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. 848 — June 22 - July 20, 2009

Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan:
Obama and the Democrats’ Wars

Jun 22, 2009

Congress once again approved to increase spending on its bloody wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan–this time by 106 billion dollars.

With the Democrats in full control of the White House and Congress, they were forced out of the closet to take full responsibility for pushing the bill through. In the House of Representatives, 221 out of 251 Democrats voted to increase war spending. In the Senate, the Democratic vote was practically unanimous, with all but one of the Democrats voting for stepped up war spending.

This vote saw the Democrats and Republicans shift positions. The Democrats no longer had Bush in office, on whom they could blame the wars. With a firm hold on both the White House and Congress, they were forced to jettison all their anti-war pretenses.

The Republicans in the House of Representatives made sure of that, since most of them, led by Minority Leader John Boehner, voted against the supplemental war spending based on a technicality.

Thus, the mantle was officially passed. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan were no longer only Bush’s wars. They were no longer only the Republican Party’s wars. In fact, they never really were. But now President Obama and the Democrats had openly taken over these wars lock, stock and barrel.

What does that change? Nothing–other than the fact the Democrats have stepped up funding–which spells more attacks on the population and an even greater disaster.

Sure, the Obama administration claims to be winding down the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. But the U.S. still has 138,000 troops along with an equal number of paid mercenaries there–a massive military presence. And the Obama administration only promises to reduce what they call “combat” troops. This means the so-called U.S. “advisers” and “technicians”–that is, occupation troops and paid mercenaries–will remain in Iraq far into the future. Tens of thousands of them will be there for years, not to speak of decades.

With this measure, the Obama administration openly confirmed that it has the same policy goals in Iraq as the Bush administration had: to continue to impose U.S. domination of the country and its vast oil wealth.

Meanwhile, despite U.S. propaganda about what a supposed success the U.S. war in Iraq was, the population continues to suffer high casualties from bombings and shootings, and continues to live in the most abject poverty and misery. Five million Iraqis, or 20% of the population, continue to be displaced from their homes–with no help from the U.S. or any international agency. Close to 90% of all Iraqis still do not have on-going access to electricity. Seventy% do not have access to clean water. Ethnic-based groupings and gangs continue to contend for power in the government and a piece of the fabulous oil revenues.

Whatever numbers Obama may withdraw from Iraq some day will simply be shifted to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Obama administration is expanding the wars, adding 21,000 U.S. troops to the 38,000 already there. In addition, the administration has expanded aerial bombing of the border areas of Pakistan and pushed the Pakistan military to carry out a murderous offensive–leading to three million refugees from Pakistan’s Swat Valley in just the last weeks of fighting alone.

Whether under Bush or Obama, Republicans or Democrats, the U.S. military continues to expand its wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. U.S. troops are continuing to kill and die. And the entire U.S. working class is paying the price in every way–in lives abroad and the suppression of funds for vital services here at home.

No matter what set of politicians is running Washington, the wars will continue until the working population stops them, until the soldiers themselves challenge them, forcing this awful war machine to grind to a halt.

Pages 2-3

Fewer Post Offices?

Jun 22, 2009

The Detroit Free Press reported that the USPS Detroit District is creating a list of post offices to be considered for consolidation and elimination. The list is supposed to be made public in mid-July.

They cite lower mail volume created by the economic downturn: fewer credit card offers and other advertising are going out.

Really? So because corporations are sending out fewer mailers, the solution is to take customer service away from ordinary people? And that will help increase mail volume how, exactly?

Credit Vultures

Jun 22, 2009

The thieves in Sacramento will siphon more than two billion dollars from California transportation in order to service the interest on bond debt. This is the tally:

1) 336 million dollars usually used for transportation costs will cover transit bond debt.

2) 1.95 billion dollars of gas tax money will cover highway bond debt.

3) 242 million dollars in commercial vehicle weight fees will cover transportation debt.

The credit vultures are feasting on the MTA!

