Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The Current Situation in Greece: a sketch

by George Lambrinidis

The state of affairs in Greece is hot, no doubt about that. This is not new, nor is it directly correlated to the current financial crisis; rather, we have a scaling of the tension that is definitely related to the fact that the Greek oriented capital manages to achieve very high rates of profitability, while there is a very strong political movement. The key factors in this contradiction are the low level of organization of the workers and the historical roots of the Communist Party in society. This post is the first of a series that will highlight some key features of the current situation in Greece, starting with the presentation of the main frontiers.

At the time of writing the farmers were in the 9th day of their blockage of the highways, borders and other major roads with their tractors, practically paralyzing the road network. Some of their claims are against the Common Agricultural Policy and the policies that shrink the income of smaller producers to the benefit of big companies. This has been an open frontier for years, and has its own issues.

In the cities, now, there are two frontiers. The first one concerns education. The students are preparing their next move, after the demonstrations of December and those supporting the Palestinians. The main issues concern the founding of private universities (until now constitutionally forbidden), the abolishment of asylum (so police can enter the universities), the equalization of diplomas from universities with those from private colleges, the breakdown of the undergraduate into two cycles (until now 4 years minimum), the imposition of fees, the salaries and the working conditions of the professors, the facilities; practically everything.

The events of December following the execution of a 15-year old by a policeman also deserve some comment. First, they occurred against a background of already heightened tension due to very low wages and incomes, strict fiscal policy, inflation, persistent unemployment at the official rate of 9% (the real figure is at least 14%), state terrorism and government corruption and, most importantly, no perspective for improvement; on the contrary, the country was on the brink of crisis. So the murder of the child was the last straw.

Second, several other factors were less reported. Another pupil was shot on the 10th, outside his school, while discussing with other pupils their participation in next day’s demo. The bullet stuck in his arm and that prevented him from dying. On the 22nd, the secretary of the union of the cleaners, a 44-year old woman from Bulgaria was murderously attacked with acid in response to her fighting stance the previous period. The murderers even forced her to drink the acid! During the time that the cities were on fire, the police forces were beating and arresting 10- to 15-year old pupils in the morning, while successfully playing an old game with rioters at night.

Finally, big strikes were held, workers demonstrated in the streets with their children and teachers with their pupils, but the media of the bourgeoisie ignored them, presenting only repeated scenes of destruction, appalling people and discouraging them from participating in the demonstrations.

Which brings us to the third frontier: that of the workers. Despite the fact that the workers are struggling, there are serious limits to their fight. In the next post we will discuss the working movement and the political situation.

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