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. 1189 — November 13 - 27, 2023

The U.S. Is Dragging the World Closer to a New World War

Nov 13, 2023

As the latest Israel-Palestine War broke out last month, the U.S. military moved two aircraft carriers, along with several destroyers, cruisers, and missile launchers into the Middle East. They were joined by a nuclear submarine equipped with 147 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

This wasn’t a “peace keeping” mission. It was war—supporting Israel in its war on Gaza and the West Bank; pushing its control over Iraq and Syria, where the U.S. itself had carried out long, brutal wars that killed millions and forced millions more to flee as refugees.

Nobody knows what will happen next. But there is the very real likelihood that the unthinkable could become reality. The already smoldering fires of war in the Middle East could trigger a new world war. How close is the world now to being dragged into a new cataclysm? We will find out.

The Middle East region is explosive today because the big imperial powers, first England and France, and now, the U.S., have dominated the region by playing the different countries and peoples off against each other. This tried-and-true imperialist strategy has allowed a few big oil companies, banks, military contractors, and other instruments of the capitalist class to extract the riches produced out of the Middle East for more than a century, leaving the vast majority of its people in a constant state of poverty and desperation.

The horrible wars that have come out of this imperial domination go way beyond the countries themselves. For example, the ongoing war in Yemen that has already taken millions of lives is a proxy war between two big regional powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran. But behind Saudi Arabia and Iran stand none other than the U.S., Russia, and China. The same line-up of regional and big powers is involved in the current war that Israel is waging against the Palestinians.

The Middle East carries in its womb a world war in embryo.

The U.S. is deeply involved not only in wars in the Middle East. In Europe, with the war in Ukraine, a war that the U.S. has prepared and fueled for more than a decade, the U.S. is using the people of Ukraine as cannon fodder in order to weaken and bleed Russia, an old rival. In Asia, the U.S. has been escalating an economic war with China, the second largest economy in the world, while surrounding that huge country with increasingly more massive military forces.

The world has become a bloody madhouse. An Israeli government cabinet minister casually raised the possibility of Israel dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza, like it is the most ordinary thing in the world. And he wasn’t even fired, only suspended!

But not to worry, says President Biden. “I think we have an opportunity to… unite the world in ways that it never has been,” Biden said from the White House on October 20. “We were in a post-war period for 50 years where it worked pretty damn well, but that’s sort of run out of steam… It needs a new world order in a sense, like that was a world order.”

Amazingly, this justification for a new barbaric world war comes from the President of the United States. According to Biden, World War II resulted in a new world order, a step in the right direction. Forget, infers Biden, the human toll, the 85 million people killed, the thousands of cities and towns destroyed. Eyes straight ahead, says Biden, the world needs a new world order. In casual fashion, he calls for a new global war, which will bring with it an even more terrible toll.

I’m optimistic,” said Biden. That’s what politicians said during World War I, which killed more than 20 million people, but was supposed to be “the war to end all wars.” It’s what the politicians said about World War II—even as the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on women, children and the elderly in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the very end of the war in order to demonstrate the explosive ascendency of the new U.S. superpower.

Those world wars didn’t lead to Biden’s 50 years of peace, but only to bigger wars. The 20th century was the most murderous century in history, with two-thirds of the casualties being civilians. And the present century promises to be even worse.

Who says it has to be this way? Working people can live together peacefully. But only if the cause of the wars is destroyed, the domination of the planet by a tiny minority of capitalists and other parasites, who are in constant competition with each other for wealth and power.

Doing away with this domination and barbarism is the historic mission of the working class. Working people may not realize this, nor are most of them prepared to accept this mission today. But their class, the working class, has the power and every interest to do just that. And the world, hurtling toward war, will bring the working class face to face with this necessity. There is no other way out.

Pages 2-3

War in Gaza Hits Home

Nov 13, 2023

The week after the Hamas attack out of Gaza, it was all over the news in Chicago: a landlord in Plainfield, Illinois had attacked his tenant, a Palestinian mother, and murdered her six-year-old son.

The killer had been listening to conservative talk radio immediately before, and apparently got it into his head that his Palestinian tenants represented some kind of danger to him.

Days later, a pro-Israel rally in Skokie drew counter-protestors. There was a scuffle, with one man firing a warning shot, and a pro-Israeli man using Mace on several of the pro-Palestinian protestors.

The Anti-Defamation League reports a 400% increase in antisemitic actions since the war in Palestine started. Similar acts against Muslims and Arabs are the highest they have been since the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, says the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

It is shocking, but we cannot be surprised. This war has unleashed the worst in many in this country, leading to violent words and acts against Jewish and Arab people alike. The violence that the U.S. funds and backs in Israel and in the Middle East blows back on us here—our environment has become poisoned with all kinds of vicious ideas.

Immigrant Tent Cities in Chicago

Nov 13, 2023

Chicago, an immigrant’s “sanctuary city,” is facing a serious problem with its neighborhoods, where the immigrants are being housed in front of police stations and inside airports and some empty buildings. The problem continues to increase. Lately Chicago has been getting two dozen buses a day, with at least 60 immigrants on each bus.

According to city politicians, they cannot use the city-run shelters. The city-run shelters had 6000 people last year. But in the last two months that number doubled.

Now city officials are proposing to use an empty lot to build tent camps in the Brighton Park neighborhood to house 2000 migrants. Local residents protested, saying that the neighborhood already has a lot of homeless people, high crime rates, and a shortage of other services. After these complaints, the city politicians have been meeting at Thomas Kelly High School with the mainly Latino and Asian community, where people angrily expressed their disapproval of the city’s intention.

This problem goes on city-wide, in any neighborhood where the city has tried to place the immigrants.

Chicago is an industrial, rich city where different groups of immigrants live and work. But the city politicians and their rich friends have for a long time ignored the homeless situation, the crime problem, and the very high cost of living, encouraging people to fight for a few social crumbs.

Abortion Rights Amendment Passes

Nov 13, 2023

In Ohio in November, voters approved a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights and all reproductive healthcare. The measure passed in areas that voted majority Republican and in areas that voted for the Democrats. It was the 7th state to vote yes on abortion rights out of 7 attempts since the fall of Roe v Wade.

Far-right activists tried to block the measure in Ohio multiple times. They called a special election in August to make it harder to pass state constitutional amendments, but voters came out in droves to block that. Then, they re-wrote the language on the ballot to make it confusing, and that didn’t work. Then, in recent weeks, they purged names from the voter rolls in an attempt to thwart the measure—and that didn’t work either.

Doctors in Ohio began the petition drive after a 10-year-old rape victim had to travel to Indiana for an abortion due to Ohio’s 6-week abortion ban. Many participated in the grassroots measure, which gathered half a million signatures. Once the signatures were approved, supporters had to mobilize against each attempt to block the measure. Campaigners worked tirelessly to explain that a yes vote sends a message for government to stay the heck out of individual and family reproductive healthcare decisions.

Since the amendment passed, anti-abortion groups are trying to block implementation of the ban. Reproductive rights activists have gained valuable experience that can be put to good use to beat back the next round of attacks!

Washington, D.C. Jail:
Death Factory

Nov 13, 2023

Antonio Dockery, 29, was found dead in his cell in the D.C. jail’s Central Cell Block on October 23 after only several weeks in the jail. In his too-short life, D.C. police had arrested him several dozen times. For example, last December, they arrested him for sleeping in a doorway in a shopping area where he was banned for allegedly harassing people. His final arrest was for stealing a few items in a shoe store. He was clearly someone who needed mental health care and money, but he had no access to either.

He is also the most recent of five people to die in the D.C. jail so far this year, and the most recent of 69 people to die there since 2009. Many had generally similar situations. Giovanni Love, 21, hanged himself in his cell in September 2022. Raynell Hawkins died of a toxic combination of an opioid and four other drugs while in the jail in January 2022.

Last year the city government forced the jail to start posting a press release after each person’s death, giving information like the cops’ reason for their arrest and a brief description of how they died. And the jail promises to investigate each situation.

But the overall problem needs no investigation. Public mental health care is broken, understaffed, and underfunded after decades of cuts. Police arrest people in need, and all too often they die in jail. More than 1,000 people die in local jails in the U.S. every year.

This capitalist society has money for many things, like weapons for U.S. proxy wars, bailouts and subsidies for big banks and corporations, and fat government contracts for big businesses. But capitalist society won’t spend a dime for working class people, often black, who don’t get the help they need.

U.S. Soldiers Wounded … by the U.S. Army

Nov 13, 2023

The U.S. military has been subjecting artillery gun crews to brain injuries for years … and covering up their knowledge of it. Starting in 2016 to 2017, crews firing big artillery guns day and night, used in battles against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, began to experience memory and balance problems, nausea, irritability and crushing fatigue.

At first, military doctors weren’t sure what was causing these symptoms. They told artillery servicemen that they had attention deficit disorder, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

When these soldiers’ performance deteriorated or their behavior became erratic, many were seen not as wounded, but as a problem. They were denied promotions. Some were punished for misconduct. Some were discharged with less than satisfactory ratings and thereby cut off from veterans’ health care. A large number ended up committing suicide.

The Defense Department began investigating what was going on because they couldn’t train new artillery crews fast enough to replace those who became non-functional. They discovered that some crew members began to suffer brain injuries even during basic training—before they even were involved in any combat.

Now the military is clearly aware of brain damage suffered by big artillery crews. But it has yet to publicly acknowledge this and accept responsibility to help those who have been wounded or prevent further injury.

Pages 4-5

Dollar (and a Quarter) Tree

Nov 13, 2023

Dollar Tree, one of the go-to locations that poor and working class people use to purchase everything from food and paper products to toothpaste and cleaning supplies, changed their prices in early 2022: What used to cost a dollar, became $1.25. That was a 25% increase!

Did people get a 25% increase in their pay, or general assistance, or Social Security or pension benefits (IF they have a pension) since that price increase occurred? Of course not!

According to information printed in a Counterpunch article, “Food and Housing Costs Still Shoot Through the Roof,” “… food stamp benefits are decreasing as inflation rises. Social Security has seen an eleven percent increase from 2020 to 2023, but average costs have risen at least 25% to 50% on most goods.”

And though some (meaning people who are not on fixed incomes, or don’t have to figure out how to feed their families) might argue “it’s only 25 cents,” 25 cents is still an increase of 25% when today, many people are trying to make ends meet. Because EVERYTHING ELSE HAS GONE UP IN PRICE, TOO.

