Capitalist barbarity faces Greek working class / FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

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 Dec 2012/Jan 2013

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 / FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

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.

The launch of Operation Xenios Zeus coincided with the arrival in Greece of representatives of the Troika – the IMF, EU and the European Central Bank. The books had to be checked to make sure that €11.5bn cuts were in place for 2014 and that Greece was able to hand over €3.2bn to redeem a bond on 20 August before being lent another slice of its bailout. Agreement on the cuts had to be in place by 14 September for further support to be made available. As part of a €50bn privatisation programme, the state-owned Agricultural Bank of Greece has been sold to private banks. The retirement age has been raised to 66 years with reduced pensions. There are cuts to social welfare payments for working families with children as well as wider exclusions of people from entitlement to unemployment benefit and further cuts in the rate itself. Labour conditions are under attack with six-day weeks planned and less protection from dismissal for those fortunate enough to have work. Youth unemployment stands at over 50%. The Athens News described this as ‘sweeping away the social state’.

Xenios Zeus has given official sanction to escalating racist violence in Greece which both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International have condemned. The Migrant Workers Association stated that there had been over 500 racially motivated attacks in the last six months.

The notorious Greek police are leading the way in a campaign of racist terror, intimidation and humiliation. Athens News reports for instance that they stopped Pakistani men from the Athens suburb of Nikaia, workers at Hellenic Petroleum, and demanded their papers. The men were hit and taken to Egaleo No2 police station where they were assaulted repeatedly. One policeman, described as an open fascist, used pliers to crush the little finger of one of the men, saying that he 'would tell them about the law' in answer to the men’s terrified protestations.

Another immigrant, Ahmed Hasan, was attacked in his own home by police after calling them to report a racist attack. Wielding a broken bottle a cop told him: ‘I will slaughter you, I will do whatever I want with you! Leave this country, filth’. It is estimated that over 50% of the Greek police force voted for the fascist Golden Dawn party which seeks to target immigrants as the cause of the current economic crisis. Police ranks are rotten with fascists, particularly the infamous MAT riot squads, and the fascist party is itself made up of ex-cops, ex-soldiers and violent criminals. Police tolerance of fascist violence is naked. The Golden Dawn MP who assaulted women members of Syriza and the Greek Communist Party on live TV in June was allowed to leave the studio without arrest, despite being sought for another crime, a violent stabbing. He remains ‘in hiding’, the police strangely unable to find him. Another Golden Dawn MP, who obstructed work to open up a detention camp on the grounds that immigrants should be expelled, not detained, can be seen online, threatening and pushing cops around – he was not arrested.

Way ahead of the fascists in terms of popular support at present is the Coalition of the Left, Syriza, which has been building the broadest possible unity against the Troika’s savage austerity demands. Since gaining 27% of the vote and 71 MPs in the June general election, Syriza has been building its organisation, calling popular assemblies in communities all over Greece to debate the way forward. Syriza has condemned Xenios Zeus and has involved itself in the fight against the fascist threat. For example, a week after the June elections, fascists went round all the Pakistani shops in Piraeus, Athens, threatening them that they had a week to get out. Syriza, which had got 38% of the vote in the area, organised a march of 3,000 to defend the shopkeepers and workers.

 

Now voices of serious concern and calls for immediate action are emerging from youth and political organisations inside and outside Syriza and from those directly under attack themselves. On 24 August central Athens saw a large and militant demonstration of mainly Asian men call for action against those who attacked mosques. An anarchist anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstration the following Saturday, 1 September, had banners which said ‘Let’s smash the fascists and police pogroms. May locals and refugees fight together.’ Organised to confront the cops and fascists with their own protective headgear and staves, these anti-fascist fighters have mass support among the youth. They have ridiculed those sections of the Syriza leadership who have called for the police to protect people and to submit to training courses in anti-racism. A voice from an anarchist website makes the point: ‘the time of festivals and concerts in solidarity with migrants is over a long time ago. The time of organising with them and to start kicking the living daylights out of all these scumbags – racists, Nazis, police – has been a long time coming!’

Syriza has stated that it does not expect the coalition government to last six months. It has to seize the time to organise and build on the resistance that is about re-ignite thanks to the Troika’s austerity. It is critical that all organisation and resistance has at its core not just the defence and militant promotion of the broad working class interests but serious and immediate anti-racist and anti-fascist defence. An injury to one is an injury to all!

