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. 1204 — June 17 - July 1, 2024

Blame the Capitalists for Low Wages, Not Immigrant Workers

Jun 17, 2024

Joe Biden has issued an executive order to close the southern border. It was almost exactly the same as the order that Donald Trump issued in 2018. Biden and Trump are clearly trying to outdo each other in their attacks on immigrants as they run for president.

But Biden and Trump are just the front men for a much bigger campaign where the media and politicians pretend that immigrants are responsible for everything that is going wrong. The media highlight every crime committed by an immigrant, even though the rate of crimes committed by immigrants is LOWER than that of people who were born here. They spread the lie that immigrants are getting aid and money that other people need, even though immigrants pay more money in taxes than what they get back. They actively work to get us to blame immigrants for the problems workers face.

Yes, there are real problems for workers here. The only jobs available are part-time and low-wage. People can’t afford to buy or rent a place to live. A new car is out of reach. The capitalist bosses are the ones driving down our standard of living—and they dare to blame immigrants? What a crock!

Yes, most immigrants work for very low wages, and that impacts everyone’s wages. When any boss can get away with paying their workers less, it makes it easier for other bosses to pressure their own workers to work for less. It’s just like when UAW autoworkers gave up concessions—it helped other bosses push down the wages of their own workers. So now the whole working class has been pushed backward.

But let’s put the blame where it should be, because Biden and Trump won’t. The real problem of low wages is not caused by the immigrants who come here looking for work. Immigrants don’t come here wanting to work for low wages that can barely feed their families. They don’t come here wanting to work in unsafe conditions in construction where they get killed on the job. Young immigrants don’t come here to lose their hands cleaning machinery, working for bosses who violate child labor laws.

Immigrants who come here looking for work want the same exact thing that all workers want—a job with decent pay and safe working conditions. But immigrants are forced to work for less money and under worse conditions for one reason—they are kept in an illegal status, meaning that the bosses who employ them can threaten them with deportation if they ask for more money. The capitalist bosses who exploit immigrant workers are the same capitalists who exploit us by underpaying us and overworking us. These billionaire capitalists are responsible for driving down the standard of living of all workers. They get rich off of our labor and get even richer off the labor of immigrant workers.

Biden and Trump, the Democratic and Republican party—they all support this system of keeping immigrant workers in an “illegal” status. Why? Because it benefits the profits of the corporations and the Wall Street owners that these politicians work for.

The capitalists benefit in another way. By keeping immigrant workers in an “illegal” status, the capitalists and their politicians keep the working class divided against itself. Just like the capitalists always try to use racism to divide white workers from black workers and they want the workers here whose families were immigrants two or three generations ago to blame the newest immigrants who come here looking for work.

But that only works if we are foolish enough to fall for their tricks and their lies. It only works if we allow ourselves to be divided. If we do, then all workers will lose, no matter where we were born.

Biden and Trump lie to us, doing the dirty work for the capitalist bosses. The capitalists try to divide us because they are afraid of the power that the working class has when we stand together.

Pages 2-3

Driving While Black

Jun 17, 2024

For twenty years, Illinois has required its police departments to track the race of drivers in traffic stops. The official figures confirm what black drivers know well—black drivers are pulled over way out of proportion to their share of the population. According to those figures, the proportion of black drivers stopped increased from 17.5% in 2004 to 30.5% in 2022.

Last summer, five Black and Latino drivers in Chicago, working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a discrimination lawsuit, between them they had been pulled over 50 times in six years. Mahari Bell, a driver for Uber Eats, was pulled over three times in four days.

Police traffic stops in Chicago rose dramatically starting in 2016. In 2015, the Chicago Police Department settled another discrimination lawsuit, where the ACLU showed that the police department used “Stop and Frisk” tactics against pedestrians in a racist way. The police department pivoted: they moved away from pedestrian stops to pulling over drivers in black neighborhoods for minor traffic infractions, as an excuse to search vehicles for drugs or guns. In only one out of every 156 stops—0.6%—police recovered a gun.

We live in a deeply racist society. Poverty and its attendant crime are concentrated in black neighborhoods. Heavy handed, blanket policing in those neighborhoods falls on many working people just going about their business. It’s because the police function in this capitalist society is to keep a lid clamped down on problems that their society creates, not to “serve” or “protect” the working class.

Another Convention in Service of the Rich

Jun 17, 2024

A so-called “People’s Convention” was held in Detroit, Michigan the weekend of June 14 to 16. Billed as a “people’s” alternative to the July Republican National Convention in Milwaukee—it was a Trump rally.

It was also a Jobs Expo. Applications were passed out for paid Trump organizers to be hired to “get-out-the-vote” in Michigan, a swing state.

“The people” who make their wealth off the exploitation of the labor of others are those who will benefit from this convention! Based on the costs involved, there was big money backing this event.

