WORKERS in Greece staged the biggest march of recent years in Athens on Wednesday, against the government of Prime Minister Yiorghos Papandreou which carries out the class war policies of the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission.
But as the truly colossal march reached Syntagma square in front of the Vouli building (Greek parliament), it was viciously attacked with huge amounts of tear-gas by riot police.
The main slogan of the march, addressed to the government, was ‘Take the Accord and get out of here!’ It is estimated that over 150,000 workers and students took part in the march, part of the one-day general strike called by the GSEE (Greek TUC) and the ADEDY (public sector trades unions federation).
It was the tenth one-day general strike since February of last year when Papandreou signed the infamous Accord with the ‘troika’ of the IMF-EC-European Central Bank, to slash wages and pensions, destroy the welfare state and health services, and impose ‘flexible’ working conditions so as to get a 110bn euros loan to rescue the Greek capitalist economy.
The riot police literally carried out a tear-gas ‘blitzkrieg’ against demonstrators with the aim of stopping the tens of thousands of workers congregating in the square in front of the Vouli.
The very large square was transformed into a ‘gas chamber’ of tear-gas where the riot police executed their plan to ‘clean up’ the square of demonstrators.
Several trade unions had issued a call before the strike for workers to fill the square and stay there until the government resigned. The Greek government decided that this was to be avoided and sent in 5,000 riot police to do so.
Despite the vicious tear-gas and riot police attack and operations in the square, about 5,000 demonstrators managed to stay in front of the Vouli while some trade unionists with loudspeakers urged everyone to stay put: ‘We remain here as our democratic right, we won’t go away until the government goes,’ they shouted.
But the trades union bureaucrats of the GSEE and ADEDY had disappeared from the march as soon as the riot police started. Earlier, the Greek Communist Party’s separate march had passed the square and gone home.
The tens of thousands of demonstrators scattered into the side streets to avoid the tear-gas – police later announced 26 arrests.
Several workers took the initiative, including members of the Trotskyist Revolutionary Marxist League, and went over to the masses of workers close by the square and urged them to come up in front of the Vouli.
After nearly one hour of tear-gas riot police operations in the square, still about 3,000 workers and youth remained outside the Vouli shouting ‘down with the junta of the IMF-EC!’.