A Bangladeshi woman survivor is lifted out of the rubble by rescuers at the site of a building that collapsed on Wednesday 24 April in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In Greece, where unemployment has hit 27 percent, the fascist Golden Dawn party is helping to divert popular anger against capitalism into divisive xenophobic hatred of ‘foreigners stealing our jobs’.
When some 200 migrant agricultural labourers, mostly from Bangladesh, came to demand unpaid wages going back six months or more, at least 28 of them were shot and injured by gun-wielding thugs. Three of the foremen at the strawberry plantation in Nea Manolada where they worked are being blamed for the murderous assault.
This racist violence is the most recent in a string of similar attacks against Asian and African workers in Greece.
And as if to clarify what might drive Bangladeshis to leave their homes and expose themselves to such racist poison in the first place, the true face of imperialist superexploitation has been on shameful display in Bangladesh itself, with the death of over 1,000 textile workers, mostly women, when the Rana Plaza complex in which they worked collapsed.
Some 3,000 people were estimated to be working there at the time of collapse, despite the fact that only days earlier large cracks had been detected and reported. Workers in the building were told to continue coming in to work on pain of dismissal.
Back in November, similar disregard by factory owners for the lives of their workers had been shown in the Tazreen factory fire. On that occasion workers were told it was a false alarm and ordered back to work. When they tried to escape, they were blocked by a locked fire door. That fire claimed 112 lives.
The grim conclusion is that whether Bangladeshi workers stay at home or travel abroad, the end result is the same: superexploitation at best, and at worst an early grave. The immediate owners of the collapsed factory may be justly pilloried, as may the thugs in Greece who shot the strawberry-pickers, but in neither case will the real criminal be called to account – capitalism itself.
Whatever happens to the local factory bosses, we can be sure that the monopoly capitalists running Primark and Matalan will not be required to answer for the lives of those who died stitching their garments. At least, not yet.
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 21 October meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
As European leaders met for the Brussels summit on 18 October, the Greek working class staged its 20th general strike since the onset of the acute crisis.
Just how desperate that crisis has now become was summarised by Konstantinos Balomenos, a utility worker whose wage has been halved and whose two sons are without work: “Enough is enough. They’ve dug our graves, shoved us in and we are waiting for the priest to read the last words.”
The strike effectively shut Greece down for 24 hours. Ships were stuck in port, planes stranded on the tarmac, public transport paralysed, ministries and public offices closed down, traffic down to a trickle and big shops shuttered up. Many of the smaller shops, too, which had on earlier strikes stayed open, closed their doors, even down to the street kiosks.
In Athens, the communist-led popular-front union PAME mobilised 25,000 to march separately to Syntagma Square, then joining forces with other trade unionists. According to the Guardian, the two major Socialist Party-oriented federations, the GSEE and ADEDY, by their own estimation mustered only 3,000.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 March.
A condition of releasing sufficient bail-out funds from the EU for Greece to be able to avoid default has been that even more stringent austerity measures should be implemented. The measures have been duly passed by the Greek parliament, and so the Greek people have been rising up in rage as their living standards are being mercilessly and sharply forced downwards.
As the Greek people put up a spirited fight against austerity, and opinion polls suggest that they will use their votes in April’s parliamentary elections to vote against austerity and, subject to leftist parties being able to cooperate for the purpose, perhaps even return a government that will resist the demands of Greece’s creditors, the inclination among politicians from other EU countries is developing towards letting Greece default and leave the euro. This is seen by many as the cheaper option, although others are still more worried about how much their own banks will lose if this happens and consider it is worth while attempting to turn the screw even harder on the Greek people for at least a little while longer.
An article on this subject appears in the latest Lalkar.
Communists unfurl their banners from the Acropolis in Athens on Saturday 11 February 2012, day two of a general strike
Regarding the Expressions of Solidarity with the Greek People
Communist Party of Greece (KKE), 20 February 2012
Recently, demonstrations have been held in many countries across the world under the ‘umbrella’ of slogans of “solidarity with Greece” and “we are all Greeks”. Working-class and popular solidarity are powerful weapons in the struggle of the peoples. But the workers must deal with any attempt to mislead them.
