Greek General Strike Topples Government!

Victorious dancing in the square in front of the Vouli as the Papandreou government falls
Victorious dancing in the square in front of the Vouli as the Papandreou government falls

THE massive united action of workers and youth in Greece, unleashed in the enormous one-day general strike last Wednesday, has toppled the hated government of Prime Minister Yiorghos Papandreou.

This has destroyed the conspiracies of the ruling class for a ‘grand coalition’ government and has opened the way for revolutionary developments of historic importance.

At 10.00pm on Wednesday night a defeated Papandreou made a short statement declaring that he and the right-wing Opposition leader Antonis Samaras had failed to reach agreement on a coalition government and thus he was being forced to form a new government which is to seek a vote of confidence in the Vouli (Parliament) this Sunday night.

But even before the strike, Papandreou had lost the support of two deputies, and his parliamentary majority now is cut to just four. On Thursday morning another Papandreou parliamentary deputy announced his resignation.

Like a huge tidal wave 100,000 workers, organised by their trades unions, marched to the Vouli square where they merged with tens of thousands of youth and workers congregated there. About ten thousand more had blocked the roads in two other locations around the Vouli building to prevent ministers and parliamentary deputies from entering to discuss the new savage economic austerity measures demanded by the IMF and the European Commission.

At about 9.00am, demonstrators attacked with stones, eggs and fruit, cars carrying the President of Greece and the Prime Minister as they passed in high speed through a blockade. Then demonstrators staged a sit-in. An eyewitness, Athens Polytechnic Assistant Professor Nikos Belavilas, told News Line that the sit-in was attacked by the riot police, and demonstrators were violently pushed aside or arrested. Belavilas was hit by a riot police shield on his head and needed hospital treatment. The demonstrators demanded that all those arrested be freed and the riot police were forced to obey.

This incident was used as a pretext for the journalists’ trade union leaders to call off the strike in the media, a decision bitterly attacked by journalists and media workers.

By lunchtime the square in front of the Vouli was absolutely packed as more and more marchers were coming into the square. Even the Greek Communist Party’s (KKE) march, about 30,000 strong, entered the square and remained there for two hours. The leaders of the KKE have refused to support the nightly rallies in the Vouli square saying that the youth and workers who participate are ‘apolitical’ and have ‘no political perspective’.

But the Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Marxist League (RML), the Greek section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, sold hundreds of copies of their newspaper in the square calling for the overthrow of the Papandreou parliamentary junta and for the kicking out of the IMF and EC through an indefinite general political strike.

Intense political discussions were carried out centering on where do we go from here, as workers and youth were certain that this movement is going to win.

RML members argued that through this massive strike, which is forging a united front with the youth, the door is opening for the working class to take power based on the kind of Popular Assemblies that are operating in the Vouli square and other cities as well as through the District Councils or Committees of Action set up in various areas of the capital Athens.

The RML’s paper called for the building of a mass revolutionary party to lead workers and youth to smash the capitalist state and introduce a planned economy, writing off Greece’s debt to the international banks.

At about 1.00pm, while thousands of workers were still two miles away from the square, marching their way in, youth attacked a high metal fence set up by the police in front of one of the Vouli’s entrances. Immediately the riot police unleashed an orchestrated attack with teargas and noise and lightning bombs against demonstrators.

At that very point the leaders of the trade union bureaucracy ordered workers to leave the square and go home. Likewise, the Stalinist leaders of the KKE ordered their march to turn back and leave the square. They were not going to be involved in any way in the battles that broke out.

The fully armed riot police attacked demonstrators from two opposite sides of the square with the clear aim of dispersing workers and youth and conquering the square.

For four hours they attacked with literally hundreds of teargas canisters which contained a very dense toxic substance.

Demonstrators were pushed back but then the riot police were forced to retreat as they were not able to stand the force of the workers and youth. Throughout the afternoon demonstrators set up some barricades to stop the attacks of riot police on motorcycles. The PA system in the square kept on urging defence actions against the police attack.

Suddenly at about 5.30pm the riot police withdrew to defend the Vouli and the Finance Ministry building as it became known that the Prime Minister Yiorghos Papandreou was seeking a coalition government.

The tens of thousands of workers and youth filled the square once again and joyful, victorious dancing ensued to the sounds of a extremely dexterous lyre player from Crete.

Demonstrators were enthusiastic about their achievement of holding the square and toppling the government.

A music concert followed as more people started coming to the square from the Athens districts wanting to take part in the victory celebrations.

After the concert, a meeting of the Popular Assembly took place that lasted till midnight. Then again more music and dancing!

Calls for the overthrow of ‘the whole political system (which) has brought us the IMF and the EC savage measures’ was the line that dominated the discussion of the Popular Assembly all last week.

Now all this scepticism as to what can be achieved has been swept away. The resolution passed on Wednesday night stated that ‘we are against the EC and IMF’ and called on trades unions for ‘continuous strike action’. It also called for the organisation of a march to the GSEE (Greek TUC) building demanding a 48-hour general strike.

Hospitals reported some 50 demonstrators injured and police stated that about 40 people were arrested.
Nevertheless, the Greek socialist revolution is now under way!