On 6 May 2016, the union rank and file in Greece forced the trade union leaderships to call and extend a general strike for three days. It was the fourth general strike to take place under Tsipras Syriza government.
Greece’s largest labour union, the private sector GSEE, the powerful PNO seafarers union, and the Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (ADEDY) called the strike. Togther they represent over 2.5 million workers. Strikes were also organised by PAME, the coordinator of unions led by the Greek Communist Party (KKE).
The strike was against the Syriza government plans to implement more austerity demands of the EU, ECB (European Central Bank) and IMF (troika). Which demanded more austerity in order to obtain €5bn (£4bn) of overdue payments.
On 22 May cuts were voted through, meaning VAT increases, increased taxes for farmers and on homes, and the creation of a new super-fund for the privatization of transport, ports and public property. And will create an automatic means to cut salaries, pensions, social benefits and other spending if the fiscal goals of the state budget and memorandum are not achieved.
The EU hailed this a break-through. In October 2016 they will demand Greece goes deeper in debt.
Syriza made many promises but turned their backs on the youth, the working class, the great majority of the people and socialism.
Those who believe ‘left’ Labour promises to fight the present European crises will offer a way out to socialism should study the evolution of Syriza who say they are defending people, while the police attack demonstrators with batons and tear gas.
The fight continues
Syriza’s EU austerity agreement passed in the Greek parliament on 22 May. On 23 May transport workers staged a sit-in protest at the offices of STASY against the privatisation measures. On 26 May port workers started a 48 hour strike to oppose the sell off of the two biggest public ports in the country. There were also strikes on the metro, tram, trolley buses and buses in Athens.
Alexis Tsipras argues that the reform of the pension system and other reforms are the only option but most of the Greek people reject this. His long list of unfulfilled promises include “the immediate recovery of the bonus”, however, he accepted the “zero deficit clause” imposed by the troika.
A history of betrayal
January 25 marked one year since the Syriza parliamentary victory. That election result was an expression of a great victory of the workers and the Greek people over the traditional parties ND and PASOK, executors of the destruction of the country over the previous six years.
Tsipras quickly forgot why millions voted for Syriza. He forgot the struggles carried out by workers facing each measure, each memorandum and the 35 general strikes in which he participated.
Syriza generated great hopes and expectations. People believed in the campaign promises of Tsipras to “regain national dignity” and “face austerity plans”. Many saw Syriza as “new” and “left” who would fight against Merkel and the Troika creditors.
The experience of the Greek people with the leftist government was rapid. Now it is known as the government of “nothing left.” Syriza prioritized “negotiation” with finance capital, and did not break with the euro and the Troika and accepted “debt rescheduling”.
Tsipras has betrayed the ongoing struggle of the Greek people of the past six years.
The IMF thinks that under present arrangements the debt to GDP ratio will rise from around 180% now to nearly 300% by 2060.
Tsipras said this year “… we can change Greece, we can change Europe. We can defeat those who until yesterday seemed invincible. We are taking the fight forward.” But he craves support from the Eurogroup and the European Commission.
Continue and unify the struggles
The general strikes and mobilisations are extremely important steps in the political struggle against the austerity plans that Syriza wants to apply. The mobilisations are a forceful response of workers to continuous betrayals.
The process of resistance is essential because it concentrates and advances the discussion on the necessity of bringing together combative labour unions, social and leftist organizations for a national plan of struggle to give continuity to the resistance. The only way out for the workers and the Greek people is to rely on their own strength through independent action and to place no confidence in the government of Syriza and all those who seek to limit the struggle.