General Strike in Greece

February 26, 2010

By Taki Manolakos, Sanhati

Introduction and Pictures
Statement from Communist Party of Greece (Marxist-Leninist)
Statement from SYRIZA
Statement from Communist Party of Greece

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Greece has recently been at the center of attention in the international financial media and amongst the commentariat. George Soros—organic intellectual of international finance capital par excellence—recently pontificated in the Financial Times (21 February 2010) that “[t]he government of George Papandreou, elected last October with a mandate to clean house, revealed that the budget deficit reached 12.7 per cent in 2009, shocking both the European authorities and the markets.”

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The Hindu editorialized (19 February 2010) that “[c]loser analysis, however, shows a much more politically loaded picture …. [t]he ideological issues involved are highly significant.” Expressing dismay, the conservative Greek daily Kathemerini (13 February 2010) lamented in its English edition that “Greek stocks have been pounded recently, shedding 22 percent in the last three months, on fears that the country may go bankrupt or fail to borrow money from capital markets due to its fiscal and debt problems.” Vidya Ram reported that (Hindu Business Line, 4 February 2010) “Greece’s economic woes are deepening rapidly, as the government grapples with reducing its massive fiscal deficit. The government has pledged to cut its fiscal deficit from 12.7 per cent of GDP in 2009, to three per cent by 2012 (three per cent is the European Union’s ceiling).” Suddenly, moreover, Greek bourgeois society has cynically discovered “German racism” towards Greece whilst itself denying elementary democratic rights to migrant workers. The signal to noise ratio in the media has been rather small.

Lost in all this talk about the debt and deficit are concrete political issues of more immediate import. A general strike has been called for on 24 February, which will mark a continuation of the wave of strikes that began 10 February. (Interestingly, this will follow a general strike in Spain on 23 February.) This general strike is being supported by the main “social democratic” union confederations ADEDY and GSEE; together, they represent a substantial fraction of the Greek labour force. The customs workers, taxi and lorry drivers, are good recent examples of organizations that had participated in this strike wave. The participation of the customs workers had induced a substantial reduction in international trade and there were widely reported shortages of fuel. Note the position of the leader of the GSEE, who is on the average a politically timid fellow, as put forward to mainstream English media:

Finance Ministry officials say they are under EU pressure to ax the public servants’ so-called “14th salary.” Greek workers get their annual salary divided into 14 payments, with two of them given as holiday bonuses, in a measure originally designed to alleviate those with low incomes. “We would consider cutting the 14th (salary) to be an act of war,” said Yiannis Papagopoulos, leader of Greece’s trade union umbrella group, the GSEE. “The measures must be socially just. And this is something that we have not seen so far. They are generally aimed at wage-earners and pensioners, while business remains immune. It is finally time for those who for so many years gathered riches to pay up, invest, and help deal with the major problem at this time, which is unemployment.

These considerations indicate that the post-Junta political arrangements continue to be under threat, as has been the case for some time, but which climaxed in a dramatic fashion in the December 2008 revolt. Indeed, it is in the context of the events of December 2008 that the upcoming general strike must be understood:

Although the state and the spectacle attempted to reduce the events of December 2008 to
“riots by youngsters” whose age sensitivity justifies their reaction against the world of the grown-ups, these events are the most important historical ones during the last 35 years in Greece. In December a minority of the working class that lives in this little corner of the world rebelled. Through its actions, it criticised contemporary social relations, labour, commodity, state. This destructive and at the same time creative critique was anti-capitalist and not reformative; it expressed the need for overcoming capitalist relations.

“Remember, remember the 6th of December” was a slogan on a wall in Athens. From that night onward, the actions of a mass of young (but not only) proletarians spoke: attacking cops and police departments, setting banks on fire, destroying and looting department stores, vandalising ministries, occupying universities, town halls and other public buildings. Attacks against expensive stores started from the very first night; the link between the murder of the 15-year-old boy and capital’s arrogance was directly and explicitly stated. Attacks against car agencies, traffic lights, bus stops, that is, aspects of circulation in the city, regularly took place. Attacks against banks, which symbolise and territorialise within urban space the dominance of money over the needs of people, were fierce; during the first days of the uprising there were always attempts to set them on fire.

