Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Greece: truck drivers blockade centre of Athens to halt liberalisation measures

Greece: truck drivers blockade centre of Athens to halt liberalisation measures

After their union leaders tried to bury the resistance of the truckers in July a new wave of strikes erupted in defiance of the threat of emergency decress being issued to truckers. Some 19 points around Athens have been blockaded by trucks. Waves of militant rank and file truckers have demobilised scab trucks by blowing their tyres or cutting their electrical connections, so demobilising the engines. The government has tried everything via the mass media to condemn the militant truckers; they even tried to impede the road blocks but it became pretty impossible to stop truckers with 20-plus tonne trucks with engines revving and threatening to squash puny police cars. In the end the police escorted the truckers into various points around Athens – that is, opened the roads for them.

Ta NEA (daily organ of the Lambrakis press - the biggest establishment paper) condemned the actions of the police and demanded to know why the government not confronting the truckers? "Are they allowing them to get away with everything until they get tired and go home?" In the meantime 6,000 containers are stranded in the ports and and their perishable contens rot. More stuff arrives daily and has nowhere to be parked.

3,000marched in the afternoon to parliament and the police for the first time in the last 10 years refused to teargas them - which has been standard policy. The reason is clear. They are frightened to attack tsince they fear provoking more generalised conflict. All train workers of the national railways OSE have also walked out early for a week's strike against ta court decision which tried to deny them the right to strike. So having camped outside parliament on Tuesday night the truckers are waiting for their numbers to swell prior to Wednesday's vote which aims to ratify the IMF's agenda of the full liberalisation of middle class professions, hauliers, taxi drivers, solicitors etc.

If the truckers manage to bring trucks to the centre of Athens and confront the parliamentarian IMF quislings then they may bring about the defeat of the government. The big disaster is the role of the Left once more. Not a single big organisation – the KKE or the Euros Stalinists – have sent as many supporters as they can to support the truckers. 50 members of PAME marched along the pavements in 'solidarity' with the truckers and then dispersed. They have called for rallies against IMF imposed price rises (VAT rates, electricity, water etc) AFTER the vote in parliament takes place. Divide and rule is the only strategy of the union misleaders. Unifying struggles and supporting the middle class hauliers now they are under total attack isn't for them.

If the truckers are defeated, then the door will be open for many other professions to suffer the same fate. Either which way the government is relying on the politics of the union misleaders to remain in power and appear strong. In reality they are weak and in hiding. The ball for the moment is not in their court.

Wed 22, September 2010 @ 13:55

You would think Truckers would be the first people socialists would want to win over to the struggle as they can literally bring the system to a grinding halt.

Wed 22, September 2010 @ 14:11

The KKE condemned the politically backward ...truckers for using slogans which essentially bring Greeks into disrepute. The media asked the union misleaders of the truckers to condemn the slogans. The slogans were allegedly used by the hooded 'anarchists' no one saw who burnt the workers alive in the Marfin Bank provocation according to the tv station Mega...

The slogans were: 'Repa (Minister of Transport) Go fxxx Yourself', 'Down with the PASOK Junta', 'Air Air get rid of the Cholera', 'Repa you Cxxx we will Enter Parliament'

The Democratic Left a split off from Synaspismos/Euros supported the IMF liberalisation measures during the Parliamentary debate. Synaspismos gave a verbal speech in support of the truckers but like the KKE refused to call out its members in solidarity demos in support of the truckers.

After allnight blockade of Parliament and three attempts at breaking through riot police lines, the truckers lost the vote in Parliament. They will now lose the value of the licences of their trucks and many will lose their trucks to banks as the multinational companies that set up new truck companies will bypass them.

Throughout the whole of today they have continued the blockades around Athens.

Their Coordinating Strike Committee has vowed to continue the road blockades until Friday 24th September when they said they will have a mass meeting to work out whether they will continue the struggle. Whilst the railwayworkers of the national railnetwork OSE are in their 2nd day of their 5 day strike their union misleaders ensured that they did not march to the centre and meet the Truckers.

