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
Apr 13, 2015
Four days after a North Charleston cop shot Walter Scott in the back, killing him, the cop was charged with murder. He should have been.
But in this country, it is almost unheard of. Cops aren’t charged with murder.
At least two thousand black people were killed by cops in this country from 2005 to 2012. Only a handful of the murdering cops ever faced charges, hardly any were convicted, and most of those convicted spent no time in prison.
In hundreds of cases, cops claimed that the people killed were armed – when they were not; claimed the people killed were a danger – when they were not. In most of those cases, the cops’ lies were contradicted by witnesses or even videos. Just like North Charleston.
Nothing about North Charleston was different, nothing that would explain why a cop was finally charged with murder.
What is different is the social atmosphere. Ever since Ferguson, authorities have worried about what the black population might do.
Certainly, the black population has more than enough reason to act – to go out in the streets, to erupt in fury.
For more than 30 years, police agencies in this country have been rounding up young black men – and sometimes not so young ones. Walter Scott was 50 years old. Using pretexts like a “broken tail light,” or “failing to signal a right turn,” police agencies around the country consciously rounded up people. Almost everyone who was stopped was subjected to the indignity of a search – of their cars and of their bodies. If a small amount of drugs was found, those stopped for a traffic infraction ended up charged with a felony. Of course Hispanics and whites got caught in these round-ups too, but proportionately by far the largest number are black.
The federal government effectively has paid local police departments a bounty for every person picked up in this fashion and convicted on a drug charge. The more people arrested, the more money police departments get. Presidents from Reagan up to Obama justified it, saying the government was carrying out a “war on drugs.”
No, it is not a “war on drugs.” It is a war on young black men. The proof is that hardly any young wealthy white men spend time in prison – and yet they are the ones who use more drugs than anyone else in the population. Every large population study has shown it.
Young black men are being sent to prison at such an ungodly rate that the overall rate of incarceration for the total population is eight times higher than it was 35 years ago when this “war on drugs” began. So many people have been sent to prison that the U.S., with only 4% of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s prisoners.
That’s right, one quarter of all the prisoners in the world inhabit cells in this country that pretends to be “democratic.” Most of them, by far, were sent to prison the first time on a simple drug possession charge.
Instead of providing enough jobs – which this economy can no longer do – authorities throw people in prison on bogus charges. Instead of paying for schools that would give people the training and skills they need to inhabit this technologically modern world, government pays to build more prisons –12 times the number there were 35 years ago.
This is a conscious policy aimed at criminalizing the part of the population that has been most doomed to absorbing unemployment in a society unable to provide jobs for everyone. Above all, it is a conscious policy aimed at locking up and otherwise incapacitating that part of the population that has always demonstrated its readiness to fight for justice and human rights.
The killing of young black men, which lately seems to have reached epidemic proportions, is only a consequence of this much wider policy, a policy aimed at the very heart of the working class. These killings, in fact, are not new. What is new, ever since Ferguson, is the bright light parts of the black population have focused on these despicable murders.
Murder will not be stopped only by shining a bright light. But the flooding of people out into the streets – which people in Ferguson began to do – can push the government and its cops back. The police power fears power in the hands of the population.
Apr 13, 2015
Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s new proposed budget for Illinois includes 4.1 billion dollars in cuts to social programs, cities, education, healthcare – all kinds of services used by working people.
He proposes to cut funding for childcare assistance, for foster care, for public transportation including for people with disabilities, for Medicaid, for support for city and county governments – which means cuts to schools, parks and road maintenance; and he wants to cut state worker pensions.
Meanwhile, he wants to keep all the tax breaks and subsidies that go to big businesses in Illinois, like Google, Boeing, Ford, United Airlines, MillerCoors, Caterpillar, the financial speculators in downtown Chicago, and most importantly – the banks. These add up to many times the cuts in services.
