slave Catchers on Boats

Sep 18, 2023

The U.S. Coast Guard seized more than 12,000 Haitian and Cuban migrants from broken-down boats in the Caribbean last year, and many thousands again so far this year. The Coast Guard also reports having captured, detained, and deported people fleeing from Albania, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan, and Venezuela so far this year in the Caribbean.

A Coast Guard commander wrote, “Migrants are housed in tents on the cutter flight deck. It is not uncommon for hundreds of migrants to be squeezed on a flight deck … often accompanied by animals. Each Coast Guard ship’s population of hundreds of temporary migrants live, eat, sleep, defecate … in this one spot, sometimes for days on end…. There is no privacy. Toilets are hung on the edge of the flight deck to be shared by hundreds of people.” He added, “Agitated and angry migrants intentionally clog toilets, throw feces, urinate anywhere, injure themselves, and hurl demands…. These operations are, in no small way, akin to combat.”

The Coast Guard sometimes detains migrants temporarily on a facility in Guantanamo naval base in Cuba. The base housed as many as 45,000 Cubans and Haitians at one point in 1994. Now it allegedly has a much lower capacity of 120, which the White House wants to expand to 400. But the Department of Homeland Security requested tents capable of detaining up to 1,000 Haitians.

Instead of helping people trying to make a better life for themselves and their children, the U.S. military is tasked with arresting them, mistreating them, and delivering them back to the poverty and violence they tried to escape.

Pages 10-11

The Korean “Model” for Profit on War

Sep 18, 2023

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of September 10, 2023.

The July-August issue of Foreign Affairs carried a long article by Carter Malkasian, laying out the argument for a Korean-style “model” to end the war in Ukraine.

Well, this needs some explanation!

Foreign Affairs often speaks for the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Malkasian himself was a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2015 to 2019, during both the Obama and the Trump presidencies. He currently is a “defense analyst” for the Navy.

In other words, his words carry the weight of the positions he’s held in the military and foreign policy establishments.

So, what is this “Korean model"?

The Korean War went on for three years, from 1950 to 1953. Negotiations for ending it went on for its last 11 months. Little changed on the battlefield, with battle lines almost frozen. But more people were killed during those 11 months of negotiations than during the whole rest of the war. All told, Korea lost four million people, ten percent of its whole population, most of them civilians. China lost one million people. Thirty-seven thousand American soldiers were killed.

So, what does Korea have to do with Ukraine?

Maybe nothing, but Foreign Affairs is not the only one to raise the Korean War. The idea popped up in Politico, an internet political service, two months earlier. And last November already, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly suggested that negotiations should be pursued since the war was close to bogging down.

Negotiations, even an end to the Ukraine war, won’t mean a sudden end to the vast stream of money that has gone into the accounts of the big military contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing—no more than the end of the war in Korea put an end to spending on war.

This is what the “Korean model” means. The Korean War was the justification for the creation of the “military-industrial complex,” which continued and expanded long after that war was over. General Eisenhower may later have complained about it, as generals like Milley complain today. But the system they defend feeds on war.

The war in Ukraine provided the pretext for a big jump in military spending, a real bonanza for big U.S. corporations, paid for by the death and suffering of people.

Already, at least a half a million people have been killed in Ukraine: Russian soldiers, Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian civilians, Russian civilians, Russian and Western mercenaries, including dozens from the U.S. and an occasional Special Forces soldier from Britain or the U.S.

But this war has also been paid for by working people in this country as public tax money is drained out of social services, public services, education, and public health. Every line you have to stand in, or phone call you are put on hold for, has been created by cuts to the people who work in those services. When you are laid off and don’t get unemployment pay, it’s because money was sent to pay for this latest war in which big U.S. industry is deeply involved. Money flooded into the military explains part of the decrease in our standard of living, as well as the decline in life expectancy.

The end of the war in Ukraine, if and when it comes, won’t put an end to war spending, any more than the “Korean model” did. Because the system that produced those wars will go on producing more wars. Korea ushered in an epoch of wars in former colonies that continue up to this day—from Vietnam to South Africa to Iraq to Afghanistan to Syria to Yemen to Sudan, and to all those wars breaking out today throughout Africa.

Ukraine will usher in more wars. Because war is not only a common feature of this rotting capitalist system. It is a necessity. It allows a few big powers to pull out more wealth for the class that rules them, and it provides wealth through military spending to its many companies.

So long as the capitalist “model” is left in place, we will have war—and constantly diminished possibilities for a decent life.

Workers on Strike

Sep 18, 2023

Here are some strikes that are currently going on in the U.S. These strikes may remain isolated and separated today. But others could join them. New strikes arise almost every week.

Unite HERE Strikes Homegrown in Seattle

Local 8 of UniteHERE struck five locations of the Homegrown restaurant and catering company in Seattle. The restaurant boasts “sustainable sandwiches”, but the 150 workers say their low wages, long hours, and lack of sick pay and safety are definitely NOT sustainable for their families!

Ascension Hospital Workers Strike

In Rochester, Michigan, 270 nurses and radiology techs, members of OPEIU Local 40, are on strike against low pay and unsafe workloads. The Local has filed more than a dozen Unfair Labor Practices charges against the hospital management, which simply refuses to bargain and runs the hospital by threats and intimidation of staff.