People’s Gas Wants Higher Rates

Jun 22, 2009

People’s Gas wants the Illinois Commerce Commission to let it raise rates so that the average gas bill of Chicagoans would go up by $12 a month. Gas bills are already too high. People’s Gas paid its CEO Thomas Patrick $1,134,543 last year. And it wants the rates to be set so it can have a rate of profit of 12% after taxes.

No! Roll back the gas prices, don’t raise them.

An Injury to One Is an Injury to All

Jun 22, 2009

GM and Chrysler retirees lose dental and optical coverage on July 1, 2009. Now here comes the trickle down effect!

On July 1, 2009, adults on Medicaid will lose dental AND optical coverage.

Just when disabled and unemployed workers need the social safety net the most–it is yanked away.

The politicians talk about equality of sacrifice. Exactly which Wall Street sharks, which politicians are sacrificing THEIR teeth and vision!?

Let Those Who Caused It Pay for It

Jun 22, 2009

California politicians say they must close a 24-billion-dollar budget deficit. And they say the only way to do it is to cut public services. In other words, they want working people and poor–those who can least afford it–to pay for the deficit.

Well, here is another idea. Ask a few hundred of the richest Californians to donate a small part of their personal wealth instead.

According to Forbes magazine, the 80 richest Californians, all billionaires, had a total net worth of about 290 billion dollars last September. About eight% of that wealth alone could pay for the entire budget deficit!

And that would make much more sense. Because, in fact, much of that outrageous wealth, in the hands of only 80 people, has come from the tax breaks the state has been giving to big corporations–and, therefore, is a major cause of the state’s deficit in the first place.

A Vicious Attack on Public Services

Jun 22, 2009

The state of California is busy cutting services right and left. State jobs are being eliminated. State workers are being forced to take two furlough days a month, amounting to a nearly ten% pay cut. School districts are laying off teachers and other school employees. Public schools and colleges have cancelled summer school.

The politicians say this is only the beginning. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says no state program will be spared. He is proposing layoffs of state workers, more cuts in education, health care and transportation, taking money away from local governments.

Democrats, who control the legislature, agree with the Republican Governor. “We are going to cut,” said Darrell Steinberg, the California Senate President. “The cuts will be deep and painful,” said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. A legislative panel pretended it opposed Schwarzenegger’s proposals–but actually approved them. The panel only reduced the outrageous amounts of cuts the Governor had proposed–but the cuts are still outrageous nonetheless.

All politicians, both Republican and Democrat, keep saying voters “chose” cuts in the May 19 special election. That’s a shameless lie–the only choice the politicians gave voters on May 19 was: “Cuts or ... More Cuts”!

And why all these cuts? Supposedly because the state has a huge budget deficit. But if the politicians were really worried about the budget deficit, they wouldn’t have passed two billion dollars in new corporate tax breaks last February!

Steinberg, the Democratic Senate President, is now proposing to postpone that tax break. Apparently, he considers it wiser to hand the billions over to the rich later–and more quietly–now that the public has heard about it!

This “budget crisis” is nothing but a smoke screen. California politicians are trying to use the economic crisis as an excuse to cut down, drastically and for good, the level of services that the state provides to the population.

Subprime Mortgages:
Racism Pure and Simple

Jun 22, 2009

In 2008 the city of Baltimore sued Wells Fargo Bank for openly pushing subprime mortgages on black people. A federal district court judge has still not ruled whether the lawsuit can go forward.

In Baltimore, like so many other cities and states, foreclosures are up, houses are empty, city revenues–that depend heavily on property taxes–are down.

Two loan officers, who no longer work for Wells Fargo, provided affidavits about how Wells Fargo pushed these subprime mortgages. One of them stated, “Wells Fargo ... targeted black churches, because it figured church leaders had a lot of influence and could convince congregants to take out subprime loans.”

Not only did Wells Fargo target mainly black customers for these mortgages. It was eight times more likely to push a black mortgage holder in Baltimore into a subprime mortgage than a white mortgage holder of the same income level. (A similar analysis done in New York City showed black mortgage holders were five times as likely as white mortgage holders of similar income to hold subprime mortgages.)

The second loan officer’s affidavit described in detail how overtly racist Wells Fargo management was, referring to subprime loans as “ghetto loans” and referring to black customers as “mud people.” The affidavit also details how loan officers got cash bonuses for “aggressively marketing subprime loans in minority communities.”

For Wells Fargo, behind this racist mortgage strategy was profit. Subprime mortgages are set with higher interest rates and more points, so mortgage companies make more money from them.

The victimized mortgage holders have been losing their homes, but the racists at Wells Fargo are alive and well.

Trucking Bosses Fund—Nothing!

Jun 22, 2009

YRC Worldwide, one of the largest trucking companies in the world, just made a deal on its pension obligations. In June it completed a deal with the Teamsters union Central States pension fund, to which it owed 83 million dollars for the three months just ending.

Instead of actual money, the pension fund will get real estate as collateral.

What a deal! Are retired truckers supposed to eat old siding when their monthly pension funds show up short?

Pages 4-5

Make the Capitalists Who Created the Crisis Pay Its Cost

Jun 22, 2009

The following article is adapted from a presentation at a Spark public meeting held in Detroit in May.

Obama says that his Administration intervened to rescue the auto industry in order to save jobs and protect working people.

If that had been true, his auto task force would have started by putting a moratorium on all job cuts in the auto industry. Instead it demanded that GM close or idle 12 plants, cutting its hourly employment in half, and that Chrysler close eight plants, cutting its employment by 6,500.

Not only that, Obama’s task force also demanded the auto companies cut massive numbers of dealers. According to the dealers’ association, that will cost another 193,000 jobs.

And of course, job cuts at the major companies don’t stop there. The parts makers, the steel industry, the glass industry, rubber, textiles, electronics, plastics, copper, other metals, aluminum–not to mention health care providers, insurers, will all cut jobs when GM and Chrysler cut.

And it doesn’t stop there. With banker Steven Rattner leading the pack, the task force demanded that Chrysler and GM cut wages and benefits nearly in half. It demanded that the auto companies gut retiree health care. All these cuts means less money in the pockets of auto workers and retirees, less money to spend on other products like refrigerators, homes–even cars themselves. These wage and benefit cuts can only translate into more job cuts, across the board in every other industry.

No, Obama’s intervention in the auto industry is not about saving jobs and protecting working people, but protecting auto company profits at the expense of workers’ jobs. It is the very worst thing that could be done from the standpoint of making the economy run in the population’s interests.

And yet it would be possible for a government that worked in the population’s interests to stop and reverse this increasingly downward spiral of job losses breeding more jobs losses. It’s not practical issues that make it impossible to put everyone to work. It’s the fact we live in a system organized around the pursuit of profit, and the fact this government defends the capitalists’ interests.

Too Many Goods, Too Few People with Money to Buy

There is a contradiction built into capitalism. On the one hand, the drive for profit pushes the capitalists to search to increase productivity, to make production more efficient, to use technology as widely as possible. And that is what, over several centuries, enabled living standards to go up. But to make use of this increased productivity profitably, the capitalists have always had to find more people to buy their products, that is, they have to expand their markets. They expanded the market inside their own country, so long as there was somewhere to expand to. More commonly, they drove competitors out of existence, grabbing their market share. They went into the markets of other countries, leading often to wars over who has the right to grab those markets. But at a certain point, no matter how much the capitalists fought each other, there weren’t enough new markets to be found–the market for their goods became "saturated."

This capitalist expression–"saturated markets’–does not mean, for example, that every person who needs or wants an automobile has bought one. It simply means that everyone who has enough money to buy an auto, and wants one, has bought it.

In fact, in reality, in recent decades, people with not enough money have been lured into buying a car at an outrageous amount of interest, allowing the capitalists to expand their already saturated market for just a few more years. The auto companies vastly expanded the use of credit, pushing people into four-year notes on their cars, then five-year notes, and finally, even, six-year notes–leading to the situation in the last few years of your loan that you owe more than what the car is worth because of the enormous amount of interest piled on.

This expansion of car credit was paralleled by the push of people into riskier mortgages–riskier and carrying higher interest rates–bringing the economy into today’s impasse.

No matter how much credit was pushed on people, no matter how many home equity loans were taken out, the market–that is, the people with money to buy–didn’t keep up with the amount of goods and services that could be produced. There were always plenty of people with needs and wants. But not enough people with money to buy.

Shrinking their Markets by Increasing Profit

In order to maintain or increase their profits, the capitalists have used productivity increases to cut jobs. When one company does that, it may not be a problem. You lose a job, you can find a job. But when a lot of companies were doing it all at the same time, it became a big problem, not only for the people who lost jobs and couldn’t find another. It became a big problem for the capitalists themselves. In laying off workers, they were shrinking their own market.

Another thing the capitalists did to increase profit was to cut wages, directly among their own workers, or indirectly by farming out production to lower wage producers in this country or in other countries.

By the way, just a comment here, since so much propaganda is made about shipping jobs overseas. The vast amount of the jobs that were lost in this country stayed in this country–they just went to smaller, lower wage companies on U.S. soil. The auto industry itself is the best example of how production has been farmed out. What’s Visteon? Former Ford plants. What’s Delphi? Former GM plants, whose production has now been sold off to still lower wage producers, mostly in this country. Today Chrysler says it has 2,300 suppliers–the majority of whom make parts that Chrysler itself once made in its own plants. Chrysler workers who might have once worked at one of Chrysler’s four glass plants, now closed, know that much of that production was shipped out to the non-union parts plants owned by the late Bill Davidson, the famous Pistons owner and infamous anti-union strike-breaker.

In any case, no matter how companies cut wages–directly or by shipping out the work–those lower wages weighed on the whole economy. Workers whose wages are cut buy less. The capitalists were, here again, shrinking their own market.

Finally, in order to increase their profits, the capitalist class turned more and more to the state apparatus–at every level, federal, state and local–getting more tax breaks, more subsidies, more schemes by which money was drained out of public coffers, that is, out of education, out of public services, out of social services.

This also weighed on the population–and at the same time, it boomeranged on the productive economy. We are constantly bombarded with demands to pay for what is supposed to be socially provided. We end up paying for supplies and our children’s schools because the school board doesn’t provide them or we pay to repair our cars because the city doesn’t repair potholes.

As the state apparatus takes money out of public services, social services and education to give handouts to the big and little corporations, the population has less to spend on daily needs. And thus the capitalists shrink their own market still further.

The very things the capitalists did to increase profits–that is, to cut jobs, to cut wages, to cut social programs, to cut public services, to cut education. This limited possibilities for the capitalists themselves to realize profit from production, since less and less could the population buy what the capitalists produced in their factories and service industries.

Taking the Money and Running to Wall Street

So, as the capitalists’ profits continued to mount, they shifted their capital from production, putting it into speculative ventures. Look at GM–more and more they produced only for the most profitable market at the time: trucks and SUVs. Then they took their profits and funneled them into GMAC, which used them to buy up 11 different mortgage companies, and then went head over heels into the speculation in sub-prime mortgages.

The wizards of Wall Street bought and sold whole productive companies, draining money out of production in order to speculate.

Cerberus is the perfect example. It bought up Chrysler from Daimler. No one knows exactly how much money exchanged hands in that deal, or how much Cerberus drained out of Chrysler before it was done.

We do know that Cerberus, immediately after buying Chrysler, mortgaged the whole company, using all its plants and productive facilities for collateral. Cerberus quickly put Chrysler 10 billion dollars in debt.

Cerberus did not spend a penny of this 10 billion to develop new models for Chrysler–there weren’t any developed in the two years Cerberus was in control. Cerberus did not spend money on new plants–there were none. It didn’t spend money on retooling old plants. It didn’t spend money on hiring additional workers. It cut workers. As for production–Cerberus announced that Chrysler had made a 1.1 billion dollar profit during the first six months of production under Cerberus.

