by David Jones / September 2005 issue of Socialist Action
It is almost impossible to overstate the magnitude of this disaster, both in human terms for the North American continent, and as a historic example of the criminal incompetency of the capitalist system. In the richest country in the world a major metropolis is going to be abandoned for weeks or even, as some are saying, for months!
In terms of loss of human life in the U.S. this is perhaps second only to the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. The analogy that has sprung to the minds of some observers quoted in the press, including the governor of Mississippi, is “Hiroshima.” The psychological and political underpinnings of that connection go very deep, to say the least.
There will be economic consequences, besides what is happening in human terms—death, disease, displacement, unemployment, not to mention the opportunistic escalation of gasoline and diesel prices. New Orleans is one of the major ports of the United States, where rail, trucking, and maritime intersect. Half of U.S. grain exports leave from the Port of New Orleans. The
impact of this dysfunction will ripple out probably beyond immediate comprehension.
This disaster that capitalism has wrought has extremely ominous implications for the future. Clearly the magnitude of this “natural” disaster is exponentially magnified by a series of specific environmental and ecological circumstances created and driven by the profit system. The evaluation, debate, and assigning of responsibility for this disaster will increase in tone and tempo as the ideological damage control operation gets into high gear.
In terms of the labor movement, this highly industrialized area has many unions, and most international unions are beginning to indicate some efforts to render financial assistance to their beleaguered members, including the United Transportation Union. Other, more far-reaching issues will soon arise—jobs, income, health care, etc.