Greece: Farmers occupy central Athens over pensions bill

“All together, workers and poor farmers, at Syntagma Square, against austerity”

On Friday and Saturday, 12 and 13 February, thousands of farmers from all over Greece occupied Syntagma Square, in the centre of Athens. They demanded the repeal of a new pension bill prepared by the SYRIZA government.

The following leaflet was produced and distributed by Xekinima (CWI Greece) in the days leading up to the farmers’ protest, calling for a united struggle between workers and the poor farmers against the government and the Troika’s austerity policies.

The present movement of the farmers in Greece is of one of the most important struggles in their history. It is even bigger than the last great upheaval in 1996, when the farmers were again closing the national roads against the policies of the so called “socialist” Prime Minister Simitis.

There is certainly a reason for the unprecedented massive dimensions of the farmers’ mobilizations. This reason is not that the farmers “don’t understand” or they are “being misleaded”, as the government claims. The reason is that the new pension and tax system that the government is trying to implement is threatening the very existence of the great mass of the poor farmers. The result for the farmers will be the same as it was in the rest of the “developed” countries: agricultural production will end up in the hands of a handful of super rich farmers, representing 2%-4% of the population and those who are small farmers today will become landless workers, with wages on the pitiful level of what immigrants are being paid today by the greedy rich farmers.

The fight of the poor farmers today is in the interests of the working class masses. If the farmers manage to force the government to retreat the road will be open for workers and the poor to force the government back. It will allow us to raise loudly the demand, “We won’t pay the debt!” – a slogan that must become central in the demands of workers, farmers and all the poor in the country.

Of course, the EU and the creditors will answer with the usual threat about ‘Grexit’. The movement can and must answer this blackmail, through the call for the implementation of a socialist programme. On this basis there can be planning of the economy, starting with support to primary /agricultural production and moving to rebuild Greek industry, which has also been destroyed by the previous governments of PASOK and New Democracy. Planning and rebuilding the economy in the service of society, not the 50 families that parasitically control the country’s wealth!

To apply such a socialist programme, we need to start with the nationalization of the banking system and the key sectors of the economy, with the establishment of a national currency, the control of capital flows and foreign trade, and to democratically plan production and distribution, by means of workers’ control and management.

Today, the farmers represent hope for workers in the cities, who have, in the course of the past years, engaged in historical battles but didn’t win. The presence of the farmers in Syntagma Square must be supported by all the rest of Greek society. This means:

  • The parties and organisations of the Left – those not characterized with sectarianism and which strive for united action– must take the initiative to put pressure on the trade union leaders to call for action.
  • Rank and file workers’ unions should call their members to support the farmers by mobilizing to rally at Syntagma Square.
  • The Athens Trades Center, in which the Left has a strong presence, has to urgently call for a strike from Friday noon, so that workers can join the farmers on Syntagma
  • The trade union confederations (in the private and public sectors) must be pressurized to urgently call for a new 24-hour general strike during next week, after the successful strike of February 4th, and a 48-hour general strike, after that
  • The Syntagma Square occupation by the farmers must not end on Sunday. Naturally most of the farmers will have to leave, so as to keep the national roads blockades, but a strong delegation can stay and “keep” Syntagma occupied, together with workers and youth.

We can build a common front of struggle between all oppressed layers of society! We can teach a lesson to Schäuble and his likes, to the multinationals and the EU bureaucrats, to the Greek ruling class and its political representatives!

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