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. 874 — August 2 - 16, 2010

Don’t Leave the Criminals Who Created the Crisis in Control

Aug 2, 2010

Listen to the “experts” – people who study the way the capitalist economy works for the capitalists – listen to what even they say about the current economic “recovery.”

Here’s Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies: “I’ve never seen anything like this: Bosses threw out far more workers and cut more hours than they lost output. That kind of disconnect has never been seen before in all the decades since World War II.”

Or here’s the opinion of Robert Pozen of Harvard Business School and former head of Fidelity Investments: “Because of high unemployment, management is using its leverage to get more hours out of workers.”

And here’s the view of Ethan Harris, chief economist for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch: “There’s no question there is an income shift going on in the economy. Companies are squeezing their labor costs to build profits.

Of course, we didn’t need the “experts” to tell us how bad things are for us. But it’s useful to get this reminder, from the “experts” themselves, that our misery is what provided these profits. Every job cut, every hour cut, ever bit of our wages cut, every furlough day provided those profits – which increased by 42% this year!

Productivity – this vicious push to squeeze more work out of each hour of our labor – ends up with more of us out of work, and with more money in the bosses’ pockets.

Having taken everything for themselves, the corporations are so awash in cash they don’t know what to do with it. They hand it over to the banks to speculate, and they speculate themselves – beginning the spiral that leads to the next financial explosion.

And, yet, there are people who tell us to wait, that things will get better. Obama dared to do that just last week when he dropped into auto plants to justify the concessions he wrung from the workers, bragging that he had saved their companies and their jobs, telling them, however, that the companies still weren’t stable, and so the workers had to ... wait!

Wait? No!

We have been waiting all this time, and where did it get us?

Waiting is a death sentence.

There is no hope for us, for our families and for the whole society unless we regain our readiness to fight.

As angry as people are, there could be a social explosion at any moment. You can feel it. But if we back off the capitalists and their politicians for a moment, that’s not enough. The question is, if we lash out in anger, then what? What do we fight for?

We have to insist there be no more lay-offs, not one more.

We have to insist that everyone out of work should get a job. If the capitalists don’t want to provide more jobs, than divide up the jobs that exist, put everyone to work, everyone working fewer hours, but with no loss in pay.

Everyone needs a decent paying job – no two-tier. Bring everyone up.

Everyone needs a decent retirement when they’ve put in their thirty or even forty years – no cuts in benefits, no scheming away what we get from our pensions or Social Security and Medicare.

The capitalists have made a mess of everything. Don’t leave them in control. We, those of us who do the work, can do a better job of making the society run.

Don’t leave their banks in control – their speculation has created the crisis. Make them open up the real financial books of every corporation and bank. Let’s see what really is going on. Let’s see how all the profits are made. Let us decide how society’s wealth shall be used.

We have created this society with our labor. We should decide how to run it.

Pages 2-3

Flooded Basements

Aug 2, 2010

The heavy rain, with 7 inches falling in Chicago in just a few hours, flooded many basements. The underground sewer system overflowed, causing the water to back up. And the city dumped vast amounts of sewage into Lake Michigan, closing the beaches just when people wanted to go there to cool off.

For more than 30 years, local government has been digging the Deep Tunnel under the city, spending more than three billion dollars. But the job won’t be finished until 2019. Until then, we’ll continue to suffer from flooded basements.

This project could be finished in a year or two. Vast numbers of construction workers are out of work. The equipment stands idle. But the politicians prefer to give billions to the banks, which does nothing to solve the unemployment ... or stop the flooding.

Municipal Corruption

Aug 2, 2010

Public officials in Bell, a small, working-class city of about 40,000 people near Los Angeles, have been paying themselves handsomely – $788,000 a year for the city manager, $376,000 a year for his assistant manager, $457,000 a year for the police chief.

Bell’s elected city council members, who approved these “Rich and Famous” style salaries for the appointed officials, took care of themselves too. Four of the five council members paid themselves about $100,000 a year each – while they laid off city workers and cut services for residents.

How many more public officials in the Los Angeles area have been robbing the population so shamelessly? We may never even know, as things stand.

Bell, like many other small cities in the country, doesn’t have a newspaper. This story, which required some detective work, was brought to light by two Los Angeles Times reporters – exactly the kind of local reporters that the L.A. Times has been laying off lately!

Stealing from Schools to Pay the Banks

Aug 2, 2010

Two State of Michigan take-overs of the Detroit Public Schools have bled the DPS dry. The state appointees have blatantly served as fronts for the banks.

Thanks to their actions, in 2011, the district will need 523.8 million dollars to service its debt. That number comes to more than 90% of what it gets from the state in per-pupil aid for the year.

In other words, thanks to the state and its “financial managers,” the DPS takes the state funding and hands it right over to the banks!

Kenneth Burnley, who was appointed CEO in the first state take-over of the district in 2000, borrowed 210 million dollars in “deficit reduction bonds” from several banks. These are like sub-prime loans on steroids: the payments start out small, then balloon out of control after several years. And, they actually use state per-pupil funding to pay them back. State law was conveniently changed to allow such bonds.

While Burnley was CEO of the DPS, he made it look like he had solved its fiscal problems. Only after he left did the bond payments explode, leaving the district awash in even more debt. The state blamed the district’s new school board, and said it needed fiscal control: another state-appointed head.

Robert Bobb, the “emergency financial manager” appointed by the state last year – supposedly to reduce the DPS deficit – has done exactly the same thing Burnley did, but on an even more massive scale. He borrowed hundreds of millions more on these ballooning bonds, accounting for 515.5 million of the 523.8 million dollars set aside to pay the DPS debt in the 2010-2011 school year.

All the while, Burnley and Bobb have attacked district employees, as if they are the cause of the district’s financial problems. In the past two years alone, Bobb has closed tens of schools and laid off thousands of district employees.

It has all been part of an ongoing campaign, over the past ten years at least, to gut the district and hands its money over to banks, for-profit charter schools, and other corporate contractors.

Government officials all talk about how they want to “improve” schools, to “help the children.” Their actions show otherwise: they see school budgets as a source of big gifts to banks and corporations, and let the children be damned.

Lots of Profit, No Education

Aug 2, 2010

A Senate report showed that, since 1995, students who got federal student loans to attend four-year “for-profit colleges” have defaulted at twice the rate as among graduates of public four-year colleges.

Students pay more for these for-profit colleges, and get less – if anything. Graduates have testified that they can’t get jobs because the schools are not even accredited. The government has never required the for-profit colleges to meet the same educational standards as public colleges.

Yet the for-profit education business has been booming – thanks to rising unemployment, and states cutting back on public education. In many states enrollment at for-profit colleges increased by 20%.

Profits increased even more. The average profit of the higher education companies, which sell their stocks on Wall Street, was almost twice as high in 2009 as the year before.

How do the workers, who turn to these schools, pay the high tuition they charge? From student loans, which the government guarantees.

That way, the banks make their profits, and the schools make theirs. Last year, 86% of the income of the University of Phoenix came from federal loans. Phoenix is owned by the Apollo Group, a big Wall Street investment firm.

It’s another profit-making machine for Wall Street and banks. Taxpayers – that is, the same workers who are cheated of an education – pay the bill.

Pages 4-5

Strike against Gas Price Increase

Aug 2, 2010

As in every country, the Indian government wants the population to pay for the crisis. At the end of June, the government proposed to end the subsidy for gasoline, supposedly in order to reduce the budget deficit. It’s a 7% increase in the price of gas. Overall inflation in India is already high, running at more than 10%.

On July 5, Indian workers responded with a 24-hour general strike against the announced increase in gas prices. The strike greatly reduced plane, train and truck traffic. Workers and poor people also set up roadblocks. The strike also shut schools, trade and businesses in many areas. The strikers held demonstrations in the big cities, particularly in Mumbai (Bombay), India’s financial capital.

According to a business organization, this one day strike cost the bosses 640 million dollars. For the moment, the government still plans the increase in gas prices.

For years, working and poor people in India have suffered from the high cost of living. In 2008, several strikes and demonstrations took place, after two increases in the price of heating gas and gasoline.

It remains to be seen if the workers and the poor will continue their offensive in the weeks to come.

British Leader Knew War Was Based on Lies

Aug 2, 2010

Seven years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the former director general of MI-5 (Britain’s FBI) now tells a government board of inquiry that “Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, and I have never seen anything to make me change my mind.”

The director, Baroness Manningham-Buller, led MI-5 from 2002 to 2007. Let’s set the record straight: for eight long years, as a top official she was part of the campaign that justified the war. Even though she knew the truth, she kept her mouth shut, while the war raged. Now she expects to be rewarded for supposedly telling a small part of the truth after two whole countries and generations of people, including in Britain and the U.S., have died.

Afghanistan Wiki-Leaks:
No Big Surprise

Aug 2, 2010

Last week a huge batch of 92,000 classified military documents were leaked to the public for the first time, offering an “unvarnished, ground-level picture” of the war in Afghanistan, as the New York Times put it. Unvarnished they may be – but surprising, they’re not.

Yes, they certainly offer a grimmer picture of the war than that offered by the Obama administration, or by Bush before him. But the supposed revelations focused on by the news media – that the so-called U.S. allies in Afghanistan are corrupt; that civilians have been killed and even targeted by U.S. forces in Afghanistan; that U.S. special forces have been operating in Pakistan; and even that the U.S. has used assassination squads to further its objectives – have all been said over and over and over again, by the peoples of that region and by U.S. soldiers coming out of that war.

The crime has been that the news media have ignored the vast majority of such stories until it was all thrust upon them with these leaks.

The news media have been willingly helping to sell a war that is nothing but a brutal attack on the entire population of Afghanistan. “Success,” to the U.S., could only come at that population’s expense, and could only be achieved when (and if) the population could be beaten into submission.

It needs to end NOW.

Anti-Immigrant Sheriff on Rampage

Aug 2, 2010

The day a federal judge blocked parts of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, Sheriff Joe Arpaio made a point of starting one of his big sweeps in Phoenix.

In two days, Arpaio’s deputies arrested 64 people – especially targeting what they called “traffic violators who might also be illegal immigrants.” By the end of the two days, all but six of those arrested had already proven that they are in the U.S. legally!

This Sheriff Arpaio has been raiding Hispanic neighborhoods and harassing working people like this for years. He has done things like parading immigrants in the streets from jail to jail, putting them in tents – like in a concentration camp – and feeding them a green slop.

And Arpaio’s raids have been authorized, and paid for, by the federal government under a 1995 law! Only last October did the Obama administration announce that it was taking away Arpaio’s authority as a federal deputy. But it turned out to be a show – the Obama administration has done nothing to actually stop Arpaio from continuing the kind of attacks on immigrants that would make the Klan proud.

And that has only made Arpaio bolder. If government officials, both state and federal, are allowing Arpaio to go on with his atrocities, it’s only because they find the likes of him useful as part of their “law enforcement.”

Federal Government and Arizona Both Attack Immigrants

Aug 2, 2010

A federal judge blocked parts of an Arizona state law, which authorizes local cops to go after undocumented immigrants. The judge said the law interfered with the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration law.

In other words, according to this judge, it’s OK to raid Hispanic neighborhoods and round up workers, tear them apart from their families and deport them. This judge just says that states can’t do it – unless the federal government allows them to do it.

And that’s exactly what the federal government has been doing. Since 1995, under a federal program known as 287(g), the federal government has already been using the same state and local police forces against immigrants.

The attacks on immigrants have only increased since Obama took office last year. The Obama administration has vastly expanded the prison system for the detention of immigrants – from 14 to 437 jails! And it has been deporting more immigrants than the Bush administration did. This year the government expects to deport a record 400,000 people – “the maximum number the courts can handle,” as the director of ICE, the federal immigration agency, bragged.

Under Obama in 2009, ICE audited 1,444 workplaces for immigrants – nearly three times more than under Bush in 2008. And ICE has doubled the audits this year. These hypocrites dare to claim this is a more “humane” way to catch and deport immigrant workers. As if it makes a difference whether you lose your livelihood and your family in a raid or in an audit!

Either way, the government is criminalizing immigrants. Look at ICE director Morton’s own words. He said half of the people already deported this year had a “criminal” conviction – and what “crime”? Morton mentioned “driving without a license” – which, of course, undocumented immigrants are forced to do, unless they commit another “crime” – obtaining fake papers. And as for the other half of those deported, it was the first time they were caught without papers. In other words, their “crime” is trying to make a living, by taking a low-paying job, as most immigrants do!

By criminalizing immigrant workers and viciously attacking them, these politicians – both state and federal, both Republican and Democrat – are trying to deflect workers’ anger from the real enemy – the bosses. If jobs are hard to come by these days, it’s because the bosses are cutting them. The bosses say it themselves, openly.

It’s the same, age-old tactic of the bosses, to turn “native” workers against “foreign” workers – in order to enslave both. And the bosses’ politicians play their part in this dirty game. Some of them, like the Democrats and Obama, may pose as a “friend of immigrants” to get their support during elections. But they are as deadly an enemy to immigrants – and all workers – as the Republicans are.

