As Solidarity goes to press on 9 October, a tsunami of people has gathered in Syntagma Square in Athens.
Tens of thousands of workers, unemployed, pensioners, students, small shopkeepers, peasants, neighbourhood community movement activists are arriving.
They have come to protest against the visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The demonstration is organised by the main union federations, GSEE and ADEDY, and supported by Syriza and other left-wing organisations. Another demonstration has been organised for the same day by the KKE (diehard-Stalinist Communist Party) and PAME.
Greece’s right-wing prime minister, Antonis Samaras, has stated that Merkel is welcomed by the whole of Greece.
If Merkel were welcomed by the whole of the Greek population, it would certainly not be necessary to deploy more than 6,000 police officers for her security. The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which reflects the business circles of Germany, told the world on 8 October: “Merkel will promise the Greeks nothing.”
“The troika report is expected in November at the earliest. Police prepare for riots”, stressed the subtitles of the German newspaper. FAZ boasts that only for Clinton’s visit in Athens in 1999 have such large numbers of police been allocated.
A cordon will be constructed around the chancellor in order to prevent her from meeting any ordinary Greek citizens. Police snipers will be on alert to spot and “deal with” anyone suspected of threatening the safety of the chancellor. Police helicopters will be deployed to spy on the protesters.
The left alliance Antarsya says that “Merkel represents a Europe united against the workers... The visit is to symbolise the alliance of Greek capital with banks and capitalists of Europe within the EU.”
Syriza state that “they strongly support the mobilisations of working class ‘welcoming’ Merkel” and invites “all the people affected by the unpopular, anti-working-class and disastrous policies of the government and the Troika to take to the streets and squares so that the austerity measures are cancelled, the politics of the memorandum are overthrown, and this disastrous government is overthrown.”
KKE secretary Aleka Papariga declares that “the purpose of this visit is to assist the Government to exercise the greatest possible blackmail and intimidation against the people”.
The government decided to shut down in the centre of Athens for the whole day of Merkel’s visit, and to halt buses and trams from 11am to 4pm.
From 9am to 10pm, every public outdoor gathering or march in Athens, apart from those planned by PAME, GSEE and ADEDY, is banned. Police will make every effort to block any route towards the German embassy.
The MAT riot police entered the courtyard of the Henry Dunant hospital in order to stop unpaid workers joining the Syntagma Square protests. Five squads of riot police, using chemicals, blocked the hospital entrance. Workers complained that the police used gas inside the hospital building.
Why did Merkel come to Athens? First, to offer EU support to the crumbling three-party coalition government of Samaras so that it can survive and pass its new 13.5 billion euro cuts package.
Second, to make clear her wish for Greece to stay within the eurozone.
She is expected to express her sympathy with the Greek people and acknowledge that they have suffered badly because of the austerity policies. She will say that there is no alternative; but the chancellor has already decided that it is extremely dangerous to drive Greece out of the eurozone.
Although German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble bullies the Greek government with the prospect of exit from the eurozone, Berlin will make sure the Troika’s report is drafted in such a way as to allow the release of the next and long-overdue 31.5 billion euro “bail-out” instalment.
Third, Merkel is representing German capital’s interest in getting its claws on Greek public wealth. The coalition government is under pressure to sell off public infrastructure, public lands, and the natural wealth of the country. Merkel is accompanied by representatives of German business groups interested in investing in Greece, using the new anti-labour framework and starvation wages imposed under the memorandum.
Merkel’s visit to Greece is also connected with a dispute with the IMF and USA. The IMF insists that it cannot carry on bailing out Greece unless the Greek debt is restructured again, i.e. a new “haircut” is imposed on banks and other institutions which hold Greek government bonds. The German government is opposed to any new haircut of the Greek debt, especially before the German elections.
The USA denounces the continuing extreme austerity in Greece and the eurozone as destructive to the euro and to transatlantic economic stability.
The cry “Merkel out” is filling the streets of Greece with a multitude of protesters of different ideological origins and political believes.
Among these protesters will be hiding the fascists who would never confront the capitalists and the powerful, but who on the contrary constitute the dark forces and the capitalist class’s last resort if things get out of control.
Only a struggle with working-class, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, internationalist, and revolutionary politics can inspire and lead to victory. The 9 October demonstrations are giving a new impetus to the struggle to overthrow the coalition government and dismantle the memorandum.
The alternative to the Merkel-Samaras alliance and to the fascists can only be a workers’ government, based on workers’ democracy, workers’ and social control, self-organisation and management, and workers’ militias. The main axis of struggle should be the following:
1. Fight for the development and escalation of industrial and social struggles, with rolling strikes, occupations, stoppages, demonstrations, and re-invigoration of the neighbourhood and community movements.
2. Fight for the overthrow of the coalition government.
3. Anti-fascist committees in every square, neighbourhood, and workplace. In every neighbourhood the trade unions, alongside the neighbourhood committees, should form popular defence squads and solidarity squads aiming at solving social problems via solidarity and cooperation.
4. Fight for a united front and cooperation of the left in the industrial and in the political sphere.
5. Fight for a government of the left, and a workers’ government.
6. Fight to alert and prepare the working class for the prospect and the consequences of a Greece which rejects the memorandum being forced out of the eurozone.
7. Fight for a programme of transitional demands based on workers’ self-management and control and social planning of the economy, nationalisation of the banks and the main pillars of the economy without compensation to the capitalists, and under workers’ control.
8. Fight alongside the European working class for the United Socialist States of Europe. No serious anti-cuts or socialist programme in Greece is possible without mobilisation of the working class across the eurozone and EU.
This does not mean the Greek working class waiting. No cross-Europe mobilisation will happen unless one national working class or another dares to go first. It does mean that the issues are those of class — the working class across Europe against the eurozone and EU leaders — and not of national conflict (Greece vs eurozone, or Greece vs EU, or Greece vs Germany).