The Communist Party USA reacted with outrage and sorrow to the tragedy inflicted on the people of the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina, a tragedy compounded by what it called the “slow motion” response of the federal government.

Sam Webb, the party’s national chair, is traveling to the region to express solidarity with the victims.

In a Sept. 2 statement, the CPUSA said it “expresses its fullest sympathy and solidarity with all who are suffering from the effects of the hurricane, especially the infants, children and seniors, who are the most vulnerable.”

The party deplored the inaction of the federal government, saying that, “five days into the crisis … the Bush administration [was] going in slow motion,” and noting that the first thing Bush did — after returning from vacation — was to host a White House press conference asking for private donations.

Putting responsibility onto individuals is a cop-out, the party said. “Bush wants to dodge demands for federal aid to rebuild the shattered lives, homes and jobs of the victims.” Since then, Bush has tried to shift the blame to the local authorities. The party said only the federal government has the necessary funds and equipment to adequately deal with the crisis.

The CPUSA noted there had been warnings for years that a breach in the levees would destroy New Orleans, but Bush had slashed funding to maintain and reinforce the structures. “Bush and Congress turned a deaf ear. They needed that money to pay for the occupation of Iraq. They needed that money to pay for Bush’s tax cuts for the rich,” said the party.

The party said Katrina made it even clearer that the U.S. cannot afford keeping the National Guard in Iraq.

The party statement pointed to poverty and racism as major contributors to the crisis, saying it is “clear that it is the African Americans of New Orleans who are bearing the brunt of this catastrophe. It will be a racist, anti-working-class crime if Bush fails to deploy enough federal resources to save them and their homes.”

The CPUSA demanded an end to corporate price gouging in the region — especially at the gas pumps, as well as no-strings-attached federal aid, a repeal of Bush’s tax cuts for the rich to pay for cleanup, and a turnabout in the administration’s refusal to come to grips with global warming, which is the likely reason for record numbers of hurricanes.

The party called on all Americans to get in touch with their congresspersons to demand an investigation into the federal government’s response, and to provide the financial wherewithal to rebuild New Orleans and restore people’s lives.

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