Public transport was severely hit, and Athens airport had to cancel more than one hundred fights. Utility workers struck, alongside health professionals, tax collectors and lawyers. Many small businesses also closed for the day, with an estimated 120,0000 facing bankruptcy this year.
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement government is imposing gargantuan cuts, as part of its deal with the International Monetary Fund and European Union, which bailed-out the Greek state last year. Just this week, EU and IMF officials dictated that the Greek government must raise €50 billion from privatisations over the next four years – equal to 22% of the Greek economy.
Not accidentally, the date of the strike allowed workers to let off steam the day after the government passed a bill deregulating the so-called ‘closed professions’. Last summer, the ‘opening up’ of just one profession – that of truck driving – resulted in wildcat strikes, which the army were eventually brought in to crush.
Nonetheless, rank-and-file workers demonstrated in sixty cities and towns across Greece this week. In Athens, thirty thousand marched to the Greek parliament, where they chanted “Don’t obey the rich, fight back”, and faced the usual police violence, which was met by resistance from many demonstrators.
With inflation at 5.9%, and the wages needed to cover living costs rapidly falling, there is a developing movement of people refusing to pay the spiralling costs of hospital fees, public transport and road tolls. Hundreds have taken part in the occupation of toll roads, while last Friday, a hundred transport workers taped up the ticket machines in Athens metro stations.
If the protest movement is to be successful in overturning the government’s ‘reforms’ – dictated from afar by international financial elite – they must completely break from the reformist unions, who aim to disarm any real challenge to the profit system. Like some groups of workers in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, they must start to build their own organisations from the bottom up, and ultimately they need to put forward their own programme for a reconstruction of society in the interest of their own class.