Tsunami - what’s natural about this disaster?

The left has criticized the hypocrisy of imperialist responses to the tsunami. But who has called the disaster capitalist? What would a socialist tsunami look like?

The South Asian tsunami is a ‘natural’ disaster that is just as much the result of capitalism as the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. And just as in Iraq a workers revolution is needed to create an Iraqi socialist republic, so is a South Asian socialist federation of workers’ and peasants governments and a planned regional socialist economy.

The left become liberal humanists
Most of the left is horrified that the imperialist states are not going to cancel the debt outright, and call on them to do it. Monbiot’s left liberal line is typical. How come ‘our leaders’ can afford billions to kill people but have to rely on charity when tsunamis strike? The problem must be a bad attitude and need for attitude change.

“…our leaders appear to have lost the ability to distinguish between helping people and killing them. The tone of Blair's New Year message was almost identical to that of his tear-jerking insistence that we understand the Iraqi people must be bombed for their own good. The US marines who have now been dispatched to Sri Lanka to help the rescue operation were, just a few weeks ago, murdering the civilians (for this, remember, is an illegal war), smashing the homes and evicting the entire population of the Iraqi city of Fallujah…While they spend the money we gave them to relieve suffering on slaughtering the poor, the world must rely for disaster relief on the homeless man emptying his pockets. If our leaders were as generous in helping people as they are in killing them, no one would ever go hungry.” 

Workers Power offers an example of so-called Trotskyists picking up the reformist demand "Cancel the debt!"

“Of course it is vital to send money, rescue equipment, medical aid to those in desperate and immediate need. We should do all we can to force our miserly billionaire rulers to cough up everything that is needed to help save the lives of the survivors and restore their homes and livelihoods. But we must also fight to ensure that an early warning system, the equal of that which protects the USA and Japan, is rapidly put in place so that never again does such an event find a population so unprotected. We should redouble the campaign, right up to the G8 meeting this July to demand a total cancellation of the foreign debt of these countries, indeed all the countries of the so-called Global South. The workers and anti-capitalist movement should send aid too, directly to the organizations of the farmers and fishing communities of the region so that the imperialist governments and their tame NGOs do not misuse it to "open up" their economies still more to the multinationals."

Forcing "our" billionaire rulers to cough up “to help save the lives of the survivors and restore their homes and livelihoods" is a pipe dream short of a socialist revolution that does not require death and destruction to make a buck. "Restoring homes and livelihoods" in countries were capitalism has enslaved, robbed and impoverished millions for centuries is to recreate the very social conditions that caused this disaster. The imperialists and their cronies in the third world are not motivated to prevent future disasters but only to prevent revolutions arising out of actual disasters caused by capitalist super-exploitation.

Bosses’ will not pay for disaster prevention in third world

Nor will the bosses agree to their military and scientific early warning systems to be installed unless they can make a profit or at least prevent a revolution. Trillions have been spend on MAD during the Cold War, and billions still spent on satellite spies in the sky. The Pacific Early Warning system is principally to defend the military bases of the US and its rich allies. Natural disaster protection is like social welfare, the bosses are only interested in paying out if there is something in it for them. The fact is that the third world loses many more killed from other preventable disasters – diseases such as aids, starvation, genocide etc – than from tsunamis. Revolutionaries have no business sowing illusions in capitalism which is indifferent to human suffering and destruction.

No one tells the member countries about the "earthquake". However, the US DOES WARN its military base in the area. And from this military base, part of the invasion of Aceh is proceeding with TWO AIRCRAFT CARRIERS and led by the U.S.'s pre-emptive invasion of Iraq leadership. "In a bitter irony, part of this operation is being coordinated out of America's Naval base in Diego Garcia. The US warns its naval base, though fails to warn Indian Ocean rim governments. "...the strike group, with its seven ships, 2,100 Marines and 1,400 sailors aboard, also has four Cobra helicopters..."

