The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 801 — July 2 - 23, 2007

Editorial:
Who has reason to fight against the bosses’ greed?
We all do!

Jul 2, 2007

Good luck this summer trying to fly somewhere for a vacation or to visit family and friends. A lousy plane ticket is more expensive than ever. What it buys is a seat so tiny, you actually risk a blood clot. That is, if you actually get on a plane. There are so many flight delays and cancellations, people are camping out in airports. Worse still for passengers, planes are often stuck on the runway for hours at a time, with no food or water, and the stale air perfumed by overflowing toilets.

Don’t blame bad weather. When the understaffed and antiquated air traffic control system isn’t breaking down, the poorly maintained planes are. Often, flights are cancelled because there are no crews available. The airlines didn’t bother to hire enough people to deal with the increase in traffic. Northwest Airlines was forced to admit this after it cancelled nearly 20% of its flights at its Detroit hub one day.

The problems go well beyond airlines. The cost of medical care has gone through the roof. Yet, every time someone checks into the hospital, they take their life in their hands. Over 100,000 people are killed by hospitals every year. The hospitals are dirtier, causing more infections. The frazzled and understaffed employees are making more mistakes.

There is a worsening crisis in housing, pushing decent affordable housing beyond the reach of ever bigger parts of the working population. There is a worsening crisis in public education, with most city schools plagued by overcrowding, leaving the teachers and staff overwhelmed and the students lacking even the basics. Near record energy prices make a simple commute or just keeping the lights on a growing burden.

You name it, it’s in crisis. And we’re living in the middle of it.

As consumers, we are bombarded by rising prices combined with degrading and unsafe living conditions. As workers, we are pressured to do more with less. And more and more of us are working as severely underpaid part-timers and temps.

For what?

So a handful of wealthy people can grow unimaginably rich. Year in, year out, corporate profits are breaking records. Profits are twice as big a proportion of the economy as they were just 25 years ago. Companies that cry bankruptcy to justify the latest round of attacks then sell themselves for obscene amounts of money. Meanwhile, some of these executive morons are actually making over a billion dollars... every year.

The bosses’ arrogance knows no bounds. They want more – and they don’t give a damn what it costs the rest of society.

WE are the rest of society – all of us living in the midst of this crisis the bosses’ greed creates. We don’t know which part of our class will be the ones to strike back first. We don’t what will set it off, or when. But we do know that every single one of us has very many reasons right now to be part of every fight that starts.

Pages 2-3

40 years ago:
Detroit and Newark

Jul 2, 2007

Forty years ago this month, the black mobilization reached its peak in the uprisings of Detroit and Newark.

After years of waiting on the courts, the legislatures and the politicians to deliver on their promises, the black population had begun to move into the streets in the mid-l960s, openly to contest with the police for control over their own neighborhoods. After years of seeing what “non-violence” produced, they were no longer ready to leave the other side free to use violence, without preparing to use violence in their own defense.

There had already been rebellions in Birmingham in 1963, Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant and North Philadelphia in 1964, Watts in 1965, Cleveland in 1966. But the rebellions of 1967 raised the struggle to another level.

As opposed to the earlier rebellions, which were confined to small areas of bigger cities, the ones of 1967 spread to engulf a much larger part of each city. In Detroit especially, the mobilization was so widespread as to force the authorities to withdraw their military forces from most parts of the city. Poor and working class black people were joined in the streets by poor whites who occupied some of the same areas and suffered under some of the same police violence.

Moreover, the rebellions spread spontaneously from Detroit and Newark into a vast array of cities. Some were like Northern New Jersey, Plainfield and New Brunswick, which were right near Newark; or Flint, Toledo and Pontiac, near Detroit. But overall, more than 100 cities that summer were confronted by people in the streets.

The people who went into the streets certainly suffered casualties. At least 43 people were killed in Detroit, most of them by cops, National Guard or Airborne troops. In Newark, with its much smaller population, the casualty toll reached at least 23 people.

But whatever the casualties were in those uprisings, those rebellions changed the face of this racist society in a solid fashion. They did not, of course, get rid of racism, which is so inextricably linked with capitalist exploitation of the working class, that it cannot be done away with until capitalism itself is rooted out.

