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. 942 — June 24 - July 22, 2013

Take Those Scum to the Wall!

Jun 24, 2013

Four years into business’s latest “recovery,” unemployment hasn’t budged. Proportionately, fewer of us are working today than in the depths of the “recession.” The people who have a job make up the smallest share of the adult population since the very middle of the 1980 super-recession.

If you want to know why, just look at the U.S. auto industry. Auto production is recovering. The three domestic companies and the foreign companies that produce cars here are on track to produce 16 million vehicles in North America, with nearly two million of them exported overseas, a near record year. Sixteen million vehicles–that’s almost double the 9.2 million vehicles that the industry produced in 2009, following the crash of the economy.

Does that mean that closed-down plants are re-opening? Not at all. Not a one of them. Instead, the auto companies are squeezing more production out of the exact same number of plants they were running in 2009. A Ford vice-president said, “We’re going to run more and more hours,” including by cutting vacation-shutdown time in half, and running extra shifts. In some cases, the auto companies have gotten four shifts, each working 40 hours a week out of one plant. If they could figure how to slide five shifts into a 168-hour week, they’d do that too.

No, they are not reinvesting in production. And they’re proud of it!

Chrysler’s Sergio Marchione boasts, “We will never build bricks and mortar again. I think we need to use what we’ve got and take it to the wall, run more shifts, run overtime.”

“Take it to the wall!” That’s what the bosses have done to the workforce. The same old workers plus a few extra are putting out a vast increase in production. We are working faster. And we are working longer. We are forced to sacrifice our weekends. And our vacations.

As the older workers retire, get sick or die, the bosses bring in new workers. With two and three tier, the new workers are paid less than half the wage and get little or no benefits.

The auto bosses are the model for the rest of the economy. Manufacturing, which bottomed out with just about eight million workers in 2009, has added less than 400,000 workers since–a measly 5% increase in the number of workers, even though total output was up by 16%.

Business’s formula for “success” is this: fewer workers, at lower wages. The bosses have driven the total wages of the workforce lower than it’s ever been, when compared to total output.

Profits are hitting all time highs! Dividends paid out to rich stockholders are skyrocketing! In their wildest imagining, the very, very wealthy could not have dreamed of a better recovery–for them!

What a great recovery. Break out the champagne!

But there is no recovery for those of us who do the work, not for the population as a whole. We are bleeding jobs, incomes, everything. Everything good and decent in our lives is being ground up in the name of higher profits and greater wealth for the capitalist class.

Where will it all lead? The massive amount of profit wrenched out of our labor is being shifted into the financial sphere–where the capitalists can find nothing better to do with it than speculate. A new crash, a new bubble bursting is lurking in the future they prepare.

Why wait? Take them to the wall–those scum who have destroyed our future!

Over 100 years ago, the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) laid bare the road the working class must take, a road even more relevant today: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people, and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes, a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the earth.”

Pages 2-3

Detroit City Work Outsourced

Jun 24, 2013

The Detroit Emergency Manager is attacking Detroit city workers and unions. Garbage pickup and others jobs are to be “contracted out.” That means workers will be paid lower wages with less benefits. THIS–we are told–will make things “better.” Certainly “better” for corporate profits for the wealthy who will get the contracts, but NOT for workers!

If these attacks are pushed through on city workers, who will be next?

“Free Enterprise” and the San Onofre Nuclear Reactor

Jun 24, 2013

This month Southern California Edison decided to permanently shut down its San Onofre nuclear plant, located in California.

This plant had many problems caused by the way its owners–Edison and Sempra Energy–ran it. They built it on a well-known earthquake zone, near the major geological faults north of San Diego. A strong earthquake could easily damage the reactor and endanger the whole world. It sits on a beach of the Pacific Ocean, using seawater to cool down its reactors. Any leak from the nuclear reactor could easily contaminate the whole ocean with radioactivity and also, the whole West Coast. And faulty engineering caused its steam generator tubes to corrode years ahead of their planned expiration date.

