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. 863 — February 15 - March 1, 2010

Editorial:
We Can’t Wait for Jobs until 2015!

Feb 15, 2010

Unemployment won’t get back down to 6% until 2015. And it won’t reach its pre-recession level of 5% until 2020. These are among the projections contained in the new President’s Economic Report.

2015? 2020? We can’t wait that long! The situation is truly catastrophic today – and has been for years. When the economy crashed into recession in December of 2007, with unemployment officially listed then at 5%, an important part of the working class was already being stalked by poverty.

So don’t tell us we have to wait – not until 2015, not until 2012, not at all.

The truly amazing item contained in this report is the statement that the economy has now entered into a “recovery,” and that growth will pick up this year and next.

To put it bluntly, the president’s economic advisers are expecting another “jobless recovery” – one during which profits balloon, executive compensation skyrockets, and dividends and bankers’ interest produce hundreds of billions of dollars. That kind of recovery. But no jobs – not enough to make up for what has been lost, not enough to keep up with young people entering the work force. Not nearly enough to stop the growing impoverishment of the laboring population.

Facing a raging forest fire, you bring out the emergency brigade, not a little bucket of water. Well, we are facing a truly catastrophic situation today, a real emergency. And it requires emergency steps, ones that this government has the resources to take.

As the very first step, companies must be forbidden to lay off any more workers. States, cities, counties and boards of education, too. No employer should be allowed to worsen the situation.

As a second step, all those people thrown out of their jobs, or cut off from the possibility to get one, must be provided with the means to survive until a job is made available. If the government, under both Democrats and Republicans, can throw trillions of dollars into the pockets of the bankers, it can provide billions for the survival of the population.

As a third step, all those too old, too sick or otherwise unable to work must be supported at an adequate level. This government has thrown away trillions supporting parasites who contribute absolutely nothing to the well-being of society – bankers, corporate executives. The elderly, the sick, the infirm are not parasites. They are part of the laboring population.

Then, the available work must be divided up among all those who want to work – with no loss in pay.

Of course, this would cut into corporate profits. So what? It would make the economy run again, serving the needs of the population.

Of course, the bankers who suck money out of every productive workplace would scream. So what? In fact, the vampire grasp of the bankers on society’s life blood has to be cut off.

The working population itself, situated in the very midst of the productive economy, has the means to determine what needs to be produced and how goods and services should be distributed.

Of course, neither Republicans nor Democrats would propose, much less carry out such a program, threatening as it would be to the bankers, the executives, the other parasites they serve. But the working population, when it begins to fight to protect itself from this emergency situation, could impose it.

Pages 2-3

DPS:
Bobb Flunks the Test

Feb 15, 2010

Robert Bobb, the “emergency financial manager” of the Detroit Public Schools, has announced plans to close an additional 40 schools in the district.

At the same time, he announced that underperforming students would not be given a “free pass” to the next grade level.

So, let’s get this straight: Bobb says Detroit students are not learning well enough – so he’s going to close 40 schools and lay off all those teachers?!

Apparently, a DPS financial manager is not required to pass first grade logic.

One Year Later, Still No Trial for Oscar Grant’s Killer

Feb 15, 2010

On January 8, a murderous Bay Area transit cop was finally brought in front of a pre-trial hearing. More than a year after the murder he committed. More than 350 miles away from the scene of the crime.

The murder of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old butcher, can still be seen on the internet. While another cop was holding Grant down on the ground, Johannes Mehserle drew his gun and shot Grant in the back. Dozens of witnesses saw this execution-style shooting of a black man at an Oakland subway station. Some of them captured it on cell-phone cameras.

The authorities did nothing to arrest this cold-blooded murderer – until 12 days later, and then only after numerous protests.

The authorities did make sure, however, that the trial does not happen in Oakland. Claiming that an Oakland jury would “not be objective,” they moved the trial to Los Angeles, where there has been a total news blackout about the shooting.

Not objective??? In fact Oakland residents have the experience needed to be very objective. Some people saw what happened, and many more know what the Oakland cops are like.

Food Stamps in Ohio

Feb 15, 2010

In Ohio, where car parts are made, food stamp use is up by about 60% in Erie County (vibration controls), 77% in Wood County (floor mats) and 84% in Van Wert (shifting components and cooling fans). Today’s unemployed workers prepaid for these stamps several times over in taxes taken from their paychecks when they were working.

