Greece: Wave of university occupations sweeps country

A massive wave of occupations has been spreading throughout Greek universities from Crete in the South to Alexandroupolis, in North East Greece. The reason for this is a new education bill that the neo-liberal New Democracy (ND) government is attempting to get through parliament.

The basic proposals in this bill are:

  • a provision allowing the functioning of private universities which are not (openly) allowed in Greece.
  • that students would have to pay for their books – up until now they are provided for free.
  • An end to very cheap subsidized food in university canteens.
  • Students would be expelled from a university if they don’t finish their studies within 6 or 7 years (this attacks working class students who have to work at the same time as studying).

This movement started 5 weeks ago from the Universities of Thessally (Volos) in central Greece, the University of Patras in the Peloponese, and the polytechnic in Athens. After some wavering for 2-3 weeks, it exploded over the last 8 – 10 days, with massive student meetings, election of coordinating committees, rallies and demos.

Today, Thursday 8th June, there is a national demo in Athens, which is expected to be very big. After the demo a national coordinating committee will be convened. Members of Xekinima will participate in that meeting, and put forward proposals about how this movement can be led to victory. One of the central demands that our members in the universities raise is to push the GSEE (the Greek confederation of Workers’ unions) to call for a 24 hr general strike.

Xekinima members in the University of Thessaly (town of Volos) put forward the following resolution to the coordinating committee of all the colleges/faculties of the university and it was passed. This resolution will be put to the aggregate of the national coordinating committee that will take place this afternoon:

Proposal to the all Greek Coordinating Committee of the University Student Occupations:

The whole country is being shaken by a university student movement of historical proportions. The mass presence of students in the general meetings and the mass rallies and demos as well as the rapid expansion of occupations is unprecedented. Enthusiasm, determination and conviction of victory is characteristic of tens of thousands of students.

The government and the ministry of Education have characterised this movement as "a small minority initiated by political motives" This has been ridiculed by the development of events as the number of occupations is now over 250 and tens of thousands are out on the streets.

Today, big capital, the government and the ministry are faced with the perspective of seeing their plans for education, which are part of their general austerity and anti-working class policies, be thrown into the dust bin! . We can win! And this will not be a victory just of the university students. It will be a victory of the working class and the poor as a whole, who for years are being attacked.

The central question now however is how do we proceed, how can we achieve victory. On this point, the recent experience of the French movement provides valuable assistance.. The French youth forced the government to retreat when it won the support of the whole of French society, and when youth and workers, went out together, on strikes rallies and demos, particularly when a national day of action was called by the workers’ unions and 3 million people took to the streets on April 4.

The Greek youth movement must move in a similar direction. Thus we propose to the National Coordinating Committee of Occupied Universities, to call on the unions, on a local base, a town base and a national level, the General Confederation of Greek Workers to go ahead and call a 24 hr general strike and all-Greek demo in Athens.

We need to provide a specific date for our proposal and this could be the 22nd of June.

We have no illusions in the real role of trade union leaders. Trade union leaderships have ceased for a long time to really fight for the interests of the working class and they basically play the role of letting steam off. We must therefore exert huge pressure on them and finally force them in the direction of our decisions.

This means on our part a major campaign within society, organized by our Coordinating Committee over the whole of Greece.

On the basis of the above we propose:

  • To print an all Greek poster with central slogan «24hr general strike, now, 50.000 on the street of Athens on June 22.
  • To print a leaflet to be distributed over the whole of Greece to explain our demands to the working class and the need for common action, rallies, demos and strikes, and to call for the 22nd
  • To make a direct appeal to the General Confederation of Greek Workers to call a strike on the 22nd.
  • To organize in the course of the week 13 – 16 June common actions with local unions on a city and town basis.

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June 2006