The reactor has not been producing electricity since January 2012, but Edison still charged the public close to one billion dollars as “operational” costs of the reactor during that time. This was on top of 530 million dollars they charged in the electricity bills. The shut-down costs are estimated to reach 3.4 billion dollars. Edison says that “all material costs related to San Onofre are recoverable.” In other words, they will put their hands into our pockets again.

Was Edison reckless in taking risks to construct this reactor on the earthquake zone next to a major ocean, operating its very flawed power generators for a long time at a huge cost? Yes, but supposedly they took these risks on our account–meaning we pay for it!

After all, this is why capitalism is called “free enterprise”: we are captive in taking their risks and paying for them and they are free to profit and to do anything they want.

Chicago Gas Prices:
Ripoffs and Lies

Jun 24, 2013

Gas prices in Chicago are the highest in the country, and they keep going up. At some stations, gas hit $4.79 a gallon last week.

The companies blame refinery problems for the high prices. But the companies run these refineries. It’s obvious they control the supply–and the prices!

What they want is any excuse to rip us off, adding to their already gigantic profits. ExxonMobil made 9.5 billion dollars in the first three months of 2013. Shell: 7.5 billion. Chevron: 6.2 billion. BP: 4.2 billion.

We may have to buy their gas, but we sure don’t have to believe their lies!

15 Billion Dollars

Jun 24, 2013

Walmart is buying back 15 billion dollars of its shareholders’ stock. Why should this money be given to wealthy stockholders who did nothing to produce it? It should go to raise wages and provide full health care for all Walmart workers.

Chicago Schools Budget Bomb

Jun 24, 2013

Chicago Public Schools announced that it will lay off at least 855 teachers and staff for the coming year. This follows a week after schools received their budgets for the year: 10 to 20% was cut for funding in neighborhood schools.

To be sure, the School Board is claiming a billion-dollar budget deficit. But the city administration helps to decide how much money the schools get–or don’t get. And the city is not broke.

Two hundred fifty million dollars in Chicago property taxes are siphoned away from public schools every year, and put into so-called TIF funds–slush funds that divert property tax money, handing it over to politically connected developers or big companies. The TIF funds have 1.7 billion dollars right now, half of which came from the schools. That’s an amount which would more than cover the district’s supposed deficit for the year.

It’s not that there is no money–the problem is putting the money in the right place. Put it into the schools, instead of the pockets of private profiteers!

Hypocrisy in Action

Jun 24, 2013

Rahm Emanuel came charging out of the gate when he was elected Chicago mayor, claiming he wanted to improve schools.

But Emanuel is now closing 50 schools. He said he had no choice because about half of students do not graduate.

Let’s get this straight: he will cram more students into fewer schools, for a longer day with fewer teachers. Sure doesn’t sound like someone trying to improve graduation rates!

Record-Breaking Profits ... By the U.S. Government

Jun 24, 2013

What institution made more profits in 2012 than ExxonMobil? The U.S. government, that’s who! And it made that profit on the loans that college students have to take out.

In 2012 ExxonMobil made 45 billion dollars in profits (roughly 123 million per DAY) but the federal government made more–50 billion. The Obama administration figures about 18 cents of profit for every dollar it lends to students.

Students, whether they graduate or not, whether they get a job or not, are paying back loans at one of the highest rates of interest for borrowers in the country. What a great deal for a government lying about huge amounts of debt!

The Truth on the Ground

Jun 24, 2013

When Michigan Governor Snyder split fifteen Detroit schools into a separate district called the EAA, he talked about how computer technology would allow individualized education for all students, and these low-performing schools would be turned around.

Big surprise–the reality has been very different.

Many of the teachers in these schools are young people working for “Teach for America,” with no formal education training at all. One of those TFA teachers reports lots of problems in his high school, including: class sizes over 45 students; a lot of chaos throughout the school; and no support from administrators. Because most of the teachers in that school are brand new to teaching, there is virtually no one to go to for help or advice.

