Revolutionary turmoil in Greece
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.