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Economic and Philosophic Science Review

Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested. V. I. Lenin

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No 1277 September 18th 2005

New Orleans underlines all the callousness, class-war indifference, hypocrisy, antagonism, hatred and incompetence of the late capitalist system which offers neither “freedom”, “democracy” nor “prosperity”. It is the warmongering insanity of the ruling-class’s only solution to its crisis which stripped money away from routine maintenance in the first place and which is threatening a thousand times more chaos across the planet now. Even revisionist-hampered workers states like China and Cuba can show the compassion and unity needed to handle disasters; only revolution will end the much greater disasters of fast maturing Third World war which capitalism is preparing

The degenerate chaos, incompetence, callousness and warmongering mayhem of late imperialism expressed in the festering and ever more disgusting degradation of the deliberately fostered civil war mayhem in Iraq, and the “let them eat cake” class-war indifference to hurricane destruction revealed in Mississippi, is now producing extraordinary disquiet in the most unexpected quarters of the once imperialist tolerant middle class.

The belated “we will rebuild New Orleans” bluster from George Bush - a brash and most likely unfulfillable promise causing yet further infighting and lacerating recriminations in the US neo-con ruling class, facing a chasm of unpayable debt and deficit in its economy - will do nothing to stem the pungent criticism of the delays, cutbacks and sheer corrupt and croneyist incompetence revealed by the hurricane destruction, the crudity of the eventual gun-toting “law-and order” capitalist response, and the deeper long term underlying class oppression and glaring poverty which runs throughout the world’s “richest” nation.

And neither ultimately will the new and deeply sinister thought-police comments from Blair about the BBC’s hurricane coverage being “full of hatred for America”, however much they are signal for further bullying government censorship, and destruction of civil rights and oppression, such as Charles Clarke’s already NAZI like dictates against “glorifying terrorism”, and no-trial deportations, detentions and imprisonment rules.

Effectively outlawing ALL historical and political analysis (of “terrorism” eg) that does not cheer on gung-ho imperialism and its rampaging, torturing, terrorising and blitzing of civilians across the planet, and banging-up all opposition and resistance, is the last ditch open dictatorship resort of a historically outmoded capitalist system which can no longer even pretend to offer “progress, prosperity and stability” to the planet.

The real target of such measures ultimately is not episodic and relatively limited and scattered anarchic “terrorism” but revolutionary understanding and the call for the complete overturning of this now degenerate and out-of-touch system which has run its 800-year historical course and urgently needs replacing with coherent, planned and socialist society, the only possible way to take mankind forwards.

The increasingly obvious reliance on fascistic crackdowns, shoot-to-kill, arbitrary imprisonment and censorship to prevent such unstoppable understanding growing, will more and more rapidly expose the always fraudulent and now completely threadbare lie of “freedom” and “democracy” which imperialism has used for centuries, to justify its rule and plundering of the entire planet.

At present it is accelerating the growing disillusionment and dismay of the middle class elements who have previously gone along with the bourgeoisie when it seemed to be prospering, but who now express the turmoil of a society reaching the end of its tether. Take this astounding new broadside from the colonel who led troops in to “liberate” Iraq as the lying justifications from Blair and Co now put it (after the exposure of the total Goebblels level lies and cover-up about “weapons of mass destruction”):

When I led my men of the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment across the border into Iraq we believed we were going to do some good. Goodwill and optimism abounded; it was to be a liberation, I had told my men, not a conquest.

In Iraq I sought to surround myself with advisers - Iraqis - who could help me understand what needed to be done. One of the first things they taught me was that the Baath party had been a fact of life for 35 years. Like the Nazi party, they said, it needed to be decapitated, harnessed and dismantled, each function replaced with the new regime. Many of these advisers were Baathists, yet were eager to co-operate, fired with the enthusiasm of the liberation. How must it look to them now?

What I had not realised was that there was no real plan at the higher levels to replace anything, indeed a simplistic and unimaginative overreliance in some senior quarters on the power of destruction and crude military might. We were to beat the Iraqis. That simple. Everything would come together after that.

The Iraqi army was defeated - it walked away from most fights - but was then dismissed without pay to join the ranks of the looters smashing the little infrastructure left, and to rail against their treatment. The Baath party was left undisturbed. The careful records it kept were destroyed with precision munitions by the coalition; the evidence erased, they were left with a free rein to agitate and organise the insurrection. A vacuum was created in which the coalition floundered, the Iraqis suffered and terrorists thrived.

One cannot help but wonder what it was all about. If it was part of the war on terror then history might notice that the invasion has arguably acted as the best recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda ever: a sort of large-scale equivalent of the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972, which in its day filled the ranks of the IRA. If it was an attempt to influence the price of oil, then the motorists who queued last week would hardly be convinced. If freedom and a chance to live a dignified, stable life free from terror was the motive, then I can think of more than 170 families in Iraq last week who would have settled for what they had under Saddam. UK military casualties reached 95 last week. I nightly pray the total never reaches 100.

The consequences of this adventure may run even deeper. Hurricane Katrina has caused a reappraisal of the motives and aims of this war in the US. The storm came perhaps in the nick of time as hawks in Washington were glancing towards Iran and its newly found self-confidence in global affairs. Meanwhile, China and India are growing and sucking up every drop of oil, every scrap of concrete or steel even as the old-world powers of the UK and US pour blood and treasure into overseas campaigns which seem to have no ending and no goal.