At streets, there were school kids, among them several second generation immigrants, university students, young workers and unemployed, locals and immigrants, “lumpen-proletarians” and few “stable” workers. As the world capitalist crisis unfolded, the rebellion showed the youth’s profound understanding that their future has been looted in advance (as Mike Davis said in an interview for a Greek daily paper). It was not a movement against police brutality or repression. The fact that repression was the target of proletarian attack can be understood, if we see an unimportant cop’s shot as what it really is: the expression of a state intervening in an increasingly disciplinary way against the proletariat, whose reproduction is all the more difficult to take place today’s capitalist world. Also, it was not a movement against government. The actions of the insurgents, having today’s shitty life as their starting point, moved against the future of capitalist world.

The events of December 2008 were not merely a realization of the dreams of the insurrectionist anarchists. They represent the materialization of a crucial contextual variable. Indeed, the events of December 2008 were the opening act for the general strike. The youth rebelled in December 2008; the workers begin their rebellion in February 2010.

In order to further clarify the political landscape and to provide a preface to a concrete political analysis, therefore, the reader is presented with two translations of statements that perhaps will be of interest. The first two statements were issued by parties standing to the left of the Communist Party of Greece in terms of political practice: the Communist Party of Greece (Marxist-Leninist) and SYRIZA (the Coalition of the Radical Left). The third statement was issued by the Communist Party of Greece.

Note: The first two statements were translated by Panayiotis T. Manolakos exclusively for Sanhati. The third statement appears in the English section of the website of the Communist Party of Greece.

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Communist Party of Greece (Marxist-Leninist)

13 February 2010

More Power and Collectivity for the Strike of 24 February

Defend against the attack

The attack on the working class and the toiling people has taken on frightening dimensions and is turning things “upside down.” The Stability Programme and all attached anti-labour and anti-popular measures represent a violent attack upon each worker. They represent a pragmatic nightmare for all working and popular families.

The interests of big capital, domestic and international, are requiring this attack. The imperialists of the European Union are requiring it. It is with such interests that the PASOK government is aligned. It is these interests that are served in the most outrageous and slavish manner. This policy has the support of ND, LAOS, and of course the whole of bourgeois society [1].

At the same time, the services of the media stand at the disposal of these forces [consider, for example, the newspaper Kathemerini as evidence that supports this point]. The media as an institution takes it upon itself to publicize in favour of the extortionists and the “intimidating puzzles” of the government; the media are an institution that sow terror in the workers in order that they accept the [austerity] measures as a “necessary evil.” The media won’t miss an opportunity to silence the protests of the workers: Ta Nea [a centrist newspaper] of the Lambrakis conglomerate silenced them completely. This too is an expression of the subservience of the ruling class to the imperialists, in this situation, the European Union.

The measures announced by the government in recent days regarding insurance, pensions, wages, and taxes, will not be the final ones. This much Papandreou openly declared in cynical fashion on the day of the strike [of 10 February] and before meeting his European bosses. He will undertake additional measures to burden the working people, whatever is necessary and required by the international monopolists and the international imperialist organizations such as the EU and the IMF. The recommendations of the representatives of the EU to the Prime Minister are that “we” must take even harsher measures. They demand immediate compliance as would a master towards a slave. Here, then, is where Greece has ended up by participation in the European Monetary Union and the Euro: today, the country stands in danger of bankruptcy according to the words of the current leader of PASOK.

