Sunday, January 31, 2016

Flint is not alone. Rick Snyder, Marathon Petroleum, criminal poisoners

The environmental crisis is not a local or national one, it is an international crisis, a capitalist crisis and we must treat it as such.
Flint water: the free market at work

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

“The governor cares deeply about all communities,”, David Murray, a spokesperson for Michigan governor Rick Snyder wrote in an e mail to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Snyder’s mouthpiece was not responding to probes about his criminal role in poisoning the population of Flint.  Flint is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the environmental catastrophe’s that are becoming more widespread and difficult to obscure as communities throughout the country are forced out of necessity to confront the issue.

Residents of Flint who have been “…drinking and bathing in lead contaminated water for more than a year…” as Business Week put it, are not alone when it comes to the nation or the state of Michigan.

Marathon Petroleum, with a board of 15 corporate officers composed of 14 Euro-American males and one Euro-American woman reflecting the incredible diversity and melting pot that is the Unites States of America, is appealing to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for permission to increase by 22 tons its emission of sulfur dioxide from its refinery in Detroit. The company presently spews 250 tons of sulfur dioxide in to the air annually.

Residents of the area have been fighting back but are not getting much help from the state; “Before Flint, it was us, the downriver communities, that were and are being polluted,” local activist and resident Theresa Landrum tells BW. Marathon of course blames federal regulations for forcing it to increase its pollution rights. Detroit, has the privilege of having the highest “rate of childhood asthma among the country’s 18 largest cities.”, according to a study published by Johns Hopkins University in December.  This community known by many simply as 48217, is one of the most polluted zip codes in the US.

“Government failed you. You deserve better.”, Snyder said in his Michigan State of the State address on January 19th in reference to the poisoning of Flint residents who are overwhelmingly working class, poor and over 50% African American.  Government did indeed fail the residents of Flint.  The US government is failing the entire US working class. We can expect no less as it is not, as Snyder implies in his quote above, a government that represents “all communities”.  What Snyder wants, is increased privatization and private sector influence over the public domain. As a representative of a section of the ruling class, the capitalist class, it’s not big government in general that he wants to eliminate. Snyder, and the entire political establishment to one degree or another, wants to eradicate any gains the organized US working class has made over the past 150 years. This is true of economic gains but also political concessions won from the state like unemployment insurance, state parks, public services and environmental regulations as weak as they are.

Any legislative gains we have made have generally already been won in the streets through some form of direct action. The politicians of the 1% then write them in to law, codify them and take credit for these advances in human rights as they begin from the moment the ink is dry to dismantle them. “You see, the system works”.

The attacks on and obsession with “big government” by right wing capitalist politicians like Snyder are a con game. We are taught that government, or what is also known as the state apparatus, is an independent body, an institution in society that serves all members of that society. But a slave state or government under a slave system doesn’t represent that slave does it?  A feudal state doesn’t represent the serf or peasant.  Ancient Greece was a democracy, but it was a slave owner’s democracy. The slaves had no rights.

The state has class content just like a political party. The state in our system represents, defends, and broadens when it can, the interests of capitalists, people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg who’s worth $30 billion and Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, who is in the business of capital accumulation not sports as entertainment. The Democratic Party is funded and represents the economic interests of these people and their class as does the Republican Party. They own the means of production, the media and the state in our instance is, as Marx pointed out, simply the executive board of the capitalist class as a whole.

This is why the situation in Flint could reach such levels. This is why the government officials responsible for regulating deep water drilling like BP’s catastrophic venture in the Gulf of Mexico, allowed the energy companies to write their own rules. This is why a river was poisoned in West Virginia and bottled water had to be brought in and a school was placed next to a fertilizer plant in West Texas filled with explosive material that eventually blew up and took a section of the town with it. Fortunately there were no children in the school.

