Hurricane Florence Hits the Carolinas:
A Natural Occurrence—An Unnatural and UNNECESSARY Disaster

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Editors’ Note, October 15. This past week, Category 4 Hurricane Michael battered the coast of the Florida Panhandle before moving through Georgia, the Carolinas, and on to Virginia. Michael, which came less than a month after Hurricane Florence, was reportedly the most powerful storm ever to hit the Panhandle. It left death and massive destruction in its wake, including nearly obliterating the entire town of Mexico Beach where it made landfall.
Meanwhile, on October 8, two days before Michael hit Florida, a news report by the United Nations’ leading body on climate science, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that the climate crisis is not a far-off problem—it’s happening right now, and it’s accelerating more quickly and having more devastating impacts much sooner than previously understood. The report called for radical, “unprecedented” transformations starting immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels to prevent a global catastrophe. A co-chair of the group of 91 scientists from 40 different countries who wrote the report calls the next few years “probably the most important in our history.”
In this five-part series on Hurricane Florence, we’ll examine how the capitalist-imperialist system of today fuels such hurricanes and worsens the death and destruction, and start to grapple with why and how it would be radically different in a genuinely socialist society.

On September 14, Hurricane Florence slammed into the North Carolina coast with rain and winds gusting to 90 miles an hour. Its storm surge flooded some coastal areas. It then moved inland, dumping as much as 30-40 inches of rain across North and South Carolina, as far as hundreds of miles inland.

Two weeks later, those rains drained down from mountains in the west. The gushing water caused rivers to crest at record levels and some towns to flood. One dam breached and flooded a coal-fired power plant, causing the release of poisonous coal ash into the Cape Fear River.

At least 48 people have been killed so far, 37 of them in North Carolina. A one-year-old was ripped from his parent’s arms by surging floodwaters. Two mental health patients were drowned when the sheriff’s van they were being transported in was flooded (the two deputies driving escaped unharmed). A million and a half people were forced to evacuate. Whole cities and towns were flooded. Countless homes were destroyed. Over a million lost power for hours or days. Toxic waste and chemicals were released into the environment. And now more storms are building in the Atlantic.

Hurricanes are natural occurrences.

But there is nothing “natural” about how hurricanes like Florence are becoming increasingly frequent, powerful, and devastating.

There is nothing “natural” about who is—or isn’t—able to escape and recover from the storm’s impact.

There’s nothing “natural” about why so many are living in harm’s way.

And there’s nothing “natural” about why power plants, chemical factories, and industrial pig farms—with all their toxic wastes—are placed in flood plains.

So, again, Florence was a natural occurrence—but some of the worst effects of the storm have been created, shaped, or greatly magnified by the workings of capitalism-imperialism. Under this system, decisions like where people live, how food is produced, and how power is generated are all ultimately determined by what’s most profitable and filtered through the oppressive social relations this system has inherited and maintains.

All this is heartbreaking, foul, and utterly UNNECESSARY! It could—and would—be handled in a radically different way in a revolutionary society aiming for a communist world free of all exploitation and oppression, as concretely laid out in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (CNSRNA), authored by Bob Avakian.

As the Introductory Explanation to that Constitution makes clear: “In order to bring this new socialist state into being, it would be necessary to thoroughly defeat, dismantle and abolish the capitalist-imperialist state of the USA; and this in turn would only become possible with the development of a profound and acute crisis in society and the emergence of a revolutionary people, in the millions and millions, who have the leadership of a revolutionary communist vanguard and are conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it.”

Implementing these radical and liberating transformations will—and must—be a tumultuous process, full of ferment and struggle. It will involve, as the CNSRNA spells out, leading on the basis of the “solid core,” towards the goal of the complete emancipation of all of humanity, as part of a worldwide process. On that foundation, the new state will encourage discussion and debate, dissent and struggle, as well as create space for a wide range of activities and initiatives, over how to solve the problems facing the new society and move toward uprooting all forms of oppression, all over the world.

