Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Greece: Continuous Eyewitness Account = 48Hour General Strike
Over the past week the situation has developed nightly with many people expressing their desperation at the situation and calling for more precise forms of direct action ie the storming of Parliament. From unemployed truckers to unemployed warehouse workers the desperation is seen on people’s faces when they gather nightly to chant slogans and debate issues amongst speakers or themselves with other people in the square. Alongside this the govt via its Vice President declared a vote for the 2nd round of IMF measures has to occur or tanks will hit the streets’ in the Spanish press El Mundo alongside a statement that all those who call for an exit from the Euro or a return to the Drachma are totally stupid
The 4th General Strike this year has kicked off, with a shutdown in the ports, most of the public sector, timed electricity blackouts and the traditional two different demos starting from two different points. The KKE had left Sindagma Sq by 11.30am this morning and they are supposed to come back this evening in order to repeat the same tomorrow when the vote goes through Parliament. There is much confusion over the past week as to whether they will participate in the vote or if they withdraw they will hand the govt a victory as it will need less votes to pass through its IMF measures. The public sector unions around the Greek TUC and ADEDY have marched as well and many have stayed in Sindagma Sq but so far it appears there are less people than last time as everyone has agreed to return in the evening. There have also appeared what appears to be black hooded characters who have massed at the bottom end of the square and last night an attempt was made by various parties to bring down the tents that have been there for one month now allegedly for health and safety reasons but most people have ignored them and aren’t leaving.
. The peaceful nature of the protests reached their limit. More than 2 million Greeks gathered in squares and the end result was... worse IMF measures after the govt restructuring. The bankers and interest bearing bondholders need to paid. Soible stated that Greeks must give up even the sun. Everything else is to be sold off in a firesale of immense proportions without an actual sale, but a giveaway. No wonder people chant Thieves to Prison for the Politicians in Parliament and a new banner has appeared stating the ‘Biggest type of Violence is that of being Sacked and Unemployed’.
The circling of Parliament seems to have been a call made by a section of the demonstrators and a section of the media as well (with posters appearing with no organisational link to them) but done in such a manner whereby one would need around a million to cover all the entrances from the main roads instead of where the actual entrances are. In other words they are spreading people thin ensuring thus if the numbers don’t show up,(how can they when there isn’t a political organisation that can control this) their actions won’t have the actual desired effect. Coupled with the role of the KKE which marches separately and leaves the scene just as teargas is fired, the new 48hour general strike (which hasn’t occurred ever since the fall of the Junta) we have had a new situation developing.
Alongside that has been the massive media attention now to default and what has occurred in other countries from Russia to Argentina to Iceland. The worlds press has been present in Greece since the 15th June and the issue is why? Since 1985 Greece has paid back E865billion and its economy doesn’t add up to more than 2% of EU GDP. All the new measures don’t reduce the actual size of the foreign debt but magnify it by attacking working class living standards directly and indirectly.
Coaches are coming from many parts of Greece and many of the demonstrators this morning seem to be well prepared with gas masks and sea goggles for the eventual tear gas attacks. The mood appears to be that something will kick off, but we don’t know exactly when.
Afternoon and Evening Events
Between 2-6pm the known black hooded police provocateurs started to attack police lines not anywhere near Parliament but at either end of the square giving the riot police the excuse to tear gas everyone away from the main squares as all that remained apart from the ‘indignados’ were the leftist groups. Most people left in order to come back in the evening during the Parliamentary debates. At some point the riot police teargassed both entrances of the Sindagma metro so people who were inside could choke and many did as women with young children ended up needing to be hospitalised.
KKE – PAME arrives in order to depart from jeering crowds
At around 7pm the KKE via its union leadership PAME arrived at the top end of the square right in front of Parliament and most people greeted them that finally they had come to join the common struggle against the IMF. They have a very large truck with many loudhailers and this was parked right in the middle in the square and it is usual for the KKE never to be a minority and when it holds its own meetings in squares talks only to itself so to be in an area as just another organisation was too much for its organisers. So when they started to depart people started jeering them and a few scuffles broke out. Many shouted shame or clapped ironically saying also well done, the parade is over. During arguments with the KKE stewards their complaint was that if they arrive on the square (one month after this movement started) people don’t want them and if they leave people jeer at them. This is obviously quite logical as the KKE criticised those who were on the squares when they said the struggle is only in the factories when ironically they had always stated people should hit the streets against the economic measures and when they did they told them to go back to the factories (as if everyone is working!!) What was clearly discernible was that the volume of people on the streets has affected the KKE and it can no longer pretend its policies are actually serving any other purpose than a left cover for IMF-PASOK
Tear gas for 5 hours straight-but people don’t go away
After the KKE left the motorbike contingent against the IMF arrived in the square to the crowds who clapped in support and soon thereafter the riot police started a 5 hour barrage of tear gas and little rocket bombs that make a massive amount of noise to shake you and a little explosion. People started to defend themselves and throw water bottles at police lines and anything they could find, but the volume of teargas was so intense that even if you had gasmasks and sea goggles the smoke alone meant it was difficult to see, but at least you could breathe. During lulls in the conflict two individuals climbed over the police barriers and confronted the riot police on their own. The shouting and screaming at the police was constantly interspersed with slogans of Police, Pigs, Murderers which thronged the whole square and Hellas Hellas. Despite the volume of tear gas the people never dispersed just retreated as the police fire tear gas straight at you and you could be seriously injured by the teargas canister. Fires were lit in the square below and aids were handing out Maalox (chemical compound for bad stomach diluted) spray for the burning eyes.
At the same time this morning a minister stated Greece will not be Argentina when by all accounts this is the beginning as the old order is disintegrating and by teargas alone one cannot keep such a large mass of people in check. To what extent people today will accept to be attacked by the police indefinitely without counterattacking in the known ways (Molotov cocktails etc) may be the marvels or our ‘modern era’. At the same time the ‘Special Olympics’ are occurring which have cost around 100million. There are more than 15,000 police who have been on duty now for around 2 days straight and thousands of protestors are arriving from many parts of Greece. The battle begins anew.