After the two-day general strike on 19-20 October, strikes and occupations are continuing across Greece.
Bus, tram, and tube workers strike for 24 hours on Tuesday 25 October. Transport workers strike for 24 hours on Thursday 27 October.
Public sector workers have announced occupations of ministries and public sector buildings for Wednesday 26 October. Lawyers will have a four day strike on 26-27 October and 3-4 November. Teachers have a 24-hour strike on Wednesday 26 October.
In the words of a transport worker: “Workers have the knowledge, the means, and the ability to overthrow this ugly reality”.
Only the workers’ struggle can guarantee that the austerity packages and privatisation plans agreed in parliament cannot be implemented. Only the workers’ actions can invalidate and trash the sophisticated economic modelling of the Troika (European Union, European Central Bank, and IMF), which has not taken into account the most important parameter: the impact of the growing militant working-class movement.
The economic crisis has brought an unprecedented crisis of political representation. The whole political mainstream spectrum is discredited. On a European and worldwide scale, centre-left and centre-right governments alike respond to the economic crisis with an autopilot program of cutbacks and attacks on the welfare state and workers’ rights. They all follow policies that have resulted in the richest 10% of the population owning 100 times more wealth than the poorest 10%.
All factions of the ruling class are at meetings after meetings, summits after summits, trying to gain some time and make political manoeuvres that will allow them to rescue themselves and their class.
Different political scenarios of survival are being explored by the Pasok government, ranging from elections through coalition governments, referendums, or governments with technocrats.
Parliament does not have the answers to the workers’ needs and demands. The “betrayal” by the Pasok party is not just a matter of of its leadership. The Pasok government is following the choices of the capitalist class in an era of a global economical crisis.
A government led by the main opposition party, New Democracy (Greek equivalent of the Tories), or a national emergency coalition government, would follow exactly the same policies.
It falls to the left and the working class organisations to defeat the ultra-right wing scenarios emerging across Europe. In Greece the ultra-right populist party LAOS (roughly similar to UKIP in Britain) has provided political support to the Pasok government for the last two years. The possibility of a coalition government with the participation of LAOS, in the name of “rescuing the country” (i.e. crushing workers’ resistance) is under discussion.
LAOS politicians, members, and supporters have direct links with Xrysi Aygi (the Greek equivalent of the BNP). Despite their current political disagreements, LAOS and Xrysi Aygi were united in previous years pogroms and mobilisations against refugees.
For the working class there is only one alternative: the continuation and escalation of the occupations and strikes.
The working class should go further than one and two day strikes. To the coordination of the ruling class attacks, the working class should respond with a coordination of its actions — with a general strike called and organised from below, by workers, not relying on the union bureaucracy.
Politically bankrupt and therefore dangerous, the Pasok government has escalated its attacks by using the notorious ELAS riot police.
On the first day of the protests, 19 October, as the demonstrators arrived at Syntagma Square, in Athens, outside the parliament building, the police used gas. The square resembled a war zone.
A lot of protesters were hospitalised with breathing problems. Doctors and ambulance drivers had to leave the demonstration to assist the injured protesters.
The protesters proved their resilience and determination by refusing to obey police orders and staying in Syntagma square for several hours.
The next day, 20 October, thousands of protesters flooded the centre of Athens with banners saying: “We owe nothing. We are not selling. We are not paying”.
Tens of thousands of people assembled outside the Greek parliament and the nearby streets as the cuts were about to be voted on.
Inside the Greek parliament heated discussions took place. Despite cosmetic disagreements between the government and the opposition, they were all in agreement on the principle: public spending cuts and privatisations demanded by the French and German banks, President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, and the Troika.
Some Pasok MPs raised verbal disagreements and differentiations, reporting the effects of the second austerity package on people’s lives, feeling the pressure of their constituencies. Former labour minister Louka Katseli voted against a key article of the bill and was subsequently expelled. The rest of the Pasok MPs were blackmailed to vote in favour of cuts by the prime minister Georgios Papandreou and the economics minister, Evangelos Venizelos.
The austerity measures passed by 154 to 144 votes in the 300-member parliament. But the consensus of most of mainstream journalists and media is that the measures cannot be implemented with the majority of people in the streets and on strikes.
The end of the two day general strike was dominated by the violence that erupted between the bloc organised by PAME (a front organisation of the Greek Communist Party, KKE) and the so-called anarchist black bloc. A 53 year old PAME construction worker died from heart failure as a result of the attack, and 73 other protesters were hospitalized with injuries.
Three or four hundred protesters of the so-called anarchist black bloc had marched to Syntagma Square, unimpeded by the ELAS police, and armed with Molotov cocktails. They violently attacked the PAME bloc.
