Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/406/4615
Hurricane Katrina exposes: Bush's rotten capitalist system
THOUSANDS IN New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast have died of drowning, dehydration, starvation and lack of medical care. Refugee camps are packed with tens of thousands of victims. They have no secure shelter and no regular sources of food and water. Even more have been left behind to fend for themselves in a total hell-hole that was once known for its culture, art, food and hospitality.
Bryan Koulouris, New York City, USA
The US corporate media has portrayed as criminals the overwhelmingly poor Black residents left behind in squalor because they are taking food, water, clothing and other things to survive. However, the blame for the chaos in New Orleans should lie squarely on the shoulders of Bush, big business, and the system that values profits over lives.
The "American nightmare" of the living conditions faced in the US inner cities is now clear to the entire world. Before the storm, New Orleans had an illiteracy rate of over 40%. Nearly 20% of the city's residents lived below the poverty line. Just like thousands of homes on the Gulf Coast, the roof has been torn off of US society for all to see the rotten underbelly of the world's biggest economic and military power.
The absolutely revolting thing about this entire tragedy is that none of this had to happen. The flood prevention system in New Orleans has seen drastic budget cuts. Over the last five years, over $70 million have been taken away from disaster prevention in New Orleans. Compare that to over one billion dollars each week spent on Iraq. Now, New Orleans looks more like Fallujah, an entire city reduced to rubble with unimaginable conditions and dead bodies everywhere. This is the war at home. It's about time we started fighting back to win some battles.
US workers have been hit over the last 20 years with de-industrialisation, a falling rate of unionisation, and massive budget cuts. Millions have no access to healthcare. One-third of US citizens are in debt. Two million are in jail. There is no future for working-class youth, unless you like flipping burgers or dodging bullets (in Iraq or at home). And it isn't getting any better unless we do something about it.
Mass demonstrations are needed in solidarity with the victims of Katrina. Bush and corporate America won't give up anything without a fight, so we need to bring the fight to them. We need to demand decent jobs, a massive public works programme, affordable public housing, access to free healthcare and an end to the occupation of Iraq.
To win these demands, lobbying politicians won't get the job done. We need to wage a struggle that includes demonstrations, strikes, direct action, and ongoing labour and community organising.
The problem isn't just Bush; the entire system is designed to benefit a few and keep the rest of us living from paycheck to paycheck. Capitalism is a system responsible for war, poverty and environmental destruction. We need a socialist society based on workers' needs, not corporate greed.
Cash for relief not war and profit
AFTER HURRICANE Katrina Socialist Alternative - the US section of the Committee for a Workers' International which the Socialist Party is also affiliated to - is campaigning for mass demonstrations of the trade union movement and anti-war movement to demand:
- Full care and compensation for Katrina victims. The federal (national) government should fully compensate all victims of this crisis for all losses. Free medical care for all those in need.
Make sure all affected people receive a stable income to get back on their feet after this tragedy. All those who have lost their jobs, have been displaced, or in need from the affected areas should receive a living wage of $500 a week for up to three years.
Immediate interest-free loans for workers, small businesses and small farmers whose livelihoods were destroyed in the hurricane.
Initiate massive public works programmes to re-build and re-employ the US Gulf Coast. Immediately begin building decent, affordable public housing in the safe areas for all those in need due to the hurricane.
Employ Katrina's jobless victims in public works programmes to rebuild the areas affected. All rebuilding and relief workers must receive a living wage with union rights and benefits.
Ensure New Orleans' homes, workplaces, schools and streets are cleansed of the toxic contamination caused by flooded sewage and oil and chemical spills.
Stop racial and class discrimination in relief, compensation, rebuilding, and policing. Relief money received through government and charity should not be put in the hands of big business politicians and bureaucrats. Instead, oversight committees elected from the affected communities, refugees, and relief workers should control the funding and administration of relief and rebuilding efforts.
Don't bankrupt state and local budgets for relief. The federal government should hand over billions for the relief effort. Don't cut social service funding like healthcare and education to pay for relief and rebuilding efforts.
Stop profiteering from tragedy! We need price controls on petrol and other products to protect consumers. Construction should be done for the public good, under democratic community control, not for the profits of a few corporations.
Pay for rebuilding by ending the war in Iraq and taxing big business. This disaster is the direct result of the Bush administration taking funds out of levee-strengthening and other disaster prevention programmes to pay for the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the rich.
Bring the troops home and redirect military resources to rebuilding. This disaster results from decades of corporate tax-cuts by the two major parties, and the resultant under-funding of infrastructure and inner cities. Make the rich and corporate America pay for reconstruction!
In The Socialist 25 August 2005: