Greece’s government was on the verge of collapse as Socialist Worker went to press.
Antonis Samaras’ coalition government had tried to shut down the Greek public broadcasting corporation ERT.
This ran into a wall of mass resistance. The cracks between the Tory New Democracy and its coalition partners—Pasok and Dimar—have widened to the point where most people think a general election is imminent.
The first step in this chain of events came on Tuesday of last week. A mass meeting of ERT workers decided to ignore the government decree shutting down the broadcaster.
They occupied the premises in Aghia Paraskevi, in the north of Athens, and continued operating under their own control.
Unions representing media workers in the private sector called an immediate six-hour stoppage. This left ERT as the only news programme on air.
Some 10,000 people gathered outside the main ERT building, the occupation transmitted the solidarity meeting live.
A wave of enthusiasm spread across the country.
Crowds gathered outside local ERT stations in city after city and foiled police attempts to seize control. TV screens everywhere were showing trade unionists and political activists, with flags and banners supporting the occupation
A bright red SEK (Socialist Workers Party) banner proclaiming, “The workers united shall never be defeated” flashed across screens again and again.
It was not until late at night that the government was able to seize control of the transmitters and black out screens. But with the help of trade unionists from the telecom company OTE, the occupiers’ programme continued its transmission on the internet.
The government was completely isolated. Media unions called an indefinite, all-out strike shutting down the papers and news programmes apart from stations transmitting the ERT workers’ programme.
GSEE and ADEDY, the equivalent of the TUC in the Greek private and public sectors, called a general solidarity strike for Thursday of last week.
This was a huge success. Strikers rallied outside the occupied ERT building. For the first time in Greece’s 20 odd general strikes, the strikers were united.
Flags from the Syriza, KKE and Antarsya groups flew alongside each other at the ERT gates.
Samaras had badly miscalculated. This was partly due to pressure from the Troika—the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank.
The government is failing to meet bailout targets for sackings in the public sector. Sacking 2,660 people at once was meant to satisfy the Troika.
At the same time, Samaras had recently avoided a crucial strike during exams in schools by browbeating the union leadership into a retreat. Perhaps he was counting on a repeat performance by the trade union bureaucracy.
But now GSEE and ADEDY are considering a new general strike this week if Samaras does not back down.
He is now stuck. The leaders of Pasok and Dimar say that their MPs will not vote for the decree shutting down ERT when it reaches parliament for ratification.
Samaras has to choose between calling a general election and sounding a retreat. Either way, the political crisis will intensify.
This has been brewing for some time. A growing movement against the Nazis of Golden Dawn had pushed the justice minister, Antonis Roupakiotis, into proposing a bill to punish promoters of racist violence.
Samaras initially declared that no such bill would be introduced to parliament. Then he demanded that all parties unite behind an “anti-racist” bill presented by the Tories.
The divisions in the government are wide open and the latest IMF report predicts that Greece will continue in recession in 2014.
The workers’ fightback is gaining strength. It needs all the international solidarity it can get.