Socialist Worker

Austerity rains chaos down on Greece

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2252

Immigrants join a protest against state and Nazi violence in Athens on Monday of this week  (Pic: Workers Solidarity)

Immigrants join a protest against state and Nazi violence in Athens on Monday of this week  (Pic: Workers Solidarity)


Greece is still caught in the economic storm sweeping Europe following the arrest of International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn, who faces charges of attempting to rape a hotel maid in New York, was key to the “bailouts” of crisis-hit European countries.

The austerity and privatisation attached to Greece’s bailout have sent the country’s economy spiralling further downwards.

The Labour-style Pasok government is trying to renegotiate the terms of last year’s 110 million euro bailout.

But Europe’s elite wants deeper austerity and more privatisation before they agree to this.

Workers continue to resist austerity in the face of violence from the state and fascists.

A general strike on Wednesday of last week, the 11th since the crisis fully hit last year, had a massive impact.

The power of workers’ struggle, and the growing mood against austerity, shows the potential for positive change.

But there is also a more negative side.

Pogrom

A vicious police attack on demonstrators in Athens last Wednesday gave neo-Nazis an opportunity to launch an anti-immigrant pogrom.

Fascists are trying to feed off despair and disillusionment—and blame the crisis on immigrants.

Greek TV showed gangs of Nazi thugs armed with big sticks and sharp objects attacking immigrants in central Athens.

They killed one man and injured many others.

Panos Garganas is editor of the Workers Solidarity newspaper and member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Greece.

He explained, “A man was stabbed in Athens the day before the general strike. The media claimed he was killed by immigrants.

“Because of that the Nazis organised gangs of thugs to go on the rampage against immigrants.

“They exploited the police’s attacks, which hospitalised people and chased demonstrators from the streets.

People believed that the police actions helped the Nazis. “The police were on the sidestreets shutting down shops as the Nazis went on the rampage,” said Panos.

“Many immigrants were injured.”

People took to the streets in protest at the violence in Athens and other cities on Monday of this week.

“An anti-fascist rally of immigrants and supporters took place outside a council meeting in Athens,” said Panos.

“This showed that people won’t be scared off the streets.

“Anti Capitalist Left councillor Petros Constantinou took our message inside.

“They said that the poverty and terrible conditions people live in are due to the bankers not immigrants.”

Last week’s strike showed the continued defiance of Greece’s workers.

“The strike was big, but not quite the same size as the general strike in May last year,” said Panos.

“There was deep anger, as people know they will be hit even harder by the next government package of cuts.

“Transport workers held a stoppage, but not a day long strike, and that had an effect.

“It meant that people who work in small businesses could not use the excuse that they couldn’t get to work as they had in previous strikes.

“Their bosses put them under pressure to turn up.

“This affected the size of the demonstration in Athens—though tens of thousands of people still took part.”

More people are looking for a radical alternative to austerity.

“A recent opinion poll showed that the number of

people who believe that the current policies must continue is down to 10 percent,” said Panos. “So the government has a very narrow base.

“Around 60 percent say the IMF agreement must be renegotiated, while 30 percent say we must break from the euro and the IMF.

Unpopular

“This explains why the government is in a mess. Pasok leaders say they are committed to paying back the debts through making cuts.

“But this policy is so unpopular and ineffective that it is leading to disagreements inside the government.

“Some members want to renegotiate the package. The government is stuck.

“The scale of the crisis is putting the left—including the Communist Party and the Syriza coalition, which both have MPs—under pressure to respond in a more radical way.

“The fact that the Anti Capitalist Left, which the Greek SWP is part of, is more visible and getting more people around it is also a factor in this.”

A meeting of Europe’s finance ministers agreed on Monday to a 78 billion euro bailout for Portugal. But Europe’s elite are still discussing Greece’s fate.

One thing is clear. They will face solid resistance whatever they try to push through.


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International
Tue 17 May 2011, 18:18 BST
Issue No. 2252
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