Greek social forum: What political alternative?

Just before the demonstrations against the EU summit started, the Greek Social Forum (GSF) organised a number of meetings. Xekinima, an active part of the GSF, organised a meeting on the need for a political instrument for the movement. Inside the GSF there are dozens of socialist groups present, but still there is no real big political party defending workers and youth. There is the dogmatic Stalinist KKE or the Euro-communists who have supported the PASOK government on several occasions, but these parties do not really represent the broad anti-war movement that took place in the country, or the resistance against the attacks on the social rights of the Greek working class.

At the Xekinima meeting we started the debate on the need of a political formation to take part in the upcoming European elections in 2004. Inside the GSF we are trying to create a common initiative of several leftwing forces, excluding the Euro-"communists". The meeting was very successful with a lot of debate.

Strong anti-racist demo

While the European leaders were discussing how to keep refugees out of Europe, several thousands demonstrated through the streets of Thessaloniki. It was a relatively small demo as most effort is put in building the demo of this Saturday.

The contingent of Xekinima and the CWI was at the front of this demonstration. The lively contingent grew to about 500 by the end of the demo. We had a lot of immigrants in our group, including a group of Nigerian refugees who are members of Xekinima.

The fact that we had a mixed contingent of Greeks and immigrants, combined with the loud slogans we shouted, was a point of attraction for many on the demo. Our slogans were against unemployment, poverty,… We explained that immigrants are not to blame for the many problems caused by the capitalist system, but victims of this system.

The police weren’t very visible at the demo which made sure there were no problems.

Direct action in Chaladiki

On Friday 20 June we went with busses from Thessaloniki to Chaladiki, the village outside Thessaloniki where the EU leaders were meeting. There was a division on the tactics which would be used at this demo. The anarchists and Maoist students wanted to break through the police lines even though there were 12,000 policemen and 5,000 troops. The GSF didn’t want to try this tactic as it was clear that with a relatively small demonstration this would be madness: we wouldn’t be able to get through and it would be used to scare the workers and youth from taking part in the big demo on Saturday.

About 7,000 to 8,000 were present at the demo, including a group of some 2,000 anarchists and Maoists. The demo stopped at 700 meter before the police lines. The anarchists and Maoists continued and went in the direction of the police. It however didn’t take them long to return to the demo as the relation of forces was getting more obvious to them.

The GSF opposed the tactic of announcing confrontation with the police by using posters which carried stone-throwing youth on it. The GSF argued for the need of an orientation towards broader layers of the workers and youth. This for example included a campaign directed towards small shopkeepers in the city to convince them to join the protest and to ensure the city would not look like an occupied zone. As a result of this a trade union of small shopkeepers joined the GSF contingent. While many big shops are closed during the protests, many smaller shops are open and the owners are sympathetic towards the protest actions.

The population in general is responding very positively towards the actions. After Thursdays anti-racist demo we went into the city still carrying our banners. In several pubs in the city people started to applaud when they saw us passing. Broader support is important to be able to turn the demo on Saturday into a success.

More pictures at Linkse Socialistische Partij

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June 2003