Cerberus took at least 10 billion dollars and who knows how much more and ran away–less than two years after it bought Chrysler.

Cerberus is not the only one involved in financial wheelings and dealings.

For the last 20 years, vast amounts of money have been drained out of production over into the financial sphere–and from there up in the smoke of financial speculation–and eventually into a deadening collapse.

Years before the current collapse broke out last September, the outlines of what would happen could be seen. The wizards of Wall Street should have been able to see the dangers in the speculation.

In fact they did. That’s why they took out insurance on their risky ventures with companies like AIG. But they did nothing to stop their economy from slamming into the wall.

Same Old, Same Old....

So now what? The very same people who told us that they had everything under control–even as the speculation was growing more uncontrollable–are now telling us that things are beginning to look up, beginning to look a little bit better, if not this month, then next month, if not next month, then next year, but soon, sometime soon.

They don’t know and we certainly can’t say exactly where things will go. Are we going to definitively slide into that new "Great" depression in the next months? Or will all these maneuvers being engineered in the banking system pull the economy out for a very short period of time? In any case, if this monstrous many trillion dollar bail out works, it will work only to give still more money to the same people who speculated before, and they will do the very same thing, but at an even crazier level. They will speculate. In fact, they already are. They are taking all that government money they are getting from the bailouts and pouring it into the stock market and markets for oil and energy–driving up stock prices, as well as the price we pay at the pump.

At the same time, the capitalists are continuing to slash jobs, pay, pensions while the government slashes jobs and services.

In other words, if the bailout pulls us out of this latest speculative collapse, it will only be to feed a still greater bout of speculation that itself can end only in a still more brutal collapse.

We have to remember that this latest financial speculation and collapse are not the first. Since the mid-1970s, we"ve lived through a number of recessions precipitated by the collapse of speculative manias–in oil, in the savings and loans, in precious metals and the dollar, or in the so-called "new economy" stocks, etc. And after each collapse came a new round of speculation–leading only to another collapse.

Capitalism has brought us to a complete dead-end. And working people will not get out of it by waiting on the capitalists or their political representatives.

And we have no reason to wait. The force represented by all those workers coming under attack today is more than enough, way more than enough to back off the capitalists, to force them to pay for the crisis they created.

Pages 6-7

Iran’s Protests

Jun 22, 2009

After the Islamic authorities declared incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of the June 12 elections, every day hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest in Iran.

Ahmadinejad organized protests by his own supporters. But most demonstrators are supporters of two opposition candidates, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who both charged fraud. To forestall the movement, at first the Council of Guardians of the Revolution and its "Supreme Ruler" Ali Khamenei, the real power in Iran, proposed a recount of the votes. But opponents wanted Moussavi proclaimed the victor.

On June 19, Khamenei in a major broadcast came out clearly in support of Ahmadinejad, and threatened the protestors that if they did not stop their protests, there would be "bloodshed and chaos." This was the signal for the police and the paramilitaries to crack down much harder on the demonstrators. The number of protestors shrank to the tens of thousands, but appeared to resist several killings and many, many different forms of attack.

Three candidates chosen by the regime

The Islamist dictatorship, in power since the fall of the Shah in 1979, organizes elections to choose the president. But this post is only a sort of prime minister, who serves as a lightning rod in times of crisis. The true boss of Iran remains the "Supreme Ruler," who is elected by the top Shiite clergy. His candidate in these elections was the current president, Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad is a former member of the Islamist militia that repressed the population when the Islamist regime was consolidating its dictatorship after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. He remains one of its pillars.

But Moussavi is no stranger to the Islamist regime. He may present himself as a "moderate" and a "reformer," but he was also the prime minister chosen by Ayatollah Khomeini. An architect by profession, Moussavi even designed the mausoleum of the Ayatollah Khomeini after he died in 1989.

