Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 10 February 2014

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
10 February 2014

The floods which began last December are getting worse.

In Wales and the South West, thousands of homes have already been flooded, often for up to nine weeks. Railway lines have been disrupted and, in some cases altogether cut, without any replacement transport being put in place.

This weekend, all hell broke loose along the river Thames and flooding spread to Berkshire and Surrey in the South East, with thousands more homes flooded. And with heavy rain expected for the rest of the week, the situation can only deteriorate. Already 16 severe and 150 medium new flood warnings have been issued for this week - plus 230 low-level alerts.

So far, there's no end in sight and, understandably, those affected are not just getting desperate, but totally fed up with authorities which have proved blatantly incapable of planning ahead for such a disaster.

The cost of incompetence and austerity

Faced with this growing catastrophe, the ConDems have proved remarkably incompetent. Cameron may have made a big show of convening daily meetings of his "Cobra committee", but the flood victims seem to have seen little action - let alone, real help - on the ground.

There have been calls for the army to be deployed. But with the exception of some marines sent to the Somerset Levels, the army is nowhere to be seen. As if its helicopters and the heavy duty equipment of its engineering units couldn't be put to use to help flood victims! But, apparently, the army's only purpose is to invade poor countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, slaughter their populations and destroy their infrastructure!

So instead of getting their act together, and using all the resources at their disposal to help out the victims of this disaster, government ministers have spent their time looking for scapegoats to cover their own backs. And they've been all the more vicious in their attacks, as most of the flooded areas happen to be in Tory and Lib-Dem heartlands.

The row which developed between Local Government secretary Eric Pickles and Chris Smith, the head of the Environment Agency, was typical of this nonsense. But at least, Smith had a point when he accused the government of cutting his budget by £100m, imposing a 25% cut on his workforce and enforcing ridiculously shortsighted investment rules which prevent any kind of long-term plan. This country's long-standing problems with floods were not likely to be resolved by clipping the Environment Agency's wings and imposing drastic budget restrictions, whatever its faults!

A question of social organisation

It has been claimed that catastrophes like this are due to exceptional weather conditions. After all, wasn't the tidal surge on the east coast of England, in early December, the biggest in 60 years? And wasn't this year's January the wettest month in the South of England since records began?

However, floods are frequent events in these parts of the country and they should have been addressed, anyway. And there were also long-standing warnings that these floods were likely to become far more drastic due to climate change. Many reports had been produced suggesting long-term plans to deal with this threat.

Was anything done about it? No. It was never considered a matter of urgency. And, anyway, at a time when public investment budgets were being squeezed in order to line the pockets of the bankers, there was no question of devoting any amount of public funds to a long-term plan aimed at providing lasting protection for the areas at risk.

Had it been possible to turn such measures into a milch-cow for big companies, ministers would have been quick to find the necessary funding. Just as they found billions for "Help to Buy" and other similar housing schemes, to revive the profits of the banks and construction giants. But since there were not enough profits to be made out of anti-flood measures, they have remained on the drawing board!

Flooding is one of many crucial issues for whole sections of the population, which are not dealt with because they would not be "profitable". Climate change is another. Its causes are known. But instead of reading the riot act to companies, they are offered "profitable" carrots - to no avail!

The incapacity of this society to resolve its most fundamental problems, particularly when dealing with nature, is yet another symptom of its decay - just like its chronic, devastating economic crisis. Getting rid of capitalist profit will be the only way for the working class to end this dangerous situation.