Socialist Worker

General strike in Greece as recovery hopes fade

by Panos Garganas in Greece
Issue No. 2431

Athens: students mark the anniversary of the Polytechnic Uprising in 1973

Athens: students mark the anniversary of the Polytechnic Uprising in 1973 (Pic: Workers Solidarity)


A planned general strike by workers across Greece on Thursday of this week comes at a crucial time. 

In return for the final tranche of a bailout, the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are demanding the government pushes through new attacks on workers. 

The Tory-led government has been claiming that Greece is able to borrow on the open market again. 

They’ve been telling people that after four or five years of austerity, it’s all back to normal. Five years of cuts have brought the budget back into surplus. But it’s nowhere near enough to cover the cost of servicing Greece’s debt.

The financial markets’ panic in October pushed the cost of government borrowing up to more than it was during the first bailout application. 

Now the EU and IMF are offering more credit, but want to “supervise” the Greek budget. The left is arguing to cancel the debt. 

The main opposition party Syriza argues there should be negotiations with the EU on cancelling a portion of the debt.

Yet the EU made clear that it will only discuss extending the repayment deadline, and only if the cuts go through. 

The government is really stuck and workers are angry.

One sign of this mood is the opinion polls. Syriza now leads by a big margin. Another is the explosion of student militancy. 

Attack

The wave of university and college occupations is perhaps the most significant since 2006. Students are furious at cuts and an attack on students’ unions and university democracy.

In the face of heavy-handed police tactics, there were huge student contingents on the demonstration marking 41 years since the Polytechnic Uprising. It began in 1973 with student protests and ended up bringing down the military dictatorship.

But it’s not just students, as groups of workers fighting redundancy continue their struggles. 

This all put pressure on the union leaders to call this general strike, which we expect to have a big impact. 

Greece is effectively in a pre-election period now. 

If parliament cannot elect a new president by March 2015 it will be dissolved. The government is struggling to get a big enough majority and the left parties are demanding a new election.

Some argue that militancy  is pointless if we may soon get to vote the government out.

But we can’t rely on the debate in parliament. If there is not a wave of struggle, many MPs may be tempted to vote with the government. This makes the general strike even more important. 

It can send out a political message to make sure the cuts don’t go ahead—and help push to bring down the government.


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