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. 966 — June 23 - July 7, 2014

Viet Nam 1954–1975:
Iraq 1990–20??

Jun 23, 2014

Currently, U.S. drones and military jets are blanketing Iraqi airspace in preparation for more U.S. bombing. President Obama is sending hundreds of U.S. troops back into Iraq. These heavily armed U.S. Special Forces aren’t “advisors,” as U.S. officials claim. They are part of the unending and murderous U.S. war on Iraq.

The U.S. occupation ended–in name only–two years ago when the last U.S. official military forces departed. By that time, the U.S. government had put in place its own puppets to head the Iraqi government, army, secret police and regular police forces. Calling the shots is the massive U.S. embassy inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, bristling with thousands of U.S. officials, along with thousands more mercenaries.

The U.S. continued to rely on the same ethnic divisions that it had used to control the population during the bloodiest stretches of the U.S. war. In the North, the U.S. rested on a Kurdish government with its own army, the Pesh Merga, to impose order. In the rest of the country, the U.S. made Shiite militias the basis of the Iraqi Army and police. This meant that in the northern and western parts of the country, where there is a large Sunni population, the Iraqi army was little more than an occupying force.

Surrounded by a hostile population, when the Iraqi Army was pushed, it collapsed like a house of cards. In Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and an important center of the oil industry, two full army divisions, made up of 30,000 Iraqi troops, simply turned and ran in the face of the assault of an insurgent force of just 800 fighters belonging to a group called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). This opened the door to a few thousand poorly trained insurgents to march south on the road toward Baghdad, laying siege to Iraq’s largest oil refinery along the way.

During his news conference on June 19, President Obama demanded that Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki unite the country and stop the deepening sectarian divisions. But who is Obama kidding? From the first day of the U.S. occupation, the U.S. has fomented and played on sectarian divisions. As for Maliki, he is merely a U.S. puppet, who has become so discredited by doing the U.S.’s dirty work, he is no longer useful.

Preparing to dump Maliki is just the latest move by the U.S. government desperately trying to maintain its grip over an Iraq swept by waves of chaos and war. The U.S. government and military are not about to walk away from all that oil. So, the Pentagon and State Department are cobbling together one more “independent” Iraqi government, sending in more U.S. troops, preparing to bomb.

From the start, the U.S. war in Iraq has been haunted by the Viet Nam War a half century ago.

In Viet Nam, the U.S. super power also tried to impose control by dividing the country, North and South. And the U.S. tried bombing both North and South Viet Nam into submission, what one U.S. general called, “bombing Viet Nam back into the Stone Age.” But that didn’t stop the U.S. military from sinking into the quagmire of the war. The U.S. replaced its dictators in Viet Nam on a regular basis, with the promise that the next regime would finally help to win “the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people.” Of course, South Vietnam was nothing more than a U.S.-made machine to continue domination over an important region.

Little surprise that two years after U.S. troops were forced out of Viet Nam, the mammoth South Vietnamese army collapsed. Now, two years after U.S. troops snuck out of Iraq in the middle of the night, parts of the Iraqi military have also collapsed.

Who knows what the future may hold in Iraq. But one thing is clear: the U.S. has not left Iraq and the war is continuing at a staggering cost, first of all, to the people of Iraq and the Middle East, as well as to working people in this country in deaths and casualties from this latest imperialist adventure.

Ever widening wars and devastation are the inevitable consequences of a system based on profit, in this case of a few U.S. oil companies, banks and military contractors. It’s a system that in 1917 Leon Trotsky said was only fit to be swept “into the dust bin of history!”

Pages 2-3

Iraqi Chaos:
Based on U.S. War for Oil

Jun 23, 2014

The simmering civil war in Iraq publicly exploded last week. Within three days, forces of the Sunni insurgency–the ISIS and former parts of Saddam Hussein’s army–rapidly took control over more than a dozen cities in the northwestern part of the country, including Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. ISIS–the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria–took over Iraqi military bases and their stock of U.S.-provided tanks, Humvees, helicopters and weapons. Kurdish militias–the Pesh Merga–took over Kirkuk, the center of one of Iraq’s main oil-producing areas in the northeast.

