The Greek government, heavily pushed by other European governments, is imposing a package of severe austerity measures upon the population. Working class people are hit by higher taxes and by attacks on wages, pensions and employment. The government takes these measures to bring down the high state debt and budget deficit. Workers are resisting wth a series of big strikes and demonstrations.
The events in Greece are tremendously important for people everywhere. If the Greek government is succesful in its attacks, it will mean a big defeat for the working class. Other goernments will take this as a signal that they, too, can bring on even more pressure. If the workers succeed in eating back the capitalist offensive, this will show workers in other countries that they, too, can succesfully resist.
The importance of this fight makes information on the Greek situation especially relevant. A few articles are helpful for understanding the background and following the events. “Greece in the eye of the storm”, written by Antonis Davenellos, explains how Greece developed its budget deficits. Corporations could evade taxes for years without much trouble. Then, when recession struck, the government spent 28 billioneuros in bailing out financial institutions . The article describes the expression of anger and the repercussions within the governing social-democratic PASOK party. Also, earlier confrontations between Greek governments and working class protest and resistance are briefly decribed.
Libcom.org , that beautiful libertarian-revolutinary website, has good coverage and background on the Greek events. An important background piece is “There’s only one thing left to settle: our accounts withcapital and its state”, by TPTG, an autonomous communist group in Greece. This article contains an analysis of the economic crisis in Greece. It shows that the state debt in fact is a form of profit-making for capitalists. What the state has to pay in rent etcetera, is for the creditors a form of gain, won without much risk.
The article analyses the eruption of workers’ protests, the strikes, riots and demonstrations. No cheerleading here, no simplistic enthousiasm for ever-bigger, ever-more-radical resistance. The events on strike day February 24 and March 11 are coolly described and analysed. According to this text, the control that trade unions still have on the protests is still rather strong. A truly big independent movement of resisting workers is not yet to be seen, though the protests have been growing, according to the article. This kind of sober analysis is what makes this text especially valuable.
But enthousiasm is, fortunately, not lacking on the pages of Libcom.org. Taxikipali has e number of vivid reports on the events, for instance “Battle Grount Athens: second general strike leads to pitched battles”, on the strike and street actions of March 11. Taxikipali has bright anarchist convictons, and combines critical factual reporting with level-headed analysis. Especially worthwhile is the Comment section underneath his reports: here, questions are put forward, discussions of the events takes place, and taxikipali addresses the ponts being made. Very valuable it all is.
More information on the austerity package of the Greek government can be found in “Greek trade unions close iranks behind PASOK austerity measures”, on the Trotskyist World Socialist Website (WSWS). For instance, taxes n products, VAT, are in place from March15 onwards. VAT on food producs has gone from 9 to 10 percent, VAT on clothing and shoes from 19 to 21 percent. Pay for public sector workers will be reduced, pensions funded by the state frozen.
The article also shows the terrible behaviour of the big trade unions. For instance, they cancelled the nationwide strike that had been announced for March 16. GSEE, the union federation organising private sector workers, has started a sad, chauvinistic ‘Buy Greek’ campaign which is diverting anger against the Greek government and bosses. The resistance of the workers will bein terrible trouble as long as the strangehold of official tade union structures does not give way.
A few remarks of my own. One ma get the impression that trade unions operate in a much more militant fashion tan their counterparts in, for instance, the netherlands. That does not impy a difference of principle. Rather, the pressure of Greek workers is stronger. In order to contain that pressure and remain on top of things, the union leadership has to make much more radical gestures. Dutch trade unions would do more or less the same if the pressure from workers would be comparably strong.
Workers will need to break the hold of the trade union structures in order truly to stp the austerity programme and the government enforcing it. Al-out class war will be needed, and trade unions are not the organisations that will organise that war. Whether it will come to that? We shall see. In the meantime, following and understanding events in Greece will help and inspire us, if and when similar workers’ protests roll closer and closer to home…
(slightly amended within minutes after first publishing)