Greece: Austerity makes the poor pay

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

The devastating social consequences of austerity in Greece are plummeting incomes, massive unemployment, malnutrition and disease, with rising levels racism and fascism. A recent survey by the organisation representing Greek small businesses and professionals showed that 95% of all families had suffered from the effects of six successive years of recession. In the face of this, workers and youth have maintained their fight for a decent future. In January police banned demonstrations during the ceremony when Greece took over the EU Presidency. The defiant crowds were beaten and tear gassed. School students have occupied hundreds of schools to protest at lack of heating and teacher redundancies. The police are approaching school heads for names of those involved and arrests and interrogations have followed.


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Greece: hunger stalks the land

The coalition government of Greece does not lose an opportunity to point out that its austerity programme is working, having achieved a surplus in its current account of almost one billion euros for 2013, the first such surplus in 12 years. But at what human cost? The result of the savage cuts imposed on Greece by the Troika of the European Union, IMF and European Central Banks is a bleak spiral of deteriorating conditions for the Greek people. Access to the basics of life: food, housing, heating and health care, is constantly cut back and restricted. These are deliberate economic policies designed to reduce costs, restore profitability and so shift wealth from the working class to the ruling class.


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Greece: Golden Dawn – down but not out

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

On 1 November, two Golden Dawn fascists were assassinated in a drive-by shooting outside the party offices in Athens. The action was claimed by a hitherto-unknown organisation called the Militant People’s Revolutionary Forces (MPRF) as a direct response to the murder of left-wing hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas on 18 September. The MPRF announcement declared that the commemoration of students who had died in an uprising against the military dictatorship in November 1973 was an appropriate moment to publicly launch an armed campaign to destroy the fascist organisation. The action highlighted the fears of both the Greek ruling class and European imperialism that the fight against Golden Dawn might spiral out of control and take on a revolutionary character. Such concerns forced the New Democracy government to crack down on Golden Dawn following Fyssas’s murder to ensure that it could not be tarred with a fascist brush when Greece assumes the EU presidency in January 2014.


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Greece: Fight against fascism and austerity

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

Large protests at the brutal murder of anti-fascist hip hop musician Pavlos Fyssas in Athens on 18 September by a member of the fascist Golden Dawn party has forced the Greek state to take action against the organisation. Its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, an MP, has been arrested on charges of forming a criminal organisation. Five more Golden Dawn MPs, a party leader in an Athens suburb and 12 other people have also been arrested.

There have been widespread revelations about collusion between Golden Dawn and the police: one of those arrested was a policeman who was acting as a bodyguard for the fascists. Five heads of police divisions covering special forces, internal security, organised crime, firearms and explosives, and rapid response have been suspended. Regional police commanders in central and southern Greece have resigned following disclosure of their forces’ failure to arrest Golden Dawn members involved in attacks on immigrants and protesters. Army special forces have been involved in training Golden Dawn hit squads. Others who have left the organisation have spoken about its military structures and police co-operation.


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Greece: Troika demands more state cuts

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

Karl Marx described the British parliament as nothing more than an executive committee for conducting the affairs of the bourgeoisie. This holds true for all parliaments. On 17 July the Greek parliament passed a multi-bill which was clearly a direct response to the urgent dictates of finance capital – the banks. The Troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – functions as the ruthless executive of the ruling classes, who are determined that the working class will pay for the capitalist crisis.


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Greece: Austerity means death

‘The strategy of the European Commission over the past year and a half or two has been to reduce the labour costs in all European countries in order to improve the competitiveness of European companies over the rivals from Eastern Europe and Asia’

Greek representative to the European Commission, Maria Damanaki

‘What I am afraid of is the tsunami of poor and homeless people who flood the hospital clinics every night, and you don’t have enough time to treat them. And most of all, they don’t have free medical care ... It is unacceptable and I cannot accept the idea that a person cannot have free medical care.’

Nurse Zoe Florou

As reports from Greece have consistently demonstrated, there is a deepening gulf between the interests of the capitalist banks and the interests of the Greek working class. The monthly tranches of the troika's bailout loan are not signed off until after the visits of its ‘tough supervision missions’, as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble calls them. Greece is now the only EU country so far to deliver a fall in hourly labour costs in the private sector, driven down by 6.8% since 2011. 60% of under-25s are unemployed. Those fortunate enough to have a job face a 25% cut in the minimum wage from 740 euros to 510 euros per month. The rate for over-25s has been cut by 22.2%. There have been calls by Greek business leaders to abandon any minimum wage and consideration of a flat rate 250 euros per month for part-time work. And yet this is not enough. At the start of the European summit in Dublin in mid-March the president of the Eurozone’s group of finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, stated that Greece must 'speed up its efforts' to meet troika targets.


