Socialist Worker

Greece: more than 200 student occupations resist austerity

Panos Garganos, editor of Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece, explains how students have organised to block the latest pro-market reforms.

Issue No. 2268

There is a huge wave of occupations in Greek university faculties against the government’s education bill. They began on 24 August and more than 200 are now taking place.

Most universities and further education colleges are occupied. The government wanted to vote on its bill in August when people were away—but they miscalculated.

In many cases the college authorities also oppose the legislation. They halted exams so students could attend general assemblies.

Most assemblies were well attended and had overwhelming majorities in favour of occupying.

The government plans to introduce a number of changes. Up until now chancellors and other university heads were voted on by a universal vote of staff and students.

But from now on college authorities will be selected. And the government wants to make a big change—to introduce managers to universities, and make them more open to links with companies.

There are also a number of changes on how staff are selected, promoted and so on.

In effect, the bill opens universities to privatisation—and this has enraged people.

Police can’t enter universities in Greece—they need special permission from the governing body, which includes student representatives. This will also be abolished. It is the abolition of democracy in universities.

Unions

The bill went through parliament at first reading, passed by an overwhelming majority. The Tories and the far-right supported the ruling Labour-style Pasok party.

Now there will be a second reading to go through the details. But it doesn’t seem like the bill’s passage is at stake.

The occupiers are saying that even if the changes are voted through, they won’t allow them to be implemented.

The next step is a demonstration this Thursday, 8 September. Unions of teachers from primary and secondary education will join the occupations.

So much is at stake. There are cuts to schools at every level, which could lead to teachers’ strikes.

The government wants to present these measures as separate, but the attack is generalised. People are making connections.

The politicians argue that university standards are low, and that students are preoccupied with political activity. One columnist in a top circulation newspaper said universities are recruiting for the far-left.

There is huge pressure on the government. Students from Pasok heckled prime minister George Papandreou at their conference last Saturday. And even the Tories expelled one of their student leaders for saying that both party leaderships were finished.

And there will be a demonstration against a speaking engagement by the prime minister in Salonika this Saturday, 10 September, supported by the Greek TUC and many others.


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International
Tue 6 Sep 2011, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2268
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