By Dave Sewell
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2461

Workers in Greece defy bankers’ blackmail

This article is over 8 years, 11 months old
Issue 2461
Hundreds pour from the metro into Athens’ Syntagma Square to defy the bankers on Friday of last week
Hundreds pour from the metro into Athens’ Syntagma Square to defy the bankers on Friday of last week (Pic: Workers Solidarity)

The Greek referendum result is a blow to every politician, banker and boss who wants to impose austerity on workers.

Working class people in Greece defied all of the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) propaganda and intimidation. 

Their “Project Fear” was intense—and virtually the entire Greek ruling class lined up behind them.

Many bosses have been reported for trying to blackmail their employees into voting yes.

But ordinary people refused to be bullied into accepting their rotten deal. 

Despite the bank shutdown, limits on daily cash withdrawals and threats of money running out, people rejected the EU’s latest austerity package.  

Costas Pittas, trade union secretary at the ministry of development, told Socialist Worker, “It’s a great victory —and the vote came from the working class and poor. 

“The No vote was enormous in the poorest suburbs of Piraeus port and in the northern regions where the Turkish minority live.”

The result will inspire millions of ordinary people across Europe and beyond because it shows that austerity isn’t inevitable. 

This is what terrifies the ruling class. Our rulers want people to believe that there is no alternative—that without slashing pay and welfare, privatising public services and paying the bankers the world would end. 


They don’t want ordinary people under the cosh of austerity in Spain, Italy and elsewhere to get the idea that they can reject the EU’s demands. 

EU leaders were meeting to discuss their response, as Socialist Worker went to press. 

With such a resounding vote the initiative—for now—is with the working class. Yet Greece’s left wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras referred to it as giving him “greater negotiating strength”.

His Syriza party leadership is looking for a new deal instead of rejecting the EU and its demands entirely. 

Costas said, “There’s no way workers already in struggle, such as the dockers and hospital workers, will stop if Syriza signs up to a new deal.

“We will all organise to fight it.”

Leading Syriza left winger Stathis Kouvelakis told Socialist Worker that this insistence on staying in the eurozone and EU is a weakness for the government.  

He said shutting Greeks banks off from funding “has been used to blackmail Syriza all along—and it looks as if that blackmail will continue.” 

He added, “But we have to ask the question what we can do about it. And we need to seriously consider the possibility of setting up a new drachma currency.”

Workers across Greece organised and protested. They have taken part in 32 general strikes since the onset of the economic crisis. 

They have the opportunity to challenge the notion that paying the bankers is more important than paying pensions or funding health care. And they can start to take control themselves. 

Print worker and Syriza-supporter Giorgos said, “It’s like in our occupation. They’ve got the big guns—but we’ve got the masses.”

Debating the way forward

For many Greek workers the struggle isn’t for a slightly less brutal austerity deal.

While the banks remained shut and the government drifted closer to bankruptcy, some workers demanded an alternative. 

Radiologist Christos Arghyris told Socialist Worker, “At work and at the polling station, people want to talk about workers’ control—taking over the hospitals, the banks, everything.”

Trainee surgeon Zanneta had a similar experience. She said, “We’re having really political conversations about the EU and the debt—and the need for workers’ control.”

Nurse Maria added, “We want free public healthcare. 

“We want control of our lives and our workplaces. We will have to take to the streets to demand it.”


Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance