The wildfires that have swept large parts of Europe, and the soaring temperatures are a terrible confirmation of what the bosses’ system means.
They are part of a wider assault on working class people and our rulers’ contempt for human life. It runs from energy price rises that mean hardship and suffering to an indifference to mass deaths among ordinary people.
The same regimes that condemned vast numbers to death during Covid will fail over climate change. Tory prime minister Boris Johnson wanted to “let the bodies pile high” during the pandemic. That could be the same motto now about the climate.
Greece is one clear example. Restaurant worker Giorgos Anastassas is from the island of Rhodes, which was devastated by fires last week. He attacked the Greek New Democracy government and added that locals want to protest when the fires end.
“Everything was out of control. It was so bad, I can’t describe it,” he said. “The government didn’t help us the way we deserve. It was a disaster— it was so bad, so miscalculated because the fire had been controllable in the first three days.”
But inaction and chaotic planning regarding wildfires isn’t just down to government incompetence. It’s written into their policies.
Panos Garganas is from SEK, the Greek sister organisation of the Socialist Workers Party, and is the editor of its newspaper Workers Solidarity. He told Socialist Worker that the government policy focuses on evacuating people away from the flames, not fighting them.
“They let the fires burn and remove people that are in the way. That’s the basic policy,” he said. “This is the policy first and foremost because of cuts made by the government.
“When a fire burns on an island, fires will often burn until the flames reach the sea. For the most part, the people fighting the fires are volunteers.
“They fight the wildfires with their bare hands and with hoses from their gardens. They get no help from the state. Evacuation plans are often disastrous, with the police taking charge. This was really shown last week when tourists had to flee from islands, including Rhodes. They were evacuated in terrible conditions, and the Greek government did very little to help.”
Panos explained that while the Greek government won’t invest in new equipment to fight fires, it is happy to fund war and new fossil fuel projects. “The Greek state is competing with other nations about who gets to exploit the huge natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea,” he said.
“And it has been quickly expanding its military capabilities. In the movement, we are demanding that money goes into fire-fighting planes, not fighter planes.”
It’s this same capitalist logic—that profit comes before human life—that also led to the death of at least one worker when the Bozaitica bridge in western Greece collapsed last week.
President of the Earthquake Protection Organization OASP, Efthymios Lekkas, told ERT television that the bridge’s stability problems were known to the authorities.
Maintaining the bosses’ system means much more to them than stopping their own country from going up in flames or collapsing into rubble.
The cover of Workers’ Solidarity newspaper following the fires read, “Burn the government” That’s exactly what working people must do, and they should burn the system down with it.
On Thursday of last week, more than 30 people were killed in wildfires sweeping Algeria in north Africa. Most of that number lived in the village of Ath Oussalah near the town of Toudja in northern Algeria. Of the sixteen village inhabitants killed in the fire, nine were part of the same family.
One woman who lived in the Ath Oussalah had been preparing for her wedding when her home quickly went up in flames, killing her two sisters. In the four years since mass protests rocked the country, those in power have found an excellent way to try and divide people.
Rumours that arsonists started the fires have already spread, with help from the Algerian state. Prosecutors quickly launched criminal investigations into how the fires started. The assurance that arsonists started these fires—without real evidence—echoes what president Abdelmadjid Tebboune said when forest fires claimed many lives in 2021.
In the northern town of Larbaa Nath Irathen, residents removed a man named Djamel Bensmail from a police van. They suspected him to be an arsonist and murdered him in the town’s main square. Bensmail turned out to be an activist and artist who came to the town to offer help following fires.
To deflect from their failures in 2021, the Algerian government tried to pin the forest fires on anything but climate change. And this is the line the government is looking to take once again.
Exceptionally hot and dry temperatures caused by climate change mean forest fires can spread more quickly. Unseasonably high winds caused by changing weather patterns can also mean blazes burn quickly out of control. But blaming these blazes on arsonists is helpful for our leaders as it lets them off the hook.
This July was set to be the hottest July ever recorded—and the hottest month ever recorded. It has seen three heatwaves in North America, Europe and China in recent weeks, as well as record‑breaking temperatures in the world’s oceans.
In Britain there haven’t been record temperatures. But that reflects how extreme weather patterns move the planet’s heat around.
