Workers ready for militant struggle but not union leaders
On Thursday, 17 March, the first co-ordinated response to the policies of the right wing New Democracy (ND) government (elected a year ago), took place with a partial general strike.
The union confederations in both the private and the public sector (GSEE and ADEDY) called for a day of action. Despite the fact that the leaderships of both GSEE and ADEDY (who are PASOK social democrats) only called for 4 hours work stoppage, a significant number of trade unions called for 24 hours strike.
As a result, there was a 24-hour strike in the public utilities, which the government is planning to privatise (railways, electricity, posts, water). A strike of bank workers also took place, because of government plans to change the pensions system and in the public telephone system, where the government wants to fire 6,500 workers. The workers in public hospitals also went out for 24-hours strike. Trade unions under the control of the communist party – CP- (construction, metal workers, and ships workers) and the universities teachers, called for a 24 hour strike.
Workers’ participation was over 75%, and where a 24-hour strike was called participation was over 90%.
Despite the big participation in the strike, not more than 2,500-3,000 people participated in the demonstrations called by GSEE and ADEDY. Yet these rallies were bigger than previous ones called by the confederations over the last few years, when they never surpassed a few hundred.
However, the leadership of the CP once again decided to keep workers apart by calling for a separate demonstration, in which around 7,000 workers participated. (This number is more or less what the CP can normally bring out i.e. party members and sympathisers).
It is obvious from the big participation in the strike, on the one hand, and the limited participation on the rallies, on the other hand, that the working class is willing to struggle but it has no confidence in the trade union leaderships. Workers take part in the strike to defend their rights. But they are not willing to listen to the speeches of, and to march together with, the corrupt union leaders of PASOK, who until very recently were defending the policies of the PASOK government.
It is becoming clear to the working class that struggles are back on the agenda. After two years of spending huge amounts of money on the Olympic Games (so that the rich capitalists can make fortunes out of it), and avoiding attacks because of the general elections of last year, Greek society is now in a new period when class struggles can be expected to intensify. This is not because of, but despite, the rotten leaderships of the unions.
Greek workers are, and will be, drawing conclusions – class conclusions, about the need to struggle, and political conclusions about leadership. It is not at all an accident that George Papandreou’s PASOK popularity stands at only 10%, the lowest ever for an opposition leader! And support for the parties of the left is stagnant: 5-6 % for the CP, 3-4% for SYN (Synaspsismos).
The need for a new party of the working class, devoted to serving the interests of the workers and youth, to promoting socialism, is greater than ever, and more workers and youth are coming to this conclusion.