[Marxism] NY Times edit on New Orleans disaster

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Aug 31 08:04:13 MDT 2005

The key sentence in this grim summary editorial is the following, in my
"Right now it looks as if rescuing New Orleans will be a task much more
daunting than any city has faced since the San Francisco fire of 1906."
The wealthiest and most powerful country in the world -- much, much more
so than the US in 1906 -- has been unable to guard against, limit, or
effectively counter this death and devastation.

I agree with Jose that this should be viewed as primarily a social
catastrophe, caused by the effects of a decaying social system on
governmental corruption and indifference, infrastructure, race
relations, and human solidarity in all its forms. Of course, global
warming itself is a social catastrophe. But I think we need to await a
broader scientific consensus before jumping to the conclusion that this
is a direct consequence of global warming, or that the environmental
damage is now irreversible, etc.  

It is obvious that, especially in a context where a worsening
socially-caused environmental crisis such as global warming is
deepening, there will be a natural tendency to place this event into
that framework and it may turn out that it really fits right in.  I
don't know that yet, because I haven't heard enough authoritative voices
on this.  

If the damage is irreversible and it is now too late for the human race,
well, not much we can do about it.  So I proceed on the assumption that
this is not true until the opposite is undeniable.

We know from Cuban experience that real disasters can happen and the
resulting damage can be contained in advance, during, and afterwards by
the power of organized human solidarity at every level.

I assume that the Cubans will offer some of their help and expertise,
and the US government would be damn well advised to accept it.  Class
collaboration -- call it a "popular front" if you will -- around certain
practical and immediate concerns is no crime for either side.

Inevitably, there are going to be all sorts of theorizing about what
caused this catastrophe.  Environmentalists are bound to push the
candidacy of global warming.  Homeland security will probably find a way
of raising suspicion about Al Qaeda or fundamentalist Muslim immigrants.
Last Days preachers will see it as yet another sign.  Pat Robertson will
say God has punished New Orleans for letting the gays take over Mardi

The global warming theory, unlike the others, could well turn out to be
true or partly true, but I don't have enough qualified evidence to
demonstrate that yet.  As it becomes demonstrated, it would move more to
the center of the politics of this event -- another example of the laws
and interests of capital overriding elementary human interests.

So I think we have to look for greater opportunities to fight for that
organized human solidarity, every opening we can find, including this
one, and place global warming in the framework of that fight.
Fred Feldman

NY Times
August 31, 2005
New Orleans in Peril
On the day after Hurricane Katrina was declared to be not as bad as
originally feared, it became clear that the effects of the storm had
been, after all, beyond devastation. Homeowners in Biloxi, Miss.,
staggered through wrecked neighborhoods looking for their loved ones. In
New Orleans, the mayor reported that rescue boats had begun pushing past
dead bodies to look for the stranded living. Gas leaks began erupting
into flames, and looking at the city, now at least 80 percent under
water, it was hard not to think of last year's tsunami, or even ancient

Disaster has, as it almost always does, called up American generosity
and instances of heroism. Young people helped the old onto rafts in
flooded New Orleans streets, and exhausted rescue workers refused all
offers of rest, while people as far away as Kansas and Arizona went
online to offer shelter in their homes to the refugees. It was also a
reminder of how much we rely on government to imagine the unimaginable
and plan for the worst. As the levees of Lake Pontchartrain gave way,
flooding New Orleans, it seemed pretty clear that in this case,
government did not live up to the job. 

But this seems like the wrong moment to dwell on fault-finding, or even
to point out that it took what may become the worst natural disaster in
American history to pry President Bush out of his vacation. All the
focus now must be on rescuing the survivors. Beyond that lies a long and
painful recovery, which must begin with a national vow to help all the
storm victims and to save and repair New Orleans.

People who think of that graceful city and the rest of the Mississippi
Delta as tourist destinations must have been reminded, watching the
rescue operations, that the real residents of this area are in the main
poor and black. The only resources most of them will have to fall back
on will need to come from the federal government. 

Those of us in New York watch the dire pictures from Louisiana with keen
memories of the time after Sept. 11, when the rest of the nation made it
clear that our city was their city, and that everyone was part of the
battle to restore it. New Orleans, too, is one of the places that
belongs to every American's heart - even for people who have never been

Right now it looks as if rescuing New Orleans will be a task much more
daunting than any city has faced since the San Francisco fire of 1906.
It must be a mission for all of us. 

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