‘Greek Revolution’ at the Crossroads

A riot cop looks seriously outnumbered on the front line

As I type this, Greek workers are taking part in the tenth one day general strike since the onset of the global financial crisis, and demonstrators are confronting vicious police in an attempt to block the politicians’ way to parliament. Though this turn to organised direct action is a positive step forward, the government believe they just have to ride out today, and tomorrow will be calm again, as those Greeks fortunate enough to have work return to it. However, the rise of the young ‘aganaktismeni’ – the Greek answer to Spain’s ‘indignados’ – shows that many working class Greeks are looking for an independent, autonomous way forward.

The unions’ general strikes have ran parallel to the relentless announcements of new austerity measures. Since the Greek economy has so far been the worst hit by the international finance crisis, its working class has been hardest hit by brutal cuts, and are in effect acting as test subjects for the financial aristocracy’s global bank robbery. Every cut ‘successfully’ brought in by the Greek economy is used as a stick with which to beat the workers of all other nations. Meanwhile, Greek workers are on average 30% worse off than they were in 2008, and many are staring into the economic abyss. For some, this is already nothing less than a fight for survival. Now, even with the Greek economy in freefall, Prime Minister Papandreou has announced yet another round of social destruction, and sacrificed more Greek lives to the pin-striped gods of money.

A young protester tries to reason with cops as Greeks strike yet again

With huge numbers of Greeks unable to spend on anything more than basic necessities, the economy contracted by an annualised rate of 5.5% in the first quarter of 2011. However, in the insane world of hyper-globalised capital, there can only be one solution – more cuts and privatisations. To that end, Papandreou has proposed €28.5 billion in cuts over the next few years last Friday, in a country with a population of only eleven million. On top of that, the Greek state hopes to sell off €50 billion worth of its public resources, including Hellenic Postbank, the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, Hellenic Telecom, the Athens and Thessaloniki water companies, Hellenic Petroleum, electricity utility PPC, and various airports, highways, and mining rights. For workers in such industries, the result will be even more massive unemployment, coupled with pay and conditions cuts for those left behind.

Inspired by the Spanish indignados and pushed forward by their own dire material prospects, sections of Greek youth – employed and unemployed – have initiated their own, horizontally-based movement over the last few weeks. By and large, the relatively high numbers of young anarchists in Greece seem to be mixing with these new aganaktismeni, and steering them towards a more revolutionary perspective.

But what should this revolutionary perspective be, and how can a Greek revolution be organised? Working class independence from the trade union bureaucracy has to be the starting point, and it is encouraging to see that trade union officials were barracked by large sections of the crowd at a 5th June rally, who claimed they had no right to take part. Ultimately though, Greek workers must organise to collectivise industry, and replace the capitalist state with working class-controlled organisations of struggle. In other words, the only solution for Greek workers – just like for oppressed people throughout the world – is communist revolution.