As parts of the Iraqi army disintegrated, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric called on all able-bodied men in Baghdad to take up arms to reinforce the crumbling army. It was essentially a call to Shiites to take up arms in a renewed Iraqi civil war.

Once again, the Iraqi population is caught in a vise between opposing murderous forces. One quarter of Mosul’s population apparently has fled, fearing the city will come under widespread bombing as the Iraqi army tries to retake Mosul.

U.S. military officials blame the Iraqi government for this descent into chaos. They say that the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is openly corrupt and his army is little more than a brutal extension of the Shiite militias that attacked Sunni and Kurdish areas in earlier stages of the Iraqi civil war.

All of that is true. But it begs the bigger questions: What provoked this civil war? For which aims?

Today’s murderous situation is the direct result of U.S. capitalism’s desire to control oil. Not only does Iraq have some of the biggest oil reserves in the world; it is also strategically located, giving whoever controls Iraq a way to influence what happens to the oil of the whole Middle East.

The U.S. has made war on Iraq for nearly 25 years to control that oil. The U.S. used the pretext of the 1990-91 Gulf War to carry out a ten-year campaign against Iraq: bombing its infrastructure and strangling its economic life with a tight embargo.

That battering of Iraq prepared the way for the 2003 U.S. invasion. As U.S. troops steadily flooded in, city after Iraqi city was pounded by aerial assaults, softening resistance of Iraqi forces. Left behind were hundreds of thousands of casualties, “collateral damage,” as Iraqi civilians were called. This direct attack on civilians–old people, women and children–was symbolized for Sunnis by the U.S. destruction of Fallujah in 2004.

Finally came the “surge” of 2007-2008. In preparation for the “surge,” the U.S. worked in 2005-06 to establish ethnic and religious militias, using Kurdish forces against Sunni areas, Sunni forces against Shiite areas and Shiite forces against both. Baghdad–which once had been one of the most ethnically and religiously mixed cities in the world–became a city whose people were at war with each other.

After U.S. troops left, this brutal policy was continued and directed by mercenaries sent in to replace them, and by the Iraqi government, set up by the U.S.

The vicious use of ethnic and religious differences spawned hatred within populations, and it inexorably led to the current conflict.

In exchange for oil and its profits, the U.S. has given Iraq more than a million dead, several million injured, and more than one fifth of the population driven into repeated exiles. Iraq once had been the region’s most cosmopolitan, most educated, most developed country. Left in ruins by U.S. wars, Iraq became one of the world’s poorest countries.

U.S. troops, used to batter Iraq, did not escape. Some died in Iraq, more came back disabled including psychologically, destroyed by the shock of what they went through in that vicious war.

This is what U.S. imperialism produces, as it seeks to wring profit from around the world. And working people in this country pay double. We are exploited here, and we are used as shock troops against other people. We have no interest in seeing a system that needs such wars continue.

It Was Good for Drug Profits

Jun 23, 2014

The government paid 1.5 billion dollars to Roche and GlaxoSmithKline for Tamiflu and Relenza, which were stockpiled, waiting for a bird or swine flu epidemic to break out. These drugs were supposed to prevent people catching flu and cure it if they did. But only the drug companies vouched for their efficacy. And they refused to allow scientists access to the data from their clinical trials.

Now, six years later, independent researchers have been able to evaluate the use (or uselessness) of these expensive anti-virals. And the verdict is that the best one can hope for is that they will shorten an illness by half a day.

The scientific establishment is up in arms, as are certain government advisers, over the waste of money and lack of rigorous guidelines to prevent such rash decisions. But ensuring that the big corporations get as much public money (and as many tax breaks) as possible is surely what “good” government under capitalism is all about . . . isn’t it?