Who put this together? Far-right activist Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) and Turning Point Action (TPA). TPA claims to have raised 108 million dollars from donors to “get out the vote” for Donald Trump.

Charlie Kirk is a right-wing podcaster, radio and cable TV host. He founded his group in suburban Chicago in 2012 when he was 18 years old. TPUSA started out organizing in high schools and on college campuses and worked on the 2016 Trump campaign.

Kirk is known for his attacks on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and for his promotion of Christian Nationalism. TPUSA has been raising money to fund reactionary Christian pastors who attack what they call “the homosexual agenda” and women’s rights.

TPUSA has raised tens of millions of dollars from super-rich donors and has been given additional millions by secret backers.

Kirk himself has profited handsomely. According to the Associated Press, he now lives in a 4.75-million-dollar estate in an Arizona gated country club.

At the Detroit so-called “People’s Convention,” the goal was to take real anger about real problems and provide false answers. On full display were messages to blame immigrants and blame any group of people fighting their own oppression. The capitalists and the billionaires have everything to gain by spending freely to fund this view! And workers have nothing to gain by falling for their lies!

Pages 4-5

L.A. Homeless Crisis:
The Politicians’ Blame Game

Jun 17, 2024

In early June, Los Angeles City Council Member Paul Krekorian called a news conference in order to show security video footage of two Burbank cops dropping a shoeless, homeless man in front of his office, and leaving the man, who was obviously in extreme distress, lying face-down on the sidewalk.

Krekorian denounced the cops for not caring for the homeless man’s well-being and even threatened the cops with prosecution. In reality, what the cops did is business as usual. Homeless people are constantly dumped—by cops, hospitals, and by severely underfunded social service agencies.

In fact, the real point of Krekorian’s press conference was to blame officials of smaller cities, like Burbank, for pushing their own unwanted homeless population onto the streets of Los Angeles.

But the real problem is that thousands more people are being forced onto the streets every year, as rents and housing prices continue to skyrocket and affordable housing units disappear. This means that the workings of the capitalist marketplace cannot even provide the bare minimum of what every human being needs to survive. And to that, the politicians have no answer … except to try to escape blame, by blaming each other.

“Legal” Drug Dealers and Their FDA

Jun 17, 2024

Pharmaceutical companies push the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have their drugs approved through a quickened approval process. Later, these drugs turn out to be not effective in treating patients. But still companies make billions of dollars before these non-working drugs are taken off the market.

In 2023, the pharmaceutical companies pushed two-thirds of all new drugs to the market through such an “expediting” scheme, as Bloomberg recently reported.

Amylyx Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s drug to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a deadly disease, is one such example. After Amylyx completed only one small clinical trial, the FDA approved its drug in 2022. Amylyx priced the treatment at $158,000 a year. Then, the company’s Wall Street stock price surged more than 50%. Nearly a year and a half later, a large clinical trial confirmed that Amylyx’s drug was no better than sweetened water. But the company reaped 400 million dollars in sales from this scheme within this short period.

In another example, the FDA approved Makena in 2011, a drug supposed to reduce premature birth risk. Eight years later, however, results of a large clinical trial showed that this drug did not work. Yet it took another four years for the FDA to force it off the market. Meanwhile, several companies that marketed Makena made over 1.6 billion dollars.

Medical device companies are no different in resorting to quick shortcut approvals. The FDA recently approved Abbott’s cardiac device, trademarked TriClip, even after the FDA’s own staff pointed out that a clinical trial indicated that this device won’t work as intended. Patients treated with TriClip had “numerically higher” mortality and heart failure hospitalization rates during the 12 months after the procedure compared with a control group, according to the FDA staff.

Ten of the advisers who approved this device had previously received payments from Abbott or conducted research Abbott funded, totaling up to about $650,000, according to KFF Health News. As the adage goes, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

GM and Bedrock to Reap Huge Tax Breaks for GM’s Move from the RenCen

Jun 17, 2024

In 2009, Michigan politicians granted General Motors huge tax breaks for supposedly providing jobs in the city of Detroit at its headquarters at the Renaissance Center, at least through 2029. Those tax breaks, called MEGA tax credits, allow GM to keep the money its employees at the RenCen would pay in state income taxes, which comes to 200 million dollars per year.

GM recently announced it plans to move at least some of those employees in 2025 to the new redevelopment of the old Hudson’s building.

Now it appears that not only will GM continue to reap those tax breaks for simply shifting those same jobs to another location within the city, but Bedrock, the company owned by Dan Gilbert which owns the new Hudson’s site, will also receive another 100 million dollars per year, assuming GM maintains the same number of jobs there as at the RenCen.

What nonsense! GM made almost 20 billion dollars a year in profits for each of the last three years and is on pace to make even more in 2024. It just announced it would pay out 6 billion dollars to buy back stock from its stockholders, on top of 10 billion dollars in stock buybacks it already announced last November! In other words, GM is collecting 200 million dollars a year from state taxpayers and handing it directly over to its stockholders.

