Greece: Fires expose the real nature of “New Democracy” government

As Greece suffers under the heat of raging forest fires, the government faces the heat of the enraged Greek people. After years of cuts to social services, including the fire services, the state has been completely unable to deal with the crisis, leading to untold damages and the deaths of some 64 people. Similar to other disasters in recent years, these forest fires expose the utter rotteness of capitalism.

Dozens of people are charred, women and children flee to the churches in order to rescue themselves and pray to God that they do not get burnt, priests attempt to chase away the flames with crosses, desperate mothers with children in their arms run down the streets unassisted, men fight against the enormous flames with branches and buckets, flames encircle ancient monuments. This is Greece 2007.

The last time that so many people lost their lives due to fire in Greece was in August, 1916. However, the death toll then was 20 people. Today, 91 years later, in this high-tech era, in the era of a "strong" Greece where the economy grows by 4.6% every year, in the era of the modern fire-engines, in the era of the "Canadair" flying boats and the "Leopard" and "Super Puma" helicopters, in the era of the most modern anti-fire and forest protection specifications, the death toll has reached (at the time of writing) 63, and the homeless are already in the thousands. In other words, the extent of the destruction because of fire in the year 2007 in Greece, reveals a return to the Medieval ages...

"If we had firefighters, fire-engines and planes at the time the fire stared and if there were some prevention, the catastrophe would not have happened". This was the permanent complaint of the people in Ilia, Arcadia, Messinia, Evia. However, how could there be any prevention policy and fire engines and firefighters early enough and in proper numbers at the front, when the government, in the name of a "smaller state" and the cuts to expenditure, refuse to employ the 4000 firefighters that are required to cover the basic needs for forest protection? Instead, they employ a small number of heroic firefighters, with a wage of 700 Euros and instead of buying "Canadairs" and fire engines, they put the priority on buying "F16" and "Eurofighter". Also, for "financial" reasons the Forest-authority and the Ministry of Agriculture have not cleaned out the forests for the last 3 years (an accusation coming from the vice-nomarch (vice president of the region) of Ilia on the "Mega" TV channel - 26/8/2007)

"However, the people who are responsible for this are the anonymous fire-bugs" say those who try to improve the image of the government. But how could it be otherwise when the government, instead of making plans for dealing with the fires, is preparing plans for the declassification of the forests and when it promotes as an urgent "reform" the reconsideration of article 24 of the Constitution, in order to hand over giant forest areas to construction companies.

This was not the first time that the arsonists hit their targets on such a scale. In August 2001 there were two days with 240 fires throughout the whole country, which is more than the amount on the 25th and 26th of August. However, there were no victims that time. Six more years of intensive cuts and austerity in every state department were more than enough after the 15 years of austerity before 2001, to bring about the complete catastrophe.

The protagonists today are the neo-liberal advocates of the "rebirth of the state", who accelerated this tendency and led to the today's return to the Medieval ages.

Those responsible for this catastrophe are not the "anonymous fire-bugs", but capitalism, its administrators, and land developers and speculators - in this case the pathetic "New Democracy" government. Having as a permanent priority the service of its big bosses, bank-owners, ship-owners, big dealers and other parasites, they have abandoned as an "unnecessary cost" the protection of the forests and the people from fire.

The "New Democracy" government, in order to survive, had only one option; to make use of the "September 11th Bush scenario". For this reason they used all their powers to invest in the following: "This is an asymmetrical terrorist threat, which is against the nation, and national unity is necessary". However, this arrogant approach has made another scenario even more possible; the 2004 Spanish scenario. The right-wing government of Aznar was defeated due to the outcry of the people against its manipulation of an also unforeseen event (the March 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid). The people voted massively against Aznar.

The atrocious attitude of the government makes people even more angry; especially all those who fought helplessly against the flames, waiting in vain for the fire engines to come. These people have now adopted the slogan, “This is enough! All you get out of here! You have abandoned us! The state is nowhere to be found!” Truth is found in these phrases. The ruling class cannot rule any more. It is incapable, indifferent, parasitic and dangerous. The only definite solution is to take away the power from this class. The only real hope is that this corrupt and inept state cease to exist and that it be replaced with a state democratically controlled by working people.

This must be the main and final aim of our fight.

At the same time the trade unions and the left parties should take the initiative and demand:

  •  - An immediate plan for full compensation to the people affected by the fires, which will include: full reconstruction and reforestation of the damaged areas, a program for feeding and accommodation, financial support to match damages, monthly grants of 1,300 Euros to every working person, unemployed or pensioner who suffered damage from the fire, immediate construction of the necessary works in order to encounter the consequences of the destruction of the forests.
  • Immediate doubling of the expenditure for fire protection including protection of forests and urban areas.
  •  Immediate support for the fire brigade and the fire protection agency, covering the full needs in terms of machinery and properly trained personnel with permanent employment.
  •  Immediate application of the forest cadastre, without allowing any change to land usage. Say “no” to the privatization of the forests. The construction companies must not be allowed access to the forests!
  • Immediate application of a large scale program of expropriation in the big cities, in order to create public green areas.
  • In order to finance all these measures, there must be effective cuts to military financing, an extra special tax on the big construction companies, and permanent heavy taxation on the profits of big capital as a whole.

Greek Marxist Tendency – “Marxistiki Foni”