A Toy for Arrogant Rich People

Jun 23, 2014

Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer won the bidding war among tycoons with a two billion dollar offer to buy the Los Angeles Clippers. This is a record price for an NBA team. Ballmer would join the exclusive club of filthy rich sports team owners, if the deal goes through.

Ownership of the Clippers changed hands in a very short time. A month ago, Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life, not because he made racist remarks–he had been making them for years–but because his remarks became public.

The NBA wanted to oust the Sterling family from the ownership at a meeting, but Shelly Sterling beat the NBA by selling the Clippers before this happened. All these rich people were in a hurry, as if an opportunity to own an NBA team was the sole crucial event of their life.

The rich show off by buying ever bigger yachts, luxury cars, or larger exclusive beachfront property. This time it was a sports team. Many of them quickly came up with offers well above a billion dollars. After all, a billion or two dollars for these people is only pocket change.

These rich people had no scruples about paying billions to a person like Sterling with the mindset of a slave plantation owner. In the end, Sterling was one of them. They all made their billions by robbing workers.

These ugly, arrogant people turn a sports team of human beings into another plaything for the rich.

SEPTA Workers Have a Choice

Jun 23, 2014

More than 400 engineers and electrical workers went on strike against Philadelphia’s commuter rail system, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), on Saturday, June 14. President Obama signed an executive order that evening. By Sunday the trains were running again.

Vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Stephen Bruno told reporters “We will comply fully with the law. . . . Our members will go back to work.”


Workers do not have to “comply with the law” - others have shown that.

In 1978, coal miners led a 110-day nation-wide strike for the right to strike. President Jimmy Carter invoked the national emergency provision of the Taft-Hartley Act. A federal court issued a temporary injunction ordering miners back to work. The miners did NOT go back to work. They continued their strike and backed the federal government off. The federal judge who ordered the injunction in the first place vacated his order, saying: “Anyway, the miners don’t care what I do.”

The SEPTA strike was local, not national, like the coal strike of ’78. So if the President of the United States gets involved it means something. Isn’t it obvious? He and the capitalists he represents must fear any struggle that might spread, that might engage other workers and show those workers how much power they have. A rail strike can do that more easily than other strikes because when you shut down rail, it shuts down other things right away.

The union leaders had a choice: make a fight or don’t make a fight. Workers still have the choice. They don’t have to obey the government, nor their union leaders.

Pages 4-5

Abusing Children to Produce Anti-Immigrant Poison

Jun 23, 2014

Since October 1, the U.S. has arrested more than 50,000 unaccompanied children trying to cross the southwest border, on top of thousands more coming with their parents. The biggest number are coming from Central America.

After surviving a dangerous, often brutal trip across Mexico, these young migrants are penned up in horrendous conditions. In one Texas detention center, 1,000 women and children are crammed into a space meant for 400. In Arizona and Texas, the Border Patrol is housing hundreds of children in warehouses, with mattresses lining the concrete floors. The children are kept inside for 23 hours a day, in the sweltering summer heat, while they wait to be sent back to the hells they fled in the first place.

Many of the migrants say they thought children had a chance to stay in the U.S. if they made it across the border. But the Obama administration has made it perfectly clear that they were badly mistaken.

The Obama administration is “surging government enforcement resources to increase [the] capacity to detain individuals” by setting up mass jails in Texas and Arizona. It’s also setting up immigration courts to deport the children as quickly as possible.

Obama says that the child migrants are coming to flee the poverty and violence of Central America. He’s right. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, and El Salvador is second. “You really don’t know at what moment you’re going to be killed,” one 17-year-old migrant said of life in Honduras.

But Obama neglects to mention that this violence and the poverty that underlies it are the result of U.S. domination of the region for more than a century. U.S. corporations continue to suck fruit, coffee, textiles, minerals, and many other riches out of Central America and Mexico, exploiting the desperation of the poor in those countries, paying extremely low wages and creating atrocious working conditions.

