Socialist Worker

Greek workers vote with their feet and protest ahead of new election

by Despina Karayianni in Thessalonica
Issue No. 2470

On the march in Thessalonica last Saturday

On the march in Thessalonica last Saturday (Pic: Gareth Jenkins)


With just days to go before a new election in Greece, the left wing Syriza party is rapidly losing ground.

Some polls even suggest the Tory New Democracy party could come first in the 20 September election.

The prospect of a coalition government seems ever more likely.

The return of old right wing politicians who were swept from office by Syriza’s election victory in January is a chilling prospect.

But Syriza is committed to driving through worse austerity than the Tories ever did.

Syriza disoriented and demoralised its supporters by signing up to a new “memorandum” of austerity in exchange for a bailout of Greece’s debt in July.

A referendum had rejected the deal.

Last week one of Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras’s closest advisers became the latest to leave the party. Syriza’s youth section also broke and called on supporters to vote anti-capitalist.

Former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis—who was almost as prominent in the Syriza government as Tsipras—called for votes against it.

He urged voters to back anyone other than the parties that backed the memorandum or the fascist Golden Dawn.

Opposition

In practice this means a vote for the left opposition—the Communist Party, the Syriza split Popular Unity, or the anti-capitalist coalition Antarsya.

The movement against austerity returned to the streets last Saturday, with the first major demonstration since Tsipras’ U-turn on cuts.

Up to 10,000 people marched in the streets of Thessalonica, Greece’s second city.

Teachers, metro workers, public sector engineering staff, water workers facing privatisation and private sector workers all joined it.

School guard Manolis Stathopoulos told Socialist Worker, “We are demonstrating to make it clear that nothing has changed even though there was a change of government. The memorandum policies continue.

“We knew that the people the government negotiated with were not prepared to move an inch.

“We can stop the memorandum. We need to unite in a broad front of struggle inside each workplace and on the streets.”

The leaders of the GSEE trade union federation that called the demonstration back the memorandum.

So the bulk of the demonstrators assembled separately, then marched in to create a mass unified march.

Many campaigners who have fought to close the environmentally disastrous Eldorado gold mine in Halkidiki, northern Greece, were there.

Their mass presence more than made up for the contingent from the pro-boss gold miners’ union.

GSEE leaders had mobilised it in the hope of countering the anti-memorandum left.

Young

Young people marched alongside older trade unionists. Anti-racists and anti-fascists who have fought to defend migrants and refugees were there too.

Around 2,500 people marched in a separate demonstration called by the Communist Party. 

This had a large presence of sacked Coca Cola workers, who have organised a long-running boycott campaign.

Coca Cola workers’ union leader Grigoris Papadopoulos told Socialist Worker that the memorandum “brought poverty, unemployment, shut factories and brought hunger wages”.

He said, “The new memorandum is a continuation of the old one—and worse.

“We can stop it if all working class forces come together with the aim of popular power.”

The protest showed that the anti-austerity left continues to shape the resistance.

The potential to beat austerity in Greece hasn’t gone away. But Syriza’s failure underlines that it can’t be done through parliament.

Syriza tried to do a deal with undemocratic forces bent on driving through more attacks.

A programme that builds on the strengths of the movement can block these forces—and stop austerity.


The fight isn't over at ERT

The ERT state broadcasting workers went into occupation to stop its closure three years ago.

The left government restored national broadcasting. But the workers have not given up the fight against their bosses.

Their union president Panayiotis Kalfayiannis told Socialist Worker, “Today I am demonstrating out of duty and ideological conviction. 

“The duty is to society and working people, and the ideological conviction is because our children have been made subordinates.

“The new memorandum is more unfair, harder and will prove a killer—more people will commit suicide. 

“The Greek people together must revolt and take their fate into their hands to revive the hope which Tsipras and his mates consigned to the dustbin.

“All together—workers, unemployed, pensioners and, above all, youth must support anti-memorandum policies to end this subordination.”


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