We of the Socialist Party of Michigan want to express our most sincere solidarity and sympathy with all the victims of Hurricane Katrina. At the same time we are outraged, as are millions of other Americans, at the cavalier and arrogant attitudes, the bureaucratic bungling, the total insensitivity, the petty jurisdictional squabbling, and the absolute dysfunction that have characterized the behavior of the capitalist politicians and governmental functionaries of both major political parties.
While thousands die of thirst, drowning, exposure and starvation in New Orleans, and thousands more suffer in Mississippi and Alabama, the politicians and bureaucrats at all levels of government haggle over who is supposed to contact whom and who did or did not do what. The city officials of New Orleans did not really grasp the scope of the calamity and they were slow to fully react, but at a certain point they probably did all they could under the circumstances, which was almost nothing given the immense scale of the catastrophe. They angrily demanded action from the federal government, the only level of authority that could conceivably mobilize the response that was needed, but even at the city level the main concern seems to increasingly have been “restoring law and order”, which really means “don’t touch the rich man’s property”. The Louisiana governor wrung her hands over “lawlessness”, and the criminal Bush regime postured, tried to cover up its incompetence, and called for “zero tolerance” for so-called “looters”.
Tragically, not all lives could have been saved in this catastrophe no matter what was done. But the lack of real, comprehensive planning or even close to adequate action taken by city, state, and federal officials, both before and after the hurricane hit, to evacuate and protect the community residents in New Orleans who were and are without the resources to leave, is a crime against humanity and a gross and utter failure of the social system of capitalism and its willingness to act decisively for the benefit of working people and the poor.
While many heroic efforts beyond the call of duty were carried out by rank and file rescue workers and public servants, as well as by private citizens and charities acting on their own, no attempts were made by those in charge at the top to help the 20% of the New Orleans population who had no cars, money, or place to evacuate to. The sick, young, disabled, poor and elderly, mostly African American, were forgotten, or just dismissed as too much trouble to save. City evacuation “plans” left them there to die, and put the resources into saving the survivors after the storm had passed, instead of helping them get out before. This 20% (or about 100,000) were those who are most affected by capitalism, with an average per capita income of 1/3 of that of the white population of New Orleans. The working people of America continue to bare the brunt of the lack of concern by government to invest adequately in infrastructure and natural disaster planning.
Money for the levees was cut and diverted to tax breaks for the rich (such as many of those able to flee New Orleans and those who have adequate insurance) and for the illegal and imperialist war in Iraq. Not enough National Guard troops were available to help in the storm crisis because they are in Iraq, along with their trucks and equipment. Meanwhile, Bush and the others whine that “no one expected the levees to break …” — a direct and utter lie. Studies done over years and years have shown and warned about how vulnerable New Orleans is.
We have seen and heard enough bullshit. We demand total, unlimited action now!
The Socialist Party of Michigan calls for and demands the following, immediately and at a minimum – things that should have been done in the first place:
Declare an immediate national emergency and federalize all governmental levels in the affected area. Mobilize the entire federal government and the entire armed forces of all kinds. Bypass the bureaucratic red tape. Immediately issue executive orders commandeering ALL needed resources within at least a 1000 mile radius from the disaster area — non-perishable, ready to eat food; baby formulas and bottles; bottled water and means to purify and boil water; clothing, diapers, tents, tarps, sleeping bags, blankets, etc.; basic life saving medicines and drugs; all hospitals and clinics, private and public; all means of public and private transport, including buses and bus fleets of all kinds, semi trucks, truck fleets, aircraft, helicopters, trains, boats, etc.; all construction materials, construction companies and crews; generators of all sizes; flashlights and batteries; all fuel and gasoline; all buildings, warehouses and large luxury homes to use for shelter; all hotel and motel rooms; portable/chemical toilets; portable showers and hot water; anti-bacterial lotions and hand cleaner, along with paper and cloth towels; anything else that is necessary. Pay reasonable amounts for all these resources as soon as possible, but no price gouging.