Autopsy Confirms It:
Luqman Abdullah Was Murdered

Feb 15, 2010

The Chief Medical Examiner of Wayne County, Michigan finally released the autopsy on Imam Luqman Abdullah – more than three months after he was killed.

Luqman Abdullah was a community activist who was widely known for helping the poorest people in his area for years.

The autopsy report confirms what those protesting Imam Luqman’s killing already knew: it was murder, plain and simple, carried out execution-style by the FBI.

And it was a setup. The FBI used a criminal informant, a man Luqman had helped in the past, to lure him to a deserted warehouse in Dearborn. Why Dearborn? Obviously, if they had murdered him on the streets of Detroit where he was known, they could well have faced an angry community.

The FBI claims that Luqman shot first. So why did they not test his hands for gunshot residue?

Before killing him, the FBI set an attack dog on Imam Luqman. This was confirmed by puncture wounds to his face and upper body shown in the autopsy.

The autopsy proves the shooting was massive overkill. Imam Luqman was shot 21 times, including once in the back and once in the groin. All of his internal organs were destroyed. Quite simply, they wanted him dead.

The facts of the story are blatant – and those facts accuse the FBI of murdering another activist in the black community.

New Weather Emergencies, Old Government Inaction

Feb 15, 2010

The recent blizzards in the Mid-Atlantic states created disastrous conditions for millions of people. Cities like Washington D.C. and Baltimore weren’t prepared for three feet or more of snow on the ground that rarely, if ever, happens. But there are steps public officials could have taken to provide relief to the population.

First of all, they could have ordered every business, service and government office – other than essential ones – to stay closed so people could safely get away. Disciplinary action for workers’ failure to show up for work could have been prohibited. Transport by emergency vehicles for all workers required to show up for their jobs to maintain essential services could have been organized.

Officials could have mobilized military units to distribute food, medical supplies and other items desperately needed by the population. They could have used military vehicles to plow out all residential streets. Local governments could have assisted neighborhood associations to check on the well-being of all residents, and to organize the shoveling of side walks, paths and parking spaces.

These things could have been done – but weren’t. Capitalist society is not organized to respond to the needs of the population.

Warehousing the Sick for Profit

Feb 15, 2010

An investigative report by the New York Times revealed another ugly secret of for-profit health care: An industry of so-called long-term acute care hospitals has developed to skim profits from Medicare.

They are called hospitals but don’t deserve the name. They don’t have full-time doctors on staff. They don’t have to have doctors on the premises. If a patient needs actual surgery or emergency care, they are transferred to actual hospitals!

But, these so-called hospitals can bill Medicare at a high rate. They generate the most profit if patients are kept exactly 25 days – no more, no less, regardless of patients’ actual condition or needs.

Over 400 such for-profit hospitals were created in the last 25 years. The newspaper’s report cited estimates that these “hospitals” will bill Medicare 4.8 billion dollars this year, for warehousing 130,000 patients.

The Select Medical Corporation owns 89 such units. Select has no doctors on its board or in management. Select’s two top executives – a father and son – own a 200 million dollar share of the company.

A “hospital” like Select can lease a floor or two from an existing hospital. It can operate there as an independent entity, and then charge Medicare whenever a patient is transferred between floors. Twenty-five days in the acute care hospital – transfer to the emergency room below – re-admit to acute care for another 25 days, and a new $40,000 payment from Medicare!

What if Medicare does find abusive or dangerous practices at these hospitals? Medicare has no legal power to fine them or to reduce payments.

Regarding patient safety, one statistic stands out. In a 2006 study, 9 of every 1000 patients in such units developed serious infections. This compares to fewer than 3 per 1000 in other hospitals.

This scandalous situation is well known to the authorities. But when profits are involved, the interests of patient and taxpayer come dead last.

Pages 4-5

Money Flows for Big Capital

Feb 15, 2010

Crisis or not, the capitalists continue to throw billions around. Among the latest deals, Kraft Foods recently bought the British company Cadbury for a stupendous 18 billion dollars – six times what Kraft made in profit in 2008.

Cadbury is the British candy company that produces a number of well-known brands such as Hollywood Chewing Gum and many candy and chocolate bars. Kraft Foods is a giant international group, which has been buying up brands all over the world. In this country, it produces Kraft cheeses, Oscar Mayer meats, Philadelphia cream cheese, Maxwell House coffee, Nabisco crackers and Oreo cookies, among many other products.