The accession of the nation into the European monetary union required prolonged austerity for the working people. The outcome was a dramatic reduction in wages and the demolition of our conquests and rights. Then, the rationale was that such measures were required for the accession of the nation into the zone of the Euro; today, however, the government of PASOK is engaged in such an aggression as never seen before on the grounds of evading bankruptcy. Clearly, these developments, as have emerged particularly in the recent period, strengthen the shackles of the nation, the control of the EU, and our vassalage to the bourgeois political staff. The current aggression against the social safety net does not bear comparison with those of the past. This is about the complete reversal of the character of the social safety net. In this manner, there is established a system of retaliation against the principle of [progressive] redistribution.

The state will be released from social accountability and shift it onto each individual worker. In this context, state support for pensions will fall from 24% today to 8%, which is a significant contraction. The new anti-people legislation will entail a basic pension of 350 Euros per month. Moreover, the new method of calculation for the supplementary pension obliges the workers to be employed beyond the age of 65 in order to receive a satisfactory pension, if, in the final analysis, they are able to take it at all. The basic pension of 350 Euros, that will be paid from the state budget, will be paid only in the event that the duration of employment exceeds 35 years. The contributory pension, which will be the principal component of the pension, will be determined according to the number of years in the system and other variables considered in the method of calculation …. This new [lower] level of subsidy, in essence, will compel the workers to remain employed for more years, as many as can be endured, in order to have some small pension – which in any case will be dramatically less in comparison to today’s standard.

Finally, regarding the method of computation for the final pension, the Labour Minister announced: “there are several methods of computing the amount of the pension. One can use the [wages of the] final five years of employment or the best five years of the most recent ten as a basis for the calculation of pension. Another method is to consider only three-fourths of all the years of employment. A fourth method is to consider the entire period of employment. My own view, let us say it is the view of the Labour Ministry, is to use the fourth method.” In short, the government is attempting in this new bill to reduce the payment of pensions and increase the number of years that a worker is employed.

Also frightening is the attack on the wages of workers in the state sector, which will reduce their real wages. There will be a freeze in the increase of nominal wages, but a reduction in real wages by an amount determined by the rate of inflation. There will be, in essence, not a wage “freeze” but wage reductions. Moreover, if we consider the taxation of all workers, then we can speak of substantial theft from hundreds of thousands of workers. The increase in indirect taxes alone constitutes a substantial attack on incomes. In the private sector, the Association of Greek Industry has been made bold by these anti-labour measures announced by the government and demanded similar measures. At the same time, hundreds of companies are requiring workers to accept reductions in their wages.

Without doubt, the working class faces an unprecedented attack. With what we know today, the workers will be burdened by a loss of benefits, an increase in their tax bill, and reductions in real wages. What is now required is the development of a mass struggle for the overthrow of the Stability Agreement and to push back this attack. This will allow us to defend our previous victories and make new gains. The strikes of 10 February and 24 February (declared by the GSEE and ADEDY) should be the start of the “Games of the working class” and all workers of the country. This message must be given clearly. The hacks of the GSEE and ADEDY were forced to strike on account of the nature of this unprecedented attack and the angry attitude of the working people and youth. All these trade union leaders might be compromised in order to remove any possibility for workers to resist and to fight against this aggression.

In these critical conditions, the struggle of the working class and the people requires the participation of real leftist forces from all class political organizations and any popular fighter who understands the great importance of the continuation and escalation of these events. They must get into “the front line” in order to coordinate actions. The strike on 24 February can attain an overwhelming nature and raise the level of struggle and resistance. It can develop a new situation and give courage in order to turn up the fight. The success of the strike is crucial.

Mass participation in the strike, mass participation in meetings, show the real working class power: This is our duty in these times.

[1] PASOK is the so-called Labour Party currently in control of the government. ND is the Conservative Party and LAOS is a neo-fascist party.

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Statement from SYRIZA

16 February 2010

We have 1,000 reasons to strike: A statement by SYRIZA supporting the all-Greece strike of 24 February.

Strike back—let us reciprocate.

