The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 12th December, 2008

Stella Moutafis 1956-2008

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by our European Affairs Correspondent

MILLIONS of Greeks downed tools on Wednesday in a general strike while violent protests continue, following the murder of a teenager by the police last weekend.

Banks, public transport, schools and airports were shut down in the nationwide strike called by the two major Greek trade union federations while huge crowds marched through Athens, demanding the government’s resignation. Stathis Anestis, spokesman for the General Confederation of Workers said: “Participation in the strike is total, the country has come to a standstill”.

The unions are demanding higher wages, pensions and increased social spending to defend workers’ living standards in a country badly hit by the global slump and where a fifth of the population live below the poverty line.

The reactionary Greek government called on the unions to call off the long-planned strike which they said would only inflame the crisis. But this was rejected and the national protest was swelled by support from enraged students and anarchist elements who have fought pitched battles with the police on the streets for the past four days.

Thousands of police reinforcements have poured into Athens to quell students and youths who have defied the tear-gas and batons with petrol bombs and stones in Athens and ten other cities in Greece. Banks, offices, shops and cars have been torched as well as offices of the ruling New Democracy party.

 The riots that have caused over two hundred million euros-worth of damage in Athens alone were triggered by the murder of 15 year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was shot dead by the police in Athens last Saturday. The police claim it was a ricochet from a warning shot fired after the youth hurled stones at them but eyewitnesses say the police were in no danger when they opened fire. One policeman has been charged with murder and the other with complicity.

The New Democracy government, which has a majority of just one in parliament, has expressed “profound regret” at the killing and has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

But the communists  (KKE) and the social-democratic Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party (Pasok) are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, and fresh elections. “He and his government are responsible for the widespread crisis that the country, that Greek society is experiencing,” Pasok spokesman George Papakonstantinou declared.

a way out

Speaking to the media on Wednesday communist leader Aleka Papariga said there was a way out for the people.

 “We call upon the working people, particularly those who in recent years have – for different reasons – withdrawn from an active interest in politics, or those who are still hesitating, to organise themselves into the trade unions and the associations,  both in workplaces and at the neighbourhoods. It is absolutely necessary for our country to be staffed with struggling workers because a major storm is ahead of us, because of the economic crisis,” she declared.

The KKE secretary general stressed the need for “a mass movement capable of protecting itself” but she warned about the sinister co-operation between the hidden hand of the state and anarchist groups in the protests.

Some eye-witness reports in the Greek media say that “anarchists” were seen wrecking shops and then running behind the police lines for cover. Others claim policemen actually took part in some of the vandalism.

Aleka Papariga said the communists do not “identify the justified rage and indignation over the death of the young pupil with the hard-core of hooded individuals”, noting that the nucleus of the hooded groups had emerged from within the state authority and they were being used to slander and break up the popular movement.

During a KKE-organised protest rally Monday night, there has been a planned provocation between the hooded individuals and the police, she said, but they did not succeed. On the same day a similar group had tried to attack the KKE offices in Thessaloniki but it had been thwarted by communists guarding the building.



End games in Asia

AS US President-elect Barack Obama shuffles his pack to form the new government that will take up office in January, America’s ruling circles are reviewing their imperial ambitions in the midst of a capitalist crisis not seen since 1929.

Iraq is high on the list but the favoured exit strategy was already charted in the last days of the Bush administration. American imperialism hopes to withdraw most of its troops over the next three years with the current puppet government in place, which they hope will continue to look to Washington rather than Tehran for continued support and favour.

There’s a lot of wishful thinking in this. The armed resistance, led by the underground Baath, is not prepared to deal with the puppet regime and its support is drawn largely from the Sunni Muslim nationalist community that is not prepared to sit down with the sectarian Shia parties of the puppet regime, who are responsible for much of the communal violence of recent years. The puppet government will increasing turn to Iran, the traditional protector of the Shia community, to ensure its survival and the Americans cannot rely on the Islamic Republic unless the nuclear dispute is resolved.

Obama is now dangling the carrot and the stick in front of Tehran promising economic rewards if Iran plays ball and freezes its nuclear energy programme and warning of stiffer sanctions to come if they continue to pursue their nuclear ambitions.

But Afghanistan is top of the agenda. Taliban fighters now control large swathes in the south of the country and they strike with impunity in the heart of the capital, Kabul. In Pakistan Islamic fundamentalists allied to the Taliban control most of the border provinces, hitting Nato supply routes into Afghanistan in raids like the devastating attacks that destroyed over 150 trucks at a container depot in Peshawar earlier this week.

Nato has some 65,000 troops in Afghanistan propping up the Karzai regime in Kabul and fighting a losing battle with the Taliban militias in the south. Some American pundits are calling for more reinforcements to launch a “surge” offensive to crush the Taliban. Others believe the warlords could be bought off with Yankee dollars. But  dollars are in short supply these days while other imperialist gurus believe it would now take over 600,000 troops to “pacify” Afghanistan.

We were first told that Nato was in Afghanistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden. Then it was to curb the drug trade and now it’s to build Afghan “democracy”. It’s all lies.

During the Blair leadership, the Labour government aligned itself with the most reactionary and venal sections of the British ruling class who believed that British imperialism was best served in building a “new world order” in close alliance with the United States.

In this fantasy Afghanistan was to have been a strategic base to dominate the former Soviet republics of central Asia, Iran and the Indian sub-continent. But the dream of US world domination that included “Iraq – the model” and the “Greater Middle East” has died in the streets of Baghdad and the Tora Bora Hills.

With the US economy in tatters the pro-European elements of the British ruling class are in the ascendancy. They want  partnership with Franco-German imperialism within the European Union while preserving their so-called “special relationship” with the United States.

But foreign policy is not the exclusive preserve of senior Labour politicians and the secret committees of the ruling class. Working people, the people who put Labour into office; the people Brown is calling on to make further sacrifices to bail out the British economy, must make their voice heard.

And for a start we must repeat our demand for the immediate, unilateral and unconditional withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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