It is time for our leaders to explain what is going on. It was as a battalion commander trying to explain to his men why they would embark on a war that I came to public notice. The irony is that I made certain assumptions that my goodwill and altruistic motivations went to the top. Clearly I was naive. This time it is the role of the leaders of nations to explain where we are going and why I, for one, demand to know.

Colonel Tim Collins gave a celebrated speech to his troops about their mission to liberate, not conquer, in Iraq. He has since left the army.

The politics of this are by no means revolutionary, or “left” wing and certainly not dealing with most of the issues. They do not even challenge particularly the propaganda brainwashing and dumbing down that is the reality of “democracy” and whose lies plunged him into the war in the first place.

But not even the astonishing range of plangent anti-government and anti-ruling class comment erupting after New Orleans in the bourgeois press by disquieted petty bourgeois of all kinds - including some of the most crawlarse “New Labourite” supporters, fake-”lefts” and similar stooge figures - can compare with the gut level feelings of historical betrayal and philosophical dismay being expressed here.

There will be plenty more of this utter disorientation - and calls for understanding - to come as the imperialist system degenerates ever further into the brutal and destructive Third World War mayhem which is the only answer this outmoded and historical bankrupt system now has to the intractable crisis of its profit-making system.

A huge philosophical debate and discussion is erupting - which must eventually struggle with all the scientific and historical revolutionary questions of society, which alone can find a path out of this mayhem.

The greater the degeneration the greater will the demand for understanding, driven by crisis and a signal of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the built-in antagonistic contradictions of production for profit continues unstoppably to take the whole of capitalist society into greater and greater instability and ever more lurching crises of “overproduction” culminating in trade war and slump collapse as brilliantly understood by Marx, Engels and Lenin. (See economic quotes). The monopoly profiteering of the giant corporations is now only a restriction on scientific economic and social development, holding back mankind.

Worse, is threatens to take mankind back into the most devastating destruction and turmoil, just as the last two crises of the system did in 1914 and 1939, only on a much greater and more globalised scale than ever before, threatening billions rather than millions. As the EPSR has long emphasised US imperialism is now relentlessly bent on warmongering to try and drag itself out of the sickeningly unsolvable tangle of “overproduction” (too many goods which cannot be sold at profit (despite the desperate needs of the poverty bound billions) which threatens the richest, sweetest most powerful ruling class life in all of history.

It is a $billions “freedom and democracy” only for the tiny minority of course, one of the first of many lessons emerging from the New Orleans disaster as the bourgeois press observed:

Stuff happens,” said the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, when called to respond to the looting taking place in Baghdad ...The official response to the looting in New Orleans last week was, however, quite different. The images were not of “newly liberated Iraqis” making away with precious artefacts, but desperate African-Americans in a devastated urban area, most of whom are making off with nappies, bottled water and food.

So these are not scenes of freedom at work but anarchy to be suppressed. “These troops are battle-tested. They have M-16s and are locked and loaded,” said the Democrat governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco. “These troops know how to shoot and kill, and I expect they will.”

Events on the Gulf coast following Hurricane Katrina have been a metaphor for race in the US. The predominantly black population of New Orleans, along with a sizeable number of poor whites, was left to sink or swim. The bulging banks of the Mississippi momentarily washed away the racial divisions that appeared so permanent, not in a common cause but a common condition – poverty.

Under-resourced and without support, those who remained afloat had to hustle to survive. The ad hoc means they created to defend and govern themselves under such extreme adversity were, inevitably, dysfunctional. Their plight was not understood as part of a broader, societal crisis but misunderstood as a problem apart from that crisis. Eviscerated from context, they could then be branded as a lawless, amoral and indigent bunch of people who can’t get it together because they are in the grip of pathology.

Katrina did not create this racist image of African-Americans - it has simply laid bare its ahistorical bigotry, and in so doing exposed the lie of equal opportunity in the US. A basic understanding of human nature suggests everyone in New Orleans wanted to survive and escape. A basic understanding of American economics and history shows that, despite all the rhetoric, wealth - not hard work or personal sacrifice - is the most decisive factor in who succeeds.

In that sense, Katrina has been a disaster for the poor for the same reason that President Bush’s social security proposals and economic policies have been. It was the result of small government - an inadequate, privatised response to a massive public problem. And if there was ever any bewilderment about why African-Americans reject such an agenda so comprehensively at every election, then this was why.

“No one would have checked on a lot of the black people in these parishes while the sun shined,” Mayor Milton Tutwiler of Winstonville, Mississippi, told the New York Times. “So am I surprised that no one has come to help us now? No.”

The fact that the vast majority of those who remained in town were black was not an accident. Katrina did not go out of its way to affect black people. It destroyed almost everything in its path. But the poor were disproportionately affected because they were least able to escape its path and to endure its wrath. They are more likely to have bad housing and less likely to have cars. Many had to work until the last moment and few have the money to pay for a hotel out of town.

Nature does not discriminate, but people do. For reasons that are particularly resonant in the south, where this year African-Americans celebrated the 40th anniversary of legislation protecting their right to vote, black people are disproportionately represented among the poor. Two-thirds of New Orleans is African-American, a quarter of whom live in poverty.

In the Lower Ninth Ward area, which was inundated by the floodwaters, more than 98% of the residents are black and more than a third live in poverty. In other words, their race and their class are so closely intertwined that to try to understand either separately is tantamount to misunderstanding both entirely.

...Daily scenes of thousands of African-Americans being told to be patient even as they died; their children wailing as they stood stranded and dehydrated on highways; their old perishing as they festered in filthy homes full of faeces; their dead left to rot in the street - it was a reminder too many for some.

