From Turkey to NYC:

This Is What Capitalist Disasters Look Like – This Is What Fight Back Looks Like

By Karyn Pomerantz, 2-16-2023

Earthquake in Turkey

The world is aflame, from the blazing bombs in wars to the fiery heat of global warming. The drivers of empire use our bodies as cannon fodder in Ukraine and Russia and extract our minerals out of the ground in Congo and our bodies from earthquakes.

The huge earthquakes in Turkey and Syria killed over 40,000 by today’s count (2-16-2023). We may say, “well, that’s nature, there’s nothing we can do about that.” But that would be wrong.

Criminal Capitalist Causes and Consequences of Disasters: Earthquakes

The New York Times reported on 2-12-2023:

“Turkish officials on Saturday began detaining dozens of contractors they blamed for some of the building collapses in Monday’s devastating earthquake, as anger swelled over the government’s slow rescue effort and the death toll in the country surpassed 24,000. …

More than 100 people were detained across the 10 provinces affected by the quake, the state-run Anadolu News Agency reported on Saturday, as the Turkish Justice Ministry ordered officials in those provinces to set up “Earthquake Crimes Investigation Units.” It also directed them to appoint prosecutors to bring criminal charges against all the “constructors and those responsible” for the collapse of buildings that failed to meet existing codes, which had been put in place after a similar disaster in 1999.

… Across the earthquake zone, residents expressed outrage at what they contended were corrupt builders who cut corners to fatten their profits and the government’s granting of “amnesties” to builders who put up apartment complexes that failed to meet the new codes. ….

The concrete is like sand,” said one man who declined to give his name, standing near the building as he watched rescuers work. “It was built too quickly.”

A Turkish journalist wrote:

“(An) earthquake is natural, the consequences are very political and socio-economic.

All these ruined buildings were constructed by Turkish construction companies and monopolies with cheap material. At least, back when I was an undergrad in Turkey, I remember our comrades from civil engineering department were waging struggle against capitalist transformation of their faculties, how bosses have science in their service to make more houses with a low budget. Safety is not a concern for these capitalists.

Another mind-blowing part is about the state’s inability to reach a province nearby Turkish border.

The government does not mobilize army. Some people say that it is because they are afraid of army. When the military gets involved, it can have a say in the politics, raising the threat of a coup. This same army was just bombing a Kurdish town in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), a town that was also hit by the earthquake.”

And from a structural engineer:

“Cheap materials, poorly observed design practices, conscious ignorance of building codes, etc. are all factors. … The uneven distribution of capital prevents middle power countries from sharing in the material wealth, institutional strength to maintain sound construction practices, and technological advancements utilized by more developed engineering communities.

… earthquake design requires a lot of careful, intentional, and unique detailing. … This special detailing is expensive and has been developed over decades with several famous case studies that have demonstrated to structural engineers what does and doesn’t work. The international structural engineering and construction community could work collectively to focus its energies in earthquake-prone regions but like all professional communities, it is employed by the international bourgeoisie for the purpose of maximizing profit. Each country must fend for itself in designing and constructing its infrastructure. It’s frustrating, to say the least, to see so much destruction and death when this could have been prevented with proper engineering, construction, and institutions that ensure implementation of good practices… “

The Turkish journalist concludes:

We will win. We will win with the understanding that our working people did not deserve this. We will clean this blood and dust together. After that, we will come back for what has been stolen from us.”

This is what commitment looks like.

Lifting the Covid-19 State of Emergency – More Illness and Death

And now we have the great white hope, Biden, declaring an end to Covid-19, protection from evictions, expanded food stamps, and other safety net programs. Gone will be Medicaid for 15 million people, telehealth for seniors, and free vaccines, Paxlovid, masks, and tests. States are lifting requirements for masking healthcare workers as tens of thousands of people with Covid-19 are hospitalized.

Along with this silent killing continues the horrific policing of black men and women, the marginalization of Native Americans, Palestinians, and people with disabilities, rendering them invisible.