Which Greece needs solidarity? The Greece of the capitalists, who seek to acquire new loans from the EU and the IMF in order to strengthen the profitability of their capital, to reinforce their position against the people, or the Greece of the working class and the other popular strata, who are suffering due to the consequences of the capitalist crisis, for which they bear no responsibility?
At many of these events this issue remained unclear. And this is the case because there is an effort by certain forces (mainly of social democracy, the opportunists of the party of the European left and the ‘greens’) to use vaguely the idea of ’solidarity with the Greek people’ to whitewash the support that they gave in the past to the Maastricht Treaty, to the other Euro treaties, to the EU of capital itself, which is reactionary and can in no way be ‘democratised’, as they are even now claiming.
In addition, there is an attempt to use the issue of Greece in the inter-imperialist rivalries, inside and outside the EU.
Yes, the workers in Greece want the solidarity of the workers in Europe and all over the world! But solidarity with their struggles, their strikes, their militant demands, the KKE, and the class-oriented trade-union movement, PAME which is in the front line of the struggle, not the ’solidarity’ that seeks the continuation of capitalist exploitation and the squeezing of the workers.
Regarding this issue, the Press Office of the CC of the KKE issued the following statement:
The KKE addresses a message to all the workers of Europe: It is not necessary for you to ‘become Greeks’ in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Greece.
We call on you to join us on the same road for the contemporary rights of the working class and the poor popular strata, in order to impede and overthrow our common enemy: the dictatorship of the monopolies, the EU, and the parties that serve them.
Their overthrow in every country or group of countries, the socialisation of the monopolies, disengagement from the EU and Nato, with working-class people’s power, will be the greatest contribution to the struggle of the peoples of Europe and the whole world.
The newest and most contemporary slogan, which is more timely than ever is: “Workers of all countries, Unite!”
. Down with the coup of the Bailout Agreement, down with the illegal Papadimos’ government
. Overthrow the whole rotten political system
. Democracy, Independence, Productive Reconstruction, Emancipation
Communist Organisation of Greece (ΚΟΕ) statement, 13 February 2012
The Communist Organisation of Greece salutes the hundreds of thousands of people who swamped Athens yesterday and protested throughout Greece, resolutely opposing the new bonds that the IMF-EU-ECB troika is imposing.
The Greek people proved their advanced readiness for combat, and showed increased endurance and courage facing the ruthless attacks of the ’special police’ forces. Despite state terrorism and the blackmail of the establishment, the fighting spirit of the people against the new occupation and tyranny is raging.
The new bailout agreement is being imposed entirely as in a coup, by an illegal government, and ‘approved’ by a parliament that has lost any legitimacy. The Papademos puppet government, the three bourgeois pro-agreement parties, and the politicians who voted for and supported the new disastrous bailout agreement are continuously violating their own constitution and the country’s sovereignty.
Their whole political system is hence entirely illegitimate. They have definitively divorced themselves from the people, and must leave immediately.
Since the appointed ‘prime minister’-banker Papademos and his entourage didn’t manage to terrorise the people with the threat of default (besides, the bailout agreement leads to default with mathematical certainty), they took sole refuge in ruthless police violence and terror. They suffocated Athens with chemicals, not hesitating to use their ‘weapons’ in the most ferocious way even against two emblematic figures like our national resistance hero Manolis Glezos and the internationally famous composer Mikis Theodorakis.
The illegal and completely illegitimate government, with the full support of most mainstream media, resorted to violence and invested in terror. The ‘journalist’-parrots of the system and the apologists of the troika talked systematically only about the damage done to buildings. They ‘forgot’ to mention the hundreds of thousands of people who, despite the barbarous police attacks and the chemicals, remained in Syntagma square and the rest of Athens’ centre for five hours.
For what happened yesterday, as well as for what’s coming, the illegal government must take full responsibility. In full contrast to the will of the people, and with repeated coups, it is delivering the country, the life and the future of its people to its patrons.
The political system that robbed and destroyed Greece, that leads it to default and is now delivering it as a colony to foreign commissioners and foreign ‘courts of justice’, is crumbling in front of our eyes.
