The Spark

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

Issue no. 918 — June 18 - July 16, 2012

Why Put Our Hopes in the Elections?

Jun 18, 2012

Obama and Romney claim they represent very different economic policies.

Yet, since Obama took office, both the Democrats and Republicans have worked closely together to funnel trillions of dollars to the banks, big companies and the wealthy through bailouts, fat contracts and enormous subsidies. Together, both parties extended the Bush tax cuts to enrich the wealthy and big business by hundreds of billions every year.

To pay for this, the Republicans and Democrats slashed domestic spending for the working population and the poor. They slashed social programs, such as health care, housing, aid to the unemployed, the poor and disabled. They also cut vital services for the working population, including fire, emergency services, public transportation, roads, bridges, education. These cuts have been felt in every city and town, feeding growing unemployment and poverty.

Sure, Obama and Romney sound different. Romney openly defends big business running rough shod over the workforce, environment and community. Obama is quieter about it. But he still appoints corporate flunkies to run government agencies to do the same thing.

No matter which party wins the election in November, big companies and the wealthy will be the real winners – just like they have been in past elections.

Confronted by two big parties that are completely tied to the capitalist class, workers have no reason to put their hopes in the elections. But workers could weigh on the political situation by beginning to fight to defend jobs, pay, schools and public services.

Not having carried out big fights for decades, workers can feel atomized and powerless. But that can change fast. One group of workers who are determined can start a fight that spreads rapidly. Today’s demoralization can turn into tomorrow’s social explosion.

But these fights will go nowhere if workers don’t build their own party, a revolutionary workers party, representing workers’ interests against those of the capitalist class and its two big political parties. A revolutionary workers’ party would not only expose the lies spouted by the Republicans and Democrats in the elections, it could serve to unify workers throughout the country, transforming their fights into a class-wide struggle.

The working class could take the power away from the capitalists altogether. Working people have the numbers, making up the bulk of the population in the big cities and surrounding suburbs. And we have the potential to organize the economy. Since workers already make the society run, we should also be able to run the society. Workers can transform a society based on profit for a few, with its growing impoverishment, crises and wars, into a society based on the collective interests of the vast majority of the population. The great wealth created by the working class could finally be used to satisfy the needs of the entire population.

Pages 2-3

Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration:
Election-Year Smoke and Mirrors

Jun 18, 2012

Last Friday Obama announced that his administration would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the United States before they were 16 if they meet certain requirements.

Obama’s own description of his executive order illustrates its shortcomings: “This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is just a stopgap measure.” It’s not even that. It’s just more of the same.

Look at Obama’s own record on immigration. Since 2009 the average annual deportations have skyrocketed, hovering around 400,000 a year. That is 30% higher than the average annual deportations during the second term of the Bush administration and doubles that of H. W. Bush’s administration.

Obama has put more money into border control – 600 million dollars more – to pay for one thousand more border patrol agents, 160 more ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) investigators, 30 more port officers, 20 more K-9 teams and two Predator drones deployed along the border, along with 1,200 National Guard troops along the border.

Does this sound like a pro-immigrant president? If Obama gets any credit for his executive order it will be because the Republicans have been so vocally anti-immigrant.

Make no mistake, this new executive order has little to do with helping young immigrants and everything to do with winning an election.

Wall Street Is After Your Children’s Teeth

Jun 18, 2012

Dental management companies descend on public schools in poor and working class areas throughout the country and subject millions of children to dental treatments. Teams of dentists perform baby root canals, fill children’s mouths with steel crowns and subject them to excessive numbers of dental x-rays. Some of these children are as young as four years.

Most often, parents are not asked for their permission for this treatment – for obvious reasons. Most of these children do not need these treatments. An audit by the state of Texas last year found, for example, that 90% of the claims for orthodontic braces by All Smiles Dental Center, a dental management company, were invalid.

