Workers Vanguard No. 927
2 January 2009
Greece Rocked by Protests
Down With Police Terror!
In response to mass protests in Greece against police violence and state repression, the Trotskyist Group of Greece on 9 December 2008 issued the leaflet published below. The translation and accompanying introduction, which we have adapted here, were first published by Workers Hammer, paper of the Spartacist League/Britain. The TGG and SL/B are sections of the International Communist League, as is the Spartacist League/U.S.
The protests erupted over the cop murder of a student in Athens on December 6. The leaflet was distributed during the massive one-day general strike on December 10, which had been called by the main union federations before the killing, in opposition to the government’s anti-working-class austerity program. The Greek government asked the trade-union leadership to call off the strike but the bureaucracy feared a backlash at the base if they cancelled the strike. The unions rallied at the parliament building instead of marching through the city. The main Greek trade-union federations—the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY)—are led by PASOK, which, while often painted as a reformist workers party by the Greek left, is a thoroughly bourgeois-populist formation.
Greek organizations such as the Socialist Workers Party (SEK), cothinkers of the British Socialist Workers Party (formerly allied with the International Socialist Organization in the U.S.), and the Xekinima (Start) group, allied with the Socialist Party in Britain and represented in the U.S. by Socialist Alternative, tail PASOK. Their central slogan is: “Down with the government of murderers!” These reformists, as the TGG leaflet explains, aim to replace the rightist “neoliberal” regime of Karamanlis’s New Democracy (ND) with a “left” bourgeois government. This would mean either the return of PASOK or a new popular front made up of some combination of PASOK and Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left, which is dominated by Synaspismos, formed out of the old “Eurocommunist” wing of the Communist Party). Such an outcome would simply create a new roadblock to the working class in its struggle against the capitalist exploiters, while nourishing the growth of fascists like Golden Dawn who have been mobilizing to attack the youth protests.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which leads a significant section of the proletariat, today strikes a posture of opposition to PASOK, saying in its newspaper Rizospastis (11 December 2008): “ND/PASOK, same story—austerity, unemployment, terrorism,” declaring “No more illusions” and posing the choice as: “Either with capital, or with the workers.” However the KKE certainly does not stand for the class independence of the proletariat or for principled opposition to entering into coalitions with bourgeois parties. Quite the contrary—throughout its history the KKE has upheld the treacherous Stalinist policy of popular-front betrayal of the working class. Most recently, in the late 1980s, the KKE participated in popular-front coalitions with both New Democracy and PASOK and will have no compunction against doing so again if the opportunity presents itself.
Grotesquely, the KKE participated in violence-baiting the anarchists and initiated a witchhunt of the tame social democrats of Syriza, falsely claiming that the latter condones the burning of shops. Refusing to defend the anarchists against the right-wing government’s witchhunt, both the KKE and Syriza are attempting to prove to the bourgeoisie that they are reliable candidates to defend the capitalist order.
The protests against the brutal police killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos intersected planned strikes and protests by the trade unions against the impact of the global economic crisis on workers. Greece has a current account deficit of about $53 billion, or 15 percent of its gross domestic product, the highest in the euro zone. Youth unemployment is around 19 percent, while the overall jobless rate is over 7 percent. There is massive public anger against the Karamanlis government that has attacked the living standards of the working class through privatizations, tax increases and “reform” of pensions, in a country where it is estimated that 20 percent of the population lives in poverty. Contrary to PASOK leader Papandreou’s promises of “change,” a PASOK government would be just as committed to making the working class pay for the capitalist crisis.
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ATHENS, DECEMBER 9—On December 6 in the district of Exarchia in Athens a 15-year-old student, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, was murdered in cold blood
—shot by a police officer. Spontaneous protest demonstrations broke out in Athens and Salonika, spreading rapidly to the rest of Greece, where they are ongoing today. In what the press describes as the biggest crisis in Greece since the end of the bloody colonels’ rule in 1974, demonstrators have come face-to-face with the brutal reality of the “democratic” capitalist state. At least 150 people have been brought before the police department, 70 have been detained and the repression continues. We defend the anarchist and other youth protesters against state repression! We demand the immediate dropping of all charges against the protesters! For the immediate release of all those arrested!
The Trotskyist Group of Greece, sympathizing section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), solidarizes with the rage that has exploded in the streets against the police terror of the capitalist state. Fury over the murder of Grigoropoulos is only the “tip of the iceberg” of popular hatred toward the right-wing New Democracy government of Karamanlis which presides over mass unemployment, financial scandals, a huge and growing gap between rich and poor, and the brutal exploitation and repression of immigrants.
The protests against the cop terror need an organized expression—one that welds the anger of the youth protesters with the social power of the proletariat. The working class must be mobilized not only to defend youth protesters against the violence of the cops, but as part of a struggle against the capitalist system itself.
The reformist left is offering its own schemes for sanitizing the capitalist state and its forces of repression. The Communist Party of Greece, in a statement of 7 December 2008, declared: “The responsibilities of the government of ND are large and obvious, both in general and in particular for the climate which has been cultivated and for the education of the security forces.” The president of Syriza, Alavanos, in a question in parliament to the Minister of Internal Affairs on December 8 asked: “What measures do you propose to take in order to instill in the police concepts of tolerance, democratic behavior and cooperation toward citizens?” The KKE and Syriza once again spread illusions that the capitalist state can be reformed and that the capitalist rulers can educate and enlighten the security forces or even be compelled to cede control of the police to the exploited and oppressed masses—the very masses the cops are paid to repress.
The perspective of the KKE and Syriza is to replace the ND government with a new popular front. With crass opportunism these reformist parties hope to join with bourgeois parties in administering the bourgeois state, which will necessarily mean attacks on the working class. Support to such a popular front is also what lies behind the calls by reformists like the Cliffite SEK and DEA to get rid of the Karamanlis government.
As Lenin wrote in The State and Revolution (1917), “A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power . The state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another; it is the creation of ‘order,’ which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between classes.” The “order” to which Lenin refers cannot be changed by throwing Molotov cocktails. Although anarchists may seem “militant” to some youth, they are opposed to building the one instrument that is indispensable for getting rid of the capitalist exploiters and their state—a Leninist vanguard party.
The world economic crisis has demonstrated the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, but there are no impossible situations for the bourgeoisie. We, as genuine Trotskyists, seek to mobilize the forces of the multiracial proletariat in class struggle, not only in protests against the capitalist system but in the fight to uproot it. We fight to forge Leninist vanguard parties as sections of the revolutionary international that is required to lead the working class to sweep away the capitalist exploiters and their states and to build workers states and a global socialist society based on equality.
An injury to one is an injury to all! Drop the charges!
For a revolutionary workers vanguard party in Greece, section of a reforged Fourth International!