Not surprisingly, half of the TFA teachers who started at the school in the fall had quit by mid-year.

All the great promises have gone up in smoke. The only ones coming ahead in the EAA–are the contractors selling the computers!

And that, really, was the plan all along.

Thousands March

Jun 24, 2013

Tens of thousands of marchers filled Woodward Avenue in Detroit on June 22. The march was meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original “I Have a Dream” speech–but the crowd seemed less to be remembering 1963 and more expressing a sense that something needs to be done TODAY to address the attacks working Detroiters face.

The turnout was impressive–perhaps 30,000–particularly considering that the unions, official cosponsors of the event, did the minimum to publicize it and did not mobilize members to turn out.

The largely working class crowd expressed that 50 years later there is much work to be done in the struggle. Some expressed their opposition to the Detroit Emergency Manager and the sacrifices he demands; some were seeking justice for murder victim Trayvon Martin; some saw the need for unions to begin a generalized fight; and others wanted to fight for funding for education and to keep their schools open.

The marchers saw huge problems that need answers, and were not wanting to accept being told that they must sacrifice more.

They’re absolutely right!

Detroit City Workers Will Take the Deepest “Haircut”

Jun 24, 2013

“We have to change. We need to restructure the city’s operations .... This path will require painful sacrifices from all interested parties,” said Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

Orr puts out the idea that the city’s creditors will have to take a “haircut” just like the one city workers will have to take. The news media carry stories about the bondholders possibly seeing their bond values cut to 10 cents on the dollar.

That begs the question, just who stands to lose from Orr’s “restructuring” plan, and how much?

In reality, out of 11 billion dollars in unsecured debt–whose holders would stand to lose the most if the city declared bankruptcy–nine billion is owed to city workers either in the form of retiree health care benefits or pensions. So only about 9 per cent is owed to all the other creditors.

Also, many of those other bondholders are insured against losses due to bankruptcy. Much of the city’s other debt is in the form of water and sewer department bonds, which are secured because they are paid back out of the revenues taken in by those departments, before anything else is paid.

Orr makes it seem like the banks and other big financial interests will take big cuts. That’s just propaganda to cover up his real aim: to squeeze every penny he can from city workers. Ninety-one per cent of the pennies being “sacrificed,” in fact, will come from city workers and retirees who already have a hard time making it on what little they get.

Pages 4-5

Nelson Mandela:
Fighter against Apartheid ... And Instrument of Transition for the South African Bourgeoisie

Jun 24, 2013

Nelson Mandela, the former leader of the African National Congress (ANC), the South African black nationalist party, and the first black president of the country between 1994 and 1999, is seriously ill, and may not reach his 95th birthday. For many, he remains the symbol of the struggle against the apartheid regime for over forty years. That system was imposed by the white bourgeoisie on the majority black South African population.

The National Party, made up only of Afrikaners, descendants of Dutch settlers from centuries before, won the 1948 whites’ only election and set up the apartheid system. It strengthened segregation and violence and the determination of a minority, which already owned all the economic wealth of the country, to cut off the black majority, that is, the poor and the working class.

For forty years, black people and coloreds (mixed-race people), were shoved into bantustans or poor rural reserves and townships, ghettoes on the outskirts of the big cities. They had to carry a written pass to work in a white zone. For years, the government systematically used oppression, scorn, the club, prison and torture.

Revolt never stopped against this unbearable widespread legal discrimination. In 1976, students confronted the government in the black township of Soweto. Then there were massive struggles from 1984 to 1986, including a miners’ strike, which threatened the government so much that it sought a negotiated settlement, even while it carried out ferocious repression against the opponents of apartheid. It wanted to prevent revolts and strikes from being transformed into a deep movement of the population, and especially the working class, which could endanger the bourgeoisie’s domination and the immense profits which it and its imperialist allies drew from the exploitation of the black South African workers.

