Mass strikes in Greece in response to new measures

protesters confront riot police outside Athens EU Commission building

Mass strikes with only hours prior warning are unfolding in Greece after the government announced new crippling measures for workers

The government's announcements of the new austerity measures dictated by the EU have rendered the greek PM's talk of a "state of war" concrete. The new measures include a 30% cut in public workers' 13th and 14th salary, as well as 12% cut in all salary subsidies, which in reality amounts to a sum of more than 1/12 of the total annual salary. In addition the government has announced new taxes for alcohol and cigarettes, as well as a universal VAT of 21% that is considered crippling by shop-owners and small free-lance enterpeneurs. Not one measure is however targeted towards the construction-banking-press-shipping trusts that plague the country.

The reaction to the measures has been immediate and acute:

Just hours after the announcement of the new measures, layed-off workers of Olympic Airways attacked riot police lines guarding the State General Accountancy and have occupied the building, in what they call a open-ended occupation. The action has led to the closing of Athens' main commercial street, Panepistimiou, for long hours.

On Thursday morning, workers under the Communist Party union umbrella PAME occupied the Ministry of Finance on Syntagma square (which remains under occupation) as well as the county headquarters of the city of Trikala. Later, PAME also occupied 4 TV station in the city in Patras, and the state TV station of Salonica, forcing the news broadcasters to play a DVD against government measures.

On Thursday afternoon, two protest marches took to the streets of Athens. The first, called by PAME, and the second by OLME, the teachers union and supported by ADEDY. The latter gathered around 10,000 people despite less than 24h notice, and during its course limited clashes developed with the riot police which was pilled with rocks outside the EU Commission building. Also two protest marches took to the streets of Salonica at the same time.A protest march was also realised in the city of Lamia.

Finally, the party offices of PASOK in the town of Arta were smashed by what it is beliaved to be people enraged by the measures

For Friday:

ADEDY and GSEE (public and private sector union umbrellas) have declared a 4h stoppage of work across the country for tomorrow and a central demo outside the Parliament at noon. The two giant unions are hinting at a general strike for the 11th of March.

PAME has declared a 24h strike in all sectors for Friday.

All buses, trolleys, the metro, intercity trains, and trams as well as most flights of Aegean and Olympic Airways apart from a few security flights been be halted, as workers in means of mass transport have called a 24h strike. The strike will immobilise the country.

All schools will remain closed, as teachers have called a 24h strike.

All public TV and radio, as well as the Athens News Agency, all municipal radio stations and the Ministry of Press have declared a 24h strike and a demo in front of the Journalist Union building in Athens.

All hospitals across the country will be serving only immergency cases, as doctors have declared a 24h strike.

No garbage will be collected on Friday, as refuse collectors have declared a 24h strike, while they have also announced another strike and a protest march for March the 10th.

Pensioners will be performing a protest march in Salonica on Friday morning.

Students are holding assemblies in their schools to decide their participation in the struggle, with many schools already having decided to move to occupation and participate in the marches.

It is indicative of the climate of public rage that even cops have announced a demo outside the Athens Police Hq for the 11th of March.

Tax officers have also announced a 2day strike starting on Monday, while school traffic wardens in Northern Greece have announced a 3-day long strike starting on Monday.

The people's reaction to the austerity measures are expected to further explode as the EU Commission is pressuring for the implementation of similar measures for the private sector. It is believed that such a move could bring the country on the brink of social insurrection.

Comments

Samotnaf
Mar 4 2010 21:26

Looks like the Year of the (metal) Tiger might live up to its name (California also looks interesting).

It's obviously good to see sections of the Greek working class immediately fighting back against the scary situation, but the fear can also make lots of proletarians seek hope in the CP or the other unions, no? Though I understand your excitement, taxikipali, neither the unions nor the CP nor the Radical Left Coalition want to help bring the country to the brink of social insurrection - do they have a lot of influence? and are there many signs of independent activity going beyond the apparent 'security' of relying on Trade Union structures to organise the fight? And isn't it possible that the State will retreat on some of the more obviously vicious attacks - it's often a tactic of the State to go in heavy, then retreat a bit and announce how they're "listening" but still push through a bit less repressive measures that if they had only initially announced that they were going to do would have been also considered horrendous, but after a retreat are made to seem like the best on offer "given the circumstances" - "We were going to amputate a leg or two, but we understand your concerns , so we'll just knee cap you instead,OK?"

