Greece: Government shuts down state broadcaster ERT

Unions must organise general strike action now!

The Greek government announced that it has shut down, from Wednesday 12 July, the radio and TV services of the state broadcaster, ERT.

Over 2,500 workers will be sacked before the company re-opens in September, according to government announcements.

This blatant attack against workers’ rights and conditions, and the public’s right to access media, provoked outrage across Greek society. Mass demonstrations in support of ERT employees, who are occupying the ERT buildings, are taking place.

Below we carry the text of a leaflet on the ERT crisis issued by Xekinima, the Greek section of the CWI, which was distributed at protest rallies that took place in many Greek cities yesterday.

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With the decision to close the ERT broadcaster, Prime Minister Samaras and his coalition government have shown that they will stop at nothing in order to flatten opposition to their policies and to complete their devastation of Greek society.

The decision to close ERT is nothing less than a parliamentary coup to circumvent the Greek constitution. It makes a mockery of parliamentary democracy! This action was taken just before parliament’s summer recess, so that not even this House, as decorative as it is, can undo the coup!

Who will stop them and how?

This is a critical moment for the anti-austerity opposition, the workers’ movement and the Left! If the closing down of ERT is allowed to go through, it will only encourage the use of "Samaras’ law” in other areas, starting with twenty other public sector bodies that are already targeted also by government.

And immediately after ERT, the public utility companies, which have not yet been privatised, will follow. In these companies, wages have already fallen by 40-50% already and as if this is not enough, after ERT they may also face ’sudden death’: mass layoffs and lock-outs, so that the government can finish them off quickly and ‘neatly’.

There is only one answer to this unprecedented challenge facing the workers’ movement and that is a mass strike movement to overthrow the plans of Samaras and his government.

Media workers need to embark on all-out strike action. Workers in the print media, TV and radio have nothing left to lose!

The ERT has become a central struggle and a focal point to mobilise and link workers from all sectors. But the ERT struggle needs the support of generalized strike action.

The rest of the workers’ movement should coordinate an immediate response to the attack on ERT workers. This means mass, well coordinated, all-out strike action by the biggest union federations.

Now is the time to enlist the support of teachers, maritime and transport workers, who in recent months suffered big setbacks after the Samaras government used authoritarian measures (‘conscription’) to stop their industrial action.

Now is the time for municipal workers’ unions, the water board workers and the electricity workers, who are next in the plans of Samaras to slaughter what is left of their rights and conditions, to also take decisive, co-ordinated industrial action.

Now is the time for all the labour movement to take action. Instead of a series of limited days of industrial action, which the GSEE and ADEY union federations’ leaders called over the last three years but which failed to stop the deep austerity cuts, much more militant escalating action is needed. Determined, growing general strikes, of public and private sectors, is the only realistic and effective way to respond to the assault of the Samaras government.

Power of organised working people

Several union leaders argue that these sorts of proposals are “extreme” and that employees will not respond to them. We say these remarks are an attempt by union leaders to hide their own cowardice and unwillingness to lead a determined struggle on behalf of workers. There is no other way to deal with the latest government assault on basic workplace rights than with a generalised strike movement. And there is no government that will withstand such a movement! Samaras, of course, will use every means at his disposal against the unions and workers’ movement – the massive propaganda of the private media, state repression and the neo-Nazi ‘Golden Dawn’ – in case of an "emergency". But the power of organised working people is infinitely greater. To be deployed successfully, the workers’ movement needs to be democratically organised from below, through strike committees and neighbourhood associations, at every level and linked up nationally.

And the Left needs to carry out its duty. SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), which is second in the polls, should state directly, openly and boldly, that its goal is the immediate fall of this austerity government, through the unfolding of mass strike action and mass social movements. The position frequently put by some SYRIZA leaders, that “we can not tell the trade union movement what to do” is subterfuge. After all, the governing New Democracy and PASOK parties always put demands on the trade union movement. So on what basis can SYRIZA claim that it is not its job to interfere with the trade union movement?

SYRIZA has to assume political responsibility for a massive campaign and industrial action to force the removal of the government of the Troika and to raise the prospect of a government of the Left. SYRIZA needs to commit to fighting to bringing down the ND/PASOK/DL government and replacing it with a Left government that will, as a minimum, openly commit itself to:

  • Reverse all cuts and anti-working class measures taken by the current government
  • Reinstate all dismissed workers
  • Return to public ownership (nationalise) all privatised enterprises
  • Introduce social and workers’ control and management in the public sector, under conditions of full transparency, to put an end to mismanagement and corruption

The entire Left – SYRIZA, KKE (Greek communist party) and the ‘extra-parliamentary’ Left – need to fight together, in one united front, for the above objectives. They must struggle for a Left government pledged to carry out socialist policies to end the catastrophic economic and social crisis and the endless austerity attacks. These socialist measures need to have as a pillar the nationalisation of the big banks and strategic sectors of the economy, so that working people can democratically plan the economy for the needs of the majority.

On this basis, the Greek workers’ movement’s actions can appeal to the rest of the European labour movement, which is also burdened by similar austerity attacks, especially Turkey, where the masses are currently writing their own history. Our own struggles can become a model and a catalyst for workers throughout Southern Europe and across all Europe and internationally.

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