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. 884 — January 10 - 24, 2011

Editorial:
They Are Attacking State Workers to Attack Us All!

Jan 10, 2011

Fox News started the campaign, but The New York Times picked it up. State workers are a “privileged class” or so they both said, as did almost every other bourgeois paper in the country. The New Jersey governor, addressing ordinary taxpayers, put it this way: “You are paying for benefits you’ll never have.”

All across the country, the politicians, the media and the wealthy class they both serve are carrying out a vicious campaign – and state workers are their target.

You would think that state and municipal workers have caused a budget crunch across the country. You would think that teachers are robbing the school systems, that the pensions of public employees will bankrupt us all.

It’s absurd.

And it’s nothing but the beginning of another lap in this race to the bottom that has pitted one section of the working class against another in a pitiful struggle over a few miserable crumbs.

Three years ago, auto workers were the target – but the rhetoric was all the same: “privileged workers,” “gold-plated pensions,” “Cadillac health care benefits.” Despite some resistance by auto workers, enormous cuts were imposed on them by the joint efforts of the Bush administration, the Obama administration, the auto companies and the top union leaders – with this result: newly hired auto workers, and now some of the already existing ones, are making only half as much pay, getting few medical benefits and no real pensions.

The standard of living of the workers who had once led the working class forward was pulled down. And after them, came how many others? If auto workers had to give up, then you do too – so said the mouthpieces for some of the wealthiest people in the world, the American capitalist class.

Now, the same cabal of sycophants for Wall Street, the big banks and the big corporations is calling for blood from state workers.

Enough! State workers should not give up a cent. Not one cent.

They didn’t overdraw the accounts of the states and cities – those were drained by big tax breaks to developers and the wealthy.

They didn’t cause the budget crunch – it was brought on by the trillions and still more trillions in bail-outs for the banks and big corporations, and by cutbacks in federal revenue-sharing.

What an outrage to see those same politicians who just gave tax breaks to some of the wealthiest people in the world complain about “privileged” state workers.

No. State workers aren’t privileged. They deserve every cent they make – and more. They work hard, as we all do. They have impossible jobs, as we all do. And every other worker has everything in common with them, and nothing in common with those who are leading the attack against them.

Hands off state workers’ pensions! Hands off their wages! Hands off their benefits!

Pages 2-3

Bobb’s Latest Plan to Dismantle the DPS

Jan 10, 2011

The “Emergency Financial Manager” of the Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb, has unveiled his latest plan to gut the public school system – and it is his most outrageous plan yet.

Bobb says he wants to split the DPS into two separate financial entities – one small one (9,000 students) that will take on all the debt AND all the state revenue for the district; and one larger one (66,000 students) that will have no debt, but no state revenue.

Supposedly, this is to deal with a 327-million-dollar debt (which he himself helped to create).

What a crock of bull!

It’s really a pretext to turn the entire DPS into a charter school district. This would effectively do it: Where would the money for the vast majority of the district come from, if not from public funds? The only other possibility is – private foundations, and charter school corporations. And poof! Almost all of the DPS will become charters.

And of course, this would be an excuse to do what they’ve been working to do all along: to attack the teachers’ wages and working conditions, as well as cutting more and more money spent on actually educating the students. After all, where else would these corporations make their profits?

It’s the latest of Bobb’s proposals that the state give the DPS as a gift to private companies!

If Bobb has his way, these companies will get their gift – and Detroit’s children will get lumps of coal.

Los Angeles:
Bailing Out Charter Schools

Jan 10, 2011

ICEF, a charter school company in deep financial trouble, announced in early December that it is now able to keep operating 15 Los Angeles schools – only thanks to 10.5 million dollars in private donations.

The biggest donor was businessman and former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan with 2.2 million dollars. Other donors included real estate billionaire Eli Broad with two million dollars, and Bill Gates with half a million dollars.

