STL On Instagram!

Though on hiatus until the new year, the STL Instagram account will still be updated as usual. Check it out! @sparkingthe

Short Hiatus

Comrades, with the still recent relaunch of Sparking The Left I hate to inform you that I will be taking a further break from posting new material.

I am training at a new job that is turning out to be much more difficult than I planned (work is violence!). So I cannot work on both at this time.

I’ll be returning on Jan. 1st and I cannot wait until that date.

In Solidarity,

A Dialogue: Media Bias

What is the media: The main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) regarded collectively.

What is the purpose of the media: To serve as the fifth estate holding our politicians’ and other elites’ feet to the fire in the interest of plebeian citizens by fact checking and reporting the truth when communicating stories and analysis.

What is the media used for: Our mainstream network and cable news outlets, along with countless websites, serve the interests of the 1% by shining the “truth” through a curved capitalist lens.

But how?: Through the overtones and undertones expressed in every word and image.

So the media “message” is politically bent?: Of course. It serves the interest of the rich and powerful who own mass media.

How does it do this? It all looks on the up-an-up to me: Consider Gramsci’s cultural hegemony concept, in it’s best description:

“the ‘spontaneous’ consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is ‘historically’ caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production.”

Can we escape this media influence?: Of course not. We politically and culturally swim in it’s soup.

How can we change this?: If we recognize that there is a opaque pane in front of the truth.

Well, how do we get everyone else to see the truth: Organize, Comrade. Organize…

NYT: Families Hurt by Unstable Work Hours for Mothers

Short post today: Here’s a great article from the NYT’s The Upshot series from Oct. 16th that further shows how work is violence for the American family. It gives some great research links supporting the fact that unpredictable work hours for female minorities is having a largely negative affect on working mothers and their children; especially for single mothers. Please read and leave some comments for discussion!

Organized Workers Taking It to the 1%

In yesterday’s NYT there was a good article entitled “In a Strong Economy, Why Are So Many Workers on Strike?” It reported that from Chicago teachers, to GM workers, to Marriot International Hotel employees, labor is taking it to the capitalists through collective action. Even flight attendants and airplane mechanics are finding creative ways of sabotage (which they unconvincingly deny) due to the fact that they cannot legally strike without federal approval. It’s as D. Taylor, president of the UNITE HERE hospitality workers union, is quoted in the story saying:

“It’s about: ‘OK, the government is not going in to take care of us. Business is not going to take care of us. We’ve got to take care of ourselves.”

Why? The American worker took cuts to their pay and benefits in the wake of the Great Recession ten-years ago, but now their capitalist masters are making billions and billions while the proletariat is getting shafted. Due to the austerity measures they pitched in with during the 2007-2008 economic crisis which remain in place, they are not getting anything back as their wages remain stagnant in comparison to the ridiculous amounts of profits gained by Wall St.
It’s as D. Taylor is further quoted stating:


“It’s been bubbling up for some time. Now it’s come up to the surface.”

The American worker needs to keep up the fight against their rich masters with strikes and sabotage. Organized labor, from Marx and Engels to the Russian Soviets, is an essential force with which to gain leverage over the bourgeoisie. Remember, the 1% are winning the class war while most of the 99% don’t even recognize that it’s taking place.

Farewell, Shepard Smith

This was the shocking farewell sign-off by Shepard Smith last Friday at the end of his “Shepard Smith Reporting” program. As a news host at the Right-wing Trump-lackey FOX News network, he dared to go against the grain. Though a sensationalist in journalistic style, he did speak truth to power, or as close to it as it gets in the mainstream media. He was the only one at FOX who ever put Donald Trump’s lies on trial. For example, as taken from the NYT story covering Smith’s departure:


A member of the network’s founding staff in 1996, Mr. Smith became increasingly conspicuous at Fox News for his skepticism on President Trump. “Why is it lie after lie after lie?” Mr. Smith asked during a 2017 newscast; this summer, he deemed the president’s attacks on minority female lawmakers as “misleading and xenophobic.”


In a separate article in the Times, they covered in-fighting between personalities at the self-proclaimed”fair and balanced”news outlet. Smith had even been clashing with FOX talking head Tucker Carlson on air (And now this only leaves poor Juan Williams, best known for his presence on “The Five”, straying from the lock-step behind Trump and his revolting march towards infamy).

Do not get me wrong, there are absolutely no real mainstream Left-wing news outlets here in the U.S. But in the battle that joins liberals and far-leftists together against FOX News, we lost an ally.

The Gulag was Stalin, Not Soviet

This past week I finished reading the book Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize winning effort. I found this book compelling with its first-hand accounts of the brutal and deadly conditions some 8 million Soviet citizens experienced as they passed through the Gulag system over the decades. And I found no problem with the book except for a couple of points.

