Athens Clashes!

Sacked Finance Ministry cleaners marching in Athens
Sacked Finance Ministry cleaners marching in Athens

IN THE early hours of Thursday the Vouli (Greek parliament) voted by 229 to 64 with six abstentions on the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government’s Bill of new austerity measures as dictated by the EC-IMF-ECB troika.

Outside the Vouli the armed riot police viciously attacked with noise and tear-gas grenades the 15,000 workers and youth who were holding an anti-austerity rally called by the ADEDY (public sector workers confederation) as part of the 24-hour national strike. Both the SYRIZA youth and SYRIZA’s META trade union faction participated in the rally.

Dozens of riot squads had been positioned next to the demonstrators to create intimidation and tension. Just minutes prior to the orchestrated and planned riot police attack the ADEDY speaker appealed to the police to withdraw from the rally as tension was building up with a group of anarchist youths.

Once the first petrol bombs were thrown, the riot police attacked with tear-gas to clear the square in front of the Vouli. As people ran away they shouted, ‘junta, junta!’ But a few thousand workers and youth stayed in front of the Vouli. 25 people were arrested.

The government Bill, that includes the agreement signed by Tsipras and the EU leaders in Brussels last Monday, increases taxation, puts everyday packed foodstuffs into a 23 per cent VAT category, reduces pensions and increases the pension age to 67. This Greek government will introduce more austerity Bills next week.

The Greek Prime Minister and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said that this was ‘a quite bad’ Bill but it was the only option. He declared that Brussels were machinating a coup against his government but it had been prevented because he had accepted the austerity measures proposed by the troika!

32 SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) deputies voted against their own government Bill, a further six abstained and one did not attend. 110 SYRIZA deputies voted for the Bill along with the conservative, social democratic and the Potami media parties.

Previous to the vote it was announced that the Deputy Finance Minister Nadia Valavani had resigned as well as the Finance Ministry’s secretary. The SYRIZA deputies who voted against the Bill included the Speaker of the Vouli, Zoe Konstantopoulou, the Energy and Industry Minister, Panayiotis Lafazanis, the Social Affairs Deputy Minister, Dimitris Stratoulis and the ex-Finance Minister, Yianis Varoufakis. Their logic was that ‘we support the government but we do not support austerity’.

The Greek Prime Minister and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has refused to call a Central Committee meeting of his party despite the demand of SYRIZA’s Political Secretariat on Tuesday. 109 SYRIZA CC members, out of a total of 201, have issued a statement condemning the austerity Bill and asking for a CC meeting.

Some 20 SYRIZA regional committees – including those of South Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus – have also issued statements against the austerity Bill. None has issued statements for the Bill. The SYRIZA youth and the SYRIZA trade unionists have condemned the austerity measures Bill.

Tsipras is a minority in his own party and he now heads a minority coalition SYRIZA-ANEL government.