The Democrats are right when they say this is a bill of terribles – but what hypocrites! When they controlled the state completely, they’re the ones who handed out all those tax breaks and subsidies to the rich. And today they could stop these cuts cold, since the Democrats have super-majorities in both the Illinois House and Senate. They make the laws, not the governor. The Democrats can pass what they like, and could easily override any veto made by Rauner. But instead, they want to make a deal, find a “compromise” to deal with the budget deficit. According to Mike Madigan, the Democratic Leader of the Illinois House, “The governor has said he feels he can eliminate the deficits just by cutting services. I disagree. I think elimination of the deficit will require a blend of service cuts and new revenue.” In other words, Madigan wants to cut services for workers a little less, but tax workers even more.
We all know what the end of this will be. The new budget will be terrible – but not quite as terrible as Rauner’s proposal. The Democrats will declare they defended workers from Rauner, and he will claim he held the line on expenses. That story will be repeated again and again – until workers find a way to fight and put our interests first.
Apr 13, 2015
A small uproar stayed the pens of the governors of Arkansas and Indiana, just as they were getting ready to sign discriminatory laws against gay people. In a political twist worthy of satire, the laws, written by the conservative American Family Association, were promoted as the RFRA, “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
In a moment of great irony, the Walton family, billionaire owners of Walmart, raised their voices loudly to stop the bill. Yet in Arkansas, this same billionaire family had contributed to the Arkansas Family Council, a conservative group backing the RFRA! Nor is that group the only one to which the Waltons have contributed thousands of dollars to promote a conservative social agenda.
The owners of Walmart made their billions of dollars off the exploitation of their workers, paying low wages, denying benefits to millions in their stores all over the world. At the same time, the Waltons wanted to encourage those they could reach to maintain various rightwing views, such as the anti-union “right to work,” anti-abortion laws, pro-charter schools, for the destruction of public schools, etc.
But when overt discrimination against gay people – the exact purpose of the RFRA – caused a backlash, including comments by the NCAA president just before the Final Four games were to be played, suddenly the Waltons wanted to distance themselves from the very attitudes they had been promoting.
THE CEO of Walmart said, “Every day, in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates. We are asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation.” In other words, nothing must interfere with commerce and profit at Walmart!
Apr 13, 2015
Rahm Emanuel will be mayor of Chicago for another four years, winning 56 percent of the vote, compared with 44 percent for his opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Both are Democrats in this non-partisan election.
As usual, most people felt they had nothing to gain from voting, and in reality, not voting won the election, with 60% of registered voters not turning out. And the registered voters already excludes a huge number of people who either see no reason to vote or who cannot register because they’re not citizens or because they’re on parole or probation.
The biggest part of Emanuel’s margin of victory came from the city’s richest neighborhoods. Emanuel won every one of the city’s 12 most well-off wards, which are majority white, and these wards accounted for 80 percent of his winning margin. In the wealthy 42nd ward downtown, for instance, Emanuel got 85 percent of the vote. No surprise. Emanuel serves these wealthy people well.
By contrast, Garcia won 70 percent of the vote in the wards that are over 65 percent Latino. It’s understandable that Mexicans might want to vote for one of their own, in a city where they make up a big percentage of the population and where they have been traditionally excluded from power, in the same way that many black voters backed Obama.
Garcia said he wanted to forge a “brown-black” coalition. Yet Emanuel won 57 percent of the vote in the majority black wards, effectively giving him the rest of his margin of victory. Black Chicagoans may have had many reasons to vote against Emanuel: he closed schools overwhelmingly in black neighborhoods, where crime, unemployment, and foreclosures have hit the black population hardest of any group in the city. But that doesn’t mean they had a reason to vote for Garcia, and in fact turnout in the predominantly black wards was just 35 percent - meaning that 65 percent of black registered voters saw no point in voting for either candidate.
Black resentment of immigrants may have played a role in the low black vote for Garcia. It certainly can seem to black workers that they are being bypassed by the Mexican immigrants coming into Chicago “taking their jobs,” even if the reality is that the bosses are the ones taking the jobs. And Emanuel played on this idea, promising that he would bring jobs to the black neighborhoods and that a Garcia victory would lead to job losses. Some commentators on black radio stations also discussed whether Garcia would give all the city jobs to Mexicans. The tension between black and immigrant Chicagoans has long helped the wealthy maintain political power in this majority working-class city.
