By the Editorial Board
Hurricane Ida smashed into the coast of Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 mph on August 29. The path of destruction and misery in Ida’s wake lay solely at the feet of the capitalist ruling class, which is unable and unwilling to build the infrastructure and emergency response network to deal with the storms that will inevitably sweep through the region every year.
One million people have been left without electricity, with conservative estimates saying it could be several weeks before power is fully restored in the region. Two people died and ten more were injured in a horrific highway collapse in Mississippi—as the storm barreled over the eastern part of the country, at least 26 people were confirmed dead from Maryland to New York. The catastrophic situation that the people find themselves in is not mainly due to climate change, as the monopoly media portrays it, and it cannot be called a ’natural’ disaster. Hurricanes bring floods and high winds that disrupt people’s lives and damage buildings and infrastructure, but it is mainly the failures of this capitalist system prior to and after the storms that keep the people in a cycle of misery.
Ida arrived on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and once again New Orleans and the surrounding region have been plunged into the Dark Ages. The ruling class media is playing up the fact that the levees held this time, which should be the lowest bar to pass. The failed power grid means no air conditioning during the peak of the humid Gulf Coast summer with heat indexes of 100 degrees, no refrigeration to preserve vital medicine or store food for those working to recover, poor or no cell service or other means of communication, and the uncertainty about what evacuees will return to—or when it will make sense to head back. Four days after the storm, only 18 percent of people in the region have power, about 6,000 power poles are still toppled, and around 1,490 miles of power lines are out of service according to Entergy, the energy monopoly that services southeastern Louisiana and parts of Mississippi.
Over the past few years, Entergy pushed to build a natural gas–fueled power plant in the New Orleans East neighborhood, claiming it would provide reliable electricity for the exact situation the region now finds itself in, when other sources are offline. Residents of the mostly Black and Asian working-class area saw through the company’s lies and understood that the plant’s placement would force the burden of its development onto their long-neglected community, all while Entergy profited.
To counter the popular opposition, Entergy hired actors off of Facebook to show up and comment in approval of the plant at a New Orleans City Council meeting in 2018. The politicians passed the plan, and retained approval even after the hired ‘supporters’ were exposed. This is how the monopolies that produce important necessities operate: bullying the people, using deception, political manipulation, bribery, and force as necessary to get their way. The people deserve better than these criminals.
Barbara, a resident of Houma, Louisiana, told Tribune reporters that they were the first outside group that she had seen, two days after the storm: “For every hurricane that has come I’ve taken a beating,” she said. “Nobody has never helped me do anything to my home, … and now Red Cross and FEMA is nowhere to be found.”
The communities of the Gulf Coast are tenacious, resilient, and have endured extreme weather year after year, but it is the capitalist State that harms them most and abandons workers and the poor time and again. The poverty rate in the Louisiana parishes hit by the storm is on average between 15 to 20 percent, compared to a national average of around 10 percent. While national unemployment is currently at 6.1 percent, the average unemployment rate in New Orleans is 9 percent, and even higher for Black residents of Orleans Parish. The storm hit during a prolonged economic crisis, accompanied by a major pandemic that impacts Louisiana especially hard due to the ruling class’s genocidal mismanagement. However, it does not take a storm, economic depression, or pandemic to create misery: under capitalism, the working class of this country lives in survival mode even during so-called ‘normal times.’
Despite all of the indignities thrown at them, it is the people themselves who first mobilize to help each other after a storm hits. In Houma, before a single member of the National Guard or non-governmental organization had been seen, neighbors were already giving all they have and cooperating to find solutions in the absence of the rotting capitalist State. This mobilization shows the creativity and potential of the people. It is this strength that should be organized into a fighting political organization that defends the people from predatory capitalists and their State that exploits the people, especially at their most vulnerable.
The ruling class denounces so-called ‘looting’ and shames those who take matters into their own hands to feed their families—expropriating goods that were made by workers in the first place. Local governments have instituted curfews and brought in the murderous police and National Guard, not for the people’s protection, but to protect the property of corporations. They make sure food rots, uneaten while people go hungry, and keep useful goods under lock and key, rather than help those who need it most.
After hitting the South, Ida has curved across the eastern half of the country and brought more suffering to those living in the most precarious situations under capitalist society. In New York City, eleven people, including children, died drowning in their basement dwellings as water filled in. The basement apartments are prominent in the working-class immigrant areas of Queens, and are some of the only so-called ‘affordable’ options for workers in one of the country’s most expensive housing markets.
Additionally, hundreds of commuting workers who depend on the New York subway were trapped overnight on subway platforms as the system’s poorly maintained electrical system failed and water flooded in.
Disasters will keep coming with the capitalists in charge
There are enough resources, knowledge, and technology to build homes and other structures that can withstand extreme weather and other natural events, as well as evacuate everyone safely when necessary—not leaving the elderly, medically vulnerable, or poorest stranded. Emergency responses can be organized to help anyone that needs it, from the largest cities to the smallest towns. Levees can be built to hold, power grids can be built strong, and we can produce and distribute enough gas for any purpose. The people can solve all their problems and more, but it is the capitalists who prevent this—hoarding resources, holding a death grip on the infrastructure and all other means of production in the hands of private owners, and keeping the vast majority of the people suffering so that they may profit.
We need a new system planned by and for working people. This new system will not be realized by voting in those who claim to care—all that will ever do is preserve the capitalist system that is the true root of the people’s problems. What is necessary is a revolution, and in the US this means a socialist revolution which violently overthrows the capitalist class.
Socialism is a system in which workers are in control, where social benefit is the measure of progress rather than how much profit a corporation can make. It is a system that produces electricity, housing, food, and everything else that people need according to a plan, and does not destroy and degrade the people and the natural world—the very things that society depends on in the first place—in order to meet the people’s needs. The reason that the capitalists fear socialism is because it takes away their ability to profit and maintain the exploitation they feed off of. This is why they distort what socialism is and why they will blame anything but themselves for their failures that are right in front of our faces.
The people have the creativity and capability to solve the complex problems of the world when wealth and resources are managed in the service of the many, not the few. The people can overcome hurricanes in the Gulf, wildfires in the West, and winter storms in Texas, but with capitalists in power, these will continue to become epic catastrophes. Every year under the capitalists, they will only turn more severe natural events into disasters and bring further ruin to the people. Removing them from power, through organizing a fighting, revolutionary movement led by workers, is the only way forward. Once the people blow away this old society with a force infinitely greater than a Category 5 hurricane, only then will they truly be able to build anew.
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