They cannot even convince themselves any longer: 45 MPs from the bourgeois parties, under popular pressure, voted against the bailout agreement and were immediately expelled from their respective parties. For the first time since the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, fewer than 200 MPs voted ‘yes’ at a decision that had the support of both the two big bourgeois parties.
The intensified crisis of the political system is an opportunity for the promotion of a social and political front that will put a stop to this illegal regime and set the country in a different course, bringing into being what the people want and demand. A social and political front that will pave the way for the salvation of the people and the country: real democracy. Independence. Productive reconstruction.
Stop the payments NOW! Not one more euro to the loan sharks. We can break the chains; the fight continues! Forward to a radical political change led by the people!
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 3 December
The Greek authorities have launched a poll tax in an attempt to increase the government’s tax revenue. The tax makes no exceptions for the unemployed or the elderly and is almost triple the amount paid in property tax previously.
The new tax, levied on people who have already suffered massive cuts in pay and pensions, is based on square footage, the age of the building and the average value of a neighbourhood, and has nothing to do with the taxpayer’s income. To ensure effective collection, the state-owned power company will be required to cut off electricity to anybody who has not paid.
The Greek people are fighting back, however, with electricians being recruited to restore power to people who have been cut off, and workers occupying the power company’s billing centre to prevent bills from being issued.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 3 December
There is a real threat that the euro is going to collapse as a currency. This is because everybody is trying to get rid of their euro holdings. The reason this is happening is that it has become clear that Greece is not going to avoid defaulting on its debt, with the general consensus being that its lenders are going to have to take a 50 percent ‘haircut’.
At the same time, Portugal’s debt has been reduced to junk status by credit rating agencies, and borrowing costs for Italy and Spain have soared above the affordability mark, with even German bonds suffering increased borrowing costs. Now France is under threat as it is likely to need to bail out its banks as a result of their losses on their Greek debts, etc.
Attempts to put together a firewall that will enable European countries to continue to borrow at affordable rates of interest are floundering, and the Germans are resisting attempts to have the European Central Bank step in to perform this service, because they make the largest contribution to this bank and don’t want to throw good money after bad and then find themselves in financial trouble.
There is some suggestion that Germany would be willing to be more accommodating if the European countries would agree to greater fiscal integration, which of course implies a surrender of sovereignty to the EU which in turn is very much dominated by Germany and France. They of course can be expected to use that control for their national benefit at the expense of other EU countries.
In the meantime, the elected leaders of Greece and Italy have both been forced to resign, to be replaced by unelected ‘technocrats’ with close links to Goldman Sachs (which in turn was intimately involved with the repackaging of subprime debts as high quality by camouflaging them in complex ‘derivatives’). The new head of the ECB is also a former Goldman Sachs man.
The UK and the US are said to be making contingency plans for the chaos that will certainly ensue if the euro does in fact collapse. More detail in this month’s issue of Proletarian.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November
A parliamentary vote in favour of further austerity measures (154 votes to 141) on 19 October led to massive anger amongst over 100,000 workers demonstrating outside parliament.
The vote fulfilled an EU condition on Greece drawing down the next €8bn tranche of its bailout loan, but it will mean another €7.1bn of spending cuts plus tax increases, as well as deep cuts in public-sector wages and the loss of a further 30,000 public-sector jobs by the end of next month, to add to the 250,000 private-sector jobs already cut over the past two years.
Popular anger and frustration at people’s helplessness in the face of these monstrous cuts led to youths throwing hundreds of petrol bombs, burning a sentry box outside parliament and pelting the police with chunks of paving stones. The police hit back with tear gas, which eventually drove the demonstrators away, but they also took advantage of the situation to send thugs posing as ultra-revolutionaries to attack PAME and KKE militants physically.
These provocateurs assaulted the PAME/KKE contingent with Molotov cocktails, among other things, and tried to undermine the KKE’s leadership and set demonstrators against each other with virulent verbal attacks on both PAME and the KKE. In the course of these attacks, a prominent PAME militant, 53-year-old Dimitris Kotzaridis, was killed, overcome by police tear gas.
