The Spark

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

Issue no. 917 — June 4 - 18, 2012

Editorial:
Everyone Should Have the Right to a Job, a Good-Paying Job

Jun 4, 2012

Three states – Michigan, Florida and Georgia have cut their basic unemployment benefits coverage from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. And the federal government is in the process of eliminating most of the temporary extensions that once provided 99 weeks of coverage.

There could be no clearer statement about which class the Democrats and Republicans both serve. The real number of unemployed is higher than it has ever been, and the number of long-term unemployed remains higher than at any time before this current bout of unemployment began. And yet, they cut.

Last fall, and then again in February, the Democrats and Republicans agreed to “renew” some of the various extensions, but they filled those extensions with automatic shut-off provisions. And so today, benefit extensions are disappearing in one state after another. There are only three states left – Nevada, New Jersey and Rhode Island – where the unemployed can still draw 99 weeks. Forty-three states have cut off five months of benefits already. More are poised to do the same thing – or cut even more.

Why would anyone cut unemployment benefits in a time like this? Who is this useful for? Who, but a voracious capitalist class pushing to drive down wages!

For the working class, unemployment benefits are not an answer to the crisis – all the more so, since whether we get them depends on the good will of politicians who tie themselves, hands and feet, to the capitalist class.

Waiting on those politicians, hoping for their “good will” is no answer to the crisis either.

What working people need are jobs, jobs and a wage that lets every one of us enjoy a comfortable life.

In the face of the unemployment, there are some obvious steps that should be taken. The big corporations are making record profits today. Prohibit them from laying off any more people. Prohibit them from pushing more work onto some workers, while laying off others. Prohibit them from cutting wages.

Today, one worker does the work that not so long ago would have been done by two or three workers. Well, split up those back-breaking jobs – hire the two or three needed to make every job tolerable. Divide up the work among all those who want to work – with no loss in pay.

It’s completely reasonable, it’s what’s called for: the right to a job, a decent paying job, for everyone. But we won’t get it by waiting on someone else to get it for us.

A job for everyone – aims like that can be imposed, but only by the working class, when workers bring their forces together to make a fight.

Until recently, there has been little sign of a fight. But here and there we have seen some workers breaking out: teachers in Maryland demonstrate when promises are broken; Caterpillar workers, threatened with plant closing, refuse more concessions; Lockheed workers stay on strike when the boss wants to divide them further into two and three tiers; city workers in Detroit, threatened with the complete loss of their jobs, prepare themselves for a fight.

Compared with what needs to be done, these might seem like baby steps. But babies quickly learn. And what’s important is that some workers today seem ready to buck the tide. More should join them.

Pages 2-3

No Respect for History of Workers

Jun 4, 2012

How does it happen that Chrysler can lease only two floors of the historic Dime Building and suddenly this landmark is re-named “Chrysler House”?

Obviously there is more to this deal than just two floors, plus a den for Sergio.

Chrysler is flying high on Detroit workers’ dime!

Speculator in Chief

Jun 4, 2012

Frederick Smith, the CEO of FedEx, is certainly a high stakes stock gambler. He has pledged 370 million dollars of FedEx stock as “collateral” to back up money he personally borrowed from stock brokerage companies for stock market speculation.

This is what the very richest parasites do with the incredible amounts of money they steal from the workers’ labor.

Traffic Fines:
A Tax on Working People

Jun 4, 2012

Washington, D.C. has put in 27 new speed cameras on top of the dozens of stationary and mobile cameras. Go one mile over the speed limit, you can be hit with a $75 fine. Fines go as high as $250. They claim that all these cameras are for safety.

OK, if D.C. was concerned with safety, the first thing city politicians would do is fix the traffic lights, eliminate unsafe blind corners, build pedestrian ramps protected from traffic, etc.

These fines have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with tax collection. In fact, Mayor Vincent Gray has already budgeted for the revenue he expects these cameras to bring in – to the tune of 30 million dollars!