The ANC and its leaders, including Nelson Mandela, took part in these negotiations with the white nationalist party in power. For a long time, the black nationalist party had been the leader of the anti-apartheid struggle. The government got rid of the racist laws, the official segregation and legalized political parties. In March 1990, it publicly opened negotiations with the ANC. Apartheid in law was ended in June 1991. From the moment the apartheid regime was ready to talk to the ANC, it tried to orient the revolt and workers’ struggles toward conciliation, which kept million of workers away from power.

In fact, even while taking into account the anger of the black population, the South African bourgeoisie thus preserved its domination. A referendum during the following year showed that 69% of the white population approved of the white president de Klerk. As a sign of recognition by the world bourgeoisie, Nelson Mandela was given the Nobel Peace Prize at the same time as President de Klerk. Mandela won elections in April 1994 as president of South Africa. The ANC formed the government together with the white National Party and the Zulu nationalist party.

Misery didn’t disappear. But, in the richest country in Africa, there was room for a black middle class and a black bourgeoisie to develop. Far from being revolutionaries, Mandela and the other ANC leaders collaborated in the leadership of the bourgeois state, allowing the leading layers of the black population to occupy positions and get rich. But it wasn’t the same for the poor population, the great majority of whom were black, who continued to suffer, if not from legal apartheid, at least from social apartheid. And this State always considered the workers who raised their heads as enemies.

Recently, in August 2012, during the strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, 34 strikers were killed by black police, who defended the capitalists’ profits. Then the black governmental ministers, members of the ANC, defended the action of the police and condemned the miners. Thus unfortunately, the policy of Mandela and the ANC, even if it led to the end of apartheid, maintained just as ferocious an exploitation.

100 Years ago:
The Origin of South African Apartheid

Jun 24, 2013

Apartheid, that system of racial segregation, was set up by the Nationalist Party following World War II, after the country gained its independence from Britain.

But in reality, the promoters of apartheid didn’t invent anything. They only constitutionalized the segregationist policy British colonialism had carried out ever since the beginning of the 20th century. This policy was the direct and brutal expression of the greed of the British mining companies.

British Pillage in South Africa

Everything began with the discovery in 1870 of diamond deposits and in 1886 of gold in the Transvaal, the area surrounding Johannesburg. The British state, which up to then had only a limited presence in the most fertile regions (the Cape and Natal), undertook to extend its hold over the whole of the territory. First it eliminated the Zulu kingdom, then it crushed the republics formed by the Dutch settlers called Boers at the end of one of the bloodiest wars of the 19th century. British capital then had a free hand to pillage the country’s mining resources. In the following years, there were at least 299 new mine companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.

But they had to extract the minerals. To bring up enough gold to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the stockholders, they had to put their hands on labor. But the black population didn’t want to leave the countryside, where they were able to live on the basis of farming and raising livestock. The working conditions in the mines and the associated camps where the miners lived were so terrible that the Chamber of Mines itself recognized an annual death rate of 8 to 10% among the miners!

So the mining companies used every subterfuge. They imported condemned criminals from England and indentured slaves from other British colonies and China. The colonial authorities tried to impose heavy taxes on the black peasants, hoping that, as in other African colonies where money practically didn’t circulate in the countryside, this would force the black peasants to go work in the mines. They even set up a system of internal passports, using a metal bracelet soldered around the arm, designed to facilitate the arrest of deserters.

But it didn’t work. The colonial apparatus, centered on the cities, wasn’t able to police the countryside and prevent the black miners from fleeing back there.

The Expropriation of the Black Population

Finally, beginning in 1910, the British state established a radical solution for the lack of manpower in the mines.

First, the South African British territories were unified into the South African Union, a British “protectorate” controlled by the colonial army. Then came a series of laws designed to put the black population in a repressive straightjacket, depriving it of any possibility of escaping from the mines.

