GREEK STUDENTS VICTORY! – Bill to privatise universities withdrawn

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ON the eve of last Thursday’s student demonstrations, the Greek right-wing government withdrew plans to table in the Vouli (Greek parliament) the reactionary Education Bill and a revision of the Greek Constitution which would allow the privatisation of education.

University and technical colleges students and lecturers claimed a great victory.

They had demanded the withdrawal of the government’s plans through huge rallies and demonstrations, occupations and a solid lecturers’ indefinite strike.

Last Thursday as over 400 university departments were occupied out of 480, once again tens of thousands of students, lecturers and public sector workers took to the streets all over Greece.

In the capital Athens over 20,000 marched to the Ministry for Education this time with the police watching from afar.

The secondary teachers trade union OLME had declared a three-hour national stoppage.

The students occupations co-ordinating committee and a lecturers’ delegation were immediately received by the Deputy Minister for Education Spyros Taliadouros who called for a ‘wide dialogue.’

Only three days ago the government rejected any meetings with the students and lecturers and described the occupying students as a ‘tiny minority.’

The Minister for Education Marietta Yiannakou also appealed for dialogue and stated that the government intends to introduce an Education Bill this autumn.

But the appeals for dialogue were utterly rejected by students’ and lecturers’ trade union leaders who organised a victory concert Friday night with most of the top Greek music groups and singers.

The students’ and lecturers’ struggle has waged a huge blow to the government of prime minister Kostas Karamanlis who faces a huge economic crisis and the pressure from the IMF and the European Union to impose ‘reforms’ on workers’ rights and pensions, on education and health.

The students’ and lecturers’ movement threatened the Karamanlis government as it started attracting active trade union support.

The main characteristics of the students’ and lecturers’ struggles were the massive participation of students in meetings where the vote for occupation was taken by huge majorities.

First and second year students proved to be the most militant.

The occupations were opposed by some supporters of the social-democratic PASOK party as well as by the leaders of the Stalinist KKE (Greek Communist Party).

In several university and college departments, right-wing students violently attacked the occupations in the middle of the night.

But as occupations avalanched throughout Greece, they created a crisis within the ranks of the social-democratic students and the Stalinists.

Students voted for occupation, breaking with their political alliances and forced both the social-democrats and the Stalinists to reluctantly offer support.

Now the demand for the resignation of the Education Minister was adopted with the Stalinists opposing it, the logic being that it would not resolve anything.

Similar processes occurred in the lecturers’ trade union; at first those who fought for an all-out indefinite strike until the withdrawal of the government’s plans were in a minority.

But as the students’ movement became huge, lecturers declared an indefinite strike on 1 June.

Even then the bureaucrats of the GSEE (Greek TUC) and ADEDY (public workers federation) refused to even issue a message of support, let alone call national strikes as demanded by the students and lecturers.

The time has never been better for the establishment of a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International in Greece.