In fact, the main purpose of these treatments is simply to claim Medicaid reimbursements. Over the last four years, Medicaid reimbursements for dental care to children have increased by 63%. In Texas, the dental reimbursements tripled to 1.24 billion dollars between 2007 and 2010.

Fueling and profiting from this boom have been Wall-Street-run private equity companies and other rip off artists, including the Carlyle Group and Morgan Stanley. Last year, dentists of Reachout Healthcare America, which is owned by Morgan Stanley, saw 488,000 kids in 8,700 schools.

Wall Street found gold in our kids’ mouths. These vultures targeted our houses before to increase their wealth; now they drill holes in our kids’ teeth.

Vatican Tries to Lock Down Nuns

Jun 18, 2012

The Vatican has recently been working overtime to show just how much it despises women.

In April, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith censured the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) – which represents 80% of American nuns – for promoting “radical feminist themes.” Last week, it reaffirmed that position, warning the group that it must buckle to Vatican doctrine or risk decertification.

Radical feminism, to the Vatican, apparently includes acknowledging the existence of homosexuality and abortion. It includes taking stands on social justice issues and against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because those are the kinds of positions the LCWR is in trouble for.

Most of the people who have gone to Catholic school would be surprised to hear that the nuns who taught them are radical feminists!

The Vatican has even gone so far as to place the LCWR under the control of a man – the Archbishop Peter Sartain, who has been given the task of overhauling the group, rewriting its statutes, and reviewing its plans and programs. Because, you know, women can’t be trusted to control their own organizations anymore.

So far, the LCWR has not buckled under the pressure or accepted control from the Archbishop.

At the same time the Vatican is attacking the nuns’ commitment to social justice, church leaders in the U.S. have been showing how opposed they are to the cause of justice: they’ve been battling state legislatures’ attempts to stretch or remove statutes of limitations on sex abuse cases – so victims of abuse by priests could no longer bring charges or lawsuits against the Church!

If anybody wanted an example of the harm caused by religious backwardness, the Catholic Church is providing plenty!

State of Michigan’s Responds to Detroit with Extortion

Jun 18, 2012

To justify the consent agreement the state imposed on the city of Detroit, it claimed the city is on the verge of bankruptcy. If so, the state played a big role. First of all, it withheld money the state owes the city. It owes the city 224 million dollars in revenue sharing it agreed to, but hasn’t paid. To make matters worse, the state has reduced revenue sharing to all cities, costing Detroit another 450 million dollars over the last decade.

Moreover the city and state together have drained city funds to provide tax breaks for big corporations. Even now, in the midst of a so-called budget crisis, they are giving money to Cardinal Health, which wants to build a medical supplies distribution center on land Henry Ford Hospital snatched up. And they handed out more money for Whole Foods to build a store in downtown Detroit.

Both the state and the city have been handing out billions to wealthy bourgeois who run the state, like the son-in-law of Max Fisher, who is one of the land-grabbers linked to the Whole Foods deal, and corporations like GM, CompuServe, Quicken Loans, and Chrysler.

The purpose of the consent agreement is not to keep the city from bankruptcy, but to continue to use the city budget to hand money over to the big corporations – and to block the city’s population from demonstrating, as people have been doing – angrily.

Women Silenced

Jun 18, 2012

The sexism behind attacks on abortion rights blazed into the limelight when male Republican House leaders Jase Bolger and Jim Stamus muzzled two female Democratic lawmakers after they expressed their indignation over anti-abortion legislation.

During debate on the bills, state representative Barb Byrum ironically tried to introduce an amendment to make vasectomies subject to the same regulations as abortions.

Representative Lisa Brown argued for her colleagues to discontinue legislating based on personal religious views (good luck with that!) and concluded her arguments by stating: “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no.”

The depth of reactionary views in Lansing was revealed by Republican spokesperson Ari Adler’s paternalistic email issued to the entire Capitol Press Corps, denigrating the women’s arguments, stating:

... there are two representatives not being recognized on the House floor today because of their actions yesterday.... I would urge you not to become too distracted by temper tantrums.

