Socialist Worker

Greece: frontline of the Euro crisis

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2259

The Greek parliament narrowly passed a new austerity package last week—in the face of mass strikes and protests.

This means it will get the next 12 billion euro tranche of its EU rescue deal.

But the Standard & Poor’s rating agency this week said it viewed the rescue plan as an effective default.

In other words, as far as the bankers are concerned, Greece has already gone bust.

If others agree with this assessment it will send a shockwave of chaos across the markets and other eurozone countries.

Meanwhile, the country is in the worst of both worlds as the government continues to make drastic cuts to try to pay back the debts.

A strong 48-hour general strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week showed the scale of the opposition to these austerity measures.

The government responded by sending the police to attack the huge crowds gathered in Syntagma Square outside parliament in Athens.

“The scale of the attack was shocking for many people,” said Panos Garganas, the editor of the Workers Solidarity newspaper in Greece.

“The first day’s attack didn’t stop people returning to the square. So on the second day, when parliament voted, the police were even more vicious.

“They used a huge amount of teargas. Police with truncheons on motorbikes attacked people to drive them out of the square. They also assaulted those in the streets around the square who were trying to regroup to go back.

“Lots of people were injured and there were running battles late into the evening.”

Despite all that, the government has not succeeded in stopping the movement, he says. People went back to the square to set up the protest camp again.

A large meeting at the camp on Sunday evening debated the way forward.

Surrounded

“Water workers in Salonica protested against a meeting of the firm’s shareholders on Thursday, the day after the general strike,” says Panos. “They surrounded the meeting and stopped it from taking place.

“The power workers have stopped their rolling strikes after the government said that it would retain 51 percent of shares in the sell-off. It will try to sell some power plants instead.”

While the union has ended the action, it has declared that it will fight every time the government comes to sell something off. This is where the next battles will take place, Panos believes, over the implementation of cuts and privatisation.

“The Anti-Capitalist Left, which the Greek Socialist Workers Party is part of, is arguing that the occupation of the squares should continue,” he says. “We say that they should operate as the organising centre for anyone battling against the implementation of the austerity plan.

“The Athens camp has supported this Sunday’s planned anti-racist and anti-fascist festival.”

Panos says there is deep opposition to the attacks. Workers Solidarity produced a four page special issue of the newspaper after the general strike, which sellers took to workplaces.

“The response was fantastic,” says Panos. “Everybody agreed that last week was not the end of the story and that there will be more strikes.

“This is feeding into big support for the left. The combined vote of the Communist Party, the Anti-Capitalist Left and the Syriza coalition in a general election would be 22 percent, according to recent opinion polls.”

This is the highest figure since the European elections of 1999, when the left was at the heart of the mass movement against the war on Serbia.

Europe’s leaders are not convinced that the Labour-style Pasok government will get through the measures.

That is why they have said the next tranche of money to be paid in September is dependent on implementation of the austerity programme. A default has only been delayed by last week’s vote.

Greek workers will remain in the frontline of the battle to stop our rulers imposing austerity on the people of Europe.


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Tue 5 Jul 2011, 16:31 BST
Issue No. 2259
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