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(en) US, BTR* agitatorindex - How Globalization Got New Orleans’s Momma And What We Can Do About It By Dan Horowitz de Garcia

Date Sat, 22 Oct 2005 09:16:53 +0200

Why was Wal-Mart merchandise more important than saving people’s lives?
Why was every foul rumor about Black people killing, raping, and
destroying reported as fact? Why has the fact that New Orleans police
were killing, raping, and destroying not been widely reported?
Why was the first institution immediately rebuilt in the aftermath of
Katrina not a hospital, school, or information center but a jail?
I don’t think these questions can be adequately answered by
saying George Bush doesn’t like Black people, although he sure
doesn’t. Or by saying FEMA, Michael Brown, Ray Nagin,
Kathleen Blanco, and a host of others are incompetent, although they
sure are. The answer to these questions is bigger than one person or
institution. The answer is corporate globalization, more specifically

For the last thirty years there has been a struggle to determine what
the future of the world economy will look like. The last time such an
event occurred was in the waning years of World War II. In 1944 the
political leaders of the US and Europe met to lay down the expansion
plan for the world economy. This meeting was officially known as the
International Monetary and Financial Conference of the United &
Associated Nations, but anti-globalization activists call it simply
Bretton Woods since it was held in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.
The general feeling at the time was capitalism could get ugly and a
social safety net was needed. In this climate the forces of social
democracy basically won. Harry Dexter White’s plan, written for
the US treasury in 1934, formed the basis of the agreement at Bretton
Woods. The countries agreed to form the World Bank, International
Monetary Fund, and create the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade (GATT).

Now don’t think it was all over. While White was writing the plan
for Roosevelt and the social democrats, another was working out the
philosophy we live under today. Friedrich von Hayek at the University
of Chicago was and is a hero of neoliberalism. Mentor to Milton
Friedman, von Hayek laid the foundation for the philosophy that is
kicking the ass of workers and poor people around the world. In the
1970s when the economy was in deep recession, neoliberalism really
took off. In the wake of mass movements making significant gains,
including the racial integration of the social safety net, the elite hit
upon a “brilliant” idea: destroy the safety net. The recession of
the 70s allowed the elite to restructure the economy and promote a
neoliberal agenda. We’ve been living with the consequences ever

Neoliberalism is a philosophy, a vision of what the world should look
like. Its main points are rule of the “free” market, limited (if
any) social spending, deregulation, privatization, and increased
political and military dominance. For the last thirty years or so all plans
put out by the US political and economic elite have followed those
principles. What passes for policy debate in most elections is little
more than editing of a pre-approved plan.

That’s what hit New Orleans, and it hit long before August 29.
Hurricane Katrina didn’t cause the devastation, it revealed it. The
devastation happened when funds that could have been used to
support the levies were diverted to military spending, when a 6,000+
bed prison was operating in the middle of the city, when public
transportation for tourists instead of poor people was a priority, when
FEMA was slashed with the assumption that the Red Cross and other
charities would pick up the slack, and countless other times.

To win the battle over the rebuilding of New Orleans, we can’t
just focus on the rebuilding of New Orleans. We have to develop and
push for our own vision of what the world should look like. This
development can’t just happen in New Orleans, and it sure
can’t happen by joining Food Not Bombs for a week. We have to
fight the battle over what our own communities should look like. Yes
another world is possible, but what does it look like? We can’t just
imagine a world where the beer is free and the boss has to get a job.
We also have to have a plan for how the buses are going to run.

There are no short cuts and no easy answers. Our task ahead is to
build community-controlled organizations that, regardless of the
issues being worked on, express an open opposition to neoliberalism.
This opposition isn’t just no to neoliberalism; it’s about
articulating and building on common collective values. Based on these
values we build strategies that insure the marginalized have power in
our own lives. Notice I said strategies. A march is not a strategy.
It’s a tactic. Explaining how a march builds power and uses that
power is a strategy. It’s long past time the US left learned the

In fact, most of the US left is struggling with what the hell we’re
supposed to do come Monday morning. No matter what the strategy
or strategies for struggle, I think there are two principles that are

1) Organize where the relationships are

Bring the Ruckus has been working closely with FFLIC (Families &
Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children) since almost
immediately after Katrina. Although a small organization, our impact
on this work has been great because we’ve focused on
relationships we built long before Katrina. Through personal
relationships built through common work we were able to quickly
provide organizing help. Almost all of our members were able to
provide support by working where they live because a strategy was
built based on existing relationships. This proved to be extremely
effective. More than 75 volunteers in more than 20 cities distributed
thousands of flyers and conducted scores of interviews in only a
couple of weeks. The volunteers used the relationships they already
had created; all we did was link this network of relationships. I firmly
believe this is the most effective way to truly build a mass base capable
of defeating neoliberalism.

2) Create a space where democracy can happen

From now on most of the Katrina organizing should probably focus on
helping displaced people create their own structures. The experience
of an institution run and controlled by “the common folk” is
not widespread in this country. People who’ve had direct
experience in making decisions about their own future are better
organizers, regardless of the outcome. I think we should be focusing
on helping build these structures and learning the lessons from them.

Remember Hurricane Ivan in 2004? There are still people living in
shelters. While it’s possible that privatization efforts will close the
shelters permanently this time around, the struggle of displaced people
is just beginning. This fight is going to go on for a while and we have
to be strong in every round.
Dan Horowitz de Garcia is a member of Bring the Ruckus and an
organizer with Communities United for Action, Power, & Justice in
* Bring The Rukus is an antiauthotitarian anticapitalist
direct action revolutionary initiative.

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