Suited Vandals Pillage Detroit

Against the Current, No. 166, September/October 2013

The Editors

THE PILLAGING OF Detroit by vandals in business suits and judicial robes is underway. The city’s “creditors,” including retired city workers who stand to lose their pension benefits, received a few days’ public notice that any objections to the bankruptcy proceedings had to be filed in federal court by Monday, August 19. Any actions in state courts against the bankruptcy or the Emergency Manager have been frozen.

Although the Michigan legislature has no constitutional authority over state public employees, the appeals court ruled they are covered under “right to work” legislation rammed through by the rightwing lawmakers last year.

Toxic “petcoke” waste from the processing of tar sands oil has piled up on the riverfront, spewing dust that sickens residents of the city’s largely Latino and working-class southwest side. The mayor responded only after residents repeatedly petitioned and demonstrated.

Detroit is far from the only city where the banksters, speculators, privatizers and bought politicians are massing at the gates. In this issue of ATC, Jennifer Hamer discusses the fate of East St. Louis. In Philadelphia, the school district (covered in our previous issue by activist Ron Whitehorne) is opening, after a fashion, with dozens of schools closed and hundreds of educators laid off, with a $50 million emergency cash injection that the city cannot afford.

The Detroit crisis has distinctive characteristics, of course, notably the net loss of over a million residents (60% of its population’s high point) over the past half century due to deindustrialization, suburban sprawl and racial flight. Fundamentally, however, it is just a highly visible expression of U.S. society’s deepening social catastrophe, and make no mistake, it is coming to a state and city near you.

September/October 2013, ATC 166