By Friday night, rapper Kanye West had finally had enough. On a live NBC television special to raise funds for the victims, he lashed out. “I’ve tried to turn away from the TV because it’s too hard to watch,” he said. “Bush doesn’t care about black people. It’s been five days [waiting for help] because most of the people are black. America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible.”

The waters flow in and the waters flow out, washing away all that once lay on the surface -and revealing what lies beneath. So it is with all floods in all places, but now it is America which stands exposed. And neither America nor the world much likes what it sees.

The first revelation was not spoken in words, but written in the faces... The women pleading for their lives in handwritten signs, the children clinging to tree branches, the prisoners herded on to a jail roof - they were overwhelmingly black.

This will not be news to most Americans. They know that a racial divide still haunts their country, as it has from its very founding. Like a character in Shakespearean tragedy, race is America’s fatal flaw, the weakness which so often brings it low...Time and time again, America has been forced to wake up to the racial injustice which has been its historic curse. It was the source of a civil war in the 19th century and of repeated battles through the 20th. From the desegregation and civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s to the Los Angeles riots and even the OJ Simpson trial of the 1990s..

Katrina has rammed home that message once more, with lacerating force. White Americans, who regarded New Orleans as a kind of playground, a place to enjoy the carnal pleasures of music, food, drink and more, have learned things about that city - and therefore their society - that they would probably have preferred not to know. They have discovered that it was mainly white folks who lived on the higher, safer ground, while poorer, black families had to huddle in the cheaper, low-lying housing - that race, in other words, determined who got hit.

They have also learned that 35% of black households in the area did not have a car. Or that the staff and guests of the Hyatt hotel were evacuated first, while the rest, the mainly poor and black, were at the back of the queue. Or that 28% of the people of New Orleans live in poverty and that 84% of those are black. Or that some people in that city were so poor, they did not have the money even to catch a bus out of town - that race, in other words, determined who got left behind.

Most Americans want to believe that kind of inequality belongs in the past, in the school textbooks. But Katrina has shaken them from that delusion.

They have had to face another painful truth. Their government has proved itself incompetent. Yes, it could act quickly once it had decided to act - but it idled for days. This disastrous performance will surely saddle the remainder of George Bush’s presidency, just as the botched Desert One rescue of American hostages from the besieged US embassy in Tehran hobbled that of Jimmy Carter. Americans expect competence from their leader as a minimum requirement. And if an image of a crashed helicopter in the Iranian desert could undo one president, surely pictures of an American city reduced to a Somali or Bangladeshi kind of chaos spell disaster for this one.

But the shock may well do more than shift perceptions of the current administration. For 25 years, the dominant US ideology has been to shrink the state. “Government is not the solution to our problem,” declared Ronald Reagan. “Government is the problem.”

That defined the limits for state activism thereafter. After decades of energetic government programmes, from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s, the state was compelled to retreat. Taxes would go down and the government would do less.

Mr Bush personifies that ideology with more vigour than anyone since Reagan. Yet now, after Katrina, the national mood might alter. Americans have seen where small government leads. The authorities in Louisiana, including the military, pleaded long ago with Washington to reinforce the levees that were designed to save New Orleans from a great flood. The Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105m (£57m): the White House gave them $40m.

It is conceivable that Americans will now call a halt to their quarter-century experiment in limited government - and the neglected infrastructure that has entailed. There are some tasks, they may conclude, which neither individuals nor private companies can do alone - and evacuating tens of thousands of people from a drowning city is one of them.

Finally, America will have to get over the shock of seeing itself in a new, unflattering light. It is not just the lawlessness, violence and gun culture that has been on show in New Orleans. It is also that America likes to think of itself as the “indispensable nation”, the strongest, richest, most capable country on the face of the earth.

That belief had already taken a few blows. The vulnerability exposed on 9/11 was one. The struggle in Iraq - where America has become a Gulliver, tied down - was another. But now the giant has been hit again, its weak spot exposed. When corpses float in the streets for five days, the indispensable nation looks like a society that cannot take care of its own. When Sri Lanka offers to send emergency aid, the humiliation is complete..

The callous disdain of the ruling class for the victims, the brutal racist contempt and, as the first piece better and more correctly emphasises, the poverty and inequality of capitalist society (the underlying CAUSE of racism) have all been deeply underlined by these events, burning more deep lessons into the working class of the whole planet about the realities of capitalist life in the the “American Dream” land of supposedly the richest and most “successful” “free” “democratic” society on the planet. Class war in is many ways more raw and closer to the surface in the US, because the inequalities are more extreme and more brutally rubbed into the faces of dispossessed than anywhere else.

But equally shocking and stunning for the petty bourgeois commentators was the hollowness and incompetence of the ruling class and its paralysis in the face of disaster, neither able nor willing to deal with the events or provide the leadership that the middle class craves.

These are additional and disastrous factors for the capitalist order which historically, however piratically and barbarically it behaved, claimed historical justification because it was leading society forwards. But the time has long gone from when the bourgeoisie gave society a new revolutionary dynamic and inventiveness, in the Italian city states, in the Dutch imperialist expansion, in the English Cromwellian revolution; in the US anti-British anti-monarchical revolution; in the French Revolution.

From Marx’s time onwards capitalism’s increasingly dominant tendency has been decay and the restriction of society and production, so that despite its capacity to continue growing and expanding it periodically collapses into ever greater greater crisis slump chaos.

