Hurricane Katrina exposed the truly exploitative, cruel and racist nature of imperialism. An act of nature which would have been destructive anyway, was turned by capitalism into a calamity for the masses of the poor, the disadvantaged and the underprivileged. The disaster was predictable and predicted. Yet there were no evacuation plans prior to Katrina and no rescue efforts in its immediate aftermath.
Two thirds of the population of New Orleans – the worst hit place – is black and overwhelmingly poor. While the affluent section of the population fled in their limousines, the poor, the sick and the elderly remained behind with no food, clean water, accommodation, medical supplies or means of transport.
Some have blamed this disgraceful state of affairs in the richest country in the world on administrative inefficiency. This, however, misses the point. It is a question of priorities – not of efficiency. The same administrative machinery has little difficulty in organising imperialist wars for domination thousands of miles of ways, transporting soldiers, supplies, war materiel, theatre hospitals, etc., etc. Why should it be incapable of organising for disasters at home at a fraction of the cost of foreign wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan? Because people’s lives and welfare are low down on the capitalist order of priorities, in which the defence of private property and of maximum profit of the robber barons of monopoly capitalism and financial manipulators are the supreme concern of the authorities. One has only to compare the response of the Cuban authorities to these disasters to realise the difference between socialism and capitalism when it comes to looking after the interests of the masses.
Very little sums of money – $2-3 billion – spent on strengthening the levees (dykes) would have saved New Orleans; tens of millions of dollars would have been sufficient to evacuate the poor and the elderly before the hurricane struck. Instead, what we now have is a $62 billion federal package of spending, whereby the tragedy of the poor will be turned into an El Dorado for the large corporations, especially those with political connections, such as KBR – a subsidiary of Halliburton, with which Vice President Dick Cheney has close connections.
Meanwhile, the life of the ordinary people will become even more unbearable through astronomical rises in rent, gas and electricity prices. In all likelihood, the sharks of the speculating land gentry would, unless great resistance is encountered, clear the city of the undesirable poor, especially the blacks.
Hurricane Katrina has certainly opened the eyes of even the most dull working people to the filth and degeneration which imperialism epitomises.