Mass Strike Movement Taking Hold in Greece

The lethal train crash of Feb. 28, that killed 57 persons, has served to ignite the pent-up rage against the political class among the Greek population (cf. SAS 10/23). The “crime of Tempi”, as the catastrophe is called after the town where the Athens-Thessaloniki passenger train was sent into a head-on collision with a freight train, turned the main streets and squares of cities throughout the country on March 8 into “rivers” of protesters. Tens of thousands of trade unionists, students, pensioners, social organizations and the general public staged demonstrations demanding justice from a government they are convinced bears full responsibility for the death of their fellow citizens.

The organizers of the Athens demonstration report 100,000 participants. In Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, there were 20,000, while tens of thousands in Patras, Larissa, and Chania on Crete, as well as on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu, etc. marched with banners denouncing the government. The mass action is being spearheaded by the Railway Workers Unions, who have been on strike since the crash, the ADEDY Public Sector Workers union federation and the GSEE union federation.

Anger is directed not only at the incompetence of the current government, but at the entire neo liberal economic policy, in particular the privatization of transportation, the health sector and other public services. Addressing the March 8 demonstration in Athens, Christos Grivas, president of the Prefectural Department of ADEDY, declared: “The accident in Tempi revealed the truth of the bureaucratic state that functions as an administrator of powerful financial interests”. Thanasis Oikonomou, a member of the Board of the Athens public transportation union, called the crime of Tempi “premeditated,” recalling “the understaffing and staff reductions, the implementation of the entire range of anti-labor laws.” Christina Skaloumbaka, president of the Greek Women’s Federation said they are determined not to be silent and to fight to “expose the culprits”: the business groups, such as the Italian corporate owner of the railway, and all the governments that support the policy. In other words, all the “drivers” of the policy to “liberalize transport”.

On March 12, another round of demonstrations was held throughout the country, called by the same organizations that intend to continue the mass action until the government resigns. Both public and private sector labor union federations voted to hold a national general strike on March 16. The call is supported by student organizations, labor centers, even the federation of pharmacies and other social formations. It was also reported that at the huge trade union demonstration in Paris on March 7, railway workers from the French union SUD Rail held banners showing their support for Greece.

The government of Prime Minister Mitsotakis and his New Democracy Party have been the cornerstone of the “war party” policies in the Eastern Mediterranean. With a general election due as early as May, there are fears both in Brussels and Washington that they could bring to power a coalition of parties opposing both NATO’s anti-Russia and China policies and the EU’s neo-liberal economic policies.

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