FLOODS: Another Premeditated Crime with Long-term Repercussions, Resulting from the Disastrous Neoliberal Policies

translated from “Workers Struggle”, October 2023, monthly newspaper of O.K.D.E

Bad weather “Daniel” has left immeasurable disaster throughout the flatland of Thessaly, with tragic, long-term repercussions for the working people and poor popular strata. This is the result of the criminal neoliberal policies and the failure of Mitsotakis’ staff state.

At least 17 dead and an unknown number of missing people, thousands of dead animals, hundreds of destroyed labour residences and enterprises, ruined water supply and irrigation infrastructure, torn apart road network are some of the grievous remnants. Since dozens of thousands of arable acres have been flooded, the number of the farmers who will remain in the area is doubtful as well as when and under what conditions they will be able to cultivate their land again. Even less possible is that the stockbreeders ever recover. An upsurge of unemployment, a sharp impoverishment of big parts of Greek society, misery and emigration are to be expected. Added to all these is the sanitary danger due to the thousands of dead animals, the stagnant water, the distraction of water supply infrastructure and the absence of drinkable water: gastroenteritis and skin diseases have already emerged. It’s an endless nightmare!

The responsibility of the state, the government and the local administrations is tremendous. The minister, the civil protection services, the  district administration and the municipal authorities, all the state mandarins, have been putting the blame on one another and, all together, they are hiding behind the excuses of “climate change” and “extreme weather conditions”. However, reality is overwhelming: Responsible for the repeated tragedies that the working people and the poor strata have been experiencing is the disastrous neoliberal policy that all the bourgeois governments have been implementing.

Although the intensity of the phenomenon, as well as the areas due to flood, had been accurately predicted, the residents report that they had been buried under tons of mud before even receiving the highly touted “112”. Not even the self-evident rudimentary precautions, such as cleaning up the drains and the streams was the “staff state” capable of carrying out.

It has been shown, again and again, how urgent projects of flood protection and anti-corrosive ones are. All the related studies underscore the imminent danger. Yet, the funds provided are minimal because flood protection is not seen as a dire social need but as an expense and is not, therefore, “rewarding”. In other words it does not pay back immediate revenue/ profit to the businessman (as a highway with toll booths does, for example) according to the well-known predatory neoliberal reasoning. Hence the great delays, the horrendous deficiencies in civil protection personnel and infrastructure, etc.

However, even when funds are given, such as the one billion euro given after “Janus” three years ago, they are directed to showcase projects for vote-catching purposes or they are squandered by general contractors (e.g. TERNA) rather than be given to the necessary projects –the flood-protecting ones primarily. Even the projects which were done –under the familiar status of concessions, without a complete study or state inspection– were proved to be entirely inadequate (such as the bridge of Xerias on Almyros river which collapsed) or fragmentary, thus quite useless.

In every fire, flood or earthquake the working people and the poor strata realize that we are left at the mercy of nature. This is not negligence nor incapacity of the staffs (although these elements also exist). The basis for these disasters lie on the privatization of public services, the memorandum policies which disintegrated the social services, so that a handful of predators, who hoard money via staged competitions and direct commissioning from HRADF, can act uncontrollably. These disasters also lie on the shrinkage of public expenditure so that billions of Euros can be wasted on oppression and war. This is how we came to the point where the army intervenes at every chance and with any excuse, a practice that is pregnant with dangers for the future.

The same predatory features lie on the so-called “reparation measures” for the afflicted. The government are about to commission the irrigation system to private construction companies through PPP (Public-Private Partnership) resulting in turning water into an extravagant commodity for farmers. They promote Insurance Companies’ entry into agricultural production via the compulsory insurance of houses in the vicinity of streams with the aim to support the profits of these companies and release the state from the responsibility of awarding damages. In the name of urgency they have decided the approval of projects in Thessaly without an environmental permit, without an open public tender, with urgent processes which will be decided by the concessionaire-constructor himself.

Other than that, the compensatory damages and the other measures announced are nothing but mockery. The government announced the allocation of just 600 million Euros from a supplementary budget, the cost of which is going to be covered with cuts to subsidies and social expenses. That is, they will take them from one pocket to put them into the other. Only 150 million of this money is aimed at compensating farmers and stock-breeders; for the rest, it is not clear how it will be dispensed.

Climate change cannot be used as a pretext by Mitsotakis’ government, which, after all, has been ruling this country for over 4 years and has failed to tackle each and every intense bad weather. They cannot plead “surprise” when everything indicates that climate change will increase the intensity and frequency of weather phenomena. They cannot simply attribute disasters of this magnitude to climate change as if they were inevitable. It is, in no way, “a natural consequence” for thousands of people to be drowned, for whole towns to sink and for infrastructures to collapse, at every heavy rain. The effects would be considerably diminished if the necessary precautionary and protective measures were taken under central state planning, with generous funding and labour control. Especially nowadays that technological and scientific advances offer valuable tools to be utilized.

After all, climate change is created by their system, the capitalist way of production, which sacrifices humans and their needs on the altar of profit. It is responsible for the cruel exploitative intervention to nature and plundering of the environment for the sake of the rapid expansion of market economy; an economy that promotes an overconsumption of energy for military and industrial purposes while it condemns the working people and poor countries to energy poverty; an economy that does not serve social needs but the interests of bourgeoisie, turning everything into a commodity for sale; an economy that has no respect for the limitations of natural resources or for the laws of nature –it only respects the laws of immediate capitalist profit at any price (take a look at the streams of Volos which have been aligned and turned into canals with much narrower beds). Especially the modern capitalist system, which is sinking into its crisis and decay, is indifferent to any infrastructure at all: this is clearly testified by the collapse of infrastructure in imperialist centers.

Lets’ s overthrow them with our struggles

The area will remain dilapidated for many years to come. The working people and poor strata’s self-sacrifice and solidarity are the main reason that more victims were avoided. Thanks to these, a lot of people who have lost any source of income can still survive. However, as much as they offer some relief, they cannot solve the huge remaining problems while they are often used as a  substitute for political discussion and action (see Communist Party’s attitude which adopts an all the more apolitical activism with central slogan: “People save People”).

Organized aid by the government and the local authorities is required, first of all, in order to satisfy the immediate living needs: Insurance of accommodation in proper residencies, food and health care by the state for all the flood-afflicted. Immediate insurance of drinkable clean water for all the afflicted areas and accessibility to health institutions. Immediate and full compensation for damages and losses. Cleaning of the drainage networks in order to lower the level of water.

In order not to experience similar tragedies we demand:

  • Immediate undertaking of flood protection measures, environmentally friendly, included in the public investments programme and under labour control.
  • Mass appointments, expenses for social needs – not for bloody overflow budgets and armaments– debt cancellation.
  • Punishment of all those responsible: government, state apparatus, local authorities, large contractors.

Only our struggles can put an end to this downhill, the accumulation of disasters, deaths, social decay. The first mobilizations gave a way out to rage. On 10/9, the spontaneous demonstration was hit by the police resulting in a heavily wounded person, 14 people brought to the police departments and 3 arrested. To the mass all-Thessaly demonstration, in the centre of Larisa, on 24/9 the government responded with chemicals and clubs.

It is time for us to unite and organize everywhere in order to chase away this dangerous government. It is time to impose real solutions for the cure of the wounds that fires and floods have left –as well as for the confrontation of the environmental disaster as a whole– with our mobilizations. It is time to fight for another society that will not serve the profits of an elite, but will pose the interests of the social majority and the environment as its first goal. It is time to fight for Socialism!