But what those rebellions did do was to eliminate the worst, most obvious facts of racist oppression. No longer were the racists free to do as they wanted, forcing black people to get off the sidewalk, to take seats in the back of the bus – and don’t believe that because that wasn’t the law in the North, it wasn’t the custom. No longer could the police march with impunity through the black community. The police learned that they too could pay a very big price. No longer could the politicians ignore completely the needs of the black neighborhoods for city service. No longer could the big corporations relegate black workers to ONLY the worst and lowest-paid jobs. And the cowardly racists who had long hid behind the hoods of the KKK crawled off into their holes like the vermin they were. Their violence held sway only because there had been no massive response from those they intended to make their victims.

The working class as a whole, black, white, Hispanic, benefitted from the rebellions. Those rebellions forced the capitalists to cede ground on every level. Wages went up. Social programs were improved or started: not only welfare, but also unemployment benefits, workers’ comp, Medicare and Medicaid.

Those rebellions, whatever toll they took on the areas where they occurred, took a much bigger toll on the orderly functioning of capitalist society. For a period, the capitalists did not want to enter into an open contest with the people in the streets. They ordered changes in their own society.

It was the courage of those people who went into the streets 40 years ago which accomplished this. If many of those gains are being unwound today, they can be reconquered by the same means that won them in the l960s.

Supreme Court upholds racial inequality

Jul 2, 2007

The Supreme Court last Thursday ruled that race could not be used as a factor in school districts – even when it’s used to maintain or achieve racial balance and equality.

In doing so, the Court has put its legalistic stamp of approval on a further reactionary degradation of society.

The original Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954 was the recognition by the Court at that time – and by the ruling class it represents – that the black movement was in full swing, and was in fact TAKING the rights that the system was refusing to give. By 1954, the year of the ruling, the fights against Jim Crow had already included sit-ins, registration drives, freedom rides, and a city-wide bus boycott in Baton-Rouge, Louisiana in 1953 that successfully desegregated the buses there.

Brown appeared to recognize the right of black children to have an education equal to that of white children. But in fact, the Supreme Court hoped with the Brown ruling to slow down the movement. It told the black population that they should stop taking to the streets and look to the legal system for change – not immediately, but with “all deliberate speed.”

“All deliberate speed” stretched from weeks, to months, to years – to decades. And when the black population got tired of waiting for what was promised – it exploded. First, in Birmingham in 1963, they faced down Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses; then the explosion spread to Harlem in 1964, Watts in 1965, Detroit in 1967, and to countless other places in countless other ways.

Faced with that explosion, in fear for its system, the ruling class finally opened up its purses – and that’s when the floodgates opened for the social programs: not only money for schools, but Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment, and many others.

But still, nothing fundamentally was changed. Brown did not call into question the CLASS division of the educational system in this country, and neither did any of the social programs. This meant that the fundamental inequality in the schools was allowed to remain: between those schools with lots of money and resources, and those with few or none.

People may have felt they had won something. In any case, the movement subsided after the 1960s. As soon as that happened, money began to drain back out of the working class areas, both black and white, and flooded back into the rich areas – mostly white. Social programs were dismantled, one by one. And money for schools disappeared.

We’re left with metropolitan schools that are segregated in reality if not legally: poor and mostly black schools in the cities, inadequate working class schools in some near suburbs, and wealthy schools in mostly-white wealthy suburbs. The quality of the education flows the same way: poor, mediocre, and excellent.

The latest Supreme Court ruling is not only a recognition that the movement of some students from one school to another will make little difference in the towering inequality of the overall school system. It’s the recognition that people are not fighting back and challenging that reality today. It’s the declaration that those gains of the 50's and the 60's have been overturned. And it’s the declaration that the state apparatus is ready to defend the ruling class’s attempts to make it even worse for us.

It’s the mark that we’ve been quiet for way too long.

Milk prices soar
– another scam

Jul 2, 2007

Nationwide, milk is selling for $3.25 a gallon. It’s expected to hit $4.50 by the end of the summer!

“Experts” say part of this huge increase is due to higher oil and gasoline prices. But the other part is the much higher price for corn meal fed to dairy cows and other cattle.

And corn prices are soaring because more corn is being fed to cars in the form of ethanol.