Now the liberalisation of transport is law by definition the riot police have to break the blockades. The power of the truckers is in the blockades. If they hold out they can continue to cripple the Greek economy. If they dont, it may imply that each section of Greek society may have to go through the Argentinian path which allowed the IMF to run riot for a full 4 years prior to a social explosion by all the dissafected sections of society led to 9 different governments, the cancellation of foreign debt payments and a return to the peso.

Wed 22, September 2010 @ 20:21

Agree with AA. I think this is a very positive development.

It shows that despite the frequent betrayal of union leaders the truckers have th epower to organise their own action and it is a power that through paralysing the economy has the power to bring down the capitalists if the truckers open their mass meetings to the wider working class and take on the questions of the wider working class transforming the legitiamte sectional (and important) demands of the truckers' livelihood to the wider issues of the working class- who rules? the bankers, IMF and EU with their austerity? Or the workers who can plan a society and economy based on democratically planning human need, against the need for any cuts, for a workers' revolution to seize the land, the factories and the wealth currently in the grip of a small elite and have a society run by working class people ourselves.

If anything remotely like this is going to happen the left and the wider working class movement needs to rally to the truckers' side, opening up the wider questions of class politics and full heartedly supporting the truckers' strike, instigating solidarityy action connected to wider class demands- for workers' control, for an emergency workers' budget to respond to the crisis, the immediate cancellation of all foreign debt, emergency taxes to pay for the crisis- full employment for workers at union rates- including massive wealth taxes and expropriations to take through the workers' demands.

Thu 23, September 2010 @ 05:34

VN Gelis said…

The problem is that not all sections of society have the power to bring the capitalists to their knees. If nurses for instance went on an indefinite strike patients would die and the state would save some money in terms of operations, pensions, dole money etc. The rich go private so they wouldn't care. The issue is also political.

The KKE alleges it is a working class party but has become pettybourgeoisified over the decades. Truckers historically have been on the political 'right' ie petty owners, with bank debts and the false consciousness that they will at some point own ten trucks and just collect money from managing them. One of the positives of this struggle is that they have no connection to the dead weight of stalinism and have shown originality in their approach and their sloganeering. They called for an open mass meeting at their union headquarters inviting pensioners groups and other transport workers. But because the union tops are stalinists and they see unity of the workers and the middle class which they cant control like Dracula does with the cross, it was too little too late this time, but it shows the intentions and the possibilities for the future.

The absence of the official Left and the far left is indicative of the extent of the political crisis now the real first wave of struggle against the IMF occurred. It also shows their political direction. Historic leaders of Sinaspismos who left to form Democratic Left have openly sided with the IMF. The next wave of struggle will force the KKE to do the same, as more and more sections of workers and middle class are forced to the streets due to the cuts and privatisations that are continuing unabated.

Thu 23, September 2010 @ 10:26

Jason said…

"One of the positives of this struggle is that they have no connection to the dead weight of stalinism and have shown originality in their approach and their sloganeering. They called for an open mass meeting at their union headquarters inviting pensioners groups and other transport workers. But because the union tops are stalinists and they see unity of the workers and the middle class which they cant control like Dracula does with the cross, it was too little too late this time, but it shows the intentions and the possibilities for the future. "

I think that's key as also is the idea of workers' action committees to unite different sections of the working class (and indeed impoverished or under attack petit-bourgeois, small business owners, traders, owner-drivers etc who the workers need to win to their ranks).

"If nurses for instance went on an indefinite strike patients would die and the state would save some money in terms of operations, pensions, dole money etc."

Yes but that's why it's essential to have other methods of action to supplement strike action, mass blockades, occupations, different section of workers coming out in solidarity action and can include emergency cover under democratic workers' control during the dispute. It can include workers, students, service users and wider community occupying the factories, offices, schools and hospitals and carrying out production for social need.

Thu 23, September 2010 @ 19:35

VN Gelis said…

Truckers have voted to continue their strike against the IMF

Battles occurred in Piraeus (main port next to Athens) where they blockaded it and the riot police got involved.

The strike committee was flooded with enraged truckers who demanded in opposition to the proposal of the union misleaders to have a secret ballot to have an open air one. The slogan which emerged to the news people was 'we will not give in' Molon Lave (which is what the Spartans said to the Persian Army) in reference to the governments 'emergency orders'.

