Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In contradiction to what was previously reported on this blog via the LibCom site the threatened general strike in Greece is set for tomorrow rather than yesterday, though there is great disagreement about both the timing and the desirability of the strike amongst Greek unionists. What is happening at present is that the communist led PAME has called their strike for tomorrow even though other unions have already gone on strike and still others have expressed their disagreement with the whole idea. If the socialist government has to negotiate a 'tightrope' in terms of satisfying both international finance and the Greek people the communists also have to walk the same tightrope between their own desires for an accommodation with the socialists 9and preservation of their present institutional power) and their critics on the left. Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal about tomorrow's strike.
Greece Braces For 24-Hour Strike By Communists, Other Unions:
ATHENS (Dow Jones)--Greece is bracing for a 24-hour strike Thursday by the Communist-backed PAME union even as the newly-elected Socialist government struggles to tackle the country's ballooning budget deficit.

The strike is expected to include local government workers, hospital doctors and port workers, while journalists and teachers are also staging separate strikes Thursday.

"Together we will answer with one voice and with one fist, the industrialists and the government that we have the strength to defend our rights and we will not pay for the consequences of the capitalist crisis," PAME said in a statement.

The union, among the most militant in Greece's labor movement, has called for a rally in central Athens at 0900 GMT.

However, Greece's two major umbrella unions, private sector GSEE and its public sector counterpart, ADEDY, have not joined the strike and have been critical of the PAME stance.

Political analysts say the two umbrella unions have so far taken a wait-and-see approach to the government's austerity measures, aimed at bringing Greece's budget deficit down from a forecast 12.7% of gross domestic product this year, to 9.1% in 2010.

"The two big unions have an understanding about the state of the economy and government finances and they are waiting to see specific measures before they react," said Theodoros Livanios, a political commentator at Opinion Market Research, a polling company.

"PAME is the most active part of the labor movement, but its just a small portion of it," he added. "Tomorrow's strike shouldn't be blown out of proportion."

The protest is another blow to the Socialist government which was elected in a landslide victory Oct. 4, but has been seen a sharp loss in confidence from financial markets, credit rating agencies and fellow eurozone member governments after revealing the extent of Greece's fiscal problems last month.

Since mid-October, the Athens stock exchange has lost about one quarter of its value with the general index trading around 2200 points. In that same time, the interest rate spread between Greece's benchmark 10-year government bond and its German counterpart--a measure of credit risk--has also widened by more than a percentage points and now trades around 230 basis points.
Union Web site:
Some aren't willing to wait for the orders of their Communist party bosses. As the following from the Earth Times says the teachers have already launched their own general strike.
Strikes in Greece after austerity programme is announced:
Athens - Teachers in Greece embarked on a 24-hour strike Wednesday following the government's announcement of a harsh austerity programme aimed at pulling the country out of economic crisis. Journalists also plan to strike on Thursday. State radio said there would be no newscasts from Thursday to Friday morning. Ferry services were also set to stop Thursday, which would leave many islands without airports cut off from the mainland.

The strike action is directed mainly at the government's economic policy that includes plans to reform the state-run pension system.

Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou has called on all Greeks to participate in rebuilding the economy in order to stop the highly-indebted country from going bankrupt.

With national debt of more than 300 billion euros (440 billion dollars), Greece risks practically losing its sovereignty. The government has promised to fight corruption, nepotism and tax evasion.

Papandreou wants to develop the use of environmental technology, press ahead with the privatization of state-run businesses and reduce the number of state employees by hiring only one civil servant for every five who retire.
While some workers are gung-ho to jump the gun before the official Communist-led symbolic strike others are holding back until well into the New Year, as reported before on this blog and also in the first article above. In the meantime, despite all its posturing, the Greek government has indeed backed down and accepted EU loans, with all the conditions that that implies. Here's the report from a few hours ago from the Southeastern European Times. So much for bravado.
Greece accepts 2 billion-euro emergency loan:
ATHENS, Greece -- The government has decided to take an emergency 2 billion-euro loan from private banks in an attempt to deal with its huge budget deficit and growing debts, local media reported on Wednesday (December 16th). The loan will have an annual interest rate of 2.5% -- significantly lower than the average interest rate of 3.3% -- will be paid off in five years. The government is expected to receive the money on January 4th.

Meanwhile, the government and opposition met to discuss the economic crisis following Prime Minister George Papandreou's announcement of stiff spending cuts. He asked all parties to support the measures to pull the country out of the crisis. Papandreou says party leaders reached an agreement on several key points despite ideological differences. One rallying point with which all party leaders agreed is to tackle significant levels of corruption. (Vima, Bloomberg, A1 - 16/12/09
What will happen in Greece in the near future is still quite uncertain. The reportage of the international anarchist movement has, of course, moved on to the "riot of the week" ie Denmark, leaving the sad lack of any alternative besides "rebellion" to be "hopefully" forgotten. I guess that in Greece it may be said that at 21 you are an anarchist and at 25 a communist. This is infinitely sad because the main thrust of anarchism throughout its history has been not to pointless rebellion but rather to a new society based on self-management of workplaces and communities. Hopefully some will eventually learn by the failures.


TransconaSlim said...

There is an anarcho-syndicalist union in Greece, by the name of ESE, but I don't know about there views of a general strike, as they don't really have a website.

mollymew said...

Yeah, I checked it out, and the old website that I had listed here is no longer functional. The E$E was and is quite small and has minimal influence.