The outpouring of charity from ordinary people to support the victims of this tragedy is amazing. Millions of dollars have poured out of the pockets of working-class people who have been touched by the magnitude of this tragedy. This truly shows the solidarity people can show for one another, and it defies the logic of the apologists for capitalism who say that people are entirely selfish and don’t care about others.
However, charity is not enough to solve this problem. People living paycheck to paycheck will not be able to collect (among themselves) the billions needed for the relief and rebuilding efforts necessary to improve the lives of Katrina victims. Massive aid is needed from the federal government. We need to tax big business (which is responsible for many aspects of this tragedy) to pay for real substantial relief that is intended to thoroughly improve the lives of the victims in a lasting way.
The Bush Administration and local politicians are guilty of gross negligence resulting in the deaths of thousands in the Gulf Coast region affected by Katrina. We can’t expect Bush or any other corporate politician to send billions of dollars in real funding “out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Sure, billions have been sent by the government to the Gulf Coast, but this money is not going to be used for the massive public housing, social works, and healthcare programs that are needed. The money will end up in the pockets of big corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel; their “rebuilding efforts” will amount to profits for the elites and no real prospect of decent jobs and social programs for the victims.
In order for the necessary massive public works program to be enacted, there has to be mass pressure put on Bush, big business, and the politicians. Letter-writing wouldn’t be nearly enough. We need demonstrations and actions that aim to shake the foundations of society in order to put pressure that will force them to cough up the much-needed funds. This will require ongoing labor and community organizing to mobilize people to turn their passive anger at Bush and big business into active opposition.
Mass movements change society, not corporate politicians. We need to build a real movement. All upcoming antiwar demonstrations should take up the issue of Katrina in a serious way. We need to draw the connections between the billions spent on the war in Iraq and the perpetual war at home here on working people and people of color. We can develop the strength to put the Bush Administration on the ropes and force them to concede to some of our demands.
Also, the labor movement has the resources and the potential social power to force big business and the government to provide for the devastated people of the Gulf Coast. Labor solidarity demonstrations around the demand “Rebuild Based on Workers’ Needs, Not Corporate Greed” would get a huge echo among the rank and file, especially if the demands are connected to the issues we all constantly face, like healthcare, pensions, and a living wage.
A fighting movement of working people can defeat the corporate agenda that has resulted in the desperate situation that is now faced by the workers and poor of the Gulf Coast.
September 27, 2005