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Committee Against Utility Shutoffs

About the Committee

In early May, workers and young people voted to establish the Committee Against Utility Shutoffs (CAUS) to take forward the work initiated by the Citizens Inquiry into the Dexter Avenue Fire: Utility Shutoffs and the Social Crisis in Detroit. The Citizens Inquiry was launched by the Socialist Equality Party after a series of deadly house fires in Detroit that were the result of the shutoff of gas and electrical service by the local utility monopoly, DTE Energy.

Nearly a dozen people have been killed in utility-related fires since the beginning of the year, including two disabled brothers and their friend in a January 5 fire on Dexter Avenue, and three children, ages 3-5, in a March 2 fire on Bangor Street.

On April 13, the commissioners of the inquiry issued their findings, indicting the energy giant and the government for these and other fatal house fires. They insisted that the company’s top executives and government regulators be held accountable.

CAUS, which meets every two weeks in Detroit, is planning an aggressive campaign to reach the working class in the coming weeks and months. Sylvia Young, the 32-year-old single mother who lost three children in the Bangor Street fire, urged workers and youth to join the committee and take up this fight.

  • The capitalist crisis and the fight for socialist internationalism

    From World Socialist Web Site - May 5

    This Perspective is the text of the speech given by David North, chairman of the World Socialist Web Site international editorial board and national chairman of the Socialist Equality Party (US), to open the International Online May Day Rally hosted by the International Committee of the Fourth International and the WSWS on Sunday, May 4.

  • Worldwide attendance at ICFI May Day online rally

    From World Socialist Web Site - May 5

    Workers and young people on six continents and from 84 countries attended the online May Day rally held by the International Committee of the Fourth International Sunday. They heard ten speakers who spoke to the worldwide audience from the United States, Britain, Germany, Sri Lanka and Australia.

    The rally was the first of its kind for the international working class movement, bringing together a global audience in a common rally against war, inequality and dictatorship. It was organized through the World Socialist Web Site, the daily Internet publication of the ICFI.

    Over two thousand people registered for the event, and more than 700 comments were posted during the two and a half hours that it was broadcast. The enormous response to the call for the rally is a reflection of growing popular opposition around the world to the policy of war and social counterrevolution, and the widespread hunger for political analysis and a political alternative.

    Helen Halyard, a national committee member of the Socialist Equality Party (US), and a member of the Trotskyist movement for more than 40 years, served as chairman.

  • The US media and the CIA’s spying on Congress

    From World Socialist Web Site - March 18

    Today marks one week since the speech by Dianne Feinstein on the floor of the US Senate in which the California Democrat, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, publicly charged the CIA with cover-up, the withholding of documents, and unconstitutional spying on her committee, which has the legal responsibility to oversee the spy agency.

    Feinstein, a longtime rubber-stamp defender of the US intelligence agencies, accused the CIA of attempting to intimidate her committee and charged that the agency “may well have violated the separation-of-powers principle embodied in the United States Constitution,” and also “the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”

  • The fascist danger in Ukraine

    From World Socialist Web Site - March 6

    A politically sinister propaganda offensive is underway in the media to either deny the involvement of fascists in the US-backed coup in Ukraine or present their role as a marginal and insignificant detail.

    The New York Times, for example, asserted, “Putin’s claim of an immediate threat to Ukrainian Russians is empty,” while Britain’s Guardian dismissed as a “fancy” claims that events in Crimea were an attempt to “prevent attacks by bands of revolutionary fascists,” adding that “the world’s media has [not] yet seen or heard from” such forces.

    This is an obscene cover-up.

    The reality is that, for the first time since 1945, an avowedly anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi party controls key levers of state power in a European capital, courtesy of US and European imperialism. The unelected Ukrainian government, headed by US appointee Arseniy Yatsenyuk, includes no fewer than six ministers from the fascist Svoboda party.

  • US imperialism, Ukraine and the danger of World War III

    From World Socialist Web Site - March 5

    Are we standing on the brink of a nuclear war? That is the question that everyone should be asking.