Emanuel will use the election results to argue that he has a mandate from the population to carry out his policies. He ran saying he could make the “tough choices” – and he’s already preparing the ground for more attacks on the population. But Emanuel got less than 325,000 votes in a city of two million adults, and those votes were disproportionately from the wealthy. That is, he was supported by just 1/6 of the population. Emanuel will be mayor for the next four years, but despite the propaganda, he has no “mandate” from Chicago’s working class majority.
Apr 13, 2015
Iran and the United States, along with Great Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China, signed off on the framework for a nuclear agreement on April 2nd in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The U.S. will call off the international embargo on Iranian oil once the International Agency for Atomic Energy verifies that Iran has reduced its capacity to enrich uranium and reduce its stockpile of already enriched uranium. The embargo has caused unemployment and higher prices for a decade in Iran.
But even if the economic situation gets a bit better for the Iranian population, the accords were not meant as a humanitarian gesture, not in the least. They are part of the power games played by the imperialists. Iran will no longer be considered one of the axes of “Evil,” as Bush junior pretended to fear. It is a regional power that the U.S. and its allies need in the chaos they have created in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, with the authorization of the United States government, have funded the emergence of Islamic militias, to the point that the situation has gone way beyond their control. At this point, the U.S. leaders see Iran as a country able to re-establish a certain equilibrium in the Middle East.
Iran is an industrial country, densely populated, able possibly to influence what occurs in Syria, Iraq or Yemen. Once again it is to become a pillar of support for imperialism on the checkerboard of the Middle East.
U.S. imperialism is trying to get out of its contradictions by allying itself with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, all states competing to control these armed militias. So no, the nuclear accord will not end the tensions, nor the attacks of the militias, nor the misery of these populations.
Apr 13, 2015
This article is from the April 3th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
At the end of March, the French Senate voted, 165 to 44, to reestablish soliciting as a crime, a measure introduced in 2003 under the former prime minister Sarkozy. This law turns prostitutes into criminals. With this vote, the right-wing parties bury a law passed in December of 2013, by which the deputies of the Socialist Party tried to fight against prostitution.
Certainly this oppression of women is not going to be eliminated by a simple law. But the 2013 law at least admitted, for the first time under French law, that prostitution is violence carried out against the prostitutes. That 2013 law proposed to penalize the clients, to end calling solicitation a crime, to attack the networks of sex traffickers, and to help the prostitutes leave their terrible conditions by offering them residency papers if they have none and creating a contingency fund to help former prostitutes.
In July 2014, the Senate, dominated by the right, rejected the law penalizing the clients of prostitutes. With this vote, the senators stand as the safeguards of bourgeois morality that believes men, the vast majority of clients, have the right to pay to get submissive sex from women, all the while refusing to see that the women are victims.
Some people argue that we are free to do what we want with our own bodies, and therefore to prostitute yourself is only your own choice. But they ignore that prostitution also involves the choice of the client to do what he wants with the body of another person. Some defend prostitution in the name of sexual freedom. In this society where everything is bought and sold, the freedom offered is for commerce and for money. This is the morality of these guys, a morality that allowed the “honorable” gentlemen of the senate to refuse to hear any eyewitness accounts by the victims, that is, by the women themselves.
As one of the woman witnesses put it, “I was disgusted by the reactions I saw in the debates today. Why so much complacency and so many fantasies when the reality is so cruel, so violent? I knew prostitution as a series of rapes. I wonder how these men could trample over me without questioning themselves. Not one of them was uneasy about my distress. If they pay, it’s for this: to be able to buy the right to care only for themselves. I was a minor, I had gone to pieces and not one of them, ever showed the slightest interest in me. I was a whore, therefore I was there for that.”
Prostitution has existed for centuries – not because it’s the “oldest profession in the world,” but because it’s tied to the existence of societies of exploitation. It flows from the oppression of women who are considered mainly as objects of reproduction and as ways to appease sexual desire.