PS Let's hope the cops go beyond just a demo and go on strike, preferably forever. Some hope...

Yorkie Bar
Mar 4 2010 21:47

Yeah, Samontaf's pretty much on the money, but this is a really amazing development.

Ought to satisfy Devrim at any rate... wink

~J.

taxikipali
Mar 4 2010 22:14

Very interesting questions.

The CP is making bold moves that have until now only been employed by anarchists - long occupations of state buildings and TV/radio interventions. We know they are under a lot of police pressure for these, but most importantly such moves probably indicate a change of inner-party balances. As you probably know the internal situation of the Greek CP (KKE) is notoriously secretive and one can only guess what is happening inside this huge mechanism. KKE is the best organised apparatus outside the state in greece, and despite its eternally third place in parliament has a huge influence on workers and the public opinion at large. So changes like the above can have vast repercussions that we must wait and see. One thing is sure that you are right, such tactics will attract many proletarians who seek hope from well organised and consistent fronts. This is detrimental to the autonomous-anarchist cause no doubt.

As for the Radical Left Coalition, its role is small in labour struggle, and its public credibility and influence has been hampered by recent infighting. On the other hand it is the most nfluential force amongst intellectuals, teachers, academics etc. In short it exercises an ideological influence of great proportion in the middle and higher-middle "progressive" classes.

As for independent activity, there are the autonomous unions. The book n paper workers union is an example and their current struggle in support of Ntinos Palestidis has become a national top-story forcing all the left and a great part of academics and intellectuals to take sides, an effect of great importance in the present situation. Another example is the Cleaners Union (PEKOP) which after the Kouneva case has a unique force of moral weight in greek affairs. But no autonomous labour organisation has any force on the streets. There the main battle forces are a) the anarchists, b) to a much lesser extent some leftist groups, c) KKE's construction builders who rarely engage in battle but when they do the results are dramatic. The most important factor is the battling cohesion on the street, i.e. how tolerant different blocks are towards more dynamic moves. The present struggle is one of those that such tolerance is provided more than any other time.

Overall of course the CP and the Radical Left Coalition do not want a social insurrection. The CP wants power as always and the RLC wants a share in power as always. Yet, because of the horrendous measures taken they are put under immense pressure to prove their militancy to their base. This creates an environment where
they are forced to perform dynamic actions that create a climate of tension stretching the state's forces and legitimating more dynamic (and self-organised) actions on our part.

The state looks unlikely to be willing to use heavy hand, as it knows this will lead to more and more violence. What it wants is national consensus to be promoted to the eager-to-hear-about-it EU. Thats why today the cops ate stones and sticks and did not retaliate. They know that knee caping will lead to a spiral of uncontrollable situations like December (most slogans on the street talk about a proletarian December coming). And they are also deadly afraid of their own cohesion: PASOK's syndicalist base looks ready to desert the party at the sight of repression of the labour struggle and it would take with it enough MPs to make the government collapse.

All in all the balances in greece right now are so fine so tight and so precarious that just anything could overturn the whole social contract - social insurrection no party wants but no party knows exactly how to avoid.

Uncreative
Mar 4 2010 22:53
Quote:
KKE's construction builders who rarely engage in battle but when they do the results are dramatic

Any links about times these folks have taken to the streets for a scrap?

Cheers for the coverage, taxikipali.

from_gr
Mar 5 2010 00:02

I don't have any links, but if they chose to fight on the street, i don't think that police forces can stop them without serious casualties. Generally the blocks of the Greek CP are peaceful though.

Samotnaf
Mar 5 2010 05:40

Thanks for the response, taxikipali - it clarifies things a lot. Just one question - "autonomous unions" I guess means "unions independent of the political parties" - but do they function, and are they structured, in a very different way - or what?

taxikipali
Mar 5 2010 07:41

By autonomous unions I mean autonomous labour unions independent of political parties as well as union umbrellas, the majority of which adopt a more or less libertarian or anarchist perspective (PEKOP does not). I can't currently find links to the construction builders clashing, but their street force is legendary in greece, although as from-gr says it is seldom put to practice due to the Party line.

