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Another general strike brings Greece to a halt
ON THURSDAY 11 March, Greece was again brought to a standstill by the third general strike in a few weeks against the government's third draconian austerity package since the start of the year.
Andreas Payiatsos, Xekinima (CWI Greece), Athens, and Niall Mulholland (CWI)
The action hit 90% of public sector and large private sector workplaces. In Athens only parts of the train system worked, and then only to assist workers getting to and from the demonstration, a further display of the enormous power of the working class when it is organised.
Greece's two union federations called the strike to protest at an additional €4.8 billion package of spending cuts and tax increases recently passed by parliament under pressure from the EU directorate, taking total cuts to about €20 billion.
Pushed by the EU and financial markets, Greece's social democratic Pasok government is attempting to cut the budget deficit to 8.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, from an estimated 12.7% last year.
Public sector wages will be cut by 7% and the Christmas and summer bonuses by 30%. Pensions are frozen (over one million Greek pensioners get less than €500 a month). VAT will rise from 19% to 21%.
Pasok blames the legacy of the last right-wing New Democracy government which it decisively defeated in 2009. The lack of decisive union and left opposition to the cuts means this line of argument is not challenged comprehensively.
The Pasok-dominated union federations (GSEE and ADEDY) are seen by the most politically active workers as only pretending to offer a fight for their members. But given workers' anger, the strike movement will most probably continue against further 'pension reforms' and tax changes.
So far young people have not participated in a decisive manner. But this can change. In December 2008 the streets were ablaze with an eruption of youth anger against police brutality. Now, many university students are finishing exams and occupations are beginning against the consequences of education cuts.
Xekinima [the Socialist Party's Greek counterpart] calls for university occupations to spread into a mass wave of occupations in both universities and schools. Mass action committees should be formed and the youth should link up with workers' struggles.
The strike action needs to be coordinated and expanded to a 48-hour general strike, with longer general strikes if the government does not back down. Workplace and community committees of action should be formed to coordinate and link up on a local, regional and national level.
The left parties, such as Syriza and the Communist Party should form a 'united front', with a bold socialist programme. This must include opposition to paying the national debt and demands for ending the bosses' enormous tax avoidance, an immediate programme of huge investment in health, education, housing and infrastructure and nationalisation of the banking sector, public utilities and the major parts of the economy under the democratic control and management of the working class.
However, neither of these parties are fighting for such a programme. Only a left government, based on the needs and participation of the working class and youth, can resolve the deep crisis of Greek and international capitalism.
For more reports see www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 17 March 2010:
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party inteview
Marxist analysis: history
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party feature