Wages should be indexed to prices: when prices go up, wages and social assistance, and Social Security benefits, and pensions should, too. It only makes sense.

Four-Day School Week:
Another Attack on Public Education

Nov 13, 2023

Across the U.S., 900 school districts—about one out of 14—offer only four days of school a week. About 30% of school districts in Missouri and 40% in Oregon are already on four-day schedules, but the undisputed leader is Colorado, where two out of three school districts open their doors only four days a week.

It’s nothing new—school districts have been eliminating school days for decades. But in recent years, the number of districts doing that increased sharply. Between 1999 and 2019, for example, the number of four-day districts increased more than six-fold, to 662—and since then, in just four years, that number has jumped up by another 35%.

It’s another big attack on public education in this country. The excuse school district officials try to use is that there is a teacher shortage, and that a shorter work week attracts more teachers. Yes, recent surveys show that the number of K-12 teachers retiring early or quitting has increased sharply—there were 567,000 fewer educators in public schools in 2022 than there were before the pandemic, according to federal data. But this is the direct result of the policies of school districts, and behind them state governments. Years and years of budget cuts have left schools in working-class districts with grossly overcrowded classes, in buildings that are falling apart. And when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the authorities cancelled school for students and drove teachers to exhaustion and burnout by pushing even more work on them under the sham they called “remote learning.”

And now the same officials are using the teacher burnout they created as an excuse to do away with a school day. And the way they are bragging about it as “a way to deal with the teacher shortage,” we can only expect them to push four-day weeks on more schools.

On a four-day schedule, the school day is usually a little longer, but that does not make up for the loss of an entire day for students. A shorter school week means robbing children, who have already fallen behind because of the shuttering of schools during the pandemic, of even more education.

Four-day school is also a significant hardship for working-class families, where both parents have to go to work. Officials say they offer day care on the weekday school is off, but it comes at a cost—typically somewhere between 30 and 45 dollars per day per child.

State governments, run by both Republicans and Democrats, have been starving schools for decades to funnel more and more taxpayer money to big companies. Under their watch, the education of working-class children will only deteriorate even more. The tide can turn only when the working class takes control of society’s resources and uses them for the benefit of the whole population, not just the wealthy.

Companies Are Causing a Shortage of Cancer Drugs

Nov 13, 2023

Life-saving common cancer treatment drugs, 14 of them in total, including two of the most important, called carboplatin and cisplatin, are in short supply, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Many of these are first line chemotherapy drugs used widely in the treatment of many types of cancer, such as for breast, ovarian, head and neck, and lung cancer. Overall, close to 90% of cancer centers surveyed by CNN reported a shortage of at least one type of anti-cancer drug.

All these cancer drugs in short supply are so-called “generic” drugs that are inexpensive as compared to brand-name drugs and are therefore not as profitable. As a result, the big pharmaceutical companies don’t bother to manufacture or market such drugs. Instead, they leave that market to low-cost manufacturing centers in places, such as India, which often have quality problems and are forced to close down or greatly reduce production.

All the giant pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and Novartis are interested in marketing brand-name drugs, on which they have a monopoly under the patent system and are by far the most profitable. Even a pharmaceutical giant, Teva, the biggest generic drug manufacturer, which makes billions of dollars each year from sales of generic drugs, is currently shifting its sales to brand-name drugs and getting out of the sales of generic drugs.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf told NBC News: “The oncology shortage is especially critical. I’m a former intensivist doctor and I’m very aware of the consequences if you can’t get needed chemotherapy.

A recent American Cancer Society survey found that one in 10 cancer patients has been affected by recent drug shortages. When cancer patients faced such shortages, oncologists either resorted to using substitute drugs, which may have side effects or don’t have desired efficacy, or delayed treatments of their patients. The use of substitute drugs costs more to the patients or causes shortages of those substitutes.

Our survival should not depend on a narrow capitalistic mindset that puts profit over human health and life. And it is one more reason why the working class cannot leave these basic decisions in the hands of the capitalist class.

Culture Corner:
Descendant and The New Fish

Nov 13, 2023

Film: Descendant, a historical documentary directed by Margaret Brown, 2022. Available for streaming on Netflix.

The documentary Descendant tells the story behind the settlement called Africatown in Alabama, and the descendants of the last known enslaved Africans brought (illegally) to the United States in 1859 by the slave ship Clotilda. The survivors of this horrific enslavement were able to settle together after the Civil War and pass on to their descendants their story, generation to generation. Zora Neale Hurston even recorded the narrative of one of the last living enslaved men in 1927 in his own dialect. (It was not published until 2018, as it was not felt to be “marketable.”)

The film shows that, in 2019, the world suddenly took notice of this history when the shipwreck Clotilda was finally unearthed in the Mobile River. The ship had been burned, sunk, and even dynamited to hide its truth, and for centuries some denied its existence.

Book: The New Fish by Simen Saetre and Kjetil Ostli, 2023

Most of us have heard of the horrors in corporate pig or chicken farming: overcrowded, torturous living conditions and unbridled use of chemical poisons and antibiotics. This book exposes how capitalism has brought the same harmful practices to fish farming.

Fish used to be looked at as a healthful alternative to meat. There was a large underserved market for affordable and plentiful fish. The book shows how profiteers flooded to farm salmon, throwing caution to the wind. They developed a fish which grew faster and fatter, and overcrowded their farms in insecure nets, which allowed millions of stock to escape and to mate with the wild fish. Disease and pestilence flourished, and chemical after chemical was dumped into the seas. Salmon even died from the stressful conditions, by the thousands.

The book details how these practices spread from Norway and Sweden to the coast of Chile, to Canada and Washington state. Salmon farming is now a trillion dollar business. The drive for profit has deformed even our healthy alternatives.

No Criminal Charges in the Flint Water Crisis

Nov 13, 2023

The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis began in April of 2014. Because residents pushed for the truth, the State belatedly admitted to the lead in the water in October of 2015.

The attorney general announced last week that there would be no criminal charges. No one is being held accountable for poisoning thousands of people in Flint in this legal system.

A retired GM worker summed it up well, “What we’ve been saying in the community, it’s either been treachery or incompetence. And we as residents of the city of Flint are on the losing end.”

Pages 6-7

Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto

Nov 13, 2023

Right now, an army claiming to represent the Jewish people is invading, bombarding, and besieging what amounts to a giant ghetto, where food, water, and electricity have been cut off. That ghetto, Gaza, is an area of 17 square miles filled with 2.2 million Palestinian people who cannot gain access to their old homeland or citizenship in it because of their religion and ethnicity.

Eighty years ago, we might switch the names of a few groups and be referring to the Warsaw ghetto in Poland. The Nazis crammed 460,000 Jews into a 1.3 square mile section of that city. In the end, at least 390,000 of them were killed, most in the death camp at Treblinka.

We might not be quite there yet in Gaza, but the logic of nationalism, used by the dominant capitalist powers to suck wealth out of every corner of the globe, has once again set people to push in this direction.

U.S. Forces Threaten a Widening War in the Middle East

Nov 13, 2023

U.S. forces have been increasingly involved in the fighting in the Middle East. On October 26 and November 8, U.S. planes struck Iranian facilities in Syria. A U.S. ship earlier shot down missiles it said were aimed at Israel. A U.S. drone was shot down near Yemen.

The U.S. admits to having 900 troops in Syria, plus 2,500 in Iraq. Since the Hamas attack on Israel, the U.S. has sent an additional 1,200 troops to the region. It has two aircraft carrier battle groups nearby, with 4,000 Marines, plus dozens of additional Air Force attack planes sent to the Middle East.

These forces are not there to promote peace. Fundamentally, they are there to ensure U.S. corporations can continue to suck wealth out of this oil-rich region.

They are also part and parcel of Israel’s war in Gaza. While Israeli forces carry out the dirty work, U.S. forces back them up, give them cover, and buy them time. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin himself said that the U.S. was sending forces to the region to "assist in the defense of Israel."

Their presence also carries the threat of a wider war. After launching an airstrike against what he said was an Iranian warehouse in Syria, Austin threatened: "If attacks by Iran’s proxies against U.S. forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further measures.…" This enormous U.S. military presence is a threat not just against Iran, but against any country that moves against U.S. interests in the region, threatening to broaden the wars that have already engulfed so many people.

The U.S. population has no interest in any of this warmongering carried out in our name.

People Did Not Have to Be Set Against Each Other in Palestine

Nov 13, 2023

British and then U.S. capitalists set the Jewish and Arab peoples against each other. Zionists worked with these great powers to get Jews to see their interests as against those of the Arab Palestinians. But it didn’t have to be that way.

This text from a Jewish revolutionary in 1920 points at another possibility:

"The Jewish workers are here to live with you, they have not come to persecute you but to live with you. They are ready to fight alongside you against the capitalist enemy whether Jewish, Arab, or British.

If the capitalists incite you against the Jewish worker, it is to protect themselves from you. Do not fall into the trap, the Jewish worker, who is a soldier of the revolution, has come to offer you his hand as that of a comrade in the resistance against the British, Jewish, and Arab capitalists.

We call on you to fight against the rich who sell their land and their country to foreigners. Down with the British and French bayonets. Down with Arab and foreign capitalists."

Trap of Zionism Clear from Beginning

Nov 13, 2023

I. Rubanovich, a Russian-Jewish socialist, had this to say about Zionism in 1886:

"What is Palestine? It is a country which belongs to the Turkish empire and is settled by Arabs.… Mr. Lilienblum says that ‘we have a historical right to Palestine.’ … A historical right!... And by what means will you defend that historical right?... The Arabs have exactly the same right. Woe unto you if—under the protection of international bandits and by the manipulation of international intrigue and corrupt diplomacy—you force the peaceful Arabs to defend their rights. They will answer tears with blood and will bury your hereditary claims under the ashes of your homes."

Revolution, the Only Path Forward for the Jews (Leon Trotsky, 1940)

Nov 13, 2023

The following article is translated from Lutte Ouvrière Issue 2883, November 2, 2023, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group active in France.

Israeli governments and their supporters make the security of Jews, in the Middle East and elsewhere, dependent on political and military support for Israel by imperialist states. This is already what Zionist activists were proposing in the 1930s, when the anti-Semitic wave was rising in Europe. The Zionists then only saw a solution in the goodwill of Great Britain and in the reception of the Jews in Palestine under British mandate. This is what Leon Trotsky said about it on December 22, 1938:

The number of countries expelling Jews continues to grow. The number of countries capable of welcoming them is decreasing. At the same time, the struggle is only getting worse. It is possible to easily imagine what awaits the Jews from the start of the future world war. But, even without war, the next development of world reaction almost certainly means the physical extermination of the Jews.

