Greek Student Occupations Take To The Streets

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Polytechnic students at the front of last Thursday’s 15,000-strong march in Athens against the revision of Article 16 of the Constitution which would allow the privatisation of universities
Polytechnic students at the front of last Thursday’s 15,000-strong march in Athens against the revision of Article 16 of the Constitution which would allow the privatisation of universities

MORE than 15,000 students marched through Athens last Thursday demanding the withdrawal of the proposed revision of Article 16 of the Constitution, which would privatise education.

Tomorrow, they are expected to return to the streets, joined by their lecturers, who are on indefinite strike, and striking secondary school teachers.

Both the students, who are occupying more than 350 of the country’s 456 university departments, and the secondary teachers have called on the GSEE trade union confederation to call a general strike on February 15.

Students in occupation in Salonika, Greece’s second city, demanded that the Salonika Trades Council call all its unions out tomorrow. They forced the union leaders to issue this call.

What has provoked this mass movement of occupations and strikes is the right-wing New Democracy government’s Bill to revise Article 16, and attacks on state education.

Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis’s New Democracy government wants to revise Article 16 of the Constitution to open the way for the privatisation of university education.

In addition, the proposed changes would enable state forces, like the riot police, to enter the universities, which is banned by law at present.

The school teachers faced a similar attack last year and an onslaught on their working conditions and pay.

Although the government retreated on its school plans last year, the secondary school teachers, organised in the OLME trade union, are striking once again to block any moves to re-introduce privatisation.

The determination of the students in occupation and the striking lecturers to defeat the government’s plans was demonstrated clearly on last Thursday’s march.

Students declared that they would maintain their occupations until the Karamanlis government withdraws its revisions of the Constitution.

The votes at weekly mass meetings of students on continuing the occupations are recording bigger majorities week by week.

The lecturers’ union has declared an indefinite strike, which has been going on for weeks.

The New Democracy government has been weakened by the decision of PASOK, the official ‘socialist’ Opposition, to withdraw its support for a revision of the Constitution. PASOK has called for a general election.

In this situation, the Karamanlis government is trying to wear down the fighting spirit of the students by dragging out the parliamentary processes.

In addition, it is relying on the PASOK and Stalinist union leaders to head off the calls for a general strike to bring down the Karamanlis government.

Karamanlis is also mobilising naked state violence against the students and striking workers.

Last Thursday, the riot police were out in force on the streets of Athens.

The police staged a provocation against the striking lecturers and engaged in running battles with youth near the Polytechnic after the march.

Tomorrow’s demonstration is expected to be bigger than the last one as striking teachers join the students in occupation on the streets of the Greek capital, bringing the city centre to a standstill.