The destruction of New Orleans

The following remarks were made by an IBT supporter at a 9 September public meeting in Toronto on the recent disaster in New Orleans:

The destruction of New Orleans—one of the greatest and most culturally important cities in North America—reveals in stark relief why the survival of the human race requires the overthrow of the capitalist system. The destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina was not only a natural disaster—it was also the product of a toxic mix of ruling class cronyism, racism and reckless disregard for everything but short-term profit maximization.

Scientists and various public agencies had been predicting for years that New Orleans was just one big storm away from catastrophe. The October 2001 issue of Scientific American predicted "New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen." But all the warnings, all the computer simulations and even the requests from U.S. Army engineers charged with maintaining the levees were ignored.

The criminal negligence of the Republicans in this as in other things was only an extension of policies pursued by Clinton and the Democrats in the 1990s. The result of the continuing campaign to shrink public services in favor of reliance on the "free market" could be seen in the evacuation of the city. The 100,000 overwhelmingly black residents who did not have SUVs, money for gas or a bus or plane ticket, were simply left behind to fend for themselves. And untold thousands have died as a result. Poor blacks who sought food and water for their families were demonized as "looters" while the few white, middle-class people who did the same were celebrated in the media as "survivors."

The malice, stupidity, avarice and incompetence of the Bush gang is not accidental—it is an expression of everything wrong with a social system whose fundamental ethos is "dog eat dog." It is worth noting that in Cuba, a bureaucratized workers’ state where capitalism was overthrown over 40 years ago, the government has in the past successfully evacuated a half million people or more with no fatalities. It is all a question of social priorities. The lesson of New Orleans is clear—if humanity is to have a future, capitalism must be uprooted. And that requires a workers’ revolution.

Posted: 11 September 2005