Palestine has revealed itself to be a tragic mirage (…). Now more than ever, the destiny of the Jewish people — not just their political destiny, but their physical destiny — is indissolubly linked to the emancipatory struggle of the international proletariat. Only a courageous mobilization of workers against reaction, the constitution of workers’ militias, direct physical resistance to fascist bands (...) can (...) stop the global wave of fascism and open a new chapter in the history of humanity.

He added in 1940: “The attempt to resolve the Jewish question by the migration of Jews to Palestine can now be seen for what it is, a tragic travesty for the Jewish people. (…) Future developments in military situations could well transform Palestine into a bloody trap for several hundred thousand Jews. Never has it been as clear as today that the salvation of the Jewish people is inseparable from the overthrow of the capitalist system.

The extermination of Europe’s Jews tragically confirmed the revolutionary leader’s first remark. The current situation puts the second back on the agenda.

Telling Words from a State Department Defector

Nov 13, 2023

On October 17, senior State Department official Josh Paul resigned from the bureau that oversees arms transfers to foreign nations. Paul explained his reasoning in his post on LinkedIn, stating that the government “rushing” to provide arms to Israel was “shortsighted, destructive, unjust and contradictory to the very values we espouse.”

In his post, Paul denounced Hamas’s attack on Israel as a “monstrosity of monstrosities…. But I believe to the core of my soul that the response Israel is taking, and with it the American support both for the response and for the status quo of the occupation, will only lead to more and deeper suffering for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people,” he wrote.

He explained that providing material aid to Israel is different from providing aid to other countries: “But with Israel, it’s blank check from Congress. There is no appetite for debate. There is no real debate internal to the administration. And then there’s no one to hand the debate off to.” He also explained that the administration’s new conventional arms transfer policy, enacted earlier this year, clearly states that no transfers will be authorized under which the U.S. assesses that “it is more likely than not that the arms to be transferred will be used by the recipient to commit, facilitate the recipients’ commission of, or to aggravate risks that the recipient will commit: genocide; crimes against humanity; grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. So, I think for us to look at the current situation and say the answer is as many bombs as Israel asks for, knowing that their use will lead in a direction exactly opposite to our stated policy goals … it’s disappointing to say the least.”

Paul did agree that Israel had the right to defend itself. But he said there are “ways to do that that don’t involve dislocating a million Palestinians, that don’t involve the death of thousands of civilians.”

Josh Paul resigned because the U.S. is aiding and abetting Israel to commit war crimes against the Palestinian people.

Michigan Congresswoman Censured for Telling the Truth

Nov 13, 2023

On Tuesday, November 7th, The House of Representatives voted 234 to 188 to censure U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib for her statements condemning the attacks on the Palestinian civilian population of Gaza by the Israeli State. Twenty-two Democrats joined Republicans to pass the resolution.

Below we are quoting Tlaib’s powerful statement made three weeks after the October 7th attack on Israel by Hamas that resulted in the ongoing massacre of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza by the state of Israel.

“The American people do not support funding for war crimes—like the use of white phosphorus bombs—and are calling for a ceasefire. As the Israeli government carries out ethnic cleansing in Gaza, President Biden is cheering on Netanyahu, whose own citizens are protesting his refusal to support a ceasefire. We must be laser focused on saving lives, no matter their faith or ethnicity.

The number of children killed in Gaza in just three weeks has surpassed the annual number of children killed across the world’s conflict zones since 2019—yet instead of helping end this violence, President Biden baselessly casts doubt on the Palestinian death toll. U.S. funding for the Israeli military with no humanitarian conditions will take us farther away from ending the violence and reaching peace. Achieving a just and lasting peace requires lifting the blockade, ending the occupation, and dismantling the dehumanizing system of apartheid. Not only do some of my colleagues want to send more weapons to carry out war crimes and violations of international law, but they want to do it by providing tax breaks to billionaires and undermining crucial investments in our communities. Instead of funding more bombs with American taxpayer dollars, our leaders should be calling for a ceasefire now, before the violence claims thousands more lives.”

While Tlaib does not directly take on the fact that U.S. imperialism is at the root cause of the horrific situation that exists today in the Middle East, including Gaza, she makes clear that she is for all human life, Palestinian and Israeli, in her stance. By their censure of her, Congress has shown the exact opposite.

Pages 8-9

In the West Bank, State and Settler Violence

Nov 13, 2023

The following article is translated from Issue 2884, November 08, 2023, of Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group in France.

The war waged by the Israeli army against the people of Gaza is also taking place in the West Bank. Not only are Palestinians being bombed, they are also exposed to the murderous violence of settlers.

Since October 7, 140 Palestinians have been killed there, some of them by Israeli settlers.

The number of settlers appropriating Palestinian land has grown rapidly in recent years, and now stands at almost half a million. They form the electoral base and troops of an increasingly radical far right. Israel’s Finance Minister and National Security Minister are themselves West Bank settlers. The second, Itamar Ben Gvir, leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, has been directly involved in armed violence against Palestinians in recent years.