The so-called “Native Land” Act of June 1913 prohibited the black population from farming any land for themselves on 88% of the South African territory. Of the remaining 12%, a third was uninhabitable, and the rest was very poor land. It was divided into “reserves” in which the entire black rural population was crammed. From then on, the only way to escape famine was to send able-bodied men to work where the whites offered a wage. The black population found itself incorporated by force into the working class, transformed into seasonal workers going between the mines and the reserves where their families were confined.

Other laws were then introduced, prohibiting black workers from access to skilled jobs or to apprenticeships, and limiting their movements strictly to the places they were employed.

Right after these measures were introduced, the wages of black miners were cut by 30%. But they weren’t the only ones to pay a bitter price. The bosses took advantage of the abundance of black manpower to lower the wages of all workers, including whites. What’s more, half of the country’s workers were deprived of South African citizenship and found themselves severely restricted in where they could go.

The Emergence of a New Working Class

By expelling the rural black population from the countryside, the British state ended up creating a new working class. Submitted to a ferocious exploitation, this working class quickly learned the methods of class struggle.

Up to then, the South African workers’ movement had been centered on a not very big white working class. It was led by militants who came from England, who brought with them the traditions and the prejudices of the English workers’ movement. Although militant, this workers’ movement always remained weak, paralyzed by its hesitation to seek alliances with black workers.

But it didn’t take black workers long before they put themselves forward. In 1918, there was a very big gold mine strike. In the preceding wave of strikes in 1913, the white miners had succeeded in mobilizing only 18,000 miners without really affecting production. In 1918, 71,000 black miners joined them on strike, forcing the closure of two thirds of the gold mines in the Witwatersrand region. The repression was terrible. Eleven strikers were killed and 120 wounded in clashes with the army. But despite this, the strikers won an 11% wage increase.

The president of the Chamber of Mines, Sir Evelyn Walters, expressed the disappointment of British colonialism in these words: “This strike was well prepared and disciplined, and not at all an ‘instinctive revolt.’ It showed that thousands of men of very different regional origins and belonging to many rural communities could unite their forces in an effective fashion. This is a new phenomenon, the first true strike ever led by colonial workers.”

Yes, a new working class was born. And, afterwards, it was going to cause the South African bourgeoisie and the international corporations enormous difficulties.

LIBOR Scandal:
Another Bank Hold Up

Jun 24, 2013

Six of the largest banking institutions in the U.S. are accused of making interest rates go up and down, to benefit their companies while costing clients more money. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley–already worth together more than TEN TRILLION dollars–are letting traders make up interest rates with their counterparts in Britain and Switzerland. Why does it matter? Just a tiny fraction of one percent in interest rates on a billion dollars of borrowings would cost a client six million dollars.

Many of those clients are cities, towns, and pension funds. The interest-fixing activities of the big banks hurts their budgets a lot.

Baltimore City is a case in point. It took advice from financial “experts.” These experts claimed that the city would be better off by borrowing money in elaborate schemes known as swaps, when paying for the bonds they sell for maintenance projects. The taxpayers were left holding the higher bill from the banks–just like individuals who were conned in the sub-prime mortgage schemes.

With Baltimore in the lead, the cities, funds and bondholders decided to sue the banks for manipulating LIBOR, because the changes in interest rates cost them millions of dollars. In May, a judge threw out most of the lawsuit, so now the cities, towns, pension funds have to keep paying big bucks to these super-wealthy, super-profitable banking institutions that robbed them in the first place.

And it’s completely legal under this capitalist system.

Pages 6-7

Protesting Fare Increases and a Whole Lot More

Jun 24, 2013

On June 10th, demonstrations broke out across Brazil against the plan to increase public transit fares. There were 100,000 demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro, 60,000 in Sao Paulo and thousands more in many other cities, despite fierce police attacks in Rio and Sao Paulo. Anti-riot police used clubs, tear gas grenades and rubber bullets, wounding more than 100.