Many of the violent street gangs the migrants are fleeing came out of the wars of the 1980s, in which the U.S. funded and trained military dictatorships and death squads throughout Central America. In 2009, the military of Honduras, which is essentially an arm of the U.S. military, took over the country in a coup, and the current right-wing government of Honduras came to power in “elections” organized by that military.

President Obama now proposes to give the brutal militaries of these countries even more money. In reaction to the child migrants, he’s pledged 261.5 million dollars for the governments of Central America. This money will help “Central American countries to respond to the region’s most pressing security and governance challenges” and it will “help stem migration flows.”

In other words, the Obama administration is arming the militaries of these countries to keep their children imprisoned at home.

The Republicans complain that Obama’s harsh policy isn’t harsh enough. They say that Obama’s “leniency” on immigration has attracted the flood of children, even though Obama has deported more immigrants than any president in history. The Republican answer is to drum up anti-immigrant hysteria and to portray these desperate children as a threat.

Both the Republicans, by their words, and the Democrats, by their actions, are using this human tragedy to inject a deadly poison into this country’s political life. The two parties of the capitalist class ask workers to blame immigrants for the problems of low wages, unemployment, high taxes, and the lack of government services.

What a load of bull! The corporations that both the Democrats and Republicans serve are to blame. They created the crisis; they pay low wages and layoff as many people as they can; they stole trillions of taxpayer dollars in the bailouts and pay almost no taxes. Immigrant bashing is a way for the politicians to divide the working class, and turn one part of it against another.

In attacking these desperate children the politicians of both parties have reached a new low. But they can go much lower–and will, if the working class falls for this anti-immigrant hysteria.

Fort Sill:
A Long, Illustrious History

Jun 23, 2014

The Obama administration is using Fort Sill in Oklahoma to hold 600 migrant children until it can throw them out of the country. Nothing new there. This fort has a long, vicious history.

Soon after its construction, in the 1870s, it was used to hold Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, and other Indian families who had surrendered to the U.S. government. Many of all ages died in captivity there.

From the beginning, the U.S. government has brutalized children it had no use for, and at Fort Sill, little has changed in 140 years.

The Rise of Far Right Parties

Jun 23, 2014

The following article appeared in Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Several far right parties were strengthened by high scores in the European elections. All of them use nationalist language, but there are many differences between them and they won’t be a united bloc in the European Parliament. In most cases they are right-wing parliamentary parties, competing with the classical conservative parties.

In France, the National Front was founded by activists of the far right. These include Jean-Marie Le Pen, who fled independent Algeria, and people who collaborated with the Nazi occupation of France. They were willing to use strong arm methods until, more recently, they tried to get integrated into the classical political game so they could get access to the money that comes with being in power.

In Greece, Golden Dawn openly proclaims its affinity to Hitler. Its symbol resembles a swastika and its militants have shaved heads and make the Nazi salute, with a raised arm, when they aren’t beating up immigrants.

In Hungary, the Jobbik Party also has the appearance of a fascist party: a militia which parades in uniform and whose armed members regularly take part in brutal intimidation against the Roma minority.

All these parties based their election campaigns on propaganda against immigrants and minorities. In Holland, Wilders promised to “deal with the Moroccans.” Farage in Britain rails against Romanians. The Northern League of Italy, the Austrian FPO, the Danish Popular Party and the French National Front all make scapegoats of immigrants. The progress of these parties contributes to divisions in the working class. And the parties in power in each of these countries, not to be outdone, harden their language and policies toward immigrants by demanding tighter borders, for example.

The success of these far right parties certainly has to be put in perspective. On the one hand, a great many voters abstained from voting in the election for the European Parliament, especially in workers’ neighborhoods. On average in the European countries, 57% of registered voters abstained, 64% in Great Britain, 71% in Hungary, 87% in Slovakia, etc. On the other hand, those parties that insist on national sovereignty usually do well in European elections.

Although the results of the far right were limited, and different in the various countries, this similar development in so many countries is nonetheless a danger for workers, especially when these parties attract working class voters.

