In the midst of a pandemic in which nearly 250,000 people have died, celebrations throughout Europe of International Workers’ Day, May 1 or May Day, were generally muted, with just a few demonstrations, which were generally small and scattered. One major exception was in Greece.
May Day is a holiday in almost all European countries, where labor unions customarily hold big, imposing demonstrations. However, many countries have imposed social lockdowns because of the pandemic. People must maintain at least two meters (six feet) of space between individuals and wear masks and gloves on the streets.
The lockdown rules prohibit large gatherings, closed schools and universities, and shuttered bars, stores, museums and archaeological sites. The Greek government closed all schools on March 17, when the number of deaths there was still less than 100.
As of May 3, Greece had 2,620 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 144 deaths, far fewer than similar-sized and wealthier Belgium, with 49,906 confirmed cases and 7,844 deaths. (coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html)
Greece’s right-wing government of New Democracy’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis has intensified the austerity program that the previous Syriza government first imposed on the Greek workers under the dictates of Europe’s big banks.
To counter austerity, the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME), a coordination center within the Greek trade union movement, founded on the initiative of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), called for massive demonstrations in Athens and other Greek cities on May 1. In Athens PAME filled Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament; it also held demonstrations in every Greek city.
A video that PAME posted showed its militants putting yellow diamonds six feet apart in the square so demonstrators, who wore masks and gloves, could easily keep the necessary social distance.
PAME’s main slogan was “People will not pay again! The visible enemy is capitalism!” Their press release also saluted “the thousands of workers, unemployed, self-employed, farmers, young men and women who are at home, and would like to demonstrate with us.”
PAME paid “tribute to all those who died during the pandemic, around the world and with admiration to the heroic doctors and nurses who lost their lives fighting against the pandemic.”
PAME concluded: “For the capitalists and the governments of capitalist countries, the pandemic has become an opportunity to violate workers’ rights. The pandemic has shown even more that the system of exploitation cannot be humanized.”
The May Day statement of the Communist Party of Greece read, “The coronavirus will be cured and the pandemic will pass, as others did in the past. Capitalism, however, is incurable and will continue to torture humankind, with poverty, unemployment, wars, the destruction of the environment.”
The KKE statement went on to point out: “The current system can only be overthrown and replaced by a superior social system, socialism-communism, where social ownership of the means of production with workers’ power, scientific central planning to meet popular needs.”