With that same 18 billion dollars Kraft spent on Cadbury, it could pay 500,000 workers $3,000 a month to go on working a whole year. Instead, Kraft has announced its intention to make its employees foot the bill for its spending spree.

Kraft Foods has begun to cut its expenses by restructuring its head offices. And it already announced layoffs at Cadbury in Great Britain.

While the bill for this operation is being presented to the workers of the Kraft group, in the form of layoffs and of speedup, the capitalists have been generous to their accomplices. Kraft Foods distributed over 100 million dollars in commissions to the bankers who served as intermediaries in this transaction.

To Avoid a Catastrophe, Expropriate the Banks

Feb 15, 2010

The following is a translation of an article from Lutte Ouvri re (Workers Struggle), the paper of a revolutionary workers organization active in France.

A new financial storm is shaking the world capitalist economy. After several weeks with stock prices rising, the markets reversed. The exchange rate of foreign currencies went up and down like a yo-yo, and securities representing government debts went wild – even while government officials claimed that the crisis is ending.

That was a lie. There is no end to layoffs and business closings – a sign that the productive economy, which creates material goods, which is what counts, hasn’t revived at all.

The only revival has been in the profits of big business and of the banks and finance. This “revival” concerns only the capitalist class.

But, now, in one blow, finance threatens the world with a new crisis. Its fundamental mechanism is clear. In order to save the bankers and business profits, governments have distributed billions of dollars. Not only did they take this money from what could have been devoted to public services, but they went into debt to an unprecedented extent.

The money the capitalists got wasn’t devoted to productive investment, to new factories, new machines, to the creation of jobs. It has served only for financial operations, that is to say, speculation. Yesterday, the main object of speculation in the financial markets was in businesses and stocks on the stock market. Today, it is in bonds that represent State debt.

All the States are indebted up to their necks. And the richest States, the U.S. in the lead, are much more indebted than the others.

The speculators are today honing in on what they consider the weak link among the States that use the Euro as their money: Greece. Their next targets are Spain, Portugal and Ireland.

By betting on the bankruptcy of a State, the speculators help to provoke it. They know it’s dangerous, but they could care less when that gives them a return on their investment! The result of all this is that the common currency, the Euro, in a few weeks lost 10% of its value in relation to the dollar. The Euro itself may well shatter under the blows of speculative operations.

No one knows where this new financial crisis will go. No one can stop it, for the simple reason that it would be necessary to prevent speculation. But no government will stop what brings the highest return to the owners of capital. They are all in the service of the bankers, the owners and the stock holders of big business.

The bankers led the world economy to the edge of catastrophe, before being saved with money from the States. Hardly had they been saved than they began to speculate again. The new catastrophe that they prepare may be more grave than the last one.

The only way to prevent the bankers from causing harm is to expropriate them without compensation. The economy needs banks, but it doesn’t need bankers. Banking activity needs to be submitted to the control of the population. Of course, it’s necessary to get back the fantastic sums that the State handed to the banks. And those should be used to create jobs in hospitals, schools, public transit and public services. The survival of society depends upon it.

U.S. Wars:
No End in Sight

Feb 15, 2010

The following is part of a public meeting organized by Spark in Detroit. Parts of the film“Rethink Afghanistan” were also shown.

The news media pretend that the U.S. military began its involvement in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Move that date back about two decades.

Direct U.S. involvement in Afghanistan dates back to 1979, when the U.S. began to funnel secret aid to the opponents of the then pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan.

The U.S. provided the private armies of war lords and religious fundamentalists with huge amounts of arms and financial assistance, with money also given by the regime of Saudi Arabia, as well as other oil-rich Gulf states. Among these fundamentalists was Osama bin Laden, a member of one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden served as a conduit for Saudi money to finance the CIA war against the Soviet Union.

In return, the CIA had provided bases and training for bin Laden’s foreign fighters. The terrorists who were behind 9-11 came from some of these forces the CIA helped establish in the 1980s. As the CIA was quoted at the time of 9-11 – “We spawned our own monster.”

The fact is, the CIA spawned thousands and thousands of monsters like bin Laden. He happened to be the monster that bit the U.S. back – it’s what the CIA calls “blowback.”

After 9-11, U.S. imperialism, its reputation tarnished, needed to show how tough it could be.

So which country to attack? Never mind that bin Laden had been funded by the CIA and by Saudi Arabia, a major U.S. client state. Never mind that he was used and funded by another U.S. client state, Pakistan, through its CIA-funded Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, ISI.