All this in a city whose schools are deteriorating, and whose homeowners who haven’t lost their homes to mortgage or tax foreclosures struggle to find money to pay for necessary repairs on their homes!

It’s not hard to see that both city and state politicians are working for the interests of the corporations and the wealthy and not the working class and poor residents of Detroit.

Hot Schools

Jun 17, 2024

Nearly 40% of schools in the U.S. were built before the 1970s. Temperatures were cooler then. Fewer buildings needed air conditioning. That has changed. In recent decades, due to climate change, the zone experiencing high heat has moved northward. Large parts of the country experience at least one month of school days with temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Many schools in these places don’t have air conditioning.

Last fall, school officials were forced to send thousands of students home across the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic—right when many were returning from summer break—because of extreme heat and no air conditioning in schools. In Baltimore and Detroit, high heat led to early dismissals—the same as four months earlier, when summer temperatures struck in May. In Philadelphia last year, administrators moved the first day of school from late August to after Labor Day, in part to avoid a repeat of heat-related school closures.

America’s aging schools need air conditioning to keep up with global warming. But they also need newer buildings, not to mention more teachers.

The Right to Retire with a Pension Will Take a Fight

Jun 17, 2024

Only about 22 percent of people in the U.S. have so-called guaranteed pensions, while the rest of the population is supposed to depend on plans, like 401(k)s, for their retirement. But nearly half of U.S. households have no savings in retirement accounts of any kind. How can they, when so many workers live paycheck to paycheck? So it would come as no surprise that about one in four U.S. adults over 50 say they expect they can never retire.

It took massive strikes and battles, by workers in this country in the past, to win the right to guaranteed pensions in the first place. In 1950, a union organizer and musician, Joe Glazer, wrote a song, “Too Old to Work,” a protest song inspired, at the time, by the United Automobile Workers’ union (UAW) campaigns for guaranteed pensions. Some of the song goes:

You don’t ask for favors when your life is through;

you’ve got a right to what’s coming to you.

Your boss gets a pension when he is too old;

you helped him retire; you’re out in the cold

There’s no easy answer; there’s no easy cure;

dreaming won’t change it, that’s one thing for sure.

But fighting together, we’ll get there some day.

And when we have won, we will no longer say:

(That we’re) Too old to work, too old to work,

when you’re too old to work and you’re too young to die.

Who will take care of you? How’ll you get by

when you’re too old to work and you’re too young to die?

At the time, autoworkers, through their strikes, won the right to guaranteed pensions.

But the clock has been turned back—over all the years where workers have not fought, so much so, that in 2008, the auto bosses eliminated guaranteed pensions for new hires, which continue to this day. And that attack has swept through other companies and institutions.

If workers are to attain the right to work a reasonable number of years, and then retire with a guaranteed high income, it is clear it will take a fight—even more massive than those of the past. And that fight will need to be directed at getting rid of the very system that has stolen the wealth workers produce all their working lives.

Bed Rails Kill People

Jun 17, 2024

About 1.5 million adult bed rails have been recalled in the U.S. and Canada because of the risk of getting stuck between the bed rail and the mattress and suffocating as a result. The bed rails are made by the Illinois-based company Medline Industries. The deaths of two elderly people are linked to them. Medline’s recall is the seventh recall of bed rails since 2021.

Bed rails are used to prevent people from falling out of bed and to assist them in adjusting their position. The devices promise safety for people with medical needs. But they have injured thousands of people, according to federal estimates. Peoples’ heads and other body parts get stuck in the rail or in the gap between the rail and the mattress. At least 284 people have been killed this way between 2021 and 2023.

“This is one of the more frightening, tragic, catastrophic injuries that we’ve encountered in representing nursing home residents and their families,” Chicago lawyer Steven Levin said.

Mandatory testing and performance requirements are now being established. But increasing staff instead of reducing staff would also help. But that would cut into profits.

Pages 6-7

Macron Claims to Give Us the Floor, Workers Must Take It!

Jun 17, 2024

What follows is a translation of the editorial that appeared on the front of all Lutte Ouvrière’s workplace newsletters, during the week of June 9th.

Following the success of the Rassemblement National (RN, the National Rally Party) in the European Union elections, President Emanuel Macron has decided to dissolve the National Assembly. What’s behind this surprise decision and the announcement of legislative elections in three weeks’ time? Is it a shabby political ploy, or an attempt to get out of a political instability that would have become embarrassing for the upper middle class? No one can say.

Whatever the case, Macron is giving us back our say, so let’s use it to put forward our concerns as workers! That’s what the Lutte Ouvrière candidates will be doing, and they’ll have a strong presence in these legislative elections.

