Athens went into lockdown on Tuesday of this week as Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel turned up to discuss austerity with the Greek government.
Police stood by to prevent people they suspected to be “troublemakers” from protesting. But they could not hold workers back as 300,000 turned out to rally.
All workers across greater Athens struck for three hours from noon. Many more walked out earlier, determined to get to Syntagma Square despite the police crackdown.
It was Merkel’s first attempt to visit Greece since the eurozone exploded nearly three years ago. It came just two weeks after a general strike.
People were outraged by her brazen attempt to feign “solidarity” with people in Greece, while continuing to call for brutal cuts. Thousands joined a “warm up” protest at parliament on Monday night.
The following day saw 7,000 police on duty. They shut down Metro stations to try and stop workers taking to the streets. No protests were allowed, apart from two official “rally points”.
Panos Garganas is editor of the Workers’ Solidarity newspaper. He told Socialist Worker, “They are trying to scare people, but the mood is that this is a day for a big demonstration.”
The two rally points were a mile apart, Panos explained, but nevertheless “the demonstration is filling the streets between them”.
A fresh austerity package for Greece is set to be unveiled at a European Union summit next week. Union leaders are set to discuss calling a general strike on that day.
The fascist Golden Dawn party is trying to capitalise on people’s misery in this desperate situation. It represents a growing threat to immigrants and the left.
But workers are putting up real resistance. The last general strike was marked by widespread demands for rapid escalation of strikes to drive the government into submission. Workers across the unions are saying there must be more strikes.
Vangelis, a local government worker, spoke to Socialist Worker during the Greek general strike. Along with his workmates he hadn’t been paid in months.
“For 20 years I had been working in the private sector and I didn’t know what a strike is,” he said. “If you struck you would lose your job.
“Now everyone understands that if you don’t fight, there is no future. We have to be militant and take the struggle as far as we can.”
Apostolis is a sailor. He added, “The bosses are terrorising us. They make our work more and more intense. The working conditions are miserable.
“A 24-hour strike is not enough. We have to go on an indefinite strike. We need to make a revolution. We cannot wait anymore. We need strike committees in every workplace, actively organising the struggle.”
Ioanna, a telecoms worker, echoed this. She told Socialist Worker, “Only through struggle can we overthrow these measures—there is no other way.”