Workers, we have 1,000 reasons to strike on 24 February. Why did the Papandreou government, a few days before the recent general election, inform us that there are monies but not long afterwards reveal that the treasury is empty? The monies exist but not for us—the workers, the students, the pensioners—those who in the final analysis have legitimate needs; the monies exist for the banks, the shipowners, the Association of Greek Industry, and, we recently discovered, the international accounting firms.

We the workers are not responsible for the deficit and debt. Those responsible are PASOK and ND, with their politics for all these years serving but not taxing capital, the banks, the media, and the Greek Orthodox Church; they have sold the public’s property, helping the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. We the workers did not make this country bankrupt, which was the result of the neoliberal politics of the two-party system: the burdens of prolonged austerity and theft were created with landmarks (the construction of facilities for the Olympic Games, etc.) and myths.

What happened with the modernization of Simitis, the reform of Karamanlis [these are previous Prime Ministers], and now the Stability Programme of the Papandreou government? Perhaps we were bankrupted by the worker paid the minimum wage, the teacher paid in “hyperbole,” the pensioner, the agriculturalist “squandering” their subsidy, or the migrant worker considered a second-class citizen? Why deny the Europhilia of the Stability Agreement, which was created to ensure their profit whilst international capital speculates with the predatory interest paid on Greek debt? Was it not an agreement to please the employers and the bankers with the reduction of wages and state expenditure, i.e., the destruction of the social safety net?

Why do we reject the Stability Programme, the “triple international economic control,” of the Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF? Why do we reject those demanding anti-labour measures, which have already been in fact determined, i.e., to cut the 14th salary, to increase lay-offs, and to increase VAT on all goods and services? If we do not stop them, they will impose even harsher measures: more lay-offs, larger indirect taxes, increases in the number of insecure workers, and more privatizations. The economy will be refrigerated and enter an even deeper recession. The society will become a vast poorhouse with millions unemployed.

The bipartisan majority of the GSEE, which is openly aligned with the government, operates as their press office: they do not organize struggles, they do not strike, and they do not represent the workers and their needs. Papandreaou provokes us when he says the economy cannot bear blockades, strikes, and demonstrations, and when he accuses those who resist the measures of the government as being “comfortable.” Are the contract workers “comfortable,” or the workers that must pay their rent, the workers in the private sector being paid inadequate wages? Are the agriculturalists “comfortable,” those who sell wheat, oil, and rice at prices below cost in order that the big merchants grow richer? Perhaps the 750,000 unemployed are “comfortable,” who survive with 450 Euros per month? Pray tell, then, in what category do we situate Daskalopoulos of the Association of Greek Industry, the bankers, and the shipowners?

We owe it to the struggles that have already happened and not been vindicated [to make the general strike a success]. We owe it to the domestic workers and Konstantina Kouneva, the sailors, the postal workers, the contract workers, the workers from the Olympics that became “redundant,” the textile workers, and thousands of others. The strike of February 10th was only the beginning. We can win. The union struggles and current social unrest is a one-way street.

We demand:

Complete, stable, secure, and decent work with wages that cover pragmatic needs for all. This is our right!
Support for the social safety net and payment of social insurance obligations to all workers.
Measures to tackle unemployment. Economic and social support of the unemployed.
Mass employment in the public sector and especially in education, health, and protection of the environment.
A just tax system.
Repeal and reversal of privatization.
An expansion of labour and social rights.
Repeal of all anti-labour measures now.
Cancelation of the stability agreement.
ON 24 FEBRUARY, ALL TO THE STRIKE, ITS SUCCESS SHALL OPEN THE ROAD

A UNITED SOCIAL FRONT WILL TOPPLE ANTI-LABOUR POLICIES

ALL TO THE STREETS

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Statement from Communist Party of Greece

The Dynamic Strike of February 10th, 2010

Tens of thousands of workers and employees both in the private and public sector responded to the strike call of All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME), a front of class trade unions in Greece. PAME staged mass rallies in 66 cities throughout the country while 300 primary and secondary trade unions (Trade Unions, Trade Union Centres, Industrial Federations) in the public and private sector decided to participate in the strike.

