As New Orleans Drowns and Rots
Cops and Troops Attack Survivors of Katrina
Bosses' Property Rights Supercede Rescue Efforts
by Alex Gould

Politicians from Bush to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin offered no transportation or housing when they ordered the population of New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, and the Delta to evacuate. The hundreds of thousands of stranded, homeless survivors struggle for life's barest necessities in the toxic floodwaters of New Orleans and the near-total destruction of the Mississippi gulf coast. The dead are only beginning to be counted, and are being left on the roads and in the rubble to rot for the time being. Lacking electricity, food, clean water, medical care, and communication with the outside world, hours are the difference between life and death for the majority black working class population of New Orleans, especially the elderly, the ill, and young children.

But former cable TV executive Ray Nagin on Wednesday, August 31 ordered 1,500 of his police to stop their rescue efforts and control "looting". Shotguns drawn and backed up by National Guard troops, the capitalist state has turned against the desperate survivors of Hurricane Katrina to protect its number one concern: the private property of business owners. Oilman Bush has declared "zero tolerance" for "looters". While he also mentioned gas price gouging, the executives at Exxon Mobil needen't fear national guardsmen at their doors with shoot-to-kill orders.

Democratic Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco called for a "day of prayer" on Wednesday for the survivors, and declared she was "furious" with "looters" and would "do what it takes to bring law and order to the area". Apparently she expects god to help the victims of Katrina, but won't allow them to help themselves.

Behind the mouthings of abstract sympathy and concern from the political elites, a rapidly militarizing approach to the disaster is taking shape in Louisiana and Mississippi. The enemy is not the crisis brought on by the natural forces, but the workers and oppressed people of the disaster zone themselves. The possibility of a deadly confrontation is imminent between the National Guard and the survivors who are growing frustrated as they are penned in to the stinking, sweltering Superdome, where the authorities say some may be trapped for weeks before an evacuation to Houston.

Well-fed news anchors have joined in to castigate the barefoot taking shoes, the soaked and dirty people taking clean clothes, the thirsty taking water and drinks and the hungry taking food from the abandoned and damaged stores. And as store owners file their insurance claims, national troops and local and state police are menacing the people with deadly force for the crimes of survival.

The oil, shipping, and tourism industries have taken decades of billion-dollar profits from the labor of the people on the Gulf coast and from their natural resources. Yet their takings are safe in the bank while New Orleans residents are being shot at for taking ramen noodle packs. The capitalist government will spend $4 billion per month on the conquest of Iraq but it can not mobilize the people and resources necessary to save the survivors of Katrina. Instead, it is turning on them with a vengeance because the ruling imperative of protecting private property must come before all else under capitalism.

In 1918, the revolutionary communist Rosa Luxemburg wrote, "The World War confronts society with the choice: either continuation of capitalism, new wars, and imminent decline into chaos and anarchy, or abolition of capitalist exploitation. With the conclusion of world war, the class rule of the bourgeoisie has forfeited its right to existence. It is no longer capable of leading society out of the terrible economic collapse which the imperialist orgy has left in its wake. ... In this hour, socialism is the only salvation for humanity. ... Socialism or barbarism!" As New Orleans and the Gulf Coast descend into further chaos and misery, and the government turns against the people it claims to be protecting, Rosa's exhortation could not be more appropriate.