Katrina Aftermath: Capitalist Disaster: Socialist Answer!

The impact of hurricane Katrina was a metaphor for capitalism. The rich white ruling class left the poor black working class population of New Orleans to drown or die of exposure.

The hurricane was itself a natural force, but its major impact was not its predictable violence but the equally predictable cuts in the budget of the Army Engineers for building adequate levees against flooding. Compare this. For all its faults, in Cuba 1.5 million people were recently evacuated out of the path of a hurricane with no loss of life! In the US, black and white workers must unite to build a working class movement capable of taking the struggle for equal rights all the way to socialism!
The Third American Revolution?

The anti-war movement has been boosted by the massive anger that followed the capitalist disaster of New Orleans. Bush and his Wall St cronies have proven to a world wide audience that it is the system that is rotten whether its against Iraqi workers or workers in New Orleans.

We need to take this movement back to its class roots in the labor movement and build the upcoming nationwide Strike in the US on December the 1st into a world wide strike against US imperialism and its War Of Terror. Bush is going to use his power to fight terrorism to impose a state of emergency on the Gulf Coast following the recent crises to the compounding crises of US imperialism. This demands a revolutionary response from the working class.

Taking the lead in imposing martial law will be FEMA, the federal authority empowered to deal with 'emergencies'. At the end of this article are a set of regulations detailing the draconian powers FEMA has to control the people in a bosses' 'emergency'.

If we substitute the term 'workers' in all the FEMA regulations for 'government' we can see the task that lies ahead.

There's no movie to guide us but here's a few ideas for the plot.

Since the ruling class is responsible for these compounding disasters, only the working class can provide a solution that will NOT inevitably lead to further, and worse, disasters. The weakness of the US economy, its costly occupation of Iraq, the rising price of oil etc mean that Bush is facing a mounting class opposition at home. Like 9/11 Bush will use this crisis to impose the next level of his anti-terrorist police state to contain growing opposition.

But the horse has already bolted. The majority growing against the war, and the clear failure of the system (not just the 'free' market at some leftists are suggesting) that caused these capitalist disasters has generated a huge outrage against the rich white ruling class that is now bringing the most oppressed layers of the working class into vocal opposition to the Bush regime.

The international day of action on Saturday the 24th September showed that the New Orleans disaster is widely seen as part of the same problem as the invasion of Iraq. The bigger turnout on the marches around the world is a good sign, but it goes nowhere unless it takes root in the only place where workers have power, the workplace.

We must redouble our efforts to make sure that the union led nationwide strike on December 1 will take off and become an international strike!

Bush will use the disasters to justify using emergency regulations and existing anti-terrorist laws to try to stop the growing class resentment and class mobilisation against him; just as the anti-terror laws were used to stop the Million Worker March last October from becoming a huge event.

They will be used to identify, lock up or kill those who protest against FEMAs allocation of fuel, food, housing etc just as survivors of Katrina were shot as 'looters' for helping themselves to food from supermarkets in New Orleans.

Workers made destitute by capitalisms neglect of its reserve army of black and migrant labour have already been drafted into virtual slave labour gangs to rebuild New Orleans where labour laws have been suspended. FEMA can use its powers to extend this to draft workers into work brigades.

So how to build a workers response to this crisis against increasingly draconian state powers of repression?

The 'Government' will impose control over all of these functions via its agencies. No doubt this will include the oil refineries and outlets of the Venezuelan state company in the US that distributes oil aid offered by Chavez. But those agencies are all manned by state employees or contractors.

In fact the 'Government' in order to rule over the working class, has to pay workers to do this. The emergency services, the national guard and so on are made up of workers. So are all the services that the 'Government' will take over directly to run transport, health, education, etc. The work brigades will have to be run by mercenaries - just like the slave drivers of old.

Workers Control of Rebuilding New Orleans

What is needed is that the locals of the unions spearhead demands for community assemblies to take over the running of all of these services on the grounds that this is the only way to ensure that emergency aid and rebuilding will meet the needs of the people, and not the Halliburtons, Bechtels and Bush's other capitalist cronies.

All the agencies 'empowered' by FEMA to do these tasks must become subordinated to community assemblies backed up by armed self defence committees. Fuel and food must be controlled and allocated by workers committees. Workers should refuse to be forced to work and agree to work only if community assemblies are responsible for overseeing the work.

Under the US Constitution the provision for citizens to bear arms against tyranny will be suspended in any emergency. Workers armed defence committees should be set up to maintain law and order and prevent real looting of fuel and aid.

Where the National Guard or the army is used to disarm the self-defence committees, the community assemblies must appeal to the rank and file of the army to disobey all orders that involve repressing these local democratically constituted organisations.

When the 'Government' tries to crack down, as in Iraq, on what they designate as 'terrorism', the US labor movement, bureaucratic and compliant with the state as it is, has to be challenged by the rank and file to take strike action against Bush and his ruling class backers.

In this way organised opposition to FEMA could see the build up to a nationwide strike on December the 1 become the launching platform for a renewed mass democratic unionism and the birth of the first genuine workers party ever. At that point the strangle hold the ruling class exercises over the working class with its 'Republicrat' congress can be blown away, and the formation of a workers party rooted in workers councils and self-defence committees open the way to socialist revolution.
From Class Struggle 63 Sept/Oct 2005

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