lead article/Socialist Workers 2005 Campaign|
Gulf social disaster: twin capitalist
parties at fault, workers need labor
party based on fighting unions
Heavily armed police SWAT team drives past working people stranded at the New Orleans Convention Center September 1 in wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The following statement was issued September 7 by the Socialist Workers 2005 National Campaign.
The social catastrophe in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is an indictment of the capitalist two-party system in the United States through which a handful of billionaire families maintains its political power and its wealth.
The deadly lack of preparedness for the crisis unfolding across the Gulf Coast and the brutal and belated government response provide further evidence of whose class interests are represented by politicians at the federal, state, and local level. Without exceptionwhether the Republican White House and bipartisan Congress, Louisianas Democratic party governor and New Orleans mayor, or other Democratic and Republican officials in that state, Mississippi, Alabama, and beyondthese political servants of the employing class demonstrated contempt for working people and callous disregard for their conditions and very survival.
While the rich and the middle-class professionals, including many direly needed doctors, got out of New Orleans, along with anyone else able to leave on their own, tens of thousands of workers and their families were left behind, the large majority of them Black. No effort was made by government at any level to press into service every plane, bus, train, and automobile at hand to get those least able to evacuate out of harms way. As a result thousands of working people were killed by the indifference of those whose wealth is based on exploiting our labor.
Many other workers in New Orleans (and across the Gulf Coast) were left to fend for themselves without medical attention, food, or water. Cops and government troops were deployed in working-class neighborhoods with orders to stop people from obtaining needed supplies to stem mounting starvation, dehydration, and spreading disease. Tens of thousands, suddenly homeless and having lost their personal possessions, were herdedstill with nothing to eat, still with nothing to drink, and still with no medical careinto unequipped and soon squalid facilities such as the Superdome and convention center.
The rapid explosion of this social calamity brought to the fore once again the factionalism already marking U.S. bourgeois politics, as capitalism enters the opening stages of accelerated worldwide economic and financial crises, social breakdowns, and spreading wars. As the deaths and devastation came into sharper relief for the world to see, the demagogy of Democratic and Republican politicians became increasingly shrill. They ratcheted up what they themselves dub the blame game, with demands that heads roll and sanctimonious calls for impartial investigations. In doing so, what the employing class presents as politics appears more and more baldly as an expression of the dog-eat-dog values, look out for number one individualism, and pressures undermining human solidarity central to the very ways capitalism worksfrom the job market and factory floor, to every aspect of social life.
Confronting the horrors of recent days, working people have done what they can to cope with these emergency conditions and take care of each other. As the bosses parties and their government have shown themselves unwilling and incapable of meeting even the most elementary necessities to survive, however, the need for the working class to have our own independent organizationsorganizations that can speak and act in the interests of the vast majorityhas been driven home.
That begins with organizing, using, and extending the trade unions, the elementary defense institutions of the working class. Working people need our own political party, based on a fighting union movement. We need a labor party that organizes, acts, and speaks on behalf of workers and the oppressed, independently of the twin parties of the employing class. A party that represents the interests of an international class that has no borders.
Along this road, the working class and unions right now need to demand that Washington and state and local governments deliver massive aid for food, shelter, clothing, and medicine to stricken areas along the Gulf Coast and everywhere workers and their families have been evacuated.
We need to campaign for a massive, federally funded public works program at union-scale wages to rebuild homes, schools, hospitals, and other facilities and infrastructure destroyed by the hurricane and floods.
We need to press for prosecution of cops and government troops responsible for killings and for actions violating the rights of working people.
We need to call for a moratorium on farm foreclosures and massive government aid to farmers whose crops, buildings, equipment, and livelihoods have been ruined.
The resistance by working people and our unions today to employer assaultsfrom miners in the Western coal fields to striking Northwest airlines workers and Boeing employees, from packinghouse workers in the Midwest to garment workers from Seattle to Miamipoint the road forward: to rely on our collective power and solidarity.
In Cuba, a country with far fewer economic resources than the United States and where workers and farmers conquered political power nearly half a century ago, hurricanes hit ferociously and touch a much bigger percentage of the country every time they land. With a mobilized and politically conscious working class, however, the revolutionary government in Cuba has organized to confront these deadly forces of nature with minimal loss of life. Unlike in the United States, the first priority of the Cuban government is to protect the life and health of the population.
Whats more, Cuba has dispatched thousands of doctors, construction workers, and other volunteers when storms, earthquakes, or other natural disasters have struck countries in the Americas and elsewhere. The offer by Cubas revolutionary government to send more than 1,500 doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel to New Orleans and the broader region is an example of the internationalist aid that can be extended when society is organized on the basis of human solidarity.
The most effective response by working people in the United States to the disaster across the Gulf Coast is to take the next steps along the road to building the kind of independent political movement that can free us of dependence on the bosses government and parties, and from handouts by their charities.
No institution on earth can repel the force of a hurricane. But with our own political party based on a fighting union movement, the working class and our allies can wage victorious battles against the ruling families whose imperialist world order is responsible for the wars, economic breakdowns, and social calamities that increasingly endanger humanity.
That is what the 34 Socialist Workers Party candidates are campaigning for in 14 local and state elections in 2005. Join us in campaigning for this internationalist, working-class perspective, one we fight for 365 days a year.
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