The eighth general strike against harsh austerity measures in less than 12 months hit Greece on Wednesday. It was as successful as the other strikes that have rocked the Pasok Labour-like government, despite the worsening of the economic situation and the length of time the struggle has been ongoing.
Big protests took place around the country, as people resist the cuts plans that the government signed up to in order to get a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
“Everybody took part in the strike, even the ferry workers the government has placed under martial order,” said Panos Garganas, the editor of the Workers Solidarity newspaper in Greece. “They defied the order and joined other transport workers, so there were no planes, trains or ships on the day.
“Teachers held a 48-hour strike on Tuesday and Wednesday. They are in the middle of a big fight as the cuts mean the closure of schools in some areas.
“The teachers’ contingent was one of the biggest and most militant sections on the demonstration in Athens on the day of the general strike. The police attacked them viciously. They faced more teargas than anyone else.”
Protesters also resisted a brutal police attack in Athens.
“The police attacked the demonstration as it entered Syntagma Square, just outside parliament,” said Panos. “They were determined to keep the strikers out of the square.”
The revolution in Egypt has inspired people in Greece, as it has everywhere.
“The most popular slogan was, ‘Let’s have Cairo everywhere,’” said Panos.
“There are big battles to come with bus workers, teachers and hospital doctors at the forefront. Doctors are fighting deteriorating conditions at work and they recently occupied the ministry of health for a week. The government has also imposed a flat fee of five euros for everyone visiting a hospital, which people believe will increase.
“Migrant workers have been staging a hunger strike for three weeks against their lack of rights, putting more pressure on the government. Their contingent on the protest in Athens was very popular, with people on the side of the streets clapping them as they passed.”
The scale of the fightback and the deepening economic crisis has thrown Pasok into turmoil.
“Pasok demoted the man who is the president of the bus drivers’ union in Athens from his position in the party after he lost a vote,” said Panos. “He argued that once parliament had passed its attacks then there was little point in fighting anymore. But 90 percent of drivers voted to keep up the struggle.
“The government is waiting on what Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, decides on what terms she will impose for restructuring Greek debt. Pasok is in a mess, with ministers very unhappy about the situation. The recession, which has lasted for two years, is only getting worse.”
The finance minister has said that he believes economic output will decline by 3 percent this year, on top of the 4.5 percent it contracted by last year. But the government is committed to continuing its austerity package, and the workers’ movement will have to step up the level of resistance to win.