THE VOLCANO of people’s rage which was building up its fury over the last few months, erupted in Greece on Wednesday in an unprecedented explosion of some 200,000 youth and workers with their families flooding the streets of central Athens and of all cities and towns in Greece.
The anger of people over the rail crash that has killed over 100 workers on the night of 28 February, mostly university students, has given vent to class hatred against the right wing government of K. Mitsotakis and its colossal food and household bills hikes, its police oppression, with mass youth unemployment, low wages, destruction of public health and education, and its support for NATO-EU’s war in the Ukraine.
Last Wednesday’s 24-hour strike called by the ADEDY (Public Sector Unions Federation) and cities’ Trades Councils, which coincided with International Women’s Day, proved to be the biggest ever anti-government mobilisation in Greece’s history.
The treacherous leaders of the GSEE (Greek TUC) refuse to call or participate in the strike!
Tens of thousands of youth, school and university students, workers, shopkeepers, professionals and pensioners marched in the main Greek cities such as Thessaloniki, Iraklio, Patras, Larissa with large students’ populations. In the small islands of the Aegean Sea virtually all inhabitants joined the marches.
In Athens, some 100,000 school and university students and workers occupied at midday the whole of the city’s centre marching with their banners proclaiming: ‘We are the voice of the dead!’ and ‘Turn rage into overthrow!’
It was clear by earlier strike reports that this would be a truly massive strike march. Seafarers, port workers and construction workers reported 100% participation in the strike, along with the railway workers who have been on strike since 1 March demanding implementation of safety systems.
Urban transport was completely shut down save for a few hours in Athens when the Metro system operated to facilitate workers travelling to the strike’s rally in front of the Vouli (Greek parliament).
All shops, department stores, banks and business offices in the Athens city centre remained shut. Professional people, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists and pensioners joined the march.
Most of civil servants and shop workers came out on strike.
Teachers’ unions recorded the highest ever strike participation of primary and secondary school teachers and other education workers.
There were very large contingents in the Athens strike march of local government workers, hospital workers and doctors, bus and tram staff and drivers, metal, chemical, electricity and garment factories’ workers.
School students provided the most energy and enthusiasm of the huge Athens strike march with constant rhymed slogans and their makeshift banners.
They came to the Athens centre after walking out of their schools and forming a demonstration, 200-300 students at a time. They then walked miles from the districts to join the strike march and rally.
Strike organisers set up speakers’ platforms opposite the main administrative building of Athens University. One was set up by ADEDY the other by PAME the Greek Communist Party’s trade union section. From there people marched to the Vouli building (Greek parliament) just one kilometre away.
Inside the Vouli, seemingly undeterred by the huge demonstration, the government’s parliamentary deputies along with the PASOK social-democrats, passed yet another EU-dictated Bill dismantling free state education and proclaiming school students’ mobilisations as ‘bullying’ to be severely punished.
Last year the government’s deputies had voted a Bill that likewise proscribed workers’ strikes and mobilisations as ‘bullying’.
As the thousands upon thousands of youth and workers entered the large square in front of the Vouli, the rage and determination of marchers was building up.
But neither the ADEDY nor PAME, nor the railway unions, have had any plans besides the powerful protest strike march. There was no platform nor PA system installed in front of the Vouli. Trade unions’ stewards guided people away from the square.
As the last contingents of marchers walked into the square, the hated armed riot police squads positioned in one of the far corners of the square, moved in against the marchers in a haze of tear gas grenades and noise-lightning bombs.
They were going to repeat last Sunday’s plan of splitting the people in the square and then disperse them in the most violent way.
But not this time! As the riot police attacked, there were shouts in the crowd ‘don’t go away – we are many!’ Thousands stood their ground as dozens of black dressed youths threw a hail of stones, fruit and petrol bombs against the riot police who back-tracked and retreated.
Now, in front of the Vouli building armed riot police squads were ordered against the few thousands in the square. They threw liberally their tear gas grenades and their smoke and noise bombs.
They too had to back-track and withdraw as scores of youth and students rain them with stones, fruit and petrol bombs shouting ‘murderers’, ‘Mitsotakis scum’ and ‘police pigs murderers’.
Riot police also attacked with tear gas the Administrative Building of Athens University occupied by students and decorated with very large banners stating: ‘Murderers – we will overthrow you!’
But once again, the riot police had to retreat.
It was a victory of the strike march and of the students, and an utter demoralising defeat for the riot police.
Students have called for marches for today and the Piraeus Trades Council called another rally at the Vouli for Sunday.
This is a critical situation that demands immediate decisive and determined leadership from the youth and trade unions to move on and throw out this wretched government of bankers and energy and ship-owners oligarchs.
The next days are crucial. The issue now is going forward to overthrow the hated ‘murderers’ government by ‘the voice of the dead’ forming a party of revolutionary force to proceed to form a workers’ government.