The success of the strike was another response to the anti-people measures announced by the social-democrat government of PASOK such as wage and pension reduction, increase of retirement age. The workers turned their backs on the call of the government to consent “in order to save the country” from the crisis. They have shown that Greece is not in danger of bankruptcy and that the big capital is responsible for the deficits and the debts. It’s the big capital that before and during the crisis has made fabulous profits blackmailing the working and popular strata and placing the burden of the crisis on their shoulders.

On February 24 follows another big strike and mobilisation.

Since dawn on February 10 thousand of workers and students joined the picket lines outside the gates of factories and other workplaces. Big industrial units, multinational companies, construction sites and the biggest port of Greece in Piraeus froze. The hard battle of preparing the strike, the picketing, the exposure of the consent of the forces of employer-led and yellow trade unionism that control the Confederations of workers in the private (GSEE) and public sector (ADEDY) strengthened the working class in Greece.

It should also be noted that GSEE continued its strike-braking tactics and did not stage a strike, supporting thus the government. On the other hand, ADEDY called for a strike on February 10 and staged a rally in the centre of Athens though with scant participation.

On the contrary, tens of thousands participated in the mass rally of PAME in Athens which was held outside the Greek Parliament. Despite the rain, the working people condemned the anti-labour, anti-people policy and the attack of the black block namely the government along with the employers, the EU and the parties of the plutocracy that urge the working class to make the “sacrifices” that the EU and the government demand.

Vasilis Stamoulis, president of the trade union federation of the workers in textile industry delivered a speech in the mass rally. Representatives of the peasants’ movement from All Peasants’ Militant Rally [PASY] and the Pan-Hellenic Coordination Committee of the self-employed also extended a greeting. A delegation of the CC of KKE headed by the General Secretary of the CC Aleka Papariga participated in the rally.

The mass rally followed a protest march in the central streets of Athens to the Ministry of Laboor. The protesters made clear that they will not make any sacrifice for plutocracy and demanded:

Stable employment for all
7-hour working day, 5-day
1400 euro minimum salary
retirement at the age of 55 for women and 60 for men, at 50 and 55 for the hazardous occupations
Measures for substantial protection of the unemployed and their families and not charity supermarket vouchers
1120 euro unemployment benefit for the whole period of unemployment without any conditions and prerequisites.
Full health and pharmaceutical care
drastic taxation of the big enterprises by 45%. Abolition of all tax relieves and privileges.

1 Comment »

One Response to “General Strike in Greece”

  1. maria blaettner Says:
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:00

    GegenStandpunkt
    Remarks on the National Bankruptcy of Greece
    For experts in the public sphere, how Greece ran itself into bankruptcy is no issue: the country, the state, and all its people have ‘lived beyond their means’ with corruption, no tax compliance, overpaid and unnecessary public servants, and keeping their true accounts secret from their European overseers! Right in the heart of Europe, they have violated all the good practices of the European Economic and Monetary Union! Obviously that cannot go well, and it now threatens the strong European nations, ‘us’ and ‘our Euro’! One is supposed to think something like that.

    An unjust verdict. After all, no one was ever really fooled about Greece. Moreover, the country has belonged for quite a few years to the European Union, just like the others, and the other nations haven’t managed things any differently. It’s just that – as far as Greece’s national balance sheet is concerned – its membership hasn’t turned out well.

    But, more broadly, its economic plight reveals the crisis situation of the whole community of euro states, and hence the contradiction inherent in the euro: competing countries are running their economies in a common money for their own national accounts. This makes Greece’s current collapse an ‘oath of disclosure’ in terms of Europe’s progress. Therefore, its main players have their hands full treating the threat of bankruptcy as a special Greek case, trying to limit the damage through a budgetary regime decreed by the EU, in order to establish financial-capitalist confidence in the euro overall. The Greek government is expected to make itself creditworthy again by pauperization. A fine task.

    http://www.gegenstandpunkt.com/english/greek-state-bankruptcy.html

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