Holding on to power with lies and force, these rulers turn us against each other – white against black, black against migrants, Israelis against Palestinians, and every other meaningless division.

Too many of us turn a blind eye to suffering in Yemen (377,000 dead from war, not hunger), Syria (350,000 dead from war), or Haiti (500 dead from cholera), and the impoverished and neglected workers in the US (450 dead a day from Covid-19).

Floods in Pakistan

In Pakistan, massive flooding generated by climate change affected 33 million residents, killed close to 2000 people, destroyed agricultural fields, demolished or damaged about 2.5 million homes, leaving over 2.1 million people homeless. 

FILE – A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. West Virginia’s water utility says it’s taking precautionary steps following the derailment of a train hauling chemicals that later sent up a toxic plume in Ohio. The utility said in a statement on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2023 that it has enhanced its treatment processes even though there hasn’t been a change in raw water at its Ohio River intake. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

A CSX train, two miles long, derailed in Palestine, Ohio, sending toxic chemicals into the air and water. Fish died, lakes turned blue, and acrid smoke darkened the sky. Residents suffered breathing and skin problems. Many of the chemicals are carcinogenic, causing blood cancers like leukemia. Meanwhile, the Environmental “Protection” Agency reassures people that all is well. Angry residents are storming meetings to demand answers and recovery.

Working Class Organizing

Yet, despite all this, workers have launched mutual aid programs, strikes, and protests. In Pakistan, neighbors mobilized in boats to reach families trapped in their homes. The government increased the economic trauma by raising taxes on people who lost their incomes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Pakistan bail-out funds, requiring repayment.

Nurses in NYC, the UK, the ambulance drivers in England walked off their jobs for decent wages and patient safety; transit workers in the US struck for equitable wages and health benefits, French workers struck and rallied against the crippling inflation that escalated fuel and food prices, and American public health workers mobilized to demand Covid-19 care.

Tenants in Hyattsville (Maryland) Aging in Place banded together and held meetings and a rally to get management to fix air conditioning and helped a resident avoid eviction.

This is what community looks like.

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, Metro Access workers who carry disabled people to doctors, stores, and friends went on strike and won higher wages and a little bit of sick leave. US railroad workers also fought for sick leave – they have zip! – and readied their members to strike only to be shut down by Biden, congresspeople, and the railroad owners.

This is what struggle looks like.

Metro bus operators in Loudoun Couty, VA on strike

Now Metro bus operators from a variety of countries are entering their fourth week of striking for equity in wages out in Loudoun County, Virginia. Scores of others are joining their pickets with hot food from a multitude of cultures.  During one day on strike, a young man exited the nearby jail without any warm clothing. A driver stripped off his jacket to give him as others supplied him with socks and cash to get home.

This is what multiracial solidarity looks like.

In Haiti, brave revolutionaries deliver basic care to people trapped by corrupt politicians, gangs, and troops, and rescuers race to Turkey and Syria to rescue families piled under earthquaked debris.

This is what internationalism looks like.

And here we have public health activists fighting to maintain Covid-19 benefits, win funding for vaccines everywhere, end police violence, stop shackling imprisoned patients, and deliver health care to all.

This is what antiracism looks like.

Yet, all the mutual aid and strikes in the world cannot prevent these disasters and mitigate their consequences. Preventing the causes and results from climate disasters, poverty, and “natural” disasters requires that the working class, the majority of the people, own the resources together and make decisions about how to live. For a society where the working class owns the air, lands, and seas to produce what we need without profit and debt. No wages to reinforce hierarchies, no profit by polluting corporations, and an end to racism and other oppressions.

We need to build a revolutionary struggle of workers and soldiers to take power from the rulers who benefit from our suffering, whether war, disease, floods, or earthquakes.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

This is what communism looks like.



Turkish journalist:

From a structural engineer: personal email, 2-11-2023

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