Pages 6-7

GM Workers Say No!

Aug 2, 2010

In Indianapolis, Indiana, GM is demanding that workers at a stamping plant take a 50% wage cut, so that GM can sell off the plant to supplier J.D. Norman.

On May 26, the Local 23 membership voted to deny authority to any union leader to re-open their contract or to negotiate with J.D. Norman. The vote was 384 to 22 – the workers left no room for doubt!

Nevertheless, International UAW officers like regional director Mo Davison are trying to cut deals behind the workers’ backs. And there has been intense pressure from the governor, the mayor, and GM honchos threatening the workers that if they don’t accept the pay cuts, the plant will close.

But the workers of Local 23 have seen this play before. Indy Stamping itself once employed 6,000; now only 651 workers remain. Many of these are so-called “GM gypsies,” veterans of previous plant closures that forced them to transfer to Indianapolis from other cities. They have seen too many corporate lies, tricks, and false promises.

The workers’ existing contract provides transfer rights to other GM facilities in case the plant closes. Workers see no reason to give that up, let alone to allow a further 50% wage cut on top of concessions already given. Greg Clark, the local bargaining chairman, told reporters, “We don’t want it. We simply felt right now that we’ve given enough back to GM. Enough’s enough.”

He added, “There’s no sense in us setting a precedent and taking a wage cut. We’re not in this just for ourselves. The decision we make here affects not only Indianapolis. If we give in, the company will go after the people in the plants in Marion, Flint, and Parma for the same thing.”

That’s right. Workers have to take a stand, and it’s what they are doing: at Ford, Delphi, amongst workers in the city of Detroit, Wayne County and the state of Michigan.

More workers in more workplaces are beginning to refuse concessions.

More Profits, Fewer Jobs

Aug 2, 2010

In the second quarter, Alcoa Aluminum reported it had a big increase in profit with a large growth of sales.

Alcoa has laid off 37,000 workers since late 2008, “to match the realities of the recession,” as an Alcoa man put it. Now that Alcoa has more profitable times, will they rehire? Not a chance! Its chief financial officer said Alcoa was “minimizing rehires where possible” and “restructuring this quarter that will result in further reductions.”

If Alcoa can make profits after laying off 37,000 workers, they are trying to make even more profit by laying off even more workers, and force those still on the job to work as slaves.

GM Uses Gangster Methods

Aug 2, 2010

The following is from the July 30 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Two years ago, GM decided to close its automatic transmission plant in Strasbourg, France, saying it was losing money. GM Liquidation Company, which sells off assets that GM wants to get rid of, took over the factory.

Then General Motors got bailout money from the U.S. government and changed its mind, declaring it would resume control of the Strasbourg plant, at the price of one symbolic dollar. When production of transmissions stepped up a lot this spring, GM grew even more interested in its future.

But before taking over the plant, GM insisted on new concessions, including a wage cut of 10%. GM insisted that these conditions be approved by all the different unions, and that they agree to give up any right to protest or strike. If the unions did not agree, GM threatened to move the Strasbourg plant’s production to Mexico.

Facing this blackmail, three of the unions fell in line and supported the company’s plan, not telling the employees what all the concessions were. Out of 1,154 eligible to vote, 959 voted. Seventy%, worried about losing their jobs, agreed; 30% voted NO, a position defended by only one union, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT).

The NO vote was strongest among production workers, where the CGT has majority support. But production workers make up less than a third of all employees in the plant.

Those who voted YES were angry to learn about some of the concessions they only found out about after they ratified the contract, including straight time pay on Sunday and having to work long days without an overtime bonus.

The CGT representatives, as they promised, refused to sign off on the new proposals. Some 200 bosses, security guards and non-production workers then surrounded the CGT militants and held them hostage, threatening them both verbally and physically, to force them to sign the concessions. But the CGT reps refused.

Other production workers came to support these militants, but this attack by supervisors and technicians continued for some three hours. Management pretended to be unaware of the confrontation when the press arrived to report on it. The bosses are fully responsible for the violence that took place. Department heads went through various offices telling their employees that they needed to put pressure on the CGT union representatives to sign the new concessions.

The case of GM shows what the bosses are willing to do to the workers. The bosses try to force workers to accept all kinds of sacrifices so that the companies can continue to make profits despite the worsening crisis of their system. And the government supports the bosses against the workers in order to allow the richest capitalists to continue to enrich themselves.

