Revolution #58, August 27, 2006
Katrina One Year Later:
Never Forget...Never Forgive
One year ago. August 29, 2005.
New Orleans. Katrina.
Whole families wading in chest-high floods.
Bodies floating in toxic water, a dead grandmother left to bake in the sun.
Desperation, hunger and thirst emanating off scorching rooftops.
People, most of them Black, packed into a modern-day stadium slave ship.
Over 100,000 -- abandoned and criminalized.
Soldiers and cops and even Blackwater mercenaries pointing guns at -- and yes, beating, shooting at, and killing -- people trying to survive.
Families separated by heartless evacuation.
Many, many needlessly dead.
And we remember the poor, mainly Black, people in New Orleans – abandoned by the government -- taking matters into their own hands, overwhelmingly in order to support and help each other, especially those in the most desperate need. We remember the youth wading in chest-high water to save those who were trapped, commandeering school and city buses to get people to safety, and sharing food and water taken from deserted stores. We remember people voicing their outrage at a government, a regime, a system that had not only left them to rot, but penned them in by force.
We remember the people all over the country, from many different walks of life, stepping forward in thousands of ways to try to help, only to be thwarted by the government.
And we remember Bush, fiddling like Nero when Rome burned, heartless. We remember learning how first Congress and then Bush had slashed funds for the levees – in the face of warnings that they would blow. We remember his mother saying that things “were working out very well” for the Katrina victims, as families were split apart and people waited for word of their loved ones. We remember the Louisiana Congressman who said they had been trying to get rid of public housing for years, and now “God had done it” through the hurricanes.
We remember. And we must never forget . . . and never forgive.
“We don’t need religion, we need revolution. We don’t need to ‘get right with God,’ we need to get rid of this system.”
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Message from the Rooftops
In the wake of Katrina, Bush and the Democrats competed with each other in their promises. Now, a year later, the promises have proven to be as worthless as the mud that still clogs the houses of the Lower Ninth Ward. The rulers of society hope that people will neither remember the searing images of, nor draw the lessons from, Katrina.
Katrina shows once again that this system is based on nothing but the expansion of profit and the protection of capitalist property, and that to this system, human lives count for nothing. The vast majority of suffering was not necessary. Humanity has the ability to take care of the environment, to prepare for natural disasters when they do happen, and to do all this in a cooperative way. But the whole way that things are set up under capitalism meant that this didn’t happen. Now, a year later, tens of thousands are still suffering, getting cut off government aid, and are unable to rebuild their homes and move back to New Orleans. They are up against a system that sees devastation and dislocation as an opportunity to get rid of public housing and the “problem” of poor people. The people are there, the desire to rebuild is there, the means to do it are there -- but nothing can happen until it’s figured out how the profit is going to be made and who’s going to make it.
Katrina shows how the institutions of white supremacy and the ideas of racism are woven into the very workings of U.S. capitalism and how all this is consciously reinforced by those who rule it. The fact that the people who were crowded into the worst housing and who could not afford to leave were overwhelmingly Black . . . the ways in which Black people were penned into the Superdome like a modern-day slave ship . . . the way they were demonized with lies in the media and their suffering heartlessly dismissed by people highly connected with the Bush Regime and members of the regime itself . . . the viciousness of the cops who used force against Black people trying to escape New Orleans: what does all this show other than the living legacy of slavery and Jim Crow? And what does it mean when a year later the mostly Black people displaced by Katrina are still scattered to the four winds, still suffering, still kept from rebuilding? Does all this not show how deeply the poison of white supremacy runs in the veins of this society, and how it is buttressed and constantly reinforced by the policies, actions, and decisions of those at the top of it?
Katrina came out of the ocean, with relatively little warning (though there was warning enough to evacuate people). But the ways in which Katrina was dealt with did not come out of nowhere – they came out of a system, one which is long overdue for extinction. For 400 years American capitalism has fed off of and constantly reproduced, in different forms, the oppression of Black people. And this utterly worthless system will continue to do so, in increasingly grotesque and horrific ways, unless and until it is overthrown by the revolutionary action of millions and tens of millions of people.
That is the real message from the rooftops.
As a statement by our Party, shortly after Katrina, put it:
“Not only the need but also the possibility of revolution, and of a radically different society, shows through in these events – once they are understood in their true light. Masses of people, in the areas most immediately affected, were being left by the government to suffer, day after day, in conditions not fit for human beings, yet they showed their humanity in many ways and put the lie to the slanders that portrayed them as criminals and animals.”
The statement pointed to the ways that people demonstrated this, and how in standing up they were supported and assisted by people all over the country. And it went on: “In all this can be seen the potential for masses of people to be mobilized to bring into being a society in which relations among people are radically different than the daily dog-eat-dog that this capitalist system pushes people into. “
This however is still potential – and there is much work to do to realize this. There is the need to help people, as that statement said, become “aware of and organized on the basis of an understanding of how the whole operation of this system is in direct and deep-going conflict with their real and fundamental interests.” There is the need to get to people with the books and talks of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, and to get Revolution newspaper out far and wide, raising people’s sights and understanding, and letting them get to know, engage with, and come closer to the Party and its revolutionary leadership.
