100,000 workers & youth march in Athens


THE Greek working class has once again demonstrated its strength and determination with a powerful one day general strike last Wednesday, called by the GSEE (Greek TUC) and ADEDY (public sector trade unions federation), against the government’s reactionary Stability Plan which cuts wages and pensions, allows for mass sackings in the public sector and raises VAT on foods.

The general strike was yet another blow, following the ADEDY’s national strike on 10 February, against the counter-revolutionary ‘socialist’ government of Prime Minister Yiorghos Papandreou and his masters at the European Commission.

The GSEE said that the strike was total in shipyards and refineries ports and ships while it reached a 90 per cent participation in construction; there was a 70 per cent participation to the strike in manufacturing and in banks, railways, telecommunications, post-office, and electricity and water authorities according to the GSEE.

The strike was solid in the mass media; not a single newspaper was printed and there were no news programmes in television or radio. In Piraeus, the largest port in Greece, not a single ship sailed. Only one flight per destination took off from the Athens airport. Museums and archaeological sites remained closed. The strike was solid also in the Athens Metro system. The bus drivers’ union staged early morning and a late night stoppages.

The high participation to the strike was reflected in the huge and militant march through the city centre of the Greek capital Athens. Some 100,000 workers took part under glorious sunshine in the two separate rallies organised in Athens, one by the GSEE and the other by PAME, the Greek Communist Party’s trade union section. Rallies and marches were also held in all the Greek cities.

Very large contingents of teachers, local government workers and civil servants dominated the march. their favoured slogan shouted was ‘down with the junta of the bankers and the markets.’ There were also mass contingents from shipyards, refinery, railway, post-office and pharmaceutical industries workers. A new development was the participation in the march of sizeable contingents from the service industries (catering, courier and paper workers) most of them young workers in their 20s and early 30s.

Also in the march were many hundreds of Asian and African immigrant workers demanding ‘legalisation’ and an end to the police pogroms. There were many thousands of university and school students in the march shouting slogans against education spending cuts and the police attacks on the Academic Asylum.

But the absence from the march of bank, telecommunications, electricity, health and bus and metro drivers was quite noticeable.

These are the largest trade unions completely dominated by the government party PASOK’s trade union department. It was clear that the leaders of these workers kept them away from the march.

The Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Marxist League, the Greek section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, took part in the march calling for an indefinite political strike against the Stability Plan and for the overthrow of the government.

The PAME rally, over 30,000 strong, was held under the slogan ‘make the rich pay for the crisis’ and was attended by workers mainly from the private sector. There were also large contingents of university and school students. The view of Stalinist leaders of the PAME and the Greek Communist Party (KKE) is that the militancy of the working class will ‘shake the government and the EU’ and will ‘create better conditions for a strong workers’ counter-attack which will overthrow the barbaric austerity measures and finally the anti-working class policies of the government.’

The KKE leaders brand as ‘provocateurs’ those who call for the overthrow of the current Papandreou government and see the world economic capitalist crisis as one of the cycle crises of the system described by Marx in Capital.

Only about 3,000 workers attended the GSEE-ADEDY rally; the vast majority of workers showed their contempt to the trade union bureaucracy by congregating a short distance away.

On the GSEE rally platform large letters proclaimed ‘people and their needs are above the markets.’

The GSEE’s leader Yiannis Panagopoulos said that ‘the Greek government must resist the pressures and the will of the markets, and must say “stop” to their political supervisors, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the bureaucrats of Brussels whose policies brought the crisis to Europe and poverty to her peoples.’ Panagopoulos did not mention once the government’s Stability Plan and in fact identified himself with the Greek government when he called on ‘European governments’ to support Greece.

The ADEDY leader Spyros Papaspyros went further in identifying with the Greek government when he said that ‘Greek people and workers want equal treatment; they want to borrow at the same rate as other countries; this is a fair demand on the EU countries.’ Papaspyros repeated word by word the phrase out of a statement by the UNI-Europa’s Regional Secretary Bernadette Ségol who was present at the Athens rally along with John Monks, the General Secretary of European Trade Union Federation, and Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, the General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions. In her statement Ségol also said that ‘Greece is the victim of greedy speculators, and unscrupulous bankers like Goldman Sachs,’ echoing the Greek Prime Minister Papandreou’s remarks of ‘speculators hammering Greece.’

It is clear that the only advice to the Greek workers offered by the European trade union bureaucrats, and their Greek colleagues, is support for the Greek government who are actually implementing the biggest attack on workers rights and wages since the military junta some 45 years ago.

As the Athens march got near the Vouli (Greek parliament) the police guarding luxury hotels and shops came under attack by youths shouting ‘police out of the march’ and throwing fruit and stones.

The armed riot police retaliated immediately with liberal use of tear-gas and attacks on the demonstrators aiming to split the march. But workers kept discipline and made the police withdraw. Reports say that police launched attacks on youth and students well after the end of the demonstration.