Newark: Capitalism behind racist environmental crisis
Sunday, June 2, 2019 at 10:00AM

Newark, New Jersey, May 6 – About 75 people in this working class, mostly Black and Latin city, attended a forum whose key purpose was to alert neighborhood residents about the ongoing lead contamination of their water. Progressive Labor Party(PLP) alerted residents to the destructive nature of capitalism that destroys our environment and all aspects of our lives, from working conditions to education to healthcare.
 Many of the forum’s organizers were critical of the city administration’s initial failure to address the crisis and their attempts to lie their way out of public criticism. PLP members have consistently pointed out that capitalism’s insatiable demand for profit is the source of racist attacks on the working class such as lead poisoning. Only communism, a society run by the working class, can end these atrocities and build a world where profiting from the sale of toxic products will become a distant memory.
Liberal misleaders
Electing “progressive” politicians like Newark’s Mayor Ras Baraka can never end these racist attacks. As one of the forum panelists said: “I tell my students that politicians running for president in 2020 promise us they will fix the system; but I ask my students why we, as working class parents, teachers and students, couldn’t run things much better than the politicians and the rulers behind them do.”
The forum opened with a short statement summarizing the 20th century history of corporate use of lead products. In the 1920s, the oil, auto, chemical and lead industry bosses conspired to promote lead in gasoline. Even before that, the lead industry was successfully campaigning to convince city administrations to use lead pipes to transport water. While raking in billions in profits from the sale of products containing lead, these capitalists were well aware of their lethal toxicity. Years later, cities like Newark were left to deal with the murderous consequences of long-term exposure to lead.
The panelists included one of the attorneys currently suing Newark over the lead contamination, a scientist who specializes in the effects of chemical contamination, and a Newark high school teacher actively involved in the fight to rid Newark’s water of lead. The panelists discussed the centuries old history of the human use of lead, the deadly long-term consequences of lead exposure, and the current status of the lawsuit.
The environmental attorney pointed out that lead poisoning disproportionately affects cities with large Black and Latin working class populations. As with Flint, Michigan, Newark’s lead testing in 2017 and 2018 showed that almost 20 percent of measured households had levels above the federal action limit, and both cities measured elevated amounts among children ( Just as racist unemployment, police brutality, gentrification and skyrocketing rents have plagued former industrial cities like Newark and Flint, so have environmental catastrophes.
Several residents accused the city administration and Mayor Baraka of lying about the safety of Newark’s water. In July of 2017, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection gave the city six months to develop a plan to address the problem of lead leaching into the water system. The city only commissioned a further study, doing nothing to remedy the problem.  
In February of 2018, Newark’s own consultant advised the Water Department that preliminary results also showed that corrosion control was ineffective. But, in June of 2018, the Water Department Director issued a statement proclaiming that the water was completely safe, accusing the environmental lawyers of “outrageously false” charges. Ras Baraka said the same thing during his 2018 reelection campaign, with mass Robocalls and mailings, claiming the water was safe to drink. The city did nothing until October 2018, after the lawsuit was filed, when the final results of its study showed conclusively that the corrosion control in one of the two city reservoirs was not working.
Workers need clean water and communism
Several media outlets, including the Newark-based Star Ledger, have reported extensively on the lead crisis. All of these outfits have their own motives for exposing and controlling Mayor Baraka, including keeping gentrification on track in Newark. Also, the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit has already made it clear that she thinks the city’s belated remedial actions absolve it of legal responsibility for the problem. Both the bourgeois press and the rulers’ courts serve the capitalists and their lackey politicians and have little care for the interests of the working class.   
PLP members and friends are actively fighting for clean water. We want the local bosses and developers to pay the entire cost of the lead clean-up and we want workers and students to join us in the revolutionary struggle to overthrow this racist, capitalist system. Then we can end capitalism’s environmental disasters behind and focus on building communism, a healthy and productive world for the working class.

Article originally appeared on The Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party (
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