48hr General Stike in Greece

The Greek trade unions have started their first 48 hour general strike since 1992. The movement of the ‘enraged’ and the activists of the workers’ movement demanded this step, against the vote in the Greek parliament on the second memorandum – a new package of austerity imposed by the troika (EU, IMF and European Central Bank). This vote is planned to take place in various stages over the next days.

The battle is now at a new peak with the attempt of the government to ignore the occupations of the squares, the ongoing strike of the electricity workers to stop the memorandum and the plans for further privatisations, the general strike on 15 June and now the new challenge of a 48 hour general strike.

Below we publish the proposals and demands which Xekinima, the Greek sister party of the Socialist Party, puts forward in the movement of the ‘enraged’, which is still occupying major squares in different cities, and the workers’.

They write memorandums – we write history!

500,000 demonstrators in Syntagma Square on Sunday, 5 June. More than 200,000 in Syntagma for the general strike on the 15 June. And a government of crisis that is hanging on by a thread, which is shown by the fact that the Prime Minister – full of panic – quit and “de-quit” on the same day, 15 June.

A new movement is shaking Greek society while Europe watches. The movement of the Enraged creates new hopes and possibilities and at the same time constitutes the clearest answer to the bureaucracy of the trade union movement and the leadership of the mass left parties, which have never put themselves in the front-line to develop a real mass movement. It is the first mass movement that is so clearly and categorically against the bureaucracy of the trade unions and inadequacy of the mass left parties.

The movement of the Enraged can stop the new memorandum and bring down the government. This can come true. But what could also happen is that within a few weeks this movement might not exist anymore. Didn’t the movement “I don’t pay” [with non-payment on buses and trains and tolls on motor ways] have some of the same amazing characteristics? But it faded away within three month. That is why the next steps of the movement of all of us, the Enraged, are of crucial importance.

Everybody to the squares! Escalate the strikes to force them out!

The first step is of course, that everybody goes to the squares in order to build a mass movement from below in order to turn the squares into living organisms of resistance. The half a million people who demonstrated on 5 June must become one million. This means we must set the dates for an escalation of the movement. We must set dates for general strikes and link the movement of the squares with industrial action by workers and with the neighborhoods as well. The call for a 48-hour general strike by GSEE and ADEDY [private and public sector trade union confederations] for the first time in almost 20 years is an important development and in reality a success of the Enraged as it was the pressure from the squares which led to this development.

However, this is not enough. There should be a further escalation. The leadership of the unions will not take the necessary action. We have to impose it from below. The movement of the Enraged can play a catalyst role towards in this through its decisions. Xekinima proposes that the assemblies of the squares discuss, decide and call for:

  • Use the 48-hour general strike, called by GSEE and ADEDY [private and public sector trade union confederations] for an all out, full mobilisation of the mass movement.
  • For the DEKO unions [public services / state-owned or semi-state owned companies] to proceed to a 5-day general strike the week before the new memorandum is put to parliament.
  • For a general, huge demonstration on the day of the vote on the memorandum in Athens and a similar rally in Thesaloniki, with the aim of bringing one million to Syntagma Square.
  • If the government insists on voting in the new memorandum, then there is no option but to prolong the general strike for as long as necessary and remain at Syntagma square until the government falls. The government can survive a continued occupation of the squares, but they cannot survive a continued general strike.

Links with the workers’ / strike movement

There are people who think that the squares do not need or don’t want the labour/trade union movement, because trade unionists will ‘patronise’ the movement. Their concerns are understandable but they are not correct. If the movement of the Enraged does not extend itself into the workers’ movement and is not linked with strike mobilisations, there will be an extremely big danger that it will subside.

Therefore, we want and we need all the movements to approach / direct themselves towards the squares and the occupations. Those who are engaged in struggles – workers’ strikes, youth, environmental struggles, social struggles – must go to the squares, set up camps there and keep the occupations alive and vibrant. We want the strikers of DEI [electricity company], post offices, OTE [telephone company], the temporary council workers etc. – all to go there. We want the strikes of the different sectors to escalate into general strikes, not symbolic ones (one every two or three months), but substantial ones, repeated and escalated.

