National Sections of the L5I:

Greece: heading for a social explosion

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On the night of 12 February, the Greek parliament adopted the latest package of savage austerity dictated by the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank, the so-called Troika. The pro-imperialist puppet government of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos agreed to another 15,000 sackings in the public sector, the repeal of labour protection laws, and a slashing of the monthly minimum wage by 20 per cent, from €751 to €600, and pensions. Unemployment now stands at 20.9 percent with half of the young unemployed. Moreover, it is widely expected that the next meeting of the EU ministers will demand even more drastic measures.

As expected, a sizeable majority in parliament adopted this latest round of attacks on the workers, the poor, the youth and elderly. Of the 278 deputies present, 199 voted for the cuts. Of course, this was not surprising, any more than that the EU-hardliners around German imperialism and its closest junior partners (Austria, Netherlands, Finland, Luxembourg) will keep up their pressure, demanding that the government now implements all the measures with full force.

Rats leaving a sinking ship?

As the parliamentarians voted to plunge their country into ever-deeper poverty, battles raged outside in Syntagma Square. But the enormous pressures within Greek society are now manifesting themselves not only in a growing mobilisation and militancy from the workers and the left. This time, it was not just the left parties, the “communist” KKE and the left reformist SYRIZA coalition, who rejected the package.

Before the package was agreed, the far right, semi-fascist LAOS and its minister withdrew their support for the Papademos coalition and most of their deputies voted against the package. Moreover, a number of the “left-nationalist” PASOK and conservative Nea Dimokratia (ND) deputies refused to support the government and their own party leaderships. Here, these PASOK and ND deputies showed the determination they lacked when they faced the Troika. As a result, 22 PASOK and 21 ND deputies were expelled from their respective parliamentary groups – reducing the government's parliamentary majority to 193 out of 300 deputies.

All this signals that the ruling class is finding it increasingly difficult to keep its forces together. This was, perhaps, most clearly expressed in the fact that at the end of last week, the National Union of Police Officers in Greece, which is controlled by right wing, conservative police officers, "threatened" to take "legal action" against the IMF officials (!!!) and to avoid "fighting" against their brothers and sisters.

These are all aspects of an ever more maturing and sharpening pre-revolutionary situation in the country.

Ongoing mass mobilisation

The “visit” of the Troika, the “negotiations”, the sessions of the cabinet and the parliament have all been accompanied by a general strike called by the large unions.

At least 100,000 demonstrated in Athens on 12 February and many more in the other cities. The clashes between the state forces and the demonstrators were the most vicious for a long time in cities like Athens and Thessaloniki. Moreover, for the moment, the workers, but also the mass of the middle strata and petit-bourgeoisie have stayed on the streets. They are expecting the Left to bring forward a solution – this is expressed in growing support for the KKE, in particular. Polls show them with as much as 40 per cent support now.

The present situation cannot last for long. The working class urgently needs to go beyond resistance to the attacks and fight to implement its own solution to the deepening crisis. Otherwise, the growing destruction of social life will mean that more and more layers of the “middle classes” will look for a solution from the right. The LAOS defection from the government clearly shows that it wants to present itself as a “clean” extreme nationalist solution. Likewise, the threat of the police union does not only signal a weakening of the government's ability to govern – but also a preparedness to look for a strong “leader”. Increasing numbers of racist attacks on migrant workers also point in this horrific direction.

Certainly, the mobilisations of the workers, the youth, many self-employed and semi-proletarian strata, as well as large sections of the petit-bourgeoisie, demonstrate the determination of the Greek people to fight. Over recent months we have seen not only mass support for general strikes but also major, longer term strikes in particular sectors, for example, in the steel industry. We have also seen occupations such as in hospitals, where services are now run under workers' control.

In such a situation, the struggle for power is on the agenda. That is what the working class must be prepared and mobilised for, so that it can win over large sections of the middle classes and break up the inner discipline of the repressive apparatus. However, such a perspective is exactly what the Greek left, the KKE and SYRIZA leaderships, to say nothing of the trade union leaders, clearly lack. They see change as a matter of new elections and a new parliamentary majority.

As we pointed out in previous articles like “The revolution and its prospects”, the Greek revolution needs an entirely different strategy and leadership, a new revolutionary party – rallying the best of the left, from Antarsya and all those from SYRIZA and KKE who want to break from their reformist strategy, militant trade unionists and occupiers. Such a party needs to rally around a strategy for power,

A revolutionary action programme

The Greek population is being caught on the horns of a dilemma -– two capitalist alternatives that are no alternatives. One is to remain in the European Union with its Euro that cripples the economy and condemns it to 20 per cent and rising unemployment, the dissolution of its public services. The other, championed by the KKE and some smaller groups on the left and on the extreme right, is to leave the Euro zone and/or the EU for an “independent” capitalist Greece with a restored drachma.

The horrors of the former are already being experienced and will get worse year on year. The horrors of the latter, hyperinflation, the ruin of small savers, the siege of the Greek economy by the banks and the enraged billionaire creditors can only be imagined.

They are a false alternative because both are predicated on the necessity to save capitalism. The only real solution is one predicated on the opposite - the need to save the jobs, living standards, social services and culture of the working people of Greece and, beyond its borders, to give a lead to the workers of Europe as a whole. In short, it is necessary to take socialist measures based on expropriating the capitalist class, both native and foreign, and to rally the trade unions and youth of Italy, Spain, Britain and Germany to take action in common to save jobs and services across the continent.

It is increasingly clear to millions of Greek workers that this parliament, and the parties that support the Troika puppet government, cannot be persuaded to oppose the brutal austerity measures. General strikes lasting 24 or 48 hours, rioting and street battles are clearly protests that will not move them. The only way to stop the wave after wave of austerity is to drive this government from power by an all out, indefinite general strike. Such a revolutionary general strike - as long as it is not just left in the hands of the top union leaders but controlled from below by councils of workers' delegates - can bring down the government.

Unreliable and treacherous as the leaders of the trade unions and the workers' parties are, millions of workers voted for them and support them. They did so, however, not because they wanted them to compromise and surrender but because they wanted them to lead a fight.

So, the revolutionary left should campaign together to get the rank and file to demand that their parties and unions call a general strike to bring down Papademos. If they are successful in this they should then go on to create a workers' government. This would not be based on the parliament and the MPs who have repeatedly ignored the huge majority of the population; workers, farmers, shopkeepers etc. but on councils of action and the self-defence militias created in the general strike.

A workers' government must first of all disarm the counter-revolution and dismantle the repressive apparatus; call on the police and army not to side with the Troika and the Greek exploiters but to elect their own rank and file councils; in short, to side with the people.

Such a government should implement a working class programme against the crisis: scrap all diktats from the imperialist governments, institutions and banks, nationalise the banks and big corporations under workers' control and introduce a democratic plan to run the economy. It should reverse all the cuts and closures and cancel the debts.

It should begin a socialist transformation of the Greek economy and society. A revolution in Greece would inevitably be closely tied to the struggle of the whole European working class against the crisis, it can be the spark that lights the fire of a European revolution, leading to the creation of a United Socialist States of Europe.

International Secretariat, L5I, February 14, 2012