More than 30 years ago, agribusiness started pushing for increased use of ethanol in cars. They claimed it was a way of reducing the dependence of the U.S. economy on imported oil. Lately, government officials have been claiming that ethanol is “environmentally friendly.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Burning ethanol produces carbon dioxide (the main gas blamed for global warming) just like gasoline does. And it takes more energy – that means oil or coal – to produce ethanol – particularly from corn – than it does to produce gasoline. All things taken together, ethanol is not a gain for the environment, and is probably a net loss.

Environmentally friendly? Ha!

The politicians, auto companies and agribusiness are all pushing ethanol production now because it allows them to charge higher prices and get bigger profits for everything they produce, from corn, to cars, to milk, cheese and many other products.

Its just another big ripoff of ordinary people. We pay more, corporate profits go up, while the environment continues to be destroyed.

Supreme Court’s crazy logic:
Price floors help competition!

Jul 2, 2007

The Supreme Court last week overturned a 100-year-old antitrust rule when it decided that manufacturers COULD agree together to set a base price for retail prices on their goods – so long as the agreement promotes competition!

How could a deal to impose a price floor promote competition?!

In the logic of the Supreme Court, very easily. The only competition that matters to them...is the corporate competition for higher and higher profits!

No white hoods for the modern KKK

Jul 2, 2007

Six young black men are on trial in the small town of Jena, Louisiana. The District Attorney is charging them with attempted murder, promising very long prison terms. Their crime is apparently being black in an 85% white Southern town.

Last August, at the Jena high school where blacks are a small minority, some black students asked the principal if it would be okay during a class break for them to sit under a tree where white students “traditionally” sat. They were told they could sit wherever they liked. But the next day, three nooses were strung in the tree, a clear threat, calling to mind the long-standing Southern “tradition” of lynching black people.

Black students and their parents protested when no serious action was taken against the white students who put up the nooses. When the school board refused to back down, tensions began to rise and fights began to break out repeatedly between white and black students both in school and out. Finally over the first weekend in December, a black student was beaten by a group of white students and a white graduate of the school threatened several black students with a shotgun. The following Monday, after white students taunted the black student who had been beaten up, several black students beat up one of the white students.

Six black students were then arrested and charged with “conspiracy to commit second degree murder” and “attempted second degree murder” for beating up the white student. They face up to 100 years in prison without parole.

Whatever happens with the trial of these young men, which began May 21, racist violence directed against black people continues throughout this country up to this day. In 2003 in Linden, Texas, about a four hour drive from Jena, a black man was beaten senseless by a group of white youths, who received minimal sentences from an all-white jury. The man will spend the rest of his life in care because of his injuries. In 1998, in an act of violence that received international notice, a racist youth in Jasper, Texas, about 3 hours from Jena, dragged a black man to death behind his vehicle.

The only time the situation changed was when black people organized to fight back – as in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. Black people in rural areas like this faced danger, even death, especially in the South. A group of black veterans called Deacons for Defense was started in 1964 in a town just north of Jena and began organizing in many small Southern towns. Another vet who helped organize a successful self defense by black people in a Southern town was Robert Williams, although Williams had to flee the country to escape the so-called justice system.

The rights people once gained through their organized struggles have to be fought for all over again today.

40 years ago:
Detroit and Newark

Jul 2, 2007

Forty years ago this month, the black mobilization reached its peak in the uprisings of Detroit and Newark.

After years of waiting on the courts, the legislatures and the politicians to deliver on their promises, the black population had begun to move into the streets in the mid-l960s, openly to contest with the police for control over their own neighborhoods. After years of seeing what “non-violence” produced, they were no longer ready to leave the other side free to use violence, without preparing to use violence in their own defense.

There had already been rebellions in Birmingham in 1963, Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant and North Philadelphia in 1964, Watts in 1965, Cleveland in 1966. But the rebellions of 1967 raised the struggle to another level.

As opposed to the earlier rebellions, which were confined to small areas of bigger cities, the ones of 1967 spread to engulf a much larger part of each city. In Detroit especially, the mobilization was so widespread as to force the authorities to withdraw their military forces from most parts of the city. Poor and working class black people were joined in the streets by poor whites who occupied some of the same areas and suffered under some of the same police violence.

