Last week started with a 24 hour strike on 7 February called by the two union federations GSEE and ADEDY, and ended with a 48-hour general strike on Friday-Saturday 10-11 February and the re-emergence of last summer’s “Indignant Citizens’” movement in the city square on Sunday 12th.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered outside the Greek parliament in Athens and in the squares of every Greek city to call for the overthrow of the Papademos coalition government and the cuts.
The massive participation signalled the start of a political meeting-up and coordination between the ongoing strike movement in the private sector and the community and neighbourhood movements.
The government, although safely protected by police, panicked and ordered the police to use gas against the protesters long before the black block started provocations. The police did not hesitate to use gas even against 89 year old Manolis Glezos, a famous veteran of the Greek national liberation struggle against Nazi occupation, and against Mikis Theodorakis, the most famous Greek composer. Glezos and 58 other protesters were hospitalised with breathing problems.
Not even that was enough to make the protesters abandon Syntagma square, so organised groups of police infiltrators, alongside political idiots and self-proclaimed saviours of the Greek working class, started throwing Molotov cocktails and burning buildings in the centre of Athens, untouched by the police, who were focusing their attacks against unarmed peaceful protesters. The end result of the provocations was the dispersal of the protesters.
Images of looting and historic buildings in fire were instantly transmitted by the media, propagating a picture of Greece beset by looting and chaos and downplaying the hundreds of thousands of Syntagma Square protesters.
Papademos, and the politicians who voted through the new cuts for him, say they want to safeguard our wages and pensions.
But they have reduced our pensions by 20% and they have slashed our wages by 40% via their first memorandum.
They are further attacking private sector wages and pensions with their second memorandum.
The poorer one is, the bigger is the reduction in income. The minimum wage will be reduced by 22%, and the minimum wage for under-25s, by 32%. The government is abolishing collective bargaining agreements and legislation that protects workers’ conditions.
They say they want to safeguard fuel supplies for us.
But they have handed over the energy sector to private monopolies. They have doubled the price of fuel, in Greece’s coldest ever winter, and made it unaffordable for a lot of pensioners, unemployed, and working-class people.
They say they care about the provision of health care.
But from the first memorandum, they have reduced social spending on health. They have placed numerous restrictions on prescriptions. They have deprived pensioners of free prescriptions. They are slashing the wages and dismantling the working conditions of all health workers. With the second memorandum they are cutting healthcare spending by a further 1.5%.
They say they do not want to see a Greece with empty shelves.
But their policies have led to 400,000 small shopkeepers closing down within the last two years; millions of people relegated to unemployment and social exclusion; more than 20,000 people homeless in Athens; 150,000 public sector workers pushed into unemployment by 2015. 27.2% of Greeks (three million) are living below the poverty line.
They say they want to safeguard food supplies.
But their policies have led to young children fainting at school because of lack of adequate food.
Their policies have led to a dramatic increase of people living in absolute poverty and to queues for charity meals.
They say they want to get €130 billion for Greece from the second bailout fund.
But in the single year 2012 they will be handing over €190 billion to the bondholders in interest payments and settlement of expired bonds.
The second memorandum, the conditions demanded by the EU, European Central Bank, and IMF for a further “bail-out”, was handed to MPs on Saturday only hours before they would vote on it, on Sunday 12th. As in Alice Through The Looking Glass: voting on the second memorandum first; reading of the second memorandum later or never! Economics minister Venizelos said: “the second memorandum package must be ratified in parliament by Sunday night so that Greece will send a positive message to the markets on Monday morning”.
In the birthplace of ancient Greece’s direct participatory democracy, even the restricted limited parliamentary democracy has been subordinated to the wills of the speculators and bond holders.
Polls show the political parties in deep trouble. Pasok, the governing party until recently, is down to 8%. New Democracy, the conservative party, is doing better, but only at 31%. The far-right Laos is at 5%.
The left parties score 18% (Democratic Left, a split from Synaspismos), 12.5% (KKE, the diehard-Stalinist Greek Communist Party), and 12% (Syriza).
Many MPs hesitated to back the second memorandum, not because of their social sensitivities but from fear for their political careers.
Laos leader Karatzaferis made a u-turn and decided to abandon the Papademos government and vote against the second memorandum. His four cabinet MPs were withdrawn from the government and all Laos MPs were threatened with disciplinary action if they were to vote in favour of the Memorandum.
Yet Karatzaferis was one of the most adamant supporters of the first memorandum and accused political parties that opposed it of being traitors. He was the most adamant supporter of Papademos, and prominent in the formation of the Papademos government.