The advance of these parties is one of the political consequences of the economic crisis which has continued in Europe since 2008. It comes from the absence of parties which fight against the capitalist system on the grounds of the working class struggle. A broad upheaval of the working class would undermine the base of the far right, while showing that workers can fight for their own interests—the complete opposite of the hatred of foreigners of the far right. Today, no important political force raises this banner. Nevertheless, it is the only perspective which can put an end to the progress of reaction.

Condition of Women—Institutionalized Barbarism

Jun 23, 2014

A 25-year-old Pakistani woman, Farzana Parveen, was stoned to death at the entrance to a court in the large Pakistani city of Lahore. She was killed by her father, brothers and cousins, under the eyes of the police, because she married a man without her family’s permission. A thousand women in Pakistan are killed in this way every year.

This treatment of women in part reflects the terrible impoverishment of Pakistani people: Half the population is totally illiterate and the proportion of children not in school is one of the highest rates in the world. But it also reflects policies established by the U.S. in this area of the world. In 1979, when the USSR invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. gave the Pakistani army the job of igniting a back fire, asking it to arm reactionary Islamic warlords and reinforcing Pakistani Islamist parties. Laws against blasphemy and elements of reactionary Sharia dogma were written into the Constitution. Once the Pakistani Islamist fighters returned from Afghanistan, they used their weapons to impose reactionary views on the population. These armed bands began to hold the balance of power in Pakistani political life, as they do today.

The assassination of Farzana Parveen was a product of the Pakistani regime and reactionary Islam, but was equally a product of the so-called civilized countries, which reinforced the far right that continues the barbarous oppression of women.

In the Name of God and the Morality of the Wealthy

Jun 23, 2014

Human remains buried in a pit in Galway, Ireland have recently come to light due to the work of Irish historian Catherine Corless. There were 796 babies and infants who died between 1925 and 1961 in the Saint Mary “Mother and Baby Home” in the town of Tuam. The bodies piled in a septic tank, didn’t have normal funerals because they were born to unwed mothers and weren’t baptized! But beyond their deaths, the horror resides in the lives of these children born in institutions managed most of the time by nuns.

Up to recently, the Catholic church, and more particularly its nunneries, ran pretended homes for young single mothers who in Ireland were often poor. These Mother and Baby Homes were in fact places of mistreatment and slavery designed to bury alive young women “in a state of sin” and their children, to hide them from the eyes of bigoted bourgeois society. Further, a number of these locked up women furnished free labor in “Madeline laundries” for their entire lives, as shown in the 2002 movie Magdalene Sisters.

The scandal revealed at Tuam isn’t an isolated case. Other “homes” run by nuns have been brought to light, despite the influence of the Catholic church and the collusion of the Irish State to keep this outrage quiet. After a great deal of difficulty, people raised there as children and the close relatives of those who died have been able to find records. They show the inhuman scorn with which these children were treated. According to hospital records, in some “homes” the infant mortality reached 25% to 50% a year.

Records have revealed establishments in Castlepollard, Bessborough, Roscrea and Sean Ross Abbey–where Philomena Lee was forced to give her son up for adoption to a couple from the U.S., as shown by the recently released movie Philomena. Some of these “homes” were run by Protestant churches and three others by the local authorities themselves.

The surviving victims are still demanding apologies and compensation from these inhumane institutions. Other countries have done the same thing, including Scotland where orphanages provided free labor to farmers and France, where the authorities imported by force 1,600 children from the island of Reunion off the coast of Africa in the 1950’s to work in the Creuse region.

Page 8

What Is Tenure?

Jun 23, 2014

The anti-teacher politicians pretend that tenure protects “bad teachers” because it makes it impossible to fire them. This is a vile lie. In fact, tenure simply prevents administrators from arbitrarily dismissing someone–at least until they find a pretext.

The attack on tenure makes it clear that school “reformers” plan to come after the teachers who tenure protects: those who have gotten some experience, and who are usually better teachers as a result. But with higher seniority, they get more pay, and this is really the problem. With no tenure, administrators can fire at will according to the dictates of their budgets, rather than the needs of their students.