Detroit Budget:
An Attack on City Services and Union Workers

Jun 4, 2012

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council agreed to slash the city’s budget by 250 million dollars, or 18%, and lay off nearly 2,600 workers.

These cuts are a direct attack on the city’s residents and city workers. The city’s politicians plan to completely eliminate the Detroit Department of Human Services (DDHS), privatize the transportation and lighting departments, and close the city health department after six months. They also cut the recreation budget by more than 36%, and reduced the budgets for the police and fire departments.

The closure of the DDHS means that funding for Head Start, if it ever happens, will be left up to an agency appointed by the federal government. Community Block Grants, which provide help to the city’s poorest residents, will be turned over to an outside agency appointed by the State of Michigan. Services currently provided by the Health Department will be turned over to a “public health institute,” funded by the federal government and private foundations.

In all these instances, what services survive will be provided by lower-paid nonunion workers with fewer benefits and no pensions.

The one department whose budget was increased was public lighting. But that’s only so the city can upgrade the lighting system before handing it over to private hands.

At the same time the politicians openly discuss completely shutting off lighting and no longer providing other city services to areas they deem “distressed.” As it currently stands, 40% of city streetlights are broken. The city is saying to people in distressed areas, “You’re on your own.”

It’s all part of what the politicians call their plans to “shrink” the city. The ultimate goal can be seen from a recent conference the Detroit Public Schools held, along with organizations like Bing’s Detroit Works program and the Michigan Association of Planning. The conference was aimed at offering closed public school sites for sale and to show investors, developers and others how to get help to negotiate a deal. The City Council is already discussing changing zoning ordinances to allow buyers to develop old public school sites.

Forcing residents, mostly people with little money, out of “distressed” areas will make it easier for some of these same investors and developers to buy up the land at low prices for their own use. In other words, “shrinking” the city is really a way to hand it over to the wealthy.

It’s obvious from the many meetings that have been held that city residents are angry and workers are outraged about the cuts. Many union workers are considering a strike. “We’ve told our members it may get to that point,” said John Riehl, president of a union local representing workers in the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. “We’ve made it clear. We’ve had discussions at our union meetings. People are hoping it doesn’t happen, but it’s really up to the other side.”

In fact, it’s only through a further mobilization such as this that the population can hope to stop this monstrous attack.

Big Bailed-Out Banks Become Payday Loan Sharks

Jun 4, 2012

Big banks such as Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank aren’t satisfied that they have devastated millions of homeowners with mortgage-securities fraud. They aren’t satisfied that they’ve taken trillions of taxpayer dollars in bailouts. These loan sharks are now preying on workers with “payday loan products.”

If you want a $100 short-term loan from such a bank, or perhaps a $100 prepaid card, you first have to authorize direct deposit of your paychecks. This lets the bank put its hands first on your pay before you get it. The bank automatically deducts its loan first. Plus its $10 interest, plus its $10 “origination fee,” plus its $3 monthly maintenance fee, plus its $3 fee for seeing a bank teller, plus its $2 fee for using an ATM more than once a month.

You can easily overdraw the account given all these deductions – especially since you will be charged for merely asking about the balance! The bank then closes its final trap and begins charging $40 overdraft fees.

Yearly charges on such accounts have reached upwards of 4000%.

This sort of legalized theft is one of the ways by which the top five U.S. banks have now cornered assets equivalent to 56% of the nation’s GDP. This is how JPMorgan Chase’s CEO can be paid 23 million dollars for 2011, how Wells Fargo’s CEO can be paid 19.8 million, how Citigroup’s CEO can be paid 14.9 million.

But if a hungry worker would take one dime from these insanely rich, powerful, criminal banks – now, that would be a crime in the capitalists’ law books!

Illinois Cuts Health Care for Working Poor

Jun 4, 2012

The Democratic-Party controlled legislature just passed massive cuts to Medicaid. A prescription drug plan that had helped 180,000 people buy medicine was eliminated. Family Care, medical care for adults with children, that served 26,000 people, was chopped. And dental care for most adults is gone.

