Socialist Worker

Fury in Greece against Euro bailout blackmail

by Panos Garganas, reporting from Athens
Issue No. 2290

The Greek government has come out badly shaken by three days of workers fighting back.

We saw a huge general strike on Friday and Saturday of last week. Last Sunday saw angry protests across the country.

This was in response to parliament voting on the latest austerity measures.

These cuts are imposed by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank—the so-called “troika”.

Wages

The austerity package includes a 22 percent cut in the minimum wage. This will affect all workers, since their wages are calculated relative to the minimum. People under 25 will suffer a bigger cut.

Every major city had a huge demonstration. Crowds outside parliament in Athens spent six hours trying to get into parliament through clouds of tear gas.

The huge police operation inevitably led to major clashes and destruction.

This pressure splintered the coalition government. The fascist Laos party withdrew.

And unsurprisingly the Labour-style Pasok party split. It expelled 25 MPs for refusing to vote for the agreement. More surprisingly, New Democracy, the Greek equivalent of the Tories, had the same problem.

The coalition government started with 255 MPs in November. On Sunday it won just 190 votes.

But resistance to the new measures has already begun. Hospital workers have decided on five days of action every week, alternating between strikes, occupations and demos.

This effectively means hospitals are now organised against the implementation of the troika agreement.

One of the worst aspects of the cuts is the abolition of the Workers Housing Organisation (OEK), which helps workers with housing and mortgages.

OEK workers in Athens have now occupied. We’ll see more of this sort of action over the coming weeks.

They say Greece is the exception in Europe. But Portugal is now just weeks from facing a similar scenario.

We now need to cancel Greek debt repayments—what we are calling “a people’s default”.

That means stopping payments from the budget to the bankers. It would save about 20 billion euros—enough to reverse the cuts to wages and social services.

This raises the question of who is in control. The money is there. But will it go to the banks or to workers?

A people’s default means workers taking control of a nationalised banking system.

The troika is insisting that Greek banks are given subsidies to recapitalise, and that banks must be independent of the state.

But this just gives them money to carry on as before and create the same mess again.

We were told a bailout would mean money for wages and pensions. But now they say the troika will control the bailout money—and give it straight to the banks.

We’ve paid for the banks again and again. They need to come under workers’ control.


Solidarity protest in London

Some 60 protesters gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square last Sunday in solidarity with workers in Greece.

Activists from Greece and Turkey spoke. The UCU union sent a solidarity message.

Solidarity with Greek strikers and occupations. A night of music, speeches and culture. Friday 16 March, 7.30pm, Halkevi Centre, 31-33 Dalston Lane, London E8 3DF


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International
Tue 14 Feb 2012, 17:36 GMT
Issue No. 2290
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