July’s records are global averages that include the southern hemisphere where it’s currently winter. And they are a massive increase on the previous record, by about 0.3 degrees centigrade. This July was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the pre‑industrial average for July.
So it’s a foretaste of what the climate might feel like in a few more decades when the annual average global temperature is expected to pass 1.5 degrees.
In Turkey the death of postal worker Berran Özen Kırmızıgül from a brain haemorrhage caused by extreme heat has led to calls for workers to walk out.
Berran was an outsourced worker for the national Turkish postal service the PTT, and was a member of the Haber‑Sen union. The branch secretary of the number 6 Haber-sen branch, Derya Balseven, raged against the PTT general manager and Izmir chief manager and called for them to resign. She said, “We will not put profit above what you have inflicted on Berran. Fear us now.”
At a protest organised by the union, she said that Berran left in the morning to do her delivery run and never returned. “Could it be worse than this? What more are we going to go through? What’s next? Who will account for this?” she said.
“Is there any guarantee that one of us won’t experience anything like this today? Is this also divine providence, or is this the plan of fate? Or is it in the nature of this job because you work at the PTT? The world is talking about the scorching heat, televisions and internet channels are shouting ‘avoid the heat, don’t go out’.
She finished by calling for postal workers to stop work if temperatures get too high. “If you don’t feel well, don’t go to work,” she said. “The heat didn’t happen because of you. The virus didn’t come out because you wanted it. The earthquake didn’t happen because you’re missing something.
“If we do not give our labour to this workplace, they cannot do anything without us. What’s next? Who will account for this? Is there any guarantee that one of us won’t experience anything like this today? Is this also divine providence, or is this the plan of fate? Or is it in the nature of this job because you work at the PTT?
“The world is talking about the scorching heat, televisions and internet channels are shouting ‘avoid the heat, don’t go out’.”
She finished by calling for postal workers to stop work if temperatures get too high. “If you don’t feel well, don’t go to work,” she said. “The heat didn’t happen because of you. The virus didn’t come out because you wanted it. The earthquake didn’t happen because you’re missing something. If we do not give our labour to this workplace, they cannot do anything without us.”
Across the world, people are watching the climate crisis accelerate and concluding that direct action is the only way to make our rulers take action.
One of these people is Nuria Sala de la Torre from the Spanish climate group Futuro Vegetal, affiliated with Extinction Rebellion. The group has targeted everything from a luxury yacht of a Walmart heiress to the far right Vox party. Nuria told Socialist Worker, “The richest countries have colonised and exploited the resources from the less wealthy countries—primarily the Global South. We can see there is never enough for rich people. They just want more money.
“During the past decade, the wealthiest 1 percent had captured around half of all new wealth. The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fuelling the climate crisis, yet poor communities and young people are paying the price.
“Such extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of our government’s decades-long pursuit of grossly unequal and carbon intensive economic growth.”Nuria added, “It is very important to take action against all these big lobbies and private businesses. We have to demand governments curb the emissions of the wealthy through taxes and bans on luxury carbon output, such as SUV cars and frequent flights.
Futuro Vegetal has targeted government buildings and political parties. Last month activists in the group threw paint at a billboard put up by far right party Vox.
The poster, which was dubbed “the canvas of hate”, included anti‑LGBT+ symbols and denounced the fight for Catalan independence. And recently the group sprayed the British embassy in Madrid with black and red paint in solidarity with climate activists and other protesters in Britain facing repression.
“You might think that political leaders could have no higher priority than securing a ‘liveable and sustainable future’,” said Nuria. “Is that not what all of us, in every country, need and want for ourselves and for future generations?
“Most of the people in our movement are young people,” Nuria said. “They ask themselves, why do I have to study if climate collapse is closer than ever? What are we going to do? We have no future. We are living in uncertain times. And yes, we feel the need to put our bodies and minds at action even if we risk being arrested, paying high fines or facing prison time.”
Nuria and Futuro Vegetal are right to respond to the climate crisis with militancy and urgency. But we need a movement that goes beyond trying to make governments listen.
Those in power will not be reasoned with. That’s why we need a mass movement that can stop the profit system that’s hurling the planet towards catastrophe. It needs to bring together all the class issues that include climate horrors, and seek to mobilise workers’ power to change the system.
Protesters told Socialist Worker why they were marching