Degrading the working conditions of teachers will not improve education. Anyone can see that the result will be just the opposite.

Los Angeles Court Decision:
A Vile Attack on Teachers

Jun 23, 2014

Recently, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge declared that all sorts of job protections for teachers, including tenure, are "unconstitutional.” According to the judge, such job security laws harm low-income students by allowing incompetent teachers to remain in the classroom.

This is complete nonsense. This decision does not aim to improve conditions in low-income neighborhoods in any manner. It aims only to threaten the teachers–all of them–and to reduce the amount of money put in to these schools.

Education is poor in low income neighborhoods–this is certain. But this is, first and foremost, because for years not enough money has been put into them. Financial resources committed to education have continuously been lowered in the U.S., and California ranks at the very bottom of all states in its education expenditures per student.

Public schools in well-to-do districts get much more money than do schools in poor areas. And this means that, in poor districts, more and more students are crammed into small classrooms, buildings are left in disrepair, school infrastructure crumbles, teaching supplies are not available or sufficient, arts classes and after-school programs are cancelled, nurses and counselors are eliminated, and so on. Teachers certainly did not cause this mess in working class districts.

Yet the lawsuit, on which the California judge ruled, aimed only at the willy-nilly firing of teachers. The suit was brought to the Los Angeles court by an organization called “Students Matter.” Behind this sham organization there are millionaires and billionaires like David Welch, Eli Broad, and Tammy and Bill Crown. Under the pretense of helping low-income students, these rich and powerful people are pursuing their self-serving agenda of slashing income and benefits of teachers, reducing money to schools and promoting their own businesses.

Welch, the millionaire behind the lawsuit, invests in charter schools and in Pearson, the giant company that publishes text books and tests. And he financially supports “Students First,” a political lobby that aims at getting rid of public school education, replacing it with schools run by “private enterprise.”

Many school administrators and politicians have been serving the cause of the rich. During the trial, the Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, John Deasy, testified against teachers’ tenure and other job protections. The same John Deasy has spearheaded an unbelievably wasteful program of buying tens of thousands of Apple iPads at inflated prices. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is no different: he has praised this court decision that attacked all teachers. These officials act like a sales staff at the service of big corporations like Apple.

No, teachers did not cause this mess. Capitalists and their lackeys–government officials, district administrators and the courts–did. And they will keep doing it until working people take up the fight for their children’s education, joining with the teachers under attack.

Detroit Belle Isle:
Stealing for the Rich?

Jun 23, 2014

When you drive out to Belle Isle with your children on a beautiful summer day, what does it do to your relaxed mood to get pulled over by State Police/Department of Natural Resources–surrounding you with four vehicles? Is that fun? Rumor has it “warrant checks” are being run–on bicycle riders!

The State of Michigan is using their control of Belle Isle as if the island is only for the wealthy. At this “public” park, there is a Grand Prix/Private Event-type of “security presence” every day.

Just another symptom of the move of the wealthy to steal Detroit’s “jewels” from the working people whose labor built Detroit.

Grand Larceny Detroit

Jun 23, 2014

City of Detroit retirees, who already lost retiree healthcare, are now asked to vote on cutting their own pensions. They have until July 11 to vote no or yes.

The state calls it the Grand Bargain. A city retiree, describing herself as “at the breaking point,” said in a letter in the Free Press: “Grand for whom?”

Another city retiree wrote in: “I opposed the so-called grand bargain. Every dollar stolen from us will not be given to the people of Detroit, but merely help the greedy banks cut their losses. They expect us to bail them out with our modest pensions. This deal should be called grand larceny.”

Still another wrote: “We should remember that this offer was made by a person who was hired by a governor. What is there to make a person think that accepting this offer would be the end of things?”

It won’t be! Auto workers know from bitter experience that when you give in to an extortionist, he’ll be back for more!

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