    The US-backed coup in Ukraine has triggered the most dangerous international crisis since the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. American and European officials are denouncing Russia for sending troops into Crimea in response to the installation of an anti-Russian regime in Ukraine that has seized power through a coup d’état staged by fascist militia.

    The Obama administration appears determined to escalate the confrontation with Moscow. Demanding a withdrawal of all Russian forces from Crimea and the Kremlin’s total acceptance of the new US-NATO puppet regime in Kiev, the US is calling for sanctions aimed at the complete economic isolation of Russia.

    On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry threatened at a press conference in Kiev that the US is seeking to “isolate Russia politically, diplomatically and economically.” His statements were echoed by bellicose threats from leading American politicians.

  • The crisis in Ukraine

    From World Socialist Web Site - March 4

    The crisis that has erupted in Ukraine following the right-wing coup engineered by the United States and Germany and the intervention of Russia into Crimea has created the most dangerous international confrontation since the end of World War II. Almost overnight, in a manner not seen since the 1930s, ultimatums are being issued and military forces are being placed on high alert in Europe.

    All of the claims that the dissolution of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the 20th century era of wars and revolutions have been blown to pieces by the events of the past several days. The 20th century was the “unfinished century,” whose unresolved economic, social and political contradictions underlie the explosive tensions of the present century. One hundred years after the outbreak of World War I and 75 years since the beginning of World War II, mankind is again facing the dangers of world war and fascism.

  • The crisis in Ukraine

    From World Socialist Web Site - March 3

    The crisis that has erupted in Ukraine following the right-wing coup engineered by the United States and Germany and the intervention of Russia into Crimea has created the most dangerous international confrontation since the end of World War II. Almost overnight, in a manner not seen since the 1930s, ultimatums are being issued and military forces are being placed on high alert in Europe.

    All of the claims that the dissolution of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the 20th century era of wars and revolutions have been blown to pieces by the events of the past several days. The 20th century was the “unfinished century,” whose unresolved economic, social and political contradictions underlie the explosive tensions of the present century. One hundred years after the outbreak of World War I and 75 years since the beginning of World War II, mankind is again facing the dangers of world war and fascism.

  • Obama and Kerry lecture Russia on Ukraine

    From World Socialist Web Site - March 1

    US Secretary of State John Kerry used a State Department press conference Friday to lecture Russia on the necessity to uphold the “stability” and “territorial integrity” of Ukraine as Western intervention has brought the situation there to the boiling point.

    The remarks came just shy of one week after the concerted intervention of the United States, Germany, France and other European powers led to a violent coup by fascist and far-right forces in the capital of Kiev.

    “The United States totally supports the Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the sovereignty [sic], and we expect other nations to do the same,” Kerry declared. He added that he had earlier that day instructed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that “it is important for everybody to be extremely careful not to inflame the situation and not to send the wrong messages.”

  • US and Japanese troops train for war against China

    From World Socialist Web Site - February 28

    A prominent article in the New York Times last weekend left no doubt about US-Japanese preparations for war or the intended target. Entitled “In Japan’s drill with the US, a message for Beijing”, the article covered US Marines training Japan’s newly-formed amphibious force in “how to invade and retake an island captured by hostile forces.”

    While the joint exercise, codenamed Iron Fist, is an annual event, Marine Lieutenant Colonel John O’Neal declared that the Japanese troops came this year with “a new sense of purpose.” The 250-strong unit—up from just 25 soldiers in 2006—arrived with “their own “Humvees, gear and paraphernalia for retaking islands—or, in Marine parlance, ‘amphibious assault with the intent to seize objectives inland’.” O’Neal explained that the month-long exercise at Camp Pendleton in southern California was the “largest and most involved operation so far.”

  • The political lessons of the UAW debacle in Tennessee

    From World Socialist Web Site - February 27

    The defeat of the United Auto Workers in a union recognition vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee has provoked an outpouring of handwringing and despair from liberal and pseudo-left publications.