Imperialism is out of time in the long term and once more back in the stomach-turning pits of crisis short-term. And its ruling class reflects all the bankruptcy and almost insane detachment that every ruling class has reached when the historical conditions that sustain its rule have moved forwards and changed. The Rasputin mysticism and madness of the pre-Bolshevik Tsarist court was a reflection of its historical bankruptcy, the deranged “cake” suggestions of Marie Antoinette showed the mad lightheadness of a soon-to-be-deposed degenerate aristocracy, as did the “divine right” arrogant delusions of Charles 1 in 1640.

And the Barbara Bush comments that New Orleans refugees were “very lucky to have the chance to move because they are so underprivileged anyway”?!!

Historical incompetence rules and it has shocked the petty bourgeoisie who sense the underlying historical chasm:

Remember shock and awe? It was meant to radiate a might never seen before on the face of the earth. Armed as no power has ever been, pre-eminent as only Rome before it, America the all-conquering would spread democracy across the globe by the force of its invincible armoury. When daisycutters dropped on a Taliban that fled leaving their hot dinners on the frontline, when Baghdad fell with hardly a battle, shock and awe looked easy.

Now the shock is something else. It is the shock of discovering that Oz is only an optical illusion and the Wizard is a small man with no magic power after all. America now looks like some fearsome robotic dinosaur stomping across the landscape, a gigantic Power Ranger toy, all bright gadgets and display but no power and nothing inside. It’s Buzz Lightyear. It can’t actually do anything useful after all.

The hollow superpower stands exposed, but it may take a little while for the world to readjust its set to this new reality...Iraq has shown that smart missiles, heavy-metal techno-tricks and soldiers whose helmets are electronically controlled from Southern Command in Tampa, are virtually useless. The lessons that the Vietcong on bicycles thought they had taught the behemoth are being learned all over again as failure and calamity stare the White House in the face.

This the world has seen unfold nightly on the news as civil war engulfs Iraq, exactly as forewarned by all the war’s opponents. What irony that Iran, the heart of America’s “axis of evil”, without lifting a finger or firing a shot, will win its historic ambition to breathe its influence across both Afghanistan and Iraq...

But it took Hurricane Katrina to expose the real emptiness under the US carapace. No wonder governing Iraq was far beyond the competence of a nation so feebly governed within its own borders. How does a state where half the voters don’t believe in government, run anything well? A nation ideologically and constitutionally committed to non-government is bound to crumble at the core. Rome had no doubts about governance.

What the great Louisiana catastrophe has revealed is a country that is not a country at all, but atomised, segmented individuals living parallel lives as far apart as possible, with nothing to unite them beyond the idea of a flag. The 40 million with no health insurance show the social dysfunction corroding US capacity. For the poor at the bottom of the New Orleans mud heap, there never was even the American dream to cling to. They always lived in another country.

The born-agains absolve themselves from sympathy with the victims by explaining Katrina as God’s wrath on the Sodom-and-Gomorrah sins of New Orleans. But it took the mother of the nation, Barbara Bush, to perfectly capture rich America’s distance from the scene. Visiting refugees in the Houston Astrodome, she pronounced them lucky: “So many of the people were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.” She let slip darker fears: “What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas.” Katrina lifts the lid on the hidden America invisible in sitcoms, but above all shows how the rich don’t acknowledge shared nationhood with the rest.

So to talk of “average” incomes or GDP per capita in the US is meaningless: there is no “average”, only first world and third world, with virtually no mobility between the two. ...

But before we get too piously smug about America, just imagine a flood crashing through the Thames barrier and drowning London and Essex. What would we see? Essentially the same thing, even if mayor Ken Livingstone did evacuation well. The middle classes would escape to friends and relatives.

The poor who have no networks beyond other poor people would collect in camps. They would be as pitifully helpless and there would be millions of them too. In New Orleans people couldn’t get away for lack of the price of a taxi out of town. In London too, floods would expose what is hidden to well-off Britain because we also live strictly segregated lives. Housing-estate ghettoes are never entered by the 75% homeowners, places hidden even in the next street.

Poor London victims would also have nothing more than the clothes they stood in. Nationally 27% of people have no savings, not one penny; 25% of the poorest have at least £200 in debts, which would track them down to their refugee camps; 12% of households (many more individuals) have no bank account - even for those with basic accounts, banks never lend so much as a bus fare to those who most need it. A quarter of households have no insurance; they would lose everything.

Those with no debts could borrow up to £1,000 from the social fund, but it would be clawed back from their benefits within the year. With their jobs swept away, single adults would live on the jobseekers allowance of £56.20 a week (less £20 deducted for the social fund loan). For London the proportion reduced to penury would be far higher than national figures: half of London’s children live under the poverty line.

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing the United States: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans.

“The New Orleans hurricane scenario,” The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, “may be the deadliest of all.” It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening.

So why were New Orleans and America so unprepared? After 9/11, hard questions were deferred in the name of national unity, then buried under a thick coat of whitewash. This time, Americans need accountability.

First question: Why have aid and security taken so long to arrive? Katrina hit five days ago — and it was already clear by last Friday that Katrina could do immense damage along the Gulf Coast. Yet the response you’d expect from an advanced country never happened. Thousands of Americans are dead or dying, not because they refused to evacuate, but because they were too poor or too sick to get out without help — and help wasn’t provided, Many have yet to receive any help at all.

There will and should be many questions about the response of state and local governments; in particular, couldn’t they have done more to help the poor and sick escape? But the evidence points, above all, to a stunning lack of both preparation and urgency in the federal government’s response.

