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. 988 — May 25 - June 8, 2015

Editorial:
U.S. Out of Iraq and Afghanistan!
Our War Is Here at Home!

May 25, 2015

As of this Memorial Day, the toll of U.S. troops who have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan totals around 7,000 soldiers.

These soldiers came mostly from working class families; most joined the armed services for reasons of economic need, to have a job.

The U.S. has carried out the most recent war in Iraq for the past nine years. In Afghanistan, U.S. troops have been engaged for 13 years.

In spite of all the official rhetoric about U.S. withdrawal, the U.S. involvement in these wars is far from ended. Years of invasions and bombardment in Iraq and Afghanistan have destabilized both regions.

In Iraq, after a U.S. war against the Saddam Hussein regime, today we are seeing the replacement of old regimes with new ones. New alignments of armed militias are built from the most reactionary elements and are every bit as brutal as the previous dictatorship.

ISIL, the Islamic State group, is fighting for dominance, and has captured territories in both Iraq and Syria, even territory once held by U.S. troops in Iraq like Ramadi. Today, the populations of Iraq and Syria find themselves trapped between fundamentalist militias and bombings carried out by the imperialist armies, including drone attacks that kill many civilians.

This spreading conflict is disrupting and rearranging old U.S. political alliances. Imperialism maneuvers among warlords for its own interests.

Washington politicians debate whether or not to engage more U.S. troops today. In fact, these debates are cleverly designed to persuade the U.S. population that these wars can be “won” without loss of American lives, through spending money and using drones.

What does this mean for us?

Not an end to war, but exactly the opposite – continuous wars. Wars to protect the profits of the world’s richest oil barons and capitalists. Exxon, Occidental Petroleum and Chevron and a host of Wall Street advisors are the real decision makers behind these wars. They are the ones who demand a continued military presence in these regions, to police and expand their investments. This is at any and all cost to the populations of these countries.

Afghan civilian deaths are at their highest levels ever. More have died in 2014 than in any other year since 2009. Primarily children, women and the elderly are dying. In Iraq, since 2003, U.S. war has claimed the lives of more than 140,000 civilians by official estimates, which are no doubt an undercount.

Cities and countryside in both countries are devastated; ruined infrastructures no longer support basic human needs like water, electricity, food and housing in many areas. We are witnessing the loss of human gains of decades if not centuries.

U.S. workers have no interest to continue to fight these bloody wars. These same capitalists have driven wages down in virtually every sector of the workforce. Millions of Americans are either living in poverty or on the edge of it. We are being kicked out of our homes, cheated out of our wages and pensions, deprived of health care and threatened by rotting infrastructures and environmental disasters.

Workers are in a war. We are being attacked on every front, with attacks on women’s rights, increasing police violence and racism. But, right now the capitalists are winning as the working class stands silent.

We have a huge fight to make, a war against this system that is robbing workers; a fight to create jobs here at home and to stop imperialism’s continuous wars abroad.

Stop these U.S. wars!

Our fight, as workers, is here at home.

Pages 2-3

Shot to Death for Failure to Pay Child Support

May 25, 2015

When Walter L. Scott was shot to death by police in North Charleston, South Carolina, he was shot in the back multiple times while running AWAY from the officer.

Supporters of the police like to point to his flight as proof of some wrongdoing on his part. Now, details of Scott’s life show that a major contributor to his wrongful death was likely the pressure of the child support system.

Family members relate that Scott was probably running from arrest for a warrant that had been issued for failure to pay child support. In fact, Scott had made multiple child care payments amounting to thousands of dollars, but he had been unable to pay the amounts levied by the courts.

Scott remained in a cycle of debt and short stays in jail, which caused his firings from jobs that he struggled to obtain and keep.

Scott’s situation is representative of the pressures faced by working class fathers across the U.S. that weigh disproportionately on the black population.

In the 1980s and 1990s, under the guise of welfare reform, politicians including President Bill Clinton crafted legal procedures designed to use jail time as a pressure tactic for obtaining child support.

Under these laws, child support amounts are calculated based on what the courts consider to be “normal” weekly pay, not the actual earnings of an individual. Being unemployed or underemployed or underpaid is not taken into consideration. Courts levy garnishee amounts that cut an individual’s income to the point that the individual cannot survive on the leftover amount.

Then, when child care debt accumulates, the father is presented with a bill of thousands of dollars, compounded by fines, and threatened with jail time.

