Sunday, September 02, 2007



Molly has been rather impatiently awaiting news from anarchist comrades in Greece about the unprecedented recent forest fires that have devastated that country. In the fall of 2004 Molly and the wife were in Greece, mostly Rodos and Athena, though we did take a side trip to Olympia. Even back then the firebug habits of land developers in Greece were "old news". Molly heard from one than one source, and not just 'leftist' ones, that land developers would deliberately start fires to clear land for development. Since the return of parliamentary democracy in 1974 both socialist and conservative governments have persistently refused to reform Greece's land registry system. Greece forbids development on both forest and agricultural land, but this unenforceable as Greece is the only country in the EU that has no forest registry. Developers see this as an opportunity. Burn the forests down, pay corrupt officials for zoning permits and 'viola', a new housing development springs up, more often than most for summer homes for people from other countries. Molly can remember how one person 'advised us' that we could live like kings in one of Athena's suburbs that were sprouting up like weeds. What he didn't say is that such suburbs are very much like development in the Okanagan Valley of BC ie still susceptible to a fire threat.

The Anarkismo site has a report today republished from Athens Indymedia (Athens Indymedia, by the way, has been covering the fires for some time-even before they became the disaster that they are now)about the forces behind this tragedy. Unlike the stories in the mass media this report is very specific about the forces which are likely to have started the fires. They mention the corporate interest behind the construction of the 'Ionian Road' in the Peloponnese and how these fires "clear the way" by obliterating key ecological and historical sensitive points, as well as allowing the road to access for enormous tourist facilities being built in the western Peloponnese. The breakouts of the recent fires coincide very neatly with the access line for this road. this article in Anarchismo also goes on to enumerate other real estate developments in the western Peloponnese that would benefit from this little piece of "renewal". Names are named including those who will benefit from the fires around Olympia. Similarly the article names a collection of 'suspects' who will benefit from the fires in the central and southern Peloponnese, with special emphasis on the "golf industry". The present Greek conservative government, the New Democracy Party, actually tried to pass a law earlier this year abolishing the prohibition on building on forested land. This motion failed, but maybe this is the alternative 'direct action' that the land developers have settled on.

Since the beginnings of the fires which the government handled with woeful incompetence the Greek state has tried to give the impression that the obvious arson involved in many of the fires is due to "foreign influences" rather than their own friends. They have even blamed their socialist opponents, the PASOK, for starting the fires. The list os possible suspects is endless, the Albanians, PASOK or even that good old standby Turkey. To date the list of arrestees of the vast 'anti-terrorist sweep' that the Greek has carried out has only netted those who started the fires by negligence or those who were actually innocent of arson. The real perpetrators are studiously ignored and are exempt from prosecution.

According to one survey ordinary Greeks were convinced (at 67%) that the fires were part of an organized plan by arsonists. The government's propaganda, however, seems to be working as 31% blamed "foreign forces" and only 26% believed in that land developers were responsible. Educated opinion generally discounts the idea that Albanians or Turks were wandering around Greece with the an intent of arson. This report goes on to mention how many Greeks are disillusioned not just with the governing party but also with PASOK, the socialist opposition. PASOK had many years in power to reform the conditions that make arson a tool of land development. They did nothing. This same report says that support for both of the two major parties has been falling as the crisis developed. Another report concurs in this assessment. Many Greeks may opt to vote for minor parties instead. On August 29th about 10,000 people gathered outside the Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square to protest the government's mishandling of the fires. Both those leftist sects who arrived with ready made political slogans and the Athens police who responded with stun grenades to the leftists were roundly booed by the crowd.

Molly urges her readers to look up this valuable Anarckismo article that gives flesh to the vague word "developers". Other stories from the mass media that allow the reader to put the events in context are at

While visiting Greece Molly was actually quite sceptical that any 'real' forest fire could occur in a lot of the country as the trees were simply too far apart- except for the mountainous area that we passed through on the way to Olympia. That was real forest, and it was pretty obvious how it could easily become a tinderbox. Yet, other areas in Greece seemed just as susceptible as the mountains of the Peloponnese. Just because the trees are close together doesn't mean that a forest fire can't get going. Greek people are sceptical of PASOK because of its record in power of doing nothing about the continuing problem of development related arson. Yet, Molly has to say one thing. Knowing what she does about so-called "socialists" in power she knows they are hardly beneath a little sly dealing and making money on the side from the business interests they are supposed to oppose. Unlike conservatives, however, they have at least the tiniest bit of human decency insofar as they do the things that they do "on the sly". Conservatives trumpet their connections to the 'developers' responsible for such things as have happened in Greece recently. They make an ideology out of it, and try to claim that the schemes of such people are a great good thing. Shameless is the proper word.
Here in Winnipeg disaster relief for those affected by the fires in Greece is being collected by St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church (2255 Grant Ave., 889-8723) and The Greek Market, 1440 Corydon Ave., 488-6161).

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