The official Left continues to be spectators of an unfolding drama. They chose to have rallies about the price rises and the liberalisation of energy prices instead of supporting the truckers blockades

Fri 24, September 2010 @ 20:56

VN Gelis said…

Where are the leftist organisations? Who during their ‘insurrection’ regarding the murder of the young student Grigoropoulos a couple of winters ago marched up and down streets blockaded police stations, burning down shops?

Why don’t they now go to support the Truckers blockades to encourage them?

To help them blockade the roads once and for all indefinitely? When the truckers were outside Parliament all night and tried 3 times to storm it why didn’t they turn up?

Why don’t they go even outside the headquarters of the GREEK TUC-ADEDY-PAME (union federations) and pressurise them to call an indefinite general strike of all the nation on the side of the truckers for the overthrow of the IMF imposed junta?

Groups and organisations and people are judged in times of crisis when battles hang by a thread. The persistence of the truckers without a single media outlet supporting their cause, without a single political party proposing a solidarity demo, without political representation in Parliament is indicative of a whole generation of politicians both from the ‘left’ and right.

Fri 24, September 2010 @ 21:16

Fri 24, September 2010 @ 21:16
Jason said…

I think you're right to sharply cirticise the left on this. Obviously the Stalinists' leaders are fearful of real workers' action anyway but what about the Trotskyist and anarchist left? What about rank and file workers? I know little I am afraid about the Greek left.

What is it do you think that lies behind the lack of support? Is it because of prejudice against petit-bourgeois truckers? Is there a bad relationship e.g. have sections of truckers not supported workers?

Whatever the past or the explanation it seems to me that this is a crucial dispute. Truckers like railway workers have the ability to paralyse the movement of goods. The working class should pile in behind the struggle, support the truckers' demands, oppose the austerity measures, demand democratic workers' to set prices and get ready to paralyse the whole economy by demanding an emergecny workers' budget and plan, nationalise the banks, expropriuate the capitalists, appeal to rank and file soldier and police to refuse to break up demos and follow the orders of emergency workers' action committtees not the orders of the bourgeois government.

Sun 26, September 2010 @ 22:20

VN Gelis said…

The anarchists have been absent for around a year. Their last great showing was over the death of the bankers son Grigoropoulos whom the media labelled as an ...anarchist. Since the IMF arrived they have been absent from all social struggles. Most of the far left, maoists, trotskyists have become part of the ex-euros around Siriza/Sinaspismos in order to get government subsidies which are paid when a party gets more than 5% of the parliamentary vote.

Truckers haven't generally gone on big strikes as far as I know, I only ever remember a big one in the 1980's but agreement was agreed quite quickly. This one now has gone on for a month and previously two weeks at the end of July. There are still 6,500 containers in the ports and many areas haven't had sewage emptied as trucks empty it due to the antiquated system. Many islands have many shortages and much of the fresh produce has gone to waste.

The truckers are voting again today and they are being manoeuvred into having a closed ballot by their union misleaders, instead of a show of hands, so the ballot boxes can be manipulated. Every trick in the arsenal of government unionism is being used to end the strike with the latest arguement being that the market needs two weeks to recover, so why not stop now and start again before things get really serious.

The three other groups (SWP, WRP, Mandelites) who never joined the Euros have refused to support the truckers. At the same time all week strikes have occurred in the trains and now the buses have started as well. So taking into account the KKE has influence in both unions, coordination again is zero, the purpose being to dissipate the anger across different sections of transport workers to prepare them for ...privatisation.

Tue 28, September 2010 @ 20:28

VN Gelis said…

The vote just came through from the Strike Committee, 74 to 6 to continue the strike. Their leader refused to say which way he would vote prior to the vote, but made a statement that whichever way the vote goes he wants all sides to support it.

Tue 28, September 2010 @ 20:55

VN Gelis said…

A 41 year old trucker died after being tear gassed at the blockades of the port of Piraeus a couple of days ago. He was buried today. He is the first victim of the IMF imposed liberalisation of truckers licences. The union leadership have produced no statement regarding his death.

