Greece exploded again in strikes and protests at government cutbacks, as European leaders and the IMF were forced to fast-track emergency loans to the Greek government, increased in size to €110 billion.
The fourth general strike this year gripped the country on May 5. Public sector workers struck for two days that week, with teachers forcing their way into the studio of the country’s government-run TV channel to get a statement read out live on air.
“More than 300,000 people protested in Athens and there were other huge demonstrations in towns and cities across the country. These were the biggest protests we have seen since the crisis began.” Panos Garganas, editor of Greek socialist newspaper Workers Solidarity said.
“Protesters booed the president of the Greek union federation. It was not the left-wing elements who did this but ordinary workers who usually support PASOK [Greece’s Labor government]. These are people who voted for a socialist government, but are getting a right-wing one. They are also the people who shouted ‘Thieves, thieves, get out’ at parliament and tried to enter the building.”
The widely reported violence that ensued was caused when police then attacked demonstrators, he explained.
“This is when the police attacked the protest with tear gas, and chaos broke out. Some buildings were set on fire, one of them the Marfin bank where three workers were killed.”
“There were no safety or fire regulations and management locked them in to make sure they could not leave [to join the strike].”
The government is pushing through deep spending cuts as a condition of the EU and IMF bailout.
Public sector workers face a three-year wage freeze and the loss of Christmas and Easter bonuses. The Greek GST will be increased to 23 per cent. These cuts come on top of a decline in living standards already this year, which has seen average incomes plummet 20 per cent.
The Greek working class is expected to bear the cost of repaying the country’s debts. But the rich are chronic tax avoiders—corporations are estimated to have avoided almost €14 billion in tax last year. World leaders are terrified that the Greek government will bend to the massive protests and back away from the savage budget cuts. But they refuse to contemplate that the rich or any of the banks that irresponsibly lent Greece money should have to pay.
It will take a further escalation of struggle to stop the cuts, Panos explained: “The teachers and local government workers are discussing escalating their strikes. There are big arguments among the left. The Communist Party and the Syriza coalition oppose the calls for all-out strikes, making it hard to win in the unions. But the anger is such that they are beginning to lose the argument.
“Some on the left think that the unions should push for a purely political answer with a general election or a referendum on the cuts. We are saying that we need a strike wave to stop the measures and win political change.”
The anger and determination of Greek workers as they fight to protect their living standards are an example to workers across Europe and elsewhere as their own governments demand cuts to pay off their debts.

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