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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.

  • 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.

  • No to imperialist war! Join the 2015 International May Day Online Rally!

    On Sunday, May 3, the International Committee of the Fourth International will hold an international online rally to mark May Day, the historic day of international working class solidarity.

    May Day this year will be held amidst conditions of immense crisis. Much of the world is already engulfed in war. Without the intervention of the working class, these conflicts, ever more violent and bloody, will lead inexorably to a world war waged by nuclear-armed powers that would call into question the very future of human civilization.

    In Eastern Europe, the fascist-led coup in Ukraine, orchestrated by the United States and the European powers in February of 2014, has been followed by a vast militarization of the entire region. NATO troops are engaged in highly provocative military exercises on Russia’s border, and hundreds of US armored vehicles, tanks, helicopters and fighter planes have been deployed to bolster the right-wing, anti-Russian governments in the Baltic states.

  • A decisive turning point in the crisis of American imperialism

    Yesterday was the deadline for countries to sign up as founding members of the China-backed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). It will go down in history as marking a significant defeat for the global foreign policy and strategic objectives of United States imperialism.

    Against strenuous opposition from Washington, more than 40 countries have now indicated they want to be part of the AIIB. Major European powers including Britain, France and Germany, as well as Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, are on board. Almost all countries in the South East Asian region, which count China as their major trading partner, have also signed up. India is also a signatory, together with Taiwan.

    The most significant blow against the US was struck by Britain, its chief European ally, which announced its decision to join on March 12. It opened the floodgates for others to follow, including two key US allies in the Asia-Pacific—Australia and South Korea. Japan is also reported to be considering joining, possibly as early as June.

    The full significance of the US defeat and its far-reaching implications emerge most clearly when viewed from a historical perspective.

  • Defend the US oil workers!

    One month into the US oil refinery strike, the oil companies are throwing down the gauntlet before the working class. This is the significance of the announcement Tuesday that global oil giant Royal Dutch Shell will train strikebreakers to resume full production at its plants in Texas and Louisiana.

    A letter from Aamir Farid, Shell’s vice president of manufacturing, Americas, said the company was shifting from its “contingency plan” to its “business continuity” phase, and training “relief workers” to replace the 800 striking workers at its largest refinery, located in the Houston suburb of Deer Park, Texas. Noting that Shell had “contingency plans in place for all [United Steelworkers] represented sites for well over 12 months,” Farid said the refinery would be up to “full rotation” by midsummer.

    In plain English: If workers do not agree to accept the dictates of the oil companies, they face the loss of their jobs and destruction of their livelihoods.

  • Murder in Moscow: Why was Boris Nemtsov assassinated?

    The assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov is a significant political event that arises out of the US-Russia confrontation and the intense struggle that is now underway within the highest levels of the Russian state. The Obama administration and the CIA are playing a major role in the escalation of this conflict, with the aim of producing an outcome that serves the global geo-political and financial interests of US imperialism.

    The relations between the United States and Russia are approaching a point of breakdown, with potentially catastrophic consequences. The Obama administration has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be removed from power, based on the Kremlin’s refusal to accept, as a fait accompli, the overthrow last year of the democratically elected Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and its opposition to the complete economic and military integration of Ukraine into the US sphere of influence.

  • The capitulation of Syriza and the lessons for the working class

    The petty-bourgeoisie is “capable, as we shall see, of nothing but ruining any movement that entrusts itself to its hands.”— Friedrich Engels (1852).


    It has taken less than one month for the Syriza government in Greece, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, to repudiate its anti-austerity election program and betray, totally and utterly, the impoverished working people whose votes placed it in power.

    Even in the entire squalid history of “left” petty-bourgeois politics, it is difficult to find an example of deceit, cynicism and truly disgusting cowardice that quite matches that of Prime Minister Tsipras. Certainly, from the standpoint of the time that elapsed between election and betrayal, the Syriza government has probably set a new world record.

    In the hours following an agreement that is nothing less than a complete capitulation to the European Union, Tsipras let loose another barrage of demagogic lies in a pathetic attempt to deny the magnitude of Syriza’s prostration and to cover up his own political bankruptcy.

  • The state of American society as 2015 begins

    As the New Year begins, the social crisis gripping tens of millions of working people in the United States is worsening. Hunger, poverty and long-term joblessness remain at the highest levels in decades, while vital social services continue to be slashed.

    One would never know this from reading the press, watching the evening news, or listening to the statements of politicians. The official discourse is dominated by the supposed revival of the American economy, characterized by record corporate profits and stock prices. The fact that the great majority of the population finds it increasingly difficult to make ends meet finds no reflection in the media or official politics.

    The incoming Republican-dominated Congress, working with the Obama administration, will focus on cutting corporate taxes and business regulations, planning new wars, and expanding the repressive apparatus of the state. No representative of the political establishment, including the supposedly outspoken liberal Elizabeth Warren and the “independent socialist” Bernie Sanders, is proposing any significant measures to address the deepening social crisis.

  • 2014–2015: Results and prospects

    The twenty-first century is no longer a novelty. As we begin the New Year, the past 15 years provide sufficient data to allow us to identify the principal economic, geopolitical and social processes and tendencies that will determine the nature and direction of events in 2015 and the years ahead.

    It must first of all be said that within the space of 15 years, the 21st century has refuted, in the most crushing manner, the “End of History” triumphalists who proclaimed, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, that capitalism and bourgeois democracy represented the unsurpassable summit of human achievement. By the end of 2014, the prevailing economic and political structures appeared to be plunging, with ever greater velocity, into the abyss.


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