Strikes and resistance have Greek government on the brink

The Greek government again faces collapse with a new wave of strikes against the austerity being imposed by the Troika of the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank.

Health workers, school and university teachers, municipal police, and civil servants all took action throughout September in unprecedented numbers.

Teachers were on strike for eight days as students occupied schools in solidarity. ADEDY, the public sector umbrella union, called a number of two day strikes of all public servants, while GSEE, the main private sector union federation, joined them for a four-hour general stoppage on 25 September.

Workers are angry about the plans to cut thousands of public sector jobs, some outright and other via a so called “mobility scheme”. Under obligations to the Troika, Greece must axe 4000 state jobs. Another 25,000 public sector workers will be redeployed in the scheme on three quarter pay and then sacked if they can’t find another job in the public sector.

With unemployment at 28 per cent, this is a frightening prospect. These cuts will also mean the closure of schools, hospitals and many local government services.

The growing opposition has the potential to bring down the government, just as a massive strike wave against austerity in 2011 forced the Papandreou government to fall.

The government had already been weakened by its blotched attempt to shut down ERT (Greece’s public TV and radio broadcaster) and immediately sack 2600 workers. Journalists responded by occupying and organising their own broadcasts.

This occupation won massive public support. Democratic Left, a small left social democrat party, had to leave the governing coalition or lose all credibility. That leaves just New Democracy and PASOK (Greece’s equivalent of Liberal and Labor), with a slim majority of three.

The government’s strategy for survival has been to put pressure on SYRIZA, (Coalition of the Radical Left), to rein in the strikes and demonstrations, which it brands undemocratic.

SYRIZA benefited most from the strike movement in 2011 and is now the official opposition.
Since winning over 27 per cent of the vote in 2012, however, it has moved to the right and is now presenting itself as a “responsible” party ready to govern.

But its attempts to keep people off the streets during the anti-fascist demonstrations in September failed.

In spite of savage austerity, Greece’s debt has gone from 120 per cent of GDP in 2010 to 200 per cent today, and it is clear that Greece will need another “rescue” package in exchange for further cuts in 2014.

This is the deepest crisis to inflict a developed Western economy since the Great Depression. The mainstream parties don’t have a solution other than to squeeze more out of Greek workers. The opportunities for the revolutionary left are growing.

By Mark Gillespie


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