Labor Day 2005—A Sober Celebration of Our
Under the Pall of Katrina
by Bill Onasch
Following is an edited version of the author’s article as posted
time of year again, when those of us in the
It’s hard to put out of one’s mind the horror and suffering on the Gulf Coast—above all in New Orleans—resulting from Hurricane Katrina. The human tragedy associated with natural disasters is one thing. Such events are inevitable and we try to cope and move on.
But Katrina is not just another of the destructive storms that have affected that part of the world even before there were humans living in their path. The events surrounding this hurricane were compounded by a number of practices and injustices that are part and parcel of capitalism in the stage of “globalization.”
First of all,
there is strong scientific evidence to support the assertion by many that the
frequency and severity of tropical storms have been magnified by the effects of
global warming. The dikes in
As in most
cities, urban sprawl was largely fueled by “white flight.” Once the most
integrated city in the South,
Both the dike maintenance and emergency response resources had been severely weakened by reactionary cuts in all useful public spending.
part of the National Guard, whose main mission has evolved to be a key
component in dealing with natural disasters, had been called up for duty in, or
related to, the unjust war in
to the great human suffering and dislocation, in addition to the environmental
nightmare, there is economic damage on a scale never before seen outside of
war. No one knows when the Gulf ports may be open again. No one knows when
normal rail and barge traffic may resume. Still unknown is the extent of damage
to the oil, gas, chemical, and fishing industries—not to speak of tourism. All
this will have an enormous impact on jobs and prices throughout the
can’t be prevented. But tiny
All classes lost something to Katrina. But working people, especially the dark-skinned and poorest among us, have taken the most brutal beating in a disaster both natural and unnatural.
So celebration of Labor Day this year is tempered by our grief for our sisters and brothers devastated by Katrina. But our grief is also accompanied by anger at the crimes and criminal negligence of the ruling class and its government. Both of these powerful emotions should be brought under control and focused to motivate a renewed commitment to organize and act, to take power away from the greedy and incompetent Establishment rulers before they do even greater and more lasting damage to the world we live in.