Australia bushfires: Capitalism is responsible for social disaster

January 27, 2020
Resident of Cobargo, Australia, area hard hit by bushfires, refuses to shake hand of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Capitalist rulers left working people on their own as fires raged.
Resident of Cobargo, Australia, area hard hit by bushfires, refuses to shake hand of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Capitalist rulers left working people on their own as fires raged.

The following statement was released by the Communist League in Australia Jan. 8.

The massive bushfires that have swept south and eastern Australia have had a devastating impact on the lives of many working people. But the social crisis developing in the wake of the fires is the result of the workings of the capitalist system, which puts the profits of building companies, investors and insurance magnates before the interests of working people who have lost their homes and livelihoods.

The contempt of politicians for working people, including volunteer firefighters as they struggled to save lives and homes, was epitomized by the indifference of the Prime Minister and the NSW [New South Wales] Emergency Services Minister as they took off for their overseas holidays in the midst of the crisis.

While there were plenty of signs that warned of the severity of fires this season, governments did nothing to prepare for the conditions. There were no steps taken in advance to organize for evacuations or to provide for those who had to flee their homes with nothing.

The hot, dry weather conditions and high winds has made the fires more intense and unpredictable, but the scale of the fires has been exacerbated by the massive buildup of forest fuel. State and federal governments, which rule in the interests of the capitalist class, bear responsibility for the failure of management of the forests and water supplies.

Aboriginal leaders explain that frequent low intensity burns are necessary to prevent the buildup of forest fuel. This traditional practice was based on thousands of years’ experience of doing what was necessary to protect the environment rather than extracting profit. Under capitalism these methods have been deemed too expensive. Instead, governments cut spending and employment in forest and parks services, and tie preventive measures up in red tape.

Protests called by climate activists in response to the bushfires have centered on calls for the government to change its “climate policy.” But every policy implemented by corporations and bourgeois governments only serves the interests of maintaining capitalist profit-making and rule.

It is the capitalists’ profit-fueled manufacturing competition that hastens the poisoning of the earth’s air, water and soil. The effects are ruinous for working people in city and countryside. What is needed is to advance a working-class program to fight to end capital’s exploitation of both labour and nature.

The Communist League calls for workers and our unions to fight for workers control over production to ensure health and safety in the factories, mines and energy monopolies, and to control emissions of greenhouse gases, which contribute to the gradual rise in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere.

Working people need to fight for a government-funded public works program to put thousands to work at union rates to rebuild housing and infrastructure destroyed in the fires, and carry out work in the forestry industry and the National Parks. The federal government must ensure adequate compensation for those who have lost their homes and livelihoods and volunteer firefighters who have had to leave their jobs. We demand that it extend affordable credit to working farmers and guarantee their costs of production.

Working people need to organise and act independently of the ruling capitalists and break from their political parties. The only way we can prevent future such catastrophes is by building a movement to fight along a course to replace the rule of the exploiters with a workers and farmers government.

Cuba’s revolutionary government sets an example of what can be done when working people are in power. When hurricanes hit Cuba, all the resources of Cuba’s people are mobilised. The government organises evacuations so everyone knows in advance what shelter to move to. “We have one unmovable principle,” former President Raúl Castro said, “the revolution will not leave anyone defenseless.”