Democracy in the movement. But how?

The bureaucrats of the trade unions and party apparatuses have time and again sold out struggles in a blatant way. Measures should be taken that ensure the democracy of the movement.

Many of the Enraged demand that parties do not show up in the squares. Although this is understandable, it does not offer any solution, because various parties are already there and actually a lot of them are hiding behind the “anonymous” or “party free”. This is exactly why they are doubly dangerous.

We must stress that the danger of bureaucracy does not only come from parties, but also from cliques of people who suddenly see the possibility of putting themselves in the spotlight via the movement, making blogs and spending a lot of time in the squares to establish themselves and gain publicity. It is not a coincidence that it was discovered in Thessaloniki that some “non-party” people wanted to impose as the only speaker in a demonstration on the 5th of June the nationalist right wing politician Dimitris Antoniou!

Democracy can be protected only through a series of measures:

  • First, of course, all decisions should pass through the general assemblies.
  • The parties and organisations that intervene in this movement (and rightfully so) should do that overtly. Stop the hypocrisy of party members that pretend they are “party free”.
  • Every political force should have only one contribution at the assembly, so that everybody knows who is who and what they say. The rest of the time should be given to the un-affiliated.
  • The coordinating committee of the assembly, those behind the microphones, should rotate. Every three days the team must be changed.
  • No trust to any individual or any party apparatus – only to the democratic procedures of the movement. This should be an unbreakable rule, not only for the assemblies of the Enraged, but for all movements anywhere and at any given time.
  • Democracy of the square and democracy of the movement

The democracy of the assembly on Syntagma Square or the White Tower [in Thesaloniki] must not be confused with the democracy of the movement. Because at the end of the day even if we have 3,000 or 5,000 people in the assembly, how can they represent the half a million people we saw on Sunday, 5 June? And how is it possible for all of them to say what they think or propose an issue to be voted on, given the limited time and number of speakers at every assembly? It’s impossible.

The answer to this dilemma is:

  • Extend the movement to all work places, workers’ neighbourhoods and the youth (universities and Schoools), as suggested above. Call mass assemblies in all these places and areas and elect committees of representatives, that are subject to recall at any time.
  • The Syntagma assembly, once or twice a week should be an assembly of representatives of the movement from all the corners of Attika [whole region around and including Athens and Peiraus]. The same goes for the White Tower in Thesaloniki and so on. These assemblies should be responsible for the final central decisions.
  • These representatives should be in constant interaction with the assemblies that have elected them, be accountable to them and at any time subject to recall (ie every assembly can replace them with other representatives at any time).
  • Only in this way can the mass movement control the way the struggle will develop. Anything else – whatever name it may bear – is a democracy only in words, neither “direct” nor “real” democracy [which is one of the central demands of the movement of the Enraged].

Is there an alternative political solution?

The people who participate in the movement of the Enraged now feel the power/strength of the mass movement and realise that they can bring down the government. The question that emerges then is what will follow? Because obviously, bringing down Pasok just to bring back ND or a coalition government or a government of “technocrats and personalities” is not a solution.

The first answer to this question is that it is important that the Pasok government falls, even if it is not clear who will follow, because the next government will live under the constant threat of the movement and the danger of being overthrown.

We should remember Argentina, where during the winter 2001/02, five presidents fell within a period of a few weeks. In the end, this movement forced the Argentinian government to pause the payment of the sovereign debt. This represented a great victory initself! But it could not achieve the overthrow of power of the capitalists or free society from poverty. Therefore, we need something more.

If we leave our fate in the hands of a few hundred corrupt individuals in parliament, entirely outside our control, elected for 4 years on the basis of lies and false promises but without us having the means to replace them, who rely on big money from the capitalists to get elected and then represent precisely these capitalists and not the people who vote for them, who rob us of the wealth we produce, then the problem remains. What is the answer to this?

