‘Whose Water? Our Water!’
The corporate drive to own and/or control the public’s water, and the resulting poisoning, shutoffs and rising cost of water, aredrawing communities across the country into a life or death struggle for access to clean and affordable water. This scattered, but coalescing movement―which leapt forward after the poisoning of Flint―is coming face to face with a corporate government that even dismantles democracy as we know it to win the fight to own or control the water.
This demand “Whose Water? Our Water!” is expressed by the numerous water struggles around the country ―from Standing Rock, to the corporate dumping of cancer-causing toxins into rivers and streams, to the California drought issues, to the battles against the pipelines, and more. It includes the fight against the legal theft of water by Nestlé Corporation in Michigan and Canada. And in Michigan alone, it includes the fight to replace the Enbridge 5 pipeline, which threatens to burst and create an unimaginable environmental disaster. It includes the ongoing fight against the poisoning of Flint and the massive, non-stop shutoffs in Detroit.
In Detroit, water affordability plans are also an important leg of the fight for water rights. Under affordability plans, water payments are based on a household’s ability to pay. In contrast, under water assistance plans that are now in place in many cities, people face shutoffs because they are forced to choose between paying for soaring water bills, food, or rent – forced to choose their route into deeper poverty and privation.
The open and active role of the State to enforce corporate interests ties these movements together, and it provides an opportunity to raise and deepen the understanding of the underlying issue. The underlying issue is water rights, the seizing of public assets by corporations, bondholders and financiers – and the role of the State in promoting and enforcing the interests of the corporations at the expense of the the workers. In all of the fights for universal access to clean and safe water, the fundamental question emerges: Who rules―the interests of the corporations or the interests of society?
These struggles are taking place everywhere around the country. For example, Fort Wayne, Indiana’s water became privatized and the people spent 13 years trying to get their water back. For-profit water companies use the poor economic condition of cities to sell them on why they need to hand over their water. In the medium sized town of Lake Station, Indiana, the water company said, “We’ll pay a million dollars for you to hand over your water resources.” The city is tempted because, like most cities, they are in debt. Then they tell the cities they can pay off some of their debt. Since the cities are strapped for cash, it’s budget blackmail. “The biggest issue with privatizing is we’re losing control of the operations,” said the Lake Station mayor. Whether in Michigan, Louisiana, Indiana or Puerto Rico or countless other communities, the struggle for our water exposes the immorality of a system based on private ownership of natural resources vital to life.
The scattered struggles of the new class of workers for clean and affordable water, food, clothing, housing, healthcare and education are all politically summed up as a program for nationalization in the interests of the people. Public access to clean and safe water means the nationalization of the nation’s water supply, just as public control of quality healthcare and housing and free, quality public education require nationalization in the interests of society and not the private interests of the corporate few.
Water is a human right. Universal access to clean, affordable water regardless of ability to pay is the only answer, and it is the demand of growing millions in our country and around the world.
March/April 2018 Vol28.Ed2
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011