Harvey Hits the Texas Coast: A Natural Disaster, the Crisis of a System

Updated August 28, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us



On August 25, Hurricane Harvey tore into the Texas Gulf Coast. This storm, and the continuing unprecedented deluge of rain, is already a catastrophe of mammoth proportions. Millions of people’s lives have been thrown into a desperate struggle for survival. Many of these people are poor Chicano, immigrant, and Black people who have worked on the docks and refineries of the area, or toiled in the rice, cotton, and cane fields, or been relegated to dilapidated urban slums and unincorporated rural colonias. Or, people already living on the edge in Houston, including thousands of homeless people.

One of the reasons for the massive flooding, and the inability of the ground to absorb the pounding of furious rain, is unrestrained capitalist development—a seemingly endless expanse of parking lots, shopping malls, and suburban subdivisions—which has dug up meadows and pastures, obliterated grasslands and wetlands, lined bayous with concrete and channeled them, and cut down forests. This is a big factor in why the National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi said that flooding will likely make many areas “uninhabitable for an extended period.”

Some officials called for evacuations. But there was never a plan for organizing the moving of hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people to safety, and providing food, shelter, and care for them. Before the storm hit, the mayor of Corpus Christi said, “I’m not going to risk our police and fire people trying to drag somebody out of the house if they don’t want to go.” Right now, at least tens of thousands of people are desperate for shelter, food, medical care, and water.

Corpus Christi and the “Coastal Bend” of Texas have one highway, and another state highway that parallels the coast. There is no train service, and virtually no public transportation. The numerous small towns and isolated rural areas along the coast are even more bereft. And this area is already, or will soon be underwater.

The governing outlook in the government’s response to the horrific flooding is dominated by the capitalist ethic—“every man for himself.” If you have a car, if you have money to drive hundreds of miles, you may be ok. Otherwise, forget it. And even if you have a car, leaving the area is almost impossible. And even for people with the resources to drive out of the area, there is no realistic way to do that. When Hurricane Rita hit Houston in 2005, the traffic stalled for hundreds of miles heading towards San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas.

Hurricanes in the Gulf Coast are not unexpected. In fact, they are common. People refer to events like “Ike,” “Rita,” “Allison” and know that everyone shared the experience. Yet nothing close to what is actually needed was done by the authorities to prepare for hurricanes socially; to be sure there are adequate evacuation plans, that elderly people and people in vulnerable and flood prone areas have a known plan for responding to the storm; for ensuring that shelters are well stocked with water, food, and sleeping areas, and capable of dealing with a large influx of people; for seeing that hospitals and other medical facilities are poised to meet a huge public health crisis, and other vital measures that are urgently needed—and quite predictable and possible to provide for. No great innovations in technology, analysis of the impending devastation, or production of shelter, food and water, or medical care are needed to accomplish this. The ability to determine and provide for all of these things exists now.

Under this capitalist system addressing these extreme environmental and human needs is not even part of the equation.

It Doesn’t Have to Go Down Like This

Before the hurricane hit, Trump met with Texas governor Abbott—a fellow fascist. They said they were preparing for the storm—as it was hours from striking a large city! What they were preparing for is controlling human beings who are about to have a major disaster crash into and wash over their lives. They were preparing to maintain some sense of the stability of their system. They also were preparing to maintain the crucial refineries and oil production that exists in Corpus Christi and the entire Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, and are a significant source of profit and strength to their entire global system of plunder and oppression.

Trump tweeted that the government, in particular FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was “ready” for dealing with Harvey. But next to nothing had been done to prepare for this eventuality, other than order police and National Guard forces to mobilize. And nothing was being done in advance to mobilize and organize masses of people to confront and assist each other in getting through this catastrophe.

It doesn’t have to go down like this.

Let’s be clear—this storm is a natural disaster. But most of the suffering, death, and dislocation it brings will be caused by the capitalist-imperialist system. Every death, every human rendered homeless, every person’s life destroyed by Harvey and its aftermath will be a crime of this system.



  • At the government’s expense: People must be housed and cared for until they can safely return to their homes; hotels, convention centers, and other buildings must be provided to people in need of shelter; there must be free communication for people to contact relatives. Immediately, there must be emergency medical care and measures to prevent massive epidemics and needless deaths. There must be no arrests for so-called looting. There must be emergency relief—people must be immediately provided with water, food, medicines, and other basic needs FREE OF CHARGE.
  • Extraordinary measures must be taken to distribute needed resources from all stores to people, at government expense—and under no circumstances must those who take the needed resources be shot or arrested
  • While all resources must be made available to shelter people, the government must not be allowed to treat people like animals, as they did in Katrina—all shelters must be run in decent, humane ways, drawing as much as possible on the resourcefulness of the people and allowing, as much as possible, people to have a say in how these are being run.
  • The situation of the people and their views on the situation must be fully covered in the news, giving the people themselves access to the media and the chance to tell their own stories
  • The needs of all must be met, with first priority to those most urgently in need. There must be immediate, orderly, and safe evacuation. If necessary, events in nearby cities must be cancelled to accommodate people. People must not be evacuated into situations that are going to reproduce disease and danger.
  • There must be intense search and rescue efforts in all areas. People must NOT be allowed to die. All necessary resources, including mobilizing volunteers, must be brought to bear on this. The government must not repress people who volunteer or prevent them from helping, but instead, must assist these efforts.
  • There must be no profiteering and speculation off people’s misery by the sharks of insurance companies, oil monopolies, real estate developers, etc.
  • ICE must be kept away from hospitals, shelters, schools, jails, and other key places during this emergency—and this policy should be publicly broadcast and announced. People should not have to choose between drowning or dying in the floods or losing their children, being permanently separated from loved ones, and hurled across the globe.


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