A clip from National Television in Japan showing the fire at a nuclear power plant that was damaged during the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The accident has spark concern around the world. , a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
How capitalism made Japan’s disaster worse
By Gavrielle Gemma
Published Mar 23, 2011 9:37 PM
Based on a talk given to a Workers World Party forum on March 19.
The hearts of workers and the oppressed of the world go out to the Japanese people who have been hit by an earthquake and tsunami and are now threatened with nuclear disaster. We can never forget that more than 200,000 people, almost all civilians, were murdered by U.S. nuclear bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, while millions suffered from radiation poisoning, cancer and birth defects in the following decades.
But the hearts of the Japanese and U.S. capitalist governments, investment bankers and corporate plunderers are stone cold to the suffering of the people.
The quake and tsunami may have killed 30,000 people. Whole villages have been destroyed. Factories, stores, water, food supplies, homes, electricity, heating facilities for the cold north, the fishing industry and animal herds were demolished. Millions are suffering still. Food and water supplies are contaminated in a 100-mile radius.
Vital information about the nuclear threat is being withheld. The Japanese and U.S. capitalist governments, Tokyo Electric Power and General Electric, which built the affected plants, the International Atomic Energy Agency — all are tied to the profit-driven oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy industries and cannot be trusted.
The greatest threat arises from lack of water to cool 1,100 spent fuel rods, which emit deadly cesium and plutonium if ignited. A Tokyo Eletric Power executive admitted that the company delayed pumping sea water in, fearing it would ruin a valuable investment.
Since 1972 nuclear power experts have condemned the GE-designed plants for not venting hydrogen gas — which caused the explosions — and for unsafe storage of spent fuel rods. Tokyo Electric Power has been cited for numerous uncorrected safety violations.
While the imperialists on the United Nations Security Council rushed to get a resolution allowing them to wage war on Libya, the International Atomic Energy Agency, dominated by these same powers, said they’ll send some experts in a few days — a week after the crisis.
The Japanese government has told people in the area of the nuclear reactors to move 10 miles away. Yet all the corporate executives have been told to relocate at least 50 miles away. Most have fled to luxury hotels in Tokyo. Massive government-sponsored airlifts have been provided to evacuate corporate bloodsuckers from Japan, while working people freeze and go hungry.
Salute Japanese nuclear workers
The perilous job of racing to stop a nuclear catastrophe is being heroically and selflessly carried out by a small group of workers. The amount of radiation levels they can “safely” absorb is constantly raised by those sitting at a safe distance.
While adults and children were dying, the first “emergency” measure taken by the Japanese government was to dump almost half a trillion dollars into the stock market to prevent a crash.
The G7 countries held an emergency meeting March 19 attended by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke. They discussed their fear that the global capitalist crisis was deepened by this tragedy.
They each pledged to put money from their central banks — the working class’ money — into propping up currencies. Did they take up relieving the largest rise in food prices in 36 years? Did they discuss the fate of the Japanese people, or the planet? No, their concern was how to shore up the currency markets.
The central banks are rushing in to buy up government bonds to keep their interest returns high as countries sell them. They stated that the unfolding disaster sent a shudder through world markets as investors sought the safe haven of government debt. That will mean more interest payments as banks loot the treasuries.
How to make a profit from this tragedy was the order of the day. Warren Buffet, the third-richest man in the world, said, “Frequently, something out of the blue ... really creates a buying opportunity [for shares in Japanese companies]. I have seen that happen in the U.S. I have seen that happen around the world, I don’t think Japan will be an exception.” (Reuters, March 21)
The Chicago Board of Trade soared 46 percent on currency speculation. An investment banker said, “It’s a great environment out there.”
Other “emergency” actions were taken by companies like Hewlett Packard, which set up a Pentagon-styled, 24-hour “situation room” to monitor where it would get parts due to closed Japan factories, so the process of making profits could go on. Most commodities these days are a product of global labor, but end up in the hands of private capitalist corporations.
U.S. gov’t backs nuclear industry
Military corporations, banks and energy industries, especially big oil, are the real powers behind the capitalist state. GE designed the Japanese plants and GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt is a close consultant to President Barack Obama, who bizarrely named him to be his “jobs czar.” In November, Obama went to India with Immelt and 200 other executives. They forced and bribed the Indian government to pass legislation exempting GE from liability for nuclear accidents.
Countries everywhere were forced to turn to nuclear energy because of the U.S. monopolization of the oil industry. While we have an urgent, global need for safe, sustainable energy, saving the people and the planet plays no role in the decisions of Wall Street and the capitalist governments.
Our labor comes together around the globe, but the product of that labor is stolen by the private capitalist owners. We need a global public takeover from private industry of all energy resources and the creation of committees from the masses to oversee and create new sources and dismantle what is dangerous.
Sam Marcy, the late chairperson of Workers World Party, wrote in 1990: “At this critical phase in world history, it is only the deliberate activity of the masses themselves, when they intervene and threaten the system of capitalist exploitation and oppression, that can sweep away the polluters like the hazardous waste they created on this planet.” (Workers World, April 26, 1990)
Only a planned, socialist system, based on need, not greed, and global cooperation of the working class and oppressed can save the planet and free human beings from hunger, war, poverty and environmental destruction.
We stand with the working class and oppressed of Japan and demand that GE, Tokyo Electric and the governments that back them be held liable and that immediate and emergency aid be provided to all those suffering in Japan.
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