GREEK communists took over the Acropolis in Athens in another week of strikes and violent clashes between the police and workers. They are enraged at the massive attack on pay and conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union in return for a €110 billion bail-out loan.
The EU is providing €80 billion in funding — of which around €22 billion will be met by Germany — while the rest will come from the IMF.
Workers and immigrants are on the streets of every town in Greece demanding an end to the reactionary offensive led by the social-democratic government and supported by the conservative New Democracy opposition and the fascist LAOS (Popular Orthodox) party.
Workers, led by members of the communist-led union federation, beat drums and chanted “don’t mess with us” as they marched through Athens on Wednesday during a mid-week general strike that brought Greece to a standstill. Offices, factories, universities, schools and docks were closed while transport workers shut down ports, rail and air-transport across the country. In the capital small traders kept their shops open during the strike but closed them during the demonstrations in solidarity with the protesters.
This week’s general strike is the third this year against the wave of austerity measures announced by Prime Minister George Papandreou to deal with the economic crisis. The measures include wage cuts for public workers, a three-year freeze on pensions and a second increase in sales taxes and prices of fuel, alcohol and tobacco.
Marching on the parliament, building workers chanted: “We paid for their profits, we’re paying for the crisis, the solution is in the street” waving posters saying “Our rights are under the hammer” and “Not one euro for the capitalists”.
Riot police beat back angry demonstrators in the heart of the capital and teachers stormed the state television centre, disrupting a news programme and forcing them to broadcast a statement of their demands before leaving.
Outside parliament, another group of protesters rushed up a flight of steps, taunting MPs to come out and calling them “thieves”. Riot police forced them back with water-cannons, tear gas and stun grenades and three people were killed during a fire-bomb attack on a bank.
“We want an end to the freefall of our living standards,” Spyros Papaspyros, the head of the Public Workers’ Union, declared at a rally outside parliament, reflecting the outrage at the social-democratic government’s plan to make a further €30 billions-worth of cuts at the expense of the workers and pensioners rather than the rich.
On the eve of the strike Greek communist (KKE) militants clambered up to the Acropolis to drape the Parthenon with red flags and two enormous communist banners. “This is a message to the people of Europe,” Panagiotis Papageorgopoulos, a KKE official, said. “People have the same problems everywhere. We can take control of our fate with organised protests, so that our lives are not run by the EU and the IMF.”
Wages will be frozen for three years under the new austerity plan. VAT goes up from 21 to 23 per cent. Free collective bargaining agreements have been abolished. Benefits and redundancy payments are going to be drastically cut and mass dismissals in the public sector and local government will push unemployment to new record highs.
As Greek communist leader Aleka Papariga put it: “No matter how many billions they lend to the Greek state this does not mean anything for the people.
“After all capital will continue exploiting the working people even harder and the decayed political system will continue treading down and intimidating them, it will continue to need workers without dignity”.