The first of our demands concerns our purchasing power. It’s plummeting as prices soar. It plummets when you fall ill or become disabled, when you’re laid off and forced to take a lower-paid job, or when you retire.

These setbacks are disgusting compared to the 200-billion-euro fortune of a Bernard Arnault, the 18 million euros cashed in every day by Stellantis shareholders, and the 100,000 euros a day earned by its CEO, Tavares. There’s no reason why those who work and make society function should see their lives deteriorate while parasites and speculators gorge themselves.

Demanding that wages, disability pensions and retirement pensions rise in line with all prices, i.e., that they be indexed, is a minimum requirement. Demanding the reversal of setbacks imposed on retirement or unemployment benefits is a minimum.

Living without fear also means refusing to be pushed toward a third world war. What good is the right to retire at 62 if you die at 30 in a new war? What use is a wage indexed to inflation if we find ourselves under the bombs? We must refuse to march into wars decided by politicians, general staff and generals who have proved they have nothing to do with workers.

Along with these demands, let’s express our opposition to all these politicians who can promise us wonders but are all lackeys of the big bourgeoisie. There are those we’ve already tried and who have betrayed us. And there are the others, like the right-wing Le Pen and Bardella, who pride themselves on never having disappointed.

But if they haven’t done so, it’s because they haven’t yet been in a position to do so. For, like Macron, Le Pen and Bardella support the bourgeois order, employers’ power and capitalist private property. The fact that Macron is now opening a door to Bardella, and that Bardella says he is ready to form a government with him, proves that the two are perfectly compatible.

Both are enemies of workers. Without being in power, the National Rally is already pitting workers and the poor against each other by attacking immigrant workers. It divides and weakens the working class in the face of big business, while the latter accumulates fortunes through exploitation and the plundering of the world.

Le Pen and Bardella pretend to oppose Macron’s war-mongering policies, but they are fanning the flames of nationalism, patriotism and militarism. As their far-right forebears did in their day, they will march the population into murderous wars. Workers who support the RN are seriously mistaken.

But if the RN embodies for many workers the ability to change their lives, it is due to the betrayals of the left-wing parties. There was a time when they embodied the desire for change. They betrayed it, because they abandoned the revolutionary perspective and ended up imposing the same anti-worker policies as the right when they came to power. Today, this same Left, divided or united, continues to deceive workers with electoral promises that are as laughable as they are misleading.

Whatever the twists and turns of political life, this umpteenth election will change nothing in the unequal, chaotic and destructive evolution of society. It will change nothing in its nationalistic and warlike evolution. All this is part and parcel of capitalism, its race for profit and its economic war.

The only source of hope lies in workers’ reactions. So we need women and men to rediscover their sense of strength and the path of collective struggle. We need men and women who are aware that their struggle for better conditions can only succeed if the capitalist class is overthrown.

In the Midst of a Dissolution

Jun 17, 2024

This article is translated from the June 12 issue, #2915 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the Trotskyist group of that name active in France.

To get out of a political crisis further deepened by his poor vote total in the European Union elections, President Macron has therefore chosen to dissolve the Assembly and provoke new elections for deputies.

In 2017, this president was plucked out of the hat of big business, supported by most of the media, to replace the teams of right and left, Sarkozy and then Hollande, worn out by their time in power. Ultimately, he owed his election, and then his re-election in 2022, to the fact that he was pitted against right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round, a candidate whom the upper middle classes still distrusted and whom a large part of the population rightly rejected.

Like all his predecessors, Macron has followed exactly the instructions of the owning class: tighten the screws on the world of work, so as to free up the funds needed to maintain the profits of big business and its shareholders. He has sought to conceal his attacks on workers, pensioners and the unemployed, his cuts in social budgets, and the disintegration of hospitals and schools, with the help of demagogic rhetoric copying that of the far right. His pretentiousness and contempt for ordinary people, as well as his policies, logically aroused widespread hatred in working-class circles and a powerful electoral rejection. He had promised to eliminate any reason to vote for the National Rally, the far-right party, but in fact provoked the opposite, an unprecedented rise in the far right. On June 9, their vote among the working classes was largely an anti-Macron vote.

By provoking new elections, Macron is attempting to replay what happened in 2017 and 2022, that of the barrier against Le Pen. He’s betting on the discrediting of the left on the one hand, and on repelling the National Rally on the other, to rally the center around him. But for the moment, there are few candidates willing to board his Titanic. The left was quick to make a deal in an attempt to save its seats. Part of the right, in the person of Ciotti, president of the Republican conservative party, has accepted an alliance with the National Rally, having admittedly long since taken up its program. As for the Macron MPs themselves, they are trying to save their seats by distancing themselves from the President.

