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
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
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.