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Strikes greet austerity measures in Greece

category international | worker & community struggles and protests | news report author Friday February 05, 2010 15:45author by libcom Report this post to the editors

Greek public sector fights back, a lesson for Ireland?

Less than 24h after the announcement of the hardest austerity measures in the history of the greek republic, strikes have erupted in the public sector.

Tax-collectors and customs officers have been the first public sector branches to spontaneously react to the government's austerity measures. The two public sector branches have gone on a 48h preemptive strike, halting all tax-office transactions and controls as well as freezing import-export activities. At the same time, the employees of the Ministry of Economics, responsible for imposing the austerity measures, have also gone on a 48h strike, blocking all entrances to the Ministry in Athens.

The spontaneous mobilisations come in a general climate of anger when the call of the Greek Prime Minister for national unity and self-sacrifice has already become the laughing stock in the massively popular morning satirical programs of bourgeois radio stations - amongst the general ridicule of the government televised drama, mock adds in the name of the Industrialist Club declaring that "its time for the poor to pay, the rich have payed enough" are being broadcasted. Anger is rising after the revelation of details concerning the austerity plan. These include a 2 year extra work before pension (from 35 to 37 years in total). The Communist Party (KKE) has called workers to "wage a war of counterattack" against the measures, while the Coalition of Radical Left has made the unprecedented move to ask the KKE to forge a front against the measures. The main opposition party of the Conservatives, kicked out of government last October, has pledged to support the government. Signaling the extreme-right turn of the party, one of its main MPs even called for the release of the fascist editor arrested two weeks ago during a neonazi attack on an anti-racist demo. A counter-demo against an anti-immigration demo on Saturday has been called by various anarchist groups.

At the same time, the Ministry of Agriculture has declared it is unable to solve its issue with the farmers, who angered after the Minister managed to slip through their blockade of the Salonica Airport via rural backstreets, moved yesterday to block for several hours all motorway entrances to greece's second largest city. Farmer blockades continue to close the way to Bulgaria, was well as many major highways in the north of the country.

It must be noted that the trial of Alexandros Grigoropoulos murderers has been postponed for March when the procedure will begin again from scratch. At the same time the high court in Salonica has declared the Egyptian fishermen's strike in Nea Michanonia legal.

Update: The first signs of internal critique towards the government's austerity measures have surfaced. A PASOK sub-group has attacked the measures as "the toughest, most relentless neoliberalist policy since 1974". At the same time the Minister of National Economy Ms Katseli has taken distance from the PM's policy by declaring that it is meaningful only if the main target of the measures are the rich, "social justice is most vital" she added in a sign of cabinet discordia.

At the same time, the workers of the occupied Kanakis Factory in Volos have called for a protest march against the measures for Tuesday, while already many km long lines of trucks are accumulating at the various land borders of the country, immobilised due to the custom workers 48h strike.

Related Link:
author by libcompublication date Fri Feb 05, 2010 15:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Some news from before the eruption of the strikes in Greece.

"No margin for blockades or strikes" announces the Greek PM before tide of labour action.

A week before the start of a tide of labour action, the Greek Socialist PM Papandreou the Third has announced him government sees "no margin for blockades and strikes".

The Greek PM and leader of the Socialist Party (PASOK) and the Socialist International, George Papandreou has once again revealed the real face of his government by announcing that there are no "margins for blockades and strikes". The announcement came in Parliament in a speech rife with conspiracy theories about a combined speculators and foreign press war against greece which is supposedly undermining the country's sovereignty. Using PASOK's old populist anti-imperialist discourse salted with technocratic frill, the PM talked about a threat for "the people's sacrifices to been blown for ever to the wind". The populist rhetoric came combined with the proposal of a new electorate system that would deprive citizens from choosing their MPs, who would be instead chosen by the parties after the election results.

The pathetic combination of populism and technocratism that is the trademark of PASOK comes in full force as the farmers blockades enter their third week. Although only 15 out of the 30 original blockades remain, these are composed purely of independent farmers who have repudiated the official unions. For this reason they are despised by the bourgeois press as "anarcho-autonomous" and by the Ministry of Agriculture as "anarchosyndicalists". At the same time the greek government is under pressure by an approaching tide of labour action, starting with the February 10 strike of all private employees (ADEDY). Already dozens of strikes have been announced for February. Meanwhile, dozens of attacks against state and capitalist targets in Athens and Salonica are troubling the forces of repression. The targets have included UN vehicles, the political office of the ex-PM Mr Costas Simitis, political offices of the Conservative Party, banks and many expensive cars. The disruption caused by such attacks is augmented by the persistent farce calls for bombs (approximately two every day according to the media in Athens alone) which cause state buildings and all surrounding streets evacuated for hours.

