AHEAD of today’s summit of the European Union the Greek transport minister issued an open threat that unless striking transport workers returned to work immediately they would feel the ‘full force’ of the capitalist state.
The summit is crucial for the survival of Greek capitalism as it is here that the European governments will decide whether or not to pay the next installment of the £95 billion bailout of the bankrupt Greek economy.
Central to this bailout by the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) was the imposition of draconian measures designed to smash up the wages, conditions and hard-won rights of workers and whole sections of the professional middle class.
In order to meet the terms imposed on them, the government of George Papandreou has reduced government spending and raised taxes.
Last December they approved a 10% wage cut for all employees at state-run companies earning over 1,800 euros a month.
Along with wage cutting the EU and IMF are demanding a cut in pension payments, raising the retirement age and tax increases.
Last week the government introduced draft proposals to implement a key demand, that the so-called ‘closed shop’ professions be opened up to competition.
These professions range from medical, pharmacy and legal, right through to transport.
The restriction placed on competition has been a hard won gain and has operated to keep the capitalist ‘free market’ from destroying wages and conditions.
This restriction on the unfettered right of capitalism to massively exploit workers in these professions is a complete anathema to the bankers who run the EU and IMF, who condemn it for keeping Greek labour costs ‘artificially high’.
The attempts by Papandreou to impose all these demands has met with huge resistance from workers and the middle class.
Doctors launched a 24-hour strike last Wednesday over plans to slash spending on the state health sector with the Health Ministry being occupied by furious medics.
This week Athens has completely ground to a halt as subway workers came out on Tuesday, in defiance of a court ruling that their strike was illegal, joining a nationwide transport strike.
This strike has not met with any hostility from passengers, many of whom are simply refusing to pay the massive price increases imposed last Tuesday – increases which saw the cost of travel on public transport shoot up by 40% on that day.
Across the country a rising tide of civil disobedience has been seen with people refusing to pay hospital bills and road tolls.
What is clear is that the Greek workers and middle classes are not prepared to pay in blood to bail out bankrupt Greek capitalism at the behest of the EU and IMF.
Nor are they intimidated by threats to use the full force of the state against them.
It is not the strength of the capitalist state that is keeping the working class from dealing a decisive blow against the government and the bankers – it is the reformist leadership of the Greek trade unions.
Their response to the unprecedented determination of workers, youth and the middle classes not to accept pauperisation as the price to keep the system going, is to call yet another one-day general strike for February 23rd.
Yet another one-day stoppage can only be an attempt to wear down the militancy of workers. The demand must be for an indefinite general strike to bring down the government.
This makes crucial the building of the Revolutionary Marxist League, the Greek section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, into a mass revolutionary party, to organise the Greek socialist revolution.