Greece has been threatened by the EU if it does not issue new truckers licences and the government is processing a new sub-law which states that all truckers who refuse to move their trucks from the blockades will be imprisoned immediately for 3 years, removal of licences and taking over their trucks if they have deliveries for the public sector eg hospitals or schools. One trucker on a road blockade on the Athens-Corinth motorway has been imprisoned allready.

The Greek TUC refused to have a general strike today, in case workers rallied to the truckers cause and instead called for an evening rally in the centre of Athens. Despite that railwayworkers were out and so were bus workers during the day.

Wed 29, September 2010 @ 19:04

VN Gelis said…

Despite the death of the trucker, no left protest march occured as after all he was a worker who has just been made bankrupt and the purpose of the left is to maintain disunity, division and ensuring with all its organised forces that the 'workers disunited will always be defeated'.

All night union meeting occurred in the truckers headquarters with many rank and file truckers locked out of the headquarters. As there are different sections of the union, and different sub-sections, public service truckers (delivery vehicles) ie to hospitals, schools, sewage clearance etc there are also private sector truckers for supermarket deliveries, retail etc. who controls each section and who takes decisions without informing the base is what the conflict has boiled down to at the moment as the government is threatening to lock them all up and they aint backing down.

The old leaderships are now in conflict with the Strike Committee who are organised around the various blockades and they want a say if any decision is taken against them. The Minister for Economic (non)Development said he would meet the leaders of the various unions and cut a deal to end the strikes. They voted to end the strikes to restore 'peace in the market' which is collapsing due to the non-delivery of goods from the ports and the evident shortages in a whole range of shops. The leaders of the Strike Committees claimed they weren't consulted again. The anger boiled over when truckers outside the union lit a firecracker against the union sellout leaders.

The leader of the Strike Committee declares here that they will meet on Friday (today) to vote against the sellout.

A note: some of the union leaders of the 9 Federations which voted to end the strike are members of the Left KKE and Syriza (public sector truckers)

Fri 01, October 2010 @ 09:39

Fri 01, October 2010 @ 09:39
Jason said…

Thanks for these updates. Keep them coming.

Sun 03, October 2010 @ 09:31
VN Gelis said…

Ok, Jason.

The 2nd strike appears to have ended, one of the reasons being that the Strike Committee didn't choose to take control of the situation and expel the old leaderships proposing itself as the way forward. The media made a big hue and cry about the costs to the economy being so far E1.5billion and tonnes of goods trapped in containers in the ports. Immediately after the ending of the strike the Chinese Premier was in Athens giving a speech about how they will buy up Greek bonds and not allow the country to default.

Taking into account Greece is run by the shipowners this brings to mind a little known deal that was attempted in the late 1960's by the then shipowners Onassis and Niarhos who wanted to own and control all public facilities, ports, oil refineries, transport under the title Omega Project. If the Chinese want a foothold in Europe and they are using bankrupt Greece as its base this will intensify competition with Germany, who is Europe's biggest export earner?

Next on target are the railways, the solicitors, the chemists as well as the national Electricity company which has just massively increased its rates for all low income earners where liberalisation processes will be rammed through. The Minister of Health Loverdos stated that if we fail in our IMF course, Greeks may resort to a 2nd Goudi, which was the onset of Greek nationalism at the turn of 20th century which started the movement for the re-unification of Greek lands against the decaying Ottoman Empire and the weakening of the European (German) imposed monarchy on Greek political life.

Mon 04, October 2010 @ 09:39
VN Gelis said…

Greek police storm Acropolis protesters today due to protest by unpaid part-time museum workers.

Bus drivers are now under attack facing a 20% wage cut and privatisation.

Train drivers of the national railways as well.

Local elections are scheduled in November where PASOK are expected to get a drubbing with a mass boycott by the electorate. From IMF headquarters in Washington stories are circulating that Papandreou knew the extent of the budget deficit prior to taking power and kept it hidden - a byword to drop him if there is an electoral collapse...

Thu 14, October 2010 @ 23:51
VN Gelis said…

Firefighters have occupied Parliament Square with tents protesting against cuts.

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