General strike shuts down Greece; demonstrators attacked causing one death


A two-day general strike shut down Greece on Oct. 19 - 20, while violent attacks by police and self-described "anarchists" caused injuries, arrests and one death.

But the Greek Parliament approved the austerity measures that were the cause of the protests anyway. The measures will sharply cut public and private pay (up to 50 percent in some cases) and pensions, force the privatization of public enterprises, and trash collective bargaining agreements in the interests of "labor flexibility". They come on top of already painful austerity and privatization measures enacted previously.

The strike was timed to coincide with a vote in the Greek parliament on yet more austerity and union-busting measures aimed at appeasing demands from the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund who threatened not to release the latest $11 billion installment of a $150 billion bailout loan if the measures were not passed.

There have been many demonstrations in Greece during the past two years since the government's solvency crisis began, but this past week surpassed all in terms of militancy and scale. The PAME (All Workers Militant Front), which is affiliated with the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and played a major role in organizing the general strike, mobilized massively to surround the Parliament building on Syntagma Square in downtown Athens as the vote approached.

The strike and demonstrations had very wide support, from PAME and other unions and from the general public, and the numbers protesting in Syntagma Square were reported as up to 100,000 in this country of 11.3 million people. The strike shut down much of public and private economic life in Greece. Civil Service workers also carried out "occupations" of a number of government industries.

On Thursday, a group of hooded, black clad individuals, supposedly "anarchists", erupted into Syntagma Square and attacked the PAME demonstrators with firebombs and rocks, as well as carrying out acts of vandalism and looting. PAME members fought back, but later complained that the police stood by instead of dealing with the violent attackers.

The appearance of a "black block" of violent individuals at mass demonstrations is something that has been going on in European countries for several years; supporters of the main demonstrations speculated that these people are off-duty police or at any rate are deliberately acting as "agents-provocateurs" to disrupt and discredit the popular demonstrations.

In the attacks, up to 35 demonstrators and several police officers were injured. One unionist, Dimitris Kotsaridis, a 53-year-old member of the PAME affiliated construction workers' union, subsequently died after being tear-gassed by the police. 

Meanwhile, in Parliament, Prime Minister George Papandreou of the ruling Pan Hellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) pushed hard for approval of the austerity measures. A few PASOK members had talked about voting "no" but in the end, only one of them, former Minister of Labor Louka Katseli, voted against the labor law changes, and was promptly expelled from PASOK. Two votes were held: One on the general austerity plan on Oct. 20 and another on more detailed aspects on Oct. 21. Both barely squeaked through, garnering 153 votes in the 300-member chamber. Voting against were parliamentarians from the Greek Communist Party (KKE) as well as from the right.

At writing, there are indications that the bailout loan installment will be approved. However, many economists are predicting that Greece will eventually default anyway, because the austerity measures end up radically shrinking the economy instead of growing it, with the danger of bringing down banks in Europe (and beyond) that have investments in Greece.

Photo: Media workers protest in central Athens, Oct. 18. Greek railway workers and journalists joined ferry crews, garbage collectors, tax officials and lawyers in a strike blitz against yet more austerity measures. Petros Giannakouris/AP


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  • On "anarchists": Though I don't agree with their politics, I have met many honest and sincere anarchists over the years. Anarchism has a long tradition in many parts of the world, and especially in the countries of Southern Europe such as Spain and Italy. It also had support in the United States (e.g. the "Wobblies") at one time and still has a little on the fringes. The people who attacked the PAME demonstrators are NOT genuine anarchists, but some sort of agents-provocateurs, which is why I put the word in quotation marks.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 10/29/2011 9:46am (4 years ago)

  • Why put quotes around the word "anarchists"?

    Why deny that these black block participants are a real, are trouble, are ultimately reactionary, and indeed - whether they intend it or not - ultimately on the side of reaction for want of a badly needed dose of political economic THEORY?

    The violent hooligans planned their attack on the mass movement for 24 hours before hand. It wasn't spontaneous and it wasn't the cops.

    Face the facts and don't tacitly defend those who would disrupt a mass movement of the working class with their violence.

    Posted by They were anarchists, and no quotation marks are needed, 10/26/2011 7:41am (4 years ago)

  • "...hooded, black clad individuals, supposedly 'anarchists'" attacking antiausterity demonstrators (PAME) "with firebombs and rocks." Truely, it doesn't make sense, obviously sense anarchists would precisely be for the demonstrations based on the fact that the austerity measures are a product of capitalist rule, which anarchists oppose. Although there's the odd irony that the measures are being pushed by the governing Socialist Party. Nevertheless, demonstrators' speculations of this "black block" being police or "agent-provocateurs" to discredit the demonstrations makes sense.

    Posted by revolution123, 10/25/2011 3:30pm (4 years ago)

  • Lenin would have taken the podium in Greece and said:
    The state is an organ of class rule for the suppression of
    one class by another. The state machinery must be smashed and replaced by the workers state until the bourgeois resistance is broken. Then there will be no need for the state, it will whither away.

    Evidently we need a leader to express those views!

    Capitalism has outlived itself!! All it needs is to be pushed into the grave.

    Posted by Melvin, 10/24/2011 6:03pm (4 years ago)

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