He made a statement demanding Papademos “cleanse the cabinet of the Pasok social democrats” and replace them with technocrats. He called for the armed forces to intervene against the protesters, and claimed that he will lead the fight against the prospect of Greece becoming the Cuba of the Balkans and against the Bolshevisation of Europe.
The two remaining party leaders of the coalition government, Pasok and New Democracy, threatened their MPs with expulsion if they refused to vote in favour of the second memorandum anti working class package. ND expelled 21 of its MPs, and Pasok expelled from its parliamentary group the 22 Pasok MPs that voted against the memorandum and nine Pasok MPs that voted against sections of it.
All three left parties (KKE, Syriza, Democratic Left) voted unequivocally against the second memorandum. In Sunday’s parliamentary debate, they exposed the government’s repeated violations of the Greek constitution and parliamentary democracy and the illusions of the second bailout fund. All the money supposedly handed over to Greece by the EU/ ECB/ IMF Troika in fact goes straight to the bondholders.
The ultra-memorandum, ultra-neo-liberal section of the political establishment now wants the Papademos government to continue to the end of 2013. More realistic political forces, fearing a further shrinkage of the two main political parties and a further alienation of the Greek population from the mainstream political establishment,are calling for elections by April.
The new memorandum may have been voted in Parliament but it can be blocked by working-class action. The left has a duty not only to participate as an organic part of that movement but to push forward an alternative radical solution towards a people’s default from the debt and another society, which has our needs as its priority, a socialist, radically democratic society.
It is imperative to escalate our struggle with continuous strikes, massive civil disobedience movement, open meetings in every neighbourhood, every day protests and sit-ins and occupations of workplaces and public buildings. Now is the time for a united front and revolutionary action of the left and all the vanguard of the working in order to overthrow this government and the whole of the political establishment.
It is important to form in every workplace a workers’ committees to organise and direct the struggles. A central organ that supports, organize, coordinates and organises self-defence for every struggle should be formed.
The workers’ committees must establish ways of communications with the newly formed neighbourhood committees, with the aim of moving on to the election of a Constituent Assembly, organising the struggles to come, and opening the door to the power of the working people and socialism.
Against the continuous crisis and destruction of our lives brought by the decaying Greek capitalist system we should aggressively state our anti-capitalist manifesto and our program of transitional demands, linked to our strategic struggle for revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism.
• Overthrow the coalition government and any newly-emerging bourgeois government
• Down with everyone responsible for the crisis: Troika, financial speculators, capitalists both productive and unproductive, asset-strippers, and predators
• Refuse to pay for the crisis, in euros or in drachmas. No sacrifice for the euro
• Abolish the debt. Not a penny to the creditors
• Freeze and abolish workers’ debts
• Abolish VAT on all basic necessities (food, drink, etc.)
• Civil disobedience and refusal to pay the new imposed taxes
• Increase taxes on capital
• Nationalisation under workers’ control of the banks and the big business with no compensation
• Abolish the political and legal protection of companies that are declared bankrupt. Demand that the workers are paid all the wages that are owned to them.
• Expropriate the employers’ wealth (both personal and in other companies) in every company that is declared “bankrupt”, in order to compensate all workers and pay off their unemployment benefits.
• 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 and its ties to corporations, contractors and corruption
• For an extension of education, health, transport, and welfare provision.
The revolutionary left should take bold initiatives and contribute to the restructuring and resynthesising of the workers’ movement, striving to build up a new revolutionary party which will attract to its ranks both KKE and Syriza members, the most advanced of the Pasok workers, and the most militant workers and youth from the anti-austerity movements.
It has been customary for the Greek left to define the current tasks as those of national liberation, anti-imperialism, or anti-monopoly struggle, placing the fight against capitalism in the distant future.
Today the revolutionary left must be clear that a victorious struggle against the austerity measures must be placed within the context of the struggle against capitalism. The austerity measures are the answers of the Greek capitalist class to the economic and political crisis of Greek capitalism, not just acts by French and German capitalism against the dependent and subservient Greek capitalist class.
Entry into the European Union and the eurozone were in the strategic interests of the Greek capitalist class. The prioritisation of the Greek bondholders and creditors at the expense of the majority of the Greek population express the collective interest of the Greek capitalist class.
The role of the working class (as the main revolutionary subject and not submerged within the vague concept of “the people” or “the progressive sections of the population”) is central for every small and big economic and political struggle as well as for the strategic goal of the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system.
The revolutionary left should be immune to political opinions and strategies that try to find substitute agents of change in charismatic leaders or in self-defined heroic minorities in the anarcho-autonomist movement that act on behalf of the working class.