General strike renews anti-banker struggle in Greece

greece_1126The Greek labor movement held a 24-hour general strike Nov. 12 that basically shut the country down.

The strike closed the Athens metro and suburban railway and cut service on bus, trolley and train routes. It stranded the ferries in port linking the Ionian islands, which are currently flooded with refugees traveling from Turkey to Europe. It cancelled domestic air flights.

The strike shut museums and archaeological sites, as well as schools and pharmacies. Hospitals handled only emergencies. Many privately owned shops also closed.

According to the Nov. 12 British Guardian, this was the first general strike since Syriza took office in January 2015 and the 41st since Greece’s financial crisis began five years ago.

In addition to the strike, there were three major rallies in Athens. One was led by the Greek Public Sector Union, ADEDY, and the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE). Another was led by the Alll Workers’ Militant Front (PAME), which is close to the Greek Communist Party. The third was led by a coalition of small leftist parties and anarchists, whom the cops attacked. Police reported 25,000 protesting in Athens, while a coordinated demonstration in Thessaloníki drew 10,000.

PAME organized 71 strike demonstrations all over the country, drawing the unemployed, pensioners, self-employed, poor farmers, as well as youth and women from the Federation of Greek Women.

The mostly foreign big banks were demanding changes to make it easier for them to foreclose on the tens of thousands of mortgages in arrears. The Syriza government, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, gave in to the creditors. Popular anger against the new measures grew so intense that the Syriza party, despite its role in running the government, called on workers to participate in the demonstrations of ADEDY-GSEE against its own anti-people political line.

PAME called this a “brazen display of hypocrisy.” Comments on social media made the same point. One, for example, asked: “Do we march with Alexis to overthrow Tsipras, or do we march with Tsipras to overthrow Alexis?” (

Greece has been in a major capitalist depression for more than six years, and the austerity its creditors demand worsen this depression. Wages have been cut by 30 percent, pensions by even more, and taxes on everything are going up. But the big German and English banks want every last penny of the debt — even if paying it destroys Greece’s economy and leads to a social explosion.