Editor’s note: This article will appear as the cover story in the February, 2016 edition of the People’s Tribune.
The poisoning of the people of Flint, Michigan—especially the children—with lead and other toxins in the drinking water is just the latest ugly example of how corporate control of America is destroying human life.
Lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and other health issues for a whole generation of children—and their children’s children. Flint residents filed a class action lawsuit against the city and state, and thousands of people have signed a petition calling for Gov. Rick Snyder to be jailed.
Snyder deserves to be jailed, but we need to go further. Snyder, representing a class of billionaires that own the means of producing what we need to live, is dictator in chief of a dangerous political model in Michigan: fascist Emergency Managers. This system is designed to expand corporate private property by dismantling “democracy as we know it.” Seizing control of municipalities and school districts, the EM’s steal parks, public schools, and more. The corporate theft of local public water rights now underway led directly to the poisoning of an entire city.
At the behest of Flint’s Emergency Manager appointed by the governor, Flint switched its water supply from the Detroit system (lake water) to water from the polluted Flint River on April 25, 2014, to “save money.” The water was coming out of the tap brown and smelly and making people sick. Despite public protests, the city and state did nothing. Finally, last September, independent researchers proved there were high levels of lead in Flint’s tap water. In October, county officials declared a public health emergency in Flint, and Gov. Snyder, under pressure, announced the city would switch back to Detroit water.
Underlying this process, computers and robots have been replacing human labor in the workplace for years. We see the results graphically in Flint, where G.M. was a center of industry and high-wage employment for thousands of workers once needed in production. Today, the unemployment, the poverty, the falling wages, the home foreclosures, the water shut-offs, the homelessness we see—these are the results when our labor is no longer needed and a few wealthy individuals and corporations make the decisions about who gets life-sustaining resources and who doesn’t.
We either end the system of corporate ownership of productive property, or the system will end us. If the people build a powerful movement to take over the corporations, we could use the abundance the technology makes possible to guarantee that no one is homeless or hungry, or having to drink polluted water.
The Flint experience makes clear that the corporate politicians and parties can’t represent the people. We have to start building our own political organizations. And whether the issue is water or whatever, we have to demand that the government serve the people’s interests. Water should be publicly owned and the government should guarantee that everyone is able to get safe, clean water, regardless of ability to pay. The government has intervened to bail out the banks and other industries—why can’t it bail out the workers? Putting this demand forward will start a debate that will help take us toward the new society we need.