Macron, the Mozart of finance, the youngest President since Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the incarnation of Jupiter, has thus worn himself out in seven years, without glory, virtually giving way to the extreme right he claimed to protect the country from. To date, the stock market, that is, the bourgeoisie, has not been much moved by his political antics. It knows that it has at least two recourses left: the extreme right-wing alliance on the one hand, and the new version of the union of the left on the other. The only thing that could worry the rich and powerful would be a profound movement from the working class to impose its demands.

New Popular Front:
Anything but a Barrier against the Far Right

Jun 17, 2024

This article is translated from the June 12 issue, #2915 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the Trotskyist group of that name active in France.

On the evening of June 10, representatives of the main left-wing political formations—ecologist Marine Tondelier, Olivier Faure for the Socialist Party, Fabien Roussel for the French Communist Party (PCF) and Manuel Bompard for France Unbowed (LFI)—appeared side by side to announce “the constitution of a new Popular Front,” bringing together “all the humanist, trade union, associative and citizen forces of the left.”

Some might say that the fear of losing their seats for many MPs explains this sudden surge of unity, which was totally absent during the European campaign. This momentum is tempered by the demands of some, such as those of Raphaël Glucksmann, head of the Socialist Party and Place Publique list for the European elections, which could well spoil the family photo.

However, once again, in response to those who are rightly concerned about the rise of the far right, the various left-wing parties are proposing nothing more than an electoral agreement designed to “block the way.” “We are the only ones capable of preventing disaster,” asserted LFI deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis Clémentine Autain. But why such a disaster? Neither she nor any of the representatives of the Socialist Party, the Communist Party or the Greens are answering the question, and with good reason, as they all want to make people forget their responsibility for the rise of the far right.

The Union of the Left, the Common Program and their variants have all been successful. The United Left has already come to power, in 1981. The government included Communist ministers and could count on an Assembly with an overwhelming left-wing majority. But this left-wing government pursued the same policies as its right-wing predecessors. Wasn’t it this United Left government that decided to freeze wages? Subsequently, the various left-wing governments have never reversed the attacks decided by their right-wing predecessors, for example on pensions. These betrayals of the hopes of a whole section of the working class have deeply demoralized it, paving the way for the rise of the National Front, now called the National Rally (RN).

The aim of this new Popular Front is to “transform the sum of the Left’s score into a political dynamic,” in the words of Clémentine Autain. So it’s a question of electoral arithmetic. But what about the real battle to be waged against the RN’s ideas? That’s where the problem lies, because the representatives of the left are all on the same nationalist bandwagon. The Socialist Party and Place Publique have never stopped using militaristic rhetoric to justify their involvement in the war being waged for the interests of Western capitalists against those of the Russian oligarchs. From the Communist Party’s “Produce French,” François Ruffin’s “Buy French,” to the RN’s Bardella proclaiming “France is coming back,” it’s a very small step indeed.

Above all, no one wants to question the dictatorship of capitalists over society as a whole.

For years, the leaders of the left-wing parties have largely contributed to clouding the consciousness of workers, to the point where many today think they are voting for their interests by voting RN. To turn the tide, we need to revive class consciousness, the conviction that capitalism is solely responsible for the economic crisis, climate change and wars, and that it must be overthrown: this is the only real barrier to the ideas of a far-right mercenary of the powerful.

Pages 8-9

What Can We Expect from the First Woman President?

Jun 17, 2024

Claudia Sheinbaum was just elected as the first woman president in Mexico’s history. This is a step that has not yet been taken in the U.S. and is important in a country long known for machismo.

She won as the protégé of the predecessor t, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO. His popularity remains high after six years in office. AMLO was elected in 2018 as the candidate of a new party, MORENA. He won on a wave of disgust against the old parties, the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD. AMLO promised to take on corruption and to make some reforms to help the poor. But he never called on workers to mobilize to defend their own interests.

A few things did change. He made a show of moving against some very corrupt officials, and of living modestly himself, getting rid of the fancy presidential plane and opening the presidential palace as a public park, instead of his private mansion. He stopped privatizing everything to politically connected businesspeople. He increased the level of pensions for ordinary people—though these remain very low—and cut the pensions for ex-presidents of Mexico. He created 2,000 small local banks in rural areas to distribute these small pensions. He also raised the minimum wage—though this was barely enforced.

But AMLO could not address the population’s biggest problems. First of all, there are not nearly enough jobs. AMLO said it himself: millions of young people in the country have no jobs and are not in school. They are faced with the choice of leaving the country or getting involved in criminal activity. This massive pool of unemployed young people forms the recruiting ground for the cartels, who remain as strong as ever, creating rampant violence. The official numbers of murders have gone down—but there are lots of reports that the government has manipulated the numbers.

The violence in Mexico is not just driven by the cartels. While it is a real step that so many Mexicans were willing to vote for a woman to lead the country, violence against women remains as high as ever. Mexico has one of the highest rates of femicide (the killing of women) in the world. While the numbers are hard to pin down, since the murder of women is so often covered up, several studies indicate that the rate has been going up dramatically during AMLO’s time in office. At least 3,439 women were murdered in 2023.

