Last week, on March 11, Greece was
shaken by an even bigger general strike than on February 24. As the
government announced its third austerity package the mood of Greek
workers has become one of growing anger and militancy. All the
conditions are there for a massive escalation of the conflict.
March 11, for the second time in two weeks, Greece came to a standstill
as workers came out in a massive general strike. This general strike
was called soon after the announcement by the government of its third
consecutive “package” of anti-working class measures on March 3. This
package takes directly from the pockets of the workers, in both the
public and private sectors, about 1.3 billion euros through an increase
in VAT, and cuts 1.7 billion euros from pensions and government
workers’ wages, and a further 500 million euros from public investments
and 100 million euros from education, with the sole aim of securing
32.5 billion euros to pay interest to the speculators.
These measures were the last straw and produced an explosive
reaction amongst the workers. The first opinion polls showed a
disapproval rating of 80% and 45% in favour of a general strike
throughout the whole population (which means that these percentages
would be even higher amongst the workers). This has made the initial
high popularity ratings of the government a thing of the past within
just a few hours.
There had already been a big demonstration of 25,000 in Athens, two
days after the first announcement, during which Manolis Glezos, the
88-year-old hero of the Greek National Resistance against the Nazis and
veteran leader of the Communist Movement was sprayed in the face with
teargas by a policeman and rushed to hospital with breathing
difficulties. If this had led to the death of Manolis Glezos today we
would be talking of an insurrectional situation in Greek society.
It can be safely said that participation in the strike on March 11
was bigger than on February 24. According to the GSSE, the
participation levels reached 90%. The bourgeois press reported that
30,000 were on the demonstrations in Athens. In fact, those who
witnessed both demonstrations of the GSSE-ADEDY at the Pedion Areos and
of PAME at Omonia Square say that there were 50,000 in total.
There are three important factors that reveal the psychological
state of the working class at this critical point in the struggle.
Firstly, there is anger against the government’s measures and the
capitalist class. Ever more workers are starting to see the naked
brutal class reality and the real role of this government, as their
pockets are emptied in order to secure the super-profits of the Greek
and international speculators.
there is huge distrust of the trade union bureaucracy. It is important
to underline the fact that very few workers actually stayed in the
vicinity of the speakers’ platform, where there were mainly leaders of
unions that are under the control of PASKE [the PASOK faction of the
unions]. The main body of the demonstration at the Pedion Areos turned
their backs on the platform and gathered in front of the Museum where
SYRIZA and other left movements were gathering. This development is a
clear indication that the workers reject the bureaucratic leadership of
the unions. Talking with workers gathered in the square, the lack of
trust in the union leadership was evident. This has emerged during the
talks between the unions, the government and the capitalists, where the
trade union leaders offered no clear stand and gave no alternative to
the measures being proposed.
Thirdly, there is confusion over what demands the working class
should be raising. This is the result of the lack of any clear demands
from the leaderships of both the trade unions and the opposition
workers’ parties, who are simply limiting their demands to calling for
the withdrawal of the measures without proposing any concrete solutions
in favour of the working class.
What needs to be done?
The justified anger and the fighting spirit of the workers by
themselves are not enough to win this battle. The bourgeoisie is
staring default in the face and as they are in a deep recession they
are not going to step back easily. In order to win, the working class
needs to draw up a clear plan of coordination and escalation of the
struggle, with concrete demands that are a real solution to the problem.
Moments like these are historical. If the draconian austerity
measures are allowed go through, this will inevitably create a feeling
of disappointment amongst the workers for a certain period of time. For
the struggle to be effective it must be a united one. To succeed in
this, the leadership of PAME [Communist Party faction in the unions]
should allow the thousands of communists and their comrades in the
trade unions to demonstrate jointly with the rest of the workers! All
the mass political and trade union organisations of the working class
should act jointly. GSEE, ADEDY, SYRIZA and the KKE [Communist Party of
Greece] should set up a united front, calling on the forces of the
PASOK that disagree with the government to also join.
The leadership of the working class must be aware of the fact that
the workers have already made important sacrifices in order to
participate in the struggle against the austerity measures, but without
seeing any results. They have participated in a record-breaking number
of general strikes in the last 4-5 years, losing significant income
without achieving any victories. And apart from this, the workers in
the public sector such as those of DEI, the schoolteachers, the
dockers, the contract workers and local government workers, as well as
participating in these the general strikes, have also organised their
own specific sector strikes with long and bitter battles without
getting any concrete results. In the last few weeks alone, the
government workers have been out on strike many times, losing many
days’ pay. There is a limit to the resistance that workers can put up,
especially in periods of crisis like the one we are passing through.
That is why the leadership has as a duty to immediately build on the
present fighting spirit and not waste it in mobilisations that are not
part of a concrete programme of action. If the workers do not see a
concrete programme of escalation of the struggle and a determination on
the part of the leadership to take the struggle to the end, they will
start to get disappointed. If, on the other hand, they were to see a
united leadership prepared to fight to the end, they would “dig in” and
respond massively to the calls to mobilise, as they would have the
confidence that any sacrifices they make could lead to victory.
So what plans does the leadership have to step up the struggle? No
one knows! All we have is a call from the ADEDY leadership and the
Workers’ Federation for a rally this Tuesday [March 16]. But one more
rally does not equal a stepping up of the struggle. On the contrary, if
it is not accompanied by a more decisive and concrete plan of strike
action, it can actually mean the opposite, i.e. demobilisation. If such
a message is sent in the wider masses of the working class, then what
we will see in such rallies is a leadership of the trade unions that
will feel immense loneliness…
It would be a criminal mistake if now, with the fresh memory of two
successful general strikes, the leadership were to move to so-called
“other forms of action”, instead of decisively stepping up strike
action. The government has no intention of stopping at its latest
measures. On March 7, the bourgeois press announced that a further
200,000 redundancies are expected in the civil service and that wage
cuts are inevitable in the private sector.
This attack against the working class is not going to stop; it will
unfold over a whole period and is part of a concrete plan. That is why
we need to work out our own workers’ plan of action, and adopt a
concrete programme that should be discussed and debated in mass
assemblies in the all the workplaces and working class neighbourhoods.
A first step in such a stepping up of the struggle should be a new,
united, and coordinated 48-hour general strike in the next ten days,
with united and well stewarded mass strike rallies and demonstrations
in all the major cities, combined with the call to the workers in large
enterprises that are being threatened with redundancy or have not had
their wages paid, to occupy the factories and demand nationalisation
under workers’ control and management.
At the same time, it is necessary to raise clear demands that will
show to the workers a way out from the crisis, one that defends their
own class interests. Further to these demands there should be: 1) a
freeze on the repayment of speculative loans, 2) nationalisation of the
banks that would allow the cancellation of 30% of debt that is owned by
the Greek banks, 3) “35 hours, 5 days a week, 7 hours a day” without
any loss in pay in order to fight unemployment, 4) the expropriation
under workers’ control and management of every major company that
threatens closure or redundancies, and so on. (See also the list of
demands we drew up in Marxistiki Foni, published on February 24).
Above all, the leadership of the Left parties must provide an answer
to the agonizing search on the part of the workers for a political
solution. They should abandon their vague discourses and explain to the
workers that the government in saying that the fall in workers’ living
standards is a one way road is a lie and they should explain that
another policy exists. The leaderships of the KKE and SYRIZA should
call on the workers to fight for the nationalisation under workers’
control and management of the commanding heights of the economy and ask
for their political support in order to carry out this policy once they
are in government.
Only by adopting such a stance can we vindicate the struggles of the
workers and provide a positive perspective to Thursday’s big general