A wave of occupations, strikes, demonstrations and other forms of action is erupting across Greece against the cuts imposed by the Pasok government.
New cuts are to be voted on in Parliament on 20 October. Every day additional measures are added to the package.
New taxation will cost an average Greek family 1500 to 2000 euros annually, or more than a month and a half’s wages.
Utility workers and trade unionists have occupied the printing offices of the utility company GENOP-DEH in an attempt to block and disrupt the printing and distribution of the regressive property tax bills, which were to be added to electricity bills.
The one-day occupation was ended when the government “discovered” the money to hand over the printing of the property tax bills to a private company.
The occupation epitomised the solidarity and fraternity of what are considered as more “privileged” sections of the working class (utility workers) with the most vulnerable members of the society.
Transport workers have staged a 48-hour strike. Refuse collectors are entering their third week of occupations and strikes.
Archaeologists and workers in the ministry of culture struck for 48 hours and occupied the Acropolis.
There are on-going occupations of ministries, offices, and utility buildings. Lawyers are on a seven-day strike.
The wave of struggles is expected to intensify this week and Greece is to shut down on the 19-20 October with a two-day nationwide general strike called by ADEDY (public-service union federation) and GSEE (private sector counterpart).
ADEDY initially announced a 24-hour strike for 19 October.
The pressure of the rank and file has forced them to extend the general strike to 20 October, which coincides with the day that the new austerity measures are to be voted on by the parliament.
Transport workers and taxi drivers are to stop work on 19 and 20 October. Railway workers are to strike on 18-20 October. Lorry drivers have announced a 24-hour strike on 19 October.
Air traffic controllers are to strike on 19-20 October. Seafarers will leave ferries tied up at ports on 17-18 October and threaten to extend their action further. Port workers have a 48-hour strike on 19-20 October.
Tax collectors are striking from 17 to 20 October. Bank workers have announced a 48-hour strike on 18-19 October
Custom officers have announced two 24-hour strikes, on 17 and 18 October, despite their strike being declared illegal. Their plan to start a 10-day strike was blocked by threats to fine their union.
Teachers have a 48-hour strike on 19-20 October and have voted for a further three-day strike on 24-26 October. From 17 October teachers have occupied the ministry of education.
Doctors are to strike until 21 October. Lawyers are to strike until 19 October. Judges will join the strike actions from 17 October, shutting down each day between 12 and three until 20 October.
Shop keepers are shutting their shops on Wednesday 19 October.
Workers, on the one side, and capitalists, business people, financial speculator, and bondholders, on the other, are not in it together.
The Greek workers did not evade their taxes. The Greek workers have not received billions from the state as the bankers and the Greek capitalist asset-strippers have. The Greek workers did not participate in the Siemens corruption scandal. The Greek workers did not benefit from the Olympic Games; the corporations did.
The Greek workers did not want their taxes spent on submarines. The Greek workers did not want their money spent on interventions in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Greek workers are refusing to pay for the crisis.
The periodic 48-hour strikes called by the union bureaucracy are not enough.
The number of Greek workers on the streets and in occupations and strikes is much bigger than in May 2010, when the first government cuts plan was launched, and much bigger than in June 2011.
The next step should be a continuous general strike alongside the poor peasants, the ruined small shopkeepers, the pensioners, the unemployed, the school and university students, and the neighbourhood community movements.
In every workplace, workers should form committees in order to organise and direct their struggle from below. A central organ that supports, organises, coordinates and defends every struggle, should be formed.
It is of crucial importance that workers create and empower their own organs and structures of struggle in order to safeguard themselves against the hesitancy of the union bureaucracy.
The occupation of the offices of GENOP-DEH in order to disrupt the distribution of the regressive property tax bills to the most vulnerable sections of the working class is a manifestation of workers’ solidarity and demonstrates the potential of the power of a workers’ united front.
Parliament does not have the answers to the workers’ needs and demands. A New Democracy (ND, Tory) government or an emergency coalition government would follow exactly the same policies.
The solution lies in the power of workers’ struggles. As the struggles evolve and escalate the workers are looking at solutions, to defend their lives and rights, outside the “whole system” and its laws and structures. It is essential for the revolutionary left, not only to participate in and observe the struggles, but to help organise, coordinate, support, defend, escalate and politicise the struggles. The revolutionary left should be at the vanguard of all the struggles and win the workers to a radical, anti-capitalist programme of transitional demands:
• Abolish the debt. Not a penny to the creditors
• Freeze and abolish workers’ debts
• Civil disobedience and refusal to pay government-imposed taxes
• Nationalisation under workers’ control of the banks and the big business with no compensation
• Workers’ control of prices, wage increases, reduction in working hours, work for all
• Pension increases in line with wages, reduction in the age of retirement
• Ban redundancies. Unemployment benefit in line with wages
• For a public sector in the service of the people and society’s needs against today’s public sector tied up with corporations, contractors and corruption
• For an extension of education, health, transportation and welfare state provision.
