Socialist Worker

Greece's rulers fear resistance

Politicians are negotiating fresh cuts but this risks spreading strikes and protests that could bring the government down, writes Panos Garganas

Issue No. 2349

Doctors and nurses in Greece were set to take part in a national strike on Wednesday of this week. This action is against job cuts caused by hospital mergers.

Workers in many other industries plan to take solidarity action—in the northern city of Yannena all private sector unions have called a general strike.

And civil service workers’ unions have called a national walkout on the day too.

The government has been negotiating extra cuts with the “Troika”—the International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank. It must make more cuts to get the next £2.2 billion of a Troika bailout agreed in November last year.

But the Troika says the government has been too slow to sack civil service workers. It hasn’t gone as fast as the Troika demanded, in large part because of workers’ strikes.

The Troika could stop paying instalments of Greece’s bailout if the government fails to make enough cuts.

Sackings

The government has now agreed another 15,000 sackings. It hopes to get away with this by taking away workers’ right to appeal when they are disciplined. 

But there’s no way this will be enough to get rid of 15,000 workers.

The government will also have to accelerate privatisation to get the next £5 billion of its bailout. But it is running into opposition in everything it does.

There have been huge protests and occupations by students and lecturers, against a law to merge universities and colleges.

The coalition government started with a comfortable majority in parliament after last year’s elections. But it is down to a margin of just three MPs. 

The vote on university and college mergers only passed thanks to abstentions.

The coalition is trying to avoid crucial votes because there are huge tensions inside it. It has delayed a law to deny citizenship to second generation immigrants. 

There have been massive protests against this draft law and against the fascist Golden Dawn party.

And last week several thousand people in the detention camps for so-called illegal immigrants went on hunger strike for two days. 

This allowed the doctors’ unions to gain access to the camps for the first time. 

They exposed the living conditions and severe beatings that had left some detainees in a very bad way.

So the government is under pressure from the anti-racist movement as well as the strikes. And the economic situation is only getting worse.

A lot of Greek companies were hit by the financial crash in Cyprus, so the recession is now forecast to last at least another year.

Restructuring

It has also meant that some of the biggest Greek banks are unable to complete their own restructuring. 

These could be taken over by the Troika and sold off to French or German banks.

The Troika’s austerity plan has also created a political crisis in Portugal, where the courts have ruled out several of the measures it demanded.

So the talk is of moving from bailing out to “bailing in”—applying the Cyprus model of taking money straight from people’s bank accounts. 

This is now a real possibility in Slovenia or Greece if the bank restructuring falls apart.

That’s the big picture behind the crisis in Greece—and whether the government survives all these pressures is an open question. 

The leader of left wing opposition party Syriza is calling for the government to resign and hold a new election because the bailout has failed.

And that’s the dilemma for the Troika. 

Economics tells them to make their attacks harsher—but politics tells them that if they push any harder they will bring down the 

government.

Panos Garganas is editor of Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece

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