The Greek government has split against itself, with prime minister George Papandreou desperately trying to defuse the popular revolt. On 4 December he proposed putting the austerity measures to a referendum, apparently confident that the Greek public would endorse them, but the referendum was virulently opposed by Greece’s finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, and Papandreou’s confidence was clearly not shared by most others.
The idea of the referendum panicked stock markets everywhere, while international lenders indicated an intention to withhold further loans. Not only is Greece now considered likely to be forced into a disorderly default on its debts, but France and Germany have served notice on the Greek government that Greece should get out of the eurozone if it can’t manage its economic affairs as demanded.
There was speculation that Papandreou would resign as prime minister and that the Greek government would be handed over to a coalition headed by Lucas Papademos, former vice president of the European Central Bank and Bank of Greece Governor between 1994 and 2002. MIT educated, Mr Papademos taught economics at Columbia University from 1975 to 1984 and served as a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in 1980. In the end, Papandreou succumbed to pressure and withdrew the decision to hold a referendum. The pressure for him to resign, however, is still strong.
Via the KOE.
Athens, 29 January 2009
An Appeal for Solidarity
Dear Friends and Comrades,
We urge you to read the following information and to express your solidarity:
Konstantina Kouneva, today 44 years old, is a Bulgarian immigrant living and working in Greece in order to support her family. She worked for many years as a janitor-employee of the private firm “OIKOMET”, which rents its employees in public sector’s enterprises. This firm is owned by Mr. Ikonomakis, old cadre of the social-democratic opposition party PASOK, and its legal councillor is Mr. Tzanis, former vice-minister of Interior Affairs (when PASOK was in power). The last years, Konstantina was cleaning the installations of the “Athens Piraeus Electric Railways (ISAP)”. The sector of janitors is one of the most exploited, as many employees are immigrants and subject of blackmailing by their bosses, while the state services and the trade-union bureaucrats do nothing in order to apply even the most basic and insufficient labour legislation.
Konstantina is an immigrant; a woman; a janitor. But she is much more than that: she is also a conscious unionized worker, and she became one of the most active leaders of the All-Attica Union of Janitors. This Union is one of the most combative, despite the fact that the trade-union bureaucrats (most of them belonging to PASOK and to the actual government right-wing party) do nothing to assist them in their hard struggle for the respect of the most elementary rights of their members and of the janitors as a whole. Konstantina soon became the soul of the Union: she was always in the first line of the struggle, unionizing her colleagues and demanding the respect of the labour legislation, despite the increasing threats and discrimination against her.
Konstantina is an example to us all. She is a model unionist, a personification of workers’ dignity and of belief in the rights of the working class. Konstantina is “stubborn”: she did not yield to the bosses’ threats. She was characterized as “the epitome of cheekiness” by her employee: “How can SHE, an IMMIGRANT single mother, a JANITOR, dare to challenge the system?” The initial blackmail and the transfer to night shift (so she could not take proper care of her child) did not intimidate her. She kept on fighting. So, anonymous death threats followed. She still did not yield. Until…
On midnight of 22 December 2008, while she returned from work to her home in a poor neighborhood of Athens, Konstantina Kouneva became the victim of murderous attempt. The goons of the bosses immobilized her and threw vitriol on her face. Then, they opened her mouth and threw the acid down her throat. Since that night, Konstantina fights for her life in the Intensive Care Unit in Athens. She has lost one eye and her face is burned; but the worst is that her digestive system does not exist anymore, burned by the acid. The doctors are struggling to save her life and her condition remains very critical. Her mother and her son Emmanuel (who suffers from cardiac decompensation) survive and take courage thanks to the active solidarity of hundreds of workers.
The “justice” and the police did nothing until today in order to find the perpetrators of this murderous attack against this valiant and genuine representative of the workers. The bourgeois Media did not find time and space to report her case. But her colleagues, all the honest workers, and the Radical Left organizations, did not let this crime to be covered by the guilty alliance of government, bosses, Media and “justice”. Today, despite the imposed silence of the mainstream Media, the whole Greece knows the case of Konstantina Kouneva. Many mobilizations of solidarity with Konstantina and with the militant trade-union movement took place since 22 December, including attacks against the ISAP installations and marches with the participation of thousands of people. The militant spirit of December’s Revolt gives life to this extraordinary flow of solidarity.
