10 years ago, the Progressive Labor Party organized to send many people to the flood ravaged disaster in New Orleans. Challenge was quite clear to point out that the tragedy was far less a natural disaster as a disaster caused by capitalism. Due to the racist manner in which the levies were constructed, the lack of any kind of response, the callous racism showed to the Black working class as the flood waters rose and police officers shot at Black workers fleeing their homes and trying to cross a bridge, PLP condemned the racist capitalist system guilty for being the primary cause in the crime in perpetuating the disaster of Hurricane Katrina.
Here is what Challenge wrote 10 years ago, right after the flood destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers, killed over a thousand, and, still 10 years later, over a hundred thousand Black workers have yet to return to New Orleans. The racist US ruling class used the tragedy of Katrina as an opportunity to fire all of the teachers in New Orleans. A whole generation of children had their educations disrupted as part of the greater proof that the capitalists don’t care about meeting the needs of the working class. They only care about meeting their own needs.
From the fascism forming in Ferguson and all over the US, to Obama’s crocodile tears as he continues to perpetuate the racism that is the cornerstone of US imperialism, to the intensifying inter-imperialist crisis fueling the massive numbers of refugees fleeing the violence that capitalism causes, the working class is crying out for Communism. Join and help build the PLP so that we can end this dark night of capitalism once and for all.
SEIZE THE MOMENT!
Millions See Racist Killer Nature of Capitalism
Every so often a rare moment occurs that exposes the racist and brutal nature of the profit system. And in that moment, millions can see the nature of the beast and can be won to a more revolutionary communist outlook. This is such a moment. The rulers are losing a war in Iraq, about 20,000 industrial workers are on strike against Boeing and Northwest Airlines, and the ruling class has turned a hurricane into genocide of black and poor workers in New Orleans. Under different objective conditions, and with a mass PLP base among workers, soldiers and youth, such a moment could spark the armed struggle for the seizure of power.
Those objective conditions are not here yet, and we are a long way from having the mass base for PLP we require. Nevertheless, it is our job to seize this moment and advance the forces of revolution.
From Baghdad to New Orleans, capitalism stands exposed as a mass racist murderer for all to see. From Bush, to the head of FEMA, to the Governor of Louisiana, to the black Democratic Mayor of New Orleans, capitalism has failed. The number of dead — mostly black workers, children and the elderly — will dwarf the number of GI’s killed in Iraq or civilians killed on 9/11.
The racist rulers, especially the liberals like the NY Times, are crying crocodile tears and will try to use this moment to fight for an even bigger army to wage more wars, so the National Guard can be used to protect the rulers’ property and impose martial law at home, and for a larger, more efficient police-state Homeland Security Agency. They will use this disaster of their own making to try to put the White House back under the control of the biggest bosses and curb the neo-cons. We must expose their murderous deception and point out that the Democrats supported all the budget cuts and have said little to nothing in this crisis.
The industrial strikes have a special significance,particularly Boeing. When we say that billions are going to the war in Iraq and Homeland Security, much of it goes to Boeing, a major racist war-maker and strike breaker. The war, the strikes and the mass murder are all intimately tied together. What’s more, PLP has built a base among Boeing workers over decades, and we can advance the revolutionary movement and recruit to the PLP out of this strike.
And not just at Boeing, but everywhere we have a base, we must seize the moment. PLP in Texas is actively taking part in the resettlement of victims from New Orleans, struggling with victims and care-givers alike to build a mass PLP. Postal workers in Chicago are holding a fund raiser in their union hall, while struggling to bring more workers into the Party. This moment can be one of increased revolutionary opportunities, but they will not happen spontaneously, we must work hard and seize them.
Every Party member and club should be involved in some kind of relief effort for the victims of New Orleans, while mapping out a plan to more aggressively build the Party. We should be fighting in the unions, on campus and in the communities and barracks, to march on Washington against the war and racist mass murder at home on September 24 in Washington D.C, L.A. and the Bay Area in California, to organize relief efforts for the flood victims, to support the Boeing and Northwest strikers, to sharpen the class struggle where we are and to build a mass international PLP. This moment will not last, but if we seize it, we can be stronger than we were when it arrived.
PL Volunteers Help Victims of Katrina and Racist Negligence by Rulers
Report from Texas
PLP members and friends are working on storm relief in Texas cities. In a major city near Louisiana, PLP has met many people fleeing New Orleans who blame the rich and government officials on all levels for the disaster that has killed their relatives and forced them into refugee camps across Texas. Multi-racial groups and families are fleeing on foot, pulling shopping carts and hitchhiking to get out after all so-called relief efforts failed or never even got started. Even the medical personnel from Louisiana hospitals are now fleeing on foot. People managing to get out on organized bus caravans move from checkpoint to checkpoint at evacuation centers in Texas which are barely operational.