One week later, even larger demonstrations swept Brazil’s cities. About a million people were estimated to be out protesting on June 21st, the largest protests since 1992 demonstrations forced out a corrupt president.

The increase in already high transportation fares is what unleashed popular anger. In Sao Paulo, the price of a subway ticket rose to $1.48, with similar fare increases in other cities. Supposedly the Brazilian government has now rolled back these fare increases. But demonstrators still protest, and still face off against politicians promising more police repression.

Brazil’s cities grew enormously in the 1950s and 1960s, as did the number of cars on the roads. Railroads are almost non-existent and the subway systems are only beginning to expand. Bus companies are privately owned, extracting high profits from commuters while pocketing fat subsidies from the cities and national governments. The mayor of Sao Paul recently authorized buses to carry 75 passengers, although they were made for 65. The buses didn’t get any bigger! They will simply pack in more passengers. The politicians give the bus companies whatever they ask for, since the companies give big contributions to their election campaigns.

Although Brazilians usually love soccer, and are supposed to host the World Cup next year, protesters pointed out that Brazil needs better schools, not new stadiums. In addition, the Olympics come to Brazil in 2016, so the government would like to silence all protests and sweep the roads clean not only of beggars but of protesters.

In truth, this country of 200 million people desperately needs schools and spending on health care, housing and infrastructure–not 15 billion dollars spent for the World Cup. No wonder the demonstrators also protested poverty, inflation and corruption, because public works profit only the rich. Millions remain in desperate poverty.

Watching these protests, we see the capitalists and politicians get a taste of what they deserve.

Politicians Attack the Poorest

Jun 24, 2013

Rent could go up $100 a month for as many as 30,000 low-income renters in the Washington, D.C. area. Another 2,000 people could lose their subsidized housing vouchers. In New York City, the budget cuts are expected to mean 8,000 poor families cannot get housing vouchers to pay subsidized rent.

These cuts result from the national attacks on public services imposed by the so-called “sequester” after the budget debates in Washington, D.C. Here the politicians really show what the debates were all about: making the population pay.

In the case of housing, they slashed one billion dollars from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, money used everywhere in the U.S. to help low-income workers pay rent.

The poorest people in the U.S. will be kicked out of their homes so that the politicians continue to pay off the banks. What’s wrong with this picture?

Another Housing Bubble, Brought to You by the Banks

Jun 24, 2013

House prices are on the rise in California again. In Los Angeles, home prices in April were 18 per cent higher than a year before. The price increase was even higher–25 per cent–in San Francisco and Sacramento.

The explanation we get is the usual one: supply and demand. There is a shortage of houses on the market, we are told; that’s why prices are so high.

Except that the house shortage is artificial. There are plenty of vacant houses, but big investment banks have bought them. Blackstone Group, for example, has bought 26,000 homes in nine states; Colony Capital, an L.A. based investment firm, owns 10,000 properties and keeps buying more. These “investors” are sitting on most of these houses, creating an artificial shortage to push up prices.

Others are “flipping” houses–buying a house in order to sell it quickly to another “investor”–each making a profit as the shortage drives prices up. About 6,000 homes were flipped in California in the first four months of this year–more than one in 20 homes sold in the state. And realtors use this artificial shortage of houses for sale as an excuse to jack up the prices–so that they make more profit too.

So there all these empty houses, and a lot of families who want to buy a house–but can’t afford one.

It’s another bubble, created by speculators–just like the one they created a decade ago that burst in 2007.

We’re living in an economy that bounces between speculation and financial crashes: 21st century capitalism.

Page 8

Free Bradley Manning!

Jun 24, 2013

The trial of Private Bradley Manning is underway–although no one would know it, it’s been kept so much under wraps. Manning, a 25-year old, is accused of having sent 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks. Prosecuted for making public intelligence that could supposedly aid the enemy, this soldier could spend the rest of his life in prison.