The Communist Organization of Greece is active part of this movement of solidarity, which moves under the slogan “Konstantina you are not alone”. We address an appeal to all the progressive forces to express their solidarity with Konstantina Kouneva, with the All-Attica Union of Janitors, with all those most exploited and “anonymous” militant workers who save the honor of the trade-union movement and continue its best militant traditions, bravely facing the attacks of the bosses and the hostility of the state and of the “official” trade-union leaderships.
Bank Account Number (IBAN): GR3401106640000066474762649
Bank International Code - BIC: ETHNGRAA
Bank Branch: National Bank of Greece, Branch 664
Branch Address: Spyrou Patsi 2, GR-10441 Athens, Greece
Branch Phone Nr: +30-210-5224016
Account Holder: Papageorgiou Marriana (Union of the Working People representative)
In case you participate in the fund-raising, please inform the Union of the Working People and/or KOE.
We thank you in advance for any action you may undertake in order to express your solidarity and to condemn the murderous crime against the militant worker and unionist Konstantina Kouneva, who is always fighting for her life and for the rights of the most oppressed and exploited workers!
Communist Organization of Greece (KOE), International Relations Department
Support the uprising of workers and young people in Greece
At the time of writing, the mass-scale political unrest in Greece shows little sign of slowing down. This series of demonstrations, occupations and strikes erupted when, on 6 December, a 15-year-old student, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, was murdered in the streets of central Athens by police guards. Although the police have implied that Alexandros was engaged in “deviant behaviour” (not that this would warrant being shot through the heart), all eyewitness reports stated that the police officers involved were not attacked by Alex and his friends and were not in physical danger at any time. The shooting represents an increasingly authoritarian and repressive approach being taken by the Greek state, in particular towards young people.
Within a few minutes of Alex being pronounced dead, young people, students and workers came out onto the streets of Athens in protest. Huge demonstrations took place, spreading quickly from Athens to many other cities, including Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Komotini, Kastoria, Petras, Tripoli and more. Over the following days, thousands of high school students marched against local police stations, students occupied university campuses, pupils occupied schools and workers went on strike. At the time of writing, dozens of universities are still being held under occupation by students and professors, including the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the National Technical University of Athens and the Athens University of Economics and Business. The teachers’ unions estimate that around 600 schools are under occupation by pupils. Some actions have been particularly daring: according to Kathimerini (an English-language newspaper in Greece), a “group of around 30 protesters forced their way into the headquarters of state broadcaster ERT and interrupted a news broadcast featuring Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. For about a minute, the protesters stood in front of the camera holding banners reading ‘Stop watching, get out into the streets’”.
A one-day general strike on 10 December, called before the shooting of Alexandros in response to the government’s handling of the economic crisis, gained momentum and brought the country’s economy to a standstill.
Solidarity actions have taken place in dozens of countries around the world, particularly in Europe. In Austria, thousands of demonstrators protested outside the Greek Embassy in Vienna; in France, some 3,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Greek Embassy in Paris; there were demonstrations in over 20 German cities; and hundreds protested in Dublin, Istanbul, Seville, Madrid, London, Copenhagen and many other cities in solidarity with the workers, students, youth and unemployed people of Greece. Clearly, the bourgeoisie worldwide is shaking in its shoes as a result of the uprising in Greece and its international significance. IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned there was a risk of social unrest spreading unless the global financial sector shared wealth more evenly (See ‘Greek police teargas youths in 2nd week of protests’, Reuters, 15 December).
Brutal response of the Greek state
Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis quickly vowed to put an end to the work of “the extremist elements who exploited the tragedy”. (‘New protests planned after looters rampage in Athens’, AFP, 8 December), and indeed police forces were deployed in huge numbers against every demonstration and occupation.
According to the Telegraph of 12 December, Greek police had in the preceding five days released 4,600 canisters of tear gas – so much that they were having to appeal to Israel and Germany to provide fresh supplies. (‘Greece “runs out of tear gas” during violent protests’). It should be noted that tear gas is not as innocuous as it might sound. It is a chemical compound that irritates the cornea and conjunctival membranes, resulting in a severe burning sensation in the eyes, streaming tears, severe skin irritation, irritation of the upper respiratory tract (leading to breathing difficulties) and panic. It can induce temporary blindness, nausea and, in the case of allergic reaction, anaphylaxis and death.