Lisa Brown responded in a letter to The Detroit News:

I spoke against a sweeping new anti-choice bill.... These lawmakers, predominantly men – have no problem passing laws about my vagina. But when I dared mention its name, they became outraged. You know what? I am outraged, too. I am outraged that this legislative body wants to dictate not only what women can do, but also what we can say.”

Misogynist House Members need to leave the Dark Ages and learn about anatomical language. A performance of the 1996 play “Vagina Monologues” will be staged on the Capitol steps on Monday, June 18. If angry women in Michigan had any say in the matter, offending legislators would be strapped to front row seats.

Abortion Rights Fight in Michigan

Jun 18, 2012

A bill that could result in the closure of most Michigan clinics performing abortions was passed with support from all House Republicans and from six Democrats in a rushed vote on June 13. The Michigan Senate will take up the issue after the summer recess.

In the face of pressure from hundreds demonstrating against the legislation as well as protests by Michigan doctors, an additional bill which would have criminalized all abortions after 20 weeks, with no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomalies was dropped – for now.

Contributing to the anger of assembled abortion rights demonstrators, not one woman was allowed to give testimony against the legislation at last week’s committee hearing.

Called the most extreme legislation in the country by a Michigan Planned Parenthood spokesperson, the intention of the legislation is clear. In the words of co-sponsor, State Rep Mike Shirkey (R):

“Until we completely eliminate abortions in Michigan and completely defund Planned Parenthood, we have work to do.”

These Taliban-like legislators blithely left on summer vacation a day after this vote.

For women to win the fight to control their own reproductive decisions and throw back the war on women, massive mobilization will be necessary.

Pages 4-5


Jun 18, 2012

Not only is the U.S. military flying drones over the Middle East, they are also flying them over the U.S. And one of them, a Navy surveillance drone that was being tested, crashed in a marsh on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The drone was 44 feet long with a 116-foot wingspan and weighed more than ten tons.

What if it crashed in a populated area or on someone’s house? U.S. drones certainly fire missiles at homes and cars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, massacring countless people.

Internment Camps for Africans

Jun 18, 2012

On June 3rd, the Israeli government authorized the imprisonment of immigrants for up to three years. The same night, there was an arson attack against a building housing illegal immigrants in Jerusalem. This illustrates the rising tension against these immigrants.

A few days later, the Vice-prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior and the head of the religious party Shas announced that illegal immigrants from South Sudan had eight days to get out of the country or be deported. A court had already rejected the attempt of human rights groups to prevent deportations.

The South Sudanese aren’t the only ones authorities are targeting. The Minister of the Interior said, “there are some 15,000 Sudanese and 35,000 Eritrean immigrants, that for the moment I’m not authorised to deport.” For the moment.... But the army just announced that it’s begun building deportation camps for 20,000 in the desert.

These immigrants are visible everywhere in Israel, working in the worst, lowest-paid jobs: in construction, on building sites in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem; on the roadways and on farms. For years now, Palestinians, especially from Gaza, have been pretty much kept out of work in Israel, so Israeli bosses have turned to immigrants to replace them. Asian immigrants were first brought in. Recently, African immigrants came in. Officially, they crossed the border between Egypt and Israel illegally. In fact, this perfectly suits the needs of the economy and a section of Israeli bosses. The authorities conveniently shut their eyes to what was occurring, letting it be illegal. This put pressure on the wages of these illegal workers, and pleased the religious and Zionist far right.

The far right has been increasing racist attacks against these immigrants. The Interior Minister says he is waging “a war for the preservation of the Zionist and Jewish dream in the land of Israel.”

This “dream” has been a nightmare for the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and risks becoming one for the African migrants. But it also turns the life of the Israelis of Jewish origins into a hell, confronted as they are with the growing hold of the religious, nationalist and racist far right over society. This is a country which is still putting the finishing touches on the 25-foot-high wall it has built all around its borders to separate the populations. In the end, the Israeli population finds itself enclosed in these same walls, due to the policy of its leaders.