Moreover, the rebellions spread spontaneously from Detroit and Newark into a vast array of cities. Some were like Northern New Jersey, Plainfield and New Brunswick, which were right near Newark; or Flint, Toledo and Pontiac, near Detroit. But overall, more than 100 cities that summer were confronted by people in the streets.

The people who went into the streets certainly suffered casualties. At least 43 people were killed in Detroit, most of them by cops, National Guard or Airborne troops. In Newark, with its much smaller population, the casualty toll reached at least 23 people.

But whatever the casualties were in those uprisings, those rebellions changed the face of this racist society in a solid fashion. They did not, of course, get rid of racism, which is so inextricably linked with capitalist exploitation of the working class, that it cannot be done away with until capitalism itself is rooted out.

But what those rebellions did do was to eliminate the worst, most obvious facts of racist oppression. No longer were the racists free to do as they wanted, forcing black people to get off the sidewalk, to take seats in the back of the bus – and don’t believe that because that wasn’t the law in the North, it wasn’t the custom. No longer could the police march with impunity through the black community. The police learned that they too could pay a very big price. No longer could the politicians ignore completely the needs of the black neighborhoods for city service. No longer could the big corporations relegate black workers to ONLY the worst and lowest-paid jobs. And the cowardly racists who had long hid behind the hoods of the KKK crawled off into their holes like the vermin they were. Their violence held sway only because there had been no massive response from those they intended to make their victims.

The working class as a whole, black, white, Hispanic, benefitted from the rebellions. Those rebellions forced the capitalists to cede ground on every level. Wages went up. Social programs were improved or started: not only welfare, but also unemployment benefits, workers’ comp, Medicare and Medicaid.

Those rebellions, whatever toll they took on the areas where they occurred, took a much bigger toll on the orderly functioning of capitalist society. For a period, the capitalists did not want to enter into an open contest with the people in the streets. They ordered changes in their own society.

It was the courage of those people who went into the streets 40 years ago which accomplished this. If many of those gains are being unwound today, they can be reconquered by the same means that won them in the l960s.

Pages 4-5

Palestine:
Divided

Jul 2, 2007

The armed confrontation between the two leading Palestinian political organizations in the Gaza Strip ended with the victory of Hamas. It took Hamas only a few days to push Fatah, which until then had controlled security forces in Gaza, completely out of the area. The Palestinian territories are now effectively divided in two: the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, and the West Bank, controlled by Fatah.

The Gaza Strip, this tiny coastal strip of land 25 miles long and 7 miles wide, is one of the most barren and most densely-populated areas of the world. Most of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza are the children or grandchildren of Palestinian refugees, who were driven from their homes starting in 1948. The population has continued to grow, but there has not been any kind of economic development in Gaza to support it. Effectively, Gaza is little more than a refugee camp. Today, almost 60 years after the first mass exodus of Palestinians from Israel, about 70% of Gaza residents still depend on U.N. refugee aid.

The responsibility for this situation lies squarely on the shoulders of Israel and the big powers that stood behind it. The founders of Israel systematically and by force drove Palestinian people out of their homes in the name of creating a “Jewish state.” Israel isolated, besieged and occupied the Palestinian areas in the name of “security.” Today, it continues to blockade the area – not to mention bomb and raid the population living in Gaza.

Driven out of their land and forced into misery, the Palestinian people fought back. In particular, Gaza was the cradle of a massive, popular revolt, known as the Intifada, which erupted in 1987. Led mainly by young people (teenagers facing Israeli tanks with rocks became the symbol of the Intifada), this revolt was supported by the whole population.

Rebels turn into cops

When brute military force and repression by Israel were not enough to suppress the Intifada, the U.S. tried to defuse it by other means. The exiled PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and its leader, Yasser Arafat, were allowed to come back to the West Bank and Gaza to set up a Palestinian government – if they proved themselves ready to take on the job of policing the Palestinians, that is, stopping the Intifada. The U.S. joined the effort by funding and training Fatah militias to help their transition from rebel to cop.

At the same time, the money, aid and independence that were promised never arrived. Over time, this alienated the Palestinian people from the government led by Fatah. And it certainly didn’t help Fatah that some of its leaders openly displayed their greed and corruption.