The climate of tension in expectation of the announcement of harsh economic measures is further embittered by an extreme-right campaign against the proposed citizenship for 250,000 second generation immigrants. The coordination of extreme-right organisations and parties, combined with the arrest of the 44 fascists last week, and the imprisonment of one of them (an editor of a newspaper previously funded by the colonels' junta, and convicted aggressor) resulted last Saturday to an unusually massive fascist march in Athens. The fascists plan to repeat their show of power in the coming Saturday, this time using as their demo starting grounds the Propylea academic asylum, a symbolic disgrace for a century of struggles.

Update: In yet another dramatic public speech the greek PM, stressing that greece is undergoing its greatest crisis since the founding of the Republic in 1974, has announced a series of austerity measures which effectively cancel all the pre-election promises of the Socialist administration: a freeze on public sector salaries, a freeze on public sector hiring and a rise in the age for pension. The measures are expected to infuriate public sector workers. ADEDY, the public sector umbrella union, has announced that the measures only come to validate its own stance and that its expecting even more reactionary measures in the future. The PM announcement, salted with the usual nationalist pleas for unity, comes a day after the national statistics office has announced that some extra 55 billion Euro debts that had until now been overlooked due to bogus accounting. The right-wing parties have given their support to the so-called "program of stability", re-electing today along with the Socialists the country's (decorative) President. On the other hand, the left-wing parties have refused any cooperation and have not given their vote for the re-election of the President.

On other fronts, workers of the Kanakis food industry have occupied the main factory of the corporation in Volos and have called for an open assembly of workers and people in solidarity to their struggle. Kanakis is one of the largest food industries (pastries, breads etc) in the country.

On the agriculture front, farmers have moved their tractors to blockade the international airport of Salonica, the second largest in the country. Mobilisation of the farmers after the austerity announcements of the PM are expected to climax once again. 15 blockades continue to halt traffic in northern greece.

In response to the austerity measures the Greek TUC (GSEE) has announced a 24h general strike for the 24th of February. Its leader announced that "the newly elected government has retreated before the demand of the market, yet the needs of the people are too strong, too powerful and will be expressed in militant mobilisation".

In Greece, out of 4,300,000 official total work-force (this includes self-employed and bosses) approximately 1,000,000 are working in the public sector. The public sector workers are the most powerful in terms of labour struggle for at least half of them (i.e. permanently employed) cannot be fired. They are literally life-employed. On the other hand they are strongly tied to the official unions which are prone for bargaining with the politicians. The government has been clever to clarify that the salary cuts do not include health and education sectors, which are both crucial and very militant. The thing however is that the shock has been such that the big union bosses are now coming under pressure to prove they can stop this labour Waterloo or else risk looking completely impotent and loosing the support of the workers just like the farmers unions have.

Although the media policy towards vilifying public sector workers is long standing in greece too (since 1996 at least), the cuts have not been greeted with support by other workers etc. There is no public trust towards the state, and there seems little reason to attack public sector salaries when the military consumes 25% of the national budget. Of course this is a long standing commitment between the civilian power-holders and the military dating back to the end of the junta in 1974 which is not likely to be challenged by this or any bourgeois administration. The crisis in greece is not only economic but primarily social political and ethical. It is what people here call a crisis of meaning, and this has created a terrain which government ministers have called "a minefield". It is indicative that the PM took the step to address citizens via a televised announcement, a very rare event usually in times of invasion, uprising, natural catastrophe or government collapse.

author by Pocarrpublication date Fri Feb 05, 2010 17:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What the current developments in Greece show, more than anything, is how lucky we are that the Irish Government took tough action before it was foisted upon us by the international capital markets or the EU (and I say that as an EU supporter).

