Salonica Expo protest marches signal the start of the new struggle season in Greece

The traditional protest marches accompanying the PM's speech at the Salonica Expo opened the new struggle season in Greece, which everyone expects to be angry and unpredictable

The massiveness of what in the last decades has become a 'traditional' and usually lukewarm protest march, accompanying the Greek PM's economic plenary speech in the Salonica Expo was not matched by any considerable pulse on the part of the protesters. Surrounded by thousands of riot policemen, who did not hesitate to apply the Socialist Party's new repressive method, i.e. preemptive detainment of some 35 "anarchist-looking" folk before the start of the march, the protest was more massive than the last years but equally numb and silent. Held in one of the most conservative cities of Greece where the extreme religious element mingles with a long-standing antisemitic nationalism it is no wonder that the man arrested after throwing a shoe at the PM wailed about some "United Patriotic Front". The two marches (one by the GSEE and the other by the grassroots unions) numbered up to 30,000 people under rain.

Nevertheless, the marches during the Expo always mark the beginning of the so-called 'struggle season', which even the most conservative estimates expect to be angry and unpredictable. Even the right-wing daily Kathimerini figured a Friday front-page predicting that numbness will soon lead to rage and perhaps bloodshed. The prospects of a social explosion have risen considerably in the last weeks after the government has proved insensitive enough to introduce a new heating fuel tax that will double the price of heating petrol, amounting to an extra lost salary p.a. Statistics have shown the GDP to have plunged by almost 3,5% in the last 6 months, while unemployment up from 8 to 12% with modest expectations of it to rise to 20% by December. At the same time 20-25% of high-street shops remain shut due to the recession, while 3/4 of the stock-market registered companies have recorded losses. The picture becomes really absurd if one adds to it the fact that the Athens Mayor has announced a budget of 4,000 Euros per uniform, in order to dress his municipal policemen, while the government announcing a multi-million emergency budget for upgrading the police forces. With nearly 90% of the population declaring in various polls that it is against the government and its handling of the economy, the recent reshuffling of the government cabinet has done little to appease the wide spectrum of discontent.

As a nightmare coming back alive, fuel carrying truck drivers have decided to end their peace with the government and resume striking from Monday. News agencies report that on that day the drivers plan a huge motorised march to the capital where they will give the keys to their vehicles to the Transport Ministry refusing to serve under the civil conscription orders that linger over their heads since late July.

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Sep 11 2010 21:46


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