The Bourgeois Left on Hurricane Katrina One Year On

Lamenting the Death of the Program of Liberal Capitalism

Over a year has passed now since the flooding and destruction that came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Popular discussion in the bourgeois press has largely died down as well. The disaster itself cracked the veneer of the most powerful nation earth and showed the ugly systemic brutality of capitalism, racist to its very core. Of all the factors for why the disaster was as it was, why it killed so many of the most vulnerable layers of society, the destruction of the ‘social’ wage and the infrastructure through years of starvation budgets that went hand in glove with the open looting of the system.

When the floodwaters receded and capitalist property had been protected securely by means of Dyncorp and Blackwater Mercenaries, our dear capitalist rulers then saw this as an opportunity to remake the city. Gambling once confined solely to “riverboat” casinos, in actuality massive floating barges that destroy city waterfronts during episodes of flooding, now have crawled on land. Even the counting of the dead was contracted out to private companies. The same Halliburton that has done so much to rebuild Iraq was now on the scene to help the people of Louisiana and Mississippi rebuild after the flood. Perennial liberal publication, The Nation, ran an entire issue on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, with left-bourgeois pundit and professor Adolph Reed Jr. contributing a piece titled, Undone by Neoliberalism: New Orleans was decimated by an ideological program, not a storm. (1)

As if the modus operandi of capitalism was the result of a particular policy. Still they call for a strong state and a well-regulated humane capitalism. It shows that the left is incapable of putting the common denominator of world capitalism today in its concrete historical materialist context. How in the early seventies did the old model of a more humane capitalism fail and why? How could the physical infrastructure in the US have crumbled to the point where the American Society for Civil Engineers, estimated during the very spring before Hurricane Katrina in their annual report card on the civil infrastructure in the US that it would take a yearly investment from all levels of the government and private sector in the US of some 1.6 trillion dollars for a period of five years just to fix everything that is wrong with the physical infrastructure of the US economy itself?

The crisis of capitalism that opened up in the seventies left the liberal bourgeoisie with no program that fit the needs of the ruling class. The period of the oil shocks, the end of the Bretton Woods accords and the end of the last vestige of a gold standard for the dollar gave the post-war consensus for social peace and a large social wage returned to the working class in the form of social welfare had definitively come to an end. The bourgeois left appeared then as lost and bereft of their very reason for existence. While the right hand of capitalism had the answers that the capitalist class as a whole collectively longed to hear. However this did not stop the crisis of capitalism, a crisis of falling rates of profit, from dragging on for decade after decade.

As of August 2006 a full third of the trash and debris left from the flooding had yet to be picked up according to the Federal Gulf Coast Recovery coordinator, Donald E. Powell. (2)

So at best the left wing of capitalism can only bemoan the state of their beloved capitalist system and propose to dig up the corpse of the program of liberal capitalism. What the left wing of capital is most afraid of is that they will no longer be able to convince workers that the government is more than just the consensus making process of the capitalist, that it is capable of responding to workers in a benevolent manner. For many workers in the US, this event was one that tore away the veil of social peace and citizenship, showing the capitalist state as the vicious and implacable enemy of the aspirations of all workers. It shows that the capitalist state is concerned only with property and wealth even amidst the bloated rotting corpses of the flood victims and solely interested in the perpetuation of their class power, their property and their wealth.


(1) Reed, Adolf. Undone by Neoliberalism: New Orleans was decimated by an ideological program, not a storm. The Nation. September 18, 2006

(2) Whoriskey, Peter. Silence After the Storm: Life Has Yet to Return to Much of a City Haunted by Katrina. Washington Post. August 27, 2006.