How a Socialist State Power Would Handle a Water Crisis Like Flint

Updated February 22, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editor’s note: The following is a new version of a previously posted article with the same title that appeared online at, which includes some updates as well as some changes to address how a socialist state would address immediate needs in a crisis like this in a way consistent with and contributing to the long-term and strategic objectives of that revolutionary society.


Let’s say it straight up—what has happened in Flint, Michigan, screams “EMERGENCY!” One hundred thousand people have been drinking water poisoned with lead and other toxins for almost two years. More than 30,000 of these people are children, and about 9,000 of those are under six, the people most vulnerable to permanent and irreversible brain and nerve damage from lead.

Here’s what NEEDS to be done, and what WOULD be done by a socialist state if one held power in this country—in sharp contrast to what has NOT been done by the governing authorities of this system, on either the state or the federal level.

To be clear, we are talking about a real socialist state that can only come to power through the overthrow of this current capitalist system, the dismantling of all its institutions, their replacement by revolutionary power, and the reorganization of the whole economy. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings...Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world. (For a fuller understanding of what socialist society is and where it is heading, check out the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America at

Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).

First, instead of trying to cover up and minimize the scale of the disaster, the socialist state would immediately declare a major emergency. Instead of suppressing and ridiculing scientists who blew the whistle on this—as happened in Flint and happens over and over in this system—the institutions of the revolutionary society would provide them the opportunity to share their research, to test it, and if there was truth to it, or more to be investigated, to alert the whole country. It would mobilize all sections of people to step up and be part of solving the water crisis, give them resources, backing, to immediately address the crisis. And to do that in a way that would further break down barriers among the people and root out social inequalities. Government members, revolutionary communists (whether part of the government or not), and other civic and social organizations would become organizing hubs to tap and mobilize all the many thousands of people who would certainly WANT to help in a situation like this.

On that footing, here are some of the key things that could and would be done:

IMMEDIATELY mobilize thousands of people to go to every home to alert every affected resident—including those who speak Spanish, Arabic or other languages—with a straightforward and scientific message that the water was unsafe due to lead contamination, that boiling this water makes it more toxic, and that they should not drink it or expose themselves or their children to it in any way.

IMMEDIATELY, as a more permanent solution is being worked on, organize a system of daily distribution of bottled water to every household, and as quickly as possible provide lead-effective water filters to all, along with developing a plan for replacing the filter elements on a regular basis. Under this system, that took an outrageously long time. And experts agree that filters must be properly maintained and monitored and people educated on how to use them, and this is NOT happening, and there are no serious plans for it to happen.

IMMEDIATELY address the health and nutritional needs of the people affected by the crisis. Scientists have learned that there are certain foods that will help people’s bodies in dealing with lead poisoning and others that will make it worse. And there are other health needs for people exposed to lead. The majority of people in Flint today, Black people in particular, have little or no access to scientific education in nutrition, to health care, or to fresh food! And even as these needs were being addressed immediately, further research would be stepped up to better understand the long-term effects of lead poisoning and how to address them.

The socialist state would mobilize nurses, doctors, nutritionists, and other medical professionals who would in turn work with students and youths, particularly from the most affected areas. Working together and learning from each other, these experts and ordinary people could identify the areas of greatest need and figure out solutions. Neighborhood youths could be given quick and basic training in the nutritional, health, and hygiene issues and be unleashed as a dynamic force in the hood for health and education. And the socialist state could mobilize people and resources in surrounding areas to make sure that fresh food was available, and delivered, to people on a daily basis.

In all of these immediate mobilizations, the focus would be on going first to the areas that bear the scars of oppression from the old society, particularly Black neighborhoods where there would be the legacy of the worst housing, health care, and education. And attention would be paid to encouraging students, academics, and others who’ve had more opportunities for education to cross the boundaries into these areas so they could, in the course of assisting the people in the most need, also witness and learn about the real—often hidden—conditions that people of color experienced in the former U.S., and to have different sections of people learning from and appreciating each other’s insights and experiences. And through this process, people who have not had as much opportunity to be exposed to science could get training in the scientific method and learn to appreciate the contributions scientists and others can make, including those who may not—at any particular point—agree with the aims and objectives of the new socialist state.

A similar approach of combining the efforts of trained professionals with ordinary people from the affected area and elsewhere could be used to VERY RAPIDLY deal with the other burning needs—testing the tap water in all the homes and institutions, identifying which homes have lead service pipes, examining and testing children to see the extent of damage from lead, and to develop individual and social plans for ongoing care and treatment.

All of this could be done right away, in DAYS or WEEKS, not months, or years, or decades, or NEVER, which is the approach of the government today, even as people learned more about the complex aspects of the problem.

To boil it down, a socialist state—coming from completely different objectives than this system—would treat a crisis like this as a real emergency, a human catastrophe, and not a “political football.” And this state would deal with the crisis by providing leadership and putting society’s resources in the hands of thousands of people to solve the urgent problems.

This is the exact OPPOSITE of what the rulers of this system have done and are doing. Besides inflicting this crisis on the people, besides covering up and lying about it, government officials on every level have dragged their feet every inch of the way on relief measures, taking several months even to organize water distribution.

Every informed expert and activist agrees that the only real solution to the situation involves detecting and replacing the estimated 15,000 lead service pipes which poison water in the homes they connect to. The state and federal government talk about this like it’s “a nice idea” but “unrealistic... too expensive... not really necessary,” or at most say it might be done over years or even decades.

Just think about it, these motherfuckers—on the state and federal level—sitting on top of an empire with vast amounts of wealth, in a country with millions of unemployed, do not see it as serving the interests of THEIR system to allocate the resources to detect, remove, and replace 15,000 water pipes. In fact in the face of this emergency, the Democrats proposed $600 million to detect and replace the lead pipes (less than half of what experts estimate the cost to be), immediately dropped that to $300 million, and then this was shot down by the Republicans.

That is totally unacceptable—if you can’t solve the basic problem of providing safe drinking water to a whole city, even after it has been revealed that you were poisoning people for almost two years, then get the fuck out of the way of the masses of people who, with revolutionary leadership, CAN solve this problem.

A socialist state would mobilize engineers and construction workers, along with other working people and especially youths, in their thousands to work in teams aimed at replacing all the lead service pipes involved in a crisis like Flint. Again, these teams would combine the strengths and knowledge of scientists, skilled workers, and ordinary people, working together and learning from each other, and would rely on and unleash the energy of youths. And they would be backed up by the economic resources, materials, and equipment of a state which prioritizes human needs.

In a nutshell, the rulers of this system cannot meet even the most basic needs of the people, like water; they cannot stop generating one catastrophe after another; and they cannot mobilize the people and resources of society to address even the extreme emergencies that their system has created.

But a revolutionary, socialist society can!

All this is part of why Bob Avakian says:

It is right to want state power. It is necessary to want state power. State power is a good thing—state power is a great thing—in the hands of the right people, the right class, in the service of the right things: bringing about an end to exploitation, oppression, and social inequality and bringing into being a world, a communist world, in which human beings can flourish in new and greater ways than ever before. (BAsics 2:10)


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