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New austerity programme in Greece: indefinite general strike on the agenda

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For much of last week, Greece was shaken by a new wave of strikes and protests. The reason for this was a new austerity package that was agreed on the evening of November 7 by a wafer thin majority in parliament. Under pressure from the Troika, another €18.5 billion are to be cut from government spending by 2016. The austerity package means further job losses, tax hikes, and cuts in pensions as well as health and social services.

A thin government majority

The response to the austerity proposals was a 48 hour general strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, although the first strikes began on Monday. However, although the strikes had broad support, with many small firms and self-employed also closed for the day, the government was able to put together a majority.

Nonetheless, the MPs from DIMAR, a rightward split from Syriza, abstained. Even some of the PASOK MPs did not vote with the government, as a result, 6 members were expelled from the parliamentary group and another resigned on Thursday. Just 4 months after the elections, this government already looks close to collapse.

Even though the government was able to gain a clear majority on the vote for the budget for 2013, that doesn't change anything fundamental in the process of its decomposition. This is, above all, an expression of the deep, revolutionary crisis in the country: the development of which even bourgeois commentators like the Financial Times of Germany are increasingly aware, often more clearly than many Leftists.

At the same time, the capitalist offensive is still advancing unhindered. Even the 48 hour general strike could not change that. While the Troika and Greek capital pose the question of power from above, the current leadership of the labour movement, Syriza and KKE, continue to avoid a confrontation.

The key question is an unlimited general strike

Instead of bringing down the government through an unlimited general strike, the Stalinist KKE continues its sectarian course, covering its passivity with radical phrases. The Syriza majority, which is mainly based on Synaspismos, is also still opposed to an unlimited general strike. That is primarily because the reformist leadership is hoping for new elections and the opportunity to enter government itself.

Neither more attacks nor the growing threat of fascism can be defeated in this way. In Greece, where one in four, and amongst the youth more than one in two, is unemployed, the question “Socialism or Barbarism" is posed ever more sharply.

That can be seen in the radicalisation of the rank and file. On Thursday, after the end of the “official" general strike, the workers on the buses and the Metro in Athens stayed out on strike. In many trade unions the question of an unlimited general strike is now being openly discussed. Quite right too! Stopping the austerity package has to go hand in hand with bringing down the bourgeois government. But that makes it even more important to openly pose the question “what should come after the general strike, after the downfall of this government?”

Strike committees, district assemblies and defence organisations against attacks by the fascists and the state would have to be built during such a strike. Bringing down the government of DIMAR, PASOK and ND with an unlimited general strike, however, should not just mean new elections but rather the formation of a workers' government, based on the fighting organisations built during such a mobilisation. We must demand that the trade unions, the KKE and Syriza take up such a strategy. The formation of such a government, even if in the last analysis it was still a bourgeois workers' government, would constitute a major step forwards because it would lead to a sharpening of the contradictions.

Without any doubt, the reformist leaders of Syriza, the KKE and the trade unions would try to hold this movement within the limits of bourgeois law and order. Syriza would hope to come to a deal with the leaders of the EU, the European Central bank etc. The KKE would propose a cross-class “People's Government" and “people power". Ultimately, both want only to reform and take over the bourgeois state apparatus.

What is necessary, however, is to smash it and replace it with workers' councils and militia. Only this could ensure that the mass movement and its government could base itself on its own organisations, with which it could implement its own policies and defend them against the resistance of the reactionary state apparatus and the fascists.

Revolutionaries, therefore, must not only lead the fight for the building of workers' councils but also for soldiers' councils and for the disarming of the counterrevolution and the apparatus of repression. By these means we can also win the trust of the youth and the workers as the most determined wing of the revolution. Ultimately, the struggle must result in the overthrow of the bourgeois state, expropriation of the capitalists and the building of a democratic planned economy.

The resistance in Greece and the struggle within the workers' movement against the reformist leadership needs our full support! An isolated Greek workers' movement, an isolated Greek revolution, could not survive for long. The general strikes and mass protests in Greece and in southern Europe are raising ever more clearly the question of a pan-European general strike and the demand for the United Socialist States of Europe!