Asian Tsunami: The need for proletarian solidarity

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After the tsunami of 26 December hit countries around the Indian Ocean, and the extent of the devastation became apparent, the media bombarded us with a massive news offensive. They started with images of people drowning, buildings and boats smashed to pieces, dead bodies lying wherever they had come to rest and then moved on to villages entirely wiped out, road networks completely destroyed, satellite pictures of areas so trashed that they were barely recognisable. Accompanying this came an avalanche of statistics alongside heartbreaking individual stories of those who died and those who have survived.

The media behaved as though we were witnessing an unforeseen act of God.

In the light of this propaganda the ICC rapidly prepared an international statement (“Capitalism is the real disaster!” see our website internationalism.org) and has held meetings in a number of countries showing capitalism’s responsibility for the human disaster, the hypocrisy of the ruling class, saluting real acts of solidarity and showing the potential of international working class solidarity.

Hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie

The tsunami wasn’t a bolt from the blue. “The experts on the spot knew that a disaster was imminent. During a meeting of physicists in Jakarta in December, a group of Indonesian seismologists brought up the subject with a French expert. They were perfectly aware of the danger of tsunamis, since earthquakes occur constantly in the region” (Libération, 31/12/04). An ex-director of the International Centre for Information on Tsunami insisted that “The Indian Ocean possesses the basic infrastructure and communications for seismic measurement. And nobody should have been taken by surprise, since an earthquake of 8.1 on the Richter scale occurred on 24th December. This should have alerted the authorities. What is lacking is the political will in the countries concerned, and an international coordination on the scale of what has been built in the Pacific” (Libération, 28/12/04). And indeed, within 15 minutes of the earthquake, the American weather bureau in Hawaii warned 26 countries of the danger of tsunamis close to the epicentre, and yet the Japanese weather bureau failed to pass on the information, because the news did not concern Japan. The Indian Airforce got the information, but its warnings were delayed. The central weather bureau in Thailand took no action.

This wasn’t negligence or lack of political will. It was the criminal policy of the ruling class which revealed its profound contempt for the exploited and oppressed who are the main victims of the capitalist state.

Class solidarity

In contrast to the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie - always quick enough to mobilise for war - there were tremendous examples of solidarity across the world. Survivors did not wait for relief before helping each other. In the tourist areas, the local population helped out travellers who had lost everything, while tourists helped clear debris and start rebuilding. Spontaneously, millions of people, and workers in particular, offered food, clothing, and money to help the victims.

But working class solidarity can’t be reduced to mere charity. On the one hand, because the financial help offered will be no more than a drop in the ocean given the extent of the catastrophe. On the other, because the money collected will never relieve the distress of people who have lost their nearest and dearest, whose bodies been dumped without ceremony in common graves.

Money cannot repair the irreparable. Nor can these gestures of financial solidarity attack the problem at its root: they cannot prevent the repetition of new disasters in other parts of the world.

Class solidarity can only develop on the basis of a denunciation of the capitalist system’s ruling class: they alone are guilty of this disaster!

The workers of the world must understand that by resisting the ruling class, and by overthrowing its system of death, they alone can raise a worthy monument to all those human lives sacrificed on the altar of capitalism in the name of profitability.

In a few months, for the ruling class and its charity organisations, this disaster will be forgotten. The working class cannot forget it, just as it cannot forget the massacres perpetrated by the Gulf War and all the other wars and so-called ‘natural’ disasters. The workers of the world can never consider this disaster ‘resolved’. It must remain in their memory, and spur on their determination to develop their struggle and their class unity against the barbarity of capitalism.

The working class is the only force in society today which can offer a real gift to the victims of the bourgeoisie by overthrowing capitalism and building a new society, based not on profit but on the satisfaction of human need. It is the only class whose revolutionary perspective can offer a future to the human race.

This is why the solidarity of the proletariat must go much further than an emotional solidarity. It must be based, not on feelings of impotence or guilt, but above all on class consciousness.

Only the development of proletarian class solidarity, a solidarity based on the awareness of capitalism’s bankruptcy, will be able to lay the foundations for a society where the crimes that the bourgeoisie presents to us as ‘natural’ disasters can no longer be committed, where all this abominable barbarism can at last be overcome and abolished. WR