People's Democracy

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


No. 28

July 10, 2011


48-Hour Strike in Greece

R Arun Kumar


GREECE is once again on the boil. The country was brought to a complete standstill by the 48-hour general strike organised by the working class under the leadership of the PAME (All-workers Militant Front) on June 28-29. What is indeed intriguing is, this immediately followed a 24-hour general strike organised on the 15th of the same month. Contrary to what is reported in the international media, it is not the ‘hooded’ people – burning tyres, breaking windows and rioting – who led these protests. It is the organised working class that is spearheading the movement against the Greece government’s austerity measures.




Greece, as was widely reported, is facing a severe economic crisis. The Greece government, which took an IMF-led multilateral bailout package, was forced to introduce several ‘austerity measures’. The new anti-people measures reduce wages and pensions, further increase retirement ages and indirect taxation from 13 to 23 per cent, strike a blow on social security, reduce the list of hazardous occupations, increase the daily unpaid working time, introduce particularly low wages for young people, abolish collective labour agreements, introduce contractual appointments which entail dismissals without compensation, reduce ‘social’ benefits etc. In addition, they intend to privatise companies, land, water supply services, ports, airports, etc, that were owned by the State. This is the cost of austerity that the workers and common people of Greece are forced to pay. The Greek workers are hence justified in rejecting this 'sacrifice' demanded from them. Instead, protesting these measures, they have organised 17 general strikes in the past 24 months, apart from the numerous sectoral strikes and other struggles.


It is not as if the government is unaware of the peoples’ anger. In fact, it must be remembered that the present Socialist government, PASOK, had come to power riding precisely on this discontent against the then Conservative ND government. After assuming office, the PASOK government too failed to live up to its poll promises. Further, it went ahead and agreed to the stringent conditionalities laden IMF loan package. Last year, when Greece had taken the first instalment of the loan, it was asserted that the €110 billion so-called ‘rescue package’ would see Greece through to 2013 and revive its sagging economy. This had turned out to be a complete hoax on the people.


The Greece government stated that it is the ‘patriotic duty’ of all the Greeks to support its austerity measures and ‘stand by’ the country. The people of the country refused to buy this argument and continued with their protest. This consistent pressure forced the Conservative ND party, which in fact was advocating similar measures when in government, to break ranks and join the people, of course, for its narrow opportunistic political interests. Though the PASOK government won the recently held vote of confidence on June 22 narrowly, it is surviving on a shaky wicket. It was forced to reshuffle its cabinet and even offer the opposition ND space in the cabinet, which was rejected. Ironically, instead of heeding to the pleas of the people, the government got the parliament to vote for some more austerity measures on June 29. This had further incensed the people, who turned up in huge numbers in the protest demonstrations organised on both the days of the general strike.


PAME together with its associate unions campaigned extensively among the people to make the strike a success. It carried out rallies in dozens of Greek cities and neighbourhoods urging the people not only to strike work, but also come out in huge numbers to take part in the protest marches. On the 27th, a day before the 48-hour strike, activists of PAME hung a huge banner with the slogan, ‘The peoples have the power and never surrender. Organise, counter attack’, written in Greek and in English from the historical site Acropolis.




On the 28th, activists of the PAME picketed factories, stores, construction sites, hotels and offices. They had erected pickets on the ramps of the ships from midnight onwards. Enforcing the strike of the seamen proved to be a tough battle since the trade union federation of seamen played a strikebreaking role. The trade unions that represent the engineers and the crew of the ship engines, belonging to PAME, decided to participate in the strike and the unions of the chefs and ship's electricians joined them. The strike of these unions and the strong picket lines of PAME paralysed Piraeus, the biggest port in the country. In Thessaloniki, the second largest city of the country, activists blocked the seven entrances to the industrial area of the city and paralysed industrial production. Strike demonstrations were held in 65 cities of the country. In Athens, the protesters marched through different central streets of the city and met outside the parliament, in Syntagma Square, blocking all the main streets around the Square.


Thousands of workers responded to the militant call of PAME and participated in the strike and demonstrations defying the intimidations and threats of the employers and the government. Self-employed, poor farmers, pensioners, immigrants and students too were there representing the PASEVE (Nationwide Antimonopoly Rally of the Self-employed and the small Tradesman), PASY (All Farmers’ Militant Rally), MAS (Students' Militant Front) and OGE (Greek Women Federation). By striking at where it hurts most and bringing the entire country to a standstill, the capital was made to feel the power of the working class.


The government too took the strike seriously, issued threats to the workers, intimidated them and carried out an intense ideological campaign. It had also covertly encouraged the anarchists, who through their acts tried to divert the attention of the people. They had sent many of their 'men' to infiltrate the ranks of the demonstrating workers and break their discipline by indulging in acts of vandalism. It is these acts that naturally caught the attention of international media and were publicised all over the world. As a result, what is in turn wantonly neglected or completely ignored is the consistent and militant struggle of the working class.


Apart from these acts of subversion, a huge ideological campaign against political parties was also launched. This story is similar to what we are familiar with in our country. Ruling classes in Greece are injecting cynicism among the people by equating all the political parties and castigating them. Encouraging apolitical movements, they are trying to ensure that peoples' discontent remains within their control and does not turn towards ending their hegemony. In the guise of wrong slogans, they are trying to divert popular anger from fighting the roots of the present crisis and wean them away from the class struggles launched by the communist party led trade unions.


Leaders of the PAME and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) are countering this campaign by pointing out that the slogans, 'parties out', 'trade unions out' promoted by certain centres like the 'movements in the squares' have a reactionary content and aimed at creating confusions among the people and dividing them. They have rightly identified them as a “backward step for the movement”. The KKE and the PAME are thus fighting on two fronts – (i) against the neo-liberal policies of the government, the prescriptions of IMF that impinge on their country's sovereignty, and the European Union and (ii) against the anarchists, 'agent provocateurs' and the apolitical movements.


In the short-term, the government should renegotiate debts rather than adopt dead-end austerity programmes that suit only big business and the rich. In the long run the capitalist barbarity cannot be dealt with delusions and concessions. It can be overcome only through a systemic change. The KKE is intensively promoting the position that the “people must take into their own hands the ownership of the means of production as well of the natural resources”. It is one such inspirational battle that we have recently witnessed in Greece (not that waged by hooded anarchists, but the working class actions). The workers have pledged to carry on this struggle to its logical conclusion. Let us hope that the current class struggle waged in Greece would not only help them in retaining their hard won benefits and rights but also herald a brighter future.