People who today promote the “freedom” of a woman to prostitute herself deny the reality of this barbarity: prostitution is primarily provided by networks of traffickers in women. More than 80% of prostitutes in France are foreigners, sold, beaten, drugged, and raped repeatedly before being pushed into the ordeal of prostitution. They find themselves captive of their slave-masters, undergoing the worst physical and psychological difficulties in order to escape.
Not only does the government not help them, refusing them papers for legal residency and work permits, but the laws make them the ones to bear the blame.
These senators who voted to criminalize the prostitutes but not their clients show they have the morality of the traders in slaves.
Apr 13, 2015
Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Indiana for ending her own pregnancy after she went to a doctor in South Bend following what she said was a miscarriage.
Her trial, conviction and sentence is a vicious attack on women’s right to control their own pregnancies. The state of Indiana prosecuted Patel using a law intended to protect women from unlicensed abortion doctors – accusing her of carrying out an illegal abortion on herself by taking drugs, even though they could not find any of those drugs in her body. They also claimed she abandoned her live child, though again, they couldn’t prove her fetus was born living! And she can’t have done both – if she gave birth to a living child, how can they accuse her of carrying out an illegal abortion? Of course, logic doesn’t mean much to prosecutors in Indiana blinded by reactionary ideology.
Whatever the judge and prosecutors say, the State of Indiana did not put Patel in jail in order to protect children, born or unborn. In fact, this prosecution puts women and their children at risk. Patel was prosecuted after she went to a doctor for help. This makes it much less likely that women will seek out doctors when they have problems with their pregnancies, which greatly increases the dangers to women and their unborn child.
Sara Ainsworth, with National Advocates for Pregnant Women, put it clearly: “Indiana should not join those countries where young pregnant girls are committing suicide at alarming rates; pregnant women are avoiding medical care for fear that any problem in pregnancy will be reported to law enforcement; and mothers are not only going to jail for having abortions, but also for suffering miscarriages and stillbirths.”
That is a society clear out of the Dark Ages – which Indiana seems determined to join!
Apr 13, 2015
Chyemil Pierce, a 30-year-old Kaiser worker in Oakland, was killed in a shooting on March 9. Chyemil had just picked up two of her three children from school when she got caught in the middle of a shoot-out. Apparently, she got shot when she rushed to protect her children.
People who knew Chyemil said she was saving money to move out of the dangerous neighborhood where she had grown up.
As companies take advantage of the economic crisis to lower wages, poverty and crime increase in working-class neighborhoods. The price is paid in human lives – lives of working-class people.
Apr 13, 2015
When Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams appeared at a town hall meeting on March 19, angry protesters shouted them down. A shoving match broke out with police officers and chairs were thrown. Ten people were arrested.
Ramsey was shocked that there would be such “violence” toward him and the police!
Oh, maybe it had something to do with the fact that he and Williams were actually trying to justify their decision not to indict a police officer who shot Brandon Tate-Brown, an unarmed black man, in the back of the head last December. Ramsey further used this community anger to justify his refusal to release the officer’s name.
Maybe the angry community members also understood what was coming in a Justice Department report that was released on March 23. The report showed that deadly force has been the first response of Philadelphia police: Over the past eight years, police opened fire at suspects 390 times, or nearly once a week.
The police themselves admitted that at least fifty-nine of those shootings were of unarmed individuals. The number could certainly be much higher, since the police are notorious for dumping an old gun at the scene of their crimes!
Ramsey leads President Obama’s policing task force on improving trust between law enforcement and minorities. Before this report was released, Ramsey had stated that he considered the department’s policy on lethal force to be a “best practice” among the country’s police departments. So this is the kind of advice Obama is seeking and getting!
OF COURSE the people at that meeting were angry! Given the cops’ outrageous justification of one more murder, their response was remarkably restrained!
Apr 13, 2015
Mumia Abu-Jamal was taken to a civilian hospital to be treated for diabetic shock after prison medical staff failed to diagnose his adult-onset diabetes. He has since been returned to the same prison infirmary that previously mistreated his illness, where he currently remains hospitalized.
