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

Floods in Great Britain:
A Catastrophe Thanks to a Negligent System

Aug 6, 2007

The following article is translated from an article first appearing inLutte Ouvriere, a French revolutionary newspaper.

Britain is experiencing the worst rains and floods since the Great Inundation of March 1947.

It is still impossible to measure the actual damage. The number of deaths remains unknown, not to mention the numbers injured or "missing." According to some sources, 37,000 houses have been destroyed completely or partially. Some sources estimate a much higher number of homes damaged, which will lead to homelessness for tens of thousands in the months ahead.

Infrastructures were never built for this type of situation. But it’s not just the brutal downpour responsible for the spreading inundation, nor for the chaos that followed. In fact, British authorities and certain large companies have shown criminal negligence.

For a number of years, official reports have recommended increasing the budget to carry out the battle against flooding. One aspect of this battle is to create defensive structures, especially in certain cities. It’s a battle that would require more funding. Instead, British authorities cut the budget by 15% over the last seven years!

Another aspect of fighting floods in areas near rivers is to ensure there are no new inhabitants. In this way, these areas can continue to serve as "containment zones’ in case of flooding. To accomplish this task, governments must stand up to developers and other housing speculators and to the pressures from agricultural interests. Although regulations to contain development near flood zones already exist, the last three administrations charged with carrying out the work acted as though they were completely paralyzed. Regions like Oxfordshire, where the price of land is especially high, lack flood prevention measures.

But that’s not the explanation for why 350,000 apartments lacked water for two weeks in Oxfordshire and 45,000 lacked electricity. It doesn’t explain why in the urban area of Yorkshire, the septic lines exploded, pushing their waste into the streets and significantly aggravated the situation.

The real explanation lies in the greed of the private water and electric companies. These water companies are in charge of the septic systems. For some years, supported by local officials, they have told the taxpayers exactly the same story. First they proclaim their "desire" to modernize the infrastructure, but in return, they must raise their rates, for example, by 40%. Then the government, pretending to defend the consumer, says no. Then it agrees to a smaller rate increase. In this way, the government pretends to save the public and the companies justify their refusal to invest.

The water and electric companies, along with the insurance and housing speculators, have already planned how to benefit from the recent downpours. They are already demanding more subsidies from the government because of the "cost of the worsening climate."