Socialist Worker

Teachers’ strike puts pressure on Syriza and the Greek state

A confidence vote in the Greek government shows the scale of Syriza’s crisis, says Nick Clark

Issue No. 2637

Teachers protesting in Greece during their strike

Teachers protesting in Greece during their strike (Pic: Workers' Solidarity)


Teachers in Greece struck, protested and battled riot cops outside parliament last week. Inside parliament prime minister Alexis Tsipras tried to head off a political crisis.

Greek teachers are fighting an attack that could see thousands sacked through an attempt to change the ways they are hired.

They held a one-day strike on Friday of last week.

A group of teachers stormed the news studios of the ERT channel—the equivalent of the BBC—last Saturday. After occupying a studio they were allowed to read their demands live on television.

The teachers’ strike is the latest battle the Greek government—led by the once-radical left wing party Syriza—faces over its decision to implement austerity.

Syriza was elected in 2015 on a promise to end austerity. But it surrendered after the “Troika” of the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund threatened to sabotage Greece’s economy.

Syriza then agreed to implement austerity in return for a “bailout” loan designed to ensure Greece could continue paying its debts to the Troika. The Troika still demands harsh spending limits until 2060 when the loan is repaid in full.

Yet workers’ struggle is back on the cards. Teachers’ demands are similar to those of workers in hospitals and councils who have struck for mass recruitment.

Battle

The battle came ahead of a vote of confidence in the government by Greek MPs, which was set to take place on Wednesday of this week.

Tsipras called the vote after Panos Kammenos—leader of Syriza’s coalition partner, the right wing Independent Greeks—resigned as defence minister last Sunday.

Kammenos quit over a deal with the government of neighbouring Macedonia. The pact accepts the country’s right to use the name Macedonia, which is shared by a region of northern Greece.

The deal—still to be ratified by the Greek government—is backed by the ruling class in Greece and most of Europe.

It paves the way for Macedonia to enter the neoliberal EU, and the Western military alliance Nato.

It also allows Greek business to exploit Macedonia’s economy.

But right wing Greek nationalists such as Kammenos oppose it. They say it will lead the government of Macedonia to claim parts of northern Greece.

The Tory-type New Democracy party has also fuelled nationalist opposition to the deal in the hope of bringing the government down.

Syriza was expected to win the confidence vote—though if it doesn’t it will have to call early elections. In any case there will still have to be a general election no later than 20 October.

After years of austerity Syriza’s popularity has plummeted. Opinion polls suggest New Democracy may win the next election.

But workers’ struggles such as the teachers’ strike show the alternative.

 


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