Part I: A “Monster Storm” Fueled by a Monstrous System

For days there was near nonstop coverage of Hurricane Florence on the major TV networks. But one rarely—if ever—heard the words “global warming” or “climate change.” And you never see this kind of extensive, visceral coverage of the storms and disasters battering other parts of the world.

Hurricanes are not created by climate change. But global warming fueled by the profit-driven burning of fossil fuels and other workings of the system, is heating up the atmosphere and oceans. Based on extensive scientific study, MIT Professor Kerry Emanuel argues that climate change causes hurricanes and other storms “to become much stronger and reach peak intensity further north, heightening their potential impacts on human lives in coming years.” “Climate change, if unimpeded, will greatly increase the probability of extreme events,” he said.

Scientists are cautious not to directly causally link warming temperatures or rising ocean levels to any particular storm or its magnitude, but a basic underlying theory holds: The warmer the ocean, the more moisture can be drawn into storms. This can make them more massive and powerful. The warmer the air, the more moisture it can potentially hold. This can make the deluge or rain even greater when storms hit land. Rising sea levels—thanks to warmer waters and melting ice—tend to lead to higher surges of water coming on land (“storm surges”). These are usually the deadliest and most destructive part of a hurricane.

Climate change has also weakened global air currents. This means some hurricanes may linger longer over land, potentially dumping much more water. In this context, it is estimated that Hurricane Florence was 50 miles wider and dumped 50 percent more rain due to the overall effects of global warming.1

The existence of global warming has been scientifically demonstrated over and over. This is a lopsided world divided between imperialist countries like the U.S. and Europe, and the vast sections of oppressed nations of the world, the “Third World.” In this kind of a world, the effects of global warming such as increased droughts and famines, rising sea levels and extreme weather events will disproportionately impact the poor and the oppressed—and are now contributing to tens of millions of refugees fleeing parts of the Third World. The rulers of this country have been well aware of its catastrophic dangers for at least three decades.2 Yet they’ve been unwilling and more fundamentally unable to do anything to really slow—much less roll back—this unprecedented, existential threat to humanity!

This has been true under Democrats like Obama. He put some curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and negotiated the Paris agreement on climate change, but these steps come nowhere near halting the acceleration of global warming. Meanwhile, he significantly stepped up U.S. production of the very fossil fuels driving global warming!

The Trump/Pence regime also announced it would withdraw the U.S., the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, from the Paris agreement—insufficient as it was—thus giving a green light to other countries to do so as well. They are officially censoring climate science from government agencies, denying the science of global warming, blatantly ignoring and even pooh-poohing the incontrovertible findings of scientists and the overwhelming evidence for global warming, and deliberately tearing up environmental regulations and literally pouring gasoline on our burning planet.

Despite the science of global warming being undeniable and its effects devastating, why are the capitalist-imperialists unable and unwilling to solve what is arguably the greatest crisis that’s ever faced humanity? Because their system is based on privately owned blocs of capital compelled to compete with each other for profit and advantage, and nations competing for domination on a world scale. This unfolds, not in an organized or orderly fashion, but “anarchically” with unpredictable effects, based on the compulsion all these capitalists have to “expand or die.” This means each of them has to beat their competitors or be driven under. And this drives the competition for cheap sources of labor and energy, control of resource-rich parts of the world like the Middle East and parts of Africa, and for markets for their commodities and exports.

A concentrated manifestation of this is that the U.S. military, a key instrument of enforcing imperialist “world order” and America’s interests, is—as an institution—the single largest consumer of oil in the world. As long as this dog-eat-dog insanity is in command, this system is totally unable to undertake the massive investments and radical restructuring of the economy including transportation and industry that could really address global warming and climate change.

That would radically and immediately change after the revolutionary seizure of power and the establishing of the new socialist state in North America.

Even though global warming is a “global” problem, establishing a radically different socialist economy based on the principles of sustainable socialist development would start to make a big and immediate difference. This, after all, is the country with the largest capitalist economy and dominance over large parts of the world, the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and it is expending a disproportionate share of the world’s resources and energy (nearly five times its share of the world population).

