Tammy Loren, a mother of four who lives in Flint, recently told the New York Times, “My trust in everybody is completely gone, out the door. We’ve been lied to so much, and these aren’t little white lies. These lies are affecting our kids for the rest of their lives, and it breaks my heart.”
The poisoning of Flint, Michigan’s water with lead and other chemicals has become an international story. Millions of people are shocked and outraged by the callous disregard for human life shown by public officials in Michigan and at the federal level.
Yet there is more to this than heartless officials. These officials are acting on behalf of a corporate ruling class and an economic system that is eliminating democracy as it coldly discards anything that won’t make a profit, including people.
In Michigan the corporations have been moving to restructure cities like Flint. The rulers need to cut social services and privatize public services to funnel more money into the pockets of their corporations. They have used the financial crisis in cities like Flint as an excuse to appoint “emergency managers” with dictatorial powers to replace local elected officials and impose austerity programs. It was Flint’s governor-appointed emergency manager who switched the city’s water supply to polluted river water to pave the way to privatize the water for the corporations. This is a form of fascism. Democracy is going by the wayside to protect the continued rule and profits of the wealthy.
More and more, human labor is no longer needed, because the computer and the robot are replacing workers. Flint had some 80,000 residents working in the auto industry in 1978, and today less than 4,000 are employed in the one auto plant remaining there.
This pattern has been repeated across the country, and despite what politicians say, the jobs are not coming back. Millions are permanently unemployed or working for wages too low to live on. Poverty, hunger and homelessness continue to rise.
The wealthy ruling class that owns the increasingly laborless factories and other workplaces has a problem—the workers they no longer need are a liability. The corporations control the government, and they don’t want money spent on workers they don’t need. What’s more, these unneeded workers are a threat to the continued rule of the corporations, because they are demanding things that a system based on private profit can’t provide. The rulers are eliminating democracy to silence them.
The people of Flint and other Michigan cities are leading the way by building their own independent organizations and waging a determined struggle. We must build a powerful movement that demands that the government guarantee food, clothing, housing, healthcare and safe water for all in our country who need it. This is a stepping-stone to building a whole new society.