To quote a recent article in our paper: “those who see the need for and wish to contribute to a revolution must focus their efforts on raising the political and ideological consciousness of masses of people and building massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system is concentrated in the policies and actions of the ruling class and its institutions and agencies—striving through all this to enable growing numbers of people to grasp both the need and the possibility for revolution when the necessary conditions have been brought into being, as a result of the unfolding of the contradictions of the system itself as well as the political, and ideological, work of revolutionaries.” (See “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation — in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution,” Revolution #55, available at revcom.us)
Through all this – through both the ideological and politicsal struggle and work – a revolutionary people can be brought into being: millions and millions who are conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it.
“George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People”
That of course is the remark that Kanye West caught hell – and applause – for. But it goes way deeper than that. And it points to the most crucial struggle of the day – the need to unite millions to DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME.
Bush is both a continuation of the same capitalist system, but he is also a perverse extension of it. He aims for a very different social order in the U.S. –- a combination of fascist religious dictatorship at home with an even more aggressive imperialist policy against the world. And he is hell-bent to hammer this down.
As part of that, Bush has been destroying the concessions that came out of the huge struggles of the 1960s. He aims to build up a section of preachers within the Black community who tell people that they have only themselves to blame for the suffering brought down by the system, and who are part of a political movement aiming to institute theocracy – a fascist religious dictatorship – over society. He does this by driving down the living standards of the Black masses and then dispensing funds through these preachers to use for people’s basic needs.
Bush piously claims that all this is for the good of Black people. But what’s the real program here? These people are not ordinary Christians – they are Christian fascists, who aim to abolish the separation of church and state and want to force all of society to abide by their version of Biblical law. Pat Robertson, a powerful Christian fascist who is among Bush’s top backers, preaches that the prison system, where a million Black people are locked up, should be replaced with an even more vicious setup. Robertson says that these prisoners put “the stain of sin on the land” and he preaches that society should adopt “the biblical model” where “the hard-core, habitual criminal was permanently removed from society through capital punishment.”
Think about that. A large section of Black people have been pushed into desperate lives, and all the racist hype means that even a Black congresswoman trying to go into the Capitol building, or a Black businessman in a Lexus, is fair game for police brutality. People are sent to jail on the flimsiest of evidence. In this situation, capital punishment for “hard-core criminals” has seriously genocidal overtones. And remember Bush’s order that there be “zero tolerance” for “looters” in New Orleans – that is, people desperately trying to find food, pampers and medicine for themselves and their families. Isn’t this the same logic at heart as Robertson’s? And if that is not enough, what does it mean that Robertson’s so-called charity arm was listed by FEMA as one of the top three places where people were supposed to send donations after Katrina?!
But again all this fits into something bigger – a whole agenda and a whole direction of society. The criminal neglect and brutality in New Orleans comes on top of the Bush Regime’s drive to discredit environmental scientists, tear up what few environmental regulations exist, and expand burning of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming, aggravating future Katrinas. It comes on top of the ongoing, unjust and brutal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On top of the U.S.-sponsored Israeli invasion of Lebanon. On top of efforts to fill the courts with fascist judges, to “legalize” torture and jail people without trials or lawyers. On top of government support for extreme fundamentalist Christianity. On top of the denial of abortion rights and birth control, the demonization of gay people, attacks on evolution and the promotion of ignorance and intolerance more generally. It comes on top of the offensive against immigrants, and the attempt to turn them into outlaws.
And who knows what next, if it isn’t stopped? The invasion or even nuclear bombing of Iran? Some new Katrina-type outrage within the U.S.? Or something else? People cannot afford to sit by and wonder and wait for the next outrage. We must act.
Deliver the Verdict!
This whole murderous and disastrous course must be reversed, immediately. The people have a verdict to deliver on the crimes that have been and are being carried out by the Bush Regime in New Orleans: guilty of mass murder. And right now, the most powerful way this verdict can be delivered is by going ALL OUT over the next six weeks to build for OCTOBER 5TH as a powerful expression on of the people’s determination to BRING THIS TO A HALT and DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME.
October 5 will be massive political manifestations in the streets. But it won’t be politics as usual. It will be something radically different – “people refusing to work, or walking out from work, taking off school or walking out school—joining together, rallying and marching, drawing forward many more with them, and in many and varied forms of creative and meaningful political protest throughout the day, letting it be known that they are determined to bring this whole disastrous course to a halt by driving out the Bush Regime through the mobilization of massive political opposition. If that were done, then the possibility of turning things around and onto a much more favorable direction would take on a whole new dimension of reality.” (From the statement, “There is a Way! There is a Day!”, from World Can't Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime.)
This is worth throwing everything into. For those who experienced Katrina, and for those who weren’t there but know from their life experience “what it’s all about,” there’s a need to join with others, to bring that experience into the whole mix and set about really changing things. The voices of those whom this society has fed off of and persecuted must sound out powerfully on October 5 and then beyond. And for those who were outraged by Katrina, who learned something new and deeper about this society, you too must take that outrage and those lessons into the struggle to build October 5.
As the Call to Drive Out The Bush Regime concludes: “History is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.”
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