Mass Casualties at Sea Are the Bourgeois Response to the Cries for Help from the Masses of Migrants Fleeing Wars, Repression and Misery by Sea. After Cutru and Hundreds of other Cemeteries, Pylos Proves It again.
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 20; Autumn-Winter 2023)
On the night of 13-14 June, yet another mass casualty of migrants occurred in the Mediterranean Sea. The fishing boat Adriana, with some 750 people on board, including more than a hundred children and women below deck, sank in the very deepest stretch of sea in the Mediterranean: some 47 nautical miles (60 km) south-west of the Greek town of Pylos lies the Kalypso Trench, more than 5 000 meters deep. It was here that the fishing boat sank, taking more than 600 people with it.
The Adriana departed from Tobruk on the east coast of Libya and was heading for Italy; the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre alerted the Greek Operations Centre on Tuesday 13 June morning to a fishing boat «in distress», which was also spotted by a Frontex aircraft at 9.47am. There was talk of 750 people on board, which is too many for such a vessel. It was the Italian operations center that located the boat 60 miles off the Greek coast and 260 miles off the Italian coast, in the sea corridor used by smugglers to avoid Maltese territorial waters. During Tuesday morning, Athens was alerted and informed, without eliciting any response. At 13.50, a Greek helicopter took to the air and spotted the fishing boat at 15.35; meanwhile, a Greek coastguard ship set sail from Crete, more than 400 km as the crow flies from the Adriana’s location. If they wanted to stall in the hope that the vessel would continue its journey to Italy, thus getting rid of any problems and difficulties for the Greek authorities, they found a way to do so. However, at 2.17pm, a cry for help went out from the Adriana via satellites, and the NGO Alarm Phone warned that the fishing boat was «reporting that they could not survive the night, that they were in serious trouble». Indeed, the survivors testify, they had not eaten for several days and drank only seawater.
It is only at 18.30 that Athens reports that they contacted the fishing boat, claiming that the vessel «did not want any help other than food and water» and that they «wished to continue to Italy», whilst a Greek helicopter radioed that «the boat was on a steady course and at an unchanged speed». Lies! The reality turns out to be quite different, as evidenced by the testimony of the Alarm Phone, which insists that the ship was off course for hours. Adriana receives food and water from the Maltese merchant ship at 18:00 and then from the Greek ship at around 21:00, then nothing. The Greek coastguard ship that set off from Crete arrived at the vessel at 22:40, after a seven-hour voyage! and kept a «discreet distance, finding no problems with the navigation of the vessel». Lies! The ship had been drifting off course for several hours, as the captain had already left the vessel in a small boat at 5.20pm. Tragedy was inevitable: the Greek Coastguard vessel at 02:04 claimed that it «saw the fishing boat listing to starboard, then sharply to port side and then again to starboard», so steeply «that it caused the vessel to capsize», which then sank within the following «10 or 15 minutes» (1).
The sea was calm, no rough sea, the rescue could have been carried out without much difficulty and many hours earlier, only the will was needed. But the Greek authorities, as is now the custom, do not think at all of rescuing migrants in distress at sea; if they die, it is because they brought it on themselves, when it would have been enough if they had not set out in such excessive numbers… It sounds as if we heard the highest-ranking of the Italian police, Piantedosi, in the face of the mass casualty at Cutro, who found nothing better to say than that... they should not have set sail in such conditions…
Mass casualties like this one are not events due to fatality; they are the criminal result of a long series of policies that the bourgeoisies, especially if they are rich and equipped with the best technology, the best instruments and the most effective means of rescue, have long adopted to defend their interests and their borders. They are very capable of instigating wars and devastation of countries outside Europe, and they express the highest degree of cynicism and contempt for the lives of that part of the human population which they regard as of the third, fourth or fifth category, as in the days of the slave trade from Africa.
The European bourgeoisies are primarily responsible for the disastrous conditions into which entire populations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, areas from which migrants come to Europe, have been plunged. First colonialism and then imperialism, with the consequent devastation of the «conquered» territories and the enslavement of hundreds of millions of Africans and Asians, have turned these continents into territories where nothing is born but poverty, hunger, slavery, plunder, oppression and wars, and where it has always been the rule to exploit as much as possible the natural and human resources for the wealth and prosperity of the capitalist metropolises.
What is left of the capitalist civilization that Europeans exported to other continents, apart from the technical industrial progress on which the local bourgeoisie grew up, yearning for power and blood more than the European bourgeoisie? The general impoverishment of the indigenous population and its transformation overwhelmingly into proletarian and enslaved masses, destined to survive in misery, hunger and oppression by local potentates supported and sponsored by the highly civilized European imperialists, joined in the last eighty years by the US imperialists.
It is from these extreme situations that migrants run away, seeking a place in rich, civilized and «peaceful» Europe where they will not starve to death or die in unwanted wars.
Bourgeois Europe is a fortress, but it is no longer sure of its power: it feels besieged by the masses of African migrants and those from the Orient who are pressing hard on its borders and eroding its security and the smooth running of trade and business. Europe is not a unitary state, it is a collection of states closely linked for economic, financial and political reasons, brought about by the increasingly intense competition from historic non-European imperialisms such as the United States, Japan, Russia and, more recently, China. A collection of states that have never ceased to compete and wage wars against each other because the history of their capitalist and imperialist formation inevitably leads them to clash. This does not detract from the fact that the European states associated in the European Union try to act in concert when faced with situations that they consider dangerous for the functioning and defense of their affairs and interests. This was and is the case in the Russian-Ukrainian war, in the face of which, apart from a few minor deviations, they acted and are acting as warmongers in perfect concert, under the supervision of the United States, of course; and it is a case of the fight against so-called illegal immigration, which has been going on for several decades, in which the policy of denial, repatriation, protective barriers, military patrols in the Mediterranean Sea and imprisonment in lagers called reception centres for migrants and asylum seekers demonstrate the «high degree of civilization» of Europe.