What Marx said over a century and a half ago is unfortunately not outdated, “A people who oppress another can never be free.”

U.S. Air Strikes, Civilian Deaths ... and U.S. “Apologies”

Jun 18, 2012

On June 6, a U.S. nighttime air strike on a house in the Afghan village of Sagawand in Logar Province killed 18 women and children – civilians. The air strike was called in by a joint U.S. and Afghan patrol.

Initially U.S. military officials claimed that only two women had suffered non-life-threatening injuries – as if that would have been OK! But after villagers piled the bodies into vans the next morning for everyone to see, a joint U.S.-Afghan investigation confirmed the slaughter.

This air strike helped make June 6 the deadliest day so far this year for civilians in Afghanistan. And this comes on top of last year being the deadliest year for Afghan civilians in this war. 3,021 civilians were killed according to official statistics that grossly understate the actual number of deaths.

The air strike also came just two months after the U.S. signed an agreement that was supposed to avoid civilian deaths. Now U.S. military officials have made a new agreement that there will be no air strikes on civilian houses except to spare the lives of U.S., Afghan or NATO forces. But who believes this new agreement means anything when clearly the last agreement meant nothing?

The violence that has been killing thousands of Afghan civilians for many years has no chance of ending without the complete withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the country. U.S. out of Afghanistan now!

After the First Round of the Legislative Election

Jun 18, 2012

The following editorial is from the June 15th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary communist group of that name active in France. Lutte Ouvrière received 125,000 votes in the recent election.

Lutte Ouvrière, which had candidates in 552 legislative districts, thanks the women and men who voted for it.

Although our result was modest, it testifies to the existence of a current present everywhere in the country, convinced that workers need to adopt a program of struggle to impose their right to a job and a decent wage on the bosses and their government. The vote also testifies to the existence of a current that has kept the ideal of a social revolution aiming to take political power from the capitalist bourgeoisie and eliminate its hold over the economy – in order to build a society without private property in the means of production, without the race for profit, without exploitation, without competition and crises. Even though it is weak, this current preserves hope in the emancipation of the exploited....

The elections have changed the political team in charge of ruling for the benefit of the capitalist class, but not the power of that class.

The electoral period didn’t even end when layoffs picked up and multiplied. Throwing workers out into the street and depriving them of resources in this time of crisis is a social crime. However, it’s evident that the new government doesn’t want to stop this crime, by taking forceful measures to prohibit mass layoffs....

The offensive of the big bosses is a direct result of the economic crisis and its aggravation. They want to recover on the backs of the workers what they can’t get from the markets. This offensive will be pursued and intensified until the bourgeoisie clashes with a determined opposition coming from the exploited.

Despite the crisis and the ravages of unemployment, the workers maintain intact their ability to intervene. Although industrial activity is down, although a growing number of factories are closed or moved elsewhere, economic life continues. Exploitation of those who continue to produce has not stopped – exploitation which gives rise to business profit and enriches the owners and stock holders.

The elections over, Lutte Ouvrière will still be on the side of the exploited. Its reason for existing is to act in the workplaces and in workers’ neighborhoods, so that the exploited build a party representing their material and political interests, a true party which doesn’t seek to conquer a role in the political institutions of the bourgeoisie, nor to gain posts as government ministers for its leaders!

Already in opposition to the right-wing government of Sarkozy-Fillon, Lutte Ouvrière will remain in opposition to the “left-wing” government of Hollande-Ayrault. It is important for the workers that the opposition not be monopolized by the right and far right, for the pressure that they will exercise on the government will run counter to the interests of the working class. It’s necessary that there be an opposition coming from the working class aiming to impose its interests.

We continue to affirm that workers have the force to defend themselves against exploitation, for they are the ones who make society run. Organized and conscious, they have the capacity to do much more: to take control over production and society. Every day, the crisis demonstrates that workers would do infinitely better than the rich parasites who are concerned only with their own private profit and who are leading society to a disaster.