Gates and Broad have been spending millions of dollars to campaign for charter schools – privately run schools that get their money from public school funds. These billionaire bosses claim that private management of public schools will provide a better education for children, especially in working-class neighborhoods.

This simply isn’t true, as ICEF itself shows. It can’t even keep its doors open, without a multimillion-dollar bailout.

In other words, as bad as the public schools are – after receiving the same public money the public schools receive, this charter school company can’t even do with it what the public schools themselves can do!

These no-good billionaires have already built themselves up by stealing from us. They need to keep their grubby hands off our public schools!

Lies about Life Expectancy

Jan 10, 2011

To justify cutting Social Security, the bi-partisan “Deficit Commission” claimed it’s necessary to raise the age of retirement because people are living longer.

Yes, people in the United States are living longer – ON AVERAGE! But what they failed to say is who is living longer, and by how much?

The answer is different based on how much money one makes. Life expectancy of men retiring at age 65 went up by six years since 1977 for those in the top half based on income, but only by 1.3 years for those in the bottom half, which includes most workers. The age of retirement for receiving full Social Security benefits was already raised to age 66 for everyone born after 1955 and goes up to 67 for anyone born after 1960. So Social Security’s age of retirement is rising faster than life expectancy for most workers.

If the politicians want to make rich people work longer, let them go ahead. But hands off workers’ retirement money!

Corporate and Government Sleaze

Jan 10, 2011

After Obama appointed William M. Daley as his new chief-of-staff, Thomas J. Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, “Daley is a business person who understands politics.

As a son of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and brother of Chicago’s current six-term mayor, William Daley belongs to Chicago’s political machine, that has long openly greased the wheels of business, taking payoffs in the process.

In his last job, William Daley supervised the global government lobbying programs of J.P. Morgan Chase, the second biggest bank in the country. Daley was at the center of the trillion dollar government bailout and subsidies that were funneled to the biggest banks. As if that weren’t enough, Daley sits on the board of directors of Boeing, which digests tens of billions of dollars in military contracts every year and Abbott Labs, the giant pharmaceutical, which is reaping billions in profits from “health care reform.”

The fact that Obama chose Daley, whose specialty is getting the taxpayer to foot the bill for big business’s profits, makes it perfectly clear what attacks workers face this year.

Unemployment Down?
No, Just Smoke, Mirrors and Lies

Jan 10, 2011

The government says the unemployment rate went down in December to 9.4% from 9.8% in November. The media trumpeted the drop as the largest in a dozen years. And Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s chief economist, said, “I thought today’s numbers were pretty encouraging. We clearly see a trajectory of improvement.”

If unemployment were really going down, there would be more people working. But in fact, December saw the lowest proportion of the adult population employed since before the recession began

No, real unemployment is not going down. And that’s obvious to every worker, who only has to look around to see their own family and friends who are out of work and cannot find work.

How the Military Cuts Spending

Jan 10, 2011

The military budget will be cut by 78 billion dollars over the next five years – so declared Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the media.

Actually, the Pentagon’s budget is projected to INCREASE from 537 billion dollars in 2011 to 620 billion in 2015. And that doesn’t include spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!

Of course, the Pentagon has never been known to tell the truth. And this lie is nothing but another piece of propaganda aimed at justifying the very real cuts to come – in social programs, public services and the workers who do them, as well as education!

Pages 4-5

Britain:
Youth Movement Continues

Jan 10, 2011

On December 9th, the British House of Commons voted to triple the cost of university education. This vote ignored four weeks of angry student protests, involving both high school and college youth. Even with these higher proposed costs, British university students would be paying roughly what U.S. students pay for community colleges. The following article comes from Workers Fight, a monthly paper edited by militants of the group of that name active in Britain.

The parliamentary vote didn’t go smoothly, since it led to the resignation of two Liberal Democratic Party members from the administration and reduced the majority of the coalition in power. More than half the Liberal Democratic members of parliament refused to vote for the measure, including the party’s president and vice president. Up to this time, the Liberal Democrats had always made free education a main campaign theme. And even a few Conservative Party members voted no or abstained.

