On April 3-6 the Caravan of Struggle and Solidarity took place in Greece. The Caravan was co-organized by the occupied and self-managed factory of VioMe, the occupied and self-managed national radio and television of north Greece (ERT3), the union of Chalkida Cements, the fired cleaners of the Ministry of Finance, the fired school-keepers and suspended teachers.
Goal of this Caravan was for VioMe to force a meeting with the Minister of Labour and demand an immediate solution for the struggle of the workers, as promised by Tsipras himself when he visited the occupied factory about two years ago. Other workers participated not only to support VioMe but to demand of the government solutions to their own unresolved problems.
For the first time, workers from both private and public sectors – usually pitted against each other – joined to fight for the right of work, against privatizations, and against the entire ‘austerity” imposed by the EU/ECB/IMF troika. Their struggle was against capitalist property relations and for re-organizing social labour on new bases – with workers’ control and workers’ management.
The Caravan started Friday evening in -where VioMe and ERT3 are located- Starting Friday evening with a demonstration through the centre of Thessaloniki, home of VioMe and ERT3, the Caravan stopped for a solidarity concert in front of the national television building. Through the weekend the Caravan crossed the country by train and bus, stopping in many towns – Larissa, Volos, Levadeia, Chalkis – for demonstrations and educational events with workers in local struggles and factory unions, like the factory workers’ union at Aluminium-Hellas ( ex-Pechiney).
The Caravan arrived in Athens Sunday evening – at the National Radio TV Channel ERT in Aghia Paraskevi. The previous government of the Right and PASOK, on the troika’s orders, had fired everyone and closed ERT. The Caravan got a warm reception from PROSPERT, the union of journalists and technicians. It then entered Syntagma Square in the capital’s center to hold a press conference. Each worker’s organization and union in the class action took the floor.
A demonstration was organized Monday morning heading for the Ministry of Labour. But while the Minister knew the Caravan was coming, and had just said on the radio that he would welcome it, he “suddenly” had “to do a special inspection of working conditions at Athens’ airport” miles away!
Workers’ representatives finally met with Ministry officials who assured them the government will have a solution for VioMe before the court decision on selling the grounds and buildings. The solution was not specified. The Caravan warned the officials and the government that it will not dissolve but expand, and return at the first sign the government isn’t keeping its promises.
Similarly, SYRIZA completely ignored the Caravan until its last day. Suddenly its radio station advertised events, but with no participation of party organisations, nor any criticism of the Minister or government for avoiding all real confrontation of the workers or their demands. It is worth noting that the government has now presented to parliament a proposed law for Radio-TV National Stations ERT that nearly repeats the legal framework introduced by the previous pro-troika government. The radio-Kokkino (“Red”) of Syriza even criticized ERT3 workers – a major element of the Cravan – for their demands for workers’ self-management.
Centrist ANTARSYA’s position wasn’t much better. It had no role in organizing the Caravan, just as it was absent from VioMe struggles. It sent only a few activists to distribute leaflets at demonstrations in Thessaloniki and Volos, while in Athens SEK (Socialist Workers Party, the Cliffite organization in ANTARSYA) joined with a small contingent to publicize their own Party activities – for next month.
Also completely absent were Stalinist KKE and Maoist organisations. Most of the anarchist movement ignored the Caravan and only a few anarcho-syndicalist organisations participated, mainly in local demonstrations.
The EEK played a crucial role in the Caravan’s organisation and victory. It had joined VioMe’s struggle from the occupation’s first day. When owners abandoned the factory, we demanded workers’ recuperation of it under workers’ control and self-management. EEK members joined in founding the Solidarity Initiative Committee.
We in EEK will continue our struggle to keep the Caravan as center for coordinating on-going building of a class struggle organization of the proletariat, independent of state and bureaucrats, aimed at making capital, not workers, pay for the capitalist crisis.
In these times of crisis and great expectations, debates by VioMe and ERT3 workers over workers’ control and workers’ management have opened a new chapter in the workers’ movement in Greece and internationally.
Marius van Voorthuizen
(Member of EEK and of the Open Solidarity Initiative to the Struggle of the Workers of VioMe and the Solidarity to ERT3)