And even though the official minimum wage went up, it is unenforced, and it is still very low. In real life, the wages for most people are still barely enough to survive.

And public services remain poor, or in many areas, non-existent. There are no hospitals at all for many miles surrounding most small towns. In the cities, the level of care available for all but the rich remains atrocious. Schools are similar, with few to no improvements in the level of education available for ordinary people.

Most of all, the country remains dominated by an extremely small, rich capitalist class that is tied hand and foot with the big companies and banks in the U.S. While AMLO made a small show of standing up to the U.S. about migrants passing through the country, in fact, he did almost everything the U.S. wanted, and tried to sell Mexico to U.S. companies as a low-wage alternative to China.

We can expect more of the same with Sheinbaum, who runs the same party, the same state apparatus.

There is a force in Mexico that could take on the problems of jobs, violence, low wages, and lack of services: the working class. Most Mexicans live in cities, and many work in giant factories linked to the U.S. This massive force of people is the only group that has the possibility and the interests to really address the problems facing Mexico’s population.

Chiquita Is Responsible for Murder

Jun 17, 2024

A Florida federal jury recently found the fruit giant Chiquita Brands guilty for paying a gang to murder farmers in Colombia between 1997 and 2004, so that Chiquita could buy their land at depressed values and further enlarge its business empire by converting plantain farms to more profitable banana farms. Previously, in 2007, Chiquita pleaded guilty to making payments to this Colombian gang, called the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S.

There are currently more than 5,000 such murder claims against Chiquita, showing the massiveness of terror this company waged against farmers and workers to protect its business empire.

In fact, Chiquita’s whole history and its financial success have rested on employing gangsters. In 1928, the United Fruit Company (now called Chiquita) was confronted with a strike by Colombian banana workers. The Colombian military ended this strike by massacring the strikers. A Chiquita official later reported that the U.S. ambassador wrote to his superiors in Washington: “I have the honor to report that the Bogota representative of the United Fruit Company told me yesterday that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military exceeded 1,000.” So, the U.S. government was also involved in this “honorable” act of murdering workers.

For larger and more violent operations, Chiquita, or its predecessor United Fruit, directly used U.S. armed organizations from the marines to the CIA and their regional military collaborators to overthrow governments. This was done so much that a term, “Banana Republic,” was coined to characterize their vile actions more than 100 years ago.

These court decisions against companies such as Chiquita, to pay for damages or fines for their murderous acts to get rich, are only a window dressing. These companies add such fines to their business expenses.

Netanyahu Challenged

Jun 17, 2024

This article is translated from the June 12 issue, #2915 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the Trotskyist group of that name active in France.

Israeli army massacres continue in the Gaza Strip. In the same Nuseirat refugee camp, it carried out an attack on a disused UNRWA school on Thursday, June 6, followed on Saturday, June 8 by one of the deadliest offensives of the war, which led to the release of four Israeli hostages.

The school that was stormed was home to thousands of Gazans who had been displaced several times since October as a result of attacks by the Israeli army, and who had taken refuge in one of the few buildings still standing. However, the army did not hesitate to attack this overcrowded building, under the pretext of eliminating a few Hamas members, nine of whom were reportedly killed. The attack killed 37 people, including three women and nine children.

Horror was unleashed once again on June 8, with an unusually large-scale offensive in a densely populated area, aimed at freeing four Israeli hostages. A deluge of bombs and ground battles left 274 Palestinians dead and 700 wounded. Al-Aqsa hospital was overrun with seriously wounded, amputees and burn victims, even though it had very few resources or even anesthetics to treat these patients.

Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted to demonstrate his intransigence once again. He hoped that the release of the four hostages would boost his popularity among the Israeli population. But nothing is less certain. The price to be paid for Netanyahu’s intransigence is worrying some of the hostages’ families, who continue to demonstrate regularly to demand an agreement allowing their release. There are still 120 hostages in Gaza, half of whom are believed to be alive. Since October, only seven hostages have been released by the Israeli army, and Hamas claims that several have been killed by these military operations, as well as by the fighting that has been going on for several months. Some Israelis also denounce the horror of the massacre, and NGOs have denounced the torture of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Against this backdrop, Benny Gantz, a former general and one of Netanyahu’s main center-right opponents, announced on Sunday, June 9 his resignation from the war cabinet in which he had been involved since October 7. Gantz is seeking to capitalize on the protests against the Prime Minister and position himself as an alternative to Netanyahu and met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his trip to the Middle East on Tuesday, June 11.

Any peace negotiated by American leaders could only be a short truce, an interval between two episodes of war, with the Palestinian population of Gaza condemned to live in ruins, in refugee camps, deprived of the means to care for themselves and feed themselves properly, and under the threat of intervention by the Israeli army.

