Thursday, July 03, 2008

Reconstruction of New Orleans

Debdatta Chowdhury

The news piece ‘Drowning By Numbers, Or The Non-Reproduction Of New Orleans’ by Benedict Seymour (February, 2006) is an on-your-face report on the re-construction of New Orleans sans the black working class. Victimising the black working class through destruction of their housing and social networks, transfer of public assets into private ownership and gentrification of the already gentrified USA, had already set the ground for such blatant violation of human rights and dignity. What is witnessed in the wake of reconstruction post-Katrina, is only a newer version of ‘primitive accumulation’, with the state backing the transfer of property into private hands, creating a new class of proletariat workers divorced from their means of social reproduction. This is accompanied by an attack on the price of the labour-power, thus depriving the workers of their former means of subsistence and raising the real cost of living. Legal obstacles like petty but effective restriction (not allowing them to vote if one has lost his/her ID during the hurricane) or technical omissions, have been put to use to prevent the blacks from reconstructing their lives, post-Katrina. Every effort is being made on the part of the state to prevent the return of the black working class neighbourhoods to their society. Lowering of wages followed the eviction of the black working class from New Orleans that ensured the minimum return of these evicted people to their older settlements. Even if they did, they returned to a much worse situation of low wages, racism and hyper-exploitation. These returnees are used as low wage immigrant labours. Using low-or-no wage immigrant labour ensures absolute surplus value for their capitalist employers. This trend is the latest to be seen in the capitalist modus operandi, but in no way an exceptional scenario. Devalorisation of labour is not a new phenomenon. But earlier it was accompanied by improved standard of living, shorter workday, new infrastructure and institutions for the reproduction of labour-power like housing, hospitals, schools. The devalorisation process in New Orleans in the wake of the disaster was followed by depreciation of labour-power and the non-replacement of the means of social production. This version of primitive accumulation is the bitter culmination of US capital’s long-term strategy of devalorisation. The devastation of New Orleans is clearly a nail in the coffin of the myth of America’s post-industrial renaissance. Truly then, the relief process in New Orleans is being called the ‘second hurricane’

For the detailed report, click on the url to the right:-

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