Greece and the United Front / 228 Aug/Sep 2012

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 / 228 Aug/Sep 2012

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.

The June general election showed that the most conscious sections of the Greek working class supported Syriza, whose support rose 10 percentage points from the inconclusive 6 May general election to 26.9%. Because the pro-austerity New Democracy got the largest share of the vote with 29.7%, it was able to form a government in coalition with two other bourgeois parties, PASOK, which won 12.3% of the vote, and the Democratic Left, which got 6.2%. The Communist Party (KKE) saw its vote halve from 8.5% on 6 May to 4.5%. Had it responded to Syriza’s appeals and joined in a united front it is conceivable that Syriza would have become the largest party and entitled to form a government.

Analysis of Syriza’s election results demonstrates that it appealed to the youth overwhelmingly, half of whom are without jobs. Syriza also had significant support from the unemployed as well as wage workers, and migrants with the right to vote. A large proportion of former KKE voters also switched to Syriza. In the poorer urban areas Syriza made solid advances and they are right to claim that they successfully mobilised the poor masses to vote. Those who are suffering the devastating effects of the crisis – 30% of the Greek people live below the poverty line – are standing up and making their opposition to austerity very clear because they have to in order to survive.

The governing coalition consists of the same parties that have been implementing the demands of the troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They have presided over a tripling of unemployment to over 25% and wage and pension cuts of the same order. Their programme is simply a continuation of the EU Memorandum policies that they pursued before the election. Their promise to try and renegotiate aspects of the EU Memorandum has proved hollow. For example, a government pledge to have no further civil service lay-offs is immediately at odds with the troika instruction to sack 150,000 civil servants by 2015. Weakened labour laws on collective bargaining and the 22% cut in the minimum wage will not be reversed. The coalition’s inability to soften the terms of the labour laws dictated by the troika led to the resignation of Deputy Labour Minister Nikos Nikopolous, who complained that the government was not keeping its word to stand up to the troika. He was the third minister to resign in as many weeks.

The government has set out ‘10 Sets of Action on Organisation and Administration’. Set nine of this programme calls for the immediate implementation of a series of privatisations. If these are not completed by 2014, a transfer of state assets to EU agencies such as the European Investment Bank will take place. The Greek public railway system is already up for fast-track sale. Inevitably redundancies, and wage and pension cuts will follow. Greece has already raised €1.8bn by selling state assets, but the plan is to raise €19bn through denationalisations by 2015. Water, oil refineries and electricity production and distribution are to be sold off.

The governing coalition faces the expressed determination of a third of the Greek people to reject the troika’s programme. Syriza’s call for rejection of austerity and unity of resistance has been taken up and followed. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras stated that before the election he had told German Chancellor Merkel:

‘... we are cancelling the debt, that it is your problem! We insist we will not retreat, our first duty is to our people. First is salvation of our people, not of the eurozone but our people! Greece is not responsible for the crisis, it is European, it is international.’

Poverty and now hunger are stalking the poor of Greece. At the inauguration of the government, queues of pensioners, children, families and immigrants formed as small farmers distributed free food boxes – the Potato Movement – and protested against the profiteering supermarkets’ price-fixing. Children suffer for want of medicines and food. In a protest against proposed pension cuts on 12 July one pensioner said: ‘I can’t afford my medicines. What can I pay with 400 euros? Can I pay new taxes?’ Interviewed on the website Kasama, young members of the Communist Organisation of Greece (KOE), part of the Syriza coalition, expressed optimism and determination after the June election: ‘KOE believes the people need new values: Solidarity over individualism. Dignity against corruption. Emancipation over dependence...This is a very hard struggle for us. It means the transformation of the people ... It is why we take active part in things like giving health care to immigrants who are not legal. And we have been part of movements like “The Potato Movement” where the farmers in the North gave free potatoes to people starving in the South. We were facilitators and activists in this. This is solidarity, not charity.’

There is a vital need to build a united front of resistance in Greece. At present Syriza, with its anti-austerity programme, is the vehicle for such a front. Tsipras has acknowledged the need for it to build in the communities, the workplaces, colleges and schools and in the streets. Organisations that are part of the Syriza coalition such as the KOE are able to organise independently and voice criticisms of those leaders who equivocate over the need to fight austerity. This is the only way forward: democratic and militant organisation amongst the masses.

Victory to the Greek people! Build the resistance! Down with austerity and hunger!