New Orleans police were utilized to prevent protestors from entering a City Council meeting where over 4,000 housing units were approved for destruction. (BBC Photo).
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
In the latter half of 2007, in the effort to advance the neo-liberal restructuring of the United States itself, the US ruling class made two decisive moves to finish the wholesale dismantling and privatization of the public infrastructure of New Orleans to consummate its ethnic cleansing and with it the political demography of the South.
The first move was the assumption of direct political control over the city by the local white bourgeoisie. This was prompted by capitalizing on a long-running intrigue into the graft of the comprador New Afrikan (i.e. Black) bourgeoisie of New Orleans, to remove one of its prime agents, former City Councilman at Large and leading candidate for the 2010 Mayoral campaign, Oliver Thomas.
With Thomas forced to step down, an emergency election was held that the white bourgeoisie capitalized on to install one of its own, Jackie Clarkson. With Clarkson’s installation, the New Orleans City Council went from majority New Afrikan to majority white for the first time in over 30 years. Thus removing one of the last vestiges of New Afrikan bourgeois power in the City.
The second move was to destroy the public housing infrastructure of the city. Capitalizing on the fracturing of the resident movement – itself caused by the divide and conquer schemes of the developers and the state – the Bourgeoisie directed the Federal Courts and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to destroy four of the five major public housing developments in New Orleans by December 15th, 2007 to ensure maximum capitalization via various tax-credit schemes.
This move would permanently cleanse the city of more than 80,000 New Afrikan working class residents and further exasperate the cities chronic housing crisis, which has experienced a rent increase of more than 200%, and a near tripling of its homeless population from 6,000 to more than 15,000 (some estimates suggesting as many as 25,000) post-Hurricane Katrina.
The Fight Back
As always, oppressed and working peoples didn’t take this assault without a fight. To stem the predation of “disaster capitalism” ushering in yet another round of neo-liberal restructuring assaults, the Gulf Coast Reconstruction Movement was able to mount two essential fight back campaigns.
The first was the Malcolm Suber bid for the At Large City Council seat and the launching of the Reconstruction Party in September 2007. The second was the mobilization to stop the public housing demolitions and the formation of the Coalition to Stop the Demolitions in November 2007.
The campaign to run Malcolm Suber, a long-time New Orleans communist revolutionary, for the City Council seat vacated by Oliver Thomas had a three-fold objective. One, to challenge the blatant move of the white bourgeoisie to seize the City Council, and with it effectively legislate away the right of return for the cities historic New Afrikan majority.
Two, to assert revolutionary working class leadership in the Black Liberation and Reconstruction Movements in the city and region. And three, to create a new vehicle for New Afrikan and other oppressed and exploited peoples in the region, and potentially the country, to contest for political power in their own interests and name via the Reconstruction Party.
Against great odds, including a virtually non-existent budget and less then six weeks to campaign, the Suber campaign was a critical test run and step forward for the Reconstruction Movement.
While Malcolm only finished seventh amongst a field of thirteen, his domination of the debates and the overall propaganda of the campaign, forced the local bourgeoisie, New Afrikan and white, to address questions about the right of return, the military occupation of the city, wholesale privatization of the cities public infrastructure (i.e. housing, schools, transportation, and sanitation, etc), a living wage and the right to union protections it was deliberately trying to sweep under the rug.
The polarization created by this campaign helped set the stage for the critical “Days of December” that put the struggle in New Orleans briefly back into the world spotlight.
In response to the decisive October move by HUD and the Federal Courts to destroy four of the five major public housing developments in New Orleans – i.e. BW Cooper, CJ Peete, Lafitte, and St. Bernard Projects – several key organizations in the reconstruction movement, including the Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund, Survivors Village, Critical Resistance, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, the Homecoming Center, C3/Hands Off Iberville, and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement decided to issue a national “pledge of resistance” mobilization call to stop the proposed demolitions by means of direct action.
This call lead to the formation of the Coalition to Stop the Demolitions, which waged four intense weeks of direct actions, culminating in the December 20th, 2007 police riot at City Hall, wherein the Coalition effectively halted the demolition of three of the four housing developments mentioned above.
The Struggle Ahead
As indicated above, the “Days of December” mounted by the Coalition to Stop the Demolitions and the broad forces of the Reconstruction Movement merely attained a temporary victory in halting this neo-liberal assault. The bourgeoisie, although temporarily stunned by the resistance, is currently reorganizing and regrouping to finish the job.
Likewise, we in the resistance are also regrouping and seeking to broaden our base of struggle locally, nationally, and internationally, to bring the treat of demolitions to a conclusive end and use the ground attained from this victory to start reversing the gains of capital seized in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
To this end the revolutionary forces in the Reconstruction Movement are committed to the following basic program in 2008:
1. Continuing the fighting against the public housing demolitions “by any means necessary”. This will entail a local recall initiative, and calls for national and international boycotts and direct actions against the developers, financiers, and state interests seeking to profit from the ethnic cleansing of New Orleans.
2. Pressing each and every Presidential Candidate to take a position on the Gulf Coast Reconstruction Platform and Demands and programmatically address the “right of return” for the peoples of the Gulf Coast.
3. Continuing the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita campaign for Internally Displaced Person (IDP) status recognition and Reparations via our international petition drive and corresponding legal appeals (visit http://www.katrinatribunal.org for more details).
4. Continuing to build the Reconstruction Assembly, which will be the second Survivors Assembly, to reflect on the lessons of the past two years of struggle and consolidate the Reconstruction Movement (the First Survivors Assembly was held in Jackson, Mississippi on December 8th and 9th, 2005 and produced the fundamental demands that have driven the Gulf Coast Reconstruction Movement).
Revolutionaries in the Reconstruction Movement are calling on revolutionaries throughout the world to stand with us and help us advance these initiatives. The struggle in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to reverse the ethnic cleansing of New Afrikan peoples is critical to stopping not only the advance of neo-liberalism globally, but of halting the consolidation of the avaricious neo-conservative faction of the US bourgeoisie, and its mission to maintain the hegemonic position of US imperialism at all costs.
New Afrikans in the Gulf Coast, by constituting virtually half of this regions electorate since the demise of US apartheid a mere 40 years ago, have been and are, the only determined and consistent opposition to the advance of this ruling class faction via the electoral victories of the Republic Party (which in no way should be viewed as an endorsement of the Democratic Party).
Should the right of return be denied New Afrikans in this region, it is likely that the strategic gains attained by the neo-conservatives via the Bush regime will be consolidated for at least the next twenty-five to forty years.
If we as revolutionaries intend to stop the ceaseless wars of imperialist aggression that this faction is clearly willing to engage, then we must not allow the right of return to be denied to New Afrikans in the Gulf Coast.
For information on how to get and stay involved visit http://www.peopleshurricane.org or http://www.katrinatribunal.org or
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Unity and Struggle,
National Organizer, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Coalition to Stop the Demolitions
Sunday, January 26, 2008