Refuse workers lead the fightback
As of 17 October, the strike and occupation by refuse workers is entering its third week. The workers are fighting to secure their jobs, to stop the privatisation of refuse collection and disposal services, and to defend their wages and working conditions.
The new multiple levels of taxation in combination with their already-reduced wages have resulted into some refuse workers receiving net monthly pay of 192 euros. One refuse worker recently received net monthly pay of 1 euro.
The government is threatening to change the law and hand over refuse collection and disposal services to privateers. A scheme is to be introduced from December to hand to the private sector the total responsibility of the refuse collection and disposal for the next 20 to 25 years.
If the plans for privatization go ahead, then 1600 refuse workers in Athens and 700 in Thessaloniki will be losing their jobs.
As of 17 October, the refuse workers are entering their third week of occupations and strikes. For the last two weeks refuse workers have occupied the main landfills, in Athens and Thessaloniki, in order to control the vans that dispose of the rubbish.
Refuse workers have refused to collect any rubbish from the streets apart from outside hospitals, schools and markets.
The majority of the Greek population is on the workers’ side. They can see that “all the workers are in it together” against the attacks of the government and the EU-ECB-IMF Troika.
The government has started a concentrated attempt to break the refuse workers’ dispute.
Judges were asked to declare illegal the refuse workers’ occupations and strikes. The ongoing lawyers’ strike has postponed the intervention.
Government officials have threatened the refuse workers with stoppage of pay if they continue their occupations. The Minister of Health has requested that any refuse worker refusing to dispose rubbish should be arrested.
The government has said that if any member of the public becomes infected due to the piling up of rubbish in the street, then the refuse workers are liable to over 10 years in prison.
The government has hired scabs to collect and dispose of the rubbish. Police were employed to protect the scabs.
Despite a heavy police presence, escorting the private lorries, the refuse workers, with the help and active support of their communities, have managed to prevent the majority of the collection of rubbish taking place. Most of the private companies decided to withdraw! The few private companies that collected rubbish had to struggle with its disposal, as over 500 refuse workers occupied the main landfills.
On 15 October, the police entered the occupied landfills and broke the occupations by forcibly removing the refuse workers.
Despite their bickering and arguing in the parliament, the right-wing opposition parties have aligned with the government in their attempt to break the occupation.
The Greek media applauded the scabs and spread the racist lie that refugee workers were leading the collection of the rubbish. A statement of solidarity for the refuse workers’ struggle by representatives of refugee communities has shut them up.
Despite all the attacks on them, the refuse workers are continuing their indefinite strikes and occupations and continuing the disruption of the scabs’ work.
Virtually all the private companies had given up on rubbish collection by Monday 17 October.
The refuse workers have vowed to carry on their occupations and strikes “until this government is overthrown and our future is secure”.
The struggle of the refuse workers is an inspiration to the whole working class. It has shown where the real power lies. The workers can be in command and control of their jobs. The struggle of the refuse workers is challenging the way society is currently run. It is a demonstration that the workers can and should be in control of their workplaces and their lives.
The piling up of uncollected rubbish in Athens and Thessaloniki is a living proof of the social value of the refuse workers’ currently devalued jobs. The occupation and control of the landfills (in direct violation of Greek laws) by the refuse workers is a blueprint for the struggles to come.
The whole of the political establishment is alarmed because the refuse workers did not only rely on legalised forms of struggles but also took control of their workspace and redefined the laws under which the refuse collection and disposal service would be run.
Victory for the refuse workers would have a domino effect and boost the confidence of all the working class.
After the failure of the private companies to act as scabs, the government is threating to use the army as scabs.
The refuse workers are currently stepping up their struggle, blocking all private lorries, occupying public buildings and major halls, organising and setting up in every work place committees of self-defence. In parallel, in an act of unprecedented class solidarity, citizens, local activists and other workers are blocking the roads and preventing private lorries collecting rubbish from their neighborhoods.
The government is not concerned about the rubbish. The government is mostly concerned about other sections of the working class being inspired and following the example of the refuse workers’ struggle.
The Greek workers should make their fears reality! Every working-class sector should follow the determination of the refuse workers and escalate their struggles by calling continuous strikes, occupying their work places and setting up strike and self-defence committees.
“We are all refuse workers”! Let’s shut down Greece on 19-20 October. Let’s send the government, the Troika, and the whole lot of them to the dustbin of history!