Call for massive volunteer forces and all NGO’s and mobilize the labor movement from all around the country. Mobilize human service professionals and therapists from everywhere, as well as all types of medical personnel. Accept the generous offer from Cuba to send over 1100 medical personnel and 26 tons of supplies. Hire the unemployed from all around the country, especially hurricane victims themselves. Pay a decent wage of at least twelve dollars an hour, untaxed, for as long as the crisis lasts, which will be many months at least.
Set up staging areas for workers of all kinds and soldiers to gather and coordinate. Full rank and file input into planning and execution. Decisions on the ground to be made by the rank and file doing the work and intervention. Bring all road transportation means to the staging areas. Plan the building of relief camps and refugee centers and organize crews to build them. Democratic, on-the- spot self government in camps and centers. Deputize and arm residents to patrol and defend their own communities against genuinely predatory crime and sociopathic violence. For full democratic cooperation between these deputized forces and rank and file troops.
Establish a matrix of supply bases near the disaster area. Establish delivery crews and convoys. Seize all materials and supplies within the 1000 mile radius and ship them to the supply bases and building crews. Open all warehouses with needed materials and commandeer the company trucks of Walmart, Costco, K-Mart, etc.!
Ship the materials and distribute them to refugee camps and to the city itself directly. Then, each truck, bus, train, airplane, helicopter, etc., pick up passengers/refugees and evacuate them out of New Orleans to safe areas. Every means of rescue must double alternately as a means of delivery and supply. No jurisdictional or job description non-sense, not in an emergency of this scale.
Establish government-imposed price controls at every level of the system to stop oil companies or other businesses from using the hurricane as an excuse for gouging working people at the pump or at stores. Prosecute gougers to the fullest extent of the law. No diversion of cops or troops from search and rescue to protecting the “property rights” of abandoned stores from hurricane victims taking what they need. All law enforcement and military vehicles to carry relief supplies at all times, and distribute them. Total amnesty for any one arrested for “looting”, and serious criminal prosecution of any cops or troops involved in acts of brutality or murder against them. Full criminal prosecution of military officers, police officials, or political figures who issue “shoot to kill” orders. For the right, and duty, of rank and file enforcers to refuse these orders and to arrest superiors who issue them. For the right of self defense against such police or other forces. The “looted” goods can’t ever be sold anyway, they are storm damaged and are covered by insurance in most cases.
Cancel all debts of the victims, including credit cards and mortgages. Absolutely protect the rights of homeowners and city residents to return to New Orleans and other destroyed places and to rebuild. No “eminent domain” takeovers by predatory corporations or governments.
Guaranteed employment at living, union wages for victims who can work. A guaranteed living compensation for all victims who can not work for whatever reason.
All the above, and more, must be ordered immediately and simultaneously. In addition:
Around 40% of the Mississippi and Louisiana National Guardsmen are in Iraq being misused in a war for oil and empire instead of in the Mississippi and Louisiana saving lives. Bring all the troops home now! Bring all their equipment home too.
Funds for Hurricane research and the National Hurricane center have been cut by the Bush Administration and should be restored; call for large-scale public investment in the construction of low cost, scattered site, community-based, high-quality housing that will sustain flooding and hurricane damage; call for the creation of fully funded public transportation systems between cities, with fares set low enough to be a viable alternative to the use of the automobile; end to the portrayal of “looters” in racial undertones; call to all community organizers across the country to come to the aid of those most in need in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and other affected states.
Sign and implement the Kyoto accord and end environmental degradation! Honor the Earth and she will honor us. Super storms like Katrina are made more likely be global warming. They are very likely the product of the violation of environmental balance, caused by predatory human actions. We must learn from the traditions of our Native American sisters and brothers.
We also must re-build New Orleans and build new levees, stronger than ever. We must restore natural wetlands, beaches, barrier islands and other natural barriers to storm damage. We must provide full funding for grants to re-build homes and compensate for lost livelihoods for those dispossessed in the whole multi-state disaster area, whether they have “insurance” or not.
If the government will not do these things immediately and without hesitation, then the people have the right to take matters into their own hands to carry them out. To some extent this has already been done. No one who can help should wait for