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Ruling class prepares to crush the Greek working class

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

Presenting the Bank of Greece’s annual report at the end of February, its chair George Provopoulos declared that ‘we ought to intensify efforts, to quicken our pace to cover the final stretch... Extreme and unreasonable demands from social groups do not contribute towards this goal.’ ‘Unreasonable’ demands are those which seek to defend the living standards of the working class. Humanitarian organisations attest to the explosion of child poverty in Greece, meaning malnutrition and hunger for the children living with the 31% of families below the official poverty line. But it is the bankers’ report that gets to the heart of the matter – the capitalists’ pockets.


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Capitalist barbarity faces Greek working class

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

On 10 January Greece’s unemployment rate at 26.8% became the highest ever in the European Union, surpassing that of Spain. These figures are the result of the conscious, directed and accelerating policy of the troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The troika agreed its first bailout to Greece in 2010. Since then the unemployment rate has doubled. More people lost their jobs in 2012 than in any other year in the past two decades. 83% of people have seen their incomes decline, on average, by 17% and some incomes have fallen by up to 60%. This is not enough for the ruling class. A recent IMF assessment concluded that more public sector lay-offs, more reductions in benefits to the unemployed and families with children, and more sell-offs of state assets were necessary, and that unemployment would continue to rise through to 2014. MICHAEL MACGREGOR reports.


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Greece: Fight fascism

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

Fascism is once again raising its fists and boots in Greece as the capitalist crisis delivers unemployment and savage poverty to the people. Conditions of acute economic crisis are creating space for the state and its unofficial fascist allies to begin to violently police and terrorise vulnerable sections of the working class. It will not end there. Fascism will be used to enforce the bankers’ agenda and physically crush all resistance to austerity. Anti-fascist defence must become central to the defence of the Greek working class. MICHAEL MACGREGOR reports.


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Greece: Operation Xenios Zeus – racist state attack

On 6 August Nikos Dendias, the Public Order minister of the pro-austerity governing coalition of Greece, spoke of ‘an invasion of immigrants’ and declared that ‘the immigration problem is maybe even bigger than the financial one’. His speech was an attempt to justify Operation Xenios Zeus, a massive state racist attack on immigrants which had been launched days before, in which over 7,000 people were rounded up in a sweep operation in a single weekend in Athens alone. Thousands are to be deported – to where, no one knows, as Greece shares no border with any other EU state, so ex-army bases are being turned into mass detention camps. MICHAEL MACGREGOR reports.


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Greece and the United Front

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

The deepening crisis of European imperialism present major political challenges for communists as the working class fights to defend its living standards against ruling class austerity programmes. This is most evident where the struggle is most intense: above all at present in Greece, where the working class has experienced unprecedented levels of unemployment over the last 3-4 years, where state welfare has been slashed, where poverty levels have risen from 15% to 40%, and where food handouts have become the norm as many face starvation.


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Greece: no let up in austerity

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

‘We will save ourselves from hunger. We will throw out our enemies!’ Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, 1 July 2012.

The 17 June general election in Greece offered some temporary relief for European imperialism as the pro-austerity party New Democracy won the largest share of votes, enabling it to lead the formation of a new bourgeois government. Its nightmare scenario, a victory for Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, was narrowly averted. The new government coalition is pressing ahead with imperialism’s austerity programme, but there is little chance that it will survive very long in the face of renewed resistance from the Greek working class. Michael McGregor reports.


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Greek elections: For a united front against austerity!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

‘The Greek people has expressed in the elections its strength and radicalism, sweeping away the pro-troika political forces, provoking an earthquake in the political system, sending a resounding message of rebellion to Europe. The Coalition of the Radical Left – Syriza – is the political force which best expressed the will for the overthrow of the pro-troika regime and the opening of a way out for the country.’

(Statement of the Communist Organisation of Greece – KOE, constituent organisation of the Coalition of the Radical Left – Syriza).


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Greek resistance stalls European imperialist agenda

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

Greek resistance stalls European imperialist agenda

The failure of the reactionary pro-austerity political parties in Greece to form a government endorsing the European imperialist agenda after the 6 May elections sent shock waves through European capitals and international financial markets. Syriza, a coalition of radical left organisations committed to halting the brutal austerity programme imposed on Greece as the condition for their last bailout package, took 16.8% of the vote, coming second only to the right-wing New Democracy party with 18.9% and well ahead of the other ruling class party, PASOK, with 13.2%. Anti-austerity left-wing parties got, in total, 27% of the vote. Further gains are expected for Syriza in the new election on 17 June. The long, courageous resistance of the Greek masses against austerity has been given political expression.* This is a development that threatens to stall the process of consolidation of European imperialism throughout the eurozone. DAVID YAFFE reports.