But after October 7, the far-right settler militias mobilized even more, aided and abetted by the state. Ben Gvir announced the free distribution of 10,000 firearms to volunteer settlers, as well as the relaxation of rules on gun permits. Six days a week, settlers from one of the largest Jewish settlements, Gush Etzion, train at a center, including many trainees who had never handled a weapon before.

Some of the settlers, protected by the army, freely unleash their hatred on the Palestinian inhabitants. One Palestinian was attacked by a group of armed settlers and killed while harvesting olives from his trees near a settlement.

The policy of Israel’s rulers, who pursue the colonization of the West Bank above all, has at the same time encouraged the development of this extreme right-wing group, which relies essentially on the settlers. Ready to justify their exactions in the name of the Bible, they can murder Palestinian inhabitants with impunity, under the protection of the army and the benevolent gaze of the imperialist rulers. But it is Israeli society as a whole that is degraded by militarism and racism.

Who Profits by Closing the Border?

Nov 13, 2023

The following article was translated from the October 21, issue (number 1314) of Combat Ouvrier, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group active on the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Since September 15, the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic has been closed by the Dominican government because of the construction of an irrigation canal on the Haitian side of the Massacre river.

On Friday, October 13, the business owners of the Association of Haitian Industries declared that they support the closing of the border. They asserted that "the Haitian Republic, like every other country, has the right, the obligation, and the privilege of using its own resources for the benefit of its population." But cutting off competition helps their businesses, while the population is the victim.

Few goods move across the border now. The goods sold from the Dominican Republic are cheaper than those produced in Haiti and are the only ones the poor population can afford. Now, where the markets function at all, importers raise the prices, using the pretext of the closed border. All while in the industrial zone, the bosses pay poverty wages.

The big traders, big capitalists and other smaller business people have the means to fill their refrigerators, to buy products from overseas. They can make a show of their nationalism and call for the border to remain closed and benefit themselves in the end. That is not the case for the mass of the population who rely on the cheap goods that come across the Dominican border.

40 Years Ago:
The U.S. Army Invades Grenada

Nov 13, 2023

This article is translated from the November 4 issue #1315 of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of comrades in Guadeloupe and Martinique, two islands that are French overseas departments in the Caribbean.

In the early morning of October 25, 1983, several thousand U.S. soldiers landed on the small Caribbean island nation of Grenada, north of Trinidad.

It was a large-scale invasion lasting eight days. Around 7,000 American soldiers joined by several hundred troops from six Caribbean nations intervened by land. With 10,000 Marines patrolling at sea, the invasion force included helicopters and rapid deployment units such as Navy SEALS trained to intervene by land, air, and sea. The 1,500 armed Grenadian fighters and several hundred Cubans could not hold out for long, even if they were ready to “resist until death.” U.S. president Ronald Reagan launched this intervention with the open lie that he needed to “liberate” 1000 American citizens there, to “liberate the Grenadian population from dictatorship,” and to “restore order.”

Grenada had all of 110,000 inhabitants in 1983. A military regime had held power there since 1979, when leader Maurice Bishop overthrew Eric Gairy’s dictatorship. Bishop was appreciated by the population. His government ran more democratically than its predecessor. He gave poor people access to education and free health care. But Grenadians did not have a way to control his regime.

Conflicts between ruling cliques led to Bishop’s assassination on October 19, 1983. Did the U.S. prepare it? The question stands.

That day, big demonstrations formed to free Bishop while his opponents held him. But his supporters were captured, and he was executed. A military vehicle also fired at demonstrators, killing several.

This instability gave an opportunity for the U.S. to intervene against the people of this island who had been escaping U.S. domination. The previous Gairy dictatorship—marked by illiteracy, poverty, and the lack of civic freedoms—suited the U.S. But when Bishop took power, the U.S. refused economic aid to Grenada. Bishop got aid from Cuba and the USSR. It was the middle of the Cold War between American imperialism and the USSR, and hardly more than 20 years since U.S. defeat in Cuba. American imperialism found it was unthinkable for another Caribbean territory, no matter how small, to side with the Soviet bureaucracy.

But the population supported Bishop’s regime, and the U.S. army couldn’t easily intervene. After October 19, the population was shocked and morally disarmed. A breach opened.

So, Reagan did not send soldiers to shoot Grenadians in order to “liberate” them! And not just to deal with an alleged Russian-Cuban military base which was supposedly able to threaten the USA because of rapprochement between the Grenadian military government and Fidel Castro.

No, the expedition to Grenada was the U.S.’s way to teach a lesson to all the peoples of the Caribbean, and beyond.

The U.S. intended to control the Americas directly. In the midst of the Cold War, the U.S showed its strength. There would be no new Cuba in the region. And the invasion was also a warning to Nicaragua, then in revolution, and to guerrillas of Latin America. This warning intended to discourage all those who were tempted to stand up to U.S. imperialism.

And, only eight years after the defeat in Vietnam, the victory of the U.S. over Grenada was also a way to restore its image—a way to make the American people accept and prepare for future military expeditions.

Workers Struggle for Higher Wages

Nov 13, 2023

This article is translated from the November 10 issue #2884 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Tens of thousands of textile workers have struck in Dhaka and other industrial cities in Bangladesh since the end of October. They demand wages equivalent to 202 dollars per month to cope with inflation. Currently, pay stagnates at 75 dollars per month.