New Forest Code
– a Permit to Destroy the Environment

Jun 18, 2012

On May 25th, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff supported the new Brazilian forest code passed by the legislature. Trampling on her electoral promise to oppose any amnesty for those who destroy the forests, this supposed left-wing president instead gave the big landowners a green light to destroy them.

Deforestation has increased in recent years, including by 27% last year alone. Big owners, often financial companies, cleared millions of acres in the two states of Amazonia. The cleared land has been used for raising cattle and the intensive growth of soy beans, corn and sugar cane, sectors in which Brazil is one of the world’s main producers. Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva had already legalized the illegal occupations of public land up to 3,700 acres and gave public loans to these thieves.

Agribusiness waged an all-out PR campaign against any restrictions. It said the country’s prosperity and food for the poorest were at stake. It said that reducing the number of plantations would lead to a general increase in food prices.

This lobby, which lambasts what it calls the “Shiite” ecologists, foreign non-governmental organizations and the “dictatorship of the environment,” has the support of more than 300 of the 513 members of parliament, from the right but also from the left. Under the pretext of growth and development, they support the big owners who destroy forests, expel Indians and reduce their workers to semi-slavery.

After the final ratification by the parliament, any outstanding fines for deforestation before July 2008 will be cancelled. Construction of farms in zones cleared before this date are now authorized. The legal reserve is reduced in states and towns where protected zones are important, that is, in Amazonia. And most importantly, those who destroy forests no longer have to reconstitute them.

In the end, 266,000 square miles of vegetation are threatened: 10% of Amazonia and 35% of what remains of the virgin forest bordering the Atlantic. Pollution due to burning the forest, which makes Brazil the world’s fourth highest emitter of CO2, is going to continue with renewed vigor. Erosion is going to lead in places to floods and mudslides from hills. All of these things threaten the people of Brazil. Never mind: the meat and soy bean corporations will be able to increase their exports and profits.

Pages 6-7

Companies Stealing from their Workers
– On a Massive Scale

Jun 18, 2012

Companies are stealing billions of dollars from their workers every year. Low-wage workers are robbed the most. Tips are stolen from restaurant servers; illegal deductions are made from workers’ pay checks; overtime wages aren’t paid or workers are paid less than the legal minimum. Workers are mis-classified as “independent contractors” to allow companies to avoid paying unemployment insurance.

A survey of thousands of low-wage workers in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York showed that two-thirds suffered some sort of wage theft every week. A Grand Rapids, Michigan member of a task force that recently studied the problem, said: “There wasn’t a place that we went where we didn’t find someone with a story.” Another study shows that in Houston, Texas alone, wage theft costs workers more than 753 million dollars a year!

This robbery of workers has increased dramatically in recent years. Union organization and enforcement of contracts and regulations has declined. Funding has been cut for government wage and hour enforcement agencies and the number of investigators reduced. In 1941, the Labor Department had one enforcement agent for every 11,000 workers in the U.S. Now it has one for every 141,000 workers! A 2010 survey found that in 43 states and the District of Columbia there was only one state investigator for every 146,000 workers!

It’s no accident that the thieves step up their robbery when they think no one is looking!

Prisoners at Private Mississippi Prison Revolt against Inhumane Conditions

Jun 18, 2012

Inmates at a prison in Natchez, Mississippi run by a private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), revolted on May 20. One inmate told a reporter, “They always beat us and hit us. We just pay them back. We’re trying to get better food, medical care, programs, clothes, and we’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.”

“CCA has frequently been criticized for housing prisoners in inhuman conditions,” according to a January report by Corazón de Tucson, an organization that supports prisoners’ rights.

CCA is part of the lucrative 70-billion-dollar private prison industry. It is the largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the country.