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Greece: fighting disaster

Greece: fighting disaster

‘This is a war against the people, the entire community. Those who claim that the public debt of Greece is a debt of the Greek people are lying. It is not a debt owned by the people. It was amassed by the governments, in cooperation with the banks, with the aim of enslaving the people. The loans toward Greece are not used to pay wages, pensions or public healthcare. The exact opposite is happening: wages, pensions and health care cuts are used to pay the bankers.' Open Letter from the Kilkis Hospital Occupation.


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‘It’s either them or us!’ – Greek workers fight back

By Michael MacGregor

‘It’s either them or us!’ – Greek workers fight back

'It's either them or us! ... We ask for the solidarity of the people and workers from all fields, the collaboration of all workers' unions and progressive organisations ... universal labour and popular resistance and uprising, until our final victory against the economic and political elite that today oppresses our country and the whole world.' (Appeal from Kilkis General Hospital workers, northern Greece)

The statement of workers who have taken control of Kilkis General Hospital in Greece since 5 February directly addresses the Greek working class and the Greek people. The sovereign debt crisis which followed the 2008 crisis is devastating Greek society. Now the troika of the European Community, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund direct the operation to bleed a country dry. Since 2008:


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Greek economic crisis deepens


The resignation of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on 9 November was stark proof that it is European capital, not bourgeois democracy, that holds sway in the eurozone.

Greece needed an 8 billion euro installment from its 110 billion euro bailout agreed in May 2010, without which the country will default before Christmas. The government was also negotiating a second bailout worth 130 billion euros which would allow banks and other private holders of Greek bonds to write off 50 percent of their Greek debt. However, such bailouts involve massive austerity measures, including huge cuts in welfare, such as a overhaul of the state pension system as well as cuts in health, housing and education.


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Greece defaults amid protests

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

On 21 July, after years of struggling with spiralling debt, the Greek economy defaulted in all but name as it agreed to a huge debt-restructuring package financed by the European Union. The default has come about amid nationwide protests against severe austerity measures. Throughout June and into July hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated on the capital’s streets to a chorus of ‘Can’t pay! Won’t pay!’

On 15 June Greece had its tenth general strike in two years, bringing much of the country to a standstill. This was followed on 29 June by thousands of angry protesters congregating outside Parliament, where the Pan Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government, led by Prime Minister George Papandreou, pushed through a vote for further austerity measures. The package approved envisages €28bn in tax hikes and spending cuts by 2015.


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Greece: Protests intensify as financial crisis deepens


In the face of severe public sector cuts the Greek people have taken to the streets of Athens and other major cities. On 6 June between 300,000 to 500,000 people demonstrated on the capital’s streets to the chorus of ‘Can’t pay! Wont pay!’ and on 15 June Greece had its tenth general strike in two years, bringing much of the country to a standstill. Many protestors congregated outside the Parliament building where the Pan Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government, led by Prime Minister George Papandreou, sought to push through further austerity measures. The government is on its knees, with party resignations leaving PASOK a parliamentary majority of only four. On 17 June, Papandreou reshuffled his cabinet and appointed a new finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos. This new cabinet includes so-called ‘anti-cuts’ members of PASOK and is expected to survive a confidence vote on 21 June. After this vote it will approve a package which envisages €28bn in tax hikes and spending cuts by 2015.


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Support migrant hunger strikers in Greece!


Up to 300 migrants, mostly from North Africa, are currently on hunger strike in the two main Greek cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. As of 5 March the migrants had been on hunger strike for 40 days. This means that the critical threshold beyond which health damage is non-reversible has been crossed. So far 100 protesters have been hospitalised, with many now refusing to drink water. Many are on the brink of death.


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Unite against the racism of the Greek state

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

Greece is in the middle of its worse economic crisis since the end of the Second World War. It has just received €30bn from the EU to help stabilise the economy – in return for cutbacks on public spending, pay cuts and a rise in the pension age. Unemployment is over 10%. In response, the Greek people have taken to the streets in mass protests. The ruling class is on the back foot. It is seeking to split the working class and to divert blame for the economic turmoil from itself. Racism is spreading as the poorest in society, most notably economic migrants and asylum seekers, are targeted.

Micro-imperialist ambitions

Between 1991 and 2001 immigrant numbers in Greece rose from 1.6% to 7% of the population; by 2005 the figure was 8.6%. The embattled Greek state has been quick to capitalise on this sharp increase.


