Statement on the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina
The Internationalist Workers Group section of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party in the United States and Canada September 2nd 2005
The flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina has resulted in a social disaster of epic proportions and has shown once again the sick reality of capitalist society that values property over human life. The plans for evacuation consisted of people all driving out of the city at once in their cars. This sort of brilliant bourgeois planning did not care to take into account the approximately 100,000 people in the city that, according to the Times/Picayune of Louisiana, do not own their own automobile. So in another grim milestone, we are shown how the capitalist system is progressively unable to meet or prepare for the most elementary human needs. Year after year of fiscal starvation budgets for the most basic infrastructure improvement projects left the region unprepared to meet the disaster. Hurricane Katrina, a category four hurricane, easily wiped out the levees that were meant originally to withstand category three hurricanes at best. Government money for projects to widen drainage canals, build pumping stations and improve the levee system, have gone unfunded for years. Even this disaster is hardly likely to spur any new capital investment in their own social infrastructure; the 2006 government budget will most likely reduce spending on such socially necessary infrastructure even further from the current level of about $82 million dollars, which back in 2001 had stood at $147 million. To put this social spending in perspective the Institute for Policy Studies and another think-tank called Foreign Policy in Focus, have jointly issued a report recently that estimates the war in Iraq to cost about $5.6 billion every month. The mayor of New Orleans has said that about 80% of the city is now underwater. Heavily armed police units are establishing martial law throughout the worst affected areas in order to defend property from looters, many of whom are searching for basic necessities. Virtually the entire police force of the city of New Orleans was called off search and rescue missions and called onto anti-looting duty. An additional 10,000 National Guard units are going to be deployed. Disease and starvation are certain to follow in the wake of this flood, which has been made immeasurably worse, especially for the regions poorest workers, as the bourgeoisie has increasingly viewed basic social infrastructure, in the form of things such as public transportation and flood control measures as an unbearable burden in their pursuit of the accumulation of capital. The lives of the workers of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and elsewhere in the areas hit by the hurricane are worth nothing to the capitalist class. For years engineers and scientists have been warning about the potential for a catastrophic disaster in the event of a hurricane or a major flood in southern Louisiana. Nothing was done to either move the city or even come up with a concrete evacuation plan. The official evacuation plan was for everyone to own their own car, and drive off down the same roads all at once. The government then told the victims stranded around the city and in the Superdome that the government authorities would try to save as many of them as possible. This has had the effect of panicking anyone who didn’t want to be one of those people left behind and has caused much hypocritical moralizing from the bourgeois press on the subject of looting and lawlessness, as if they expected people who have been stranded and left behind to face starvation, disease and death, to behave rationally. The message of the bourgeoisie is that if you are too poor to own a car then you deserve to die.This tragedy shows us in stark relief a system that is capable of creating the largest imperialist war machine ever built but still cannot be bothered to plan for the eventuality of a natural disaster.