Under these circumstances, it’s not surprising that the opposition to Fatah – this is, Hamas – won the parliamentary elections in January 2006. But Fatah used the security apparatus it controlled to block Hamas from taking power. Israel and the U.S. joined in, cutting practically all the money that was supposed to go to the Palestinian government. Thus, it was Fatah and its sponsors, the U.S. and Israel, who provoked an armed clash between Hamas and Fatah, which Hamas won easily in Gaza.

Thanks to its social and charity work among the poor, Hamas has been able to appear “cleaner” than Fatah. But that doesn’t mean Hamas offers any solution for the Palestinian people either. In the end, Hamas, like Fatah, is an organization that imposes its policies, including reactionary attitudes toward women, on the population. It certainly never called on the population to express and defend its own interests. In fact, the manner in which Fatah was ousted in Gaza shows this. Many, if not most people in Gaza may have agreed with this outcome. But the population did not participate in the ouster of Fatah, let alone control the events during and after it.

The Intifada: The hope for the Palestinian people

The Intifada is the ultimate proof that the Palestinian people are capable of organizing their own fight. There was even a second upsurge of the Intifada starting in 2001, which was at least part of the reason behind Israel’s decision to pull out its military from the Gaza Strip.

Fatah with its narrow, nationalist outlook and Hamas, with its narrow, religious outlook, are both hostile to the aspirations of the Palestinian workers and poor. Be that as it may, the fight of the Palestinians for their national rights and for a decent life is a fight that should be supported.

But it is in the interests of the Palestinian workers and poor themselves to break with the politics of both parties, to fight for what they need, which includes to find a way to co-exist with all the neighboring people, including the Israelis who are ready to break with the policies of their own government.

Arms expenditure:
The best support of the capitalist economy

Jul 2, 2007

According to the last figures published in 2006 by SIPRI (Peace Research Institute of Stockholm), worldwide military expenditures continue to grow, attaining the figure of 1.2 trillion billion dollars.

This sum is greater than the gross national product of entire countries such as Spain or Canada. Nearly half the total world military expenses are from the United States, which since 2004 has spent a billion dollars every week to carry out the war in Iraq and another billion for the one in Afghanistan.

Twenty years ago, as the farce of the “Cold War” was being buried, Business Week warned, “when peace breaks out … a dark shadow appears on the horizon of a healthy economy.”

Business Week shouldn’t have worried. As soon as the so-called “Cold War” was over, the big military powers found a new pretext: the “Global War on Terrorism.”

Military expenditures, made in the name of this war, go directly into the coffers of the forty major producers of arms for the state. The top four manufacturers – Raytheon, L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, each saw their sales revenue climb more than a billion dollars in 2005.

According to the U.N., 135 billion dollars a year, barely 10 % of military expenditures, would be sufficient to cut world poverty in half. Clearly, the capitalists don’t consider eliminating poverty “healthy” for their economy.

Iraq War:
The U.S. surge goes into full gear against the Iraqi people

Jul 2, 2007

At the end of June, the U.S. military reported that it had around 160,000 troops in Iraq, that is, as high as at any time since the invasion. These troops have gone on the offensive in Baghdad, in the region near it, Anbar and Dyala province, which the U.S. calls the Sunni Triangle.

The U.S. began its big offensive about four months ago in Baghdad, isolating neighborhoods, and then “clearing” them, that is, trying to impose U.S. control by literally going door-to-door, killing civilians as they go. According to the U.S. military, the U.S. is currently carrying out military operations in about 36% of Baghdad’s neighborhoods.

In one of its biggest campaigns since the invasion in 2003, U.S. military forces have moved into Baquba, which is just north of Baghdad. The operation involves some 10,000 troops – around 6,000 U.S. and 4,000 Iraqis – lifted in by helicopters and backed by massive firepower in the shape of tanks, artillery and close air support.

U.S. helicopters are shooting up civilian areas with rockets and cannon fire in an outright campaign of terror against the Iraqi population. Such missions have more than doubled from two years ago. The head of Baquba’s emergency services told the BBC that in the first day of U.S. operations, at least 12 civilians had been killed, including three women. He said that there were certainly more civilian casualties, but ambulances were being prevented by U.S. troops from going in to evacuate them. A number of houses had been destroyed, and there were fears that civilians might be trapped in the rubble. And the U.S. imposed a severe curfew on civilians. Iraqi army loudspeakers were telling people to keep off the streets and stay indoors, even while attacking their houses with heavy ordinance.

