Greece: Golden Dawn – down but not out / FRFI 236 Dec 2013/Jan 2014

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.

Within two days of Fyssas’s murder the New Democracy (ND) government moved to have Golden Dawn tried as a ‘criminal conspiracy’ since the Greek constitution forbids the banning of any political party. The fascists’ parliamentary leadership was arrested along with 50 others. Further charges of illegal possession of firearms and money laundering were announced. Subsequent investigations by the police – who were proved to have been present at Fyssas’s brutal stabbing – showed direct contact between the fascist death squad and Golden Dawn leaders. Further police raids and investigations revealed arms caches in a Golden Dawn candidate’s home. One fascist-friendly businessman was holding 4,000 heavy weapons.

What had been common knowledge about police and fascist collusion was suddenly taken up by the press. Networks of support and corruption were exposed such as extortion of cash and goods from immigrant businesses by police. A police force rotten with Golden Dawn support, members and contacts was experiencing few problems in finding evidence to turn in their former neo-Nazi pals.

That the ND government needed sanitising in advance of January 2014 was evident: former open fascists now hold ministerial posts in the ND government, Golden Dawn has always polled highly in traditional ND strongholds and only two weeks before the murder of Fyssas, ND figures were proposing Golden Dawn as a future coalition partner. Now, however, it is safer to leave the routine rounding-up and criminalisation of immigrants and asylum seekers to the police rather than sponsor unofficial terror attacks by fascist auxiliaries as a way to divide the working class.

What matters now to European imperialism is that Greece honours its debts and continues to lay the burden on the working class. In early November, the troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund arrived for their monthly supervision of the implementation of their austerity budget. A leaked troika email proves that it is finance capital which is calling the shots: ‘We expect … the Milestone for receiving the next tranche in October … must be already finalised and adopted by the Parliament by the end of September.’ The Greek trade unions recently undertook their 35th general strike since 2008. Over this period wages and pensions have fallen by an average 40% and unemployment rocketed from 7.7% to 27.6%. Greece is the only developed economy since World War Two to be in continuous recession for six years, losing 25% of total production. 25,000 thousand jobs in education, health and the civil service are to be lost by December. The full target is 150,000 by the end of 2014. Staff and students in universities and schools who have occupied to defy cuts and closures now face eviction and military orders. In early November police violently cleared the former state media ERT building in Athens of workers who had occupied it since its closure in June 2013.

Although the ruling class has put Golden Dawn on a tight leash for now, state racism has not ended. Police round-ups of immigrants continue and thousands are held in squalid detention camps as the Greek state tries to destroy working class resistance through racist division. There can be no serious fight against austerity unless the mass of the Greek working class sides with immigrant workers against both the Greek state and its unofficial auxiliaries.

Michael MacGregor

 

Greece: Fight against fascism and austerity/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013

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/FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013

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.

As the jobs and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of citizens were guillotined inside parliament, protestors outside in Syntagma Square carried banners and chanted: ‘Sack the government, not the workers!’ The orders of the Troika were however carried out, at least on paper, as the New Democracy/Pasok coalition voted through plans for the sacking of 150,000 public sector workers. It was an extremely narrow vote carried by a majority of only two. The ruling coalition is moving into its own crisis as its component elements consider and fear the explosive social consequences of more and deeper austerity measures. A month before, 14 parliamentary deputies of Dimar, the Democratic Left, had withdrawn from the coalition over the issue of the immediate compulsory redundancies of thousands of media workers at ERT, the state broadcasting organisation.

The orchestration of this action by the government on 11 June was an example of how demands and threats from the Troika are what really drives the parliamentary machine. The mechanisms of extortion are simple and, so far, effective: the Troika has settled down to subdividing its full loan amount into monthly instalments, paid out only if targets are adhered to. Each wave of redundancies brings an award of billions of euros in loans to recapitalise the Greek state and its banks. Not a penny goes to the working class; their material and social needs are of no consequence. To receive June’s loan tranche, a monthly target of 4,000 job losses had to be met, and fast. On 11 June police entered the buildings of the state broadcaster ERT and cut the signal to its three TV and 26 radio stations and then served redundancy notices on 2,868 employees. Thousands of protesters spontaneously rallied and the workers occupied the site, broadcasting via satellite and the internet. Such was the uproar caused by this brutally authoritarian act that the decision was reversed temporarily by a Greek court and Dimar pulled its critical formal support from the ruling coalition.

But the Troika set its sights on far larger targets for July. After the ERT episode it had left behind an inspection delegation of EU and IMF officials to supervise closer adherence to austerity targets. In a blunt more-for-less operation, the €8.1bn loan for the end of July was used as a bargaining chip to force the Greek government to bring forward legislation to completely decimate employment and budgets in the public sector. One Troika official confidently upped the stakes: ‘If we don’t conclude this review, I don’t see any disbursement to Greece over the next three months’. That review became the multi-bill passed on 17 July. Amongst hundreds of measures, 12,500 public sector workers – 4,200 by the end of July – are to be moved onto ‘mobility schemes’ by the end of September. These schemes are delayed compulsory redundancies, whereby workers are transferred on 75% of their salaries for a year, then sacked if they cannot find alternative work. By these means the figure of 150,000 public sector job cuts will be met by the end of 2015.