Whether one is a fan of capitalism and the international markets or not, they are a reality, and if Ireland had not taken serious measures to cut our deficit, then we would now be facing a meltdown like in Greece, with spreads increasing, and the EU left with no choice but to intervene in Greece's economy in order to prevent the destablisation of the EURO. If the EU didn't do it, the IMF would have to (and may still have to), because Greece could soon be unable to raise sufficient money to pay salaries etc.

So, the choice is quite clear - either we do it ourselves or the changes will be foisted upon us. Better that we do it ourselves, I think. I would hope that fans of Indymedia, who are generally so interested in defending our national sovereignty, would also hold this view.

(P.S. As a mid-ranking public servant, I have great sympathy for the lower-paid civil and public servants, and hope that their pay cuts can be revervsed to some degree. Campaigners should focus on that group only, as mid- and higher-level public servants - myself included - deserve little sympathy. Our pay ballooned during the past 10 years due to benchmarking and other rises under national pay agreements (not all of which were paid to private sector workers), putting Irish public servant salaries significantly above comparable salaries in most other EU countries. Given that mortgages and prices in general have fallen significantly, most people should be no worse off in real terms now than they were in early 2008 before all of this crisis begun. At least public servants still have jobs. Time for some true patriotism!).

author by tonto the other public servantpublication date Sun Feb 07, 2010 19:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"So, the choice is quite clear - either we do it ourselves or the changes will be foisted upon us. Better that we do it ourselves, I think."

Eh, what's this "we" paleface? The thing we (as public servants and workers) can get from this article is that there is no "we" when it comes to the government and the people, especially the working class. What I've gotten from it is that the greek workers, farmers and public servants are not falling into the public/private division between workers or for the false unity of patriotism, social partnership of the trade unions or "national sovereignty". What they are doing is asserting their needs and defending their gains as workers and they would do this whether it's austerity measures imposed by their own government or the EU or the IMF or the World Bank. They're fighting back and that's what's important. As well as recognising how those in power use notions of nation and patriotism (We're all in this together. common good, national interest, ...) against workers and how these notions have nothing to offer them except paycuts, loss of services and being fucked over in general. It's generally called class struggle, either when the bosses or the politicians enforce it from above (in this instance) or when it's workers fighting back from below (also in this instance). It's class struggle that will hopefully pave the way to capitalism and the international merkets no longer being a "reality", another fan interest of the readers of indymedia.

Your response reeks of a political quietism in which nothing should be done, no action taken, but float along on the wims of "the economy" and "national interest", sucking it up in the bad times and keeping shtum in the good.

If you fight you may lose, but if you don't fight you've already lost.

author by APpublication date Tue Feb 09, 2010 18:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Mounting deficits in weaker European economies including Greece, Portugal and Spain have raised questions about the health of the global financial system. That compounded concerns about growth in China and proposed U.S. bank regulations took the market down from a 15-month high reached in January.

Greece's finance minister said Monday the government is preparing to boost some taxes to shore up its finances. But civil servants opposed to cutbacks have pledged to strike on Wednesday.

Brett Hryb, a portfolio manager with MFC Global Investment Management in Toronto, said the latest concern is that the financial troubles in a country like Greece, whose economy is small compared with the rest of Europe, will spill into other countries.

"Clearly Greece itself is nothing. It's just a blip. It's what the contagion could be," he said.'

from the AP

author by libcompublication date Wed Feb 10, 2010 16:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The 24h public sector general strike supplemented by private sector strikes has brought greece to a standstill with no airplanes flying in or out the country.

It is the first big strike in Greece since the announcement of the austerity measures by the socialist government last week. And it has managed to bring the country to a standstill: the 24h strike of the public sector under the union umbrella of ADEDY has seen a complete freeze in the following fronts - all civil servants, including tax offices, social security, municipal and county workers; all doctors and nurses (except emergency personnel); all teachers at all school grades and all university teaching staff and personnel; all archeological sites (Acropolis shut); all air traffic control (no flights in or out of the country). Also in the means of mass transport, rolling stoppages of work are being performed in the National Railway System, and the suburban railway system of Athens.

The public sector strike has been further supplemented by strikes in the private sector. PAME the Communist Party umbrella union has called a 24h strike affecting large sections of the private sector, while at the same time several Autonomous unions have call a strike further hampering the private sector. The latter include: the books and printed material workers of Athens and the workers of Wind Telecom. The PAME strike is affecting a big range of private business that cannot be accurately reproduced here but include: Carrefur-Dia workers, elevator maintenance workers and construction builders. It is worth noting that all hydrofoil transport from Peiraeus and Igoumenitsa to the islands has frozen due to the strike.

