Socialist Worker

Voices from the Greek strikes and protests

Issue No. 2257

‘It looked like a war zone’

Jess Hurd, in Athens

‘Greek workers and protesters planned to circle the parliament in a huge show of public opinion against austerity.

Thousands began gathering early on Wednesday morning in Athens, many of whom had never demonstrated before.

Those involved in the general strike were also massing and planning to march to Syntagma Square.

It wasn’t long before battle ensued. Police used volleys of tear gas on people trying to pull down a fence guarding the parliament building.

There were running battles.Barricades were built, buildings spray painted, banks attacked and marble chipped from surfaces for use as ammunition.

It looked like a war zone.

Syntagma Square has become a permanent tented protest camp, but the police repeatedly saturated it with tear gas and many were left choking and blinded. Ambulances arrived to collect the wounded.

By early evening word was spreading about the proposed changes to parliament.

The reshuffle was met with disdain. “It’s still the same people,” said one man working near the square.’

‘It’s time for a new politics’

Vassilis Sylaides, Intracom Electronics

‘Tens of thousands of us struck last Wednesday and marched to Syntagma Square in Athens.

As the main body of strikers joined protesters in the square, the police tried to break the gathering. They were brutal.

They used hundreds of tear gas canisters and stun grenades.

But we stayed.

This was a big day for us, much bigger than previous strikes. And now it was not only the protesters who were already there staying in the square—it was striking workers too!

We put lots of pressure on the government, and the police failed to break us.

We have almost continuous rallies and demos ahead, and there is a great enthusiasm from working people.

We feel victimised by bankers.

People’s salaries are falling like stones.

The main political parties and media want us to pay for the crisis. But Greek workers are not responsible, so we won’t pay.

We’ll keep blocking the austerity laws from passing.

We want to bring about a government based on popular movements.

We are supposed to have a parliamentary democracy, but that’s breaking down now.

People are in a fighting mood, young and old, working and unemployed. People want to kill the government—it’s time for a new politics.’

‘This is a battle of hope against fear’

Costas Sarris, media worker

‘I work for the biggest media group in Greece. After we struck last week, bosses took us to court to declare our strike illegal. The union leadership called it off—despite us calling on them to continue.

The bosses tried to smash us. They tried to collect signatures from workers against the strike—and failed.

There was a struggle on the picket line against scabs. We won and the strike was solid.

Many people who haven’t participated before are putting themselves into the fight, despite threats of blacklisting.

Some workers are afraid—but many more are becoming radicalised. This is a battle of hope against fear.’

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