But these “rebels” knew they didn’t take any risk in this vote, and above all they weren’t inflicting a defeat on the administration, which in the current context would have had very embarrassing consequences for its austerity policy.

As parliament debated, thousands of young high school and university students demonstrated in the surrounding area. The heavily armed police forces were in an awkward position when confronted by moving groups of young people. The students took over the Ministry of Finance building and occupied the Cenotaph, an official monument to the butcheries of World Wars I and II.

Mobile and fragmented groups of youth criss-crossed a vast part of the center of London. The skirmishes and sometimes the confrontations were repeated from noon to almost midnight.

The demonstrators remembered that street actions in 1990 defeated the attempt of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to impose a poll tax. They knew they could challenge a vote of parliament. So they continued to protest.

But newspaper accounts played down the importance of the youth mobilization and ignored police brutality. The press published the photos of 14 youths the police “sought for questioning,” implying their guilt without a trial. And the front pages featured the alarmed faces of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, on their way to a concert in a Rolls Royce in the area where the demonstrations were taking place. But of course, these useless royals got through without a scratch.

Then videos from eye-witnesses began to circulate on the Internet. In one, as an ambulance driver led a high school student, victim of a cerebral hemorrhage, to a hospital emergency room, he was told the area was “reserved for the police.” In another video, a paraplegic demonstrator was pulled from his wheelchair by four cops, hit several times by a club and finally dragged on the ground by his shoulders. This testimony spread over the Internet so widely that the BBC, ordinarily adept at a total black out of what might embarrass people in high places, couldn’t avoid rebroadcasting it.

A demonstration four days later, consisting mainly of high school students, took place in central London, with police barely present. The government, knowing it was in a delicate position, chose to maintain a low profile, waiting for the school holidays to calm things down. But that didn’t stop the administration from announcing that water cannons would be used against future demonstrators. Up to now these weapons have been used only in Northern Ireland, where they caused many injuries.

If the protest movement resumes in January, which we can only wish for, the youth are thus forewarned. They face a government that can’t truly retreat without risking the questioning of its entire austerity policy.

The youth must find the forces, above all, allies in the rest of the population, in particular workers, who are the target of the same government’s direct attack.

Sadr Returns to Iraq

Jan 10, 2011

In early January, Muqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq after spending four years in exile in Iran. In return for pledging his support for the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his party had been promised the control of six ministries, as well as the leadership of a province. Hundreds of Sadr’s supporters were also supposed to be released from prison.

Sadr, the son of a famous Shiite cleric who had been assassinated under the regime of Saddam Hussein, heads a religious fundamentalist party, as well as a militia, called the Mahdi Army. Sadr’s base of support is in some of the worst slums in Baghdad and southern Iraq. In 2004, the U.S. military issued an arrest warrant for Sadr and then carried out two bloody battles against the Mahdi army. In 2007, the U.S. and Iraqi army once again carried out a big offensive to try to crush Sadr and the Mahdi Army, also without success. Working with the U.S., the neighboring Iranian government finally arranged a cease fire and Sadr’s exile.

Of course, politically, Sadr’s party and militia are as reactionary as the other fundamentalists. It has been responsible for horrific ethnic cleansing in different parts of Baghdad, and it has imposed some of the worst oppression of women. But the resistance of Sadr’s militia to the attacks of the U.S. and Iraqi government has allowed Sadr to pose as a nationalist and an opponent of the U.S. occupation.

In the March 2010 national election, Sadr’s party won 40 seats in the parliament, a small, but important minority. U.S. officials had pictured these elections as a step in bringing a new government to Iraq with democratic trappings. In fact, all the elections did was lay bare all the rivalries and factions, most likely exacerbating a simmering civil war complete with terrorist attacks, assassinations and car bombings.

