Greece is in the grip of an all-round economic and political crisis. With the government on the verge of financial bankruptcy, the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have demanded ‘austerity’ measures. They want the Government of Greece to attack the wages and living conditions of the working class, particularly of the Public Sector workers, as a pre-condition for bailing the government out. On May 6, 2010, the social-democratic PASOK government of Greece passed the so-called austerity measures in parliament, as prescribed by the EU and the IMF.
For several weeks beginning late February, there had been massive working class protests in Greece, as reported earlier in this paper. The events on May 5, 2010, showed that the struggle of the working class against the onslaught on their livelihood and rights is reaching a new and higher level. There was an enormous general strike and massive rallies were held on that day, including a mobilization of more than 200,000 workers in the capital of Athens alone. State sector workers were in the forefront of the strike, which also encompassed workers in private sector enterprises, small shops, the media, taxi drivers, etc.
On May 6, tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded the Greek parliament building as representatives voted to slash wages and benefits, raise taxes and dramatically lower the workers’ standard of living. The workers announced another general strike for May 10, 2010.
There was massive mobilization of workers at their workplaces, not only by the large union federations, but also by numerous union locals which participated under their individual banners. Tens of thousands of workers thundered in one voice, “Today and tomorrow, and for as long as needed, we are all strikers!” They chanted, “Robbers, robbers, capitalists: Your profits cost human lives.” They flooded the center of Athens in the face of tear gas fired against them by the police.
The strike reflects the rising political consciousness of the workers and their growing disillusionment with the social-democratic PASOK party running the government. Thousands of workers who had voted for PASOK were in the struggle, shoulder to shoulder with workers affiliated to communist led unions. They chanted, “Take ‘em back [the austerity measures] and get out of here!” and “Self-illusions are over—either with the capitalists or with the workers!”
The anger of the workers was also directed at sections of the trade union leadership which were aligned with PASOK. The chairman of the General Confederation of Greek Workers, a leading member of PASOK, was jeered by the people of his own party and forced to cut his speech short.
The German, French and Spanish unions sent delegations to Athens in order to express their solidarity. In many European countries, workers’ unions organized class solidarity actions through protests at the Greek embassies.
The death of three workers in Marfin - a private bank, which was set on fire during the demonstration, has been the provocation for the Greek government to justify intensified police repression on workers. According to the unions, the workers in this bank had requested from the owners that they be allowed to participate in the strike. The owners of this multinational bank, who hold influential positions in the Greek state, had rejected this request; they threatened the workers with layoff and locked the gates of the bank, which is located in one of the most central streets of Athens and on the route of the demonstration. The bank caught fire in the course of tear gas firing by the police. When the fire began, workers couldn’t escape. This resulted in the tragic death of three of them. The PASOK government is attempting to use this tragedy to confront the working-class resistance with repression in the name of “law and order.”
Fascist forces in Greece are calling upon the Greek government to deal with the workers’ revolt with an “iron fist”, and if necessary, declare workers’ unions and communist parties illegal.
The struggle of the working class in Greece is an integral part of the growing worldwide struggle against the anti-labour offensive of international finance capital. The solidarity actions in Europe show that there are possibilities of an international working class front to emerge against the capitalist imperialist offensive.
Workers of all countries constitute one class. We are engaged in one struggle against one worldwide offensive of the capitalist class. We have one common goal of halting this offensive and getting rid of the capitalist system of exploitation. Only if we fight as one combined force can we successfully achieve this goal.
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar extends full support to the Greek workers on behalf of the communists and working class of India.