There can be no real alternative without a break with the policy pursued since the birth of Israel of denying Palestinians their national rights and robbing them of their land and property.

Pages 10-11

To “Do Our Duty” in Defense of What?

Jun 17, 2024

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of June 9, 2024.

“In their hour of trial, Allied forces did their duty. Now, the question for us is, in our hour of trial, will we do ours.” So said U.S. President Joe Biden, at the 80th anniversary celebration of D-Day.

The commemoration of the British, American, and Canadian invasion of German-occupied France dripped with patriotism. Flags fluttered in the breeze. World-War-II style, propeller-driven planes flew by the speakers’ podium. Parachutists swooped down in graceful arcs. A few survivors of the 1944 invasion were given a “place of honor.” The only thing missing was the reality of the war they celebrated.

But World War II had a grim reality: at least 80 million people were killed, about 3% of the world’s total population. The Soviet Union, which then included Russia and Ukraine on the same side, lost 14% of its prewar population. Almost 70% of Europe’s Jewish population were slaughtered.

It was a war that ground up civilians. Over three-fourths of the war’s total casualties were civilian. China lost 20 million.

Civilians were massacred, incinerated, bombed with fragmentation devices, rounded up and put to death in gas ovens, worked to death in slave labor camps, driven into mass graves to be buried alive, massively poisoned and suffocated, purposefully starved to death. People were trapped inside cities set on fire.

Yes, war is hell, as a war correspondent once wrote. And World War II provided the world with a very close look into hell.

But, pretended Biden, echoing politicians before him, World War II was a war fought for “freedom and democracy.”

Not true. That was simply propaganda used to drum up support for a vile war.

No matter which country, no matter which side, people were called on to give their lives for a “greater cause.” For the so-called “allies,” led by England, France and the U.S., it was the “fight for democracy against fascism.” For the so-called “axis,” led by Germany and Italy and Japan, it was to “gain a living space,” and to eliminate France’s hold on Africa, and the U.S.-British hold on Asia.

World War II was a massive conflagration. It didn’t start on the day Germany invaded France or Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. It was prepared for by all the policies of all the combatant nations, both sides, from long before. It was foreshadowed by all the reparations, trade wars, embargoes, smaller wars, brush-fire wars.

The world that erupted finally into World War II was a capitalist world, a world of competition between various companies, competition ultimately between the rulers of various countries over who would control the world’s wealth.

Capitalism eventually leads to massive economic crises—the one marked by the 1929 crash, or the one today, unending since 1971. Capitalism itself, and the capitalist class which controls the economy, have no answer for these crises, other than to struggle each one to secure a bigger hold over the world’s wealth.

In the past, that led ultimately to a second world war. Today, it is leading to another one.

And, today, we are subjected to the same propaganda as spewed during World War II. The war in Ukraine is supposedly a war fought between democracy and dictatorship. The war in Gaza is supposedly a war against terrorism.

In fact, both wars are produced by capitalism’s stranglehold on the world. Both prepare the world for another wider war.

The world will not escape war, global war, world wars. It is not escaping today. Large parts of the world are already engulfed by wars. Parts of Africa are in flames. The Middle East is on fire.

Until the working class uses the power it can have to throw out the capitalist class, until it takes control over the economy and runs it, we will have war. Working class revolution—this is what we owe our duty to, and not capitalism, which Biden defends.

Culture Corner:
The Old Oak, Parable of the Sower, and Parable of the Talents

Jun 17, 2024

Film: The Old Oak, directed by Ken Loach, 2023, streaming on Amazon for $4.99

This award-winning film powerfully depicts the clash among and between unemployed workers in a failing blue-collar town in northern England and recently arrived Syrian refugees. This film depicts the frustration, misplaced anger and racism we are seeing everywhere today, be it England, the U.S. or Europe. Photographs hanging on the wall in the local bar called The Old Oak remind people of their history as miners fighting for a better life, a tradition of solidarity and community that echoes throughout the movie.

Books: Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, by Octavia Butler

These two books, written in the 1990s, foretell with stunning accuracy the future in that far away year 2024(!), where there is disintegration of modern civilized life due to climate change, unemployment and the capitalist dog-eat-dog mentality. The second book Parable of the Talents even foretells a presidential candidate running against an older vice-president candidate, promising to “make America great again” by whipping up race and immigrant hatred, and who institutes fascist practices when he is elected. The books accurately foretell the worst of what can be; it is now up to us to show how the working class can lead away from this disaster.

Supreme Court Backs Bosses, Not Workers

Jun 17, 2024

On June 13, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Starbucks, by sending a lawsuit back to a lower court. The case involved seven workers fired after trying to organize a union at Starbucks. The seven fired workers had brought an unfair labor practices case against Starbucks to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Supreme Court has now sent this dispute back to a lower court, on a technicality over the way the lower court decided in favor of the seven workers. By sending the case back to the lower court, the Supreme Court makes it harder for any workers in an unfair labor practice case to win a favorable ruling with the NLRB. And this matters in the case of Starbucks, because workers have accused the company of firing them for trying to organize a union, also for spying on workers, and even closing stores during a unionization campaign.