Instead of stopping its own activities which had created and fostered those terrorists, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, overthrowing its government, attacking a civilian population who had nothing to do with the attack of 9-11 and setting up its own regime of warlords to control the population.

Having done this, the U.S. state apparatus, with Bush and Cheney at its head, then focused their attention on Iraq. Again, using the pretext of terrorism, pretending Al Qaeda forces were there, the U.S. attacked a whole population in order to impose its control over this oil-rich region.

But even though the actual U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was short-lived, and the U.S. pulled out most of its troops, the U.S. continued to carry out bombing campaigns to keep Afghanistan under control.

Over the years, the sum total of U.S. policies in the region created an unending chain of disasters, as the U.S. used peoples and militaries for its own purposes and gain. This has included using Pakistan and the Taliban against some of the warlords. Then playing India, Iran and the warlords against Pakistan and the Taliban, arming all the sides against each other. The U.S. has stoked wars in which millions of people have died. And now, once again, it is pushing war in Afghanistan.

Why?

Afghanistan, although impoverished – (where people average $3 per day) is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and it borders on much of the world’s known energy resources. It is a strategic area for exploitation by U.S. oil companies. For this reason, the U.S., defending the profits of its oil companies, is imposing terribly repressive and violent situations on the populations in this whole area.

The U.S. is using its military might to try to control and to stabilize an area crucial to the interests of U.S. imperialism. All in the name of fighting against terrorism, when the reality is the biggest terrorist, with the biggest weapons, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians ... is the U.S.

This terrorism, carried out against whole populations by the U.S., is what creates the possibility of individual terrorists coming back against the U.S. population. Attacks carried out by U.S. military, in our name, in wider and wider wars, only fuel anger in populations around the world that can come back to hit here.

If we had no other reason than to be concerned about our own well-being and safety, we should oppose these wars. But we have every reason to be in solidarity with oppressed people around the world to oppose our government, to keep it from destroying them.

For an end to terrorism – U.S. troops out of Iraq, out of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.

AND out of the 1000 military bases, located in 156 countries around the world.

U.S. War on Afghanistan
– Terrorism against Population

Feb 15, 2010

Thousands of U.S. marines, reinforced with NATO and Afghan troops, have launched a major attack on the city of Marjah, a farming town of 80,000 in southern Afghanistan.

A few days before the offensive, the U.S. military called a meeting of Afghan tribal elders, to convey the following message to the people of Marjah: “If you stay in your homes, you do so at your own peril. We’ll be cautious, but we will give no guarantees.”

What is this, if not an open threat to the residents of Marjah? If there had been any Taliban fighters there, as the U.S. military claims, they certainly will have fled the town by now.

No, the target of the assault on Marjah is not the Taliban, it’s the population of Afghanistan.

To continue, or even escalate this war, as the U.S. is doing in the name of a military “surge,” means to attack the population – and to terrorize it.

The assault on Marjah is proof of this.

Pages 6-7

CTA:
Cuts to Extort Cuts

Feb 15, 2010

On Sunday, February 7, the Chicago Transit Authority began massive cuts, with bus service reduced by 18% and rail by 9%. Some 1,050 workers were laid off.

These cuts hit riders hard. 500,000 people take the bus every weekday and 300,000 ride the subway trains. A number of express routes were cut, lengthening the trip to work. Many bus routes have shorter hours of service, hitting workers on late night jobs particularly hard. And there will be longer waits in the cold.

The CTA says it has no choice – it has a 95 million dollar deficit, and CTA workers won’t agree to concessions to cover it. Of course, the CTA has a choice. If the state of Illinois simply cancelled the 98 million dollars it is giving to one charter school operator, the United Neighborhood Organization, which is part of Mayor Daley’s patronage machine, the CTA cuts could be ended. Or the state could take money from the 322 million dollars it is giving to a handful of giant private railroad companies. Or the city of Chicago, which together with the CTA has handed over a 320 million dollar subsidy to developers for their so-called Block 37 CTA superstation downtown, could cover the deficit.

No, the city, state and CTA have choices – but their choice is to use the threat of service attacks to extort concessions from CTA workers.

Enough of that!

California:
Teachers’ Retirement Benefits in Danger

Feb 15, 2010

In one year, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System lost 25% of its value.

This drop was not caused by massive numbers of teachers suddenly retiring or a drop in the number of teachers employed. No, what dropped was the value of the huge amounts of very speculative investments held by the pension fund.

