Greece: General strike against austerity sees mass protests

Syriza mobilises… against Syriza!

On Thursday, 12 November, the first 24-hour general strike in a long time took place – this time the strike was called against the policies of the Syriza government. Since January 2015, the various trade union leaderships, and especially that of GSEE (Confederation of Private Sector Unions), have been nowhere to be seen. Yet GSEE did not hesitate to take a position on the referendum last summer [called by the Syriza-led government on whether to accept more Troika austerity or not], asking that it be withdrawn (!), while stating, at the same time, that their position was in favour of Greece staying in the Eurozone. In other words, calling for a ‘YES’ vote.

Bankrupt trade union leaderships

After Syriza transformed itself into a pro-bailout party and after the introduction of the new austerity package, GSEE, following their ‘tradition’, called a 24 hour general strike. In a previous article on our Xekinima website, we analysed the responsibilities of the trade union leadership, which call strikes just for the sake of calling them, without planning, proposals and perspective for escalation. We also explained how the mood among workers, after the new memorandum was signed by the Syriza government, which previously had given hope for real political change, was inevitably low. Workers have been clearly disappointed and this has been reflected on the low turnout for mobilisations by various sectors (health, local authorities etc,.). On the other hand, we highlighted that such a lull was to be expected and that it did not mean that the movement will not find its way back to new, mass and militant struggle against austerity that is getting more savage day by day.

Mass marches

In this climate, it is an extremely positive indication that the general strike on 12 November was relatively big. In Athens, around 30,000 people participated in the protests (the PAME union federation held the biggest), in Thessaloniki over 6,000 took part, and the protest in Volos was one of the most successful ones of the last few years, and so on.

The marches, despite being well-attended, were not vibrant. This is because, on the one hand, the working class understands the need to mobilise, but, on the other hand, their appetite becomes restrained without a plan on how to overturn the austerity policies.

Syriza Vs Syriza

There was also great paradox around the demonstration, as Syriza was calling on people to participate. In other words, the government party that is responsible politically for all the policies implemented is calling on people to participate in protests against them! It is not the first time that Syriza is desperately trying to make people believe that they are part of the movement. Two indicative examples of these attempts are Syriza’s participation (including MPs) in the protest against the privatization of the port of Pereaus (that Syriza voted in favour of in the parliament) as well as calling for a protest against the fence in Evros while officially saying that it can’t be taken down. However, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The government and Syriza have already taken their decisions. And their decisions go against the working class by continuing the same vicious policies. What are Syriza therefore trying to achieve? To show that they are still ‘sensitive on social issues’? To not clash with the people that voted for them and to show that somehow they can manage the memorandum in a better way? Whatever their aim, the impact of Syriza’s policies will keep unfolding in front of people’s eyes, dispending of any illusions of a “parallel programme”. The only thing they have achieved, so far, is to make the vanguard of the movement indignant against the leadership of Syriza that not only betrayed them but is adding insult to injury.

Xekinima (CWI Greece) campaigns for a break with austerity and for a socialist programme. This includes refusal to pay the debt; controls on capital flows; for the state monopoly of foreign trade; the nationalisation of the banks and the commanding heights of the economy, under democratic workers’ control and management; reversal of austerity; jobs for all, with a living wage, and free, quality health, education and welfare.

Planning the economy for the needs of the people and not the profits of the capitalists – the socialist re-organisation of society – would see an end to economic crises, poverty, joblessness and forced emigration.

To achieve this it is essential to build independent class politics across Greece, with the active participation of the working class and youth in the struggle against the Troika and for a socialist alternative. And to appeal to workers and youth across Europe to fight austerity and for a socialist Europe.