Intakes: Disaster communism

Submitted by Johnny on November 19, 2016

In Aufheben 19 we discussed the thesis that disasters can produce ‘cracks in capitalism’. This idea was based in part on evidence of ‘the extraordinary communities that arise in disasters’. Such post-disaster communities are a well-documented phenomenon, and examples include those that emerged in the wake of San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, and Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, 2005. In each case, disaster served to produce micro-societies characterized by mutual aid, which were temporarily free from the control of capital and the state. In many cases, the forces of the state violently attacked these new communities – and in the case of Hurricane Katrina this was abetted by vigilantes. The parallel between disaster-produced communities like these and a communist world has led to the term ‘disaster communism’ being coined.
In this Intakes article, the Out of the Woods collective use the concept of disaster communism to address the relationship between climate change and these ‘disaster communities’. Part of the political significance of climate change lies in what it means for the traditional view that ‘post-scarcity’ societies make communism possible, that communism is a product of abundance....