For months after the elections, no Iraqi politician was able to cobble together a ruling majority. The two biggest electoral factions both courted Sadr’s support. Sadr was first reported to support a coalition led by Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister. But when Sadr switched his support to Prime Minister al-Maliki, al-Maliki was able then to get support from his electoral rival Allawi and Kurdish organizations. Thus, he finally was able to form a government.

Of course, this political maneuvering and fighting has already taken nine months – and it’s obviously not over, since al-Maliki has still not even named the heads of the most important ministries, including security, interior, defense, etc. Neither has the ethnic violence receded – as the recent bombings of Iraqi Christian churches illustrate.

All these rivalries are little more than a product of the U.S. war and occupation, and U.S. efforts to play all the different factions off against each other in order to turn Iraq and its extremely rich oil resources into a virtual colony. It is the people of Iraq, the rest of the Middle East ... and the ordinary population in the U.S. who pay the horrific price.

Irish Workers Pay for Bankers’ Greed

Jan 10, 2011

For the third time in three years, Irish workers are facing savage cuts. Increasing the deficit through more bail-outs to Allied Irish, the country’s largest bank, the Irish government now presents the bill to the working class.

On January 1, more than 50,000 of the lowest paid workers in Ireland had $1.30 an hour taken from their pay, for a loss of $10.40 per working day. And all newly hired government workers including teachers and nurses will be paid 10% less than their co-workers, part of the latest austerity plans to solve the economic crisis in Ireland. Income taxes are going up and the national budget is to be slashed, in part by cutting 5,000 workers from the National Health Services.

The past year saw more than 290,000 people listed as unemployed in a working population of about 1,800,000, or 16% according to Irish national statistics. One in three people under 30 cannot find work.

All this misery is part of a deal between the Irish government and the European Union and International Monetary Fund after they agreed to help bail out Ireland’s banks to the tune of more than 80 billion dollars.

Ireland’s boom in property and construction gave developers huge tax breaks, on top of rich profits, as the cost of housing shot through the roof. But when the speculators’ property went bust in 2008, these thieves paid nothing. Instead the Irish population was supposed to pay back the billions of dollars invested by big British, German, U.S. and Swiss banks.

Hundreds of thousands of Irish people have taken to the streets over the past year to protest all the cuts and misery they have suffered, all in order to turn over billions more to the world’s bankers. It’s one way to make their voices heard to a government that only listens to the bankers and bosses.

Fiat on the Offensive against Worker Rights

Jan 10, 2011

According to an agreement signed between Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat, and the auto unions, break times are to be reduced, four shifts are to be established including a night shift working six days a week; and work hours can be expanded to 10 per day. The plant director can add 120 overtime hours per worker each year, plus an additional 80 hours after consulting with the unions. The first day of sickness will no longer be reimbursed.

This astonishing agreement was signed by nearly all the union confederations, with the notable exception of FIOM, the metal workers federation in Italy tied with the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and a few small, local unions that still exist in Italy.

But that is not all. The full application of the new agreement will not go into effect until 2012 when a “New Company” is to be formed between Fiat and the American auto company Chrysler. At that time, each individual worker must sign a contract with this “New Company,” renouncing certain rights, including the right to strike against overtime hours under the threat of being fired.

When the 2012 agreement goes into effect, Fiat will pull out of the Italian federation of companies, dumping all national agreements that exist to protect workers’ rights and unions. At that time, the only unions that will be recognized in Fiat are those signing the new agreement. No other unions will be recognized.

This model that Fiat wants to impose in all its factories indicates what all the bosses want to impose on all Italian workers. Such an agreement would nullify rights that have been recognized in various laws adopted after important battles by Italian workers in the 1970s.

This new agreement is part of a real campaign around the theme of “making Italian companies competitive”. The Italian bosses want to use the current economic crisis to gain a free hand against the workers. The unions are asked to go along with its demands, under penalty of being excluded from the “dialogue” ... and even of any representation rights. The press and nearly all political parities join in the chorus to accuse unions like FIOM of spouting an outdated ideology when they dare say that workers’ rights must be defended.

