by our European Affairs correspondent
MOUNTING anger against savage cuts erupted into violence on the streets of Athens last weekend as riot police advanced to break up demonstrators on the eve of the parliamentary vote to accept the latest European Union and IMF austerity demands.
Among the protesters were renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis, 86, and Second World War partisan hero Manolis Glezos, 90. Both had to seek refuge in the parliament building after police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd.
Violent protests also spread to other towns across the country as well as the holiday islands of Corfu and Crete. Meanwhile banks and offices were torched and shops looted as rioting spread throughout the centre of the Greek capital.
The communists believe that some of the violence was carried out by the secret police posing as hooded anarchists to divert media attention away from the massive demonstrations against the government and prepare the ground for the imposition of martial law.
Earlier Greek communists draped the Acropolis with two giant banners calling for the cancellation of the debt and Greece’s withdrawal from the EU.
Hundreds of Greek Communist Party (KKE) members holding red flags took part in the protest last Saturday, the second day of a general strike that had paralysed most of the country.
Speaking at a rally called by PAME — the militant unions’ umbrella organisation — C Katsiotis said: “The people must not be afraid, nor be quiet and allow themselves to be skinned alive. It is of no importance whether this happens inside or outside of the Euro, with a controlled or uncontrolled bankruptcy.
“What is of vital importance is that the people decide that they will make no more sacrifices for the plutocracy, to fill the treasure vaults of the capitalists, while they and their children will be submerged in abject poverty and destitution.”
In the Greek parliament members of the “Black Front”, the bourgeois coalition between the conservatives, social-democracy (PASOK) and the fascist LAOS party, voted overwhelmingly to pass the measures demanded by the EU and the IMF in return for a further €130 billion bailout.
These draconian terms were even too much for some members of the Black Front to swallow. Twenty two PASOK MPs and 21 others from the conservative New Democracy bloc joined the communists in voting against the bill. All were immediately expelled from their parties.
Four right-wing cabinet ministers and two social-democrats have resigned from the coalition because they refused to identify themselves with this new round of austerity and LAOS has withdrawn from the coalition altogether.
Meanwhile strikers at the Greek Steelworks in Athens marked the first 100 days of their strike last week with a solidarity rally and concert organised by their union. The steel-workers walked out last year when the employer sacked 65 workers and imposed a 50 per cent cut in wages on those who were left.
Greece will be compelled to sack another 15,000 public employees, cut the minimum wage by 22 per cent and slash pension plans to comply with the new loan.
The European Union, IMF and the European Central Bank are also demanding that Greece cuts spending on medicines by another billion euros and speeds up the privatisation of what’s left of the state sector.
None of this will help the Greek working class. “Even if the workers give their own flesh to pay off the debt, the savage bankruptcy will not be averted,” Greek communist leader Aleka Papariga declared. “There is one solution to the crisis: disengagement from the EU and unilateral cancellation of the debt.
This is the solution, anything else will constitute a tragedy for the workers.”