A 50% cut of part of Greece’s debt was decided on by a summit of European leaders on October 26. The deal will entail long-term austerity measures being enforced on the Greek people.
Representatives of the “troika” (the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — IMF) will be permanently placed in all Greek ministries to supervise how things are run.
If they manage to impose it on Greece, this new form of occupation will likely spread to other countries.
However, Greek people are resisting. They are showing through their actions that the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government does not have a popular mandate to enforce the troika’s policies.
In recent weeks, there have been many protests opposing the government’s decisions. Many trade unions have taken part.
Protesters have included public service officers, rubbish collectors, taxi drivers, maritime workers, customs officers, lawyers, bank employees, teachers, journalists, hospital doctors, shop owners and shop assistants.
There has also been a wave of sit-ins by secondary school and university students.
The people’s protests have taken a variety of forms: strikes, work stoppages, demonstrations, takeovers of government buildings and vehicle parades featuring, among other vehicles, ambulances, garbage trucks and taxis.
The major demand of protesters has been getting rid of the government and the troika.
The protests peaked with two days of industrial action over October 19-20, coinciding with a parliament vote of new anti-people measures.
This came after a series of savage attacks on Greek people’s standard of living in recent years. The worst measures have been introduced in the past two years — that is, since the troika's predatory intervention in Greece.
The new law includes unprecedented pension and public sector salary cuts of up to 50%.
Other regulations in the law link pay rises to promotion. There are six employee ranks provided for.
Moving up the ladder is to be decided through evaluation. The evaluation is conditional on the achievement of certain goals, as well as appraisal of the employee’s behaviour.
The law stipulates that only a certain percentage of employees will be able to move up to the next rank in a workplace each time. These terms constitute an insidious attack on people’s dignity and sense of solidarity.
The law also affects the private sector. It includes an article that empowers enterprise workplace agreements at the expense of the National General Collective Agreement.
As always, anti-worker legislation in the public sector is accompanied or followed by the erosion of workers’ rights in the private sector.
This refutes the view that public servants are a “privileged” group, whose interests are different from the interests of private sector workers.
This view has been cleverly cultivated by governments and the media over many years. The purpose has been to set people against each other in order to implement anti-worker measures more easily.
Participation in the two-day industrial action was very high, exceeding 90% in some sectors. It was the highest participation in strike action, with the biggest worker demonstrations, since the end of the dictatorship in 1974.
The protest in Athens took place outside Parliament House and in the adjacent Syntagma Square area.
PAME, the workers’ organisation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), were gathered outside Parliament House since early in the morning of October 20.
Holding sticks and wearing helmets, they made sure no one else could get near parliament.
As a KKE leader said the next day in parliament, PAME members were there to prevent militant action by other protesters. That was in keeping with the KKE leadership’s belief that conditions were not yet ripe for political change.
At about 3pm, the PAME contingent was attacked by a group of about 400 protesters with stones, pieces of wood and molotov cocktails. The response of the PAME members was ferocious.
Dozens of people of both sides were seriously injured. It was by sheer luck that there were no deaths.
There was a death of a 53-year-old man later on, due to heart failure. It has been attributed to tear gas inhalation.
The man’s death was most likely caused by the government’s brutal use of chemicals against the people.
Despite the turmoil and the death, the MPs inside parliament continued with the proceedings.
All 153 PASOK MPs voted in favour of the bill. One PASOK MP who voted against the article regarding workplace agreements was expelled from the party.
PASOK MPs disregarded the people’s demand to get rid of the government, the troika and the austerity measures. Other conservative parties voted against the bill, taking the people’s opposition into consideration.
The protests have caused anxiety in the government. As a result, some of its representatives have made statements asking for consensus from the people.
However, the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou is holding on to power, intent on completing its destructive mission. Government ministers describe it as Greece’s “salvation”.
The government is opting to support the interests of its domestic and international big capital allies via moves that are destroying the lives of the vast majority of Greek people.
Some ministers, including the PM, have openly stated that they don’t care about the political cost.
The political cost is huge. PASOK is polling about 10%.
The government’s lies are no longer convincing. Its actions speak louder. The effect of its policies on people’s lives is horrendous.
The effects of the financial crisis and austerity measures has led to a 17% increase of suicides in Greece, bringing the country to top position among European countries. Psychological disorders have gone up by 25%.
The government’s policies have rapidly dismantled the economy, increasing unemployment, poverty and misery. They are wiping out hard-won workers’ rights, imposing unbearable tax polls, destroying health, education and other social services.
State violence and repression have reached unprecedented levels. The repression is needed to impose the unpopular policies.
In the past two years, there has been a 5% rise in police numbers and a 2.1% rise in military numbers. At the same time, people in the rest of the public sector have been losing their jobs.
Instead of taxing the rich, the government keeps transferring money from the poor to the rich. Banks were recently handed more than €100 billion.
The government has been violating the constitution in many ways. Taking decisions that will carry over for years beyond its office is just one of these violations.
The debt crisis is used as a pretext to sell out Greece and its people. That’s why they are bringing the country to a state of devastation and depriving its workforce of all industrial protection.
The Greek people are resisting the current policies and any other similar policies that might be in store for them. However, they have not found an effective way to suceed in their struggle.
The left has a lot to answer for in this regard. In these critical times, with the popularity of the two big parties dwindling, the left could have earned the people’s trust.
It could have helped lead successful struggles. To do this, left unity and appropriate tactics are decisive.
There is probably a long and difficult struggle ahead. The goal should be doing away with this inhumane system that is now showing its limitations so glaringly.
In the present situation, people are capable of recognising this. The objective conditions are ripe, but the left is not up to the task.
The common problems of ordinary people in different countries provide the potential for coordinated action. The enemy is common to all.
Today, this fact could bring people together in unexpected ways.
Things won’t happen by themselves, however. Conscious organisation and militant united action are an absolute prerequisite if there is any chance of winning this struggle.