Salvoechea
Mar 6 2010 12:16

What is the role of the small ESE union? Is there any conexion between the anarchist movement and labour movements? I think this is basic if we talk about a possible insurrection. It's also basic if the day after that insurrection we'd have to deal with the communists.

nikola
Mar 7 2010 02:20

I've also been wondering about any connection between immigrant/undocumented peoples struggles and the anarchist movement, as well as to the recent opposition to the austerity measures...

taxikipali
Mar 7 2010 09:01

ESE is a good effort to start coordinating anarchosyndicalist organising already in place in different sectors, but its effects at this moment are not great. However, its newspaper is distributed across the country and can be found even at the airport press stands. On the other hand the connection of the anarchist movement with immigrants is long and ever stronger. December played a vital role in this, and the fascist onslaught of 2009 further enhanced the alliance. Of course some immigrant communities prefer relations with the left, due to its tighter organisation, legal help teams etc.

Salvoechea
Mar 8 2010 15:28

My personal concers are about the relative strength of the communist led organisations versus the "informal" anarchists networks. From the outside seems that when the communist forces come out they manage to coopt and silence all the struggles. I'm not sure about the reach of the anarchist message into the labour movement. In my opinion is basic to put the movement forward to have strong organisations, to be the reference to regular people not attracted by the anarchists in the university.
With a proper union of the size of spanish ones, like CNT (i.e. 8000 members) or CGT (60.000 members) Greece could have exploted by now. Are the anarchists in Greece discussing about organising better?

Thanks alot for your wonderful reports. All of them are being translated into spanish by klinamen.org and alasbarricadas.org folks.

taxikipali
Mar 8 2010 19:36

The apparatus of the left is unfortunately unbeatable under present conditions in greece. And anarchists have a long distate here for federal-style organisation. That said efforts have been made in the last decade or more by tendencies in the anarchist movement such as the autonomous and the anti-authoritarians to build better structures, including in the labour struggle. At the same time the power of base unions like the books n paper one cannot be underestimated: Ntinos Palestidis has just been re-employed by Agra publications after a struggle by that union - a huge victory on which I hope to write about soon.

Thanks for your interest and for the translations! I hope out struggle here continues to inspire the international anarchist movement!

Zanturaeon
Mar 8 2010 19:43

Taxikipali, also thank you for your continued updates, clarifications, and other correspondence. In your opinion, what influence do the various Trotskyist organizations have on the Stalinist KKE? Also, how powerful is anti-authoritarianism inside the KKE generally?

Do you think that there are potentials for a renewed democratic communist movement (if there ever was one) under the KKE or perhaps Syriza banner?

taxikipali
Mar 8 2010 23:27

The KKE has purged Trotskyists off its ranks (for some time to death) since the 1930s. Last year's official rehabilitation of Stalin leaves no space for illusions concerning any such matter. There are of course various Trotskyist parties in Greece, some of them with a long and tormented history, which continue doing a serious job in their own way. Amongst them EEK is the closest to the anarchists both politically and on the street, receiving a bitter portion of police violence in return. As for Syriza, its leading group Synaspismos is the heir of the Romanian-funded KKE(internal), the Eurocommunist half of the KKE 1968 split, while its smaller groups include a big variety of leftist tendencies including Maoists like KOE.

Harabd
Mar 11 2010 01:08

Go on with the resistance and strikes
Resistance and the strikers take over the cities!!!!!
Then you have your own control over the cities and also free cities under direct management of the people
Success strikers and resistance!!!!
cool red n black star

JoeMaguire
Mar 11 2010 01:21

Breaking news is that someone may have been killed by the police. Any further info?

Samotnaf
Mar 11 2010 06:35

I wonder if this killing of the "anarcho-terrorist" is a quite deliberate trap on the part of the State to provoke revenge bombings by anarchists that will, eventually, very likely kill blameless proletarians, and then the State can leap in with a vastly intensified repression that'll get everyone involved in defence committees whilst scaring off the majority of strikers and rioters into fearful submission (at least, that would be the State's hope)....?

As for Salvoechea's comment

Quote:
With a proper union of the size of spanish ones, like CNT (i.e. 8000 members) or CGT (60.000 members) Greece could have exploted by now.

- this, as far as I can see, doesn't make any sense whatsoever; Greece IS beginning to explode without the wonderful panacea of anarcho Trade Unions, whereas Spain, apparently with 68,000 anarcho-syndicalists, is not - at least, at present - exploding. Please explain, Salvoechea.

underthepavers
Mar 13 2010 17:07

I believe that was in reference to Spain of 1936-1939, which was most definitely "exploding"

Django
Mar 13 2010 17:28

I don't think so - the CGT didn't exist in 1936-1939 and the CNT had around 1,000,000 members, not 8000.