Greece. November 9 general strike and its political impact – Vs

Demonstration in Athens on November 9

By Antonis Ntavanellos

On November 9, 2022, a general strike was announced by the public (ADEDY) and private sector trade union confederations at a critical moment for the working class and the people.

According to official figures, inflation was 12% in September. The Bank of Greece warns that in 2023 this rate will probably remain above 10%. These data are obviously important, but the actual cost of living for households is much higher: in 2022, the price of bread (and other flour products) in the last ten months increased by 19.3%, meat by 17.3%, dairy products by 24.2%, oil by 16.6%, natural gas by 68.4% (!), fuel oil by 20.8%, transport costs by 30%. %. A wave of price increases is rapidly reducing the purchasing power of wages. A trade union study showed that the reduction in effective purchasing power in families on the minimum wage (€750) is equal to 40% of monthly income. It should be noted that salaries in Greece have stagnated at the level of 2010, pensions have been reduced compared to 2010 (up to 40%!). a significant portion of the working class making no more than the minimum wage. [Voir sur la situation sociale en Grèce l’article publié sur ce site le 12 octobre 2022.]

These conditions put pressure on the top of the trade union bureaucracy at the helm of the two major confederations to call for a 24-hour general strike. Another factor driving this decision is the international example: in Great Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, etc. announcements about holidays. The latter are becoming very popular among employees who begin to see them as “models” for action.

The holiday was announced quite early, which gave a lot of time (more than a month) to work on its preparation. A massive preparatory mobilization by the trade union bureaucracy was not to be expected. After so many years of inertia, even if they wanted to in time, it is now not very plausible that they could mobilize significant sections of the working class. The strike call The leftist forces in the unions – mainly the Communist Party and radical left/anti-capitalist organizations – did their best (maximum) to prepare for the strike and mobilize the workers.

This conscious effort was combined with widespread anger and rage within the classroom, resulting in many scattered “small” struggles. For example, the fight against layoffs and an attempt to break the union at the Malamatina winery; Fighting against the privatization of Larco ferronickel mines; the struggle of ship and ferry workers against brutal working conditions; Leading fight of E-Food and Wolt suppliers [groupe finlandais]. Mobilization efforts also resonated positively with the ranks of public sector workers, the core of organized labor in Greece, where resistance was expressed mainly among hospital, school, public transport and municipal workers.

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The end result was a significant holiday success. It was the most important event since the defeat of the social movement after Alexis Tsipras’s government betrayed the results of the July 2015 referendum. [61,31 avaient voté non aux «propositions» des créanciers]. In addition to the strongholds of trade unions in the public sector, there were also strikes in the private sector.

The strikers’ demonstrations in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras and 75 other smaller cities were marked by large crowds and militant expressions of working-class anger. In Athens, the police registered 20,000 protesters, but the truth is that the demonstration was at least twice as many. Numbers are always important, but there are more qualitative and political elements. For the first time since the victory of the right in July 2019, the composition of the strike mobilization was not limited mainly to the middle of the organized/politicized activists of the left. It was evident that there were wider classes of workers who were raising their slogans and voicing their demands under the banners of the trade unions.

Following the tradition established in previous years, such events had different rallying points representing different “clusters”: one was the Communist Party and its organization PAME (trade union front); one of two major trade union confederations (ADEDY and GSEE); one around radical/anti-capitalist left forces. But this time, the scale of the rallies led to the fact that the various “blocs” actually merged into a single stream of strikers who filled the streets of central Athens for hours. Among this stream of strikers are students fighting against the constant presence of police on campuses, organized feminist movements fighting against ubiquitous sexism, small businessmen worried about their disappearance, and more. they could swim “like fish in water”.

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It is clear that the strike of November 9 may probably be the beginning of progress in the workers’ struggle in the coming period. So the crucial question is where do we go from here. For the leaders of the union bureaucracy, who called the strike mainly to relieve themselves of their responsibilities and to relieve pressure from below, the question is not so pressing. These leaders, mainly from GSEE and ADEDY, are happy with the success of November 9 and refuse to organize any debate about next steps. But the question is crucial for the left-wing trade unionists who mobilized on November 9 and now have to face the question of unity of action in the trade unions. [très marqués par les présences structurées de forces politiques]as a precondition to encourage the intensification of the struggle.

It will be no walk in the park. The government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis has protected the system with legislation that makes it more difficult to organize unions in the workplace and, in particular, to strike. Sudden changes in labor relations also complicate the prospect of spontaneous expression of working-class militancy. But the success of November 9 shows that we have reached the last point in this process.

The success of a general strike will inevitably have political repercussions.

First, it is a serious challenge to Mitsotakis’s central government claim that he is able to promote the most subversive neoliberal counter-reforms while keeping the labor movement paralyzed and inactive. The “message” that this situation can be reversed is encouraging to large sections of the population. But it is also a warning to those in power.

Because the awakening of the working class on November 9 happened at a very “delicate” moment for the Mitsotakis government. The country has been shaken by revelations about the extensive surveillance of many personalities (politicians, journalists, business leaders, etc.) by the National Intelligence Service (NIS, under the direct control of the Prime Minister’s Office). Selling spyware like Predator (a product of an Israeli company that established itself in Athens as an intermediary with Cyprus) [voir l’article publié sur ce site le 14 septembre]. When EYP was revealed to be using Predator spy software to track PASOK leader Nikos Androulakis, the Prime Minister was forced to sacrifice the Office Coordinator and EYP leader to get rid of him. Further revelations proved that among those monitored were former SYRIZA ministers and politicians, former prime minister and former leader of the New Democracy Party, Antonis Samaras, as well as current foreign minister Nikos Dendias. It was a big surprise when it was discovered that among the victims of the predator were oligarch Vagelis Marinakis (ship owner, media mogul and owner of the famous football club “Olympiakos”), as well as relatives of Vardinogianis. [présente dans le secteur pétrolier et gazier, les transports maritimes, etc.]it is the most powerful capitalist group in the country.

Vagelis Marinakis has previously shown his anger against the government by targeting Mitsotakis for allowing the creation of a “fascist network” within the government in flagrant violation of the Constitution. The coherence of the New Democratic Party and the survival of power will depend on the next episodes of the surveillance scandal.

But the synchronization of the crisis above (the explosion of contradictions and conflicts within the ruling class…) with the rise of militancy below (with the November 9 strike as a signal) constitutes a nightmare scenario for Mitsotakis. Gone are the carefree days of his unlimited rule – when he had to face a weak and modest opposition, mainly from SYRIZA. In the political sphere, we are experiencing the beginning of the end of an extremely reactionary and dangerous government. The key question is whether the labor and people’s movement will find a way to turn the government crisis into an opportunity to put forward workers’ needs and demands and fight to enforce them. The success of the general strike on November 9 allows us to look at this question more optimistically. (Article retrieved 15 November 2022; editorial translation against)

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