In the midst of this carnage, members of the Socialist Workers Party here, helped by party members from Atlanta, organized to go throughout the metro area knocking on workers’ doors to discuss the crisis they faced, the party’s program, and the Militant and books by party leaders. And, in the middle of all this, Cynthia Jaquith, the party’s candidate for mayor of Miami, filed and was placed on the ballot for the November election.
“The catastrophic social disaster unfolding in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean is not simply the result of massive rainfall, high winds and what the media likes to call ‘a natural disaster,’” Jaquith said in a statement she released when she filed, and party members used as they knocked on workers’ doors. “It is a direct product of the natural workings of the capitalist system, the dictatorship of capital.”
“The SWP demands: Mobilize the necessary federal, state and municipal resources to provide immediate, free emergency medical care, food, shelter, clothes and fuel to all those affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and any other storms that hit,” she said. “Put millions of the unemployed in Florida, Texas and beyond to work — at union-scale wages — in an emergency, government-funded public works program to rebuild the area infrastructure and repair and put up new housing!”
Tens of thousands were without power here for more than a week. Nearly 4.5 million of Florida Power & Light’s 4.9 million customers had their power fail, including 92 percent of accounts in Miami-Dade County. But Florida Power’s shareholders needn’t worry that costs for cleanup and repairs will cut into their profits, since they’re guaranteed by law to be between 9.6 and 11.6 percent. To assure this bounty, utility bosses have already announced rate increases of $400 million this year, followed by $411 million more over the next three years.
“We had to live in our car for five days,” Claribel Melendez, told SWP members when they visited her North Miami neighborhood Sept. 20. “I have four kids, including a seven-month-old infant. We couldn’t stay in the house because of the heat and mosquitoes, so we lived and slept in our car and ran the air conditioning there.”
Melendez, originally from Puerto Rico, has lived in Miami two years. “The neighbors here helped each other clear our yards and driveways,” she said. But the huge piles of debris and garbage are still sitting there, since authorities haven’t organized to remove them in many areas of the city.
In every neighborhood Socialist Workers Party members visited in the past week, workers were angry about the indifference and incompetence of government officials in dealing with the hurricane’s impact. Many pointed to the needless deaths of elderly patients at the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills who were left in unbearable heat for several days after their power failed Sept. 10. Eight died before they were finally moved across the street to Memorial Regional Hospital. Three others died a few days later and that number may rise. As of Sept. 23, the unofficial death toll for the state stood at 75.
“In this country, you’re on your own,” Peter Parker, 49, told socialist campaigners Sept. 23, when they knocked on his door in Ft. Lauderdale. His family came to the U.S. from Serbia when he was a teenager. He was heading to work when we met him. “My Trump sign got blown away in the storm,” he said, with a laugh.
Parker said he was interested in what the socialists had to say about the need for workers to organize an independent movement to fight to end the dictatorship of capital and rebuild society in the interests of working people. He decided to subscribe to the Militant and was also interested in The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record. “I’ve got to get to work, but call me. I‘d like to talk to you some more,” he said.