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Importance of Katrina struggle

Published May 19, 2006 10:17 PM

Monica Moorehead
WW photo

In his document, “Build a Black-Brown Alliance for Justice and Human Rights,” Saladin Muhammad writes: “Hurricane Katrina was a 21st-century snapshot of the genocidal direction of the U.S. government. It exposed the reality of conditions faced by working-class African Americans and people of color under U.S.-style demo cracy. There has yet to be a massive upsurge that expresses the deep outrage of the African American masses against the U.S. government for this crime against humanity.”

If the greedy capitalist developers and the corrupt politicians are able to get away with premeditated mass murder, if they are able carry out a racist gentrification of New Orleans without defiant resistance from a mass movement, then this would prove to be a historical blow to the African American struggle for the right to self-deter mination in the South with huge ramifications in this country and internationally.

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The struggle to rebuild the Gulf Coast should be viewed as an unfinished stage of a revolutionary process that began with the first Reconstruction after the Civil War. That first stage was drowned in a bloody betrayal with a full-blown counter-revolution when the federal government abandoned the newly-freed Black people, fighting for full democratic rights, leaving them defenseless and powerless when it came to KKK terror and semi-slavery conditions in the South. Black people became isolated after slavery just as they were isolated during Katrina. So what we are seeing today are Katrina survivors who have had their right to self-determination once again trampled upon by this racist government.

Even the right to vote, supposedly a basic guarantee under a capitalist democracy, is being taken away from the Black population in New Orleans, a city that used to be at least 70 percent Black. When the municipal elections took place in New Orleans last month, a reported 31 percent of the Black registered voters took part in the elections, which resulted in a run-off election a week from today. This percentage is down from 45 percent of Black voters who participated in the 2002 elections, according to the Associated Press. There were no polling places set up for dispersed Orlean ians in Houston, Atlanta and other cities with large numbers of Katrina survivors.

The bigger question is what kind of real commitment will the rest of the movement make in order to elevate the struggle of the Katrina survivors in a meaningful way. This is tantamount to elevating the struggle against racism and national oppression and will help forge class unity with all workers, including white workers.

Why isn’t the anti-war movement finding a way to support Katrina survivors with all of its resources? Where is the trade union movement and others to show the broad solidarity this super-exploited, super-oppressed sector of our class needs?

Where was the support from the anti-war movement for the immigrant rights struggle? If the leaders of these movements don’t support the rights of the Katrina evacuees and for immigrant workers, then how can we expect large numbers of their followers to come out?

No class realizes the potential of a united working class more than the capitalists. Their repressive state apparatus rules over all society with divide-and-conquer tactics, as we witness today how the ruling class is trying to pit the interests of the oppressed nationalities against each other where African Americans and immigrants are concerned.

Real class unity is more than words. It’s about deeds, including building consciousness and making sacrifices. As Karl Marx and Frederick Engels stated in the “Communist Manifesto,” the capitalists will create their own grave diggers. What happened on May Day 2006 is a just glimpse of great struggles to come.

—Monica Moorehead, Secretariat, WWP