The world’s largest machine of death and destruction—the U.S. military—will no longer exist, with its hundreds of bases around the world, wars of aggression, and massive infrastructure with its environmentally destructive effects. The armed forces of the socialist state will be radically different in line with defending the state, a profoundly internationalist orientation and the goals of emancipating all of humanity.

In terms of the economy, state ownership of the major means of production—factories, transport networks, land, resources, etc.—would become the primary form of economic ownership. Centralized planning would set the overall guidelines for the economy—and unleash decentralized initiatives on this basis. These guidelines and economic decisions based on advancing the world revolution overall, meeting social needs, and “Protecting, preserving, and enhancing the ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet for current and future generations.” This would require, as the CNSRNA puts it, the new society to

frontally and comprehensively confront and address the critical environmental emergency threatening humanity and the other species and ecosystems (the complex webs of interacting and interrelating life) in its development of a socialist economy, in all spheres of government and social activity, and in its international relations, will apply itself—and the initiative, knowledge, energy and creativity of the masses of people who make up and are the backbone of this Republic—to addressing this environmental emergency, in its various dimensions...3

Doing all this would involve really thorny challenges and contradictions—for instance, just to start with:

  • how to work with other countries and lead forward the worldwide struggle against global warming when most other parts of the world may still be capitalist,
  • how to meet the needs of the people without destroying the environment and exploiting whole sections of humanity,
  • struggling with people for different and “lower” consumption levels as the economy is re-oriented, and
  • how to deal with the potential devastation caused by the violence and destruction inflicted by the former capitalist ruling class during the revolution.

It may well be likely that some of the effects of the destruction on the environment are irreversible or difficult to transform in the short term.

But what will be different is that the workings of this system—the imperatives of capitalist competition and profit accumulation—and the enforcers of that will not stand in the way of solving these problems. The new state will actually provide backing to science and the scientists, those with expertise and those wanting to learn, and those trying to solve these problems. The new state will likely facilitate an unprecedented planetwide cooperation of scientists and other experts, including sharing scientific and technological advances with the rest of the world.

All this would require and involve mobilizing and involving broad, diverse segments of people. This would be shaped by the overall orientation of fostering the questioning, collectivity, and increasingly active involvement of the masses of people in the exercise of political power. No doubt there will be struggle and ferment among the people themselves doing this as to how—and this may even run ahead of or sometimes counter to what the leadership of the revolutionary state might think best at any given point. And this would contribute to breaking down, step by step, the division between those trained to work with ideas and those who’ve been kept out of this sphere.


The capitalist-imperialist system is completely unnecessary—it is way past time for it to be swept off the face of this planet, and be replaced by a radically new, much better, system.

Next—Part II: A Disaster Hitting the Poor, the Oppressed, and Immigrants Hardest

Many middle class people—of all nationalities—have been impacted, even devastated by Hurricane Florence. The landscape shapes where floodwaters rush the fastest and deepest. At the same time, the economic and social landscape has a tremendous impact on where those floodwaters and storms wreak their greatest havoc: they hit the poor, Black and oppressed peoples, and immigrants the hardest...


1.Kerry Emanuel: This year’s hurricanes are a taste of the future. Watch Video, MIT News Office, September 21, 2017; Oliver Milman, “Climate change means Hurricane Florence will dump 50% more rain,” Guardian, September 13, 2018; see also Michael Mann, “Hurricane Florence is a climate change triple threat,” Guardian, September 14, 2018[back]

2.The New York Times Magazine recently devoted a full issue, titled “30 years ago we could have saved the planet,” to this history.[back] special issue on environment; “Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development,” April 18, 2010 [back]

The Polo Farms neighborhood off S.C. Highway 905, South Carolina is largely underwater after Hurricane Florence’s deluge, September 24. (Photo: AP)

The dam and roadway in Boiling Spring Lakes, N.C. was washed away by Hurricane Florence, September 19. (Photo: AP)

With muddy river water still washing over entire communities eight days after Hurricane Florence slammed into land with nearly three feet of rain, a family tries to keep a mattress dry. (Photo: AP)


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