Pictures from the future of the European Union

The General Strike of October 19-20, 2011 in Greece

While the EU leaders, particularly those of Germany and France, divided by their irreconcilable national antagonisms and paralyzed by terror in front of the bankruptcy not solely of Greece but of their banking system and of the entire project of the European Union with its euro,  they had to postpone their Summit, the same days, in the epicenter of the crisis, in Greece, the entire country was shaken by a tremendous mobilization of the working class and the rapidly pauperized popular strata – the biggest from 1974, the year of the collapse of the CIA imposed military dictatorship.

The General Strike called by the GSEE (General Confederation of Labor) trade union bureaucracy initially for the 19 |October was transformed by the pressure of the ADEDY{ National Federation of Civil Servants} and by rank and file trade unionists into a 48 hours General Strike on October 19-20, against the new package of measures of social cannibalism imposed by the troika of the IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank and rump-stamped by the thin parliamentary majority of 153 deputies sustaining in its death agony the PASOK government.

Participation in the Strike was unprecedented: between 80 per cent to 100 percent of workers and employees both in the public and private Sectors, in factories and in public services took part. The shopkeepers closed their shops in solidarity and in protest against the austerity and tax burdens that condemn them to bankruptcy. Taxi owners and drivers, joined the strike action of the workers in public transport and the sailors that paralyzed all the ships in the harbors. Even in the Central Prisons of Korydalos, in Athens, the external patrol of guards in the morning of October 19, transformed their patrol into a demonstration against the government and the troika…

Nearly all the Ministries, town halls and other public buildings were under occupation- a totally new fact in the social life in Greece.

All the rallies and marches during the two days of the General Strike were massive and impressive. On October 19, in Athens more than a half million of workers and popular masses demonstrated. Tens of thousands demonstrated in all the cities and towns all over the country, even in places where never before a demonstration had taken place.

On October 20, a similar number of people was assembled in the Syntagma Square, in front of the Parliament where was voted the infamous new bill with new cuts in wages and pensions of workers, new taxes for the lower middle classes, and condemning hundreds of thousands of civil servants to unemployment.

It was very clear to everybody-including those in the Parliament and in power- that the angry masses are moving far beyond the limits imposed and guarded by the PASOK majority of the trade union bureaucracies of the GSEE and ADEDY. So, in a tacit, informal but obvious deal the KKE, the Stalinist party of Greece and its trade union faction, PAME, took in charge the protection of the bourgeois Parliament from the assembled masses in rebellion. The guard of PAME/KKE formed a chain around the |Parliament, armed with globs and flags with huge sticks to be used like globs, preventing anybody- not only the non controlled by the KKE unions  or other political organizations or citizens committees  but also simple non organized citizens, old or young- to approach the Parliament.

At some point a group of anarchist youth clashed with the PAME/KKE guards who after a failed counter-attack that was repelled by a body to body fight with the anarchists, they had to retreat under a flood of stones and cocktails Molotov. The riot police did not intervene until the clash was generalized and then they used massively tear gas, transforming the Syntagma Square into a big gas chamber.


A victim of this police brutality was a 53 years old militant of PAME who died by a heart tack provoked by police tear gas.

The Police, the bourgeois State, the PASOK government are the only responsible and guilty for this crime. But the death of this worker was again used both by the KKE and by the government to blame the anarchists but also all the other left organizations as “provocateurs”. The right wing press (for ex. P.Mandravelis, a right wing journalist of the daily paper Kathimerini and notorious propagandist of the troika), even some far right fascist deputies of LAOS have praised the KKE and its general secretary Aleka Papariga for their “responsibility” and “civil spirit”! This is not a first: during the December 2008 youth revolt, the right wing Karamanlis government and the leader of the far right LAOS Karatzaferis had praised the KKE and Papariga for their “responsible stand”, when they opposed the revolt and slandered the revolted youth as provocateurs. From the other side, the Maoist KOE, the centrist coalition ANTARSYA and its main components NAR (a group that split from the KKE in 1989) and SEK (sister organization of the British SWP) joined the campaign against the anarchists as “agents provocateurs”, flattering the Stalinists without any criticism for their disgusting political protection of bourgeois parliament and bourgeois legality.

The Trotskyist EEK, in its press release, attacked first of all the police and the |PASOK government for the State repression that led also to the death of the PAME militant, expressing our condolences to his family and comrades. We criticized the anarchists, stressing that political differences within the workers movement had to be resolved by political means of struggle and not by physical violence. But we criticized sharply as well the political role of the KKE acting as a Guard of Parliament and a political police to check the legitimate anger of the people against those who transform his or her life into a hell by the IMF/EU/ECB diktat.

If in 2010, there were still illusions about the possibilities for a rapid way out from the crisis and they were used by the trade union bureaucracy to defuse mass discontent through ineffective 24 hours protest General Strikes, 2011 was the year of the grand disillusion. The emergence of the movement of the “indignant citizens” in May 2011, despite its strong petty bourgeois limitations, gave a new impulse. Very soon, particularly during the General Strikes of June there was a convergence between the “indignants’” movement and the workers movement; the barbaric police brutality unleashed by the government in the General Strike of June 28-29 contributed a lot to that convergence. But most of all the dramatic deterioration of the social economic situation in Greece and internationally the last three months, the total impasse in the EU, the  international banking crisis, and the  acceleration of the slide into a world slump worst than that of the 1930s’,made all the conditions of social conflict uncontrollable. After the failure of the trade union bureaucracy to act as a brake to the mass movement, the bourgeoisie had to turn to that political bureaucratic force, namely Stalinism, which saved its rule in 1944-45 with the accords in Lebanon, Gazerta and Varkiza that disarmed the communist partisans and betrayed the Revolution born out of the anti-Nazi Resistance.

It is not accidental that one of the main slogans of the 2008 December Revolt was: No more Varkiza!

The historical conditions today have totally changed. Not only Stalinism had collapsed leading to the demise of the Soviet Union and the open turn to capitalist restoration, but also world capitalism has plunged into an abyss. The younger generations, with strong anti-bureaucratic tendencies, lead the fight against the system that condemns them for a life   in misery, without any future. There is still a lot of immaturity and a persistent lack of the necessary mass revolutionary organization of the workers vanguard on national and world levels. But we are confident that we can rapidly overcome these serious limitations.

The eruption of the masses in the streets of Athens and all over Greece is the picture of the future of all European countries. Let’s prepare ourselves politically, programmatically, organizationally for a life or death battle, for a permanent revolution to win a future of freedom for all the oppressed and of justice for all the exploited and destitute of the world: for a world communist society.

Savas Michael-Matsas

22 October 2011

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