State politicians around the country are increasingly privatizing their prisons. It’s a good way for them to satisfy their corporate benefactors. The companies managing the prisons contract out cheap prison labor to other industries, reaping big profits while in turn making bigger profits possible for those using the labor.

Corporations currently use prison labor to manufacture things like office furniture, body armor, textiles, shoes and clothing and to provide services like staffing call centers and taking hotel reservations – for wages running from 93 cents to $4.73 a day and under sweatshop conditions. That’s cheaper for the corporations than slave labor, since taxpayers foot the bill for the prisoners’ upkeep.

Under the constant threat of harsh punishment, prisoners are usually, though not always, reluctant to complain about their wages and working conditions.

The huge conglomerates running many private prisons are so confident they can find politicians to be willing partners that they are placing conditions on the states that they maintain a constant supply of prisoners. CCA has offered to run prisons in 48 states under the stipulation that the prisons hold at least one thousand prisoners and that they be at least 90% full for 20 years into the future!

Arrangements like these then put pressure on politicians to support long mandatory prison sentences. It also creates the nightmare scenario of judges being bribed to use their discretionary power to impose long sentences. In Pennsylvania, two judges were found guilty of receiving millions of dollars in kickbacks from the owner of two private prisons in exchange for imposing harsh sentences on thousands of youths.

Private prison companies are only able to make such grotesque demands as a consequence of a society that has nothing better to offer than incarceration to a large fragment of its population. The U.S. had six million people under “correctional supervision” in 2010 and 2.3 million actually in prison. That’s 25% of the prisoners in the entire world.

This is especially true for the black population, which experiences incarceration at a rate seven times that of the white population.

Today’s horrendous exploitation of prison labor harkens back to the practices of the 19th century. But workers’ movements beginning in the 1890s took up the fight against the use of prison labor, and by World War II, private leasing of prison labor had been virtually outlawed. Government use of prison labor continued, however, in forms like the chain-gangs employed in the South.

Since the early 1980s, private exploitation of convict labor has returned in abundance. It is used to drive down wages outside prison walls. It’s in every worker’s interest to oppose its use, as the workers’ movement in this country has in the past.

Your Break Time Not Your Own
– Your Life Not Your Own!

Jun 18, 2012

At a Chrysler assembly plant near Detroit, management issued an edict forbidding napping on break time. To make their point, they picked out a popular worker, claimed she was napping, wrote her up and gave her five days off.

It shows how far the onslaught on workers has gone. When the boss of one of the biggest companies in the country – an auto company – can dictate to you what you can do on your own break time, it might as well be slavery.

Over the past decade, auto bosses have led the corporate drive to stretch out the working day while paying less for labor. It’s not enough that new hires are two-tier, paid at half of the customary wage, and denied customary benefits like full health care and pensions. It’s not enough that regiments of temporary and contract workers replace full-time, permanent employees. Nearly half of all vehicles are now produced in assembly plants where workers put in ten-hour days at straight time. In a few more years, all of them will be. The eight-hour day is gone.

With the 10-hour day, the bosses also impose shift work in its most inhuman form. Three crews, two shifts, ten hour days, is the new ideal for the profiteers. GM has more assembly plants running around the clock than did the entire auto industry from 2000 through 2009. “It’s never been that high,” says an analyst; “they are absolutely going to maximize their brick-and-mortar as much as possible.”

In this screwed up capitalist society, the needs of brick and mortar – in reality the desire for more profit – come before workers’ rights to a normal life and decent health.

In fact, the bosses have always put profit first. But today, after years with few struggles, their grasping after profit is practically unfettered.

They will continue to impose more and more outrageous demands until workers refuse to go along with the bosses’ every whim.

Things cannot get better until the workers themselves make them better.

Page 8

California Governor to Students:
“Forget Science Education”

Jun 18, 2012

Governor Jerry Brown says there is no need for California’s public high schools to offer more than one year of science to their students. That’s one of the many ways in which Brown wants to make new cuts in the state’s funding for schools.