U.S. forces have also been laying siege to two big cities in Anbar province, Samarra and Fallujah since May 22. Those cities had been largely destroyed in previous U.S. battles. Now what is left of their populations, have been deprived of most food, water, sanitation, electricity and medical care under a broiling sun when temperatures regularly reach over 120 degrees. The U.S. has also imposed a punishing curfew on them, not allowing them to go into the streets for big stretches of time.

In Falluja, 55-year-old Hajji Mahmood told an Iraqi reporter, Ali al-Fadhily, “U.S. snipers on rooftops are enjoying themselves watching us walk around to find a bite of food for our families. They laugh at us and call us names. They should know Fallujah is still the same city that kicked them away three years ago.”

In Samarra, Majid Hamid, a schoolteacher, told another reporter, “We are being butchered here by these Americans. People are dying because we lack all of the necessities, and our government seems to be so happy about it.” An employee in the electricity service office of Samarra added, “There is no life in the city because of the collective punishments. Depriving people of electricity means depriving them of water, health-care and all of life's maintenance necessities, especially with such hot temperatures now.”

This is not the first siege that we have suffered,” said Nahla Alwan, a pharmacist. “The Americans have done this so often and they will keep doing it since we do not accept their occupation and all the disasters it has brought us.” She added, “They should know that we resent them more now, and we will teach the future generations to take revenge for the innocent souls killed by the American criminals.”

No, U.S. troops are not “peacekeepers” as the U.S. officials and the news media try to portray them. Yes, there is a lot of sectarian violence, as various Iraqi war lords try to snatch power. But the war is being driven by the U.S. occupation, an occupation that is against the Iraqi people themselves. The surge in U.S. troops only means one thing: a worse war, taking a toll in life that has been stupendous. The level of casualties among Iraqis as well as among U.S. troops was greater over the last three months than in any other three-month period.

Not only have hundreds of thousands, if not a million Iraqis, been killed since the U.S. invaded. There are now also more than four million Iraqi refugees, with about half still living somewhere in Iraq, and the other half in the surrounding countries. In both cases, the people are living in even more awful conditions, on practically nothing.

This refugee crisis is unprecedented in scope, actually twice as bad as the barbaric refugee crisis in Darfur. Yet, U.S. officials and their flunkeys in the U.S. news media barely even mention it. It would be one more indictment of this brutal war they are leading.

The U.S. war in Iraq is first of all a war against the Iraqi people, but also against the sons and daughters of the U.S. working class being thrown in to fight it. It is a war through which the U.S. is still trying to impose its control over the Middle East and demonstrate its power. American workers have every reason to oppose this war as strongly as possible.

Release of CIA’s “Family Jewels”:
Making the world safe for U.S. imperialism

Jul 2, 2007

At the end of June, the CIA released the “Family Jewels,” over 700 pages of original documents detailing secret assassination plots, attempts to overthrow governments and various other dirty tricks both abroad and in the U.S. from the 1950s to the early 1970s.

The documents are heavily censored and incomplete. And what these documents show was already well known for decades: CIA operations that led to the overthrow of governments in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, South Viet Nam; CIA assassination attempts against world leaders, including Patrice Lumumba of the Congo and Fidel Castro of Cuba. But this release of documents altogether gives an idea of the sheer scope of operations carried out by just one agency of the U.S. government.

To take just one example: In less than three years, the Kennedy administration unleashed 163 major CIA operations all over the world. Transcripts of meetings between John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and the heads of the CIA over a typical two week period give an idea of how far-reaching these operations were. On July 30, 1962, the Kennedys instructed the head of the CIA to prepare to overthrow the newly elected president of Brazil. On August 8, the Kennedys instructed the CIA to drop thousands of Chinese nationalist paramilitary forces into mainland China to carry out sabotage and terror operations. On August 9, the Kennedys discussed overthrowing the government of Haiti. On August 10, the Kennedys discussed “liquidating” the top leaders of Cuba, Fidel and Raul Castro. On August 15, they discussed overthrowing the government of Guyana. In another meeting later that day, they discussed sending secret paramilitary forces into the countries of Viet Nam, Laos, and Thailand. They went on to discuss sending secret paramilitary forces into Iran, Pakistan, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. During that meeting, the Kennedys, their aides and cabinet officers, who are usually pictured as beacons of “idealism,” joked that their instructions constituted “a marvelous collection or dictionary of crimes.”

Crimes indeed!

To make sure that these and other operations remained hidden from public scrutiny, the Kennedy administration used the CIA and other spy agencies to form a special task force assigned to keep close track of the phone conversations and comings and goings of top reporters in this country.

Of course, the Kennedy administration acted no differently than did any other U.S. administration.

Nor does the CIA operate any differently than do the spy agencies of other governments. But what is different is that since the U.S. super power is so much bigger than any other power in the world, so are the operations of the U.S. spy agencies and the military. And these reports show how the domination of imperialism was imposed throughout the world by U.S. violence, corruption and terror.

Pages 6-7

Grocery chain closes in Michigan

Jul 2, 2007

The giant A&P grocery chain closed its Farmer Jack unit in Michigan. The 4,800 workers at the 66 stores suddenly found themselves unemployed.

Certain stores will be bought by other grocers. Kroger will cherry-pick 20 stores it wants in the area around Detroit. Kroger says it will interview Farmer Jack workers but will not promise anything. However, one thing is clear: no matter how many years a worker may have had at Farmer Jack – it will be lower wages, even if he or she does get that Kroger job.

One company buys and sells another company that buys and sells another company – that’s the unrestrained way of bosses today. Twenty years ago, grocery store workers made almost as much as auto wages. But every buy and every sell was just another excuse to chop more deeply into the companies’ labor costs.

Should the workers who stock and check out the groceries have to go hungry themselves? No!

Delphi:
Down to the lowest tier

Jul 2, 2007

The United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership claimed a 68% approval vote for a new Delphi contract that drops top-tier wages and benefits to the lowest of the previous two-tier arrangement. Everyone’s health care benefits are scaled back to what newspapers call “bare bones” levels. Layoff protection, the “jobs bank,” disappears – when a production cycle lags, workers are laid off with no coverage. And with the lower pay comes harder work. Rules that previously helped keep workers from exhaustion and injury will be cancelled. Most plants will be sold or closed.

The UAW originally agreed with GM that Delphi would be a two-tier operation, artificially dividing the workforce into upper and lower pay levels (tiers). As soon as the union caved in on that, GM and Delphi began to scheme to eliminate the higher tier. The new contract, which reduces everyone to the same much lower level, is GM’s “Mission Accomplished” for Delphi. At the same time it is the preparation for enforcing a lower tier throughout the rest of GM. Some workers hired at Delphi will be able to transfer to GM plants over the next few years ... but they will carry their lower pay level and benefits with them! And the new contract will be used as a battering ram against all the Big 3 workers, whose contract comes up this September.

GM’s stock price immediately shot up 2.3%. Wall Street knows what it’s getting. In fact, auto stocks have been rising steadily for the last year. DCX shares are up by 56%, Ford by 23%, and GM stock is up 17%.

Unless workers wage a large and determined fight, there is only one outcome to two tier setups: the bosses force everyone to the lowest tier. This is true not only within companies but in the larger society as a whole. If there were not the millions of jobs offering less than $10 per hour, the GM/Delphi workers would not have been under pressure to settle for $14.00 “or else.”

The UAW, supposedly the workers’ leader, has in fact led the workers into this trap. Decades ago, it and other big unions agreed to fight for wages and benefits at individual companies instead of across the economy as a whole. At the same time, in other countries, workers’ unions and parties led fights for much higher minimum wages and for socialized medical care and pensions. Two-and three tier was the rule in this country.

As long as workers allow a lower tier to exist, every one of us can more easily be pushed down toward it.

In any case, workers can start now to reverse this situation. The vote at Delphi itself – standing up to enormous pressure, scare tactics, threats and outright arm twisting – shows that there is a steady core of workers who want to make a fight. There are many more workers like them throughout the country.

As one Delphi worker put it: Peace of mind doesn’t come from avoiding conflict, it comes from doing what’s right. Don’t wait for top union leadership to organize the fight. There are more than enough workers who see what’s wrong. They can pull others behind them. And every one of us has a reason to fight.

Auto:
Teach Gettelfinger a history lesson!