Abu-Jamal’s family and friends were initially refused access to see him, but were finally allowed to visit him after the Department of Corrections received thousands of phone calls and emails supporting him. They report that he appears to have lost 80 pounds and is suffering from severe eczema as a result of bad diet and medical neglect.
Abu-Jamal is a black political activist and journalist who was framed for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer. He was an outspoken critic of the Philadelphia police department’s racist practices for years prior to his arrest. He spent over 30 years on death row before his death sentence was commuted in 2012, following many years of a huge worldwide campaign of support on his behalf.
The bad food and shoddy medical care Abu-Jamal has received are probably no different than that experienced by other prisoners. It would come as no surprise, however, if the supporters of the Philadelphia police and other powerful people wanted him dead. He continues to speak out when given the opportunity and did so recently from the prison infirmary.
Speaking about the cop who murdered Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, Abu-Jamal said, “Remember the young man who allegedly shot – not killed – two cops in Ferguson several weeks ago? Every politician in America leaped at the chance to call the kid a punk, a thug. Now what do you call Slager? What have you heard? Even though he’s been fired, he’s called “officer” today or “Mr. Slager.” He killed a man for a traffic citation and lied about it. Is he a punk, a predator, or what Huey P. Newton used to call, a pig?”
Mumia Abu-Jamal deserves to be a free man. It took a massive fight to force the judicial system to back off from his official execution. Insuring he is treated humanely in prison and preventing authorities from killing him through neglect will take a similar effort.
People are urged to continue making calls to Secretary of Department of Corrections John Wetzel at 717-728-4109 to demand Mumia be immediately allowed to be treated by doctors of his choice.
Apr 13, 2015
Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the cops killing Eric Garner in Staten Island, has been in jail since February. He was arrested for the second time since a grand jury chose not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who put Garner in the chokehold that killed him, after Garner spoke up against repeated harassment by the cops. The first bogus arrest came just two weeks after Orta released the video showing Garner being murdered by cops.
Orta’s mother, brother, and wife have all also been arrested during that time, on obviously trumped up drug and assault charges. The Staten Island cops have, in addition, been harassing the family by driving by their house daily, often in the middle of the night, shining bright spotlights into their home.
This is nothing but terrorism by the cops trying to send a message to anyone who might dare shine a light on their harassment, brutality, and false arrests of poor and working class people. Just like rats, murderous cops like these prefer to carry out their dirty work under cover of darkness.
The cops will do so until people make their lives difficult for them.
Apr 13, 2015
In 2012, the top 400 American wage earners had an average income of more than 335 million dollars, according to a recent IRS report. Their average income was around 111 million dollars in 2011. So, they tripled their income within a year.
As icing on this cake, the filthy rich had a very small tax burden. Among the top 400, 32 paid between 0 and 10 percent in income tax, and the remaining paid less than 16.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of the population had meager earnings, averaging, for the bottom 90 percent, about $32,000 for the year. For this majority, income rose by $159 from the previous year.
That is, while the rich increased their income, ours stagnated or decreased. This is not because of an accident nor because the rich working millions of times harder than we do. This is a result of a scheme, called capitalism, acting like a vacuum cleaner, emptying our pockets and filling theirs.
Apr 13, 2015
Right-wing legislators in Kansas and Missouri have proposed ridiculous new laws. In Kansas, the new law would keep people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from taking out more than $25 a day from an ATM. This means that a huge portion of the welfare money these families get will go to ATM fees.
The Kansas law would also make it illegal to spend TANF money on movie tickets, among other things. The Missouri law even extends to people who get food stamps, saying they can’t use those benefits to buy “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.”
The banks and corporations get hundreds of times more money from the government than all the poor people in the country added together. Why not ban the banks from taking out more than $25 a day in bailout money? Ban the CEOs and executives of GM, Chrysler, AIG, and all the others from going to the movies or eating cookies!
