Greece: Troika austerity drives social conflict

Issue 
Anti-austerity protesters in Athens, July 15.

New strikes have hit Greece as anger flares over the latest deal pushed onto Greece by the Troika of European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Thousands of public sector workers from the ADEDY union took to the streets on July 15 as part of a general strike calling for the rejection of a raft of new austerity measures being put to the parliament by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Workers, including many affiliated to the governing SYRIZA party and other left groups, took part in protests. They called on the government, elected on an anti-austerity program within the framework of the eurozone, to reject the measures pushed on it by the forces of European capitalism.

Pharmacies, ports and train-lines were closed as the general strike called thousands of workers into the streets.

Joining the marchers were hundreds of cleaners, whose sacking became the centre of a popular struggle for jobs and in SYRIZA’s electoral campaign. Rehired when SYRIZA formed government in January, the cleaners would lose their jobs again under the new deal.

The deal, which passed Greece parliament in the early hours of July 16, requires SYRIZA to roll back any anti-austerity policies put into place during its first five months in power.

As night fell and the marchers arrived in Syntagma Square outside Greek parliament, a series of explosions spread chaos. Police fired tear gas into the left-wing marchers as well as passers-byers. The riot police, which still has close connections with the fascist Golden Dawn, chased and arrested protesters through the square.

The protesters regrouped and a night of battles with the police ended with multiple banks vandalised and attacks on police cars and officers.

The latest agreement has sparked a crisis in SYRIZA as well as in the streets. A majority of the SYRIZA Central Committee released a statement opposing the deal and demanding a CC be called to discuss the issue.

The statement, signed by 109 out of 201 central committee members, described the agreement as “a coup”. It called on all SYRIZA branches and cadres to oppose the agreement being forced upon the Greek people.

The statement said: “On July 12, a coup was carried out in Brussels ... which proved that the goal of the European leaders was to make an example of a people who had the vision of a different path, away and beyond the neoliberal model of extreme austerity. A coup that takes aim at any notion of democracy and popular sovereignty.

“The agreement with the 'institutions' was the result of the blackmailing of the country through economic strangulation ... We realise that suffocating pressure was put on the Greek side in the negotiations, but nevertheless, we believe that the people's proud 'no' vote in the referendum must forbid the government from succumbing to the extortionate ultimatums of the creditors.

“This agreement is not compatible with the ideas and the principles of the left. But most importantly, it is not compatible with the needs of the working class and the popular masses. This proposal cannot be accepted by the members and the cadres of SYRIZA.”

The SYRIZA branch in Thessaloniki and the youth wing of SYRIZA also opposed the deal.

This crisis in SYRIZA has crystallised into a rebellion of the SYRIZA members of parliament, with 32 MPs voting no and six abstaining from the vote.

This included the parliamentary speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou, who delivered a resounding speech against the agreement, and the leader of SYRIZA's Left Platform, Panagiotis Lafazanis.

All of these conflicts, from the streets to the floor of the Greek parliament, show how rapidly the political situation is shifting in Greece. The imposition of a form of “economic occupation” has formed the basis for a new period of social conflict in Greece.

All political forces are seeking to come to grips with a new Memorandum and the erosion of democracy by the unaccountable elites in Brussels.

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