by Matthew Cookson
Greece is aflame with strikes and mass struggle. All public sector workers struck on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Private sector workers joined them on Wednesday creating another general strike – the fourth this year.
Athens saw the biggest May Day marches in the country for 25 years.
Workers have found a new surge of energy – teachers forced their way into the main state broadcaster’s studio in Athens on Monday to protest against cuts and read out a statement live on air.
Communist Party activists draped banners reading “Peoples of Europe rise up” from the Acropolis on Tuesday as the public sector strikes began.
This intensification is due to the government’s plans to drive through new austerity measures after it agreed a bailout with the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The EU-IMF 110 billion euro deal is reliant on the government pushing through even harsher measures against Greek workers, who have already seen their living standards fall through the floor.
Average income has declined by 20 percent this year alone.
The new plans include spending cuts of 36 billion euros, or 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, in the next three years.
Public sector workers face a three-year wage freeze, are losing their Easter and Christmas bonuses and will see more cuts in their benefits. VAT is to increase to 23 percent.
The attacks have unleashed a wave of struggle. The fightback will have to become even more powerful to defeat the forces arrayed against it.
“The union leaders were forced to call this week’s action by pressure from below”, said Panos Garganas, the editor of the Workers Solidarity newspaper in Greece.
“There are big arguments among the left. The Communist Party and the Syriza coalition oppose the calls for all-out strikes, making it hard to win in the unions. But the anger is such that they are beginning to lose the argument.
“Some on the left think that the unions should push for a purely political answer with a general election or a referendum on the cuts. We are saying they have their priorities wrong, and that we need a strike wave to stop the measures and win political change.”
The Labour-like Pasok party came to power last year after pledging it would not cut wages. Its betrayal of that promise means that many of its supporters and members are open to more radical policies and militant action.
“Many workers in my trade union branch are Pasok supporters,” said Seraphim Rizos, a teacher in Crete.
“But last week the left won its proposal at an assembly for an all-out strike – the first time in a decade we’ve won a majority.
“People understand that we can’t overthrow the measures by striking for just 24 hours at a time. They are searching for something else – the radical left has to provide clarity.
“It will be very hard to win. We need to increase the level of struggle to do that.”
The EU and the IMF are planning similar austerity measures for countries such as Portugal and Spain – though workers there are also resisting.
A victory for workers in Greece can set an example for other workers.
The European radical left has produced a statement on the crisis in Greece (see » European radical left statement on the crisis ) that has been welcomed by the anti-capitalist Antarsya coalition.
It has issued a statement saying, “Antarsya insists on the need for an escalation of struggles, with general and sectoral strikes and mass rallies that will challenge the attack… We will keep on fighting with all our forces.
“It is time for a coordinated international answer to the attempt by capitalists, the EU and the IMF to impose the cost of crisis upon workers.
“The forces of the anti-capitalist left of Europe must stand up to the challenge. With confidence in the potential of collective struggle and workers’ militancy, we can defeat the forces of capital and open up the way for the anti-capitalist alternative.”
The Greek anti-capitalist coalition Antarsya’s programme includes:
- Disobedience against IMF and EU directives
- Exit from the eurozone and the European Monetary Union
- Struggle for an anti‑capitalist exit from the EU
- The immediate stoppage of foreign debt payments
- Give money to workers not bankers
- Nationalisation of banks under workers’ control
- Demand the taxation of capital and immediate cuts to military expenditures
- Ban lay-offs
- Secure and decent jobs for all
- Immediate increase to wages
- Protect collective agreements
- Legalise immigrants
- Political asylum and shelter for refugees
- Public social security, health system, and education for all
» Capitalist debt is crushing Greece
» Greek workers aren't lazy: ‘We are stretched and stressed’
» European radical left statement on the crisis