Even military resources in the right place weren’t ordered into action. “On Wednesday,” said an editorial in The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi, “reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw Air Force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics. Playing basketball and performing calisthenics!”

Maybe Bush administration officials believed that the local National Guard could keep order and deliver relief. But many members of the National Guard and much of its equipment — including high-water vehicles — are in Iraq. “The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission,” a Louisiana Guard officer told reporters several weeks ago.

Second question: Why wasn’t more preventive action taken? After 2003 the Army Corps of Engineers sharply slowed its flood-control work, including work on sinking levees. “The corps,” an Editor and Publisher article says, citing a series of articles in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, “never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security — coming at the same time as federal tax cuts — was the reason for the strain.”

In 2002 the corps’ chief resigned, reportedly under pressure, after he criticized the administration’s proposed cuts in the corps’ budget, including flood-control spending.

Third question: Did the Bush administration destroy the effectiveness of the Federal Emergency Management Agency? The administration has, by all accounts, treated the agency like an unwanted stepchild, leading to a mass exodus of experienced professionals. Last year James Lee Witt, who won bipartisan praise for his leadership of the agency during the Clinton years, said at a congressional hearing: “I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared.

I don’t think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn’t rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason U.S. troops in Iraq didn’t get adequate armor, At a fundamental level, America’s current leaders just aren’t serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don’t like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice. On Thursday, Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody anticipated the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.

So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can’t-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.

They “like” waging war because that is the only kind of solution that class hostile capitalism can devise to find a way out of its disastrous crisis.

Its reflection in New Orleans was the “kick-arse” shoot-em’-up cowboy response of sending in the troops to establish “law and order” — paying no attention to the desperation and fear that had driven “looters” onto the street for sheer survival and, more deeply, to the raging antagonisms and class hatreds that capitalism has created for its entire history and which immediately erupted as well.

Compare that to the self-sacrificing heroism and cooperation of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army a couple of years ago during the Yangtse river flooding threatening hundreds of thousands of people, when the Chinese workers state equally “sent in the troops”. Soldiers did not go in with guns but pitched in to lift sand bags, rescue drowning people, and organise rebuilding and repair.

The sense of community, mutual help and essentially non-antagonistic cooperation of developing communist society came to the fore in a way inconceivable and impossible in the heart of capitalist “civilisation”.

And the same mutual aid and community is the essential content of ordinary socialist life as well as emergency — even if currently overlain by capitalist glitz and consumerist illusions.

China may yet have difficult problems as the astoundingly successful capitalist economic development it has stimulated under overall workers state control, revives endlessly the “old crap” of capitalist individualism, consumerism and philistinism in society.

Though it can be contained by the overall dictatorship of the proletariat, it is ill-countered by the lack of clear Leninist revolutionary philosophy and guidance from the direly revisionist Beijing leadership and its continuing failure to lead and develop vital ongoing Leninist revolutionary debate, and present a world picture clearly showing the crisis of capitalism.

But despite doubts, the enormous contrast in the two societies, one almost paralysed and one accelerating forwards, is glaring.

And the point was underlined even more directly by the calm and coherent way that tiny communist Cuba, with a millionth of the resources of the giant USA, was able to evacuate its people from the path of a hurricane just six weeks previously, and then organise its people communally to begin repairs and rebuilding.

Communism works.

Castro even offered, quite genuinely and humanely, to send 1,100 fully trained doctors to New Orleans to help despite the paltry strings-attached aid that the west had offered him:

Hurricane Katrina is a terrible tragedy. But it’s a very American tragedy. The government instruction to “get out if you can” would surely be seen as an abdication of responsibility anywhere else. It left the poor, the weak and the disabled to face the full force of the storm.

Contrast this with the much poorer nation of Cuba and Hurricane Dennis, just two months ago. Faced with the same warning, and with few Cubans having their cars, they moved over a million people out of its path. Just 10 people died. Surely the US should ask itself why a nation as rich as it is can provide so little for the poor among its people.

Henry Stewart


Perhaps now, following the disaster on the Gulf coast, the people of the US will wake up to the fact the current administration is not and never has been primarily concerned with the welfare of its citizens (Criticism of Bush mounts, September 3). Our federal government is more interested in pursuing a flawed policy in the Middle East than in allocating the funds necessary to protect our cities. As always, it is the poor that suffer. The funds that could have been used to prevent the flooding of New Orleans have been absorbed in tax cuts for the rich and weapons for Iraq.

But while the government can suppress images of US citizens returning in coffins from Iraq, it cannot hide from the world’s eyes the horror of bodies floating in the swamp that is now New Orleans.

David Mann

Santa Barbara, California

I watch in utter amazement at the response to the hurricane disaster in New Orleans. I see reporters able to drive in and out, so why can’t they get a fleet of thousands of buses to at least get the people out? If I had known the response was going to be this slow, I would have grabbed a bus and driven out there and started hauling people out myself.

I’m sorry Bush had to cut his vacation short. But at least he got past war protester mom Cindy Sheehan without getting noticed. I’m really angry.

Marc Perkel

San Francisco

Polly Toynbee’s article (Breathless charioteer, September 2) is not without relevance to the breakdown of society in New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane. The US may be the most powerful and rich country in the world, but it is also among the most unequal. There is little sense of solidarity between its rich and poor citizens. When disaster strikes, it is each person for him or herself.

