On September 10th, the tanker Agia Zoni II, sank into the Saronic Gulf. The ship dumped (according to the well-known shipowner Kountouri) about 2,600 tons of oil. Initially the media repeated a confused message, obviously not by accident, and the same pattern was followed by the government. They talk about limited oil outflow.
However, the large oil spills and the black muck gradually covering the Saronic coast can’t be hidden. The sunken tanker was a single-hulled 45-year-old boat, repaired and patched with a crew of two sailors instead of the required 11. Under such conditions, the “star of Greek shipping” can shine on the top of the world list …
The sinking took place shortly after AZII had loaded most of her cargo from Hellenic Petroleum, at the Aspropyrgos refineries. Initially they talked about 300 tons of oil at sea, then it rose. In the next few days management by media and state mechanisms was done with more “thin” manipulations. A rundown of former and current ministers, mayors, specialists, shipowners and channelists werr beginning to enthusiastically try to disguise not only the “accident” as they call it, but emphasise the “noble” practices of capitalist development (industries, shipowning capital, trade, tourism, refineries, urban waste water) that for decades have turned Saronikos into a savoy.
The conversation is now focused on the corrective actions to be taken by the state and the ship company in order to eliminate the damage, both as an image and as a memory, spending resources on decontamination mechanisms and specialised techniques for removing oil, the possible compensations that the affected tourist areas will receive. Much care is taken to laud the “superhuman” efforts of the state apparatus that manage to eliminate the oil from the sea and with it another history a degradation of the Saronic Gulf and the lives of its inhabitants.
The sinking of the tanker was not an accident. What is never going to be said is precisely that it was a premeditated crime in the name of capitalist development, the one that spreads only looting and death.
Formany decades Saronikos and its coastal areas, from Perama and Keratsini to Elefsina and Aspropyrgos, Salamina and Psittalia, have exhibited a particular geography. Piraeus is now a transit commodity giant for goods and millions of passengers and tourists from and to the countries abroad as well as to the Aegean islands. Obviously, the burden on the Saronic Gulf from the hundreds of ships of every kind that crosses it daily is systematic. Wastewater and petroleum products leaving ships during their transit are the main cause of desertification of the marine environment and this is a daily “accident” At the same time, hundreds of tankers are loading and unloading oil and various derivatives and “accidents” during transportation are innumerable.
Reading industry research from shipping circles shows that oil spills (from breaking a hose to transhipment) are a constant source of pollution for the Saronic Gulf, and it is easy to see the magnitude of atmospheric pollution from chimneys the refineries and furthermore the burden of the aquifer in the areas of Elefsina and Aspropyrgos from their waste.
The pollution in Saronikos was not “discovered” by the sinking of Agia Zoni II tanker. The latter event is a sharp expression of this daily history of degradation of the areas, the complete depreciation of the inhabitants’ lives and the brutal imposition of polluting civilisation on every facet of their existence. Areas from Perama to Eleusis especially are classically determined, with the inhabitants, on the basis of the class pyramid, to have accepted and incorporated this treaty under blackmail, saying that in order to survive you will have to work in the pollutant and carcinogenic environment refineries and shipbuilding areas. This latest event and its management highlights a normalisation of this irreversibility.
Everything is allowed in the name of the development of this sovereign project which we are urged to join. Such developments, however, are only the realisation of capitalist projects, the material nature of the sovereign impositions.
Particularly in recent years, in a crisis environment and with the establishment of the state’s “permanent emergency”, there is an intensification of these development plans, a re-legitimation in the name of the “salvation of the national economy”, which is accompanied by acceleration in the implementation processes. In the Saronic area this intensification is evident. With the sale of PPA to COSCO, a special economic zone has been created in the region, with special working conditions (the Minister of Labour is already preparing a legislative amendment for the operation of modern galleys). The transit capacity of Piraeus is increasing; COSCO has increased its port capacity to 5.5 million containers.
The “work” at ELPE refiners, Latsis interests and the Greek state, seems to be profitable – 2016 turnover exceeded that of 2015 and amounted to 328 million euros. Obviously, any increase in profits goes hand in hand with the “easing” of labour relations, meaning workers’ exhaustion, incomplete security measures resulting in many injuries and murderous “accidents”, most recently in May 2015 with six injuries and the death of four workers.
We need to address another point. Domestic shipbuilding is a pillar of capitalist development and enjoys particular support from the Greek state. Apart from not taxing industry profits, the industry has imposed a middle-aged workforce, deals with all sorts of smuggling, controls media, football clubs – and even uses club fans as a mercenary army (see Marinakis-Melissanidis). It was funny, therefore, to see both the media and state actors act as though they had discovered America when the smuggling affair in which St. Zion II was involved came to public attention.
The state, with its mechanisms, policies and regulations, is on the side of shipping, petroleum, industrial capital, either left-handed or right-handed. The present government, this social democracy-far right hybrid seems to play its role. On the one hand, it is rushing to smother the magnitude of the disaster, and on the other it seems to be on the side of the victims. A typical example of its commitment to suppressing any social unrest is the management of the Eldorado Gold case: while the destruction of Mount Kakavos is prescribed, it plays the “intransigent” government card and the observance of laws and order, sending the company into a pseudo-procedure of “arbitration.”
The great disaster in the Saronic Gulf is an emphatic point on the roller coaster of the development map. And it is inevitably linked to the already widespread disasters of North America. Halkidiki from the Eldorado Gold mines, the RABE installations (the euphemistically-named renewable energy sources) in every hole of the mountainous masses in Crete, the Peloponnese and others. for the benefit of various energy lobbies, by continuing the diversion of the Acheloos River, but also by cutting the sea areas of the Aegean and the Ionian into “plots” for drilling oil and gas …
And to return to Attica with the plans for mining craters in the Geranian Mountains, the impending destruction of Philadelphia for the benefit of Melissanides, the sale of the former Hellenic Airport to a Latsi interest company to turn it into a controlled zone aimed at high incomes and tourists.
These are just some of the pieces that make up the pillage of land plunder in the name of growth. Sweeping development projects that drain the earth, air, water, energy sources to expand markets reflect an aggressive strategy in shaping the very characteristics of life. The inhabitants of Saronikos will learn to breathe polluted air, to work in galley conditions, to swim in polluted seas, just like the inhabitants of the north-west. Halkidiki will inhale high concentration dust.
The latest crime in the Saronic Gulf area has made visible, due to its extent, a living condition. We seem to become accustomed to the devaluation of our lives, to be definitively and irrevocably subject to the conditions imposed by sovereign plans, to the endless flow of goods, profitability, in terms of exploitation, oppression, pillage. Until life is impregnated by these very values as a whole. Issues of polluting culture are not resolved by quantitative style arrangements: less intervention, less pollution, less profitability. They are not solved by rationalising development.
We are against this treaty, against the polluting civilisation. We wish to re-establish our collective resistance, self-organised and uninvolved. With multi-faceted actions, by strengthening solidarity and networking.
We do not want an “other kind of development”, but the destruction of a world that exploits, inequality, looting.
This world is not rational, it is overturned.
Text of the Occupation Agros that was shared in intervention at Ilion-Ag. Anargyroi following the disaster in the Saronic Gulf. Edited machine translation.