Apr 13, 2015
On Tuesday, May 5, a special election is being held in Michigan for one purpose only – for the population to okay a tax increase on themselves.
The only thing on the ballot, Proposal 1, triggers an increase in the statewide sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. This regressive tax would hit working people and those forced to depend on social programs the hardest.
In addition, a yes vote would trigger 10 other laws, one that will increase taxes on gasoline and some that increase various government fees – harming us again!
The ad campaign of the politicians implies that a “yes” vote would help fix roads, schools and cities. How cynical – and most people know it – judging by the polls that show most people are planning to vote NO! The question is, will they have enough determination to get out and vote?
In the long run, the timing of this vote has less to do with filling potholes in the roads and more to do with the gaping hole in the state budget created by nine billion dollars in new corporate tax breaks that will be draining the budget for years to come.
If some working people plan on voting yes, it is an expression of sincere worry about death trap, falling apart roads and bridges.
But a YES vote will NOT immediately fix dangerous roads! The first two years of the 1.3 billion dollars in new revenue will send most of the money to bondholders, paying off OLD road construction debt. New repairs and new construction? Full funding doesn’t start until – 2018!
Certainly a large NO vote would send a solid message of disgust to the politicians, but voting no is not enough.
To improve the roads, the schools, the cities – will require a mobilization of the population. It is simple logic to demand that wealth produced by all of society be used to benefit all of society.
In the richest country in the world, in Michigan where so much of the wealth of the auto industry is produced, the money to fix the roads, to fix the schools, to maintain the cities is being stolen by the corporations and the banks. A fight to put the population’s hands on THAT money could lead to better roads sooner than any of us could imagine!
Apr 13, 2015
One of Michigan Governor Snyder’s friends had a drunk driving conviction from a few years back. The governor pardoned him – clearing his record. This guy contributed A LOT of money to politicians. He got the “justice” money can buy!
Apr 13, 2015
With water and sewer bills averaging a minimum of $70 per month in Baltimore, many thousands of people have received notices that their water is to be shut off if the bills remain unpaid.
Officials say more than 40 million dollars is owed. But they skate over the fact that about half of it is owed by companies and institutions. Seven million alone of the total 40 million is owed by just one company, the bankrupt RG Steel.
Yet poor homeowners who cannot pay as little as $250 are threatened with losing their homes. This vicious practice has for decades cost poor people their homes to the enrichment of certain landlords and developers in Baltimore City.
It is companies and institutions that use the most water, while paying the lowest rates. The real outrage is that all consumers pay more than business does, which means that we are subsidizing them.
Apr 13, 2015
Rodney Todd and his seven children ages six to 15 were found lying in bed dead of carbon monoxide poisoning on April 6 in the rural Maryland town of Princess Anne. Police say the fumes came from a gas powered generator he bought and operated in the kitchen to do the laundry and heat the rented house.
Delmarva Power, the utility in that part of Maryland, had cut the power on March 25, claiming the meter was illegally connected and was therefore unsafe!
Rodney Todd was 36 and worked in the privatized kitchen at the public University of Maryland Eastern Shore for $10 an hour. Divorced, he was getting some welfare and had asked a state program for help paying the electric bill in the past. But a job should let a person pay the bills!
When there is not enough money to cover all the basics, people make hard choices – rent and food come first. The children slept in beds, he slept on the couch and styled his daughters’ hair himself. He kept driving his truck, after the insurance lapsed and the tags expired.
Fumes may have killed this family of eight, but the capitalist system, which puts a price on every necessity of life, provided the fuel.
Apr 13, 2015
Last week at the RenCen Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan had vendors come to promote green living by car pooling and using other forms of transportation for the commute to work. SMART had information about SMART passes and bus routes. Detroit Department of Transportation had info on bus routes as well. Years ago a person could set their watch by the DDOT buses. Today you’re lucky if one shows up within half an hour of its scheduled time.
DDOT would be a wonderful mode of transportation if it was reliable and safe. It used to be, and if the powers-that-be wanted it, DDOT could be safe and reliable again. Detroit’s work force needs reliable and safe public transportation.