The "choices’ offered to the Iranian voters in these elections were very controlled. But like many other politicians, Moussavi knew how to appeal to a part of the urban classes who no longer supported the Islamist dictatorship, including students and intellectuals, ethnic minorities, and also women. Moussavi made vague promises to reform the "morals police," the vicious religious thugs who attack women for how they appear in public. A part of the commercial bourgeoisie also fears that Ahmadinejad’s boasts about Israel and nuclear power would provoke Israeli or U.S. bombing. They blame Ahmadinejad for the economic difficulties in Iran that stem from the U.S. embargo.

But Ahmadinejad certainly didn’t lose his popular base, which is outside the large cities. This base assured his election in 2005 and may still represent the majority of the population. When Ahmadinejad feared losing the vote of the most desperate Iranians, he distributed food, and sent his ministers into the provinces to "get closer to the people." And he used oil income for the construction of infrastructure.

But the rise in unemployment and inflation, the increase in food prices and rents, the rationing of gasoline (in a country that exports oil!) led Western journalists to predict Ahmadinejad would have to face a runoff election, between the two front runners. The result announced on election night, giving Ahmadinejad 63% of the vote, was a surprise to many. Supporters of two other candidates went out into the streets with signs saying, "Where’s my vote?"

A dictatorship that many no longer support

What was the real extent of the fraud? The opposition says it possesses the true results giving the first and second places to Moussavi and Karoubi. It’s possible that the Islamist dictatorship decided to proclaim the third-place candidate as the winner. But it could also be true that Ahmadinejad has enough support from the poorest milieus to be able to win the election.

For the moment voters who feel cheated have continuously demonstrated in the streets of Iran’s larger cities. Demonstrators include students, the middle classes of the big cities, the so-called "modernist" petty bourgeoisie who no longer supports the stranglehold of the religious state. The regime closed the Internet and the cell phone networks and launched its police against those demonstrating. While Moussavi called for calm, demonstrators continued to go out into the streets.

On June 15, there were estimates of one to two million protesters in Teheran. Moussavi joined these protestors, saying he "was ready to participate in a new election." The confrontations with police were violent, causing seven deaths among the demonstrators.

Will the demonstrators continue? It would be possible for the Islamic regime to arrange a compromise with Moussavi, who served it before. He could help the dictatorship smooth diplomatic relations with the big powers.

The working classes and the protest

Whether the fraud was real or not, or changed the outcome of the election, the demonstrations show that a part of the Iranian population no longer supports the dictatorship.

It remains to be seen how deep this discontent really is. If a part of the urban layers no longer support the medieval type of constraints enforced by this religious dictatorship, it is not as true for the working class layers, concerned with more immediate problems of economic survival. It’s doubtful whether working people could view the current mobilization as aimed at satisfying their demands. That is what has certainly established the solidity of Ahmadinejad and behind him, the Islamic regime.

It is certainly in the interests of the workers and the immense poor majority of the Iranian population to get rid of this dictatorship. But to substitute a regime that is more modern and more open to the West is not an answer. After all, this is what they already had under the Shah.

To satisfy the essential needs of the poor population, the movement must aim for a revolution.

Continental Tire Workers Win

Jun 22, 2009

The following article is based on an article in the June 12 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On June 6, 700 workers approved an agreement between a union committee and the top management of the Continental AG tire company. There was strong emotion in the general assembly of the workers, each feeling they had won an important victory in their struggle that began on March 11.

This included big demonstrations outside the plant and in the town, as well as at the company headquarters in Paris and the parent company’s stockholders’ meeting in Hanover, Germany, where the Continental workers joined with German workers. And the Continental workers joined with the struggles of other workers in the area who were fighting layoffs.

As a result, the 1,200 workers at Continental’s Clairoix factory forced the company to rescind the layoffs of 650 workers set for October 2009. Instead, the company guaranteed pay until 2012. The government will pay unemployment compensation when their hours are reduced.

