Antonis Draganigos, Grieks vakbondsmilitant bij de openbare diensten
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about the three year struggle of the Greek people against an historical attack on their rights from the “black front” as we call it in Greece, consisting of the troika – which is the IMF and the EU, the greek government and the forces of capital, “national” as well as international.
As you know, Greece was introduced to the “mechanism of the troika” in April of 2010. It was then that the Prime Minister, George Papanadreou, president of PASOK, the Greek Social Democrats, announced from a small distant island, Kastelorizo, the decision of introducing Greece into this murderous mechanism.
The reasons for that are now well known to the people of Europe. The same reasons, with the same words were used in every country where this abhorrent policy was applied by the same organizations of capital: the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB).
The content of that policy is also known. In Greece, up to now the average salary cuts in the public sector are more than 50%, and about 40% in the private sector. The unemployment has risen within 3 years from 9 to 26% and to 60% among the people below 25 five years old. The public services are about to collapse. The public schools and hospitals still exist, but only thanks to the self-sacrifice of the people working there. More than 3000 people have committed suicide because of economic problems!
A big number of laws and constitutional principles have been abolished in practice. The people and the country are submitted to the international lenders.
During the first phase of the political and ideological struggle, the government could count on the limitless support of capital and mass media. They were trying to persuade us that we, the people, are responsible for this policy. “The Greeks are lazy, thieves, unproductive. In any case, the debt must be paid, the deficit must be reduced. We cannot live forever with borrowed money. So the policy of troika is the only choice.” On the question where are the 340 billion of the Greek debt?, the answer was we spent it together. This phrase summarizes what they tell us all these years.
In this first critical phase, the most important thing was to reveal the unbelievable lies of their propaganda. And first of all, to explain the reason of the crisis and especially of the “debt crisis”, the deficit etc. To show that the reason is not that people in Greece and elsewhere “lived above their means”. To recall that the states all over the world paid billions to bail out the banks. That the capital owners pay less and less taxes. That billions and billions of black money from the bourgeois class were transferred to the banks of Switzerland and to tax heavens like Caiman islands and others…
That’s why the program we as unionists want to promote against the crisis is a program against the government’s and troika’s policy. It includes the objective of the cancellation of the debt, the nationalization of the banks without any compensation, and an increase of the salaries, of the taxation of capital instead of taxing poor people.
The most significant episode of this first period was the historical demonstration of the 5th May 2010, during which hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against the troika and thousands of them tried to get in the parliament. The demonstration stopped when three people working in a bank were burned by a molotof; it is still unknown whether it was thrown by an anarchist, or it was a tremendous provocation by the police.
Then the movement passed in a new phase. New questions arose. People realized that big strikes and demonstations are not sufficient to knock down this regime. As a result, from the beginning of 2011, the movement entered into a new phase, where people realized that the struggle would be one on the long term.
There were new strikes and demonstrations. From May 2011 on, there was the so called “movement of the squares”. Inspired by Tahrir square in Egypt, almost every day thousands of people gathered in Syntagma square, the main square of Athens in front of the parliament. On Sundays people were hundreds of thousands! During this period – end of June 2011 – the government tried to vote, and finally voted the “memorandum II”. During these days the combination of the dynamics of the “square movement” and a big 48 hours general strike created a political crisis in Greece. For two days, Athens and the other cities were seized by demonstrations, there were conflicts with police and barricades. It was one of the most important days of the war.
After that, and taking into consideration that summer is a relative “dead period” in Greece, the government believed that people would relax. But the opposite was true, a new cycle of conflicts began in September. Almost all the ministries were occupied by us, public servants and contract workers, for more than three weeks, reacting to the more than 25% salary’s cuts. Can you imagine a situation in which the mighty members of the troika couldn’t find a place in Athens to meet with the government?
There was a new 48 hour general strike on 19-20 October 2011. But the apogee of this period was on 28th of October, the Greek national anniversary celebrating the victory against the Italian fascism during the Second World War. On that day, hundreds of thousands of people broke the barriers and especially in Thessaloniki, the second Greek city, got in the street, stopped the military parade and instead of the officials and the other representatives of the government which were chased by the people, it was the people with their banners that paraded in the streets of Thessaloniki and elsewhere. There are still many people awaiting trials for the events of that day.
As a result of all these historical events, the government collapsed in December 2011. A new three-party government was created, with the banker Papadimos as prime minister (the “Greek Monti”). Its sole objective was to vote Memorandum III, a new agreement with cuts of pensions and salaries, thousands of layoffs in the public sector, abolition of the General Collective Contract between the employees and the employers etc.
This “memorandum III” was voted on 12th of February 2012. That was the occasion for one of the biggest battles of the «Greek war». For two days, millions of people were striking, demonstrating and defending themselves against the attacks of the police. Finally, the memorandum III was voted, but more than 30 MPs were ousted from their party. A few months later, the government resigned and new elections were announced.
The result of the double election (May and June 2012) is well known. What is interesting is to analyze some of its political aspects.
In the period before the Greek elections, troika, government and bourgeois class menaced Greek people with the dilemma: “if you wish to stay within the euro zone and the EU, if you wish to have political stability and not lose your savings in the banks, the only way is the full implementation of the memorandum. Otherwise you will not have the financial means to import medicine or oil. Unemployment will rise, Greece will collapse.” This did to to terrify the Greek people and to gather enough seats for the pro-troika parties, in order to form a government.
But, people in South Europe reject more and more massively the euro and the EU, because these are identified with poverty, unemployment, cold, migration and death! If that is the ticket to remain in the eurozone, people don’t want to pay that ticket any more.
So, a new phase of development of the greek movement depends on giving to the people convincing answers on exactly these questions.
We believe that the only way for people to have a life with dignity is to leave the eurozone and the EU, to oppose markets and capitalism. Now we see that the crisis is global, and not a special “greek drama”. The eurozone architecture keeps the south of Europe in a deadly embrace. Forgotten meanings as liberty, justice, socialism, revolution come again on the lips of the people. But in parallel, we have to know that nazists strengthen their power.
A big conflict maturates in Greek society. The troika’s program has totally failed. More than one third of the people doesn’t have the means to pay for petrol or heating, let alone to pay the increasing taxes- that’s why the incomes of the «national budget» collapsed in January and Februar. Now the government says that anyone who owes more than 5000 euro to the tax office will be arrested, that means 80% of the people including myself! About 15% of young people, especially among the scientists, doctors, engineers etc are leaving Greece.
The «black front» prepares a new fourth memorandum. Portugal and Spain are confronting the same perspective.
The south of Europe is on the way of an unprecedented explosion! We are working to speed it up, and more importantly to give it a direction, to build an alternative solution, an alternative way against the troika and capital, out of the euro and the EU, against markets and exploitation, with the wealth and the power into the heads of people!
Being against this EU is not being anti-European or nationalist. On the contrary, we have to liberate ourselves from the control of the anti-democratic EU institutions such as the Commission or the ECB in order to be able to construct a new European cooperation based on the rights and the power of the people and the workers.
The Greek people has a long history of battles. We will win this battle too.
We need the help of the Belgian people and workers. And the best help for us is you to defend your rights here, to reinverse the austerity measures imposed here, to throw into the garbage bin the recommendations of the EU.