As the PAME workers and stewards fought off the attack, the black bloc anarchists responded with petrol bombs and rocks. The sophistication of the black bloc’s weapons betrays the premeditated nature of their attacks.
The riot police subsequently got the excuse to intervene, attacking PAME protesters and members of the black bloc alike.
The role of the Greek police and its “darker” not-so-legal parts, their relations with LAOS, and their use of infiltrators is up for investigation. (Compare the recent exposures of the British police role in infiltrating the environmental movement, inciting and even committing acts of violence).
KKE secretary Aleka Paparyga has made serious accusations about the black bloc protesters. She pointed to web sites that predicted the attacks on the PAME block a couple of days in advance, and questioned the reluctance of the riot police to prevent the attack taking place by stopping the black bloc from approaching Syntagma Square.
She claimed that police and members of the black bloc celebrated together on the evening of 20 October), and that she had photographic evidence of police changing into black bloc gear.
Rizospastis, the KKE newspaper, has provided photographic evidence of the similarity of the weapons used by the riot police and by the black bloc.
This has alarmed the Pasok government, and the secretary of state has ordered a legal enquiry.
As well as infiltrators and provocateurs, for whom the black bloc gives such easy openings, there are sections within the movement influenced by anarchism who reduce the defeat of corporate capitalism to the smashing of corporate capitalism’s window screens.
They reduce the defeat of the capitalist state to a guerrilla-type confrontation with the police. They believe that the government can be overthrown if only they get through the police lines and break into the parliament building. They try to artificially speed up the maturation of the working class movement by acting for the working class but without the working.
They try to create “revolutionary situations” outside the needs and the level of struggle of the working-class movement. They dismiss working-class structures, such as trade unions, as hierarchical structures of power, oppression, and corruption. They oscillate between throwing Molotov petrol bombs and the comfort of their sofas.
The different political perspectives and ways forward for the working-class movement should be tested during the struggle and should be discussed and debated openly in general meetings, rather than bypassed and hijacked by arbitrary actions by the black bloc.
Even if we assume that the black bloc was not infiltrated by the police, still their action did not advance the struggle. On the contrary. It polarised the PAME workers and supporters against the fictitious enemy of the “other left”, and rescued the KKE leadership from the pressure, exerted by the rank and file, for a united workers’ front.
At the same time we should not fall into the trap of prettifying the politics and tactics of the KKE. The KKE was trying to protect its bloc against all other blocs of demonstrators. KKE was not protecting the working-class movement. It was protecting the parliament against the anger of the majority of the working-class protesters.
The Stalinists’ exclusivist claim that KKE is the sole consistent representative of the working-class movement and KKE ‘s stridency against other tendencies of the movement have rightly angered big sections of the workers.
However, KKE’s sectarian and opportunistic stance does not justify the violent attacks of the black bloc
For revolutionary Marxists the confrontation with KKE’s reformist politics is first of all a political confrontation. Our paramount duty is to politically speed up the self-organisation and radicalisation of the working class and contribute to the build-up of a real revolutionary party around the organised labour movement.
The solution lies in the power of workers’ struggles. As the struggles evolve and escalate, the workers are looking for solutions to defend their lives and rights, outside the “whole system” and its laws and structures.
It is essential for the revolutionary left, not only to participate and observe the struggles, but to help organise, coordinate, support, self-defend, escalate, and politicise the struggles.
The revolutionary left should be at the vanguard of all the struggles and win the workers to a radical, anti-capitalist program of transitional demands.
• Abolish the debt. Not a penny to the creditors
• Freeze and abolish workers’ debts
• Civil disobedience and refusal to pay government-imposed taxes
• Nationalisation under workers’ control of the banks and the big business with no compensation
• Workers’ control of prices, wage increases, reduction in working hours, work for all
• Pension increases in line with wages, reduction in the age of retirement
• Ban redundancies. Unemployment benefit in line with wages
• For a public sector in the service of the people and society’s needs against today’s public sector tied up with corporations, contractors and corruption
• For an extension of education, health, transportation and welfare state provision.
It’s time for politics. Time for anti-capitalist revolutionary working-class politics from a revolutionary left which is not going to confine itself to being the left-wing version of the existing political establishment and the discredited and decaying parliament.
From a revolutionary left which is going to place itself on the vanguard of struggles against the poverty and destitution of the working class, with a revolutionary anti-capitalist manifesto, and a united-front logic and culture, in connection with the strategic aim of the revolutionary overthrow of the system.
A revolutionary left which is going to reinvent politics not as a technique to manipulate the masses but as a medium for self-liberation of the masses.
At the end of the Argentinian revolution, a helicopter rescued the president from the angry crowd. Let’s hope that an helicopter will not be enough to rescue the Greek ruling class.