Jail time, when warrants are served, causes the father to be fired from a job and the cycle repeats itself. With Scott, a debt of $8,000 more than doubled to more than $18,000 at the time of his murder by police.

Intent on portraying fathers like Scott as “dead-beat” and “no-account,” the system ignores the real situation of hundreds of thousands of families.

As early as 2007, national studies of seven large states showed that 70 percent of child care payment arrears were owed by people reporting less than $10,000 a year in income. They were expected to pay, on average, 83 percent of their income to child support. This is not the case for higher income families. And this was BEFORE the great recession beginning in 2008.

The continued police brutality against young and middle-aged black men has brought out into the light details of a judicial system designed to persecute and prosecute the poorest sections of the population.

Violent encounters that lead to death and/or incarcerations are the fruit of its continued jurisdiction.

Los Angeles:
Rising Homelessness

May 25, 2015

The number of homeless people has increased by 12 per cent in L.A. County within the last two years, reaching nearly 45,000.

A report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) shows that homelessness has risen in every part of the county.

Some policies, such as gentrification, make the problem worse by removing inexpensive hotel rooms and single-room apartments in order to increase the number of luxury lofts or shopping areas. And local authorities do the dirty work for the wealthy new residents and the corporations that profit from the gentrification.

In downtown L.A., for example, 1,500 cops daily patrol the skid row, to rough up, ticket and arrest homeless people on the sidewalks. This heavy-handed policy of harassment has led to some police shootings of homeless people recently: Charly Keunang on skid row and Brendon K. Glenn in another area that has been undergoing significant gentrification.

The L.A. Times reports more than 4,300 vets are considered homeless in L.A. County. Yet almost no lower-priced housing units have been built in an area undergoing an orgy of construction. The homeless authorities reported that the number of tents, makeshift shelters and vehicles serving as homes increased by a whopping 85 per cent in the past two years.

Homelessness is one aspect of the misery into which capitalism has been pushing the whole working class

Chicago Schools Want Big Teacher Pay Cut

May 25, 2015

Chicago Public School Board came out with its contract proposal for teachers early this month. They proposed a big pay cut: to stop paying 7% of each teacher’s salary into the pension fund and to raise the amount teachers pay for health care by 3%. Clearly, the Board intends to push teachers back, to make them accept concessions.

Clearly Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is making a counter-attack – after being held back in part by the last Chicago teachers’ strike.

City officials are using the so-called Illinois pensions crisis as a bludgeon in the media, to try to make teachers accept concessions. What they call a crisis was created by the politicians themselves, who for 20 years spent the money supposed to go for pensions on handouts to the corporations and the banks.

What makes this attack even more deadly is that Chicago teachers and many other public workers do not pay into Social Security – their pension is their only retirement.

The union has proposed that teachers receive a 3% raise. It is calling teachers, parents, students and supporters to rally downtown at the Thompson Center on Tuesday, June 9th at 5:00 PM.

Only a fight will hold the city administration back.

Big Bank Felons

May 25, 2015

Four of the biggest banks in the world – Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland – just plead guilty to felonies. Their federal crime was conspiracy to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros. These banks were rigging foreign exchange rates of world currencies.

A fifth bank, UBS, pled guilty to rigging interest rates – a different felony charge.

In the words of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, law enforcement action was taken against “international financial institutions that for years participated in a brazen display of collusion and foreign exchange rate market manipulation

To put it in simple terms, these banks were speculating on the exchange rate of every form of money on earth.

These five banks have racked up a total of nearly nine billion dollars in fines for their currency rigging.

These fines are a pittance compared to the profits just two of these banks – Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase – racked up over the past four years – a total of 120 billion dollars.

Trading on world currency exchanges occurs daily. It is a 5.3 trillion dollars a DAY economic activity.

Compare that to the world trade in goods, which has stagnated. In 2012, the world export of goods was worth about 50 billion a day. This is only one percent of the world currency trading. In other words, 99 percent of daily trading does not correspond to anything other than speculation.

With so much of the global economy based on speculation, it should come as no surprise that the banks will not be barred from doing the very same thing in the future.

As a condition of their probation, the banks are simply required to send a letter to their clients, explaining a bit more information about how they operate.

According to a reporter at BloombergView.com, who has studied the letters sent out by the banks:

There is no promise of reform here: The Justice Department caught the banks doing things that it didn’t like and fined them billions of dollars, but won’t stop them from doing most of those things.... The Justice Department doesn’t like these practices, the banks like them fine, and they’ve agreed to disagree.... And the banks are careful to make clear: They’re going to keep happening.”

