Greece: on the brink of a social explosion

Submitted by martin on 25 May, 2010 - 5:53 Author: OKDE activists

Paulin, Giannis, and Mika, activists from the Greek revolutionary socialist group OKDE, spoke to Solidarity on 22 May.

We asked first whether any new committees or coordinations have emerged which allow rank-and-file workers to discuss and develop perspectives independent of the bureaucratic leadership of the unions.

There are no real rank-and-file coordinations at present. But at the base of the workers' movement, a lot of new unions have emerged.

["First-level" or "base" unions in Greece are typically fairly small, often limited to single workplaces or cities. There are about 4000 of them under the umbrellas of the two big confederations, ADEDY (government employees) and GSEE (other workers).]

But in the general strike of 5 May, hundreds of unions emerged which have not been seen in activity before. No-one knows who controls them.

There are a lot of problems in developing an alternative leadership, to do with the politics of the far left. Many of the far left groups have lost the revolutionary traditions they should have from the past. But the situation is explosive.

The history of social struggle in Greece shows us periods of explosive revolt. We think we are very close to that now. We are close to a level of revolt which cannot be controlled.

There is a coordinating committee of "base" unions. But in that committee there is no real participation of the workers, and no serious discussion of creating a workers' front and developing the struggle.

The coordination is mostly controlled by Synapsismos [the former "Eurocommunist" wing of the Greek Communist Party], but with some representation of far-left tendencies too. It does not have a single policy. Every group in it has its own policy.

We [OKDE] take part in that coordination as observers. For the moment the coordination does not have a revolutionary direction. But organisations of that sort can play a very important role in developing the movement.

Only about ten "first-level" unions really participation in the coordination, and maybe 50 just sign up to support it. Some "first-level" unions are just signboards. You don't see them organising contingents on the big demonstrations.

The coordination does a lot of its communication by internet. After the huge mobilisation on 5 May it called no quick meeting. The bureaucratic tendency in the coordination wrote a statement about the deaths of the three bank-workers killed in a fire on 5 May, and called a demonstration the next day, without consulting anyone else. The coordination didn't meet until two weeks after 5 May.

At the meetings there are maybe fifty people.

The currents represented there played a role in struggles a couple of years ago. The coordination was set up then. Now it has been reconstructed with a different composition. But the leaders of the coordination don't see it as a tool for the struggle, just as an instrument to win electoral support.

We don't believe it is possible to fight for change within the coordination. There are more important things to do. There will be a coordination of some sort, but this coordination is at a lower level than the "base" organisations. It is "top-down".

Our policy is that we must build new "base" unions to fight for workers' rights, especially the rights of "precarious" [casual] workers, who are a very big part of the working class, many of them immigrants. Neither Synapsismos nor most of the far-left groups fight for those immigrant workers' rights.

We must fight for coordination at the base, with workers' participation, with unifying demands to address specific needs. We need a transitional programme, with demands including cancellation of the debt, expulsion of the IMF, a ban on sackings, and nationalisation of enterprises under workers' control.

We fight inside the unions for real coordination and for this programme.

The union bureaucracy [GSEE and ADEDY] does not prepare the general strikes. It does not inform the workers. It does not call meetings. It just announces that there will be a general strike on a particular day.

In the workplaces where we have activists we try to get assemblies to inform the workers and find out what the workers want to fight for. We want a struggle defined by the workers, not by the bureaucratic leaderships.

We argue for creating strike committees and picket lines. In general there are workplace assemblies and picket lines on the one-day general strikes only at those places where the far left has activists.

Many "first-level" unions do have their own contingents on the big demonstrations. But Greek industry is mostly small-scale. There are not many big enterprises.

There aren't many meetings, demonstrations, or strikes between the different one-day general strikers.

Power will be wrested from the bureaucracy in the course of a big rank and file revolt, not through a normal procedure of elections and so on. In the history of Greece, mass movements are not usually led by the trade-union structures.

The crisis has led to a high level of confusion on the far left. Many far left groups do not have a policy of intervening and struggling within the working class. Instead they seek to win support for a general "anti-capitalism". We think Antarsya [an alliance of far-left groups] is like that.

Rank and file working-class activists have a tradition of struggle, but do not have the analysis and political programme necessary to take the struggle forward.

There is a huge destruction of the middle classes in Greece. The social basis of bourgeois power in Greece for the last 20 years has been the middle class and the workers' aristocracy, and those layers are being massively destroyed. They feel humiliated by IMF intervention, and very angry.

The situation is already very difficult, and will become more so. When the revolt expands out of control, the imperialist organisations will intervene to try to suppress it. We need the help of the European workers' movement.

We can't know what the trigger will be for a larger revolt. Maybe a killing on the streets by the police, maybe something else. But we have to prepare. The Greek working class, especially the young workers in casual jobs, have nothing to lose.

European governments are afraid of a big revolt in Greece. The collapse of Greek capitalism could have a domino effect. And the revolt of the Greek working class could have a domino effect too, especially in Portugal, Spain, and Italy.

Pasok [the governing party in Greece, social-democratic] has expelled three MPs for opposing the cuts. That shows the crisis of the political system in Greece. Pasok and New Democracy [the main right-wing party] have lost their base of support. There is nothing to connect them with the masses.

We think Pasok is finished as a party. Maybe some elements of it will re-emerge under a different name, but it is finished. There is no point talking about Pasok and its base. Over the last twenty years they have sold out everything they once had. They are completely corrupt. They have lost the base they had, maybe, in the 1980s. They no longer have the organisation in neighbourhoods that they had in the past.

We thought that this dismissal of Pasok seemed unlikely to be true - if social-democratic parties lost all their support to the left whenever they took drastic measures against the working class, then those parties would have ceased to exist decades ago - but we wanted to press on to discuss other issues.

The Greek Communist Party was the biggest party of the working class for a whole period, although it was always against working-class struggles that it didn't control.

Its orientation now is totally sectarian. It always calls its own separate demonstrations on the general strike days. Its tactics are all designed to win electoral support.

It is losing more and more activists from the base, but it wins people from the middle class which is being destroyed and from parts of the working class with low class-consciousness. Workers and youth do not trust the KKE.

It uses very revolutionary rhetoric, but the union fronts which the KKE controls have no power to call strikes. And their message comes down to saying that it would be all right if only the KKE were in the government.

The KKE demonstration on 5 May was very big - maybe 100,000 - but most of that was people joining the first demonstration they met, rather than deciding to support the KKE. The KKE's demonstrations are usually more like 5,000 or 10,000, and mostly students. The KKE has a big student organisation. Its base is mainly students and much older people.

Syriza, the coalition led by Synapsismos, is quite big, though smaller than the KKE. It is a loose organisation. Unlike the KKE, it participates in struggles. Workers don't dislike Synapsismos, and it has some influence among youth.

But they don't do anything to organise the working class in struggle. Instead they take part in struggles with a view to winning votes.

The KKE wants Greece to leave the European Union. Syriza does not oppose the EU, and says that the EU could be friendly to the working class, though it isn't now.

For OKDE, the EU is an imperialist organisation. We support every movement that wants Greece to get out of the EU. Greece cannot develop in a socialist way within the EU. We are for a Socialist United States of Europe.

We ended the discussion by arguing over this question of the EU. From Solidarity and AWL, we said that a socialist revolution in Greece would surely disrupt Greece's EU membership, but the converse doesn't hold. Greece leaving the EU would not take it any closer to socialism.

The OKDE comrades were not convinced, and the debate will continue.

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