Arrested demonstrators have been tortured, and people around the world have been shocked to see the images of Greek police beating peaceful demonstrators. Even Amnesty International, hardly an agency of proletarian insurrection, have issued a statement saying that its members have witnessed “officers involved in policing the riots engaged in punitive violence against peaceful demonstrators, rather than targeting those who were inciting violence and destroying property … In this context, [Amnesty] is concerned about the ill-treatment of two of its members, who were beaten with batons by the police.” (‘Greek police use punitive violence against peaceful demonstrators’).
In an effort to justify the extraordinary brutality employed by the state forces, the government has been painting the protesters as “a small group of hardcore anarchists”; however, even the international imperialist press admits that the number of protesters runs into the hundreds of thousands. The government and the right-wing media have been trying to scare the Greek population with stories about ‘hooded youths’, condemning protesters for coming to demonstrations with masks. In our humble opinion, if state forces are likely to use tear gas, it is a sensible protester that wears a mask as this offers some protection from the state’s chemical assault.
It is almost certainly the case that there are agents-provocateurs involved at some level on the fringes of the Greek uprising, just as agents-provocateurs are involved at some level on the fringes of every important mass movement. However, it is crucial that we do not join with the bourgeois press in overstating the importance of such groups and individuals; they must not distract from the struggle that is taking place, and the state must not be allowed to use them as an excuse for its brutality. Take the example of Iraq: there are agents-provocateurs in Iraq who try to divide Iraqis by planting bombs in market places and the like. The imperialist press tries to paint the actions of these small organisations as reflecting the will of the Iraqi resistance as a whole. They try to accentuate their role and use them as an excuse for the most brutal acts of repression. We are not, and have never been, fooled by these games, and they certainly do not stop us from calling for victory to the Iraqi resistance. Similarly, such games must not detract from our support for the legitimate popular struggle that is taking shape in Greece.
Alienation of the workers and young people from capitalism and social democracy
The protests in Greece indicate very clearly that the masses of the Greek population are deeply at odds with the Greek state. On the economic front, there is increasing unemployment (especially among young people) and poverty pay. Social welfare is under attack, especially in the areas of education and healthcare. Minimum needs are not being met, but the government is set to inject 28 billion euros to ‘save’ the banking system.
Concurrent with the reduction in living standards has been a visible increase in political repression by the state. This year, dozens of demonstrators have been arrested and tortured by police, and Greek police are becoming notorious for their use of torture and excessive use of force, particularly towards workers and young people.
The workers and youth have stopped believing in the benevolence of the state, and are starting to understand – albeit at a relatively primitive level – that capitalism is the cause of their problems.
At the same time, there is growing alienation of the Greek masses from social democracy. It is telling that one of the buildings occupied in recent weeks was the central office of the country’s main labour union, the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE). This would appear to indicate a certain antipathy between the disaffected Greek workers and the trade union bureaucracy, whose role in recent decades has been to consistently undermine workers’ struggle and to support the perpetuation of capitalism (not unlike the main elements of the trade union bureaucracy in Britain).
Workers in Britain and elsewhere must support the uprising in Greece. Whatever its immediate results, its long-term significance will be the re-awakening of the Greek workers, students and peasants. Huge swathes of the population are increasingly falling outside the sphere of influence both of the state and its agent in the working class movement, namely social democracy.
The developments in Greece are making the capitalists and social democrats in all countries tremble. For too long have the European working masses been passive victims, or active co-conspirators, as the imperialists have ruthlessly grabbed and exploited the world’s land, mineral wealth, markets and labour. The current capitalist crisis of overproduction will not only expose the decadent, parasitic, moribund nature of the capitalist system, but will again reveal the means to effect a cure – not by “enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” but rather, through concerted mass action, “to take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them”.
Alexandros Grigoropoulos and all the nameless, faceless victims of imperialism will then not have died in vain.