Not surprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce praised the cuts. Douglas Whitley, its chief executive, said, “It was very, very hard to do, but everyone knew that it had to be done.”

No, not everyone – only the corporate vultures like Whitley who try to squeeze every last dime out of public funds for their own benefit. In their capitalist scheme of things, welfare is only for the rich.

Washington, D.C.:
Charter Schools and Banks

Jun 4, 2012

Washington, D.C.’s former chairman of the Public Charter School Board announced that the net profit for all the charter schools together in 2009 was 24 million dollars, or 5.4% of revenue. That’s $800 profit per student, per year!

Why would he care about profit? Because he is also a president of United Bank. The total debt of the charter schools, more than 350 million dollars, is mostly loans for buying and rebuilding schools – from banks like his – at interest rates which peaked at 9% in 2009. He told bankers, “The loans give me my largest margins and they are the most profitable piece of my portfolio.”

D.C. currently pays charter schools a cash “facilities allotment” of $3,200 per student per year, on top of other funding. The charters pass that money straight to the banks and developers – some charters pay more than a million dollars a year rent. “They are using public money to finance private real estate development,” a community activist said. In 2008 the Washington Post found conflicts of interest in almost 200 million dollars worth of charter school business deals.

Still, a report found charter schools have only one half or one third as much space per student as in the already overcrowded public schools. Many don’t have a gym, library, art room, cafeteria, nurse’s room, or outdoor field.

Of course – the financial and development vultures set up these schools only to satisfy their hunger for ever more profit!

Pages 4-5

Spain:
Are the Bankers Playing with Fire?

Jun 4, 2012

The Spanish government recently took control of Bankia, the country’s fourth largest bank, giving it 5.6 billion dollars to keep it out of bankruptcy. But two weeks later it had to add another 23.5 billion dollars to help this bank.

In fact, the entire Spanish banking system is threatened with bankruptcy – the result of Spanish capital invested in real estate speculation from 1990 into the 2000s, until the crash of 2007. The total amount of “problematic” investments added up to 228 billion dollars at the end of 2011. The investments consisted of loans that could not be paid back, seized land and buildings that can’t be sold. In other words, “investments” worth nothing.

With the worsening economy, the situation of the banks has worsened. Unemployment has skyrocketed and the standard of living of much of the population has collapsed due to the government’s austerity plans. Borrowers – whether individual or business – are in a continually worsening situation. So the banks were pulled down as well. These banks borrowed billions of euros at very low interest rates from the European Central Bank. But the loans weren’t enough to improve their situation. On May 17th, Moody’s lowered the credit rating on the bonds of sixteen Spanish banks.

The Spanish government has repeatedly told the financial markets that it won’t have to appeal to the European Union or the International Monetary Fund to save its banks. It reiterated its commitment to cut its budget deficit and lower the national debt. It said it is determined to make the Spanish population pay the costs of this reduction. Yet the interest charged for 10-year government bonds rose to 6% on the secondary market. Bankers and financial companies that live off the indebtedness of states doubt the ability of the Spanish state to avoid the failure of its banking system. Spain is already sending support to regional governments that have large budget deficits. But by requiring Spain to pay a very high interest rate on its loans, the financiers increase Spanish debt, compromising Spain’s ability to avoid the collapse of its banking system.

The structures the European Union painfully put in place to come to the aid of troubled states in the euro zone – already used to aid Greece, Portugal and Ireland – now don’t have enough money left to prop up a collapsing Spanish banking sector.

For several billion dollars more that the financial sector plans to squeeze out of the Spanish government, that sector today risks precipitating a greater financial crisis impacting most of Europe.

This is what’s called playing with fire.