An African-American friend in Baton Rouge, a woman struggling valiantly against the drugs and crime devastating her family, told me she had never had a conversation with any white person before, other than receiving an order or a command. Social justice may no longer be fashionable, but it is what holds good societies together.

Shirley Williams

House of Lords

So now we know what floods, a hike in the oil price, social inequality, and a state that’s given up on looking after its citizens looks like. As stocks of fossil fuels decline, global warming takes a grip, the gap between rich and poor increases, and the private sector takes over more and more of the state’s responsibilities, isn’t it now obvious that fossil-fuelled neoliberalism has had its day?

Prof Andrew Dobson

Open University

Donald Rumsfeld declared the looting in Iraq following “liberation” to be the consequence of “the pent-up feelings that result from decades of oppression”. We await his wisdom on New Orleans.

Chris Mazeika


Shame on the world’s only superpower that it seems not to have planned for, nor to have the ability, to help its poor in this natural disaster.

Margaret Fawcett


Katrina exposes the hollowness of the American dream.

RMJ Harvey-Amer

Croydon, Surrey

It most certainly does. But the American nightmare plunge towards further warmongering will continue anyway — already being warmed up against Iran and others — because there is no end to capitalist crisis other than the overturn of the whole system.

Fake-”left” calls for “more demonstrations ” to “stop war” will be worse than useless in answering the questions now posed more and more insistently by the accelerating movement of capitalist crisis and the plunge towards Third World War, simply disarming workers with more protest politics and heading them away from the only possible future — revolution.

The world urgently needs to know what exactly is going on. Only Leninist historical science can give the working class the means to struggle for the answers, based on revolutionary grasp.

Don Hoskins


Colonialist thuggery a response to defeat

Nothing in the latest upsurge of colonialist violence in the northern occupied zone of Ireland upsets or changes the EPSR’s long-analysed and unique view that British imperialism is making a long drawn out snail’s pace withdrawal and retreat from the remnants of its Irish colony.

Just the opposite. The sour, sullen and petulant attacks on the PSNI lines this week, and the vicious infighting between “loyalist” colonialist factions have all the characteristics of bitterness and recriminations among the losers in the long and determined struggle by the Sinn Fein/IRA to win back Ireland. Even the bourgeois press could see it:

The latest riots seem a manifestation not of Protestants’ power, but of frustration and impotence. They see their tiny world decaying towards oblivion. The unionists’ transfer of allegiance to Paisley and his kind, the extinction of David Trimble, represent a rejection of rational politics, a resort to absurdity such as only desperate people could entertain. Most middle-class Protestants now expect a united Ireland, and are untroubled by the prospect. As so often in modern history, economics is achieving what politics has not. In 1969, Ulster’s prosperity and welfare state, viewed against the south’s poverty, provided powerful reasons for many Catholics, as well as Protestants, to fear a united Ireland.

Today, the position is transformed. Northern Ireland has nothing to lose but its subsidies, while the south is rich and successful. No constituency which gives its political support to such a leader as Paisley possesses a plausible vision of its own future. We are witnessing the last writhings of a society left beached by the march of history.

Beached, more importantly, by the determination of the republican struggle which proved militarily and politically undefeatable by the worst brutality, death-squad killing and torture that imperialism could pour on it.

Only the carping fake-”left”, without exception has missed the point, blinded by anti-communism and petty bourgeois idealism into declaring, ludicrously, the steadily growing confidence and strength of the republican movement to be humiliation and capitulation to imperialism.

But it is the strength and now accelerating momentum of the Irish unification cause which allows it to cease the armed struggle — following victory over the “no surrender” intransigence.

Imperialist hypocritical failure to police dog-in-manger thuggery against the nationalist community remains — and there is a long struggle to go. And capitalist slump will not excuse Ireland either.

But colonialism is finished in Ireland. DH

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World Revolutionary Socialist Review

(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles).

Sullen colonialist violence continues against the republican and Irish national community in Ireland’s occupied zone

AMID an orgy of violence orchestrated by the Orange Order and unionist paramilitaries and spurious justifications provided by unionist politicians, attacks on the nationalist community throughout the Six Counties took on a new intensity.

Largely ignored by the media, which concentrated on the gun and bomb attacks aimed at the psni and British Army, a wave of sectarian attacks saw a man from Belfast’s Short Strand fighting for his life after a horrific beating.

29-year-old John McKay was set upon as he walked home along a river path at the junction of the Albertbridge Road and Short Strand, East Belfast and sustained serious head injuries. His assailants made their escape along the loyalist Ravenhill Road.

On Wednesday 7 September, two nationalist community workers, Jim McBride and Tommy Farrell, were injured after a gang of 50 unionists confronted them on the Springfield Road as they monitored the Orange Order blockade of the road at around 5.30pm.

The men feared for their lives as they were kicked to the ground and attacked with beer bottles. Both were beaten about the head and sustained injuries to their arms, shoulders and backs.

On Saturday as rioting erupted on the West Circular Road, a 100-strong unionist mob from Sandy Row invaded the nationalist Grosvenor Road. They marched past Grosvenor Road psni Barracks unhindered before carrying out their attack and had to be chased back by residents.

In North Belfast a Catholic family had a lucky escape after their car was hi-jacked by unionist gunmen at a slip road on the Shore Road at around 7pm. Margaret Holland, who is in her 70s, told An Phoblacht how she was travelling with her two sons and eleven-year-old grandson Patrick, when two loyalist gunmen stopped and dragged her from the car. “We all thought we were going to be shot. They just, started shouting at us ‘get out, get out, we want your fucking car’, it was very frightening.”