At the time of writing different demos and strike related protest marches are unfolding in various cities of the country. In Athens, tension built up between protesters and the riot police forces (MAT) when the former tried to break trough police lines with the help of a garbage collecting vehicle.

Last Monday, in relation to the austerity measures, anarchist broke in the central conference of the industrialists association of north greece on whose panel sat the Minister of National Economy. The protesters held banners against the sold out union bosses and soiled the conference with the help of "rotten-potato bombs" and other foul smelling devices, disrupting its procedures.

Reactions to the austerity measures are expected to augment after the announcement of the new tax scheme and in expectation of the social security reforms, a front that has in the past caused mass and massively dynamic protests in the country.

Related Link:
author by libcompublication date Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

ADEDY has announced its participation in the 24h strike of the private sector called by GSEE for the 24th of February. Meanwhile taxi drivers have called a 24h strike protesting against the austerity measures. The austerity measure's class character has been revealed beyond reparation when after meeting with President Sarkozy, the Greek PM announced that Greece is buying 6 warships costing a total of 2,5 billion euros from France...The outrageous deal comes as more and more government spending outrages are made public: it has been revealed today that the Foresty Department has spent 1,6 million euros to construct...its website.

author by libcompublication date Thu Feb 11, 2010 20:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The national union of teachers has announced its participation in the strike of the 24th of February, making the latter look like it is approaching the volume of a general strike. Also kiosks and corner shops have warned of rolling 24h strikes that would create great daily problems for consumers, demanding a reversal on extra tax imposed on tobacco as part of the austerity measures. At the same time, only hours after the bail-out, the greek government has been embarrassed by a long banner unfolded in front of the parliament by senior left-wing figures. The banner wrote: "No to the Stability Pact, European Workers Unite in Solidarity and Subversion"; the group was led by the highly influential ex-President of the Coalition of Radical Left, Mr Alavanos, who called Greece "the shit-hole of the Stability Pact".

author by guardianpublication date Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

But if there was any doubt that the government would face resistance it was put to rest today . Again and again, as the protesters chanted "we are not Ireland, we will resist", the nationwide strike was painted as the beginning of a backlash against the "tsunami of attacks on workers".

Athens protest: 'We are at war with them, as they are with us':

Related Link:
author by libcompublication date Sat Feb 13, 2010 17:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Today despite sustained bourgeois media efforts to hide the failure of the talks in Brussels and Germany's veto on any direct economic help towards the greek state, the PM vented his anger against EU power-holders who "have transformed greece into a guinea-pig". Despite continuing pleas for "national unity", today middle-education teachers followed their primary-education colleagues in calling a strike for the 24th of February. More worrying for the capitalists, customs officers have announced a 3-day long strike for next week which will see a complete freeze on all exports and imports. At the same time a 4-day strike for next week has been announced by employees of the Ministry of Economics, and of the Central Chemistry Lab of the State, the State's Accounting Service, the State Loans Office, the National Statistic Service and the State Legal Council. The strike is expected to paralise all state-economic functions.

author by Peoples of Europe - RISE UPpublication date Wed May 05, 2010 16:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

today, now
At least three people have been killed in the Greek capital as protesters set fire to a bank during a general strike over planned austerity measures.

People are against the planned governments plan to legislate austerity measures, the people have tried to enter the parliament. Lot of anger on the streets of Athens, possibly 3 deaths

vid -

Greek public sector workers, who are bearing the brunt of wage and pension cuts as part of Greece's austerity programme, have begun a 48-hour strike.

Greek protestors hang banners on Acropolis
Greek government workers have shut down schools and hospitals and disrupted flights as demonstrators occupied the Acropolis in an escalation of protests against €30bn of additional wage cuts and tax increases unveiled this week.

2 days ago
A group of people have forced their way into the main Greek state broadcaster’s studio to protest government austerity measures.

Peoples of Europe - RISE UP
Peoples of Europe - RISE UP

Caption: Video Id: w_v9-vDgsiE Type: Youtube Video
Peoples of Europe - RISE UP

author by Amazedpublication date Wed May 05, 2010 18:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

One of several things that fascinates me about the global banking cartel -- i.e. the group of international bankers which owns all (or almost all) of the privately owned "central banks" around the world -- is that it preaches (and demands) "free enterprise" EVERYWHERE from EVERYONE, while itself practising a total "monopoly" over the global money supply (apart perhaps from in the few States, such as Iran for example, which they have not yet managed to fully take control of).

