There is No Such Thing as a "Natural" Disaster in a Capitalist World

The declaration above may sound paradoxical and a product of ideological fanaticism, but it is now a self-evident truth, established by numerous scientific studies which link the disasters that increasingly strike the planet to human activity. It is no accident that many scientists now talk of the Anthropocene, i.e. a new era in which the Earth (including all living beings, not just the animal which calls itself “sapiens”) entered about two centuries ago. The term is generally used to refer to the dramatic climate change now underway, but it also applies to other catastrophes in which the hand of "man" plays a primary role in the mountain of suffering and death they produce.

The earthquake that hit the area on the border between Turkey and Syria is another tragic demonstration of this.

Some might point out that the movement of the continental plates, at the origin of the earthquake, cannot be stopped, which is true, indeed, banal, but, if we cannot completely avoid the consequences of geological movements on people, we can at least also significantly mitigate them. In fact, people live in certain socio-economic and political contexts, and it is these, in the final analysis, which influence, not to say determine, the number of victims and the extent of destruction. The social formations in which "man" lives today are those designed by capitalism, in which the only thing that matters is the accumulation of money, of profit extorted with the exploitation of wage labour, and its metamorphosis into interest and land rent. So, the term Anthropocene may be suggestive but it is too generic a word. We need to make it more specific, with the added meaning of "Capitalocene". Maybe it is an ugly neologism but it identifies who is materially responsible for the consequences of these "natural" phenomena that strike down living beings: it is capital and the class that manages it, the bourgeoisie.

From the very first images that came from the areas hit by the earthquake, it was obvious even to non-experts(1) that the vast majority of destroyed buildings – not just older ones, but also the more recent ones – were built with no regard for anti-seismic building rules, because in the midst of the expanse of rubble substantially intact buildings stand out here and there. There has to be a reason, other than just putting it down to chance and luck. It is not hard to grasp what it is: the few buildings left standing were built in compliance with the standards imposed by building engineering, especially in seismically sensitive areas. All the others are the victims, not so much of the earthquake, as of the criminal urban planning policy followed by governments for decades, not least the twenty-year policy of the "Sultan" Erdoğan, based on amnesties, building concessions giving a free hand to speculative building. It is the usual dirty exchange between bourgeois cliques that administer state power and those that make money (with the sweat of others, of course) for their mutual benefit. These roles are, moreover, interchangeable. Widespread bribes and corruption in Turkey make a mockery of all modern building regulations, which exist only on paper, so much so that the Anatolian bourgeoisie, in a hypothetical corruption competition, would not look out of place with their Italian counterparts, especially in the "golden era" of the Christian Democrats. But it is pointless and even misleading to draw up these rankings, because where money dominates (i.e. everywhere) corruption and the infringement of bourgeois laws themselves cannot be eliminated, at most, depending on the context, more or less contained. Just to give an example, even in that cradle of civilisation and bourgeois democracy, the United Kingdom, its staid bourgeoisie does not avoid scandals over corrupt practices.

Therefore, Turkish governments which have not skimped on amnesties and concessions, (how homely the atmosphere of all this cosy corruption) to encourage urban speculation(2), have instead saved on intervention measures to be put in place on the occasion of dramatic events such as the earthquake of 6 February. The serious inefficiencies, the delays in relief efforts, with the consequent very serious difficulties that the survivors have to face, are acknowledged facts, which the "compassionate" and somewhat hairy visit of the "Rais" Erdoğan could not hide(3), despite the repression carried out by the regime against those who courageously dare to denounce the real culprits, and the massive failings in aid to the population.

Across the border, in Syria, things are, if possible, even worse.

Eleven years of war, of bombings, of terror practiced by the various Islamist groups (Al Qaeda, Al Nusra) supported by the Turkish government, and by what remains of the Caliphate, have reduced the population to its limits, so much so that, according to sources in the UN, about three million Syrians are suffering from hunger and another twelve are in serious danger of suffering the same fate. Not to mention the millions of refugees abroad(4) and internally displaced persons, who amount to no less than five million.

Furthermore, cholera is spreading in some earthquake-stricken areas and the meteorological conditions, worthy of Central Europe in the past, make the conditions of those who have to survive the rain, snow and frost literally unbearable without even the feeble shelter of a tent. In cities like Aleppo, practically razed to the ground by the "civil" war, the few buildings left standing, already unsafe because of bomb damage, have become even more dangerous and cannot even offer precarious shelter. In short, the war, the fruit of direct and proxy imperialist confrontation(5), has prepared the ground for the Syrian population – first and foremost, obviously, the proletariat – to face a perfect storm – if it is permissible to use a cinematic metaphor – in such a tragedy of pain and mourning. The Western sanctions applied to the autocrat Assad – but not, of course, to the no less autocratic Erdoğan – as always have had very little effect on the Syrian upper middle class and therefore on the ruling clique. Instead they have made life very difficult for the proletariat and the lowest social strata of the population. The bitter cherry on this cake of proletarian and popular suffering is that sanctions are delaying the sending of international aid, contrary to what is happening for Turkey, and if, a few days after the earthquake, it seems that they have been partially and temporarily suspended, certainly the effectiveness of the little foreign aid that will arrive will be largely nullified by the chaos that reigns in those territories, by the corruption that also rages on that side of the border and by the ferocious greed of the Islamist groups, always reaching out for their heavenly paradise, but never insensitive to the riches of this earth...

With the earthquake between Syria and Turkey, the international bourgeoisie and its territorial sections have earned another medal of infamy, which only the proletarian revolution for communism will be able to tear from their chests.

Yes, no one can stop the tectonic plates from shifting, but the proletariat can stop the race towards destruction and death by getting rid of this criminal social system once and for all, provided that it finally becomes conscious of itself.

Battaglia Comunista
13 February



(1) As Mario Tozzi, geologist and presenter of scientific television broadcasts, rightly pointed out.

(2) Part of that economic growth took place not least on the wave of Western relocation of industry and foreign investments. Today, that economic "boom" has given way to many problems (not least being triple digit inflation), which make the situation even harder.

(3) Just as the indictment of some builders is just fluff, smoke and mirrors to divert anger and indignation towards easy scapegoats and cover the very heavy responsibilities of the state apparatus, starting with Erdoğan.

(4) One million in Lebanon, three million in Turkey which, like any self-respecting extortionist, took six billion euros from the EU to keep them from going to Europe.

(5) Between the local imperialist interests of Turkey and Israel and those of the USA, Russia, and China, with their respective allies, the Sunni Islamist cut-throats on one side, with Iran and Hezbollah on the other.

Sunday, February 19, 2023