Anger runs high among textile workers. Since November 1 their demonstrations, roadblocks, and stone throwing at factories have increased. Workers even set four factories on fire. Faced with strikers’ determination, bosses at 600 companies called in repressive forces and then decided to shutter their factories for a week. But when they reopened on November 4, workers’ anger remained intact. Repression became even more violent. Several workers have been killed since the start of the strike.

Bangladesh is the world’s second largest exporter of textiles, after China. Its approximately 3,500 factories employ four million workers, mostly women. They supply Western brands like Hugo Boss, Gap, H&M, Zara, Levi’s, and Aldi. Manufacturers settled in Bangladesh as in other poor countries because ferocious exploitation of workers allows them to accumulate very handsome profits. These firms are aware of the grueling working conditions—up to 16 hours a day—and the insane pace of work. They also know that many factories can be death traps for their workers due to fires or building collapses, as at Rana Plaza in April 2013.

All the while taking advantage of the low pay, several major brands like Adidas and Puma wrote to the country’s prime minister at the beginning of November to “observe” that wages have not been increased since 2019 while inflation has shot up. It’s curious how workers’ anger can open exploiters’ eyes when they fear for their property!

For now, the manufacturers’ association—which includes some bosses who are also government officials—only proposes a 25% rise in wages, instead of the triple pay workers demand. But workers haven’t been afraid to confront their exploiters in the past, and they haven’t said their last word!

Pages 10-11

Managing Israel’s War on Gaza Is the U.S.

Nov 13, 2023

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of November 6, 2023.

Israel has turned Gaza into a killing zone, and Gaza’s children are its first victims.

In the first 25 days, almost 3,700 Palestinian children died under Israel’s bombardment. That’s more than the total number of children killed each year since 2019 in all the world’s other wars. Over 5,500 adults were also killed. But the dead children expose Israel’s lie when it claims to be carrying out a war on Hamas.

The war on Gaza is a war in which the Palestinian population is made to suffer collectively for Hamas’s commando raids on Israel.

Yes, the Hamas raids were terrible. Civilians and children were victims there also. But that cannot justify Israel’s decision to massively bomb densely populated urban areas in which a civilian population is trapped.

Israel did not decide on this war alone. Its military has long been intertwined with the U.S. military. U.S. Special Forces squads are ‘embedded’ in the Israeli military command helping to direct the current war on Gaza. Israel’s armaments come from U.S. sources. Funds for advanced weapons come from the U.S. treasury. And just to make the point, Biden offered 19 billion dollars in extra aid as Israel was ramping up its attack. The U.S. military anchored an armada of ships in the region, preparing for a wider war.

From the early years of the 20th century when the first Jewish settlers were sent to colonize Palestine, their choices were never theirs alone.

Behind them was the Zionist movement, whose aim was to create a Jewish state in the Middle East. Behind Zionism at that time were French and British imperialisms. Its funding came from France’s and Britain’s wealthy classes. At the end of World War II, old U.S. troop ships dumped tens of thousands of Jewish people onto Palestine.

The settlers’ aim may have been to flee Europe and its Holocaust. But England, France, and then the U.S. had other aims for what these settlers would become—a guard tower for imperialism, their colony in the midst of the region’s various peoples.

The big imperialist powers aimed to keep hold of the region’s oil; they intended to maintain control over the Middle East’s strategic position in the flow of trade from Europe to Asia.

Many of the first Jewish settlers attempted to join with the Arab people already there, trying to build a nation for the two peoples together.

But the Zionist militias, aiming for a Jewish-only state, violently drove Palestinians away from their homes. Two-thirds of all Palestinians were rapidly turned into refugees, thrown into camps throughout the Middle East. Those left behind were condemned to an inferior status.

This was terrible for the Arab peoples. And it was no solution for the Jews, attempting to flee the ghettoes and pogroms of capitalist Europe. It simply turned them into a military outpost for the big imperialisms, tying the Jewish people’s fate to what imperialism wanted in the region. As different peoples in the region attempted to break free of imperialism’s control, Israel was called on to provide the foot soldiers in war after war after war.

Having made the decision a long time ago to set up a Jewish-only state, Israel has found no way to survive other than by doing imperialism’s bidding. But that brought the Israeli people no peace—just as Hamas, trying to build a Muslim-only nation in tiny Gaza, has brought no peace to the Palestinian people.

Imperialism’s watchword has always been ‘divide and conquer,’ setting the different peoples against each other.

The only prospect for any of the peoples in this Middle East is to break out of the shackles built by imperialism, to struggle alongside other people, each against their own leaders who deceive them with nationalist panaceas.

And that involves us—we sit in the midst of the biggest imperialism, the one preparing right now for a wider war, the one that tries to use us to control the whole world. The way we will find our freedom is to throw our lot in with the struggles of all the other peoples of the world.

Workers on Strike

Nov 13, 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.

Andover, Massachusetts, Teachers Strike

Eight hundred teachers of the public school system in Andover, Massachusetts went on strike November 10. Their needs are the same as everywhere in the public schools: A raise in pay to professional standards. Paid time for class preparation and record keeping. Longer lunch period and recesses for the younger students! And a voice for teacher professionals in curriculum decisions.

