Socialist Worker

Strikes and struggle can split Greece's coalition of austerity

The stakes are high as the Athens government faces two crucial votes in parliament, writes Panos Garganas

Published Tue 6 Nov 2012
Issue No. 2328

Less than five months into its term Greece’s coalition government is on the brink of collapse. It faces the biggest strike wave since the troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Union first came to the country in 2010.

Two crucial votes are looming in parliament. One is set to decide on a massive new package of cuts on Wednesday. The other, if the government survives, will be on next year’s budget on Sunday.

Unions have called a 48-hour general strike for Tuesday and Wednesday of this week with a rally in front of parliament as it votes.

The coalition majority collapsed during a vote on an amendment that attacked the media workers’ pension fund last week. Media unions had called a strike that closed down every paper in Greece plus TV news programmes.

It was a test run for what is coming. A number of unions are extending the general strike with action before and after.

So there was no Metro service in Athens on Monday of this week and media workers struck again. Local government workers have occupied town halls. Power workers began a series of 48-hour strikes from Tuesday.

Prime minister Antonis Samaras may still win the vote. But his government has reached the same point as the previous two before they were forced to throw in the towel.

Democratic Left, the smaller of the three coalition partners, has said it will not vote for the austerity package.

The leader of the Labour-type Pasok, Evangelos Venizelos, is heavily compromised in a tax evasion scandal. Pasok MPs are divided. Some want a new party with the Greek Tories, New Democracy. Others say they will not vote for the cuts.

The political crisis is the result of pressures on all fronts. Despite every official prediction the economy is deteriorating rapidly.

Defuse

The troika got its politics as well as its economics wrong. It assumed that the marginal defeat of the left in June’s elections would defuse workers’ resistance. That assumption didn’t last long.

The beginning of September saw a massive anti-austerity demo in Salonica. By the end of the month unions had called the first 24-hour general strike against the new government.

A second general strike was called for 18 October. The momentum was reinforced by huge rallies against Angela Merkel when she visited Athens at the start of October.

A powerful section of union leaders, headed by the president of the power workers’ union, argued to escalate the strikes. Rank and file initiatives pushing for escalation started to emerge and were coordinated with the help of anti-capitalist Antarsya activists.

And the anti-fascist movement is growing. The anti-fascist movement Keerfa estimates that there are 50 local activists’ committees in neighbourhoods, some of which have mobilised 1000-2000 strong demos.

The fascist Golden Dawn continues to rise in opinion polls as New Democracy sinks. But its street fighting thugs face mass opposition everywhere. This has put the links between the Nazis and the police into the spotlight.

The minister responsible for the police, Nikos Dendias, has threatened to drag the Guardian newspaper in Britain to court for exposing torture of anti-fascist demonstrators by police. He is fast becoming the most hated figure in government.

Opinions polls now show radical left coalition Syriza clearly in the lead. Its leader, Alexis Tsipras, is calling for fresh elections. On the other side a fresh attempt could be made to set up a “government of technocrats”.

The stakes are high. Eurozone ministers will meet on Monday of next week while workers across southern Europe prepare for their first coordinated general strike two days later.

In Greece we are going all out to make sure workers’ resistance and the Left come out of these crucial two weeks much stronger.

Panos Garganas is the editor of Workers’ Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece


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Tue 6 Nov 2012, 17:54 GMT
Issue No. 2328
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