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IW 06

Europe

Workers’ struggles in Greece

 

Piraeus, the biggest as well as other ports of the country, became a battlefield between riot police and workers on February 22, as seamen were in a 10 days strike against the lowering of their income and the right wing Karamanlis government had declared the martial law to break the strike.

The decision by the government to move against the strikers by declaring a “State of ” was met by a powerful resistance not only by the seamen and their unions but also by broad layers of the Greek working class. Many trade unions started political strikes of solidarity to the seamen’s fight and as the riot police clashed with the picket lines in the harbor, thousands of workers and youth, many trade unionists as well as the political organizations and Parties of the Left- including, of course, EEK, the Greek Section of the CRFI and its youth, the Organization of Revolutionary Youth- joined the battle against police repression. The clashes continued for hours. The workers resistance was fierce despite the brutality of the police and the massive use of chemicals.

The government, which had just reshuffled itself to try to present a “renewed” political face and overcome a protracted crisis due to its anti-popular economic measures and a series of political scandals, received a serious political blow and became the target of the anger of the entire people.

Unfortunately, the next day, the bureaucratic leaderships of the seamen unions, where the Stalinist Communist Party of Greece is particularly strong, decided to stop the mobilization.

Nevertheless, this battle was only a beginning. The General Confederation of the Trade Unions as well as the Federation of Public Employees decided to call a 4 hours stoppage on February 28 and a one-day General Strike on March 15 (the previous General Strike was on December 14, 2005) for wages increases and in defense of trade union and pension rights that are under constant attacks by the State and the bosses.

Greece, together with Italy, has the hugest public deficit and public debt in the European Union. The public debt was officially 107.8% of the GDP in 2005(in reality it is near 120%, about 250 billion USD) and the EU Commission demands to be cut at the level of 96.7% until 2008. Every year 9 billion euros have to be cut from public expenditures. In relation to the public deficit which is near 7% of the GDP, draconian measures are demanded, starting by the abolition of the existing pension rights and the privatization of the main State enterprises, slashing the jobs and increasing the prices for all social services. Health and education are particularly hit. The wages for this year will be under the official level of inflation. A “reform” of the Constitution is planned to abolish tenure in the public sector and to introduce the privatization of the universities, among other reactionary changes.

A period of sharp class confrontations has started as the deepening of the capitalist crisis drives to a political disaster the present government but also the main Opposition Party, PASOK, which under the leadership of George Papandreou has nothing to present as an alternative but the same kind of anti-popular policies and subservience to the demands of the EU, the Unites States and NATO. The bourgeois political system as a whole is at a dead end.

To prepare for the coming battles and for a workers socialist alternative, the trade unionists of EEK have successfully organized on February special Conference against the flexibility of labor relations and unemployment. Workers and trade unionists from the textile industry, ships, construction, banks, hospitals, transport, printing industry et al. as well as representatives of political organizations of the Left( the New left Current-NAR, the Left Regroupment, Workers’ Democracy, the Organization of Communist Internationalists of Greece- OKDE /Workers’ Struggle, the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist of Greece) joined the lively discussion organized by EEK, stressing the urgent need to build a United Class Front against the capital and its government, armed with a program of transitional demands.

Among other things, on the basis of proletarian internationalism, full solidarity was expressed in the meeting for comrade Marco Ferrando, the leader of the AMR Progetto Comunista under attack by the Italian imperialist bourgeoisie, its political personnel, its servants in the Centre Left, including Bertinotti who followed their orders to exclude Ferrando from the electoral lists of the PRC because of his class position against the imperialist war and occupation in Iraq.

The social —political developments in Greece and Italy, the recent strikes in Germany against the extension of the working day in the public sector and in France against flexibility and over-exploitation of the unemployed masses, particularly the youth, with contracts below the minimum wage and without any security for the job, mark the sharpening of the class struggle all over Europe after the shipwreck of the EU Constitution in last year’s referendums in France and Netherlands.

Savas Michael-Matsas