Detroit sits on 20% of the world’s fresh water and has the third largest water supply system in the country, and yet thousands of its people, and the numbers are growing, are being denied access to clean water. If that’s not a damning indictment of the capitalist model, than I don’t know what is.
This water, owned by the citizens of Detroit, provides over 4 million people, largely in the suburbs, with water. You would think it would be considered a huge asset of the city in its renewal. Investing large amounts to find and deal with the many redundant lines, services belonging to abandoned buildings, and other upgrades in order to restore some efficiency so that the city can continue to profit long-term from this unique resource?
Why not do what some places do that, by virtue of living in on the site of a valuable resource, like Norway’s oil, share that wealth in subsidies (or even ‘free’ utilities) and investments in social services for residents?
No, instead it will be chopped up, deunionized, downsized, privatized, speculated upon and thrown like carrion to the vultures.
The current world of capital will not allow for such a resource to stay outside of the market. What it will allow for is a massive state intervention to move public property into private hands and without any compensation. Imagine the howls about ‘freedom’ from these same privateers if the state forcefully took their ill-begotten gains and transferred them to the public commonwealth.
New Detroit chooses to increase rates 9% on rates that are already twice the national average on the people least able to pay ($75 a month when you live on less than $1000 is simply a hardship). And then, turn off the spigot on the poorest and most vulnerable; those behind for the measly amount of $150, or as also happened in many cases—those in good standing.
All the while water runs in the street from innumerable breaks, continues to flow to countless abandoned structures and businesses that owe 100s of thousands in debt to the Water Department aren’t touched. The golf clubs necessary to host all of the privatization deals being discussed still get theirs, $400,000 of debt to the Water Department notwithstanding.
But what’s not necessary to those deals are all the black, and mostly poor, people who make up eighty-something percent of the Detroit’s population. More than unnecessary, they are an impediment to land values and real estate speculation and must be removed. Then the real ‘development’ can commence.
Remember when we learned about the end of Reconstruction, the introduction of share cropping, the end of black elected officials and the rise of Jim Crow? The promises of the Civil War and Reconstruction betrayed and abandoned? Well, I think we are looking at something analogous here now.
In the period after the Civil Rights movement a degree of black political power was won and exercised, a first since Reconstruction; this time, instead of in the local and state governments of the defeated South, it was in the mainly large, northern industrial, urban centers, backed up by municipal and other unions, that black folks held a modicum of autonomy and social power.
With the disenfranchisement of a majority of Michigan’s black citizens, privatization of city services and schools, the ‘Right to Work’ enactments and the end of manufacturing and with it, hope at bettering your position through work, we can add what amounts to forced removal of unwanted population from those cities, so that the land might be more profitably exploited.
Black people have been systematically stripped of the gains made in the previous struggle. As well, the social positions from which to defend those gains, like unions and municipal controls, have been decimated.
The era of Civil Rights is long over. In many ways, it has been defeated. It is the end of the Second Reconstruction we are living through now; in our cities, before our eyes. This time in the era of neo-liberalism, and of the first black President.
Here is an essential talk from Glen Ford from this week giving some background and context on this process. Racialized capitalism as agent of renewal is a disaster for black, brown and poor people.