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12 May 2010

Greece: the struggle must continue and intensify

Refuse to pay the debt, nationalise the banks

ON THURSDAY 5 May, workers across Greece took part in a huge general strike in angry opposition to a new austerity cuts package. The strike hit all public and private sectors and closed down airports, docks and stopped all public transport. In Athens over 200,000 workers, possibly 300,000, marched in the biggest trade union protest for decades.
The planned vicious cuts, estimated at 30 billion euros, which include wage freezes and cuts, pension cuts and VAT hikes, will be carried out by the 'socialist' Pasok government in return for a huge 110 billion euro bailout from the European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank, to try to deal with Greece's huge national debt.
During the demonstrations in Athens, a branch of the Marfin bank in central Athens was firebombed, killing three bank workers. Socialists everywhere will condemn these deaths of innocent workers - forced by their bosses to work during yesterday's strike. Supporters of Xekinima (the CWI in Greece) tried to help the trapped bank workers and have appeared on Greek television explaining that demonstrators attempted to save the workers' lives.
Below, we publish a slightly edited version of a press statement issued by Xekinima (the Socialist Party's counterpart in Greece), which comments on the bank workers' tragic deaths, the magnificent strike action and also on the next steps that need to be taken by the Greek workers' movement.

ATHENS "SUNK" (as the demonstrators commented to one another) under the weight of hundreds of thousands of protesters. This was the biggest trade union mobilisation since the fall of the military junta in 1974. The general strike and mass demonstration were held to send a message of the most determined resistance against the cuts package measures agreed by the Greek government, IMF and the EU.

More and more workers understand that these measures have nothing to do with the "interest of the Greek people" as the government claims and that they are instead aimed at forcing Greek workers to pay the debts of the government to the Greek and foreign bankers.

These debts were created by a conscious policy of continuous transfers from the state budget (through tax reliefs and other means) to the capitalists to maximise their profits and to help the Greek bosses exploit cheap labour in the Balkans over the last two decades.


Unfortunately, Thursday's historic demo was saddened by the tragic death of the three workers in Marfin bank.

We express our huge sorrow and, at the same time, immense anger, over the death of the three bank workers.

Overall responsibility for an upsurge in street conflict lies, to start with, with the Pasok government because its policies have created instability and resulted in violence.

Responsibility also lies with the owners of the Marfin bank who, as is becoming clear, forced their workers to work on the day of a general strike, under conditions of great danger as the bank was on the route of the demonstration and clashes with the police were expected. At the same time, it seems that there was not proper fire safety or any emergency exits in the bank building.

These facts, however, do not acquit the supposedly 'anti-statist' anarchist groups with their immeasurable irresponsibility. It is not the first time that these groups have thrown petrol bombs into areas where there are workers who have had to run for their lives!

Some of these groups explain their activities by reference to anarchist ideology. Some others are simply secret police agents who consciously act as provocateurs - this has been proven by plenty of photographic evidence.

Capitalist state

The actions of these groups provide the best service to the capitalist state, which they claim they want to destroy!

The state exploits the actions of these groups, which provoke disgust and anger from the working class, to justify state repression. The methods of these groups divert the attention of the working class movement from how to intensify class struggle, to mainly discussing their criminal activities.

Finally, these groups are characterised by immense arrogance; they speak in the name of 'revolution', thus confusing immense convulsions of society and the masses with their individual personal 'rebellions'.

Therefore the first task which the organised workers' movement and particularly the mass left parties should carry out, is the defence of the rallies and mass actions of the working class from these "anti-state" groups.

The KKE (communist party), Syriza (left coalition) and the far left groups have a responsibility to organise united rallies including common stewarding and protection.

But the actions of the left parties - organising separate marches - is irresponsible in relation to the interests of the workers' movement.

Way forward

The central question at this moment for the working class is how should the struggle develop?

Greek workers and pensioners know that the government measures mean a reduction in the living standards of the huge majority of people, by 20%-30%.

There is no doubt that workers are willing to fight against these measures. Workers are willing to lose five, ten or 15 days' wages to counter these cutbacks. But a precondition for this is that the leadership of the trade union movement and the left parties call for such a decisive course of action.

In our opinion, the proposals that ought to be made by the left parties and the organised working class today are:

Starting with the workers of southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, etc) and Ireland, who are facing the same attacks, we must fight together to overturn the policies of the EU and the IMF; against a capitalist Europe and for a workers' Europe, a United Socialist Confederation of Europe.

For the left to be consistent with its principles and declarations, it has to openly and clearly state that the capitalist system is inhuman and barbaric. And that the only way for the workers to live a better life is to fight for the nationalisation of all major companies, under workers' control and management, as the only way to have real productive investment to end unemployment and poverty and to plan the economy for the needs of society as a whole.

The struggle for the overthrow of the dictatorship of the market, ending the barbarity of capitalism, and the struggle for an alternative socialist society - based on workers' democracy - must become the banner of the left parties.

This can inspire the movement of the working class during the turbulent times we have entered in Greece, Europe and globally.

EU leaders fear of 'Greek contagion'

EUROPEAN POLITICAL leaders and finance ministers met last weekend and agreed a 750 billion euro bailout plan to prevent the Greek debt crisis spreading.

Other eurozone countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland are facing a similar financial meltdown to Greece, if their governments too cannot service their huge national debts.

The eurozone debt crisis is impacting on stock markets around the world as capitalist 'wolf pack' speculators attack different currencies. This crisis is adding to the political uncertainties in Britain (also heavily indebted) following the inconclusive general election; with capitalists holding back investments and speculators targeting a weakening pound.

Internationally, capitalist politicians are fearful that unless a financial firewall is put in place around Greece then the weak recovery in the world economy could be jeopardised, threatening a double-dip recession.

Moreover, no PM or president wants to see the widespread social discontent currently engulfing Greece spilling over into their countries and having to deal with general strikes and street protests.

But like the attempts to cap the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, neither Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy nor Gordon Brown, et al, know if the latest EU/IMF loan will stem Greece's debt blow-out.

For further analysis see article 'Eurozone hit by debt crises' (5 May 2010) on this website