Wednesday’s general strike against austerity in Greece shut the country down and saw huge protests in every town and city. Panos Garganas, the editor of the Workers Solidarity newspaper in Greece, told Socialist Worker how the attempt to use the tragic deaths of three bank workers in a fire in Athens to quieten the movement has not succeeded
‘The strike was totally effective. More than 300,000 people protested in Athens and there were other huge demonstrations in towns and cities across the country.
These were the biggest protests we have seen since the crisis began, and the mood was very, very angry. For example, protesters booed the president of the Greek TUC when he spoke yesterday. It was not the left wing elements who did this but ordinary workers who usually support Pasok.
These are people who voted for a socialist government, but are getting a right wing one. They are also the people who shouted 'Thieves, thieves, get out'’ at parliament and tried to enter the building.
This is when the police attacked the protest with tear gas, and chaos broke out with people throwing rocks, smashing windows. Some buildings were set on fire, one of them the Marfin bank where three workers were killed.
The statement by one of the workers » Greek bank worker speaks out after Athens fire deaths describes very well the conditions in the bank. There were no safety or fire regulations and management locked them in to make sure they could not leave even though they wanted to.
The combination of the police causing havoc and management locking people in an unsafe building created this tragedy.
There was immediately pressure from the government and the media to end the strikes but it hasn’t worked as the opposition to the government’s measures is so huge.
The bank workers’ union did not capitulate to this and called a strike, blaming the police and management for the deaths, while disassociating itself from the anarchists. Local government workers remain on strike.
The unions have called a rally outside parliament this evening, which is discussing and voting on the measures. The teachers and local government workers are discussing escalating their strikes. There are also plans for a 48-hour general strike when the pension reform bill is discussed by parliament in the next few weeks.’