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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.

  • Statement of Principles

    The World Tasks of the Socialist Equality Party

    The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) is in solidarity with and accepts the political authority of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the World Party of Socialist Revolution founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938. The principles of the SEP incorporate the essential experiences of the revolutionary upheavals of the twentieth century and the corresponding struggle waged by Marxists for the program of world socialist revolution. The socialist revolution, which signifies the forcible entrance of the masses into conscious political struggle, portends the greatest and most progressive transformation of the form of man's social organization in world history – the ending of society based on classes and, therefore, of the exploitation of human beings by other human beings. A transformation so immense is the work of an entire historical epoch. The principles of the SEP are derived from and necessarily reference the experiences of this epoch, which opened with the eruption of World War I in 1914, followed shortly thereafter by the conquest of state power by the Russian working class in the 1917 October Revolution.

  • The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party

    The Principled Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party

    1. The program of the SEP is of a principled, not of a conjunctural and pragmatic character. It is based on an analysis of the crisis of world capitalism and an assimilation of the strategic revolutionary experiences of the working class and the international socialist movement. The world economic and political system is, in its fundamental characteristics, imperialist. Despite the advances in technology, the growth of the productive forces, and the expansion of capitalist production relations throughout the globe, the world capitalist system is beset by the same insoluble contradictions that produced the 20th century horrors of two world wars, fascism, a virtually endless series of regional military conflicts and innumerable brutal political dictatorships.

  • Program of the Socialist Equality Party

    The following document was adopted by the First National Congress of the Socialist Equality Party (US), held August 11-15, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A pdf version of this program is available for download here.

    For information on how to join the Socialist Equality Party, click here.

  • Leon Trotsky and the defense of historical truth

    We are publishing here the lecture given by David North, chairman of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site, at the University of Leipzig on March 16. North, who has published extensively on the history of the socialist movement, is the author of In Defense of Leon Trotsky, a defense of historical truth and the legacy of Trotsky against the falsifications in the 2009 biography of Trotsky by the British author Robert Service and other similarly tendentious Trotsky biographies published in recent years.

    North spoke at the conclusion of the Leipzig book fair, where Mehring Publishers released the German edition of In Defense of Leon Trotsky. (For a report on the meeting, see: “Leipzig meeting on Leon Trotsky and the defense of historical truth: 300 hear David North critique Robert Service’s biography of Trotsky”). The lecture was delivered in German. For access to the German version, click here.

    * * *

  • Middle East tensions escalate in wake of Saudi mass beheadings

    Tensions within the war-ravaged Middle East have escalated sharply in the wake of Saudi Arabia’s January 2 mass executions of 47 prisoners, including a prominent Shia cleric who had criticized the ruling monarchy and its suppression of the country’s Shia minority population.

    Saudi Arabia cut all diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday, using angry protests against the beheading of the Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, as the pretext. Demonstrators Sunday stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and firebombed a consular facility in the Iranian city of Mashhad. At least 50 of the protesters were arrested and no Saudi functionaries were injured.

    On Monday, the Saudi monarchy followed up its severing of diplomatic links with the announcement that it is also banning all flights to and from Iran and also cutting trade ties.

    The Saudi actions were followed Monday by Bahrain and Sudan severing diplomatic ties with Iran as well. Bahrain, which is host to the US Fifth Fleet, is a majority Shia country ruled by a dictatorial Sunni monarchy. Saudi troops and tanks played the decisive role in suppressing mass protests that swept the country in 2011.

  • The New Year stock sell-off

    The first trading day of 2016 quickly turned into a global financial debacle, with stock markets all over the world plummeting after the Chinese government shut down its major exchanges to prevent a full-scale crash.

    The sell-off confirmed the year-end expressions of foreboding by bourgeois commentators over the prospects for world capitalism in the new year. Whether Monday’s market rout is the beginning of an implosion of unsustainable financial bubbles or an anticipatory financial heart attack remains to be seen. One thing is certain, however. It is a symptom of profound and insoluble contradictions that have only intensified since the Wall Street crash more than seven years ago.

    The collapse on Chinese markets, with the Shanghai Composite Index closing with a loss of 6.9 percent, was triggered by new data showing that Chinese manufacturing activity fell in December from the already depressed level of the previous month. The December decline marked the tenth consecutive monthly contraction.

  • 2016 will be a year of escalating class struggle

    Class conflict will become an ever-more dominant feature of life in 2016 as the ruling classes in the US and around the world demand that workers pay for the global economic crisis and the cost of endless and expanding war.

    Last year was marked by significant initial expressions of growing opposition among workers internationally. Among the most critical battles was the fight of autoworkers in the US, the center of world capitalism.

    During the latter months of the year, the corporations and the United Auto Workers union were only able to overcome mass opposition to pro-company contracts at Fiat Chrysler (FCA), General Motors and Ford through a campaign of lies, intimidation and reports of vote-rigging. Even so, workers at FCA voted down a national contract backed by the UAW for the first time in 32 years.

  • The mass beheadings in Saudi Arabia

    Washington’s closest ally in the Arab world, the dictatorial monarchy of Saudi Arabia, ushered in the New Year with a torrent of blood, simultaneously executing 47 prisoners.

    This wave of state murders unfolded at 12 separate prisons across the kingdom. At eight of them, the condemned were beheaded, while at four others they were cut down by firing squads. The headless corpses were then crucified and left hanging in public as a hideous warning to any who would even contemplate opposing the absolute power of the ruling royal family.

    The most prominent of those put to death was Nimr al-Nimr, a Muslim cleric and leading spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s oppressed Shiite minority. Nimr, who was interrogated under torture and then brought before a kangaroo court, was convicted on charges that included “disobeying the ruler” and “encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations.”

    These “crimes” stemmed from the mass protests that swept Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shiite Eastern Province in 2011, expressing popular demands for democratic reforms and an end to the Sunni monarchy’s discrimination and oppression of the Shiite population.

  • Capitalism, the working class and the fight against police violence

    The events in Baltimore, Maryland following the police killing of 25-year-old Freddie Gray mark a political turning point in the United States. The enormous class divide in America, the bankruptcy of the entire political system and the collapse of democratic forms of rule—all have been laid bare by this latest act of state brutality and the military-police mobilization against the eruption of social anger.

    In recent days, thousands of people have participated in demonstrations in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and other cities throughout the country. Further protests will take place today and over the weekend. While the police violence is the immediate spark, far deeper issues are involved: mass unemployment, poverty, the decay of cities and social infrastructure, and unprecedented levels of social inequality.

  • The political censorship of the SEP (Australia) and the fight against war

    The attempted suppression of the meeting called by the SEP (Australia) under the title “Anzac Day, the glorification of militarism and the drive to World War III” is a warning to the international working class of accelerating militarism and the accompanying attacks on democratic rights in every country. The veneer of democracy is being ripped off.

    The campaign waged by the SEP in support of its right to hold the meeting has revealed that what might have initially appeared to be actions of a single local government authority to block the event, in fact involved decisions and discussions at the highest levels of the political establishment. This became clear when Sydney University, one of the country’s most prestigious educational institutions, joined Burwood City Council in seeking to block the SEP meeting.

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Fires burn throughout Detroit

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”

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

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