Kostas: A student in the computer science department involved in the occupation of the administrative building at the Aristoteleous University of Thessaloniki
After the attack on Konstantiva Kuneva we started building a movement. Many students united and started printing papers or sticking up posters all over the university. This university contracts with the same company that employed Kuneva for its own cleaning staff and other staff. We demanded that the administration end its contract with that company and hire on all the staff as permanent, contracted workers - essentially a de-privatisation. After one month of action, in March, we decided to occupy the rectorate and establish a centre for our struggle. The student unions of three schools decided to participate in the occupation: geology biology, and electrical engineering.
The staff have held four assemblies. In the first week they decided to initiate a partial strike, working four hours less per day We organised a march along with the syndicate and five hundred people came out in the centre of Thessaloniki. On Monday (March 30th) there is another staff assembly and maybe they’ll decide to go on strike. There’s also a protest march in Athens they may participate in.
So there is a direct link between this occupation and December. Many students participated in December. At least twenty schools out of about thirty were occupied by their student unions all through December, and there were occupations of the theatre school, the workers’ centre, and the high schools. In the first week the directors tried to close the universities so the students couldn’t gather and hold assemblies but despite this decision and despite the police throwing tear gas onto the campus, many students came and occupied their schools. There were also many marches. The largest march included approximately 12,000 people.
In the student occupations the extreme Left and the anarchists started to win over the assemblies. There are many Left organisations and anarchist organisations in the university but they are all united. Personally, I’m part of a small political party, the Communist Party of Greece (Marxist-Leninist) (1). In my opinion the extreme Left groups and the anarchists have been the only powers in December and in the student movement. The leftist political parties that are in Parliament are not a part of this movement at all. They did not participate in the movement and they are not welcome in it.
This unity and this tradition of student assemblies goes back to the student occupation movement of 2006-2007. This very important movement created a culture of struggle. Before then there were only one or two assemblies per year, with no more than fifty students. In the 2006-2007 school year there were fifteen to twenty assemblies with at least 400 students participating. The education reform passed in 2007 was forced through with great violence. The law changed how asylum works in the universities. Before, the police could come in only if the students agreed, but now the director of the university can call the police onto the campus without approval from the students. So technically it's easy now for the police to enter the campus - but not in reality because they’re afraid of how the students will respond.
Our director is threatening to call in the police to end this occupation, but we will see what happens this week. We have decided to defend the occupation no matter what.
The next steps for the movement in Greece is to address the financial crisis: the basic salary how many hours you work, the pensions. Everything related to work, because the people in Greece cannot afford basic things.Also some of the immigrants live in very poor conditions. In December there were many immigrants participating. And of course we have no intention to stop fighting against the university privatisation law, to force them to repeal the law In all sectors of society now there is a tendency to participate in the struggles. In January even the farmers started building a movement. I think you will hear again from the Greek movement.
(1) This is a small extra-parliamentary party not to be confused with KKE, the Communist Party of Greece that has seats in Parliament.