Tens of thousands of working people are volunteering to help the refugees, inundating organizations like Salvation Army and Red Cross, which are barely able to organize anything, yet are doing a hundred times more than the government agencies like FEMA and Homeland Security. Many of the volunteers met by PL members are veterans of the two Iraq wars, often injured and disabled themselves. Most everyone agrees that the oil war in Iraq has sucked up all the funds that should have paid for relief.
The volunteer efforts are a lesson in the possibilities for communist revolution by the working class. Friends of PLP have called across the state to organize help at Red Cross sites and consider whether or not to go to Louisiana. The thousands of people working in food warehouses and shelters are almost entirely self-organized. The working people show up to volunteer and organize themselves, often fighting off the bureaucrats who do nothing but go to press conferences to announce relief efforts which don’t even exist. Many volunteers, including PLP members, have taken matters into their own hands, picking up refugees stranded by the freeways, searching for victims whose medications have run out and getting them hospital care, and much more.
PLP school teachers in Texas will have (or will propose to have) refugee children in their classes and are discussing how to work with fellow teachers and PTAs to meet these families and build an understanding of how racism, imperialist war and the capitalist system itself, caused this disaster.
The ongoing Katrina crisis is showing the working class what capitalist “democracy” is worth. People are relying on themselves and the goodness of their class brothers and sisters for anything that is positive. A terrible problem is that PLP is so small. It is difficult to reach thousands with our message that communist revolution is the only long-run solution. People fleeing Louisiana and Mississippi, and the volunteers helping them, all can see the problems. They also sense that the only real help is to organize from below, for working people to help working people. But only a rapidly growing PLP can show people that the way to prevent U.S. rulers from continuing their system and its attacks on working people is to get rid of the rich altogether. Only PLP can explain the need to destroy the capitalists who try to stay on top of their European and Asian competitors by endless wars, financed by racist attacks against poor people at home.
Victims of Katrina Treated Like Prisoners
Hundreds of cots not even inches from each other are the living arrangements for New Orleans evacuees in this large Texas city. Although hurricane victims are now getting shelter, food and health care from thousands of volunteers in a show of mass multi-racial and class solidarity, many explain that the events in New Orleans were caused by the government officials who quit offering public services of any kind long ago. (PLP members doing volunteer work are carrying pencils and notebooks to exchange contact information with other volunteers and flood victims. This often requires asking for relatives’ phone numbers from flood victims who have no phone and no homes left in Louisiana and Mississippi.)
Many of the people that fled New Orleans have told PL volunteers helping at evacuation centers that they are being treated like prisoners, endlessly passed from one police checkpoint to another. At a San Antonio relief center people had to get on and off buses several different times before reaching the main registration. In another city, lawyers reported that hundreds of police were awaiting the evacuees, planning to interrogate and search them in a facility without any outside observers.
It is starting to look like there will be up to 500,000 people sent to different closed military bases and other sites around the U.S. and will live in what will become refugee camps under martial law.
While the rulers’ economic analysts focused first on the disruptions to the U.S. oil supply and its effect on U.S. competitiveness, these geniuses have now realized that the workers who ship, load and unload most of the U.S. agricultural crop that comes down the Mississippi to the Port of New Orleans, are gone. There are no houses, no transportation, no facilities at all left to support the workers that keep U.S. produce moving to make profits for giant corporate agriculture. The bosses are worried that this will cause a crisis as the harvest advances over the next several weeks.
Although this is not spontaneously producing conscious revolutionary communists, it is becoming easier to talk to people about the need for PL’s politics and organization. The breakdown in federal and local government services, as money is siphoned off to imperialist war, shows that increasingly, only the police (who are deserting and committing suicide in New Orleans) and the military physically keep the bosses in power. If PLP can win workers to revolutionary ideology and commitment, the bosses’ ideological hold on the workers will be in jeopardy. PLP-led volunteers can win our brother and sister storm victims to take matters into our own hands for the long run, while helping to provide immediate relief efforts. When workers see that the same enemy that invaded and occupies Iraqi has attacked the New Orleans black working class flood victims, great advances will become possible.
