Greece: Fotopoulos calls for all-out general political strike but SYRIZA leaders and trade union officials unresponsive

The crisis facing the Greek coalition government continues, thus strengthening in the minds of thousands of militant activists of the labour movement the secret hope that new elections are coming soon. Now all the mass organisations of the working class – political and trade union – must put all their resources into escalating the militant anti-government movement that has built up following the closure of ERT (the national public broadcaster).

ertEvery ordinary militant is aware that the pressure on the government must be increased with the mobilisation of the mass movement in order to bring it down. This would be a development that would immediately tip the balance of class relations against the ruling class.

Unfortunately, that is not what is happening. The majority of the leadership of the GSEE (the main private sector trade union confederation) has once more moved in the usual manner by acting as a pressure valve to defuse the anger of the workers and to shield the coalition government against the increasing desire of the working class for a sustained battle. At the recent meeting of the executive committee of GSEE, instead of calling for the escalation of the struggle through strikes, they ended up only calling for a protest rally that took place the other day, which proved to be a resounding failure as it did not mobilise any more people than those who usually gather outside the ERT building in solidarity with its occupation.

What was particularly striking about the recent GSEE executive committee meeting, however, was that the only substantial proposal for an escalation of the struggle was not submitted by those groups in any way linked to SYRIZA or the KKE (Greek Communist Party). Instaead, it was made by the president of GENOP-DEH (electricity workers’ trade union), Nikos Fotopoulos. This leading representative of those trade unionists who recently broke away from PASKE (the PASOK affiliated faction in the trade unions) has proved to be much more in touch with the mood and the needs of the working class than the trade union leaders of the traditional Left (Syriza and KKE).

ert-demoMore significantly, Nikos Fotopoulos ended up his intervention denouncing the GSEE leadership for the criminal tactics it has followed throughout all these years with all the ineffective 24-hour general strikes, and emphasised the point that these days of action were seen by the workers as ‘lost wages’. On that basis, he proposed that an all-out general strike should be called with its immediate aim being the fall of the government. He stated that the following three points were necessary: 1) Daily 24-hour picketing of the ERT occupation by trade unionists from all unions; 2) Daily gatherings outside the ERT at the end of the working day; and 3) An all-out general political strike in 20 days’ time in order for the workers’ movement to have sufficient time to plan and to organise a campaign in all the workplaces.

The spirit of Nick Fotopoulos’ speech and the three specific proposals in relation to what the GSEE leadership should call for, go absolutely in the right direction and are in line with the positions proposed by the Communist Tendency of SYRIZA for an immediate and properly planned for escalation of the struggle with the aim of overthrowing the government.

What was, however, the stance of the leading trade unionists of SYRIZA at that recent meeting? We read the following from an announcement issued by ‘Aftonomi Paremvasi’ (‘autonomous intervention, the Syriza factyion in the trade unions): “Aftonomi Paremvasi calls on GSEE and ADEDY (main public sector trade union confederation) to immediately call a new general strike demanding the reopening of ERT, no sackings or redundancies, with no privatisations and sackings, to defend democracy, freedom of expression, and the right to information…” [Source: http://left.gr/news/aytonomi-paremvasi-na-mpei-ergatiko-syndikalistiko-kinima-mprosta-stis-exelixeis]

This declaration is very clear. Aftonomi Paremvasi – as opposed to Nikos Fotopoulos – fails to recognise the clear political anti-government character of the movement, and refuses to adopt the specific demand for the overthrow of this hated government, whilst it proposes another 24-hour general strike, as has been the strategy so far of the majority of the GSEE leadership.

Such a stance by the leading trade union officials of SYRIZA, in conjunction with the reluctance of the leadership of SYRIZA to propose any concrete plan for the overthrow of the coalition government, signals that the SYRIZA leadership – including, regrettably, the main leaders of its ‘Left Platform’ – is failing to take on its responsibilities towards the workers’ movement.

Fotopoulos’s proposal for an all-out general strike – which must be backed up with the formation of action committees in every workplace and neighbourhood – offers a significant opportunity for the workers’ movement to take the road of an all-out struggle towards victory.

It is the fundamental duty of SYRIZA’s political and trade-union leadership to support in every possible manner this proposal and to fight to make it a reality by mobilising all party resource and forces. Conversely, the SYRIZA political and trade-union leadership will be accountable to the working people and the poorer layers of society who, although their quality of life is increasingly deteriorating, remain willing to respond to serious calls to fight back.

(Thursday, 20 June 2013)