Marchionne and Fiat don’t bother with propaganda, going directly to blackmail. If workers won’t agree to all Fiat’s demands, Fiat won’t invest up to 20 billion euros (26 billion dollars) in Italy. The investments will go elsewhere. Fiat pretends it is losing money on its Italian operations!

This amounts to pressure and extortion – telling workers “if you want a job, you will have to agree to become a slave,” something the workers of the factory near Naples have already denounced. The agreement is to be voted on January 20, after which the workers of the Turin-Mirafiori plants will be laid off for almost a year while Fiat forms the New Company.

Unless the workers of Fiat begin now, along with all the workers of Italy, to make Marchionne and the rest of the bosses swallow their pretensions.

Pages 6-7

“What’s a Little Pardon between Friends?”

Jan 10, 2011

Ending his term, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the prison sentence of Esteban Nuñez from 16 years to 7.

Nuñez had pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the 2008 killing of Luis Santos after a drunken fight in San Diego. He himself admitted that he and his friends launched a premeditated attack on a group of young men, and Nuñez himself stabbed one victim in the stomach, and “inflicted great bodily harm” on another.

Ten thousand other California prisoners were convicted of similar crimes. Not one of them was pardoned.

Apparently, they didn’t have connections – unlike Esteban Nuñez, who is the son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

Cover Up

Jan 10, 2011

Through the efforts of the victim’s families and at great expense, the “unsolved” Oakland County Child Abductions and Murders of 1976-77 have finally been solved – 30 years too late.

Family of three of the dead children worked together to expose the cover up. They say that the Michigan State Police knew “the truth and [have been] withholding it due to influence by important and wealthy individuals who believe that the law does not apply to them.”

On the front page of the Detroit News on 12/28/2010, family members released State Police documents they obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

These records, coupled with multiple disappearances of key physical evidence, point to a cover up.

And they also point to Christopher Busch – the youngest son of a prominent General Motors Financial Executive – as the killer.

The records clearly show that law enforcement officials had enough information to charge Busch BEFORE the 4th child was killed – but did nothing.

No, worse – they released him out on the street to kill again. After that, Chris Busch committed suicide in November 1978. In his bedroom closet, police found bloody ropes and a drawing of the first victim.

When a reporter asked the father of the 4th murdered child if it had been worth the $11,000 that the State Police charged him for these documents, the father replied: “It was Tim’s college money.”

The brutal and horrendous crimes were reinforced by another horrible crime – the police cover up. In this society where money and social position rules, the lives of four murdered children counted as nothing.

A Real Crook Stole from Us

Jan 10, 2011

Steve Rattner just paid ten million dollars to keep out of jail. Rattner was the financial whiz chosen by President Obama as “Auto Czar” over the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies. He orchestrated the attacks: workers’ pay freeze, lost break time, the insane attendance program, the worsening of two-tier and reductions of funds in the retirees’ VEBA medical insurance.

Even the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York State Attorney General called him a crook – taking money out of state workers’ pension funds, giving kickbacks to pension fund managers.

The government needed a slick crook to steal from auto workers, and sure enough they got one.

Mississippi Sisters:
16 Years in Prison for Nothing

Jan 10, 2011

Two Georgia women were released from prison in Mississippi where they had served 16 years of a life sentence ... for robbing someone of $11. The convictions were based on dubious evidence that the sisters actually played any role in the crime. But even if they had ... a life sentence for $11?

The governor of Mississippi suspended their sentences, but did not commute them, on condition that one sister donate a kidney for the other sister, who had developed end-stage renal disease while in prison.

“Compassion”? Not at all. Mississippi’s governor admitted he was releasing them to relieve the state of Mississippi from the costs of treating the kidney disease.