This coffee company has more than 17,000 coffee shops in the U.S. and forces the workers at EACH one to try to organize for a union separately. Still hundreds of coffee shops have made the effort, won a union vote and chosen Workers United to represent them.

As a Workers United official put it, “… today’s ruling by the Supreme Court … underscores how the economy is rigged against working people all the way up to the Supreme Court.”

Page 12

CDC’s Six-Foot Rule:
Science or Con Game?

Jun 17, 2024

The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) six-foot social distancing rule, the government’s main strategy for dealing with the pandemic, was not based on science. Dr. Fauci and others repeatedly told us that it was based on science. But no, not true. And four years later, we still have all those signs on floors in stores, in our workplaces, telling us to keep six feet apart.

Fauci and other officials recently admitted that there was little science behind the 6-foot rule. “It sort of just appeared, that six feet is going to be the distance,” Fauci testified to Congress in a January closed-door hearing, according to a recently released transcript. This means they didn’t study the question. In fact, there was one study—way back in 1955, long before COVID.

“The six-foot rule was really an error that had been propagated for several decades, based on a misunderstanding of how particles traveled through indoor spaces,” said Joseph Allen, a Harvard University expert in environmental health. He added that health experts often wrongly focused on avoiding droplets from infected people, instead of improving ventilation and filtration inside buildings.

The World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a distance slightly more than half of the CDC’s six-foot rule—one meter, which is a little more than three feet. Experts think the shorter distance was roughly as effective at stopping infections. More importantly, it would have allowed schools to reopen more rapidly.

The six-foot rule may not have cost the government very much money to put forward, but our children paid a huge price. A lot of evidence showed children were at relatively low risk of COVID-related complications. Most schools could not accommodate six feet of space between students’ desks, and instead were forced to rely on virtual “learning.” Test scores dropped. Poor and working class students still have not recovered academically what they lost. Every parent knows their children’s mental health suffered as well. The cost to children academically, emotionally, and socially far outweighed any benefit.

The government dared to put the stamp of science on their actions. But it wasn’t science. Science tests, collects data, studies. Government “experts” like Fauci acted like politicians. They ignored science and lied to the American people.

Washington, D.C.:
Health Care Workers Struggle

Jun 17, 2024

Around 150 medical workers at Unity Health Care, Inc. in Washington, D.C. organized a union last fall and are still trying to negotiate a contract with management to address their jam-packed caseloads. Unity is blocking them and insisting that their caseloads are acceptable.

Unity provides medical services at 20 locations for 90,000 of the city’s poorest people, especially homeless people and people in the city’s jail. The workers—mental health clinicians, nurse practitioners, midwives, physician assistants, and even dentists and doctors—are expected to see a client every 20 minutes. They say they often have to see 24 people a day, which means they have such rushed interactions that they can’t give proper attention to each person’s health problems.

Unity was founded in 1985 but its budget exploded after 2001 when the city closed its public hospital, D.C. General. Unity is technically a non-profit but takes in tens of millions of dollars from the city jail, Medicaid, and Medicare, holds millions of dollars in cash, and pays its top ten executives more than $200,000 a year each.

Ever since the workers unionized late last year, it looks like management is pushing people to quit—the union says 25 have resigned so far this year. Many positions were already unfilled. All this drives caseloads even higher.

Poor people and those who treat them get the shaft. Under capitalism, money rules.

Los Angeles Schools:
Staff Shortage Is Getting Worse

Jun 17, 2024

The State of California announced that it is fining the Los Angeles Unified School District 8.1 million dollars, because an audit found that the LAUSD violated class-size and staffing requirements in transitional kindergarten (TK). California law requires that TK classes, which include four-year-olds, have no more than 24 students; and that each TK classroom have at least one adult for every 12 students (a teacher and a teacher’s assistant for a class of 24 kids, for example).

The first years of school are the most important in a child’s development, greatly affecting a person’s entire future. So the more individual attention a kid can get in TK, the better—and yet LAUSD, the country’s second biggest school district, doesn’t even meet the state’s minimum requirements to provide what a child needs.

Not only that, but LAUSD officials are planning to cut back even more. Teacher’s assistants report that school officials have been threatening them with even more cuts in hours and health care benefits. And as L.A. teachers and other school workers pointed out at a protest in early May, this is a school district that is sitting on a cash reserve of over 6 billion dollars!

If schools in Los Angeles are short-staffed and overcrowded, it’s because of the choices school officials make. And their priorities do not include providing a good education to the district’s students—especially students in working-class neighborhoods, where class size rules have always been violated.

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