You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.
Views in brief

September 16, 2005 | Page 12

Poor pitted against the poor
A proposal for public housing

Unfit to be the ruling class

THE PICTURES and stories from New Orleans almost defy belief. Even with several days' warning, the authorities failed to provide tens of thousands of people--mostly, of course, African American--with any way of leaving before Hurricane Katrina struck. After disaster had engulfed the city, it took several more days before the most basic emergency relief arrived.

Instead, the Bush administration blamed the victims of this catastrophe for staying, even though most had no way to leave, and then announced a shoot-to-kill policy against "looters" desperately seeking food and water to survive. This response goes beyond mere incompetence and indifference--it is criminal to the highest degree.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote: "The bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him."

The U.S. ruling class is worse than unfit. It is responsible for the deaths of 10,000 people in Louisiana and proved incapable of even feeding the survivors. It's past time to hold these criminals accountable for their actions.
Phil Gasper, Berkeley, Calif.

Back to the top

Poor pitted against the poor

I WOULD like to thank Socialist Worker for its excellent coverage of the unnatural horrors produced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. However, I want to address a related issue that has been raised here in New Haven, as I think it is incredibly important.

New Haven, Conn., has now pledged to house up to 100 families who have been left homeless due to Hurricane Katrina. The estimated yearly cost of providing housing, schooling and job training is $80,000 per family, or $8 million overall. Those who arrive in New Haven also can expect help with drivers' licenses, Social Security cards and other key paperwork. Lawyers will help the newcomers with insurance and other needs.

The Housing Authority has arranged for 19 apartments in three high-rises and is asking the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for 100 new Section 8 vouchers to deal with evacuees' long-term needs.

While providing needed assistance to these families is certainly welcome, the city has chosen to do so at the expense of New Haven's own homeless population.

There are more than 4,700 homeless people in the New Haven area, 20 percent of them spent at least one year on the streets. People often remain on the waiting list for subsidized housing for years.

At present, approximately 1,800 New Haven families are on waiting lists to be placed in public apartments that will now go to refugees. Richard Knight told the Boston Globe that he lives in a homeless shelter as he waits for available housing. "I feel sorry for those people, but people on the housing authority list are on hold," he said.

The needs of those in New Orleans should not be counterposed to the needs of those in New Haven and across the country. Rather, the tragedy in the Gulf has merely exposed a system that has long been cruel and unjust to the poor on a daily basis.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano exposed his hypocrisy when he said, "This isn't about the families; this is about our community's character, our community's willingness to sacrifice. This is an opportunity to treat others as we would like ours to be treated." For the homeless in New Haven, many of whom have suffered and died for want of shelter, this must come as a slap in the face.

In New Haven, we held a protest downtown on September 7, where we chanted "Food and shelter for those in need--from New Haven to New Orleans!" In our public outcry over the inhumane response to Hurricane Katrina, we should never forget the inhumanity produced by the capitalist system every single day.
Leela Yellesetty, New Haven, Conn.

Back to the top

A proposal for public housing

IN THE face of the massive catastrophe on the Gulf Coast, I was shocked by the poor taste of the headline on the real estate section in the September 4 Providence Journal: "For sale: Single family, 100 rooms."

I'm certain there are hundreds of families who would love to have one room of their own, be it in the Vanderbilt summer mansion in the Berkshires advertised in the article, or anywhere else that's safe. Given the pathetic response of George Bush and the federal government, the least they can do is to buy that $21.5 million monster and give it over to the refugees of New Orleans as free, permanent housing.

Preference for housing in the swankest refugee camp ever should naturally go to the poor and Black, as they are the ones who had substandard housing on a good day before the storm, who could not evacuate a city whose plan assumed everyone had a car, and who are now bearing the brunt of the racist "shoot-to-kill" orders of the Louisiana governor.

Anything less than this simply continues the daily racism and oppression people suffered before, which has been so clearly exposed by this tragedy.
Brian Chidester, Warren, R.I.

Home page | Back to the top