Massacre at Hula:
Complicity between the Syrian Dictatorship and the Great Powers

Jun 4, 2012

More than 100 people were found dead in Hula, Syria including 49 children and 25 women in early May. Kofi Annan, special representative of the United Nations, said he was “horrified” by this massacre. Condemnation of the Syrian regime poured in from every corner. The regime, as usual, blamed the massacre on “armed terrorist groups.”

Exactly what happened in Hula? According to the U.N., the massacre began with a government artillery and tank bombardment of a residential neighborhood in Hula. After that, it seems the rebel army, the Free Syrian Army, then shot back against two checkpoints manned by Assad’s troops. Then a pro-Assad militia, the Shabiha, attacked the Syrians in a working class neighborhood of Hula, using machetes and small arms to murder those they saw. Three hundred more civilians were wounded.

These victims are added to the long list of people Assad’s regime has killed, wounded or arrested since the start of this revolt a year ago. Assad clearly intends to keep power no matter the cost.

The imperialist countries point the finger at Russia and China for their support of the Syrian regime. Those two countries are simply less hypocritical than the Western powers, which, in the past, also supported Assad. The Syrian dictator played his part in maintaining imperialist order in the region. And, like Russia and China, the imperialist powers continue to accommodate him very well today, even if they pretend otherwise.

In order not to seem insensitive, as they appeared in the first months of the current wave of repression, the great powers, using the United Nations, drew up this pseudo-peace plan, which has yet to stop any massacres. All it means is that 300 observers were sent into Syria – proving useless from the start, offering only a pretense of peace – and a trap.

Inhabitants of Homs explained to the peace plan observers that they were shot at when they went into the streets to demonstrate. The observers told them to stay home. This shows how useful the peace plan is. It does nothing to convince the Assad regime to disarm, but instead it pushes the population in revolt to stop fighting back against this repressive regime. In other words, the plan benefits only Assad’s regime and the great powers.

In reality, this regime has met none of the commitments it made as part of the peace plan: it hasn’t stopped using heavy weapons against civilians and it hasn’t freed any political prisoners. Yet there has been no meaningful reaction from the great powers.

Meanwhile, the Syrian population pays dearly for the support the great powers gave and continue to give to the Syrian dictatorship.

Student Demonstrations in Quebec Gain Support from the Laboring Population

Jun 4, 2012

Student demonstrations against big tuition increases for college continue in Quebec, Canada.

Since the beginning of February, thousands of students have demonstrated to oppose a huge increase in tuition – the government wanted to increase it from $2200 a year (Canadian) to $4,000, over seven years. Several times a week, in meetings organized at night because they were working during the day, students reaffirmed their support for the ongoing strike. Even if student organizations met with the provincial government, the demonstrations continued, especially after Jean Charest, the premier of Quebec, pushed through a law banning meetings.

The premier’s move had the opposite effect: public opinion showed itself to be in solidarity with the students. A number of people joined the students to protest against massive numbers of arrests and enormous fines. And students continued to go out every night and beat on saucepans and large pots to make noise in the streets, in both Quebec and Montreal, plus dozens of other cities near them! And, as these noise-making demonstrations extended into many parts of the province, the demonstrators were reinforced in Montreal by a demonstration of judges, lawyers and court officials in their robes, wanting to mark their opposition to this law, some carrying the red square symbolizing the movement.

In the following weeks, the massive police presence was used violently against the student demonstrators, with large numbers of arrests, and fines and any other weapon the authorities could use to stop the angry students. Recently laws concerning night time security were used against the 35th night time demonstration, with fines of $500 each.

For ordinary Canadians in Quebec, the situation has gotten worse, with attacks from the bosses and from the government, both federal and provincial: higher fees for health care, higher cost of electricity, jobs cut in public services, threatened closure of factories. So the government faces discontent that has already widely gone beyond the few hundred thousand students, who first started this protest.

Student Loans:
A Generation Crushed Under a Mountain of Debt

Jun 4, 2012

When I graduated high school in 2004, taking out loans to pay for school is just what you did. ... Now I’m left with a mountain of debt, a great deal of stress and the hopelessness that I’ll never get out from under this.”

