Greek students erupt against state controlling universities with riot police

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GREEK students fought a pitched battle with riot police in Athens on Wednesday as the Greek parliament debated new laws to station security personnel on university campuses.

Thousands of students clashed with police in Syntagma Square outside the Hellenic parliament building as MPs debated the new laws that would overturn the law that prohibits police from entering the grounds of higher education institutes.

This law barring security forces from university grounds was introduced following the 1973 uprising of students at the Athens Polytechnic against the US-backed military junta that had ruled Greece since 1967.

The military junta abolished all civil rights, dissolved political parties and imprisoned and tortured their opponents. Students were forcibly drafted into the military and all elections to student bodies abolished.

In November 1973, students rose up occupying and barricading the polytechnic in defiance of the military junta, which responded by sending in police, troops and tanks to smash the barricades and crush the rebellion killing at least 23 students.

The uprising by students sparked a mass movement of Greek workers to overthrow the rule of the generals and November 17 has ever since been observed as a holiday in universities across the country.

In the face of the public revulsion and hatred of the military regime and its brutality against the students, the law banning police and security services from campuses was brought in.

When the right-wing government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his New Democracy Party was elected in 2019 after the collapse of the reformist Syriza government, one of his first acts was to overturn this law claiming that it ‘turned campuses into dens of criminality and no-go zones for police’.

Abolishing this law in fact was a centrepiece of the new right-wing government’s plans to ‘improve public safety’. Although the law was officially repealed in 2019, previous attempts by the state to use police to crush students have been repulsed.

In November 2019, students forced armed riot police off the premises of the Economics University after they were sent in to break up meetings to commemorate the Polytechnic uprising.

This new bill debated yesterday seeks to enforce the presence of 1,030 ‘unarmed’ security guards in universities with the power to call in riot police any time they like.

Nikos Filis, the education spokesperson for the main opposition Syriza party, said: ‘No country in the world has police on university sites. This is the government taking its law and order agenda to new heights.’ He added: ‘A police force will simply add fuel to the fire.’

The Greek government are fully aware that they are inflaming the situation but are clearly prepared to use the full force of the state against students and youth who have been at the forefront of all the struggles by the Greek working class against the crippling austerity measures forced on them by the EU and the German banks.

In a further attack on students, the bill will increase entrance exams and limit the years a student can remain at university – all part of the long-term plan by the Greek bourgeoisie to smash the country’s free education system and achieve their long-held plan to privatise education.

Every past bill aimed at privatisation has been successfully defeated by the student movement but today with Greek capitalism collapsed and once again relying on a bail-out from the EU, the drive to privatisation means taking on and smashing the students by brute force.

Greek students have shown once again that they are prepared to take on the state and its riot police.

In the fast-developing revolutionary situation in Greece the issue now is for students to turn to the working class and demand they take action by declaring a general strike to bring down the New Democracy government and go forward to a workers’ and small farmers’ government that will break with the EU and advance to socialism.

This will unite with the working class and youth across Europe who are also rising up against the capitalist EU for its overthrow, replacing it with the united socialist states of Europe.