Compare that to what pleading guilty to a felony means for an ordinary person. There is usually jail time. And for many, their whole future life is disrupted.

But for the banks there is no jail time and no stopping the practice. It’s like the equivalent of paying a parking fine for a felony crime!

Pages 4-5

Viet Nam War:
Defeat of U.S. Imperialism

May 25, 2015

U.S. troops, civilian officials and Vietnamese allies fleeing in panic, some even desperately dangling from the last U.S. helicopters leaving Viet Nam, only to fall to their deaths. These are the images that symbolize the end of the U.S. war on Viet Nam 40 years ago. Images that showed how the “superpower” U.S. was not invincible, how it was possible for a relatively small country to beat a big imperialist power.

This defeat of U.S. imperialism was, first and foremost, a result of the fight waged by Viet Nam. But social movements in the U.S., and especially the Black Movement, which spread not only among black workers back home but black soldiers on the front as well, played a decisive role in ending the war and in its outcome.

Viet Nam’s Long Fight against Imperialism

For the U.S. ruling class, the Viet Nam war, halfway around the world, was part of its effort to control and dominate more parts of the world. But for the Vietnamese, it was not only a war they couldn’t escape, but part of a long struggle for national independence.

Before the U.S. entered this war, the Vietnamese had already been fighting other invading and colonizing powers, namely France and Japan, for decades. With the withdrawal of Japanese troops at the end of World War II, the National Liberation Front (NLF), which had led the fight against the Japanese occupiers, was poised to lead the country into independence. But instead, the old colonial power, France, sent troops to take control of the country again – with the help of the U.S., Britain and even its World War II enemy, Japan. The NLF fought back and, by 1954, it had effectively expelled the French military from Viet Nam.

But imperialist powers had no intention of leaving Viet Nam alone. Elections, which were certain to bring the NLF to power, were pre-empted by a military dictatorship in the South that was supported by the U.S. Like Korea a few years earlier, Viet Nam was divided into two hostile states: North Viet Nam, led by the NLF, and South Viet Nam, led by a military regime tied to the U.S.

In 1954, President Eisenhower explained the U.S. policy in Viet Nam with the “domino principle”: if Viet Nam “fell,” other countries in the area and around the world would follow. The U.S. had gotten involved in Viet Nam, paying four billion dollars of the 7.5 billion dollars in total costs for the French war effort. The U.S. contribution reached 80% by 1954.

After the expulsion of France, the U.S. began to send troops to Viet Nam also, to help the dictatorship in the South to crush an insurgency led by the NLF. During Kennedy’s presidency (1961–63), the number of U.S. military “advisers” went from 875 to 16,000. By the end of 1965, there were 180,000 U.S. troops in Viet Nam; three years later the U.S. troop presence peaked at 543,000. All together, three million U.S. troops served in Viet Nam.

Viet Nam Defeats Imperialism

The guerrilla armies fighting the U.S. army in the South may have been relatively small, but they were able to rely on a relatively large support network, organized by the NLF. When the U.S. army swept large areas to wipe out the guerrillas, it couldn’t find any; they would have blended in the population. When the U.S. increased bombardment from the sky, the guerrillas went underground: the NLF had enough people to dig miles and miles of tunnels. Some tunnel networks were so elaborate that American soldiers called them “the New York City subway system.”

The year 1968 proved a turning point in the war. The NLF carried out a massive offensive known as the Tet Offensive, named after the Tet New Year in January. It was a bold, coordinated attack on 36 of 44 provincial capitals and 65 district capitals in South Viet Nam. The old imperial capital of Hue fell. NFL forces even briefly took over the U.S. embassy in Saigon, the capital of South Viet Nam.

Eventually U.S. forces took back the embassy and also stopped the offensive – and the NLF lost almost half of its guerrilla forces. But the NLF had scored a huge moral victory, by showing that it was strong enough in the South, not only in the countryside but also in the cities, to prevent the U.S. from winning the war militarily.

It was then that the U.S. decided to gradually pull out of Viet Nam – even though it took seven more years to complete the pullout.

The Fight Back Home

In 1971, the New York Times published secret government documents leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. The Pentagon Papers, as the documents came to be known, revealed, among other things, the role of social movements in the U.S. in ending the Viet Nam war.