The capitalist class is concerned about this situation. They are worried about the infrastructure in the US as decent roads, transportation, canals and other infrastructure, that are crucial to business and capital accumulation, deteriorate. They are concerned about the potential for social upheaval if things do not improve, if the attacks on the living standards of the US working class are not tempered, the police violence, against workers and the poor, and disproportionally directed at the black population and other people of color is not curtailed.

But they are driven by the laws of the system to take this path as the rise of China and Russia since the collapse of Stalinism and the increased globalization that has accompanied it leaves them no alternative. The US capitalist class and its government slaughters more Americans than ISIS, al Qaeda, or all the so named terrorist groups combined.

Apart form that, the formation of these terrorist organizations are a direct result of US capitalism’s foreign policy. The refugee problem in Europe is a product of US foreign policy. The reason immigrants below our southern border come north is a direct result of US foreign policy in that region, a centuries old policy. The political representatives of the US 1% from Cheney to the Clintons, Kerry, Obama have all pursued these policies and Bernie Sanders, unless he breaks from the Democratic Party and forms an independent left working class alternative, will continue to pursue them.

But the environmental crisis is reaching a point of no return. Not only with regards to industrial pollution like we are reading about in Flint, Detroit, and the gas leak in Porter Ranch CA where a state of emergency has been declared. The entire planet is under siege. We have no real idea of the extent of the damage caused by the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the horrific nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima Japan. As I have stated many times before, what worker would, if we had political power, place four nuclear reactors next to the ocean in a region known as the “Ring of Fire” due to its seismic activity? We would not do that.

ISIS and all the other “foreign” threats to our way of life that appear almost annually, are no threat at all when compared to our domestic enemies. The US bourgeois are the most ruthless animals. It is not because they’re “American”, its because they are capitalists and belong to the most powerful capitalist class and nation state in history. They have been weakened and their influence curtailed somewhat with the rise of China especially, but they are armed to the teeth and a wounded animal is a dangerous one.

It is our interests as American workers to separate ourselves from this class. They are not my Americans, the people I have lived among and worked with for 40 years. They are my class enemy. The US 1% has no problem associating with and making deals with all sorts of scum as long as they profit from it. They embrace the Saudi’s and will embrace the Iranian Mullah’s as long as they allow them to loot their resources and hold down any resistance to it which they do with US arms and money. It is no wonder the US public debt stands at $12 trillion and if money the government owes itself is included $17 trillion.

But the environmental crisis is global and will reach a point of no return. There are already entire areas that are uninhabitable. The “dead zone” of about 150 miles in to the Gulf of Mexico from the mouth of the Mississippi has no life. I think it has increased since the BP spill.

The capitalist economic and political system cannot resolve the environmental problem. Capitalism cannot end wars, it cannot feed billions of people or deliver safe water to people in much of the globe, former colonial possessions snow imperialized countries. As we are witnessing, it cannot guarantee safe drinking water to citizens in the most powerful capitalist country in the world.

If capitalism is not overthrown and replaced with a democratic socialist economic system, a planned system of production that produces for human needs, not profit and personal gain of a few, and done so in harmony with not in conflict with the natural world, the end of life as we know it will become a reality.

If anything should motive people to begin to understand the historical struggles of forces that brought us this far, to involve themselves in some form of resistance to the power of the capitalist class and its government, it is that we have children.  We owe it to our children to struggle in the best way we can to offer them a future, to oppose racism, nationalism, sexism and other ways that we are divided. To fight for control over our work lives and for changes in the way we produce energy, build our communities, and live our lives.

Just consider the statement above from one of the US 1%’s own publications-----which stresses that there are concerns and divisions opening up between them-----that the people of Flint, a town of 100,000 people, have been, “…drinking and bathing in lead contaminated water for more than a year…” , and this was a conscious decision made by politicians through their political parties.

This is not a time for restraint.

Previous blog on Flint here
On the Southern Ca gas leak here.
West Texas explosion

Check labels to right for further reading

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