Further, workers are going to get a large lump payment and double the ordinary severance pay depending on years of service. This adds up to $70,000 for a just-hired unskilled worker and goes to $140,000 for the most senior. The higher skilled will get more.

For those age 52 or over on December 31, 2009, Continental guarantees that they will get an early retirement pension.

The Continental workers continued to mobilize after winning these gains. They joined the 800 workers from a Goodyear tire plant in Amiens, who are also threatened with layoffs, in a rally in front of the Continental tire factory. The Goodyear workers had come to thank the Continental workers for supporting their cause at a rally in front of the Goodyear plant a week before. Later that same day, 1,500 workers went to a neighboring town to support other fights against plant closings and job cuts. These included the struggle of the Lear auto parts workers who have been on strike for nine weeks, as well as workers at Smile and UTI, two auto subcontractors, who are also threatened with layoffs. At this demonstration, the workers spoke of the necessity of a struggle of all the workers.

Two days later, more than 900 Continental workers held a meeting in front of the factory. They unanimously adopted a motion proposed by the struggle committee to continue their mobilization, especially since seven workers still face trial on trumped up charges from an earlier demonstration.

Windsor City Workers Strike against Two-Tier

Jun 22, 2009

City workers in Windsor, Ontario, in Canada are on strike, fighting an attempt by the city to set up what here is called a “two-tier” system of retirement benefits. Under the guise that the cuts will only affect new hires and some current workers, the city hopes to convince most current workers that it is no concern to them, and that newer workers will see it as far enough away that it is not that important.

The response by city workers has been a strike that has lasted more than nine weeks thus far. Up until now the strike has been put in front of other workers by picket lines and some demonstrations. But the city administration has tried to turn other workers against the strikers by blaming them for garbage accumulating, parks left uncut, etc.

But the Windsor city workers have all the means to trump that–by calling on other workers to join them. Certainly every worker is under attack and everyone has reason to join a common fight.

A strike like this could have an influence on many other workers, including in Detroit, which is just across the river from Windsor.

Page 8

Remember Vincent Chin

Jun 22, 2009

Twenty-seven years ago this month, on June 19th, 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American, was beaten to death with a baseball bat in Detroit. His killers were a supervisor who worked at a Chrysler plant, and his laid off step-son.

The two had earlier yelled racist insults at Chin when they were all at the same bar. They thought he was Japanese, and one of the men had yelled, “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work.”

During the depths of recession in 1982, plant closings, layoffs, and big concessions were all blamed on imports, including supposedly, “foreign” oil, and in Detroit, foreign cars. This view was pushed by everyone: the news media, politicians, the companies. These lies were also spouted by the UAW, even as they helped ram concessions after concessions down workers’ throats. Some union officials even organized workers to smash Japanese cars with sledge hammers in PR events for the media.

This racist and ultra-nationalist climate, in its extreme, contributed to the death of Vincent Chin. But for the corporate bosses, it also served to disarm workers and divert them away from organizing against the very U.S. companies that were responsible for closing plants, imposing speed-up, and cutting wages and benefits, while they maintained their profits and rewarded their CEOs.

Today, faced with an even deeper crisis, this kind of propaganda is rearing its ugly head again, and again being pushed by the union apparatus. Today, for example, the United Steelworkers Union, in open partnership with United States Steel Corporation, has launched “Keep it Made in America” rallies and bus tours, with the support of some UAW officials wherever the rallies take place. Once again, this anti-foreign, whether it’s anti-transplant, or anti-Mexican or Canadian worker propaganda, is being used to divert workers’ anger here about the loss of jobs and decent wages and benefits.

Today, workers need not be side-tracked or diverted once again by this nationalist and racist garbage.

Murder and Anti-Semitism

Jun 22, 2009

On June 10, James von Brunn walked into the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and opened fire with a rifle, killing Stephen Johns, a security guard. Other guards shot von Brunn, stopping him from killing more people.

Von Brunn is a virulent anti-Semite, who denies the Holocaust and the extermination of six million Jews during World War II. The Holocaust was carried out by the Nazis. But the Nazis could not have killed so many people without the support, or at least tacit acceptance by other governments and world leaders, including those in the U.S. None of them did anything to disrupt the slaughter. They didn’t even condemn it when it was going on–which is documented very carefully, by the way, in the Holocaust Museum.

Of course, someone like von Brunn comes out of a racist extreme-right-wing current, which spews its hatred against other minorities, starting with black people and immigrants. But what they blame the Jews for is a secret international conspiracy that they say owns and runs the capitalist economy. These racist ideas come not just from the Nazis and Hitler. They were also fostered by the likes of Henry Ford, the U.S. auto magnate, who published anti-Semitic attacks in his very own local newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. Most famously in the 1920s, Ford dug up and published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery earlier manufactured by the Russian Tsarist Secret Police in their own witch hunt against Jews. Ford later had the Iron Cross award pinned on him by Hitler.

Of course, the capitalists and those who represent them always foster racism and prejudice in order to divert ordinary people’s anger from the real cause of their problems, that is, the workings of the capitalist system itself. But in a more desperate time period like this, with so many people hit by the worsening economic situation–as well as the worsening wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan–racist views are being pushed on the working class, who are under attack by the capitalists.

These racist and dangerous ideas must be confronted wherever they are spouted. But that is not enough. The working class must find ways to organize itself to fight against the real cause of the job losses and cuts in ordinary people’s standard of living. And that means once again taking up the fight against the bosses and their government.

Anti-Immigrant Gang Kills Father and Daughter in Cold Blood

Jun 22, 2009

An Arizona sheriff has charged three members of an anti-immigrant group of murdering 29-year-old Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter Brisenia in their home south of Tucson, about 10 miles from the Mexican border. Flores’ wife, Gina Maria Gonzales, was wounded by the killers who were dressed as cops. She survived only because she was able to use a shotgun to hold them off.

According to the sheriff, the gang was attempting to rob Flores in order to finance their activities. The gang is now also suspected of carrying out robberies and burglaries in California.

Shawna Forde, the leader of this gang, the anti-immigrant group Minuteman American Defense (a split-off from a larger Minuteman group), has ties with right-wing politicians. During the run-up to the 2008 presidential primaries, the group co-sponsored an anti-immigrant forum and rally which featured campaign staffers for Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who was running for president, along with a letter of support from the candidate himself. The meeting was addressed via telephone by California Congressman Duncan Hunter, also seeking to become a candidate for president, and by Congressional hopeful Doug Roulstone.

These politicians always claim they oppose the violence of gangs like Forde’s. But they certainly create the atmosphere that makes this kind of violence more likely. They systematically whip up hysteria and prejudice against immigrant workers, blaming them for the loss of jobs and the crime that the bosses and their system create.

In fact, they are tools of the bosses, trying to weaken and divide workers who are faced with attacks carried out by the bosses.

Large Loophole in the Sun

Jun 22, 2009

The Caymans have about 48,000 people and almost two trillion dollars in their banks. How is that possible? Tourism? No, tourism isn’t doing so well.

But business tricks and maneuvers are doing well. The Caymans is home to thousands and thousands of companies–12,000 of them located in one building. Is this the largest building in the world? No, it’s just one of the biggest tax scams.

The Caymans is one of those places where U.S. corporations stash their money so they won’t have to pay U.S. taxes.

KBR, the subsidiary of Vice President Cheney’s company Halliburton, is paying at least 21,000 employees by means of a Cayman Island company so they can avoid paying U.S. federal and state taxes and Social Security.

Enron’s executives, before Cheney, found the Cayman Island tax loopholes very profitable.

The IRS estimates that the loss in tax revenue is more than 100 BILLION dollars to the Treasury every year.

President Obama said his administration would close this loophole, proposing, however, to get only 10¢ on the dollar of taxes owed. That still leaves 90% in the hands of these tax crooks.

Trust the politicians to look after their wealthy friends so they can enjoy sun, sand, sea ... and tax breaks.

Search This Site