On 25 June the remaining parties of the Greek government coalition — New Democracy (ND) and the social-democratic Pasok — announced a new cabinet.
The Democratic Left had left the government after a decision by ND Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to close the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT, Greek equivalent of BBC) on 11 June by ministerial decree, sacking its 2,600 employees.
Democratic Left was never opposed to the restructuring of ERT, but wanted layoffs done while it remained on air. Even now, Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis says that the “Democratic Left…will continue to support the European course of the country and the need to continue reforms in order for Greece to overcome the deep crisis.”
But the base of the government is narrower. Meanwhile the “Left Initiative” led by George Panagiotakopoulos has formally withdrawn from Pasok. The core loyalists of the old Pasok leadership of George Papandreou have political space now to criticise current Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos from the left.
With the withdrawal of Democratic Left’s 14 deputies, an already widely despised government is deeply unstable, with its majority in the 300-seat Parliament reduced to three. Over the last year nine deputies have already left the ND or Pasok fractions in parliament. The government could rapidly lose its three-seat majority in any crisis.
Workers are still occupying ERT offices, although their union leaders are once again ready to work with the government in pushing through austerity. Panagiotis Kalfagiannis, the leader of the broadcast workers’ union, has said: “If the government wants to restructure ERT we agree. We want restructuring. Not a padlocked ERT.”
Workers in all hospitals — doctors, nurses and administrators — had a five-hour work stoppage on Thursday 27th, and demonstrations in all cities. Treasury workers had a 48-hour strike on 27 June. On 26 June workers at all ports in Greece had a work stoppage from noon to 7pm against privatisation and selling off ports.
On Saturday 29 June the council workers organised a rally against layoffs in the public sector and utilities. Primary school teachers have voted to commence the new school year with strikes.
Samaras remains prime minister in the new cabinet. Yannis Stournaras, an unelected technocrat nominated by ND, stays as finance minister.
Pasok was almost wiped out as a political force in the 2012 elections and is now at 6.5 percent in opinion polls. (It had 44% of the vote in the October 2009 general election).
However, Pasok will play a much more leading role in the new cabinet. Previously it held no key ministries. Now Pasok party leader Evangelos Venizelos will be deputy prime minister and foreign minister. Michalis Chrysochoidis becomes transport minister, and Yiannis Maniatis environment minister.
The health minister will be Adonis Georgiadis, a former member of the far-right LAOS party who was expelled last year and defected to ND, after voting for the second austerity package in defiance of his party’s line.
The government is tasked with carrying out further attacks demanded by the troika (European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank), which will return to Athens next week to review the implementation of austerity policies. Its first job is to confirm to the troika that 2,000 public sector sackings are in place, as well as moving 12,500 civil servants into a labour mobility scheme over the next few weeks. Without these measures, the troika will withhold the next tranche of the loan agreement.
Samaras and Venizelos had based much of their hopes on national and international capitalist backing and their chances of concessions from the Troika. But the international environment is deteriorating. The EU summit, which was expected to give answers to critical issues of debt and banks, effectively postponed decisions until the end of 2013.
According to the Financial Times: “A shortfall of €3bn-€4bn has opened up in Greece’s bailout programme, largely because eurozone central banks have refused to roll over some Greek bonds they hold. Delays to planned privatisations have not helped either.
“Essentially, Greece’s bailout programme will run out of money at the end of July 2014 because of the hole. But this has immediate repercussions. Under IMF rules, a government must have its financing needs covered for at least a year in order for the Fund to carry on making disbursements under the programme. The shortfall means that that cut-off moment is approaching faster than expected and will come at the end of July 2013”.
The Troika has increased the pressure on Greece. European officials say that the Greek government has enforced only half of some 300 measures due by the end of June.
The new government is morally and politically isolated from society. That makes it even more dangerous than the governments which came before. Its only backup to stay in power is the Troika and the Greek ruling class; which is unleashing a historical counterrevolution against the rights and freedoms won by the Greek working class in the postwar period .
Already, on Friday 28th, it became known that Labour Minister Vroutsis has begun the abolition of the five-day working week in the food and restaurants industry, where now there is no contract of employment. A circular indicates to bosses that under the second Memorandum, they can sign individual contracts with their workers forcing each worker into a six-day week and cutting wages by 20%, down to the level of the national collective agreement (gross pay below 600 euros per month).
The same day, Justice Minister Charalambous Athanasiou announced a bill that would prevent temporarily-employed public sector workers from using judicial procedures to block sackings. There are 6,000 temporary workers, mainly in the municipalities, who have gone to the courts in order to secure temporary suspension order of their dismissal. The judge usually accepts that the workers are essential for the running of the council until final adjudication, perhaps years later. Athanasiou’s new bill will close cases permanently within three months.
The government has also begun a barrage to prepare society for auctions of first homes. and confiscations of deposits, wages and pensions, to cover longstanding debts to the tax office and overdue loans.
The government plans to lay off 1,000 workers from the Post Office, which currently has 7,500 workers with permanent contracts, down from 11,500. It will dissolve three munitions companies, DAC, EAS, ELVO, which currently employ 2,500 workers. Salaries and pensions will be slashed again. New workers can be hired on individual contracts at 586 euros gross for a six-day rather than a five-day working work.
Those pensions which remain at an acceptable level — judges, engineers, journalists, chemical and some other industries — will be slashed, and there will be a further 10% cut in all pensions.
Over four years, in spite of the increasing ferocity of austerity measures and repression, the workers, the unemployed, the pensioners, the young and poor have not stopped discovering their power.
The combative working-class movement is regaining its confidence with struggles like ERT. The potential to overthrow the government from below and from the left is back into the agenda.
Without massive and militant struggles, ND and Pasok can govern for a long time escalating their class war and destruction. There is only one way to stop them — and that is overthrow them through our struggles.
The militant sectors in the trade union movement must meet, to discuss and coordinate, with a perspective of repeated rolling strikes, demonstrations, occupations, sit-ins to join with the civil disobedience movement and declare political war against the government and the austerity policies.
The Left must establish clearly the target of the fall of the government and its replacement by a government of the Left with a program that objectively leads outside the boundaries of capitalism: scrap the memoranda, refuse to repay the debt, nationalise the banking system and strategic sectors of the economy under social and workers’ control and management, massive public investment and planning of the economy to the needs of society, socialist structure and organisation of economy, and a society grounded on a democratic basis and committees assemblies in each workplace and every neighbourhood.
Merkel, Lagarde and Co. have threatened that if Greece calls new elections they will cut the funding! The Greek labor movement should answer: we can do without them, without the EU of capitalists and neo-colonialists! But at the same time there should be no illusions in the drachma, no illusions in a go-it-alone road to a “national haven.”
We need common struggle with the movements of the South and the rest of Europe, we need to coordinate our struggles with them, aiming for large ruptures and upheavals throughout Europe, for a workers’ Europe, for a workers’ world, for socialism.