The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Nature Brought Ian; Capitalism, the Tragedy

Oct 10, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of October 3, 2022.

By Sunday, four dozen people in Florida were found dead, a half dozen more in the Carolinas. Many more were missing, some trapped under collapsed buildings, some washed out to sea. Almost a million people were still without power in Florida, five days after Ian hit—almost half a million more in the Carolinas, another quarter of a million scattered throughout the Southeast. Over 50 towns had no drinkable water. Some had no water at all coming out of the taps. This is only part of the toll that Hurricane Ian inflicted on this country.

Three days earlier it had passed over Cuba, shutting down all power on that island. Two weeks before, another hurricane had struck Puerto Rico, where 245,000 homes are still without power.

Nature may have produced the hurricanes, but the way capitalism organizes society into classes decides who will pay the most severe price in the areas the hurricanes struck.

Those killed and wounded were not well-off people. In Florida, they lived in bungalows, or in rickety two-story houses, old houses, without the modern structure supports which can resist hurricane winds. Or they lived in trailers. These are the people who have to work all the days of their lives just to survive, the “essential people.”

The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, reproached people who ignored the order to leave. Where would they have gone? What big resort hotel would have put them up if they had no money to pay? The state did not provide adequate shelters. Florida’s state government knew that the state would take a real hit. But it did not set up shelters supplied with simple beds, some food, and enough water—places where people could go. It had no plan to help vulnerable people stay alive. People in nursing homes, for example, were left in harm’s way. No buses came for people who couldn’t drive.

Some people may well be able to rebuild after this—people with full flood insurance. But that’s not most people. In the areas hit by this hurricane, only 18.5% of the houses were covered by any kind of flood insurance.

The water systems that collapsed were old, left in bad repair. The state didn’t put up money to upgrade them so they could resist storm surges, just like it didn’t put money into reinforcing roads and bridges in low-lying areas.

No, the state’s public funds went to private interests, to the big hotel chains, the big banks, to energy companies, that is, to the capitalist class.

The electric grid and its transmission lines were left vulnerable to any kind of a storm. They should have been upgraded, reinforced. But that would have required the state to force private companies to take money from profit and put it in the grid. That didn’t happen. Power went out.

It was worse in Cuba and Puerto Rico. The ravages the hurricanes inflicted there reflect the impact of U.S. imperialism on poor countries around the world. Cuba continues to be subjected to an economic blockade, which impoverishes the country, leaving it with no money to provide services to the Cuban people. Puerto Rico is dominated by the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and by other U.S. companies that build factories to take advantage of low-wage labor. Puerto Rico is even prevented by U.S. law from fully taxing U.S. corporations. Puerto Rico is treated like a colony.

Even Nature has been impacted by capitalism. Hurricanes like Ian are stronger because the capitalist system has spewed so much pollution into the atmosphere over the last century and a half, that it has created the conditions for more severe storms. Capitalism was too focused on profit to worry about the damage it was doing to the environment and to the climate. And so, hurricanes, tornadoes, windstorms, electric storms, and droughts bear down on us with more severity than a hundred years ago—and will bear down with still more severity in the future.

For all of humanity to have a decent life, this chaotic and destructive capitalist system has to be uprooted and thrown away. It must be replaced by a system whose primary goal is the well-being of the population. This is a question of our survival.