Greece: University occupations are a movement of historical signifigance

One of the biggest ever university student mobilizations is in development in Greece since May 8.

354 colleges (faculties) are now under occupation. Over 100 000 students have taken part in the most massive general assemblies ever. Every week there are mass rallies and demos. Yesterday, June 8, over 20,000 marched in Athens and at least 10,000 in Salonica..

University teachers are on indefinite strike since June 1. All these take place at a time when it was supposed to have end of year examinations.

It is a movement of historical proportions and importance, the biggest for at least 15 years.

Many of the slogans chanted on the demos have reference to France, sth that shows the impact of the French youth movement against the CPE.

The cause of the mobilisation.

The cause of the mobilizations is the attempt of the government to pass a new law, which changes the functioning of the universities. In its basic points this bill provides that students who don’t finish college 2 years (at the latest) after the normal duration of the studies, will be expelled from college, to put an end to free books and to force universities to seek private funding, which means that the capitalists will be able to determine the character of the studies. Also it changes article 16 of the Constitution, which forbids the creation of private universities and makes it easier for the police to break the academic asylum.

All these, at a time when Greece is the last EU member on the list of government expenditure on education, and first in relation to unemployment amongst university graduates.

The role of leadership

This movement is led by the national coordinating committee of occupations, in which the whole of the left is involved, with the exception of the youth of the CP (a Stalinist party with around 6% electoral support) – which is the biggest youth organization in the universities.

However the dynamic of the movement was such that it forced the cp youth, and even the PASOK (Socialdemocratic party) youth to make a turn of 1800 and support the occupation movement – only with a delay of 4 weeks!!

Xekinima, proposes the opening of the university students’ struggle into the rest of society and to link it with the working class movement.

We concretely propose a 24hr general strike and a national demo in Athens on June 22. This call is beginning to have significant attraction to wide layers of university students, but also rank and file unionists.

Xekinima members are elected in 10 coordinating committees and play a very important role particularly in the city coordinating committee of the city of Volos (University of Thessally) and the Athens Technical Colleges, with 10.000 students.

The future of the movement

The government pretends to refuse to retreat. It uses the tactic of carrot and whip. On the one hand it says it is open to discussion. On the other it attacks violently the rallies. Yesterday, Thursday 8 June, 10 demonstrators were injured and 40 arrested.

The general tendency in the movement is to advance and expand in the next couple of weeks. The basic problem is on the one hand the tactics of the Communist Party youth which divide rather than unite the movement and on the other the tendency to take sectarian unilateral action by a section of the leadership. Also there is a lot of confusion about what should be done.

What happened on yesterday’s demo is characteristic of these tendencies. Not more than a hundred demonstrators, went into a head on collision with the riot police. This gave the riot police an excuse to massively overreact. Then the anarchists took over and the center of Athens was turned into a battlefield. The riot police took full advantage of the opportunity to attack with extreme violence the main bulk of the demo.

The movement has nothing to gain from this kind of confrontations. This is not a clash between a mass movement and the forces of the state to which we would of course support and take part in. This is a planned and artificially provoked clash initiated by small groups against the riot police who consider such actions as a way of proving how radical they are. As a result of yesterday’s events, the national coordinating committee did not take place. At a crucial stage of the movement no leadership was provided!

Xekinima will fight for its positions in the local and city coordinating committees (see yesterday’s report). Part of this will be putting forward demands to ensure that for future demonstration, trade unions, colleges and local communities are approached to provide, a disciplined and democratically elected and controlled body of stewards to protect future demonstration. If the students are able to achieve the linking of the student movement with the workers’ movement, then victory could be very close.

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June 2006