Margaret, who suffers from a heart condition, said a crowd of about 30 men, all in balaclavas and scarves ran towards the car and her two sons and grandson were then dragged from the car while the psni stood idly by and watched their car being set on fire. ‘The psni were about 150 yards away but told us they couldn’t leave their position.”

The family will be making a formal complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

A short time later, in the same area, a 22-month-old child suffered at fractured skull when his father’s car was attacked by a unionist gang.

Robert Moore was trying to make his way onto the m2 motorway at Fortwilliam when his car was attacked. “Some people came out from over a wall and threw bricks at the car. The bricks came through the windscreen and two windows at the driver’s side striking my son Caleb on the front of his head.”

Moore said his son was screaming and there was blood everywhere. “All I could do was to keep driving and hope I wasn’t driving into anything worse.” Caleb was taken to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children where it was discovered that he had a fractured skull.

Throughout North Belfast, on Saturday, at interface areas such as Alliance Avenue and Brookfield MHI in Ardoyne, sectarian mobs attempted to draw nationalist youths into confrontation by attacking nationalist homes and workplaces with petrol, paint and blast bombs.

In Ligoniel; also in North Belfast unionist mobs gathered at 5pm at Glenbank Road and bricked and paint bombed cars belonging to nationalists.

Hand-to-hand fighting broke out after the loyalists surged up Ligoniel Road to attack nationalist homes. Houses in North Queen Street and Whitewell Road were also attacked by unionist gangs.

In Ligoniel, also in North Belfast unionist mobs gathered at 5pm at Glenbank Road and bricked and paint bombed cars belonging to nationalists. Hand-to-hand fighting broke out after the loyalists surged up Ligoniel Road to attack nationalist homes. Houses in North Queen Street and Whitewell Road were also attacked by unionist gangs.

On Sunday 11 September homes on Serpentine Road were attacked with petrol bombs and stones by unionists from the White City area.

As a third night of unionist violence erupted across Belfast on Monday around 300 loyalists invaded sidestreets off the Springfield Road and attacked nationalist homes.

A number of windows were broken in the homes before residents drove the unionists back. One resident Louise O’Prey said the attackers were waving swords and machetes and shouting “Kill the Taigs”.

O’Prey said she rang the psni at around 9pm and told them her home was under attack. “Nothing happened and I phoned again after ten minutes and this psni man I was talking to was really rude and told me he didn’t understand why I was ringing him. I shouted back that there were loyalists coming up the lane with swords.”

When the psni arrived she went out to tell them what had happened but they turned their riot shields on her and pushed her back into her house.

Sectarian graffiti was daubed on two Catholic churches in Banbridge in the early hours of Friday 8 September.

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World Revolutionary Socialist Review

(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles).

How a Cuban province handled Hurricane Dennis

• THE history of Granma province, which is includes just over half of the Sierra Maestra mountain range, is now divided by Hurricane Dennis - before and after.

On the night of this past July 7, Dennis’s eye passed over Granma; it literally dragged away farms, villages and communities from the municipalities of Niquero, Pilon Media Luna, Gampechuela, Bartolome Maso, Buey Arriba and Guisa.

The initial estimate of houses destroyed or damaged exceeded 40,000, and that figure includes 94% of Pilon’s homes, 83% of Niquero’s, 73% of Media Luna’s and 24% of Campechuela’s. In those regions, most homes have roofs made of light materials, such as fiber cement, fiber asphalt, zinc and thatch.

When Dennis began to lash at Granma’s natural, human and spiritual heart, thousands of people had already been evacuated to public facilities and private homes. This was a record for the province - more than 100,000 people.

In the midst of the tragedy, acts of solidarity abounded. The owners and neighbors of the minority of homes with concrete roofs know that very well. In Dos Bocas, Pilon, 53 children, adults and elderly people weathered the storm standing up, for lack of space, in a computer classroom with a concrete roof, part of the area’s elementary school.

Ever since the night of the disaster, Granma has been a multicolored swirl, combining sadness over loss, seriousness in proposed tasks, urgency in deed and boundless humanity.

In that region, more than 4,600 rooftops have been repaired, and the province has the resources to restore electricity wherever it is lacking, according to an ain report.

Alberto Naranjo Paz, a Ministry of Agriculture delegate to the region, told ain that one-third of the nation’s crops affected by the hurricane were in this province.

He explained that brigades made up of people from other provinces are making a special effort to clean up forest areas, particularly in the Sierra Maestra, where thousands of trees fell and split, including many royal palms, the Cuban emblem.

The weather station in Cabo Cruz and the radar in Pilon, both affected by the hurricane, were immediately put back into operation.

A combination of several technologies such as fiber optic cables and cellular and satellite phones, have enabled Cuba to Testore its telephone service in the wake of Hurricane Dennis, ain reported.

Carlos Manuel Cespedes, director of etecsa’s network business unit, explained that 22,000 problems were detected throughout the island’s network after the hurricane swept through.

Some 4,000 of these connections had been reestablished, and he estimated that by the end of July, all of them would be resolved. Technical training provided to this company’s personnel was another of the factors that facilitated an immediate start to repairs, in spite of the bad weather, he added.

The territories that suffered the most damage to their telephone service included Niquero, Pilon and Marea del Portillo, in Granma province; the municipality of Trinidad in Sancti Spiritus, and southern Matanzas.

In order to deal with this lack of service, etecsa used several alternatives, such as located mobile radio bases, particularly in mountain communities, and satellite stations in those regions where towers and transmission antennas collapsed.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that a Navy ship from that country set sail for Cuba with several tons of roofing material, other construction materials, and electric towers.

Chavez said the donation was an expression of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, and an errand of peace for the Venezuelan navy.

The materials sent included 40 tons of electric cable, transformers and aluminum conductors, according to Carlos Gutierrez, director of logistics for the National Civil Protection Office. The official noted that another shipment is to be sent with more supplies as humanitarian aid for Cuba.»

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World Revolutionary Socialist Review

(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles).

Black student from New Orleans completes free medical training in Cuba just weeks before the hurricane hits his city.

HOW does it feel to be the first person from the United States to get a medical degree in Cuba?

The answer comes easily to Cedric Edwards, a thoughtful 34-year-old African-American from New Orleans, Louisiana, who received his diploma along with 1,600 other graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine (elam) in Cuba on August 20.

“It’s a little scary, but I’m very happy. I want to do my best to be a good example.”

Like his classmates from Latin America and the Caribbean, Edwards’ studies were completely free; his modest room-and-board, textbooks and tuition were all paid for by Cuba as part of the Revolution’s efforts to bring medical care to those who need it all over the world.

But unlike his classmates, Edwards comes from a country that has unleashed an economic, political and clandestine war against Cuba in its attempts to overthrow the Revolution since its triumph in 1959.

When President George W. Bush’s administration intensified its aggression against Cuba in 2004, it made an exception - under grassroots pressure -to the economic blockade and travel ban so that more than 80 young people from the United States studying medicine at elam could continue to do so, as could future students.

It would have been politically costly for them to deny young Black, Latino and other minority youth, from working-class families, the opportunity to become doctors and serve their communities.

It was in 2000 that Cuba opened elam ’s doors to qualified U.S. students from such backgrounds whom otherwise would not be able to attend medical school because of the high cost, The students, in turn, pledge to work in needy and underserved communities after graduating.

The program is administered by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization(IFCO)/Pastojs for Peace, led by the Reverend Lucius Walker of New York. The students come from 19 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerta Rico; 85% of them are from minority groups and 73% are women. Fifteen more students arrived in August to begin, their studies, adding to the 65 U.S. students currently enrolled.

.. Edward’s, who wants to specialize in internal medicine, talks about how getting his degree was no easy task, even for a “hard-core science person,” as he describes himself.

“I didn’t speak any Spanish when I first came,” he recalls. “I got a lot of help from my classmates and professors. I realized I was fluent when I didn’t have to carry a dictionary around anymore.”

To be a doctor has been a dream for years. “In my first year at college, one of my younger brothers, a high school senior, was injured playing football and was left paralyzed from the neck down. I began to do research on spinal-cord injuries, and became interested in neuroscience. I wanted to help.”

After graduating as a scholarship student from Middlebury College with a degree in molecular biology and biochemistry, Edwards took out loans to attend medical school. He finished two years, but then “made a rash decision” after becoming frustrated with how his grades were not reflecting his efforts, and decided to go to law school. “I regretted it. By sheer luck, I found out about the ELAM program from a friend of a friend - I knew it was my chance to’ get a medical degree,” Edwards’ parents - his mother is a high school teacher and his father a telephone repairman - and friends were against him coming to Cuba.

“There’s a lot of propaganda against Cuba. My parents were scared. They thought it was dangerous. I was scared to death, but I wanted to get my medical degree no matter what, and I also thought it would be a good-opportunity to learn about another country, since I had never traveled outside of the States.”

Cuba turned out not to be so scary. “I was shocked in a good way. Everybody was friendly. You see people hitchhiking, which you never see in the U.S. It’s a different environment.

“As an African-American, I don’t feel the racial tension that I feel in the States. That feeling is completely new to me. I feel like I’m free, like I can do whatever I want without fear. This place is very safe. You have a lot more young African-American men dying violently in the States than other races; also, there is a huge drug problem. Here in Cuba, though, that is not the case. For example, I would feel safer raising a family here.”

His parents are “very grateful. Now they’re a lot more interested in getting to know Cuba.” Because they are not legally permitted to travel to Cuba, even for their son’s graduation, his parents could, not be part of that special moment. But they have plans to celebrate when Edwards returns.

The young doctor says he’s not involved in politics; however, he affirms, “I don’t agree with the blockade. I think it should be dropped.”

Together with his degree, he is taking with him a deep appreciation of Cuba’s medical system.

“I love the fact that regardless of a person’s economic situation, he or she can see a doctor and get preventive care, free of charge.” This is quite different from the situation of millions of U.S. people who don’t have medical insurance and therefore only see a doctor when the illness has become severe or when it’s too late.

After celebrating and taking a well-deserved break, Edwards plans to study for his U.S. medical licensing exam and apply for a required residency. He’s not picky about where, as long as he is needed. He believes that the elam experience — living, studying and working together with students from dozens of countries, many from indigenous and rural communities — has prepared him to deal with people from any background.

Meanwhile, he needs to look for a job, preferably in the medical field, to be able to start paying back the more than $100,000 in loans plus interest used to pay for his initial years of medical school in the United States.

Critics of the elam program say that it will be difficult for someone with a Cuban medical degree to practice medicine in the United States, but Edwards is optimistic.

His brother, now an attorney despite his paralysis, “is part of my motivation. I keep things in perspective,” he says. “I try to treat my patients as if they were part of my family. I want to use what I’ve learned to help people.”.

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