People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 20

May 16, 2010


People's Ire in Greece


R Arun Kumar


IT was supposed to be 'shock and awe'. It was termed as the biggest 'rescue' package to stabilise the Euro zone economy. Majority of the Greeks were 'shocked' and 'angered' instead of feeling 'rescued' by the package announced. Massive demonstrations continue to rock the country. Working class led by the PAME, a confederation of various trade unions and the Communist Party are participating in ever increasing numbers. While the Greeks have come out on the streets expressing their opposition to the European Union bailout package, the stock markets world over were buoyed by the news. Even the Sensex witnessed a rise.

On 9 May, a Sunday, the European Union announced a €750 billion ($955 billion) bailout plan. This money would be available to rescue Euro-zone economies that get into financial troubles. The plan would consist of €440 billion of loans from Euro-zone governments, €60 billion from an EU emergency fund, and €250 billion from the International Monetary Fund. Germany would have the largest share of guarantees, committing to back €123 billion of the debt in case of further loans to Greece; France would shoulder €92 billion, and even tiny Cyprus nearly €1 billion.

Sarkozy, President of France termed the EU's decision as a “systemic response” to a “systemic crisis”. This response is an attempt to solve the problems arising out of the systemic crisis of capitalism within the capitalist system. It took the involvement of the who's who of the leaders of the capitalist world for this 'rescue' package to come out – Obama (President of the US), Merkel (Chancellor of Germany), Sarkozy (President of France), Alistair Darling (Chancellor of the exchequer of UK), Bernanke (Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the US) and Dominique Strauss-Kahn (Director of the IMF). The announcement was timed to 'perfection', before the opening up of the Asian markets that lead the markets that open on the first day of the week. And the markets did not disappoint, they opened with a boom. But markets do not reflect popular sentiment.





The anger of the Greeks can be understood from the statement made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel coming out of the marathon session that finalised the bailout package. She said Euro-zone nations need to “intensify efforts to cut budget deficits”. She stressed that “aid for Euro-zone governments would come with strings attached, including austerity programs designed together with the IMF”. Greece had already announced a series of austerity measures that burden the common people. Spain and Portugal have now decided to make additional spending cuts to bring down towering budget deficits more quickly. Spain plans to cut its budget deficit to 9.3 per cent of gross domestic product this year, from 11.2 per cent in 2009, and to 6.5 per cent in 2011. Portugal plans to cut its budget deficit to 7.3 per cent of GDP this year. Last year's budget deficit was 9.4 per cent of GDP. All this come at a tremendous cost to the people, as the people of Greece are already witnessing.

Under the pretext of bringing the country out from the crisis, the Greece government led by the Social Democrats, the PASOK, has launched an open war against the workers’ and people’s gains. Mass dismissals of workers and privatisation became the guiding philosophy. Salaries, pensions and many allowances to the working people and employees were drastically cut. Retirement age was increased and many collective agreements of the working class, which were won after intense and protracted struggle were sought to be abolished. It increased the redundancy threshold and extended permission for increasing the number of contract employees. Indirect taxes, especially on essential commodities were increased to 23 per cent. These measures significantly affect the living standard of the working people and pensioners. The prospects of the unemployed whose number had almost reached 800,000, too were drastically affected as recruitment had stopped and money given as unemployment benefit was reduced. The Social Democrat government that had come to power only a few months back, reneged on the promises it had made to the people. Above that, it started implementing the despised policies of the earlier Conservative government and started kowtowing to the dictates of the EU.





Greece rose in protest against these measures with large number of people voluntarily participating in the strike calls given by the PAME. Many sections of workers who hitherto did not take part in any working class action responded to these calls. Many workers broke ranks with the reactionary trade unions and joined the PAME. The country was virtually on the boil from the month of March, wherein the first of the series of strikes was organised. The working class matured and tempered with every action they had undertaken, had withstood various attacks from the ruling classes – the threat of court orders banning strikes, strike breaking tactics and even physical intimidation.

The Communist Party of Greece, KKE, organised intensive and extensive campaigns against the policies of the government both in the workplaces and in the residential localities. They were enthusiastically received by the people. The massive demonstration held on the May Day and the banner that they had tied on the Acropolis rock urging the people of Europe to rise, caught the attention of the people world over.

The PAME had brought together various other class and mass organisations in these demonstrations. The All Farmers Militant Rally (PASY), which had organised road blockades throughout Greece during the first week of March joined the workers together with the Pan-Hellenic Anti-monopoly Rally of Self-employed and small tradesmen (PASEVE) and the Students' Militant Front (MAS). They were joined by various other women's and youth organisations. Protest demonstrations soon spread to almost 75 cities in the country. It is this broad coalition of various class and mass organisations and the tremendous people's response that is sending shivers to the ruling classes.

This unity of the toiling sections in Greece has also made the various parties of the ruling classes come together. The main opposition party, Conservative ND, though had voted against the austerity measures of the government in the parliament, joined hands with the ruling party in condemning the PAME and KKE. They are calling for the isolation of the KKE and are blaming it for various anarchist acts for which the party is not responsible. Inside the parliament, they had accused the KKE from 'ruining tourism' to planning to 'burn the parliament'. They alleged that it was KKE and PAME who were responsible for the death of three people who were burnt during the demonstration on May 6.





The KKE and PAME strongly denied these accusations and brought forth facts that not only absolve them of responsibility but also prove some deep rooted conspiracy of the ruling classes in this incident. In a statement issued immediately denouncing this incident they said, “A group of provocateurs tried to involve demonstrators in riots by snatching flags of PAME and using different slogans and actions. Their intention was clearly to slander KKE and PAME. Volunteers, on noticing them immediately intervened and disarmed the provocateurs and isolated them. They were also condemned through the loudspeakers at the demonstration”. They also pointed to the fact that this act was carried out after almost the entire rally organised by them had reached the parliament building. In spite of these facts, the entire media repeatedly spread canards against the KKE. In fact, it is this incident that was prominently broadcast rather than the massive protest demonstrations that took place in the entire country.

The ruling class of Greece are desperately trying to malign and isolate KKE which is spearheading the struggle. Of course, they were unable to succeed in their designs till date. As Aleka Papariga, the general secretary of the KKE has stated, “to drive us to the wall, to hinder our actions,  do not even think about it...because after 92 years, we very well know whom we are fighting against”.

The 'rescue' package announced further necessitates Greece to follow stringent measures that are going to hit the common people even more harder. The KKE and PAME announced that they would be met with even more massive popular mobilisations. It is this organised working class actions that have kept the anarchists at bay till now. The discipline and resolute unity displayed by the people is sending tremors among the ruling classes. It is these actions that have pushed the EU to intervene little earlier and announce the bailout package. They have also pushed Germany to shed its earlier inhibitions and put in its money in these 'rescue' efforts.

While the working people of Greece are united in their struggle against the efforts of the capitalists to shift the burdens of crisis onto their shoulders, the ruling classes too are gearing up to protect their hegemony. It is this manifestation of class struggle that we are witnessing today in Greece.