The immense destruction caused by the wildfires in Varybobi, Evia and dozens of other areas of Greece is not solely due to the winds, high temperatures and climate change, as the ND government and the bourgeois media claim. The real cause of this catastrophe is the reactionary policies and the criminal indifference of the Greek ruling class.
The current government was well aware of the new data on the increased risk of fires created by climate change, which is due to the barbaric and parasitic nature of the capitalist system it serves. But it did not take any substantial measures to prevent the catastrophe.
In 2020, the right-wing New Democracy (ND) government provocatively rejected the hiring of 5,000 new firefighters. This year's budget for the fire brigade is only 1.7 million euros, while the fire brigade and other relative services requested 17 million euros to meet their basic needs.
The government ‘generously’ donated 20 million euros last year to its friendly private media outlets. Additionally it gave 40 million euros as a subsidy to toll companies, 120 million euros to the private airline AEGEAN, and 20 million euros for the annual salary of 1,030 special guards who will police university campuses. The government also spent almost 5 billion euros on new warplanes and frigates against a backdrop of rising military tensions with Turkey.
The Greek state in 2021 occupies the first place in NATO in terms of its total military expenditure as a proportion of GDP, at 3.82 percent. This demonstrates the priorities of the Greek ruling class: financially rewarding itself and its cronies, amassing weapons and strengthening state repression against any protest. Forest protection and firefighting are a waste of money in the eyes of the ruling class.
The hypocrisy of the Greek bourgeoisie is expressed through the words of government officials at this time: "Let everything be reduced to ashes, as long as human lives are saved!"
As a matter of fact, a volunteer firefighter has already been killed while battling a blaze. As the fires rage on, there will doubtlessly be more casualties. And the government’s dismissive calculation does not take into account the broader impact of the fires on people’s lives. Already, over 1000 homes in the Evia region alone have been burned to the ground.
The government also does not factor in the destruction of habitat and animal life, nor the long-term effects on the health of millions of people due to air pollution.
But the youth and the ordinary working people did not remain idle. In many areas, they defied the government’s ‘suggestion’ to evacuate and put up a heroic fight against the wildfires without any help from the state. This struggle and solidarity was responsible for saving whole villages, which would have burned to the ground if left to the hands of this criminal government.
Against this cynical and criminal attitude of the Greek ruling class and its government, the workers, the youth and their mass organisations must fight for the following demands:
- Immediate provision of free and decent housing, food and clothing to fire-affected families. Generous compensation to the fire victims, at 100 percent of the value of the damaged property for the workers and poor families, with payments provided within the month they suffered the losses.
- Prohibition of land use in all burned forest areas. New central infrastructural planning so that settlements are no longer created in or next to dense and flammable forestry. All the necessary interventions must be made immediately to protect existing settlements, by providing incentives for planned relocation of the most precarious houses.
- Immediate provision of all necessary expenses for the prevention of fires; a complete protection of the forests within the fire danger zones; the removal of dry foliage and flammable material; and proper investment in fire guards and firefighting infrastructure, etc.
- Re-establishment of the forest fire service. This should be upgraded, immediately filling the thousands of vacancies in the fire brigade with recruitment of permanent staff. There should be an immediate relocation of expenditure from military armaments and state-police repression to investing in sufficient fire-fighting vehicles, aircraft and helicopters.
Down with the criminally indifferent bourgeois government, which is responsible for these catastrophic fires! For the election of a workers' government that will make forest protection and firefighting a top priority, taking all the necessary measures as part of a socialist policy of expropriating the capitalists and establishing a centrally and democratically planned economy.