“All was quiet until the GSEE union boss Mr Panagopoulos took the microphone to address the protest. Before managing to utter more than five words, the hated union boss was attacked by all kinds of protestors who first heckled him and threw bottles of water and yogurt on his face and then attacked him physically like a giant swarm. With bruises, cuts and his clothes torn, the PASOK lackey struggled his way towards police lines, as the people attacked again and again. Finally he managed to hide behind the Presidential Guard and up the steps of the Parliament where the hated austerity measures were being voted. The crowd below encouraged him to go where he belongs, to the lair of thieves, murderers and liars.”
This extract from a LibCom report gives an indication of the social struggle currently going on inside Greece, a situation described as a “state of war” by Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou. In a moment charged with symbolism, protesters attacked the leader of the main private sector union, as he addressed a rally against Papandreou’s European Union-dictated austerity plans. Later in the day, riot police sprayed tear gas directly into the face of eighty-seven year old Manolis Glezos. The celebrated veteran of resistance to the Nazi occupation of Greece needed emergency hospital treatment.
Over the past few weeks, a wave of general strikes, sectional strikes, occupations and riots has demonstrated that European governments will not have an easy time making working class people pay for their respective banking elites’ shortcomings. However, trade union leaders continue to work with governments, by seeking to channel dissent in safe directions such as nationalism. Before last week’s general strike, the president of the tax collectors union summed up the bureaucracy’s mood, as he declared that: “It is just a symbolic protest. We understand that the austerity measures are necessary.”
Following the Sussex University occupation against cuts two weeks ago, six “ringleaders” were suspended by Vice Chancellor Michael Farthing. As an official press release made clear, the suspensions were meant to intimidate opposition, being a “precautionary measure” against “disruptive” actions.
However, this measure provoked outrage amongst students, and hundreds of their number showed they were very far from being intimidated by occupying again on Tuesday evening.
A Commune article on the National Convention Against Fees and Cuts claims this is just the beginning, as:
“Many students are taking political action for the first time and have a lot to gain, both practically and in terms of their own perspectives on the situation, from coordinating with others. Meanwhile the threat of higher tuition fees looms just past the general election.”
The corporate news generally presented the latest Royal Mail/Communication Workers Union agreement as beneficial for all parties concerned. As CWU left critic Roy Mayall notes, the Daily Mail-owned thisismoney.co.uk led with the headline: ‘Royal Mail strikers get more for less work.’ If this were the case, and more posties were being taken on to pick up the difference, then it certainly would have been a happy ending. However, the following ‘devils’ emerge from a closer reading of the details:
- The CWU leadership has accepted the inevitability of closures and “significant” job losses.
- CWU bureaucrats share “the goal of managing headcount reduction without leaving unresolved surplus.” – i.e. sacking people and making the survivors work even harder.
- Under these terms, the automation of sorting will mean more time trudging the streets, with heavier loads.
- The 6.9% hourly pay increase over three years is below the current rate of inflation, and so amounts to a pay cut, even if inflation stays at current levels.
- There will be no more restrictions on ‘unaddressed’ – i.e. junk – mail coming through UK post boxes.