Capitalist barbarity faces Greek working class

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

On 10 January Greece’s unemployment rate at 26.8% became the highest ever in the European Union, surpassing that of Spain. These figures are the result of the conscious, directed and accelerating policy of the troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The troika agreed its first bailout to Greece in 2010. Since then the unemployment rate has doubled. More people lost their jobs in 2012 than in any other year in the past two decades. 83% of people have seen their incomes decline, on average, by 17% and some incomes have fallen by up to 60%. This is not enough for the ruling class. A recent IMF assessment concluded that more public sector lay-offs, more reductions in benefits to the unemployed and families with children, and more sell-offs of state assets were necessary, and that unemployment would continue to rise through to 2014. MICHAEL MACGREGOR reports.

This is capitalist barbarity. Amnesty International reports a growing humanitarian crisis with starvation, malnutrition and dehydration amongst Greek children. The troika regards this as progress so Greek banks have been re-admitted to the European banks’ central lending system. The next bailout of €9.2bn is signed off and goes directly to the Greek banks. Not a cent of it is intended to relieve the effects of deliberately-imposed poverty.

In conditions of acute class struggle, the forms of opposition to austerity and its corrosive social consequences are being put to the test. Parents at an Athens elementary school united in protest at the deportation of a Syrian father. Council workers who remain in jobs, occupied the municipal offices and refuse to process redundancy notices or allow the closure of workplaces. Striking refuse workers assisted by blockading streets with garbage trucks. Health workers are organising against savage cuts that mean that the country will loose 661 out of 2,500 clinics and 11,000 out of 46,000 hospital beds. Schools remain occupied by students and teachers in protest at education and heating cuts. In Thessaloniki, protesting school students were attacked by fascists but were able to call on striking workers from a close-by picket line to help chase them off.

Trade unions have been fighting back as well. Athens public transport workers went on strike for ten days against a threatened wage cut of 20%. Declaring that ‘the Greek people have made enormous sacrifices and I will not allow exceptions,’ Prime Minister Antonis Samaras invoked an emergency mobilisation law which would allow the government to jail anyone who refused to return to work. Police entered transport depots to hand out the mobilisation papers.

Co-ordinated police operations used against immigrants and refugees since the autumn of 2012 have now been deployed by the Greek state against the militant anarchist movement. In a statement, 95 of those arrested in brutal attacks on squatted housing and social spaces related their repression to others under attack and point the way forward for the whole working class movement. ‘We are part of the world struggle against capitalist barbarity, state terrorism and the fascist turn…[We are] part of local and migrant workers, unemployed, students, those resisting in the neighbourhoods, persecuted and arrested people in struggle, who do not bow their heads.’

As previous issues of FRFI have pointed out, vital anti-fascist organisation has emerged from those forces outside of the established political formations and unions. The rise of the fascist Golden Dawn acting as unofficial auxiliaries of the Greek police has brought about a range of responses and reactions. Anti-fascists have organised and called for defence in every community and workplace. Motorcycle patrols of hundreds of anarchist anti-fascists are welcomed in neighbourhoods and Golden Dawn offices are attacked, petrol bombed and, in the case of an office in Crete which opened opposite a police station, even dynamited.

Alongside this militant, popular development, the established political parties and organisations have proclaimed Athens an ‘Anti-fascist City’. 5,000 joined a united protest against Golden Dawn on 19 January; thousands more demonstrated across the country. The protest had been planned for a month; days before it, on 15 January, fascists murdered a young Pakistani man, 27-year-old Shezhad Luqman, on his way to work. The day after this brutal killing, however, it was business as usual for the racist Greek police as they rounded up hundreds of immigrants. The total number detained since the launch of Operation Xenios Zeus last year is over 75,000. Defeating austerity demands broader and deeper popular solidarity against ever-widening political repression and racism. Solidarity with immigrants and all those targeted by the state and the fascists is absolutely essential.

At the end of November and early December 2012, Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, held a conference to prepare for the founding of a unified organisation this spring. Representing the massive new wave of activist support which Syriza gained following the June 2012 elections, the coalition has 30,000 members, the majority of whom are not members of any affiliated organisation. 3,000 delegates from 500 branches gathered to debate and agree on the campaigning programme for the next period.

According to the Communist Organisation of Greece, which claims 40% of the organised membership of Syriza, the conference had been preceded by hundreds of popular assemblies in Athens and other Greek cities electing delegates to the event. The Left Platform warned of the dangers of being drawn into negotiations with the troika and of abandoning the central position of absolute repudiation of the austerity memorandums of the troika.

The life or death battle over the repudiation of austerity in Greece requires the absolute unity of the working class to be argued and fought for. There can be no question of a successful fight-back while sections of the working class are allowed to be attacked and left to fight alone. The fight against fascism is central.