Jul 2, 2007

At a UAW meeting on June 21 in Marion, Ohio, a GM retiree spoke up to Gettelfinger. The retiree said the UAW should preserve benefits.

Gettelfinger said to him: “Are you familiar with the steel industry? Are you familiar with the airline industry? Will you come back to me if they go bankrupt and you lose your health care and a portion of your pension? Will you come back to me and tell me what a great leader I was?”

What a re-write of history! In the airline and steel industry, union leaders played it “safe.” Steel and airline unions gave up concessions. Guess what happened? Steel and airline companies honored the workers’ sacrifices by filing for bankruptcy after concessions! The only thing greedy corporations respect is a well organized fight.

Page 8

Movie Review:
SiCKO

Jul 2, 2007

SiCKO, Michael Moore’s latest documentary, exposes aspects of the train-wreck that is the U.S. healthcare system. It’s a good starting point for further discussion.

The focus of this film is the problem faced by people who work and who HAVE health insurance. People tell their own stories and the movie goes from one shocking example to another. Some are humorous, showing how ridiculous healthcare companies get when grasping at straws to avoid paying for care.

Some describe financial ruin. Others tell of family members who died because their insurance company would not authorize treatment.

Any question of whether people are only just “falling through the cracks” is dispelled by whistle blowers. An insurance industry doctor explains financial incentives she received for denying care. A tearful insurance worker explains the stress of having to mislead callers who have no chance of getting health insurance.

This film exposes the bosses’ lie that the health insurance coverage workers receive in this country is “too generous” and needs to be cut back further. The film shows a retired couple who end up living in their daughter’s basement when the “co-pays” and “employee’s share of cost” rack up and put them in bankruptcy.

The second half of the film takes viewers on a trip to other countries which have universal healthcare. The accessibility of healthcare in Great Britain, Canada or France elicited gasps of surprise from audience members.

There is also a trip to Cuba in the film where September 11th rescue workers without health insurance are finally able to get the care they were denied in this country.

Certainly people in Canada, Great Britain, France and Cuba face problems with their healthcare systems. Yet compared to the nightmare here for the uninsured or even the insured, coverage in those countries can seem amazing.

The film shows footage of a few recent demonstrations in France, saying quickly that to get a social safety net and to keep a social safety net takes demonstrations. But the broad history of workers’ struggles and social struggles that it took to get social programs in all of these counties isn’t explained.

Michael Moore’s film does a good job of showing the victims of the capitalist system. But the possibility that those victims, once more, will make a fight to turn their situation around is not even hinted at in the film. It is up to workers who are fed up with the lack of decent medical care and all the other ills created by capitalism to bring it into being.

LA’s King Hospital:
County supervisors strangle it

Jul 2, 2007

King-Harbor, the only publicly-run hospital serving the working-class area of South Los Angeles, is under a serious threat of closure. The federal government threatens to cut King’s funding, which makes up about half the budget of the hospital. The California health department has announced it has started the process of revoking King’s license. And three of the five members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, which is in charge of King, say they favor closing the hospital.

The supervisors say the hospital needs to be closed because, for years, it has not been able to improve the quality of care. They point to cases where patients were endangered, even died.

And it’s true, King well deserves its reputation for providing substandard care – if not worse.

But the well-being of the patients is the last thing the supervisors are worried about, and the proof is that they offer no replacement.

For years, they starved King for funds. They’ve used each new scandal involving King to shut down more of it, along with other parts of the public health system.

Five years ago, the same county supervisors closed 11 of the 18 county clinics, claiming there was not enough money to run them – in a year the county health department actually ran a 225-million-dollar surplus (which, of course, was revealed after all the clinics were closed).

The few remaining ER’s in L.A. are bursting at their seams. King’s ER alone treats nearly 50,000 patients a year – after many long hours of wait, of course. King’s widely publicized problem cases stem from this overcrowding, along with all the other problems coming from lack of funds.

If King is now closed, where are all these patients supposed to go? The supervisors say they are looking for a private company to buy King. But it’s those private companies that have been getting rid of ER’s in the first place – not to mention other services and jobs they cut in the name of profit.

This is the choice authorities offer – accept substandard, often murderous care, or get no care at all.

It’s the only choice that a medical system run with the aim of profit can imagine.