Workers in Greece held a general strike on Thursday of last week, in protest at government plans to push through even harsher austerity measures. It was the second general strike in the space of two weeks.
Huge rallies took place across the country. Panos Garganas, editor of Greek paper Workers’ Solidarity, told Socialist Worker, “In Athens, it was as though it was a Sunday—everything was closed. Even small shops were closed as the union of small shopkeepers joined the action.
“The demonstration here was massive, far bigger than the 50,000 that the media said. There was a real sense of ‘There’s no going back’. More and more workers are calling for escalation of the strikes across all sectors.”
Tragically, a 65 year old sailor who was on the march had a heart attack and died. He had been unemployed for more than six years.
Panos said, “He had a hard life at sea, and was still waiting for his pension at that age—yet he was on the demonstration. He was a courageous man fighting for his class.”
Police in Athens tried to provoke demonstrators by trying to split the march. They did not succeed. Panos added, “The picture outside the capital is significant—the strike rallies everywhere are being reported as the biggest ever seen.
“Even the mainstream TV channels in Crete are saying this was the biggest rally ever. Workers went on to occupy a building in its main town, Heraklion.”
Media workers struck a day earlier than everyone else so they would be back at work to cover the strike. Many had wanted to strike alongside everyone else.
The next day of action in Greece will take place on 28 October. It will be a national celebration of the defeat of a fascist invasion by Mussolini’s troops in 1940. Workers plan demonstrations during the national parade—against fascism and austerity.
Meanwhile Greece’s police minister is suing Britain’s Guardian newspaper over its story about the police torture of anti-fascists.
“This is ludicrous,” said Panos. “They don’t stand a chance of disproving what the police are doing. There are hundreds of activists who are willing to testify.”
The government has not yet announced when it will bring its fresh cuts package to parliament for the vote. Unions say they will hold a general strike on the day of the vote. Workers in Greece will also join a general strike of workers in Portugal and Spain set to take place on 14 November.
Millions of workers across southern Europe are set to strike on 14 November in an unprecedented general strike across at least five countries.
The action was first called by unions in Portugal, where the government plans cuts equal to a month out of every workers’ annual wage. Then the Spanish unions, came in behind the call.
At a European Trade Union Congress (ETUC) meeting last week they called for their counterparts in other European countries to join them.
Unions in Greece, Malta and Cyprus quickly picked up the call. Italy’s CGIL union federation, following a march of tens of thousands in Rome last Saturday, has vowed to join the action.
ETUC has called on unions in other countries to join in with strikes or protests on the day. European finance ministers are set to meet later in November to plot their next moves in imposing austerity across the continent.