As the German government proposes that the EU and ECB should insist on an external “commissioner” running Greece’s budget, it has been revealed that four million bills for the new regressive property tax, imposed as part of the Greek government’s cuts programme, have not been paid.
According to the power workers’ Genop-Dei, 1.5 million bills have passed their expiry date, and 250,000 have gone beyond the 80-day threshold after which the government sends orders for cutting off the electricity supply. In order to increase the pressure to pay, the government has made the new tax payable as a part of electricity bills.
The state power company DEI has issued 50,000 orders for cutting off electricity supply to households. But the Genop-Dei trade union has asked every worker instructed to take part in cutting off a household’s electricity supply to ignore the orders and actively obstruct the subcontractors.
20,000 cutting-off orders have been passed to private subcontractors. However, the government, under pressure from the massive non-payment movement, has decided reluctantly to freeze the cutting-off orders. Only 100 households have had electricity cut off.
The government and DEI bosses have refused to publish the figures.
However, the government’s temporary climbdown of the government should not make the non-payment movement complacent. Working-class people should organise in every neighbourhood; call general meetings; and organise self-defence teams and support for households threatened with cut-off.
A lot of private sector electricians’ unions have issued statements of solidarity with non-payers, and under the social pressure of the non-payment movement a lot of private sector subcontractors have refused the disgraceful “business” of cut-offs. Of course there will still be a lot of subcontractors who will not resist the profit to be made from cut-offs.
It is very important for the non-payment movement to organise in each neighbourhood a first-aid team of electricians who will reconnect people’s electricity supply. Such teams have already been organised in some areas.
The movement is stronger, and the number of people that have refused to pay is bigger, in neighbourhoods where the movement has the active support of the council.
For example in Nea Ionia, which has a left-wing council, the councillors issued a statement in which they asked the people to refuse to pay the regressive property tax and offered legal support and technical back-up and guarantees of reconnection to every household that had its electricity cut off.
2500 people in Nea Ionia refused to pay their tax.
Other councils, under the pressure of the neighbourhood committees and general open meetings, have been forced to make statements against the imposition of the regressive property tax. Some of those statements have proven empty promises because they were not backed up by the councillors’ active support for the households that have not paid the regressive property tax.
An equivalent to the British anti-poll-tax movement of 1989-91 is spreading all around Greece with thousands of people refusing en masse to pay the tax and organising their resistance. The non-payment movement reintroduces in every neighbourhood the concept of solidarity and the potential of collective resistance and struggle, which are the only tools that the people have in order to defeat the government.
Open meetings are taking place in every neighbourhood. Neighbourhood activists organise protests and sit-ins outside their local DEI offices and outside the subcontractors’ offices were the orders for cut-offs are being received.
A few months ago the government gave explicit orders to DEI to accept payment of electricity bills only alongside the payment of the regressive property tax. As a result of the non-payment movement protests, some local DEIs (Khfhsia, Keratsini) have backed down and have accepted people paying only the electricity part of the bill and not the regressive property tax.
The private company Geroh Ltd, which had been assigned the cut-off orders for the whole of Athens, was forced to shut down its “business” after an occupation of its offices by non-payment activists. Genop-Dei has published on the internet the details of every private company hired by the government for cut-offs.
People who have appealed to justice to declare illegal the threat of cutting off their electricity have won. 173 citizens of Petrupoli, supported by the KKE-dominated council, have won their court cases against the government orders.
The non-payment movement should intensify and escalate its action. The imposition of the regressive property tax is equivalent to robbery from the majority of working people.
And the tax and the other austerity measures cannot save Greece from bankruptcy. On the contrary, they are bankrupting the people of Greece.
The revenues go to feed the black hole of the Greek debt, while the people get poorer. One million are unemployed; and 30% living below the poverty line. But the debt increases, as the shrinkage of economic activity pushes down government revenues faster than the new taxes can raise them.
The coordination of all the multiple forms of actions and different types of political and social community movements that are developing in every neighbourhood of Greece is of paramount importance. Furthermore it is important for the neighbourhood community movements to strengthen their links with the trade unionists and the organised working class movement.
A united front of the neighbourhood movement, the Genop-Dei trade union, and the council workers has already recorded some victories against the regressive property tax.
A united front between the workers and the community movement can do more: coordinate and organise local neighbourhood activities so as to generalise the political confrontation against the government.
On Friday 27 January, people protested outside the parliament against the regressive property tax, stating that they would carry on their struggle until the government withdraws the regressive property tax and other imposed taxes.
They make clear that they will carry on their struggle to the defeat of the coalition government that is leading Greece to ever-increasing poverty. Representatives from local neighbourhood movements and from networks of solidarity movements, and trade unionists from Syriza and Antarsya were present.
• No house with no electricity. Enough is enough! We do not owe even a penny to the government, the bankers, the EU, and the IMF
• We are not paying regressive taxes. We are not paying for their crisis. We are not paying for their debts
• Nationalise all public utility companies under workers’ control
• For a united front of trade unionists, neighbourhood activists, and left-wing councillors
United, we can overthrow the coalition government and the political establishment that supports it.