Add to that the fact that they can (by their own sly arrangements) create any amount it seems, of Euros, Dollars, Pounds Sterling, or Whatever, "out of nothing", and then "lend" it to governments (including our own) as "debt" which they have the cheek to charge compound interest on.

I don't know of any group of people anywhere who can match the global banking cartel for hoodwinking, controlling, and bullying people, and generally making complete FOOLS out of almost everybody.

They need to be told to clear off, and the sooner the better.

There's nothing to stop governments producing their own interest free money.

It's been done very successfully before, by former US President Abraham Lincoln for example.

author by iosafpublication date Wed May 05, 2010 23:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

those 3 bank workers were of course working through a 2 day general strike not that that should have meant they die of smoke inhalation once their workplace was petrol bombed..,

I think people should realise, as I write from a "PIIGS" economy (the spanish state one) that as much as "Greece is not Ireland" it is vital to realise that Ireland, Spain, Italy and Portugal aren't Greece either. Don't make the mistake of seeking communality of protest, anger, frustration or reaction in austerity packages or worker consciousness in these states.

For there is none.
& that alone ought be of great interest to commentators on the left.

German media spins smoke inhalation...
German media spins smoke inhalation...

author by Wayne - Community Activistpublication date Thu May 06, 2010 00:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Greek people put the Irish "armchair revolutionaries" to shame and they are only too correct when they said they would not be like the Irish. Roll on all kinds of resistance to the corrupt IMF.

author by Sceptic - None whatsoeverpublication date Thu May 06, 2010 03:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

innit amazing , we as a nation seem so comatozed , much to the relief of Brian and his merry bangsters , that we have all
but given up in relation to taking our genuine grievances to the street . We have all the mod cons , ie the motor car ,electrical
appliances ,computers and of course our 'must have' mobile phones in which we take great pleasure from , so why should
we , as a nation , go out of our way to rock the titanic , we also have such outlets as indymedia in which to vent our displeasures as such . What we dont have is as plain as the nose on our face , we dont have people power and due to the
fact we have all the mod cons then we are comfortable in our skins , so 'let it all pass ' is the buzz word .

Where would you see it , only in ireland i suppose , the banks cause the great depression and the government end up
robbing it's own people so as the banks can redefine themselves as a financial instution , you could'nt make it up .

So off we go to play with our toys and say 'tut tut' and let some of us take solace by saying ''i knew years ago that it couldn't
last '' and hiss and hiss when our politicians come into view , but do very little else ..................................

author by Realistpublication date Thu May 06, 2010 09:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Maybe it should come as no surprise that fearsome resistance to the tyrannous "ruling elite" cartel of global bankers would emerge from Athens in the way that it now is?

"Cradle of democracy is Athens, ancient Greek city-state, situated in beautiful part of Peloponez, in Attica. Athens owe the first penal and civil law code to Draco. That was him who differentiated premeditated murder from accidental manslaughter."

The above excerpt is from:

How cowardly, stupid and puny our political leaders here in the Republic of Ireland now look -- all of them -- of the left, the right, and the centre, still all sucking-up and kowtowing to the bankers for all they're worth, while giving away our vast oil and gas reserves to the likes of Shell: who I imagine are probably largely, if not fully, already owned by the global banking cartel (in one way or another).

author by Observerpublication date Thu May 06, 2010 10:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That's just it "Realist".

With their tongues, our political leaders fraudulently claim to be fully supportive of genuine democracy -- as in "government of the people, by the people, for the people" -- while the rest of their bodies completely contradict their tongues: by daily "acting out" the tyrannous and potentially explosive role of "government of the bankers, by the bankers, for the bankers".

For how much longer will our political leaders be able to sustain their dangerous duplicity on this crucially important, and absolutely "core" social issue I wonder?

author by People of Europe rise uppublication date Thu May 20, 2010 16:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

ATHENS, Greece – More than 20,000 protesters marched to parliament Thursday, as unions challenged harsh austerity measures in Greece by staging their fourth general strike this year.

Greek workers stage general strike

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