The hospital’s response to the strike is to hire a company specializing in breaking healthcare workers’ strikes, to supply contract nurses and X-ray techs. The workers point out that a reasonable settlement would cost far less than the hospital is paying this outside company.

Strike at Dometic Manufacturing in Pennsylvania

Local 644 of the UAW in Royersford, Penn., is on strike to bring all of the 103 workers up above poverty-level wages. The workers make steering and throttle control cables sold to boat and RV manufacturers. The company has offered less than half of what the workers need, and also demands that the workers pay a bigger share of their health insurance.

Page 12

Auto on Strike:
What Are Workers Ready to Do?

Sep 18, 2023

On September 15, the leaders of the United Auto Workers union (UAW) called out workers to begin a strike against GM, Ford and Stellantis.

The new UAW leadership started negotiations by demanding, among other things, a 46% wage increase over the life of the contract and the restoration of cost-of-living (COLA) raises. They demanded an end to tiers and temporary workers—bringing every worker up to full pay and giving every worker a pension and retiree health care.

Damn Right! Auto workers, whose back-breaking labor has produced billions of dollars of profits for the auto companies, deserve every penny of those demands, and they deserve much more than that. All of the demands presented by the UAW would not nearly make up for the concessions that auto workers have lost.

Before and after the strike started, the news media all said that it wasn’t possible for the companies to meet all of the union’s demands. They said the companies would go broke. Bullshit! The auto companies, who are owned by Wall Street capitalists, can easily afford to grant those demands. In fact, the demands presented by the UAW leaders didn’t even touch upon restoring all the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost to years of speed-up and outsourcing. This is where the auto bosses have made most of their profits, by producing more vehicles with fewer workers.

The day the strike started, there was a rally in Detroit in support of the strike, where Democratic politicians joined the UAW leaders. The headline speaker was Bernie Sanders who condemned the auto company CEOs for being too “greedy.” But the problem goes way beyond greedy CEOs and billionaires. The real problem is a system, where the capitalist class owns all the factories. And because they own the means of production, their laws give them the right to make all the decisions—how much workers are paid, how many jobs there are, how many hours people work, how fast they work.

The only thing that challenges the bosses’ ability to decide everything about workers’ lives is when workers organize and use our power over production to fight for more of what we deserve.

From the mid-1970’s until 2019, auto workers and their union have not challenged this. There was no major companywide strike for over 40 years. Facing no resistance, the auto companies have taken away wages and benefits and jobs, and taken them away again.

In 2019, there was a strike that put up a slight barrier to these steps backward. The old UAW leadership called a strike at GM, the first major companywide auto strike since 1976. But it was only at one company.

Today, the new leadership of the UAW has called a strike. They started out this current strike by calling out 3 assembly plants—one at each company—only 13,000 workers out of almost 150,000 UAW auto workers.

It’s possible that auto companies, faced with the threat of more strikes, will give up some raises to avoid a long strike at a time when they are preparing to transition to building more electric vehicles. But some raises—even if at first glance they look good—are not going to give auto workers the comfortable life we all need. Raises don’t address the long hours, horrible work schedules and overloaded jobs. Raises don’t return the jobs eliminated through outsourcing and speedup. Auto workers deserve wages that provide a decent standard of living. They also deserve jobs that don’t exhaust them, jobs that aren’t threatened to be eliminated, jobs that will be there for the next generation. They deserve a future with a chance to retire and live comfortably without a broken body.

Up to now, in this current strike and in the 2019 strike, the auto workers have been used by UAW negotiators as a kind of negotiating tool, a scare tactic, using the threat of a strike or even using a limited strike as a way to negotiate a better contract, to get a couple dollars more for auto workers.

But the question is, what are the workers going to do?

Workers have a far greater power than that. Workers have the power to fight for more than just a couple of dollars. They have the power to fight for the kind of future they deserve, the world they want to live in. The 150,000 UAW auto workers have hundreds of thousands of allies in the auto parts plants, in the non-union auto plants, allies who face the same problems. And they have millions of allies in every industry and workplace. Workers have the power to make a fight everywhere—inside the factories, outside the workplaces, and in the streets.

The working class has the power to make a fight that can improve our lives and change our futures. We can make a fight to get rid of the whole system that exploits us.

“Don’t Get Sick Tonight, Blue Cross Is on Strike”

Sep 18, 2023

1,100 workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) were called on strike by UAW leaders on September 13. These workers have faced many years of wages not keeping up with prices and jobs being outsourced.

The UAW leaders negotiating their contract had extended the contract twice after the August 31 deadline and then let it run out without saying anything to the workers. The BCBSM workers were surprised to get a last minute email on September 12, telling them they would be on strike at midnight that night. BCBSM workers were also surprised to find out that Blue Care Network (BCN) workers, whose contract was being negotiated jointly with their own, were not being called out on strike and would continue working.

Despite all this, at the beginning of the strike the BCBSM workers were enthusiastic on the picket lines. So, what happens next? Can the workers find the way to put themselves forward to make it their own strike?

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