This is 26-year-old Jessica Scott of Grand Haven, Michigan. She graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in journalism and $60,000 in debt. She is working four part-time jobs and living with her parents, because she can’t afford rent after making her loan payments.

Scott is certainly not alone. The average student loan debt in Michigan was more than $25,000 in 2010, and about the same in the U.S. overall. But “average” means that those with fewer means to pay for tuition – students from working-class families – are being crushed under debts much higher than that. With only a four-year college degree in today’s job market, most of them will not make enough money to pay off their debt in less than 30 years – if that.

What went wrong? The typical explanation, coming from the media and repeated everywhere these days, is that these young people, just like the “sub-prime” home buyers of a decade or so ago, made “unwise” choices.

No, that’s blaming the victim for the crime. Like the sub-prime home loans before, banks push student loans on people – on young people who have no choice but to take them if they want to go to college.

Just look at the cost of college these days – and those media “experts” don’t even mention that! At Michigan’s public universities, for example, tuition has increased by 29% between 2008 and 2012, and now it’s more than $13,000 a year at the University of Michigan. Same in other states – University of California (UC) charges $14,000 a year for tuition.

Only a generation ago, in the late 1980s, the yearly tuition at the UC was less than $1,000.

This can’t be explained away by inflation, or the usual excuse of the “market forces.” No, obviously, a conscious policy decision has been made and carried out in this country in the past few decades – a decision to take public money away from programs that benefit the ordinary layers of the population. And the economic collapse of the last few years has given state officials an excuse to accelerate the cuts.

Education is an area where state cuts are the most obvious. Ohio State University, for example, used to get 25% of its budget from the state in 1990. In 2002, that amount was down to 15%; today it’s only 7%. And tuition and fees at OSU have increased by 60% since 2002. Today, the yearly tuition, fees and living expenses at OSU amount to more than $25,000 – as they do at other public universities across the country.

All that public money cut from education for decades – where has it gone? Just look at the record profits of big corporations; look at the wealth amassed by billionaires.

This is what’s called class war – a reckless, relentless war waged by the ruling class against the working class.

Pages 6-7

Seattle Shootings:
Mental Health System Failure

Jun 4, 2012

A horrifying shooting spree last week in Seattle left five people dead and one seriously injured, with the presumed murderer killing himself.

There was an immediate outcry from the mayor about violence and guns.

But what led to the 40-year-old man’s rampage? He was mentally ill and his behavior had been getting worse. The man resisted family efforts to get him help. His father said, “He wouldn’t hear it. We couldn’t get him in (for mental health assistance) and they wouldn’t hold him.”

Families and individuals needing mental health care know – all across the country – how little help there is and how quickly hospitals or programs kick out mentally ill patients.

This society, which refuses to provide adequate medical care including mental health care, has claimed six more victims.

Maryland Teachers Demand the State Honor Its Promises

Jun 4, 2012

On May 25, as school was ending, about 100 Harford County public school teachers began a protest outside their elementary school in Bel Air, Maryland. They held signs along the highway, demanding the $650 bonus promised to them, which the county had just cancelled. And they denounced the fact their pay had been frozen for four years.

On May 28, the protests spread early in the morning to Bel Air High, where teachers began a “work-to-rule” policy. One teacher informed the media that teachers “will be entering school at 6:50 a.m. and leaving the building at 2:20 p.m. as a group.”

This action was not taken lightly. Several protesting teachers expressed their desire to take part with their students in before and after school activities. But they are fed up with being made to pay with their livelihood for what the county won’t provide.

Tuesday night a good number of teachers marched outside the Harford County council building and then walked right into the chamber when the council was taking its final vote on the 2013 budget.

The protests began after joint moves by the state and county governments to make public workers and teachers pay for the state’s decades-long failure to fund public pensions. Instead, the politicians use state money to fund profits for the big corporations.