We want a kind of “parliament” in which those elected will be accountable and subject to recall at any time.

We want representatives, that will be paid as much as the workers – and not €10,000 per month – representatives without any privileges or connections with business’ interests. Those who break these rules should be punished with severe prison sentences – all laws which allow the “buying out” of sentences and the “writing off” after some time of such offences, should be abolished!

These conditions can be imposed only if representatives are elected through mass assemblies in the workplaces, neighbourhoods, universities etc and if these representatives are accountable to those assemblies and subject to recall at any time.

Such a “parliament” of the workers and the popular masses could proceed to the establishment of a real “people’s power”, meaning a government “of the workers for the workers” in the service of society and the working classes.

Is this a difficult prospect? Yes, a very difficult one. But why? Because, right now, the movement is limited only to central squares and is not expanding in width and depth through society, in an organised way. And because the movement does not consciously set the above targets for itself. But if the movement was able to develop in the way we describe, then the election of those representatives and those who would “govern” in the way we describe, would develop in the most natural way: They would be individuals who represent the rank and file movements in society and not the interests of big business and they would be under constant control from below.

Thus and only thus will the words “real” or “direct” democracy acquire a true meaning.

Is there an alternative economic policy?

Our living standards are falling apart. The right to work is disappearing. Pensions have taken a merciless blow, education and health are driven to the bottom, rights – that we have had for an entire century – are squashed! They have taken “everything” away, and they will come back for more. Why? To pay back the soveign debt – so they say! But, who created the debt and why should we have to pay for it?

In the original text by Xekinima this is followed by an explanation why the debt is not ours.

We demand:

  • Those who caused the crisis should pay for it. This means: refuse to pay the debt they created to increase their profits, which is now reaching €350 billion, 150% of the GDP.
  • There are €200 billion in Greek bank accounts, which is our own savings, as the rich and the big capitalists have already taken their money abroad – €60 billion last year alone. The bankers use our money in the bank accounts against us, in order to make big profits, and the justification for this is “the needs and the demands of the markets”. We refuse to accept their logic, we demand that the banks are nationalised – that they are placed under the ownership of society.
  • We should demand to know where the profits of all the past years have gone. From the mid 1990s until 2007, the Greek economy was growing by 4-5% per year. And Greece was the ‘Eldorado’ of profits, with profits reaching 20-30% per year. Where is all this money? Why are the profits theirs, and the losses ours?
  • No to the privatisations of DEI [electricity company] and the other DEKO [public services]. Stop the robbery of the public wealth. Stop the sell-off of public companies. On the contrary, put these companies under the control and management of workers and society so as to abolish the corruption of the tops in the civil service and in the Trade Unions.
  • On the basis of all these, with the €350 billion that we “save” if we refuse to pay the debt and with the €200 billion that exists in the banks, we could create miracles in the economy. We could transform the situation completely, create jobs, have decent healthcare, education, pensions and public housing. We don’t need and we don’t want the speculators of the stock markets and the banks. Those who say, that “this can not happen” (or that it would be old-fashioned and obsolete) are doing what they have been taught very well by the system: they lie.

Finally…

We demand a society of justice, equality, freedom and real democracy. We demand a society that will not be slave to the profits of an insignificant minority, but that will plan the economy for our needs. And yes, we should re-establish the real meaning of many words, who have been misused by the ruling elite, as the assemblies of the Enraged are already proposing.

Democracy means that we decide and control all decisions and not the liars and thieves in the parliament.

Justice means that laws serve society not oppress it.

Freedom means to be able to have an opinion and express it freely and not that public opinion is formed by 5 families that control the economy and the TV channels.

And socialism means all the things we described above for the economy, politics and society – and not what the so called “socialists”, Mr. Papandreou [the Prime Minister] and the gang of thieves and liars around him, are pursing.