The Socialist 10 December 2008 |
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Greece in widespread revolt
Police murder sparks massive outrage
THERE HAS been an explosion of anger across Greece following the fatal shooting of a 15 year-old in Athens by police. The killing has acted as a lightning rod for the pent-up anger among the youth and the working class at the beleaguered right wing government of prime minister, Costas Karamanlis. A government hit by corruption scandals and rocked by economic crisis. Andros Payiatsos of Xekinima (CWI in Greece) reports on this revolt from below.
Protesters in Greece, photo by Xekinima
LAST SATURDAY evening (6 December), a group of young school students shouted at a police car that was passing by a cafe in which they were sitting, in the centre of Athens, and threw two plastic half-litre water bottles at the police car. The two policemen (special guards) stopped the car some distance away, came out of the car and approached the school students. One of the officers pulled out a gun and fired at the youths, killing one of them. The two policemen then simply turned their backs and walked away!
Greek society is naturally shocked. There was an immediate gathering of thousands of people in the centre of Athens in protest. There were demos in all the main cities of Greece on the following day, Sunday. New demos were called for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, in the mornings and afternoons. There is massive rage and anger.
There is so much tension inside society due to unemployment and poverty, due to 23 years of continuing austerity policies, due to scandals and corruption and, now, a cold blooded murder by the police. This has opened the lid and enormous anger has burst out.
The government tries to argue that this is an 'isolated incident' - the usual argument. People are not willing to listen. For the huge majority of workers and youth the policeman acted in the way they are trained. They are seen as racists, extreme right-wingers and liars, who hate social movements and viciously suppress strikes and demos. There are so many incidents to prove this that nobody really needs to be convinced.
The government is in absolute paralysis. With a majority of one MP (151 out of 300) in parliament the government is inherently unstable. The latest developments could be the trigger to bring it down.
"Down with this government of murderers" is the central slogan Xekinima (CWI in Greece) is raising during these events. We are calling for occupations of all schools and universities, and for strikes, with the aim of bringing down the government.
At the same time, we call for a left government, based on the forces of Syriza (a new left formation made up of about eleven different organisations and parties of the left, including Xekinima and the KKE, Communist Party of Greece). It should aim for power, on the basis of a socialist programme, in the service of the interests of workers, youth and the poor peasants in Greece.
The current government can be brought down through a mighty movement of workers and youth, but not through the rioting and massive destruction that we have seen in every city, caused by anarchist groups (in the ranks of which there are many agent provocateurs) in the last few days.
Over the last two days, these groups have had a free hand in destroying everything they can lay their hands on. But if this continues, it will play into the hands of the government and the state. Initially, workers could accept a few excesses by these groups, but after the riots in all of Greece's cities, the mood will change. The arguments for "law and order" will begin to gain ground.
Thus, these groups, which show no respect for the mass movement and particularly the workers' movement, will provide the best rescue for a paralysed government and state apparatus to try to regain control.
Only the mass movement and particularly the working class can bring down this government, through mass action. Only the working class can provide an alternative to the government and capitalist system.
Already, the whole of the education sector has come to a halt. There are many occupations taking place. The university teachers have called for a three-day strike. The primary and secondary education teachers have called for a two-day strike.
On 10 December a general strike has been called by GSEE (Greek Confederation of Greek Workers - Greek TUC). It was initially called to protest against the budget, but with the new developments it will take an entirely different form.
The main question now is; how to continue with the movement after the 10th? The youth can be a decisive factor - they can take the initiative and thus assist the working class to enter the struggle decisively.
One of the most important factors is that Syriza, as a whole has come out with the slogan: "Down with the government!" This can give a direction to the whole movement and society.