Spending Education Money on Plywood

Jun 4, 2012

On May 29, about 60 parents and teachers gathered to protest the planned closing of Detroit’s Southwestern High. Protests, including a student walkout, have gone on since February, when Roy Roberts, the so-called Emergency Manager for Detroit Public Schools, put Southwestern on the closing list.

The true agenda of the Emergency Manager is to charterize and wreck the public school system, draining it of every possible dollar that can be turned over to private, for-profit interests. The State of Michigan and the City of Detroit cover up this agenda by claiming to be acting in the kids’ best interests. But it’s a lie, and Southwestern shows it.

Records show that Southwestern is the safest public high school in the district.

Southwestern is a high achieving school, graduating 97% of its seniors in 2011. It ranked 8th in ACT scores out of the 23 DPS high schools.

Southwestern’s facilities were recently refurbished, including a new roof, windows, and upgraded athletic facilities. But now, a parent said, “We’ll be spending money on plywood instead” to board up the school – if the Emergency Manager’s plans go through.

But plans can be changed. The protesters’ energy and determination can spread. In fact, another school, Maybury Elementary, was taken off the closing list after vigorous protests by the parents there.

It’s the protesters, not the city nor the state, who are fighting for the kids’ best interests.

Caterpillar Workers Continue Strike

Jun 4, 2012

On May 30, striking workers at a Caterpillar components plant voted a big NO on a second take-away contract proposal. They continued on strike, as they have been since May 1.

The Joliet, Illinois plant makes components for Cat equipment. Of the 780 workers on strike, 620 voted on May 30, and 81% said, no thanks. They weren’t going for a contract that would freeze wages for six years, double the cost of workers’ health care premiums, eliminate seniority rights, and do away with pensions. No! No thanks!

The determination of workers like these, members of IAM Local 851, sets the standard for the stand that the entire working class will have to take, sooner or later. And it might as well be sooner! Nothing less will do.

Lockheed Workers on Strike!

Jun 4, 2012

At the end of May, 3600 members of the IAM (International Association of Machinists) marked their sixth week on strike against giant defense contractor Lockheed-Martin.

Lockheed demanded that these 3,600 workers give up more sacrifices in a new contract. Workers had previously given up 67% of their cost of living, and accepted big increases in medical and drug costs.

When Lockheed demanded that workers accept sharply higher medical costs and worse coverage, as well as an end to the regular pension plan for new hires, the workers voted “Enough is enough!” and went on strike on April 23.

Lockheed has not seen a strike this long since 1946. No coincidence, because, like every other company, Lockheed wants to push workers back to 1946 conditions – and worse.

Lockheed is going to spend more money fighting the strike than they would have to pay to settle it. On May 24, Lockheed said they would begin hiring temporary workers – scabs. As if they could put together F-35 fighter jets with casual labor!

But as Lockheed’s press release said, “... a defined contribution pension plan for new hires is an industry standard, which we have successfully implemented in a number of recent labor agreements.” Lockheed doesn’t even pretend it can’t afford to meet the workers’ needs. Simply, it is saying, “Why should we?”

The big corporations have had a free hand against workers for so long, they arrogantly expect to be able to continue increasing exploitation, as a matter of course.

Now, part of the IAM membership is fighting to call the corporate bluff. We can hope that it is only a very short time before many more workers decide to follow suit. The corporate class as a whole has been on the attack for years. The workers need to use their strength as a class, to counterattack all along the line.

Page 8

28 Years of a Man’s Life Stolen

Jun 4, 2012

The DC Superior Court has finally overturned the conviction of Santae Tribble, an innocent man who spent 28 years in prison.

Tribble was convicted of the 1978 murder of a DC taxi driver when he was 17 years old.

His conviction hinged on a single hair found in a stocking mask one block from the murder scene. The federal prosecutor pretended that the hair was scientifically proven to be from Tribble.

The so-called scientific “evidence” that FBI investigators swore behind has turned out, however, to be an outrageous fraud.

