Greece: The simmering revolt

Mike Kay

Recent mainstream media reports on Greece have focused on the two general elections held in quick succession: the first, inconclusive; the second, a shaky win for the right wing New Democracy party, after voters were blackmailed into backing pro-austerity parties. But beyond the spectacle of parliamentary politics, Greece remains in simmering revolt, as the economic hardship ratchets up daily.

Union federations have called a number of general strikes, albeit with little in the way of a co-ordinated and on-going campaign to change the political game plan. A couple of disputes exemplify the militancy of workers who have had enough of being screwed. Employees at Greek Steel have faced down legal challenges and employer scab-herding to continue their struggle against job losses and cuts in pay. As the strikers put it: “we are not returning to a dangerous job that places at risk our lives for the pittance of 500 euros per month and without our 120 sacked work colleagues being reinstated”. Meanwhile workers at Phone Marketing have been on strike for over 100 days against demands by their employer to reduce them to working one day a week and being paid less than €200 a month.

On the political front, the emergence of a hard left coalition, Syriza has been remarkable. In 2009, it was polling 4.5%, but the most recent election gave it 27% of the vote, beating the social democratic Pasok party into third place. Whilst the leadership of Syriza is reformist, the coalition includes a large number of revolutionary groups. Where the revolutionaries stood independently (most notably in the Antarsya coalition) their results were disappointing. The other major force on the Greek left is the Communist Party, KKE, which remains die-hard Stalinist, has suffered a decrease in its vote, but retains a heavy base in the working class. [Read more…]

Protesting like the Greeks

Marika Pratley, Workers Party, Wellington

On Friday May 25 Bill English criticized over 400 Auckland students  who protested against the budget cuts. He commented,  “they need some Greeks to show them how to do it.”  Greece has a rich history of radical tradition. With Greece bearing the forefront of the economic crisis in Europe, the Greek working class has faced intense pressure to comply with austerity measures.

Framed in the mass media as “rioting-hooligans”, “tax-dodgers”, or simply “lazy”, these misconceptions have led to Greeks being ridiculed and scapegoated in-the-name of the economic crisis. However both capitalism and the financial crisis are global. These austerity measures are not unique to Athens, and the outrage against austerity is an international phenomenon which goes outside Greece’s borders. Furthermore the Greek working class did not ’cause’ the crisis in Europe, and the working class and beneficiaries in Greece should not be forced into paying for the crisis. The financial crisis ensued as a result of the capitalist system not being able to sustain itself. [Read more…]

Commentary on Greece

Recent elections in Greece have shown growing public support for the anti-austerity left and radical left, particularly for SYRIZA, which translates to Coalition of the Radical Left. The radical and anti-austerity left correctly ruled out forming a government with the pro-cuts social democrats. However, the traditional Communist Party, the (KKE), which has long ceased to be a revolutionary socialist organisation, has failed to unite with SYRIZA. While the left could not form a government, neither could the pro-austerity parties. This will result in new elections later in June. One important lesson to be drawn from this is the rate at which support can grow for organised left parties during an upsurge of struggle. There are numerous debates about how Marxists and socialists should proceed in the coming period. There are questions such as should the hard-left form a government? To what extent should membership in the Eurozone be protected or downplayed? and what are the ramifications for the wider European left and working class of electoral victory or defeat? Below we republish a range of articles from the international left which engage on these questions. [Read more…]

Thousands across Europe resist austerity attacks

John Edmundson The Spark November 2010

Europe has seen a massive upsurge in worker resistance to planned implementation of continent-wide austerity measures. The size and militancy of the demonstrations and strikes should serve as an inspiration to workers in this part of the world, where class consciousness is at an all time low and union leadership has been sorely lacking and misdirected. In New Zealand, the CTU’s national day of action against the proposed extension to the 90 Day Act and other attacks on workers’ rights was morphed into a Labour Party election rally and Christchurch, where job losses due to earthquake related business closures, and earthquake recovery projects will mean workers there will be more exposed than most to the provisions of the 90 Day Act, the CTU decided in its wisdom that “for obvious reasons,” there would not even be a rally.

