We celebrated International Women’s Day a few days early in Greece with a general strike. Women workers were the most militant section of the strike. Not only because they are the majority of the workforce, but because women’s experiences in work and at home have made them the most determined.
Official unemployment in Greece is now 27 percent.
For women it is 31 percent and for young women (between the ages of 18-24) is up to 62 percent.
All the propaganda about women’s position belonging in the home is coming alive. It was always there as a theory, but now is a real ruling class effort.
A week before the last general strike 30,000 mainly women workers at a social programme called “Help at home” went on strike for 48 hours. They came from all over Greece to march in Athens.
The programme provides home services to over 130,000 senior citizens and disabled people and is now in danger of closing.
The workers changed the name of the programme on a banner to “Help, they want us, home”.
The same fight sees women workers oppose the massive closure of hospitals, schools and public services.
Now 50 public hospitals are threatened with closure. The percentage of pregnant women who give birth and have never visited a doctor, is rising.
This year 25,000 public sector workers will be sacked.
Most public sector workers are women.
And women will shoulder the burden from the collapse of the social state.
Recently a 36 day old baby died in a hospital from starvation. Everybody blamed the heartless mother who killed her child.
Nurses said yes, this is murder, but the murderer is the government.
Government cuts mean that support after the birth of a child doesn’t exist.
It’s the same in schools. Children are fainting from hunger and there is a huge effort to say women neglect their children. The teachers, who are mainly women, oppose this propaganda and don’t let the government get away with it.
Economic and ideological struggles go together.
When media workers struck last October, bosses wanted to break the strike. They asked for exceptions for some shows but unions refused to make exceptions.
A journalist and single mother was punished because she refused to read a strike-breaking announcement live on air.
Her manager claimed the unions were gagging the radio station. She read the announcement but added that she and her union didn’t accept that.
The bosses changed her from a day shift to a night shift. This was an attack on her ability to look after her child. Then they fired her.
The radicalisation meant everyone saw the bosses use gender to pressure us.
So her colleagues went on strike for a week to defend her.
The government and the ruling class are afraid of the workers’ movement.
They are afraid of women workers and their radicalisation. They are afraid of the united fight and are doing everything they can to stop us.
They try to persuade us that women’s oppression is in the past, that today we have laws and equal opportunities.
They try to persuade us that men in general are the problem. Our experience tells us otherwise.
Lena Verde is a journalist for Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece