Tens of thousands of workers flooded the streets of central Athens in Greece in late May, as the country was brought to a standstill by a general strike.
Workers across the private and public sectors came out against the latest round of cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors. It came on the eve of MPs from the ruling Syriza party and its allies from the Independent Greeks forcing the latest “memorandum” austerity package through parliament.
The new austerity measures are required so the Greek government can keep repaying its debts under the third bailout deal since 2010 with the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Even the IMF thinks the debt is not repayable, delaying the bailout because it fears the conditions being demanded are unsustainable.
The Greek economy has gone back into recession. Seven years since the first austerity memorandum there is still no end in sight to the demands for austerity.
Workers’ Solidarity journalist Giorgios Pittas, from Solidarity’s sister organisation, said, “The general strike was successful, but the strikes and protests have to go on after the vote in parliament tonight.
“They can vote the memorandum through but we have the power to stop them on the streets and in the workplaces. Workers across the public and private sectors are saying we need to fight.”
Ship workers started a four day strike in the lead up to the vote. Doctors stayed out for an extra 24 hours after the general strike and council workers began a new 48 hour strike the following week.
Air traffic controllers struck for four hours, grounding scheduled flights across Greece. The Poesy journalists’ union organised a 24 hour strike.
Giorgios told Socialist Worker that bus workers in Thessaloniki are on all-out strike. And women shop workers came out for the first time during the general strike against Sunday working hours.
Migrant agricultural workers led one of the marches to join thousands of people in Athens city centre. Protesters converged on Klauthmonos square for a rally called by various trade unions.
As politicians debated the conditions for the latest bailout package, some 15,000 workers marched on the parliament building.
People’s lives have been ripped apart by the brutal austerity. It has been implemented by the ruling Syriza party, since it came into office in 2015, at the behest of the EU.
Syriza, a party from the radical left, took government on a promise to end austerity measures.
But within 12 months it capitulated to the demands of Greece’s creditors and is now imposing the very measures it previously opposed. In the face of blackmail from the EU that it would send Greece’s banking system into meltdown, Syriza was not prepared to break with the Greek bosses and their desire to remain within the EU.
This stands as a warning to left-wing leaders in Europe like Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, Jean-Luc Melenchon in France or the Podemos party in Spain.
All have won support through promising a government that will tax the rich and end the dismantling of public services.
But the ruling class and global financial institutions will put up fierce resistance to efforts to break with the neo-liberal, austerity agenda.
The unemployment rate in Greece stands at 23 per cent, rising to 48 per cent for people under the age of 24.
The conditions for the latest bailouts include a further cut to pensions and lowering the threshold at which people pay income tax.
Some people have seen their pensions slashed by as much as 50 per cent.
In a statement the Adedy civil service workers’ union said, “No to the new looting of salaries and pensions.”
The strikes and rallies sent a clear message to the government against the implementation of the bailout.
People on the protest slammed the Syriza-led government for its sellouts. “They told us they would end austerity and tear apart the bailouts,” said pensioner Paraskevi Tsouparopoulou. “Instead they brought us disaster.”
“People can see how Syriza’s solution doesn’t work,” said Giorgios “The bailout proves to everyone that the social democratic solution doesn’t work.”
It is the strikes and the workers’ struggle from below that can pose a solution.
Adapted from Socialist Worker UK