After the Tet Offensive, the military high command asked the government for 200,000 more troops in addition to the 525,000 already there. On the request of President Johnson, the Pentagon studied the situation and advised against it. The Pentagon report pointed to domestic opposition against the war: “This growing disaffection accompanied as it certainly will be, by increased defiance of the draft and growing unrest in the cities because of the belief that we are neglecting domestic problems, runs great risks of provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedented proportions.”

The words “growing unrest in the cities” no doubt referred to the dozens of uprisings by black people in American cities between 1963 and 1967. These uprisings were the culmination of the massive mobilization of the black population against the deeply entrenched, institutionalized racism in American society. Faced with this big problem at home, U.S. imperialism was not free to carry out its wars overseas.

The black revolt also penetrated the military. Many U.S. troops had already been resisting the war effort through insubordination, desertion and sometimes mutiny. But the defiance of black soldiers had another dimension – they had no desire to fight a war for the U.S. ruling class abroad, when they saw the same ruling class being responsible for the poverty of the black population, and the racism against it, at home. Most incidents of “fragging,” throwing fragmentation bombs on officers who were ordering soldiers into combat, came from black soldiers. When the U.S. military ended the draft at the end of the Viet Nam war, one reason for it certainly was that the generals wanted an army they could control.

Barbarism Unleashed

Forced to accept defeat, U.S. imperialism nonetheless was determined to punish the NLF and make an example of it. In fact, the U.S. had begun the systematic bombardment of North Viet Nam as early as in February 1964. It turned into the heaviest air bombardment the world had seen. Fourteen million tons of bombs – three times more than the amount dropped during the entire World War II, were dropped on Viet Nam and neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The U.S. also dropped 400,000 tons of napalm and 1.7 million tons of highly toxic chemicals, such as the notorious “Agent Orange,” on the countryside – for the genocidal purpose of destroying agricultural land, forests, animals and, ultimately, the people.

To U.S. officials, this butchery had no limits and some of them were quite frank about it. “We’ll go on bleeding them to the point of natural disaster for generations,” said General Westmoreland, head of the U.S. forces in Viet Nam. Air Force General Curtis Lemay was equally blunt: “We should bomb them into the Stone Age.” In fact, most of the bombing came in the early 1970s, when the U.S. had already decided to gradually pull out of Viet Nam.

The War’s Legacy: In Viet Nam ...

Viet Nam showed to the whole world that it is possible for a relatively small, underdeveloped country to effectively fight, and win, a war against the most powerful imperialist country.

But this victory came at a very heavy cost. About two million, that is, one out of twenty Vietnamese lost their lives in Viet Nam’s “American War” – not to mention the thousands and thousands of people injured for life, both physically and mentally. In fact, to this day, people in Viet Nam continue to get killed by unexploded U.S. bombs and mines, or suffer ailments caused by U.S. chemical warfare.

And, unfortunately, Viet Nam’s remarkable military victory against the U.S. did not mean freedom from imperialism either. And that’s because Viet Nam’s fight expelled imperialism from its territory, but did not get rid of it. And imperialism has struck back to punish Viet Nam – with a vengeance.

First, the U.S. was able to use Viet Nam’s neighbors against it. In 1972, the U.S. established relations with China. Soon after the reunification of Viet Nam in 1975, China’s ally, the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, invaded Viet Nam. When Viet Nam not only fended off the attack but in turn invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge, China attacked Viet Nam, destroying the only part of the North that had not been already destroyed by U.S. bombs.

The U.S. was also able to impose a complete trade embargo on Viet Nam with the participation of all capitalist countries. Once one of the major rice producers in Asia, Viet Nam became one of the poorest countries in the world after the devastation of the U.S. bombing, chemical warfare and the embargo.

For the poor, exploited masses in underdeveloped countries, there is only one way out. Such struggles have to be led by an outlook that goes beyond nationalism and national independence. Capitalism divides society, and every nation, into social classes. While the capitalist class uses a country’s resources, and its military, for more control and more profit, the laboring classes suffer every consequence of capitalist policy, from unemployment to war and destruction. For the working class, there can be no “national” liberation but only class liberation – that is, the overthrow of the rule of the capitalist class in the whole world.

... and in the U.S.

American people, and above all working class Americans who made up the combat troops in Viet Nam, saw more than 58,000 of their lives cut short in that war. But the real number of war casualties is at least twice as high: more than that number of Viet Nam veterans have committed suicide since the end of the war.