In trying Manning, the government is sending a message to every soldier and every journalist that they will risk their lives if they expose crimes committed by the U.S. Army. Pure and simple, it’s a kind of terrorism–prosecuting one young soldier to scare off all the others.

Manning said he took these actions in order to denounce the crimes, abuses and corruption throughout the U.S. army in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Manning affair brings to mind the Pentagon Papers, which came out during the Viet Nam war. Daniel Ellsberg photocopied classified military documents and sent them to The New York Times, which published them. Some 7,000 pages of documents showed that the U.S. was losing the Viet Nam war because of its attacks on the Vietnamese population. They also showed that American leaders of that time lied to the population, just as Bush and Powell lied in 2003 at the start of the war against the Iraqi people.

Ellsberg was pursued for years by the American state. In 2011, however, when the papers were officially published, Ellsberg was celebrated as a kind of hero. Interviewed on the fate of Bradley Manning, Ellsberg declared that if Manning was responsible for what he was accused of, he was also a “hero.”

Why the Government Fears Ed Snowden

Jun 24, 2013

The U.S. government charged Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, with “espionage.”

What the U.S. government calls “espionage” is the fact that Snowden leaked hundreds of secret U.S. government documents that expose how much the U.S. government spies on each individual in the United States–that it collects, stores and analyzes all of our personal information. In other words, the real spy is the government. And its real target is the American people.

As Snowden pointed out, under the guise of “protecting” the American public, the government was gathering information that could obviously be used to attack people–whenever it wanted.

Of course, this kind of spying by the government is not anything really new. Various branches of the government have carried surveillance and spying operations against big parts of the American public for as long as the government existed. It is a government that defends the interests of a tiny minority, the capitalist class, against the working masses and poor. Even during times when there aren’t social movements and revolts by the working class, the government busily gathers information so that it can be used to crack down when social movements do break out.

Often, movements expose those efforts, sometimes by encouraging whistleblowers from inside the government and repressive forces to step forward. During the workers movement of the 1930s, the La Follette hearings exposed government spying on union activists. In the 1970s, at the tail end of the movements spawned by the black movement, all kinds of government surveillance and disruptive operations against millions of people were exposed. In fact, the government was even forced to admit the existence of its biggest secret spy agency, the NSA, for the first time in the 1970s, even though it had been in existence for many decades.

Obviously, the government is going to do its best to try to destroy Snowden and his credibility. It hopes not only to discredit the information that he is bringing out, but also to discourage other employees, who might also be shocked by what the government is doing, from coming forward.

After all, government agencies couldn’t function without hundreds of thousands and millions of ordinary people like Ed Snowden. What government officials fear most is that there are more Ed Snowdens, who begin to think for themselves, and begin to take matters into their own hands.

46 Years ago:
Muhammad Ali Refused to Go into the Army

Jun 24, 2013

Forty-six years ago, on June 20, 1967, Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion. Two months earlier he had refused to be sworn into the army. He was sentenced to five years in prison, although four years later, the Supreme Court overturned the order.

Ali, a member of the Nation of Islam, was one of the best-known people on the planet. He was a boxing champion known around the world, admired by millions.

After his court conviction, Ali said: “My conscience won’t let me shoot my brother or some darker people. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger.”

His statement touched millions of black people in the U.S. already fighting against discrimination and police brutality in this racist society. It encouraged millions more, black and white, in the movement against the U.S. war on Viet Nam.

Ali’s refusal to be drafted reinforced the young working class soldiers already resisting the war from within the military. It also encouraged other athletes to take a stand, particularly basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The next year, top U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists in a black power salute during a medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.

For taking his stand, Ali was stripped of his championship and banned from boxing for three years. For years after their protest, Smith and Carlos couldn’t get steady employment.

But all of them stood by the decisions they took to protest. For that reason, they remain as heros to many people who have engaged themselves to fight against oppression.

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