Given the geographical location, it is inevitable that migration flows from Africa and the East are concentrated on maritime routes in the eastern and central Mediterranean, while land routes are concentrated on the Balkans. Italy and Greece are therefore the two European countries of natural disembarkation and transit for these flows, while the coasts of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey are their gathering, starting and embarkation points. And it is natural that, in a society where money, arrogance and crime reign, in every crisis situation into which the weakest part of the population is plunged in the daily struggle for survival, organized crime systematically triumphs; whether it is organized outside the laws of the established order, or by the established order itself, the final result is unchanged: the proletariat, the poor, the dispossessed of everything, even the hope of life, are the predestined victims. The color of their skin, because they are not white, is another negative characteristic, but not necessarily a decisive one. Torturers, murderers, executioners almost always have the same skin color as the victims: they simply correspond to private, individual and clan interests that pursue the most bestial and violent exploitation of the defenseless masses, wherever they come from or wherever they want to go.
As long as there are bourgeois and capitals, as long as the social life of all peoples is forced to respond to the laws of capitalism and suffer all the consequences, even the most tragic ones, of the economic and social contradictions that characterize bourgeois society, there will be no peace on this earth, no equality and freedom to live, but there will be constant massacres both in work and in crossing seas and deserts; there will be repression and torture of all those who do not bow down to the god of Capital and its earthly proxies who sit in the seats of government from which they decide the life and death of millions and millions of people.
To fight against this state of affairs seems impossible; and to escape from the most dramatic situations in any way, by taking any risk, seems to be the only thing anyone can do to escape what seems to be an already written judgement: starving to death. And so one attempts an absurd journey fraught with risks and dangers of all kinds, pits one’s strength against the laws of men and nature, only to settle in a place other than the one that has turned into an abyss into which one will sooner or later fall. However, the mass casualty in Pylos, as well as those in Cutro, Lampedusa and off the coasts of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, prove the great courage of migrants, their tenacious perseverance, with which they have tried and try again for years to land in Europe, which, in the imagination of the centuries of starving and oppressed masses, has taken on the appearance of a kind of peaceful and welcoming refuge, while in reality it turns out to be a different sort of hell, are individual qualities not only for the struggle for survival, but also for a different kind of struggle: the proletarian struggle, the struggle of the working class who create the real wealth of every country, the struggle that unites across nationalities, color, sex, age, level of education or acquired expertise all the men and women that the very development of the world economy has inexorably spawned – i.e. wage workers. The force inherent in the wage workers, created by capitalism itself, instead of being put at the exclusive service of capitalism, and therefore of the bourgeoisie that defends its mode of production and laws, can be directed to blow up from the ground up this society of massacres, of the economy of catastrophes, of destructive wars, of the endless exploitation of the vast majority of the world’s population.
The fear of every bourgeoisie, especially the rich bourgeoisies of Europe, is not so much that their countries will be invaded by uncontrollable masses of migrants; if anything, it is an unpleasant problem that every bourgeoisie tries to pass on to the bourgeoisies of other countries, especially the countries of origin of the migrants, by paying for «services» in the billions, in the form of arms supplies, favorable economic-financial contracts, etc., so that these countries themselves can keep the masses of migrants confined in their lagers.
The real fear of every bourgeoisie, especially the rich bourgeoisie of Europe, is that the courage and willingness of the migrants to sacrifice even their own lives in order to reach a goal that no bourgeoisie guarantees them in this life-and-death struggle, will contaminate the European proletarians, will awaken them from their toxic slumber, into which they have been trapped for decades, imprisoned on a kind of happy island of consumerism, to which they have been lured despite their real conditions as wage-laborers, i.e. workers whose lives depend solely on their wages, otherwise misery and hunger will accompany their lives. The struggle to life and death is a daily necessity for European proletarians, as it is for proletarians in every other country, as it is for every migrant deprived of all his possessions. Two myths must fall: for European proletarians, the myth that they have a better life than the billions of proletarians in the poorest countries, which appears as a social status that is currently consolidated and no longer under threat; while for proletarians in countries on the imperialist periphery, the myth of Europe as a land of peace, prosperity and freedom must fall, a myth that has lasted too long and that has begun to be shattered by recent economic, financial and war crises such as the Russian-Ukrainian one.
The life of the proletariat, under whatever sky, is either a life of struggle – primarily for survival, but also for human dignity – or it is a useless life of renunciation that society itself discards as unrecyclable waste.
And the struggle of the proletarians, if it is to have a future, must inevitably place at its centre the class interests which unite them, beyond all boundaries, in a revolutionary class union which alone can counter the social, political and military power of the bourgeoisie and its thugs. It is only by moving in this direction that the proletarians will be able to say that they have not fought in vain, that they have not died in vain, because up to now the casualties and massacres have done nothing but pile up one after the other, without changing anything, without touching their very social roots.
(1) News and quotes were taken from «il fatto quotidiano» of 16. 6. 2023, from https://www.blitzquotidiano.it/cronaca-europa/
June, 19th 2023
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