Black Cops and Officials Also Very Racist
One port/railroad worker, whose job ended when his tractor cab got stuck on a median he couldn’t see in two feet of water, explained that the cops and jails in New Orleans are the most racist in the nation. This black worker explained that the black officials and cops treat black working people as bad, or worse, than the racist bosses who run New Orleans. To this worker, the rotten treatment of the working people in New Orleans, which led to their complete abandonment to the hurricane and flood, was completely based on the profit system and its need to suck profits from workers of all races. He explained that if you were a black worker in New Orleans who sounded like you knew what was going on, you were surely going to jail whether you were accosted by a black or white cop.
Several disabled vets from New Orleans explained to PLP that the government has “subcontracted” away government services for everything the past several years, that new pumps to drain the water had never been made operational, that the explanation on TV that water made the pumps quit was a lie, and that one levee might have been broken on purpose so that higher income neighborhoods would be spared.
The “subcontracting,” which is a way government officials get out of their responsibilities, such as opening private jails, make the subcontractors rich. Meanwhile the services supposedly to be provided are not really given. This is happening in a big way today — a city official in Texas announced that FEMA (part of Homeland Security) was “subcontracting” the management of the disaster relief effort for the entire city to private companies like Halliburton. This means that in this city people who don’t know anything about disaster management and who haven’t even worked on it for the past week will now be in charge.
UNDER COMMUNISM: How would disasters from hurricanes like Katrina be avoided?
The short answer: Prevention. Under communism the working class would have the power to slow the global warming that causes more violent hurricanes. Global warming may be partly natural, but it is greatly worsened by industrial and transportation pollution that exists under capitalism, because corporate profits, rather than human needs, rule.
Second, since earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes happen, a working-class state could avoid building new cities in danger spots, and could relocate existing ones, like San Francisco and New Orleans. For example, during World War II the Soviet Union mobilized the working class to move entire cities and industrial plants east of the Ural Mountains, beyond the reach of the Nazi armies. And they succeeded, despite the devastating winters and numerous acts of sabotage by Nazi sympathizers.
New Orleans (NO) borders and lies below the level of Lake Pontchartrain. The PLP would mobilize and organize the NO working class to build a new city away from the danger spot and move the households. But before evacuating NO, the Party would have led the workers in shoring up levees, in case a hurricane struck during the building and relocation process.
Since hurricanes give several days’ warning, if there was no time to shore up the levees the city would be evacuated immediately. In contrast to the rich black NO mayor’s departure and call to evacuate — meaningless for people without vehicles or money for food and lodging, particularly the poor black population — the Party would provide adequate transportation to carry everyone out of the city safely and immediately. As during World War II, attempts at capitalist sabotage would be dealt with mercilessly.
The population outside NO would be called upon to take people into their homes on a short-term basis. Racism would be fought vigorously, not only to eliminate any hesitation in this effort but to unify the working class around this goal. Meanwhile longer-term housing would be constructed by as many workers as the job required, so that people could be housed during clean-up of the city, pending the much longer-term effort of permanent relocation.
Food, water, clothing, sanitary supplies and medicines would continually be imported in plentiful supply and distributed to the neediest first. Peoples’ former occupations would necessarily be interrupted, but clean-up and relocation would require so much effort that no one would be idle.
No income would be lost, because there would be no income under communism. Guided by the communist principle — from each according to commitment, to each according to need — all necessities of life would be provided free, and money would be abolished. Unemployment would be history.
The Party and the workers would struggle with anyone refusing to participate, and the Party would guarantee prevention of interference, including possible imprisonment, and, in cases of deliberate sabotage, execution.
In these processes the Party would first mobilize workers by calling on them to participate and then would organize participants to carry out the necessary coordination of effort and division of labor. In contrast to the armed cops and Guardsmen currently in NO, whose first job is to protect the property of the rich, the Party and each of its hundreds of thousands of members would have a base among her/his fellow workers and neighbors and be known and trusted. If the Party had a large enough presence already in NO and the U.S., this kind of leadership could have organized rescue efforts from the flood and the gathering and distribution of food, water, diapers, medical care, as well as portable toilets and bathing facilities.
The key elements of communist leadership in times of disaster are mobilization, organization, coordination of the vast majority of workers and the disciplining of internal and external enemies of the working class. Over the long term, including the present, the key element of Party leadership has been and continues to be the struggle to arm the international working class with an understanding of communist theory and practice that will enable the workers to rule the world. The distribution of CHALLENGE plays a crucial role in that effort.
The task at hand for the working class of all nations is to organize, with Party leadership, its own hurricane to drown the capitalist ruling classes. Under the distant future of communism, with capitalists out of the picture, the working class will survive future hurricanes, tsunamis and volcanoes with minimal disruption in our lives.
In future issues we will discuss the way that workers in revolutionary China were mobilized by the Communist Party to eliminate public health scourges, like syphilis and parasitic infections.