Speculation was the trustees’ way of covering up the state’s earlier lack of funding. California and local governments had put in only about 20% of what it would take to pay out all the retirement benefits promised.

And California wasn’t the only state to play this doubly dangerous game! Already two years ago, the New York Times reported that at least half the states, including some of the most populous such as New York, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Florida, had been underfunding their pension plans. In 2008 all public pension plans, state and local together, lost 40% of their value through investment losses, and were underfunded by more than one trillion dollars (over one third of their value).

Over the years, state and local pension funds helped feed the enormous speculative bubbles in real estate, stocks and bonds.

Now, to deal with the enormous drops in their holdings, some of them are reverting to ... more speculation.

The governing board of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System is now proposing to use a part of the 134 billion dollars that it still has under management to speculate in commodities like copper, crude oil, and who knows what else.

Putting all that pension money in commodities will certainly create enormous profits and fortunes for the big Wall Street companies, private equity firms and hedge funds. But California teachers will see their retirement float away in bursting bubbles.

Lutz Needs Reality Check

Feb 15, 2010

GM’s vice chairman, Bob Lutz, claims that he and the other GM executives are underpaid “way, way, way below market.”

If Chairman Bob wants to find out what underpaid is, he can go down to one of his assembly lines.

Put on your apron, Bob. Pick up your tools. Try to keep up!

Now you know what “underpaid” is.

Page 8

Haiti:
Organize to Survive

Feb 15, 2010

The population of Haiti continues to struggle to survive. Food rations bring some relief, but these relief supplies rarely reach the poor neighborhoods.

Since the beginning of the catastrophe, the population has had to rely on itself. Local authorities did not organize aid. The television in the U.S. emphasizes people saved by Western aid workers, but the majority have been aided by the population itself. The population of Haiti can have confidence only in itself. This is the assessment made by comrades of the Revolutionary Workers Organization of Haiti (OTR-UCI), who address the population in the following way.

The officials in charge have failed. They reveal themselves completely incapable of facing up to the consequences of the catastrophe. They were simply absent. The population is left not only without means, but without a plan, without the least indication of what must be done, without the least coordination. Those who were saved were saved by the population itself, through solidarity. This solidarity is our strength. Through these times of catastrophe, we’ve been able to verify in each courtyard, in each chance gathering, the value of men and women. It is among these whom we have been able to appreciate that we should choose our leaders.

It’s necessary to create, everywhere where it can be done, “survival committees,” to take charge of drawing up an inventory of needs and the distribution of everything that’s necessary to survive: water, medicine, food, bedding. We can trust only in ourselves, in those among us whom we’ve elected and who we can continue to watch. We don’t have to accept individuals profiting off of food and filling their pockets when we’re under the threat of death through hunger and thirst.

We can no longer have confidence in the police or the occupation troops from other countries. We ourselves must insure our own security. It’s necessary for men and women coming from our ranks, under our control, to assure order and security for all.

We’ve seen that we can’t count on anyone. But by organizing ourselves, we don’t need anyone. Organizing ourselves, electing our own leaders, we make ourselves heard collectively. These are the vital tasks of the hour. It is in our reach and it is indispensable.

It’s necessary to requisition all the food stocks, those of warehouses belonging to big importers, to the supermarkets and wealthy individuals, as well as the stocks of bedding material, cooking material and tools needed for clearing up the debris. Private property has no place in a collective catastrophe, and it’s opposed to the survival of human beings. It must be suspended, all the more as a number of rich individuals departed on the first evacuation planes, with their lives safe and suitcases full. The inventorying of these stocks must be done collectively. They must be requisitioned and where appropriate distributed under the control of all those leaders chosen by the concerned community. Individual pillage can and must be prevented through the discipline of a community that determines the priorities and stops things from being divided according to the law of the jungle.

In the same manner, food arriving through international aid must be apportioned. The control of the distribution of food by troops armed to the teeth not only is harmful to our dignity, but it absolutely doesn’t prevent anarchy, the law of the strongest; for these dispensers of food don’t know our real needs or priorities. It’s up to each community to assure its own discipline.

The authorities, the national ones who reappear now that they have demonstrated that they serve no purpose, as well as the international ones, in reality U.S. forces who openly exercise power, will all the more respect our needs and our demands when we make them heard. And to be heard means, above all, showing that we’re organized and that the representatives we give ourselves enjoy the mass support of the poor population.

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