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Greece: workers rise up against austerity measures

FRFI 215 June/July 2010

‘Peoples of Europe, rise up!’ read the huge banner of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), hung from the ancient walls of the Acropolis. This was a call to the workers of Europe to follow the example of the Greek working class as it takes to the streets in protest against austerity measures imposed to pay for the capitalist crisis. We should follow their example as the European imperialist project enters a new and unstable phase.

Andrew Alexander reports.

Europe in crisis

In the words of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, Greece is ‘on the brink of an abyss’. His words were echoed by European leaders, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel. As we stated in the last issue of FRFI, European imperialism was clear about the implications of the Greek crisis for the whole of Europe. So, on 9 May, an historic deal was reached as the European Central Bank agreed emergency measures worth €750bn (£650bn) to prevent the Greek debt crisis from affecting other euro zone countries, most notably Spain and Portugal. The 16 members of the single currency bloc will have access to €440bn of loan guarantees and €60bn of emergency European Commission funding. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will also contribute up to €250bn.


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Greek workers rise up

A protestor gestures to police near the parliament building in the center of athens on may 5 2010

For days now Greek workers have shown their contempt and anger at the austerity measures their government is imposing to meet EU and IMF requirements that it cut its public debt. In the words of the Prime Minister George Papandreou, Greece is ‘on the brink of an abyss.’ The Greek working class is telling the world that it will not pay for the country’s financial crisis. Its actions are showing the way for others: soon Spain and Portugal will also have to implement severe cuts in state spending and the revolt may spread to these countries as well.

On 27 April Greece almost defaulted on its debt as its public deficit rose to 13.6% of GDP, far higher than previously declared. Credit rating agencies downgraded its debt to ‘junk’ status, making it impossible for the Greek government to get further credit through the normal international markets to finance its debt as well as unable to get insurance against default. Papandreou was forced to ask the EU and IMF to activate a loan negotiated in April. On 2 May they agreed a bail out of 110bn Euros.


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Greece: Economy on the brink of collapse

FRFI 214 April / May 2010

On 11 March, over 60,000 demonstrators in Athens marched in protest against the crippling austerity measures imposed by the social democratic PASOK government. Along with the demonstration in the capital, there were at least 68 other protests around the country, many breaking out into clashes with the police. Coinciding with the protests was a 24-hour general strike, the second that week, which brought the country to a standstill. The only public transport working was the rail system that operated for a few hours to allow workers to take part in the demonstrations. News broadcasts were also suspended as crucial media workers walked off the job. Strikers and protesters banged drums and chanted slogans such as ‘no sacrifice for plutocracy’ and ‘real jobs, higher pay’. People draped banners from apartment buildings reading: ‘No more sacrifices, war against war’ (The Guardian 11 March). The Greek people have made it clear that they will not quietly submit to this onslaught by the ruling class.


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Greek austerity measures spark resistance

FRFI 213 February / March 2010

Greece is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since the end of the Second World War. In the post-war period, the US Marshall Plan brought Greece, then reeling from the impact of civil war and famine, under the economic management of imperialist countries and destroyed the Greek revolutionary movement. Now imperialism is once again determined to maintain control over Greece as it is wracked by economic and political crisis.

Trouble in Euroland

The Greek economy is broke; public debt is expected to rise this year to over 120% of GDP while the annual budget deficit stands at 12.7% of GDP. Unemployment is 7.7% and looks set to rise. The situation is aggravated by Greece’s membership of the euro. Poor EU countries such as Greece struggle to maintain a currency that is levelled with much wealthier, imperialist countries like France and Germany. Some economic analysts suggest that Greece and other weak states could be expelled from the eurozone, but in reality European imperialism will not allow Greece to leave the euro. To do this would seriously undermine the EU.


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Greece: Greek protesters lead the way for Europe

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

Protests continue following the uprising that consumed the country in December 2008, triggered by the murder of a 15-year-old boy, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was shot dead by police in Athens on 6 December. Riots then quickly spread to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, to the northern cities of Komotini and Ioannina, to Crete and other islands and towns. The two police officers involved in the shooting were arrested on 8 December and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, of the conservative New Democracy (ND) party wrote to the boy’s parents expressing his profound sorrow in a desperate and failed attempt to stop the dissent from spreading.

The majority of those demonstrating were students and school pupils who expressed their sadness and anger about his death but it quickly became clear that behind the protests lay widespread discontent with intolerable social and political conditions. Greece is being buffeted hard by the economic global crisis. Around a quarter of under 20-year-olds in Greece are unemployed and live below the poverty level. For university graduates the rate of unemployment is 28%. Having studied for years many are then forced to take poorly-paid work. The shooting was the spark that lit the tinderbox and the rioting in Greece was the first mass action in Europe against the current capitalist crisis.


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