by Costas Pittas*
The electoral victory of Syriza in Greece in January 2015 created huge optimism across Europe. After five years of struggle — with strikes, occupations and demonstrations — the government of austerity collapsed and a left party was elected. The Syriza ministers’ first declarations boosted this optimism: retrenched civil servants would get their jobs back, privatisation would stop and the immigrant detention camps would be closed.
Months later things look different. The Syriza government appears to have been pushed to continue austerity and abandon promises to give justice to workers’ demands. This creates disappointment among Syriza supporters. But the experience, confidence and radicalisation of the working class movement that created the electoral victory by the left are too strong to be dissipated quickly and easily. So the more pressure the Troika exert, the more people get angry. This anger is translating into support for Syriza.
In the weeks that followed the agreement with the Troika (IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank), pressure from the Troika escalated. Newspapers and TV news in Europe are full of threats, blackmail and attacks on the Syriza government. The forces of austerity are in a rage because the message of the Greek elections is a left turn that could be adopted by other European countries. But over Easter the Syriza Government agreed to pay the International Monetary Fund (IMF) EURO 450m (N90billion) later in April.
The mood for action is clear in workplaces and in the organised labour movement. During the negotiations thousands gathered in central Athens, opposite parliament. The laid-off teachers decided they would protest and besiege parliament after a minister announced that their reinstatement “would take a long time”. University administrators decided on work stoppages and a demonstration. The public sector trade union confederation and the municipal workers’ union, not only demanded the immediate reinstatement of all those made redundant and a resolution of every problem created by austerity — they also requested the immediate cancellation of the debt.
The dock workers’ union threatened to go on strike if the privatisation of the port of Piraeus continued. On 19 March Athens metro workers held a three-hour strike in order to have a general assembly about bad conditions on the trains. No metro train moved for three hours.
Through action like this we can ensure that the left government in Greece will not be the last and the experience can give inspiration to workers everywhere to fight austerity.
*Costas Pittas is secretary of the civil servants’ union in the Greek Ministry of Development.