Greeks fight austerity

December 3, 2011

From the November-December 2011 issue of News & Letters:

Greeks fight austerity

by Gerry Emmett

As Greek lawmakers passed a new austerity package on Oct. 19, rage boiled over in cities and towns throughout the country. A two-day general strike saw hundreds of thousands demonstrating against measures demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Protesters included public workers and those already involved in occupying the squares.

The Greek economy has contracted by 12% since 2009. This will continue, driven further by these austerity measures. (See “Greece, democracy and the economic crisis,” July-August News & Letters.) Unemployment has continued to increase, now at 16.5% , and will worsen as the government lays off state employees. The Papandreou government has shown itself committed to further, endless rounds of severe cutbacks. The anger in the streets indicates how deeply the pain of capitalism’s debacle has inscribed itself on the Greek body politic.

Dimitris Kotzaridis, 53, a secretary in the Construction Workers’ Union, died Oct. 20 of a heart attack after being tear-gassed during clashes outside Parliament between police and demonstrators. At first the Communist Party blamed his death on alleged attacks by “anarchists,” which brought this statement from the popular assembly of Syntagma Square:

“…Reality once again came to reveal the role of a party that systematically betrays popular struggles….This is what they did yesterday…. They guarded the smooth operation of Parliament and instead of surrounding it they acted even more barbarously than the police, cracking skulls open and handing over demonstrators to the forces of repression. The worst of all that they did was that they legitimized the state, which murdered one of their comrades, blaming the murder on some para-statist violence.

“From yesterday on…the so-called ‘Communist Party’ is no more than a barrier against the attempt to bury the parliamentary corpse….This proposition should not be read as a split in the movement. We might have common problems and common targets with the plain voters of the Communist Party, but the politics and the practice of the leadership…follows the orders of the government and the envoys of the IMF, EU and European Central Bank…the Communist Party will act as a fifth column of the dictatorial regime, hoping once again to grab some crumbs off the parliamentary table…

“From May 25, when we first gathered at the square, we revealed direct democracy as the capacity of each one of us to participate, to consult with one another, to shape ideas together autonomously….We are taking our lives into our own hands! Direct democracy now!

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