General strike: Round 20

Standing in front in Syntagma, again

One man died at protests during the recent general strike in Greece - so far the 20th general strike against austerity, while austerity continues relentlessly...

On the 18th October a general strike shut down large parts of Athens and Greece as a whole. The day saw large protests taking place in the centre of Athens as around 70,000 people came out onto the streets. The protest marches headed to the parliament building on Syntagma Sq. In and around the square there were clashes(more details) between people and police. This followed a familiar pattern as the police generally attempt to clear the square of people once it is close to being full and people do their best to keep the march going. This day was distinctive as it was the 20th general strike.

As well as being the 20th general strike in the last two and a half years it was also the third major protest against austerity in as many weeks. These strikes and protests often follow a similar course. This day one particular incident was tragically familiar. During the protest one man had a heart attack and died. Possibly this was due to the amount of tear gas used by the riot police. The man, Xenofon Lougaris, was an unemployed 65 year old. This tragedy is depressingly similar to the death of another man, Dimitris Kotsaridis,during a protest in October of last year.

As noted above this was the 20th general strike in the last two and half years. The strikes are usually for 24 hours but there have been 48 hour strikes also. Participation has varied as different industries choose to strike or not. This day saw an unusual move as many kiosk owners joined the strike. On the one hand the general strikes can be said to show a remarkable level of persistence and determination from the Greek working class. Twenty strikes organised and carried out and no sign of letting up. This is impressive, especially when compared to the number of actions in other countries facing similar austerity measures. Numbers at the demonstrations vary but are always in the tens of thousands and frequently over 100,000.

On the other hand the weakness of the strikes is clear. It must now be beyond doubt that these short general strikes are not going to produce results. A one day strike may bring people to the streets, it may effect the economy and of course it's better then nothing. But after the twentieth round surely we have to look to do something more. There are murmurings from those who take part in the strikes of something more continuous and lasting then a one day strike. Of course if it is left to the union bosses to decide what to do next it's likely we will just see more of the same.

Unless a significant proportion of the Greek working class push for and organise a prolonged general strike themselves we will just keep repeating the same pattern. So probably we will just keep marching, more people will be arrested or beaten and maybe next October another man like Xenofon Lougaris will die as tear gas chokes Syntagma Sq again.