First, she equates the concentration camps of Lenin and Trotsky to what the phenomenon later became under Stalin. Camps were in existence during the Russian Revolution, and Lenin did express the thought that maybe kulaks (rich, land owning peasants) and former White Army officers could use a good lesson in hard, manual labor. But those early concentration camps are nothing like the true Gulags under Stalin. Applebaum even relates this fact in the introductory portion of the book. But she should have realized that Stalin is the real monster here, not Lenin and Trotsky.

Second, Applebaum asks why so many memorialize and lionize the old Soviet system with the Gulags as part of its history. She even condemns Russia’s experiment in a radical leftist ideology with the belief that the Gulag was inherent in the Communist system. She further equates the Gulag system with the German death-camps of the Nazi’s. Some far leftists will wear a hammer and sickle t-shirt, but no one would almost never, where a shirt with a swastika on it, she argues.

Now I admit that the two can be equated, and, in my opinion, they both possessed the same level of brutality which I cannot believe ever took place in as late of a period as the 20th century. But the goal of exterminating the Jews and other minority groups in the 30’s and 40’s was a major tenet of the Nazi ideology. The Gulag system was just a deformed system of punishment used by a totalitarian government. The Soviets did not want any group of people to suffer and die in Gulags. It was just the form of punishment Stalin desired as a result of his uncontrollable paranoia and its brutal crackdowns. In the introduction Applebaum even covers the fact that labor camps for criminals were a part of Czarist Russia. It seems that the concentration camp, not the suffering, was Russian, not Soviet. And a strict form of genocide was not a truly cut out goal of the Gulag system.

In conclusion, after reading this book my belief that Stalin was one of history’s greatest monsters is confirmed, and I still refuse to express my belief in a Marxist system with Stalin’s words or image. But on the other hand, I have no problem with the use of Lenin, Marx and Engels, and the hammer and sickle emblem. They are not inherently related to the. Marx never wrote, “There is a specter haunting Europe, and let there be Gulags.”

I still recommend this book.

American Childcare System: A National Disgrace

A quick post today:

One of the major obstacles challenging unemployed single parents today who are entering/reentering the American work force is the non affordability of quality childcare. If you are single, or have a stay-at-home spouse, you may not be aware how costly it is for the average American. So here’s 11 statistics from In These Times that put the non affordability of childcare in perspective:

$9,600 – Average annual cost of childcare nationwide, per child, in 2017

55% – People who said childcare costs were a significant financial challenge in 2018

33% – Parents who went into debt to pay for summer childcare in 2018

51% – People living in “childcare deserts” (areas with three times more children than

licensed childcare slots) in 2017

19 – States whose childcare assistance programs had waitlists or frozen intake in 2018

67% – Children who have all available parents working outside the industry home as of 2017

16% – Private-industry employees who had access to paid family leave in 2018

37% – Average portion of annual income that single parents spend on childcare

7% – Recommended portion of annual income to be spent on childcare, according to the Department of Health and Human Services

18.3% – Mothers with children ages 3 and younger working outside the home for a median wage of $10.50 or less in 2016

$23,240 – Median annual income for childcare workers in 2018

Don’t Be Distracted by This Bourgeois Drama!

If you have been paying attention to the mainstream media over the last week or two you know that the usual outlets are running around with their hair on fire over Pres. Trump getting dirt on Joe Biden from the Ukrainian government. Now with all the evidence I have seen and read, it’s almost undeniable that Trump is guilty of what he is accused of.

That said, the GOP is now busy attacking the non-Rupert Murdoch owned media outlets of being part of a larger deep state conspiracy against Trump and the Right-wing, in general. And, of course, the progressives refute this argument saying FOX News and their print and online cronies are serving as “state media” in the service of the present administration.

Now this is a great soap opera for all of us to watch (I am guilty, too). But it’s sucking up all the oxygen in the mass media coverage of the world. What needs to be covered by the mainstream press is even being pushed further to the margins. This infighting between bourgeois puppets should not be covered. The real story is socio-economic status conflicts all but ignored by the bourgeois media.

I know that before this latest row the mainstream press has never given the proper coverage to the issues that really matter. I’m talking about issues from the astronomical prices of prescription drugs here in the U.S. to the effects of neoliberal policies on the Third World.

The essence of my argument is that the mainstream/bourgeois media currently have a godsend in the form of a juicy drama between bourgeois actors in a bourgeois arena. But it would be completely outside of that arena for CNN or MSNBC to cover issues in the interest of the people.

All this media coverage is drama, not important news to us. Don’t let it fool you. Keep your eye on the prize: media serving the interests of the working class. The rest is just games.

Making a Comeback!

Comrades, just had a career change and hope to resume posting very soon. It may only be once a week, but I’ll make it happen.

In Solidarity