Compare this with the situation developing across Europe and the contrast could hardly be starker. The Spark has already given some coverage to the massive demonstrations that struck Greece, but huge worker rallies have taken place across many European cities and industrial action has hit several countries, most notable Spain and France. While it would be wrong to read too much into the potential of these actions, they do represent a significant positive development given the relative quiescence of the working class movement. [Read more…]

Greece Interview: “To have a general strike in Greece it is not such a big deal”

The Spark July 2010

In the last issue of The Spark we reported on recent events from the class struggle in Greece. Some of the fiercest popular resistance to the current crisis of capitalism has erupted in Greece over the last couple of years. The latest chapter in this unfolding drama has been the revelation that Greece is unable to pay back the huge foreign debt that it has accumulated during its years of economic growth since joining the eurozone in 2001. According to a report by Costas Lapavitsas and other economists (http://tiny.cc/a7e05), the debt crisis is an inevitable consequence of the structure of the eurozone, which is extremely hierarchical.

A “core” comprising the richest countries (Belgium, France, Germany and Netherlands) dominates the “periphery” (Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain). Germany has acquired the dominant position in the capitalist “race to the bottom” by squeezing its workers hard in the aftermath of reunification.  German politicians and newspapers have been busy whipping up resentment against “profligate” Greeks, since a large chunk of the cost of the bailout package will fall on the German working class. However, it is only the militancy of the Greek workers that have prevented their living standards being pushed down even further than their already low level. It is time for German and other workers to start “learning Greek”!

Mike Kay, industrial officer for the Workers Party, who travelled in Greece in June, spoke to Stavros and Paulin from the OKDE (Organisation of Communist Internationalists of Greece) in Athens. [Read more…]

“To have a general strike in Greece it is not such a big deal”

Mike Kay spoke to Stavros and Paulin from OKDE (Organisation of Communist Internationalists of Greece) in Athens.

Memorial to Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Exarchia, Athens

MK: Greece has been the focus of much of the debate about the problems of the European economy. Why does it occupy this special positon?

OKDE: For several reasons, Greece is the weak link in the chain of the European Union (EU). Firstly, due to the weakness of Greek capital due to the reduction in the productive bases of industry and agriculture. Secondly, because of the weaknesses in the EU as a whole – renegotiation or non-payment of “toxic” debt may lead to the collapse of German and French banks. This maybe enough to set off a “domino effect” leading to the collapse of several countries’ economies. Thirdly, there is the Greek movement against austerity, of which the latest pact from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU is trying to break the backbone. Lastly, there is a very deep political crisis; the disintegration of the Pasok (Socialist party) government may have already begun. [Read more…]

In solidarity with the Greek people’s resistance against austerity

Joint statement from Asia-Pacific

May 13, 2010

[If your organisation would like to sign on, please email international@socialist-alliance.org.]

We, left and progressive organisations from the Asia-Pacific region, express our solidarity with the resistance of the Greek people against the harsh austerity being imposed upon them by the governments of the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The proposed “rescue package” for the Greek economy by the IMF-EU has triggered a huge struggle that will have worldwide ramifications for working people. [Read more…]

“We won’t pay for their crisis!”

Mike Kay

In Europe, the capitalist crisis has hit the working class much harder than it has so far in New Zealand. But in many countries, the victims are fighting back. A single slogan has found universal appeal – “We won’t pay for their crisis!” Here follows a brief survey of some of the highlights of the past few months:

 

Britain has seen its biggest upsurge in class struggle since the start of the Great Miners Strike, 25 years ago. Waves of unofficial strikes over union-agreement coverage on construction projects spread through power station and refinery sites across the country in early February. The strikes were in defiance of the anti-union laws, and not under the control of union leaders. At the early stages of the dispute there was a worrying element of nationalism, with the slogan “British jobs for British workers” appearing on some picket lines, and picked up gleefully by the bourgeois media.

 However, as the movement gained coherence, more class-based demands came to the fore, such as: for all workers on site to be under the national union agreement for the engineering construction industry. The debate is still raging on the British left as to how much of a role anti-migrant worker sentiment played in spreading the dispute, but revolutionaries clearly have a vital task of confronting an undercurrent of nationalism, whilst relating positively to a spontaneous outpouring of working class rage. [Read more…]