Workers participated in their millions last Wednesday in the biggest one-day general strike in Greece.
It was called by the GSEE (Greek TUC) against the right-wing government’s Pensions Bill which slashes pensions, raises pension age by 5-15 years and loots workers’ Pensions Funds.
Government offices, banks, chemical works, ports, refineries, shipyards, schools and universities, large department stores remained shut.
No newspapers were printed; radio and TV stations carried no news or current affairs programmes as technicians and journalists joined the strike. The large majority of Athens airport flights were cancelled and no ships sailed out of the large Greek ports until midday. Theatres and the national opera remained dark.
In the capital Athens, literally hundreds of thousands of workers marched from the GSEE offices to the Vouli (Greek parliament) demanding the withdrawal of the bill.
It was the largest demonstration in the history of the working class movement.
Virtually all sections of the Greek working class took part in Wednesday’s strike and in the demonstrations held in every single town and city.
In Athens the march was led by thousands of electricity and power station workers, bank workers and dustmen, the three sections who have been in the forefront of the fight against the government’s bill.
They have been on strike for two weeks and have faced the violent attacks of the riot police, the strike-breakers’ gangs and the vilification by the right-wing capitalist media.
Many thousands of university and college students participated along with a large contingent of school students.
Some 30,000 workers and students staged a separate march organised by the Greek Communist Party (KKE).
The strike marks a turning point in the struggle of Greek workers against the government for the defence of pensions, wages, conditions and rights.
An historic head-on collision between workers and the capitalist government is taking place in Greece in a revolutionary situation created by the current unprecedented economic crisis and the inability of the Greek government to rule in the usual ‘democratic’ way.
The government appears as determined to push through the reactionary ‘reforms’ to save the Greek highly indebted economy. But the price of oil and the stock markets collapse are fuelling the crisis; the Athens bourse has dived from 5,200 points on 1 January to 3,800 last Tuesday.
The Greek government is holding a majority of just one in the Vouli and this exacerbates the political crisis.
But the Greek trade union leaders of the GSEE and of the big unions are totally unable and unwilling to provide the necessary, unbending leadership to win the struggle; their aim is for an ‘honourable compromise’ with the government when the ground and the basis for such compromises have long disappeared.
The current right-wing Karamanlis government is carrying out a class counter-revolution against workers, farmers and youth and he would impose dictatorial measures to push through the European Union-dictated ‘reforms’.
Industrialists have already called for yet another Pensions Bill to completely obliterate social security.
For the Greek Communist Party (KKE) the Greek working class is either ‘weak’ or ‘not ready’ to take on the Karamanlis government and overthrow it.
Cynically the KKE’s General Secretary Aleka Paparigha appeared even more confident than Karamanlis himself that the Pensions Bill will become law. She called for a campaign of ‘disobedience’ since workers were not ready to defeat Karamanlis.
The situation in Greece is fast developing towards an open conflict between the government and workers. In such conditions the Greek working class and youth would have to speedily build a mass revolutionary party to take on the capitalist government, defeat it and establish a workers’ and small farmers’ socialist government.
• Statement by the Revolutionary Marxist League, supporters of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Athens 17 March 2008.
No to the destruction of social security!
Hands off pensions and pensions’ funds!
No to the anti-working class Pensions Bill!
Occupy all work places!
The Karamanlis government has unleashed a counter-revolutionary class war aiming at the destruction of the pensions system and wages of the working class.
The government’s Pensions Bill will be followed by others ever more reactionary.
All the organs of the capitalist state, the courts and the armed riot police, as well as the capitalist media and the scabs have been co-ordinated against workers’ mobilisations.
The collapse of the Greek economy is essentially due to the world economic crisis and the explosive price of an oil barrel now over $110!
No capitalist economy can afford such a crisis. For this reason the European Union imposes the reactionary ‘reforms’ put into practice by the New Democracy government and fully supported by the PASOK social-democrats.
The militant strikes and mobilisations of electricity workers, of bank workers and local government workers show the determination of the Greek working class to fight for their rights.
This fight must now be spread with the occupations of banks, power stations, rubbish depots, government buildings, telecommunications, transport depots, airports, ports etc.
In today’s critical struggle, the reformist trade union leaders back down every day. They refuse to expel from the trade union movement all strike-breakers, they refuse to launch occupations, they obey the pressures and allow ‘essential staff’ to work.
Today’s absolute priority is the forging of a United Front of workers’ resistance for the overthrow of the government.
For the KKE (Greek Communist Party) and the leaders of the GSEE (Greek TUC) this is impossible! For them capitalism is strong and the workers are not ready!
On the contrary the Trotskyists of the RML stress the undefeated power of workers, the international nature of the struggle and the need for the foundation of a new revolutionary Marxist leadership in the trade unions and in the working class.
We live in a revolutionary period and the immediate task of the working class is to take political power.
The capitalist state prepare their own violent dictatorship to impose poverty on the working class and save capitalism.
That is why the highest task in front of workers today is the founding and building of a Revolutionary Party which will fight for the establishment of a socialist government of representatives of workers and small farmers on the basis of a planned economy under workers’ control.
For an indefinite general strike to overthrow the Karamanlis government!
For a workers-farmers’ government!