The GM workers who refused to give in were right. They deserve the solidarity of all workers. And the best way to show this solidarity is for more workers to get ready to fight the attacks of the bosses and their politicians.

How NOT to Balance a Budget

Aug 2, 2010

Detroit, Michigan came up with another way to help out its corporate friends. It gave Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan a gift of 35 million dollars, which it calls a “New Market Tax Credit,” in exchange for moving 3,000 employees from its offices in Southfield, Michigan to the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit.

The city that is so broke it closes parks and schools – has found millions of dollars for tax breaks. Amazing!

Page 8

Michigan Oil Spill
– Profits before Safety

Aug 2, 2010

An oil pipeline ruptured near Battle Creek, Michigan, spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and spreading downstream for more than 25 miles to a nearby lake. The spill forced residents from dozens of homes to be evacuated, contaminated wildlife on the river, fouled fishing and recreation areas and could lead to toxic waste entering the food chain.

Enbridge Pipelines, the company that owns the ruptured pipeline, is huge – the world’s largest crude-oil pipeline company. It has had other spills and accidents, including an explosion at a pipeline in Minnesota that killed two workers in 2007.

Like the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, this pipeline rupture was a disaster waiting to happen. Since 2002, Enbridge has been given more than a dozen warnings or citations for violating safety and other standards and has been fined tens of thousands of dollars – a slap on the wrist.

Just like BP, Enbridge is a company that is making huge profits while skimping on maintaining the safety of its pipeline. Now, in addition to the largest release of oil ever in the Gulf of Mexico, we also have one of the largest oil spills in Midwest history.

BP CEO Leaves with a Golden Parachute Covered in Oil

Aug 2, 2010

JP Morgan Chase and other big investors forced BP to get rid of Tony Hayward, current head of the company. He served as the public face of BP and took the flack after the Gulf catastrophe.

What upsets the big stockholders of BP aren’t the ecological and social consequences of the millions of gallons of oil spread over four states on the Gulf of Mexico. Their concern is the financial consequences. BP stock has fallen sharply and there are more than 300 lawsuits filed against the company.

Tony Hayward’s pronouncements were presented as mistakes. For example, one month after the platform explosion he said that “the environmental impact of the oil spill will probably be very, very modest.” Hayward also said the “quantity of oil spilled” was “very small compared to the volume of the ocean.” Not just awkward mistakes, these statements show his scorn for the social consequences from BP’s oil drilling – consequences not limited to just this one oil spill.

The owners of BP chose to get rid of their servant, and to replace him by a new boss who won’t be associated with the Gulf catastrophe.

That’s how Hayward got his job. Back in 2007, Hayward succeeded a former boss whose image was tarnished by a deadly explosion at a Texas refinery and a mammoth leak from the Alaska pipeline.

According to his contract, Tony Hayward will leave with a severance pay of 1.5 million dollars – that is, a year’s salary – and 16 million dollars in his pension fund.

Workers who get fired don’t walk away with such a sweet deal!

Gulf Oil Clean-up Officials Pretend the Crisis Is Over

Aug 2, 2010

Bob Dudley, the new head of BP, announced that he was reducing the size of the clean up workforce in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil-absorbing boom, as well as other heavy equipment, has already been removed from some coastal areas. They have stopped production of boom in factories and they have cancelled catering contracts.

BP says the oil from the spill is shrinking and disappearing after they claim to have capped the blown-out well.

U.S. officials are now saying the same thing. “The light sheen remaining on the Gulf’s surface will continue to biodegrade and disperse, but will not travel far,” said one U.S. official.

But local people along the coast are outraged. As one example, on July 31, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser took reporters on a boat tour of an inlet about an hour south of New Orleans to show them where fresh globs of thick oil have saturated the marshes and huge tar balls have washed up.

From the beginning, BP tried to deal with the disaster like it was going away. It sprayed Corexit dispersants which are so poisonous they are banned in most countries. BP dropped the dispersants from planes and sprayed them underwater with its robotic submersibles. In reality, BP added millions of gallons of poisonous chemicals to the billions of gallons of oil. By dispersing the oil, BP was trying to make it look like it was disappearing. But it is there just the same. It is in enormous underwater plumes. And it is saturating the sea water, even if it is harder to see.

BP is doing exactly what it swore it would never do – pull out and wash its hands of the whole disaster, cutting its losses in the search for greater profit. All this with the blessings of the Obama Administration, the U.S. EPA and the Coast Guard.

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