The oil rich Aceh area, which like Iraq, was suffering from a civil war making oil extraction difficult. THE AMERICAN NAZI ANSCHLUSS MOVES OUT FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN--INTO ACEH [Anschluss: A political union, especially the one unifying Nazi Germany and Austria in 1938]. READ MORE

It is utopian and criminal for revolutionaries to give any political endorsement to aid that is being used to restore the exploitative and repressive social relations of colonial and semi-colonial capitalism. All bosses’ aid as well as NGO aid is designed to make a profit from reconstruction. Capitalists in Thailand are taking advantage of the displacement of the poor from the beachfronts to seize the land and build giant new tourist complexes. Look at Iraq and the ‘crony corporates’ that are swilling from the oil trough. That’s why the US imperialists and their agents are using the reconstruction to conduct repressive civil wars such as in oil-rich Aceh. The US created its client state in Indonesia by backing the Suharto coup against Sukarno in 1965. A million communists and nationalists died in the pogrom that followed. Shortly after, East Timor was invaded with over 250,000 dead before the UN granted it ‘independence’ in 1999. Now, in cynical disregard of this imperialist history, the US military is using the latest ‘disaster’ as a cover for it’s War On Terror against Islamic liberation movements in Aceh and elsewhere in Indonesia.

‘Workers aid’ is no alternative

Calls for aid to be distributed through the trade unions is no alternative to bosses’ aid, unless the money is controlled by democratic rank and file workers and peasants organizations in the host countries.

The ‘official’ union organizations such as the ICTU, the ACTU in Australia and CTU in New Zealand are all virtually agencies of the capitalist states and are subservient to their bosses’ interests. Revolutionaries have no business promoting the bosses’ sickening ‘humanist’ moralism to rebuild capitalism among the ‘victims’ of the disaster. ‘Their’ morals are not ‘ours’, said Trotsky. It is immoral to recreate the social structures that will see more millions of workers killed by future ‘natural’ disasters.

Workers must challenge the causes of disasters. Like the so-called ‘natural disasters’ of the past three centuries in Asia, such as droughts and famines, tidal waves only kill people in large numbers because their traditional defenses against such disasters have been destroyed by colonialism and imperialism. Large populations dying from ‘El Niño’ droughts in India and China in the 19th century resulted from their forced shift from traditional agriculture where surpluses were stockpiled for such events into cash cropping for export where the surpluses were expropriated by capitalism.

Similarly the millions caught unprotected from floods in river deltas, or from tsunamis on the coastal strips, are the result of displacement of the peasant population and mass migration into rural and urban slums. This is why so many children rushed to the shore to pick up fish exposed when the sea retreated only to be engulfed by the next giant wave.

Workers Control of reconstruction

The aid that is being offered by bosses, by NGOs and by ‘workers’ organizations, will fall far short of what is necessary to create a viable economic base. Nevertheless, basic food, shelter and medical aid are vital to the very survival of hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants. But instead of accepting the bosses’ ‘strings’ attached to this aid, the workers and peasants of the regions suffering damage from the disaster must form reconstruction committees based on workers democracy and demand control over the distribution and use of this aid.

To escape the trap of the reconstruction of colonial and semi-colonial capitalism, workers, fisherfolk and peasants displaced by the tsunami must demand the collectivization of land and fisheries, and the socialization of industry, the banks, transport and communications, all under workers’ control. Where there are national or civil wars as in Sri Lanka and Aceh, the international workers’ movement must support these armed liberation struggles and their demands for national independence. Revolutionaries must seize this opportunity to propagandize for an end to capitalist disasters and fight for a socialist society.

Socialist disaster prevention

Disasters will never be prevented unless the people fight for and succeed in building a global socialist society. All of the technology and the social wealth that workers have created for centuries which is now stockpiled as the private property and military death machines of the capitalist rulers will be expropriated and converted to the use of the people. The people will decide how much of this wealth should be used to create disaster-prevention systems.

You can be sure that one of the first steps of any socialist plan will be the conversion of capitalist military satellite technology from bosses’ wars to early warning systems of the dangers of potential natural disasters. This will be followed by practical measures to harness nature’s resources for productive rather than destructive purposes. Socialist prevention of disasters will be first and foremost the elimination of the system that profits from the deaths of millions of workers and peasants – in peace and in war, in daily existence and in ongoing disasters –capitalism!

Imperialist hands off South Asia!

Imperialist Troops out of Indonesia!

Self-Determination for Tamil Eelam and Aceh!

For independent workers organizations in control of disaster relief!

From Class Struggle 59 January-February 2005

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