Two years of science is a minimum graduation requirement in California high schools, which is mandated by law also since 2005. But the state has never sent school districts the additional funding for second-year science courses. So now the state owes school districts 2.5 billion dollars in back funding for science education, and the governor is telling districts to forget that money!

Private high schools and the well-funded public high schools in wealthy areas have always offered their students three or four years of science, taught in well-equipped labs. So this cut – like all the other K-12 education cuts in California, which have amounted to more than 20 billion dollars in the last five years – is intended for working-class students.

After all, the capitalists don’t want their workers to have a good science education and understand the world better anyway. And the capitalists’ politicians – whether Republican or Democrat, like Brown – agree.

Attacking Children by Attacking Teachers

Jun 18, 2012

The Detroit Public Schools have announced there will be 1,000 fewer teachers next year, either due to retirement or layoffs. Five hundred are retiring, and many of those are being forced to retire under threat of losing their pensions.

This is yet another union-busting attack on teachers. Roy Roberts, the district “emergency manager,” blames it on lower enrollment. But if there’s lower enrollment, it’s because the district gave schools away to charter school operators who use non-union teachers and are not required to meet the same standards.

These cuts, like so many previous ones, mean children in Detroit will have fewer experienced teachers to learn from. Our children deserve the best!

Teachers Authorize Strike despite Propaganda against It

Jun 18, 2012

Chicago parents received a blitz of propaganda asking them to pressure teachers not to strike. An organization called Education for Reform Now, based in New York and with no office in Illinois, made robo-calls in English and Spanish urging parents to text the Chicago Teachers Union that they were against a strike authorization vote. And the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard, sent home a letter to parents criticizing the strike vote.

An Illinois law passed last June requires the Chicago teachers to have 75% of all their members vote Yes to legally authorize a strike. This law was promoted by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Board of Education and Stand for Children, based in Oregon and financed by hedge fund operators. Its spokesman Jonah Edelman said, “the union cannot strike in Chicago. They will never be able to muster the 75% threshold needed to strike.”

The teachers defied them all: 89.7% of their members voted to authorize a strike. They are mad that the mayor and Board of Education are asking them to work a longer school day without more pay and to have pay raises after the first contract year vary by teacher based on how well their students perform.

The teachers gave a warning that they will not be ignored.

Better Know Who Your Friend Is, and Who’s Your Enemy!

Jun 18, 2012

In the recall election that unions were able to put on the ballot in Wisconsin, union members largely voted against Scott Walker, the governor who made a name for himself by attacking the unions.

But Walker nonetheless was supported by 29% of union members, and 48% of people living in a union household – according to the polls.

So why did union members or people close to them give any support to someone who openly portrayed himself as an opponent of the unions and unionists?

Obviously, elections give only a very partial view of the way people think.

But a first, and very obvious, answer is that union people had no way to vote against Walker without voting for another politician, whose history hardly inspired them to vote for him.

But undoubtedly, there were some unionists who subscribe to the individualistic pro-business rhetoric spouted by Walker.

Furthermore, Walker directed his attack specifically against public sector unions. He and the big money behind him carried out a vicious campaign against public workers – trying to inflame resentment among private workers paid less well than public workers, lying about how much public workers are paid. They blamed public sector workers for the cuts in services and for the general degrading of society’s physical framework.

Apparently, there were workers in the private sector who fell for that b.s. – workers who transferred their resentment over what capitalist society has done to them, putting it onto other workers.

And that’s a dirty shame. A worker’s only dependable allies are other workers. The only ones we can really depend on are the ones who share the same problems we do, who are submitted to exploitation, just as we are.

Probably, there were even unionists, fed up with the concessions, who voted for Walker as a way to protest the sell-out policies of their own leaders.

All of that goes to show that elections, dominated as they are by money, do not provide a field in which workers can truly express themselves and their own class interests. And that’s especially so when the elections are carried out, as they were in Wisconsin, pitting only candidates of two parties that both represent the interests of the bosses.