Winter Storm Sweeps Southern Plains:

The Deadly Cold of the Capitalist System

From a reader



On Sunday, February 14, after an unusually harsh winter storm swept a blast of frigid air, snow, and freezing rain into the southern plains of the U.S., Maria Elisa Pineda took Cristian, her 11-year-old son, outside their mobile home in Conroe, Texas, a little north of Houston. Two years earlier, they had arrived in the U.S. from Honduras, and this was the first time Cristian experienced snow. Maria Pineda took images of Cristian romping and sliding in the snow. At 11 that night, Cristian went to the bed he shared with his younger brother. Electrical power and the heat it supplied had gone out hours earlier, and the temperature inside plunged to single digits. At about 2 a.m., Maria Pineda went to check on the two boys—only to discover the horrifying reality that Cristian, who had been healthy all his short life and hadn’t complained about the cold, was dead, probably from hypothermia.

Great Suffering, Acts of Cooperation and Compassion

Human suffering has been intense and enormous through the crisis triggered by this winter blast that hit Texas and other nearby states, and it will continue for weeks and months. As of this writing, dozens of people are dead in Texas alone, and many in other states, as the storm swept northeast. Millions of people were without electricity or heat for days, and millions continue to be without water. People have died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried to warm their homes with gas stoves. People have fallen through ice, died in car crashes, slipped and cracked their skulls. Others have died in house fires. An 86-year-old woman froze to death in her Abilene backyard, where her daughter found her corpse. Lina Hidalgo, the top official in Harris County, which contains Houston, said on February 19 that there were “600 plus” carbon monoxide cases, “and still counting” in the county. 

An untold number of homes, apartments, businesses, schools, and other buildings have been damaged by flooding. Hospitals in several cities had to shut down abruptly and move patients when power and water went out. Damage from burst water pipes will be “unlike any event the state has experienced,” according to the Insurance Council of Texas. Overnight, restaurants closed, long lines formed at the remaining open gas stations, and grocery stores were picked clean.

Many, many thousands of people did everything they could to help out neighbors, co-workers, strangers—bringing food, water, and blankets to the elderly stranded in their homes and to homeless people; rescuing people in vehicles stuck in ice and snow; ferrying people to locations that had become impromptu “warming centers.” Celebrities such as singers Beyoncé and Solange and athletes Alex Bregman and John Wall organized and contributed to efforts to supply necessities to people in need. Country music star Kacey Musgraves put out a t-shirt slamming Ted Cruz, a Christian fascist senator from Texas, for his highly publicized getaway to a lavish resort in Mexico as this crisis hit—then said all proceeds from the sales would go to “directly support Texans affected by the storm and also to homeless immigrants seeking shelter and food.” 

The “Energy Capital” of the (Capitalist-Imperialist) World

Texas produces more electricity than any other state in the country—more than double the amount of the next closest state. A regional group of business leaders called the “Greater Houston Partnership” boasts that the city is the “Energy Capital of the World … the headquarters and the intellectual capital for virtually every segment of the energy industry including exploration, production, transmission, marketing, supply, and technology.”

Capitalism is driven by a never-ending drive in which different capitalists and blocs of capitalists compete to maximize their profits, with no regard for the needs of masses of humanity and the state of the environment. And when freezing temperatures blanketed the state, the massive technology and facilities that stretch hundreds of miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the plains and mountains of West Texas were operated intermittently or not at all.1 People in Houston and almost the entire state spent days shivering in the dark, engaged in desperate, sometimes deadly attempts to get some warmth.

Factors particular to Texas and to energy production also contributed to this crisis. While the rest of the continental U.S. is in one of two energy grids, either east or west of the Rocky Mountains, Texas has its own. This is a legacy of Texas’s secessionist, anti-federal history that has never been extinguished among its reactionary political leadership, Democrat and Republican. As millions of people in the state were freezing and many dying, Rick Perry, a Christian fascist former Texas governor and energy secretary in the Trump/Pence regime, was quoted making the asinine statement that “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” 

“Deregulation” of the electrical energy industry, which began in 1992, was supposedly intended to “enhance competition” among energy producers, and lower prices for consumers. But the removal of much federal oversight provided incentive for energy companies to cut corners in their rush to maximize profit and outdo their competitors. This is a foremost reason the owners of Texas’s electrical grid and its power suppliers didn’t “winterize” their equipment, despite the experience of a 2011 freeze and recommendations that they do so. Tom Smith, former director of a consumer advocacy group who had argued for changes in 2011, said this week, “Instead of taking any regulatory action, we ended up getting guidelines that were unenforceable and largely ignored in [power companies’] rush for profits.”

A Criminal System, and a Way Out

The storm that wreaked havoc across Texas was not a "natural disaster." It was an extreme weather event that was predicted well in advance, on the basis of science. As its impact became evident, chasms of inequality between rich and poor, and the oppression of Black and Latino people embedded in this system were wrenched into the open, however briefly (see accompanying sidebar). The storm’s impact was catastrophic because this system is incapable of meeting the needs of the people, around the world and in this country, and because state power is in the hands of the imperialist bourgeoisie. 

Millions of people in Texas are rightly furious at the governing fascists like Ted Cruz, Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Rick Perry, and their ilk. Not just because of their opposition to carrying out even the most minimal functions of running a society, but because of their heartless contempt for people. 

But there is a pressing need to go deeper. The lunatic, belligerent, anti-science, Christian fascists who dominate the state government in Texas are products and representatives of a system—the system of capitalism-imperialism. Bob Avakian (BA), in his New Year’s Statement, A New Year, The Urgent Need For A Radically New World—For The Emancipation of All Humanity, sharply and scientifically exposes how the Democratic Party represents this same system. The forms of rule by both Democrats and Republi-fascists involve, as BA writes, “the enforcement of the exploitation and oppression of masses of people in this country and throughout the world (including the more than 150 million children in the Third World who are cruelly superexploited in sweatshops and mines).”

In the interests of humanity and the planet, this system is urgently in need of being overthrown through an actual revolution.

1. Bob Avakian’s article “’Preliminary Transformation into Capital’ … and Putting an End to Capitalism” gives a thorough scientific analysis of what drives capitalist investment, and why it can never meet the needs of humanity. [back]


Cristian, 11-years-old, dies11-year-old Cristian Pavón, from Honduras, died in his bed in Conroe, north of Houston, probably from hypothermia, during the severe winter storm that hit the southern plains of the U.S.

Water pipes burst; people fill water bottlesWater pipes have burst, and power is off. People refill jugs for drinking water. Some people melt snow as a water source. (Photo: AP)

pastor invites homeless to warming shelterMillions endure record cold in Texas without power. Pastor Rogers invites people to his warming center, February 16, San Antonio. (Photo: AP)

Bob Avakian: "Not fit caretakers of the earth"

A clip from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian given in 2003. Watch the whole talk at



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