At the beginning of December there were clashes between the police and protestors in Athens. The protests marked the first anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager. Thanos Andritsos, member of Communist Liberation Youth, Greek movement, spoke to Ed Maltby.
Q: What were the protests about?
A: On 6 December 2008, a fifteen year old student ,Alexis Grigoropoulos, was killed by the police. The following days an unprecedented social upheaval arose, that shocked the world. The real causes of the revolt — unemployment and poverty, a nonexistent future for a generation, oppression and state authoritarianism — persist or worsen within the capitalist crisis. This was a starting point for new struggles.
Q: What form are the protests taking? Who is taking part?
A: In the last few years many more new and radical forms of mass struggle have been adopted. The occupations of university faculties and schools remain the most important. Occupations of public buildings (town halls, municipal offices) are becoming more common. All are related to a constant presence on the streets, daily demonstrations, often resulting in massive clashes with the police. The police are becoming more aggressive.
Before the leadership belonged to college students and only some sections of the workers and high school students participated. But last year’s uprising was a breakthrough and marked a change.
Its “heart” was the students, but for the first time young workers, the unemployed and immigrants came out to fight in the streets... Here was a broad social force, which has been deeply exploited and marginalised for years. Although more “traditional” sections of the working class were absent, the battling classes within modern capitalism appeared for the first time.
Q: What links are there between students and the labour movement?
A: Here lies one of the main weaknesses of the Greek movement. It hasn’t yet found permanent channels of communication and coordination. There have been meetings, committees etc. but they aren’t enough. There are specific reasons for these failures.
The official trade union movement plays a treacherous role against the working class, while the biggest forces of the left are uninterested in building independent organisation and the regeneration of the labour movement — a movement that could be in contact with youth struggles. Most of the young workers that demonstrate aren’t organised by the official trade union movement.
Q: How are students organising?
A: There are differences between the college students and school students. The college student movement is very strong and of historical importance. Despite ups and downs, it often manages to provoke wider social confrontations. The general assemblies of universities, occupation committees and so on are rights the students have won. For school students, the situation is different.
Democratic processes are unknown to many and they often come up against the authoritarianism of teachers and police.
Q: Is there a single political voice for the movement? How might such a voice be created?
The integration of all the parts of the movement, from schools and colleges to workplaces in shared democratic processes will create a common movements and demands. There is no such thing right now, we’re struggling for its creation.
On the other hand the issue of political forces is complex because a very wide range — from the parliamentary left to the anarchists — support the demonstrations. The exception is the Communist Party. Clearly, a single political voice doesn’t exist, and in my opinion, it could not. I advocate fighting for common action from all forces of the left within the movement. and for the political unity of revolutionary communist forces as well.