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Greece: escalating the action against austerity
Solidarity with workers fighting cuts in Europe
Correspondents from Xekinima (CWI in Greece)
Greece: protests during general election 18 June 2012, photo RT free video
German chancellor Angela Merkel is expected in Greece on 9 October. She will be greeted by an increasing bitterness and anger against the destruction of the Greek economy and living conditions of working people.
An escalation of the struggle is developing from below. It has the potential to bring down the Samaras government and challenge capitalist austerity.
The Samaras government of New Democracy with the participation of its fake "left" allies (Dimar and Pasok) are preparing cuts that will lead to untold misery for millions of workers, pensioners, the poor and the unemployed.
Official unemployment stands at 23.6% (real unemployment is more like 30%) and among young people is 55%.
Gross Domestic Product has fallen by 22% since the beginning of the crisis. The 'national' debt is estimated to be 179% of GDP in 2013.
The Greek people have no choice but to try to stop the criminal plans of the Troika (European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) leaders.
That can only mean trying to bring down the government that collaborates with these criminals. A series of important unions have started adopting precisely this militant programme based around the need for occupations and 48-hour general strike action, escalating towards an indefinite general strike to bring down the government.
Speaking at a union conference last week, GENOP/DEI (electrical workers' union) president, Nikos Fotopoulos, spelled out the necessary programme: "workers' occupations of the main ministries, public agencies, all the banks, all tax offices, the airports and ports" and a "coordinated call for repeated 48-hour general strikes and massive daily rallies at Syntagma Square" (the main square in Athens outside the Parliament).
A number of union federations are now starting to move in a similar direction, calling for repeated 48-hour strikes.
The national union of doctors in public hospitals has called for an indefinite general strike.
If a significant section of the unions took militant action with strikes and occupations, even without the agreement of the national Confederation of Greek Workers (Greek TUC), it would spread like wildfire.
The main obstacle is the official leadership of GSEE (the main union confederation) and ADEDY (main public sector workers' confederation).
Nikos Fotopoulos and other trade unionists are calling on the GSEE and ADEDY leaders to take the initiative and call for coordinated action. But it is clear that the GSEE and ADEDY leaders will not call for such action.
But if decisive strike action was initiated by the militant federations, it would encourage the rest of the union movement to move in the same direction.
The three to four main union federations that have called for militant action should initiate strikes and occupations.
The potential is there for a social eruption and strike wave which has not been seen since the fall of the military junta in 1974.
The only choice that the leaders of the militant unions have is either to take decisive action themselves, or to leave this responsibility to GSEE knowing that they will not take action.
The current conditions in Europe mean it is entirely possible to coordinate industrial action among European workers, especially in South Europe.
In Portugal and Spain, we have seen clashes with the police and the security forces resorting to rubber bullets to contain the protests.
In other countries, while the movement is not as advanced as in Portugal and Spain, there is boiling discontent just under the surface.
This is not only in countries like Italy and Cyprus but Ireland and Britain, where significant trade union and social struggles are already developing.
All of these events are unfolding from below while the unions are still largely led by well-paid bureaucrats who do not experience the agony of millions of workers and have no desire to lead militant action.
But despite the treacherous role of such union leaderships, the movement is going forward and learning from experience.
See also socialistworld.net, the website of the Committee for a Workers' International, CWI
'The Greek people feel that they're under some kind of occupation'
Eyewitness report from Athens
Andros Payiatsos, Xekinima (CWI Greece), spoke to the Socialist immediately after the protests against Merkel's visit
We had a very big demonstration of around 50,000 in Athens today. This was despite the unions only calling a three-hour strike.
They should have called at least a 24-hour strike to mobilise people. A three-hour stoppage, given the kind of struggles we've had in Greece in the previous period, is a joke, not an attempt to give Merkel a serious message.
Secondly, central Athens was cut off from public transport, it was impossible to go to the centre other than by foot.
A 'red zone' was created, where there could be no rallies, meetings or demonstrations.
The demonstrators' message to Merkel was that this crisis cannot continue anymore, that the Greek people feel that they're under some kind of occupation, and that this has to stop. The central slogans were "Merkel out", "Troika out".
It's the first time since this crisis started that any significant EU official has visited Greece. Greece has been blamed by the EU for everything.
This represents a certain change; an attempt to support the Samaras government. This government faces a real problem.
Society is thoroughly opposed to its policies. On top of that they want to add almost £12 billion of new cuts.
The government has been negotiating for weeks and they don't agree among themselves, or with the Troika.
So Samaras invited Merkel with the idea she would provide support and aid his propaganda that 'Europe and Germany will assist us', and we'll be out of the crisis and not out of the EU and not out of the eurozone.
On the front of our paper and on the leaflets we distributed Xekinima calls for an all-out general strike and a wave of occupations to bring the government down and kick the Troika out.
This we link to the need to coordinate the struggles with the rest of southern Europe, particularly Spain and Portugal.
We're putting forward the alternative of a government of the left in the service of the working class and the people.
This essentially implies Syriza, which is the biggest force on the left, has the main responsibility.
Of course it has to be a government with socialist policies. If we have a left government that doesn't attempt to follow socialist policies but tries to manage the crisis of the capitalist system, it will be a disaster for the left and for the working class movement.
In The Socialist 10 October 2012:
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