Add to that the tens of thousands of the wounded, physically and mentally, for life. A whole generation of Americans was decimated by a war halfway around the world.

For more than a decade after the end of the Viet Nam war, the U.S. ruling class did not engage in major military conflicts abroad. Government and military officials blamed it on what they called the “Viet Nam Syndrome” – a certain antipathy, and resistance, in the U.S. population against war – as if it were a bad thing. The damage the Viet Nam war did to U.S. troops, and the government’s lies about the war, certainly helped this anti-war sentiment, but no doubt the most important factor in curbing the aggression of U.S. imperialism for a while was the social movements of the 1960s and ‘70s – in particular, the mobilization of the black population against the forces of the imperialist state.

And that’s what is missing in the U.S. today, in this new era of imperialist wars abroad.

Guadeloupe:
Court Rules in Case of High School Militants

May 25, 2015

The following article was translated from the April 25 issue of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of comrades in Guadeloupe and Martinique, two islands that are French overseas departments in the Caribbean. It reports on the current status of charges against two young militants who protested a series of incidents and injustices against students.

On April 21, the courts handed down sentences for two Combat Ouvrier comrades, who produced the journal Rebelle! Sony Laguerre was accused of knocking down a cop. Sony’s charge was dismissed. Raphael Cece, accused of having threatened the police, was given two months on probation, with a fine of 500 euros. Raphael is making an appeal to a higher court.

Once again, there were a lot of police present in the court and they tried a bunch of provocations to create an incident.

In reality, this whole business should never have taken place. It grew out of some pieces written in the student journal Rebelle! which embarrassed the high school administration, the judiciary system and the police. The articles talked about a series of grave injustices against the students. No one could debate the facts cited by the journal. It especially drew attention to the sexual harassment of a number of young women.

So what Sony and Raphael were reproached for was the mocking tone they took in their journal, which became an example for other young people. The school administration was afraid the youth might revolt.

The judgement given was really successful thanks to the mobilization. In the first court proceeding, Raphael was sentenced to five months in prison with probation and Sony sentenced to eight months with big fines. Next will come an appeals court and we will see the judgment made concerning Raphael. The mobilization will continue.

Pages 6-7

Book Review:
A Fighter All My Life by Sam Johnson

May 25, 2015

In Sam Johnson’s memoirs, we see his unusual attitudes at work: to include all co-workers – black, white, men, women, Arab, Yugoslav, Polish. It’s not surprising that workers came to him with their problems. He was one of them. His instinct was to reach out to others.

Whatever the problem was – unreasonable pace of assembly line work, harassment by white and black supervisors, times when auto parts were missing or tools not working properly, when even to use the toilet was a hassle – Sam couldn’t let it go by, not for himself, not for his co-workers. His instinct was to encourage a meeting: not a month later at the scheduled union meeting, but NOW, today, not just with Sam as a shop steward, but always with co-workers, sometimes with just a couple of guys, sometimes a bigger group when word spread. Sam had the same response: let’s call a meeting. Let’s deal with this now!

This spirit of “inclusiveness” was not only Sam’s attitude. A relationship of mutual support developed with militant Arab and Yugoslavian workers. Some translated the socialist newsletter, the SPARK, that was distributed throughout the plant. During Sam’s legal battles against Chrysler, Arab workers were among those who came and supported him in court. When Arab workers were under attack and blamed for the oil crisis of the 1970s, Sam and a few others supported them.

Even when Sam was a young man, getting into fights, drinking, carousing with women, and later heavy into drugs, when some of his friends showed rotten behavior, Sam didn’t degrade anyone. This quality stayed with him as he gained class consciousness in the auto plants during the militant period of the 1960s and 70s. This is when he “got the bigger picture” from his exposure to communist co-workers.

Toward the end of the book, Sam speaks with a sense of urgency to pass onto the younger generation what he has learned about the possibilities of a revolutionary working class fight, one that could lead to a different society. When he talks about the brutality of racist cops killing “a young black kid quicker than a white kid, especially if the black kid speaks up,” it’s a thunderbolt reminder of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.

Sam also confronts young black youth as they are today. Today’s “young people out in the street are harder, with no hope, no possibilities.” Connecting the lack of jobs for young people with crime, he says outright that “some turn to crime.... Some are real fighters, but who do they fight today? Who do they rob? Each other,” and other workers in the neighborhood. Yet Sam recognizes their potential. Fight yes, but “go after the real robbers who put you in that condition.” You have the right to the good life, to the nice things you want.

