Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Grassroots Solutions in New Orleans Crisis Similar to Solidarity in 2001 Argentine Economic Crash

In December 2001 in Argentina, the economy collapsed. Citizens weren’t able to take money out of their bank accounts, countless workers were laid off. Hunger and homelessness swept the country. A cry directed at the government filled the streets throughout this crisis: “Que se vayan todos ya!”

In English this basically means, “Throw the bums out!”

In the eyes of many Argentines, the federal government had done little to nothing to solve the economic crisis. A common rumor at the time, (which was likely to have been true), was that the only public employees that were receiving a paycheck were the police and military, whose main job at the time was to control protests and strikes.

Demonstrations filled the streets as diverse classes demanded solutions. The country went through four presidents in two weeks. Yet the government still did nothing. As a result, people took matters into their own hands. They organized among their neighborhoods to help each other out with food and clothing. Alternative forms of currency were developed, urban gardens sprang up everywhere, workers occupied and ran bankrupt factories and businesses, grassroots health clinics and barter markets emerged across the country.

The crisis in New Orleans is very different from the one Argentina suffered through. However, one thing is similar – in both cases the federal government failed the people in a desperate time of need. The result in Argentina was a grassroots revolution, based on neighborly solidarity and a need to survive.

As the crisis continues in New Orleans, many citizens have taken matters into their own hands as well. Stories abound in the press of citizens in New Orleans banding together to search for survivors, rebuilding schools, starting their own rescue missions and setting up makeshift hospitals to take care of the sick. There is now a large number of grassroots hurricane relief groups operating on the ground.

And Democracy Now! reports that: Independent media activists are setting up a low-power radio station at the Houston Astrodome to provide critical information to hurricane Katrina evacuees.

As global warming increases the likelihood of similarly destructive natural disasters, oil becomes more scarce and free market policies continue to impoverish American citizens, it will be important to learn from the lessons of the 2001 Argentine crisis, and while demanding solutions from the government, also turn to each other and organize!