Nevada National Security Site

On November 6, 100 members of United Association Local 525 struck against the illegal anti-union behavior of MSTS, a government contractor at the Nevada National Security and Test Site near Mercury, Nevada.

The U.S. Energy Department website describes MSTS as a limited liability company made up of Honeywell International Inc., Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., and HII Nuclear, Inc. The strikers are plumbers, pipefitters, and techs who are underpaid compared to area standards and are retaliated against for union activity.

Electric Grid Workers in New Jersey

The electric linemen, dispatchers, and other workers of IBEW Local 210 went on strike against the electric utility company Atlantic City Electric and its parent conglomerate Exelon, after contract negotiations broke down in New Jersey. The company claims they can keep the lights on for 560,000 customers without the workers—proving once again that the bosses have no idea what it really takes!

Oregon: Yamhill County Employees Strike

AFSCME Local 1422’s 400 members provide county services such as the health department, public works, information services, planning, and mental health. The workers have been without a contract since June 30 and have gone through a long 30-day “cooling off” period and then a required mediation period. The county administration just stonewalls.

And Portland Teachers Strike Too

For the first time ever, the Portland Association of Teachers, 4000 strong, are on strike. “We are asking for more planning time. Mice-free and mold-free buildings. Reasonable temperatures in our classrooms,” said a striker. Class sizes are too big, wages are too small, special education needs resources.

Portland Public Schools say they have no money. Portland is home to five companies capitalized above a billion dollars, including Stancorp Financial at 2.5 billion and Precision Castparts at 16.1 billion.

Page 12

My Opinion on the Ford Contract—from Gary Walkowicz

Nov 13, 2023

We reprint here a letter written by Gary Walkowicz, retired Ford worker and longtime union militant, which he addressed to Ford workers voting on the new contract.

I worked at Dearborn Truck and Ford for 45 years and I was an elected union rep for more than 20 years. I retired in 2020, so I don’t vote on this contract. But I spent my whole career fighting concessions and a lot of people have asked me for my opinion on this contract.

First of all, there were some pay increases and other gains in this contract, and it is important to recognize why. There were gains made because some workers went on strike and the rest of the auto workers were ready to strike. The same thing happened in 2019. When the GM workers went on strike, there were also some small gains made.

During my years as an elected UAW representative, I always said that if workers want to stop concessions and gain back what we have lost, the only way we could do it is by being ready to strike. I argued this point many times in Conventions and National Council meetings. So, I was glad that the UAW leadership was ready to call a strike in 2019 and again this year. If there were no strikes, workers would have gotten nothing, and we probably would have lost more concessions.

Having said that, I don’t think it is helpful when people are being told that this is a record “historic” contract. I do not agree with that. This contract does not get back all the concessions we have lost. It does not return us to the standard of living that auto workers had when I first started. I think people should look closely at this contract and decide for themselves if it meets the needs for them and their families.

Above all, this contract does not catch up the money lost to inflation. Yes, the 25% total raises are a bigger number than ever before. But workers have lost much more than 25% to inflation. From 2007 until today, inflation has gone up by 47%, according to the government’s Consumer Price Index. The top wage in 2007 was $28.12. Just to catch up, people would need $41.33 right now, not 5 years from now. The raises and COLA in this contract aren’t going to catch people up if inflation keeps rising. Especially with there being less bonus money in the contract and with some COLA money being diverted.

This contract did not eliminate tiers as far as equal pay for equal work and in retirement benefits. Workers hired since 2007 get an increase in their 401(k), but they still don’t get health care when they retire. Paying for your own health care is extremely expensive. I know that those workers are not yet close to retirement, but, sooner or later, there will have to be a fight for that. We can’t let people retire without health care.

I don’t see that working conditions were even addressed in this contract. I think that conditions in the plants are bad and getting worse. I don’t see any changes in this contract to address the speedup, the forced overtime, and the unhealthy work schedules.

I’m not here to tell people what to do, or how to vote. People can decide if they are ready to accept this contract, or if they are ready to fight for more. If people want to fight for more, I believe it would take an all-out strike by everyone.

Blood Is on the Hands of the U.S. Government

Nov 13, 2023

On November 10, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “far too many Palestinians have been killed, far too many have suffered in the past weeks” of Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

This is disgusting, despicable hypocrisy! Blinken is the spokesman for the U.S. government, which has enabled the Israeli government in their slaughter of the Palestinians who live in Gaza. They defended Israel’s invasion, saying that Israel had not just the right, but the obligation to invade Gaza. They funded the Israeli government as they fired missiles and dropped bombs on hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings in Gaza. Blinken and the U.S. government watched for weeks as the Israeli military conducted the mass killings of over 11,000 Palestinians—most of whom were not Hamas, but instead were ordinary Palestinians. Over 4,000 of those killed have been children. And now, all of a sudden, Blinken says it is too many killings? When did it become too many? When it went from 3,000 children to 4,000 children??? One is too many!!!

If the U.S. government wanted the killings in Gaza to stop, they have every means to do so. The Israeli government could not conduct this war on Gaza without the military weapons and financial aid they get from the U.S.—about 4 billion dollars a year, over a quarter of a trillion dollars since World War II.

The U.S. government backs up the Israeli government because this regime acts as their policeman in the Middle East. Today, the U.S. government is responsible, just like the Israeli government, for the mass killings in Gaza. The U.S. government has just as much blood on their hands.

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