Progress towards Troika targets had initially pleased the financial markets so Greece moved up to a B grade Fitch rating and bond and stock market prices rose in early June. Prime Minister Samaras had returned from China where he had touted 28 major privatisations of Greek national assets – everything must go! Ports, steel companies, railways, airports, gas production … but this desperate auction of national assets began to falter as prospective buyers withdrew, leaving a total of only €1bn raised. Suddenly the sunshine turned to gloom as the budget shortfall attracted the dread attentions of the Troika. It demands a balanced domestic budget before considering any further loans. Hence the pressure to consolidate many austerity measures in the multi-bill. Uncertainty and contradictions abounded. The Troika and EU tried to talk up the economy by claiming growth is on the cards for 2014, while the OECD predicted the economy contracting by 4.2% this year and 1.2% next year in a seventh year of continuous recession.

The statistics mask the present hell of social uncertainty, deprivation and misery that the austerity budgets have created. Suicide is at its highest level in 50 years, general unemployment moves towards 30% while amongst 16-24 year olds extremes of 72.5% exist in some areas. In a country of 11 million people, 1.3 million are unemployed. 400,000 families are without anyone earning an income. 300,000 workers have not been paid for months. 10,000 teachers face redundancy while 1,000 workers are also to be sacked through further health budget cuts included in the multi-bill. The newly appointed Health Minister, Adonis Georgiadis, has stated: ‘If I have to close hospitals, I will do so’. This is at a time when more medical support and more hospitals are needed to deal with the dire effects of the crisis. This is capitalist barbarity. In response to this onslaught, there have already been four general strikes this year involving rail workers, bank workers and municipal police and janitors. Marches and occupations of workplaces and government and municipal offices are daily occurrences as the Troika’s measures are implemented.

The banners that were held outside the Greek parliament when the multi-bill was passed demanded a new government and the protest itself was joined by a number of deputies from the opposition coalition, Syriza. A year ago Syriza had come within a few votes of actually being that new government by effectively mobilising those affected by austerity with a programme of absolute rejection of the Troika’s memoranda (austerity measures) and complete repudiation of the debt. On 10 July Syriza held its first congress to form itself into a united party. Its president, Antonis Tsipras, was comfortably re-elected with 74% of the vote despite concern from other forces in the party that the position of non-negotiable opposition to the memoranda was being weakened in the search for new electoral alliances. In April Tsipras described his reformulation of the position as seeking a ‘suspension’ of the memoranda as a ‘slip of the tongue’. The opposition are quite clear themselves: they are fighting for an openly anti-capitalist Syriza, committed to unconditionally defending the interests of the working class through a left government. The life and death battle for this lies ahead.

Michael MacGregor

 

Greece: Austerity means death/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

‘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.

Attacks on wages, work contracts and conditions are not the only methods by which costs for the capitalists are reduced. Privatisations, compulsory redundancies, the slashing of education and health provision are all part of the brutal austerity programme of the troika. Constitutional guarantees of secure employment in public service which have existed for over 100 years have been ripped up by the pro-austerity government coalition. 25,000 jobs will go by the end of this year, 180,000 by 2015. The right to free university education, a constitutional right won after the ending of the military junta in 1975, has gone as four universities out of 40 are shut down. An estimated 20,000 students will have to abandon their studies and join the millions of jobless youth.

But it is the right to life itself that the austerity measures are attacking. Recent studies by the medical journal The Lancet and a book entitled The Body Politic: Why Austerity Kills by David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, shows the devastating effects of the crisis. A senior Greek clinical consultant states: ‘In Greece, unemployment today means death.’ After 12 months of unemployment people lose their health insurance. They cannot afford medicines and have to delay going to hospital. Emergency centres are only open four days a week, while hospital medicine stocks are depleted or non-existent. Patients have to provide their own prescription drugs and dressings. HIV infections have doubled since 2011 and malaria has reappeared as mosquito eradication programmes are cut back. Suicide and depression rates are multiplying. Malnutrition in children and the old is rising. This is the savage reality of the capitalist crisis in Greece and Europe. The troika demanded that Greece limit its health spending to 6% of GDP and it has fallen from €14bn in 2009 to €9.5bn in 2012… and so people die.

The people are resisting; strikes of transport workers against wage cuts and privatisations have taken place. Doctors have gone on strike over unpaid wages and staffing shortages in vital intensive care units and students have taken over municipal buildings. In mid-May 88,000 secondary school teachers were preparing to strike over extensions to working hours, redundancies and school closures but they were served with ‘civilian mobilisation orders’ by police. First used against transport strikers in early 2013, they effectively draft workers into the armed forces making them liable to charges of mutiny and desertion. Those court-martialled for breaching the orders face up to five years’ imprisonment.

However, such authoritarian measures are outdone by the fascist terror unleashed against immigrant Bangladeshi workers in the agricultural area of Nea Manolada in Southern Greece in March. In an area renowned for racist violence, 30 workers were gunned down by overseers as they protested against unpaid wages. Since 2008 the workers have built a tradition of militancy and organisation through strikes and demonstrations against poverty wages and slum accommodation. Their courageous stand is both a lesson and a warning for the rest of the Greek working class. They must not stand alone.

Michael Macgregor

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

Ruling class prepares to crush the Greek working class/FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013

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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