The FBI had been using something they pompously called “microscopic hair analysis.” Here’s the “science” behind it: Put the hair in question under a microscope. The hair looks black. The defendant is black. The defendant is guilty.

That’s exactly what happened to Santae Tribble. The FBI lab analysis of the single hair found in the stocking showed that the hair probably came from a black person. That’s ALL that could be determined. That’s all the original lab records indicated.

But in front of the jury, the prosecutor and the FBI insisted that so-called scientific proof showed the hair “matched” Tribble.

The federal prosecutor even told the jury that the chances that the hair didn’t come from Tribble were “maybe one in ten million.”

The discovery of newer, DNA-based techniques has finally exposed how fraudulent was much of FBI testimony over decades.

There may be thousands, even tens of thousands of other innocent people still in prison or on parole due to similar circumstances.

Those prisoners are still waiting for their evidence to be DNA-tested, still waiting for new trials.

For Santae Tribble, that wait took most of his life. He could have been exonerated decades sooner, if DNA tests had been run sooner.

But this justice system wasn’t built to serve young people like Santae Tribble. It was built to imprison them. The evidence, and the means to test it, are as heavily guarded as the prisoners themselves. Guarded – not by prison doors, but by high cost and bureaucratic obstacles and delays.

20 Years Ago:
Los Angeles in Revolt

Jun 4, 2012

Twenty years ago, at the end of April 1992, riots broke out in Los Angeles, when four cops involved in the beating of Rodney King were acquitted by a jury from which black people had been excluded.

As in so many other revolts, the acquittal was only the spark that touched off tinder: the racism, inequality, lack of opportunity and poverty that marked the lives of black Los Angeles.

As the first flames of revolt broke out, rioters took aim at stores in richer neighborhoods. But they were pushed eventually back into South Central, the heart of the black community, by the National Guard, Army and Marines, as well as the California Highway Patrol – all of which were thrown into service to protect wealthy neighborhoods.

In South Central, the markets and small stores, run for the most part by Koreans or other Asians, were looted and torched.

Immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries, victimized themselves, were pulled along in the wake of this angry black outpouring, as were some young whites.

It took six days for authorities to establish some kind of control. Before the riots were over, more than 50 people had been killed, more than four thousand injured and 12,000 arrested. More than a thousand buildings were destroyed by fire.

The riot in Los Angeles, second biggest city in the country, recalled the urban uprisings of the 1960s – but with one very big difference: the urban uprisings of the ’60s took place against the background of a powerful movement that had developed against segregation and all its manifestations, North and South. Political organizations existed giving voice to the aspirations of the black population. And the war in Viet Nam, in which black soldiers took the brunt of the casualties, politicized a whole generation about the role of the U.S. government around the world.

In the 1960s, this political background was expressed in the riots. By 1992, that political background was gone.

Nonetheless, these riots, for a moment, made the authorities at least pretend to ameliorate the situation. Changes – most, but not all of them, cosmetic – were made in the police department. And repercussions from the Los Angeles riots were felt far away. In Detroit, cops accused of killing a young black man under similar circumstances were quickly arrested, put on trial and convicted. City authorities felt the tremors spreading through Detroit after the L.A. riots.

One thing however did not happen: In the 1960s, from Los Angeles to Chicago to Detroit to New York, big corporations for the first time widely opened their hiring gates to a whole generation of young black men and women. By 1992, the developing crisis meant that the black population was losing jobs, not gaining them.

Today, there is a sizeable black middle class – something that did not exist in the 1960s. And parts of that middle class have become the political servants of the bourgeoisie – running police departments, cities and the military, even occupying the White House.

But for the vast majority of the black population, there is no hope for a good job, no hope for much education. Young people continue to be targeted by the police. In many ways, with the growth of the economic crisis, the situation is worse today than in the 1960s.

The 1992 riots in Los Angeles showed how quickly a frustrated and angry population can break out, how young blacks in struggle can pull after themselves other parts of the poor population, Hispanic and white.