When it comes to justice or money, money always trumps in a state not only made degenerate by capitalism, but whose politicians are deranged by Mississippi’s long, long, long history of racist violence.

Page 8

Arizona Assassination:
The Growing Violence of the Right Wing

Jan 10, 2011

Police charged 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner with walking up to U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson, Arizona supermarket parking lot and shooting her in the head. He is said to have then shot the people around her, murdering six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, and wounding 12 more. Hours after the shooting, the police said that Loughner may not have acted alone and were looking for another man.

Loughner might be an unbalanced person, as the press is reporting. But the shooting is not only the product of a sick mind. It’s a product of the devastation capitalism has wreaked and of the vile racist and violent propaganda pushed by the rabid right-wing.

Arizona has some of the highest rates of home foreclosures in the country, as well as skyrocketing unemployment. The extreme right wing has fed on the anger and desperation created by this crisis, and tried to divert it against some of the main victims. Key Republican officials, starting with Governor Jan Brewer and Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, have sought to cash in on the growth of this extreme right wing sentiment. Brewer sponsored the racist law profiling immigrants that was passed in Arizona last year. Arpaio set up detention camps in the middle of the desert for “illegal” immigrants.

In describing the political atmosphere that surrounded this shooting, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik framed the issue in a common sense way: “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

In fact, the rise of “prejudice and bigotry,” which is increasingly being accompanied by violence, is hardly limited to Arizona. Nor can this rise be blamed on just the extreme right wing of the Republican Party and the Tea Party. No, the hands of the Democrats are far from clean – even while posing as the supposed friend of unions, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights. After all, the Obama administration has carried out more deportations of immigrants than the Bush administration did.

Gabrielle Giffords may have been a mainstream “moderate” Democrat, supporting, for example, cuts in social spending. But she has also been against some of the most overt bigotry of the extreme-right. She strenuously opposed the recent Arizona anti-immigration law, as well as supporting abortion rights for women.

These stances made her a target for the likes of Sarah Palin. But Giffords beat back a Tea Party electoral challenge this past November by Jesse Kelly, a former Marine, who advertised himself on his website dressed up in full military gear holding his automatic weapon.

The deteriorating living conditions that underlie the growing desperation and anger are due to the attacks of not just the government, led by both Democrats and Republicans, but the big business interests that they defend.

Economic violence and political violence are mounting and are dependent on each other. And in the long run, the working class will be the main target of such violence.

In this climate, working people need their own party more than ever. It’s a party that does not yet exist, but building it is critical.

Anorexia:
Fashion Industry Questioned

Jan 10, 2011

The following article is translated from the January 7 issue of Lutte Ouvri re (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

Isabelle Caro, a French model, died at age 28. She had long suffered from anorexia, a mental illness in which someone continues to try to lose weight, even when they are severely underweight. This serious psychological disorder essentially comes out of this sexist society that pushes the view that women have to be “painfully thin” in order to be beautiful. Anorexia is taking that view of one’s self image to its extreme.

The French health ministry estimates there are between 30,000 and 40,000 anorexics in France, 95% of them women. (In the U.S., some 10 million people suffer from eating disorders, and nine million of them are women.)

Five% of anorexics will die within ten years from this disease. In the long run, an estimated 20% die early, since even those who conquer the disease have irreversibly weakened their bodies.

Isabelle Caro went into a coma from anorexia in 2006. The following year, as she fought to overcome it, she agreed to have photos taken of her naked, emaciated body for a poster against anorexia. She said she wanted “to reveal the consequence” of a disease that strikes a number of models. The photo – with no makeup – revealed the striking devastation caused by the disease. Her intention was to show young women the cruel reality that the fashion industry propagates in ads and women’s magazines.

And even so, a fashion photographer specializing in provocative pictures of women exploited this image for the profit of an Italian textile company. In a society which tends to transform the bodies of women into merchandise, it doesn’t matter whether the image of a woman is seductive or whether it evokes death – so long as it sells!

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