He confronts the adult working class as it is today. “When there is a fight, when the working class really gets moving, we have to bring these young people along with us. They could fight tomorrow along with the rest of their class.”

Sam is unusual, even rare in this reactionary period. He grapples with the potential of the working class. He hangs onto that hope in the potential for a real fight, a revolutionary fight, that values every human being and includes everyone ready to fight. That hope is contagious!

P.S. There are light moments in the book: Read it to find out what happens, for example, when 30 auto workers descend on the superintendent’s office during lunch break over a problem with their pay checks.

[A Fighter All My Life by Sam Johnson, published by Abecedarian Books, Baltimore, Maryland in 2014.]

Page 8

Amtrak Crash Could Have Been Prevented

May 25, 2015

An Amtrak train traveling to New York derailed near Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200 others. Officials and the media initially looked for reasons to blame the train’s engineer, who was himself injured, for the crash. They are investigating his cell phone to see if he was talking on the phone or texting. They checked whether he had alcohol or drugs in his system.

It didn’t take long, though, for information to come out that the derailment was due to the train traveling at 106 miles per hour, an excessive speed for the curve where it went off the track. The speed limit for that stretch of track is 50 miles per hour and 80 mph in the part just before it.

The question of why the engineer didn’t slow the train remains to be answered, but the nature of the crash nevertheless raised the issue of why there were no automatic braking systems in place to slow the train regardless of the actions of the train conductor.

Different politicians and Amtrak officials have offered a variety of excuses for the lack of automatic braking systems on the line. The railroads, including Amtrak, are in the process of, but have not completed, installing a new automatic braking system called “positive train controls (PTC).” Amtrak has not yet completed installing PTC in the area of the track, and blames a lack of action by legislators for the delay. Other railroad officials blame regulations that require environmental and historic preservation reviews be conducted before equipment for the safety systems can be installed.

Regardless of the problems with PTC, there is an older braking system that could easily have been implemented prior to this crash. The older system is already in place on the southbound tracks on the curve where this crash occurred. But because trains heading north don’t usually achieve the same speeds in that area as trains heading south, Amtrak skimped on the implementation of the older system. Amtrak is government funded, and undoubtedly, were that funding more generous, it would have been more likely to have installed the system on the northbound side.

Privately-run railroads, such as those that carry freight are even further behind than Amtrak in installing automatic braking systems. This puts huge numbers of lives at risk should trains carrying oil or toxic chemicals derail for lack of braking systems.

Railroads in other countries have had automatic braking systems for many years. In Europe, where the railroads have their own problems due to systems varying across different countries in the past, the railroads have had a system like PTC in place for more than 20 years.

This tragedy, and the loss of life and injuries sustained, is the result of a system where rail safety, especially in passenger rail, is not a priority.

Nepal:
Earthquake Not a U.S. Priority

May 25, 2015

The May 12th deaths of six U.S. Marines in a helicopter crash in Nepal drew attention to the earthquake devastation there. Since the original quake of April 25th, another 1,600 people have died in the aftershocks.

Nepal is located in the Himalayan mountains. It is an exceedingly poor country, where half of all children were malnourished before the earthquake.

The following article is from the May 8th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The April 25th earthquake in Nepal caused more than 7,000 deaths and 14,000 wounded, according to a press release from May 3rd. The toll is likely to grow, as many villages where homes were destroyed still had not been reached. There are continuous aftershocks, and further devastation is feared.

According to the Red Cross and Red Crescent, humanitarian aid is slow to arrive. Nepal’s small airport with only one runway can’t receive all the planes that could arrive. There is also a shortage of workers to quickly sort and redistribute all the goods that come in.

But what stands out is that the authorities of the richest countries show themselves more concerned to bring home their citizens than to furnish aid to all the victims of the catastrophe.

On Monday, May 4th, that is, ten days after the earthquake, the U.S. authorities announced they would send one military transport plane and four helicopters.

The big powers have no intention of dedicating even a part of their military arsenal to rapidly bring assistance to the Nepalese, such as necessary foods and tents and equipment to clear roads to reach inaccessible areas.

After the earthquake, there was the risk of an epidemic among the 1.7 million people living in deplorable conditions with monsoon rains arriving. But the countries that have the means don’t seem to be using them. Nepal is the country of Mount Everest that mountain climbers like, but it is above all one of the poorest countries on earth.

This catastrophe displays the selfishness and indifference of the leaders of the big powers.

Search This Site