    Over the last two weeks, the New York Times, the Nation, the American Prospect, In These Times, Labor Notes, Socialist Worker and other publications have characterized the 712-626 vote against recognizing the UAW as a defeat for the VW workers and for American labor more broadly.

    According to their narrative, which echoes that of the union leadership, the UAW is a “progressive” organization whose loss is the result of antiunion Republicans playing upon the backwardness of southern workers and manipulating them to vote against their own interests.

    This narrative is a reactionary fiction.

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Fires burn throughout Detroit

From sep - September 8

Dozens of houses burned down in Detroit Tuesday as fires blazed through all parts of the city, overwhelming the local fire department.

Firefighters were brought in from the surrounding cities of Harper Woods, Warren, Dearborn, Grosse Pointe and Highland Park, the first time the city called in outside firefighters since the 1967 riots.

Residents and firemen said that the majority of the fires were caused by downed electrical wiring. According to residents, DTE, the city’s main electrical company, failed to respond in a timely manner to complaints about the failure of the electrical infrastructure.

A total of 85 structures caught fire after heavy winds downed over 700 power lines, according to statements by Detroit Fire Commissioner James Mack and DTE officials.

The largest fire, which destroyed at least a dozen houses, took place on Robinwood Street on the city’s East Side. The blaze was apparently set off when a power line or transformer, which had been shooting sparks for days, ignited and set fire to a garage.

Michigan governor signs law witch-hunting workers for “energy theft”

From sep - July 22

The Committee Against Utility Shutoffs (CAUS) condemns legislation signed into law by Michigan’s Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, Tuesday, sanctioning a crackdown on poor residents in Detroit and other cities for alleged “energy theft.”

The five-bill law is chiefly sponsored by Democratic state senators in Detroit, but it is overwhelmingly supported by both parties in the state legislature. The legislation is designed to cover up the responsibility of the real criminals—utility giants DTE Energy and Consumers Energy—for the deadly house fires and other tragedies that result each year from the termination of gas and electrical service to hundreds of thousands of working class families in Michigan.

It is designed to sanction the actions of DTE that led to the deaths of two wheelchair-bound brothers (Marvin and Tyrone Allen) and their housemate in a January 5 fire on Dexter Avenue and another deadly fire March 2 on Bangor Street. In both cases, the company cancelled service to the homes, allegedly because they had illegal connections.

The Committee to Oppose Utility Shutoffs has been formed on the basis of the findings and recommendations of the Citizens Inquiry into the Dexter Avenue Fire. To join the committee, click here.

Citizens Inquiry into the Dexter Avenue Fire holds first hearing

From sep - March 21

At the initial public hearing of the Citizens Inquiry into the Dexter Avenue Fire, held Saturday at Wayne State University in Detroit, Inquiry commissioners heard testimony from residents, experts, and researchers about utility shutoffs and house fires in Detroit, the practices and political influence of energy giant DTE, and the broader social crisis in the city.

The testimony revealed nightmarish conditions in Detroit overseen by a political establishment dominated by corporate interests. A number of residents spoke of the abusive and arbitrary character of DTE’s policies, and several spoke of relatives injured or killed as a result of utility shutoffs. Experts and investigators detailed the lack of assistance to those in need of help, the influence wielded by DTE over politics in Michigan, the profits of DTE and its investors, and the origins of the social crisis in the city.

Citizens Inquiry into the Dexter Avenue Fire: Utility Shutoffs and the Social Crisis in Detroit

The Socialist Equality Party is calling on workers, young people and all those concerned about the worsening social conditions in Detroit to participate in a fact-finding inquiry into the January 5 house fire on Dexter Avenue that killed two disabled men and another Detroit resident. The inquiry will be held on March 20, from 1-5 pm, at Wayne State University in Detroit (see below for full details). Contact us today to become involved!

The Dexter Avenue Fire Inquiry - Post-hearing Interviews