Article from the November 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
Asian earthquake disaster - Workers & poor suffer most
By Cillian Gillespie
THE DEVASTATING earthquake in Pakistan has left at least 80,000 dead and tens of thousands more face death. Three million have been left homeless. This is possibly the worst "natural" disaster humanity has faced in decades and tens of thousands have died not because of the earthquake but because capitalism has consigned them to live in conditions of absolute poverty.
Like the Tsunami disaster and Hurricane Katrina, the response of the capitalist elite has been completely inadequate. General Musharraf, the "semi-dictator" of Pakistan, was forced to admit that the army and administration had lost a crucial 72 hours in responding to the disaster.
The aftermath of the earthquake has hit the poorest hardest, resulting in the destruction of their badly built homes. This problem doesn't seem to have affected the wealthy elite in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). According to some reports, areas of the city of Rawalakot were left untouched where the wealthiest live in houses built with proper materials.
The government has failed to co-ordinate any type of real relief operation. In the weeks after the disaster there were no state or government officials in the area affected, while roads still remained blocked and inaccessible.
Meanwhile the inhumane nature of the profit capitalist system has once again been laid bare by the aftermath of the disaster. Transport companies have started to charge double the price to deliver aid. The price of tents and blankets has tripled and the price of foodstuff has doubled. Privately owned railway companies are charging three or four times the normal fare to bring relatives of those affected by the disaster to POK.
The aftermath of the disaster has resulted in the growth of anger against the ruling authorities. There are have been a number of protests against the lack of tents and blankets for the relief operation. These are likely to grow as the shock of the disaster subsides.
Members of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), the international socialist organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated, in Pakistan and Kashmir along with other trade union activists have been organising numerous relief operations through the Trade Union Rights Campaign (TURC). In one incident members of TURC organised the distribution of food, blankets and medicines to 5,000 in one town in POK. They have also opposed the attempts by pro-capitalist parties in the area to stockpile aid and distribute it for electoral purposes and to consolidate their power.
As well as conducting this important work, members of the CWI are also campaigning around a programme demanding that the aid and relief operations be brought under the democratic control of local committees representing the working class and poor. Along with this we are raising the demand that the resources and services that remain in the private ownership of a parasitic capitalist elite be brought under public ownership and democratic workers' control. This is the way to guarantee an end to the current plight of the people of Pakistan and Kashmir.
Donate to the Trade Union relief effort
a/c no: 00574699,
sort code: 30-95-03,
Leytonstone Lloyds TSB Branch, 797-799 High Road Leytonstone.
OR send donations to the Dail office of Joe Higgins TD