Now is the Time? Now is the Time! The Potential of the Gulf Coast Crisis
Now is the Time? Now is the Time! The Potential of the Gulf Coast Crisis: Points for Discussion and Intervention
We wrote this text because we felt the level of discussion regarding the aftermath of hurricane Katrina needs to move beyond the rhetoric of cheering or condemning looters, cheering or condemning the authorities, or simply crying for the victims. "Oh my god, I can't believe this is happening," or "I told you so," or "People are dying!" just send us talking in circles. We want the U.S. (and possibly the world) to launch into the unknown- the total breakdown of the social order- and then continue pushing for a self-organized society.|
In wanting this, we encourage drawing out and publicly defending the liberatory activities of the last 6 days and deepening this social rupture by refusing to confine it to the Gulf Coast. Our idea of how: implement concrete forms of solidarity that do not just focus on defense, but on attack.
RIGHT NOW, THE SYSTEM IS EXTREMELY VULNERABLE.
* We are experiencing one one of the largest disruptions of the capitalist economy and the social order since perhaps the L.A.-fueled urban rebellions that rippled across the country in 1992.
* Morale among the authorities is low: One-third of the N.O. police force has deserted and the rest are operating with limited vehicles, fuel, weapons, and communications, National Guardsmen are openly questioning their intervention both in N.O. and Iraq, the N.O. Mayor has broken down publicly...
* Faith and trust in the federal and state authorities is evaporating as aid and rescue resources are strangely absent or diverted. Meanwhile, world watches the starving locals on the nightly news. The National Guard is physically blocking ordinary citizens trying drive aid into N.O.. Bush has his lowest approval rating ever. His rhetoric of 'death to the looters' confuses most people who have, in the last few days, began to sympathize with the looting (see next point). Disgust with the government, and perhaps with government itself, grows.
* Growing defense of unlawful acts. Many everyday Americans are breaking from their lawful routine to justify the looting. As the definition of crime (and survival) shifts, agents of social control begin to weaken.
* A second crisis is threatening the stability of the system: rising gasoline prices. People are asking, when will it stop, who is responsible, and why even pay? Gas theft has skyrocketed and street protests against the hikes are rumbling across the country. This is creating a double crisis and people are mobilizing with the regime up against the wall. Not to mention the military stalemate in Iraq. Can the system be overloaded to the point of collapse? How can we best participate in these crises?
FOLKS IN LOUISIANA AND MISSISSIPPI HAVE RECOGNIZED THIS VULNERABILITY AND ARE ACTIVELY ASSAULTING IT.
* They are physically attacking the social order. The stories of gunfights, arson, and looting keep surfacing: in New Orleans, organized and sporadic attacks on police stations, officers, and National Guard units since the time the hurricane hit (before the flooding) and now fires set to buildings, many of them previously untouchable in the eyes of the poor; and then there is the looting (most notably, guns to carry out further attacks on the system) on a scale far greater than what South Central L.A. experienced in 1992.
* They are undermining capital's dominant social relations. Mass looting throughout the Gulf Coast, some of it quite pre-meditated and some of it outside of the hurricane path. Every account reads as a festive (or nervous) atmosphere with every sector of the population partaking: black, white, Latino, men, women, children, old, young, and even cops and wealthy tourists. The normal forms of exchange have been abandoned and large free markets have been reported on the neutral ground (the median) down some New Orleans streets. And it's not just a big 'fuck you' to those who profit from their needs, but also a defiant stance that everyone is entitled to enjoy themselves- what some would call 'excesses:' beer, televisions, etc.
* The breakdown is spreading: reports of widespread looting in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Biloxi, Gulfport, and Hattiesburg and now signs that Memphis and Houston may soon face unrest with all the refugees from N.O.
IF NOW IS THE TIME, THEN WHAT TO DO? (SOME POINTS TO DISCUSS, MODIFY, AND, OF COURSE, ACT UPON)
* Refugees coming to your town? The most significant difference between the L.A. revolt and that of New Orleans, is that L.A. still exists. So far we have seen looting spread to areas where the refugees are sent, so this seems the most obvious way to expand the attack. People used to one week of not paying for anything (and gunfights with the police) of course find it psychologically difficult to walk into a store and revert back to paying (or obey the police)- any petty thief can tell you this. Here in St. Louis, authorities have decided to house hundreds of refugees in an (not-so-) old county jail. Enough said.
* Target the agencies responsible for the brutal neglect and murder of the people of New Orleans. Salvation Army, Red Cross, FEMA, all U.S. Military branches, etc. (More perpetrators keep being uncovered- e.g. Outback Steakhouse was reported to be serving food to rescue workers but denying food to the refugees in central Louisiana.)
* Provide solidarity with 'insurgents' in N.O. It is a very real possibility that the next week will see the federal government engaged in a guerilla conflict with citizens intent on defending their city. Solidarity could means vocal support, material support, and/or attack on our own terrain to spread the insurgency and weaken the forces of order. Any revolt, no matter how wonderful, will suffocate if it's not spread. Their fight is our fight- refuse to be divided from and condemned by potential comrades.
* Be careful what you take from the media reports. Don't believe the government statements. First-hand accounts and even on-the-ground corporate media reports provide a vastly different story than the official line. And it is those stories that must surface so we can't be divided into bad looters and good looters, armed gangs and rescuers, unemployed and workers, etc.
* Harness the sudden spirit of mutual aid. Outsiders are offering help for the displaced. Feelings of mutual aid not only pervade in the looted street markets of battered N.O., but also in those who were not there. But, as usual, it is mostly misdirected to paternalistic aid organizations (Red Cross and Salvation Army- both of which have abandoned the survivors), though housing offers seem to be bypassing these large organizations.
- a handful of St. Louis' unwanted children of capital
September 3, 2005
* This is the result of discussions between comrades here in St. Louis over the last 6 days concerning the situation just down-river from us- discussions which will no doubt continue. We want to encourage a breaking out of discussions across the country on the implications and potentialities of the post-catastrophe situation in America. This is a hastily written text that we acknowledge has many gaps. Please help us fill them and share any discussions you have had with comrades in your city, whether it be inside or outside the Gulf region. If you want to respond to us directly, please do so as a 'comment' here:
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