Greece was gripped by a 48-hour general strike as Socialist Worker went to press, in an escalation of the growing strike movement.
The Greek government’s plans to pass a fresh package of brutal cuts through parliament prompted a resurgence of strikes this autumn.
This week’s action is the third general strike and the first 48-hour general strike since August this year. It began on Tuesday of this week.
Greek workers are then set to join strikes on 14 November, alongside millions of workers across southern Europe (see below).
Workers in a number of unions are extending the 48-hour strike by walking out in the days before and after. This includes media, power, transport, local government and health.
With the Greek government in deep crisis and workers gaining confidence, calls for more strikes until the package is defeated have become widespread.
Antonis Stamatopoulos is the chair of the tube workers’ union. He spoke to Socialist Worker about the mood among workers.
“When I talk with my colleagues working on the tube, 99 percent of them say they want an indefinite strike,” he said. “That’s why all the rail transport unions decided to begin consecutive 48-hour strikes from Monday.”
Local government workers joined them. Nikos Adamopoulos is the chair of the local government union in Nea Ionia, north Athens. He explained that mass meetings in its 240 branches around the country decided how to continue.
They voted to be part of “a protracted fight with many forms—occupations, strikes and blockades—in order to overthrow the austerity measures and the government”.
Kostas Foininis, a local government worker in Vrilissia added, “On Monday this week we started occupations in the garage and the town hall. Our colleagues working at the nursery have started explaining to the parents what will happen.”
Kostas said that the occupations could help develop rank and file organisation among workers—and link them up with the fightback in communities. “I think it’s very important to have successful occupations,” he said.
Kostas added the aim is “to bring many workers into organising them, turning all town halls into centres of organising the action.”
Flora Papadede, secretary of the union of scientists working at an electricity company, summed up the sense of urgency. She told Socialist Worker, “Now it has become a matter of survival. This struggle must lead to victory. We took this decision as a union, that we have two objectives.
“First to pressure our federation to call consecutive 48 hour strikes, and call other unions for coordination. Second, we need to provide an example to other unions in any kind of workplace.
“We need a general strike that will not stop until we drive their austerity measures back, and this government falls.”
Millions of workers across Europe are set to strike together on Wednesday of next week in an unprecedented day of action against austerity. There are set to be general strikes in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy on the day.
“We are going out to the streets on 14N to say ‘go away!’ to governments all around Europe,” said Jesus Castillo, a lecturer at the University of Seville. “We face huge social cuts, wage cuts and longer hours. Those governments rule for the bankers, not for the people.”
Last week the Belgian FGTB union called national strikes of rail and steel workers, as well as general strikes in Liege and some other cities.
Rail and telecoms workers across France are set to join them. France’s major unions have called united demonstrations in dozens of cities. Demonstrations have also been called in Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
In Britain university workers and students, civil service workers, rank and file electricians and others are planning action on the day. There are also plans for a solidarity lobby of the European Commission in London, backed by the Unite union.
German chancellor Angela Merkel is set to visit Portugal on Monday of next week—two days before the general strike. Merkel is demanding that countries such as Portugal “demonstrate they are putting in the necessary effort”, even though they have already faced huge cuts.
The Portuguese state promises a major security operation. But the movement Fuck the Troika, which called big protests in September, has written an open letter to “unwelcome” the chancellor.
“Even if you choose a secret route and a private airport in order not to face demonstrations,” it warned, “protests will take place across the whole country. And they will be protests against you and all that you represent.”