Battle Ground Athens: second general strike leads to pitched battles


More than 150,000 people took to the streets of Athens against the austerity measures in a mass protest marches that have led to extended battles in the greek capital.

On Thursday March 11 all Greece came to a 24h standstill as a result of the second general strike to be called within less than a month (not the third as reported by foreign media, as the first strike in February only concerned the public sector). As a result of the strike called by GSEE (private sector union umbrella) and ADEDY (public sector union umbrella) as well as PAME (the Communist Party union umbrella) no buses, trams, metros, trolley buses or suburban trains exited their stations, while due to air-traffic control workers’ strike no flights are being realised within or in and out of the country. Only the electric train will function for 4h in Athens in order to facilitate people’s participation in the mass demo at noon. In the health sector, all hospitals are functioning with emergency personnel only, as all doctors, ambulance drivers and nurses are striking. All banks are closed to the public, and all public and municipal offices and services have been shut by the strike. The Corinth Canal has also been shut by the workers controling it, allowing no ships to make the vital crossing. All boats have been immobilised in the harbours and no inter-city trains are running. Post offices remain closed, while National Electricity, National Waters and National Telecoms workers are taking part in the strike with all offices and factories of the above industries closed for the day. All schools and universities remain also closed as teachers and academics are partcipating in the strike. Office workers, factory workers and contruction workers are also participating en mass in the strike. Firemen and policemen are also performing walk-outs, with a policemen demo at the National Police HQ planned for the afternoon. Due to the participation of the TV, radio, electronic news websites, and the press in the strike, there are no news broadcasts for 24h. Thus the information gathered here will be completed by means of Comments after the end of the General Strike when more information become available. In total more than 3 million people (out of a total population of 11 million) are expected to having taken part in the general strike today.

The General Strike comes as a new climax to labour struggle against the new austerity measures the greek government has announced in response to its notorious credit crisis. In the days before the General Strike, stage workers have occupied the Ministry of Labour on Peiraeos street, while the continuing occupation of the General State Accountancy by layed-off Olympic Airways workers has caused the intervention of the state persecutor who has demanded their arrest. No such move of repression has been made yet by the police, and Panepistimiou street remains cut in two by the protesters for more than a week now. In Salonica, the General Industrialists Bureau was occupied yesterday by workers, while radicals from the left dropped a huge banner in the Acropolis reading “take the measures back”. Troughout the week, tax officers performed a 48h strike, school traffic wardens in Northern Greece performed a 3-day strike, while judges and other judicial officers performed 4-h work daily stoppages. No garbage has been collected since last Saturday in Athens, Patras and Salonica as refuse collectors have blockaded the great garbage depot of the three major cities. Finally, in the city of Komitini ENKLO textile workers are mounting an ever more intense labour struggle, with protest marches and strikes: two banks were occupied by the workers last Monday.

The Demos:

The first demo in Athens was performed by PAME, the Communist Party union umbrella, just before noon. PAME allied workers first formed small demos across Athens, then marched to Omonoia square and all together in a 50,000 strong march to the Parliament. At the same time, people started gathering at Patision and Alexandras junction for the demo called by GSEE and ADEDY. The demo which soon gathered over 100,000 people set to march to the Parliament at 12:30 when just outside the Polytechnic riot police forces tried to cut-off a large anarchist block from the march by brutal force. Clashes ensued with extended use of tear gas and molotov cocktails. Despite the air being thick with smoke and CS gas, the march continued its way along Patision avenue and on to Stadiou street where many corporate shops came under attack. After reaching the Parliament, the march turned to Panepistimiou street where renewed clashes erupted at the height of Propylea. With the march coming to its final distination, protesters who continued their way to Omonoia where attacked by Delta team motorised forces. The Delta-team thugs tried to hit the protesters in full speed sparking more pitched battles with police squads encircled and beaten by the angry crowd and several Delta-team motorbikes destroyed. At the time of writing, the battles have moved to Exarcheia where protesters have erected flaming baricades and are confronting riot police and Delta force cops by means of rocks and molotov cocktails. Many protesters have sought refuge at the Polytechnic from which they are confronting police forces on both Patision and Stournari street. During the clashes many protesters have been wounded with one reported to be in intensive care with heavy wounds on the chest. The number of people arrested remains unclear but there are about 16 people detained and 13 cops hospitalised.

In Salonica 6 different marches took place by different unions and umbrella unions. Protesters of the Worker’s Centre march, which numbered 7,000 people in total, attacked corporate and church-owned shops on Egnatia avenue, while two super-markets were looted with the commodities distributed to the people. Despite the police firing tear-gas, the march continued and attacked the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace with paint and rocks before reaching the Worker’s Centre.

In Ioannina despite the pouring rain around 1.500 people marched against the measures with no news of clashes. Similar protest marches took place in Sitia, Naxos, Veroia, Patras and other cities. In Heracleion, Crete, shops that did not allow their workers to strike were blockaded and several banks came under attack by protesters. In Volos, protesters blockaded the gates of the METKA factory not allowing security-staff (i.e. scabs) to enter the premises, with many more corporate chain shops that did not allow their workers to strike blockaded and shut by the protesters. The official union-bosses of Volos were forced to leave the march after mass heckling by the workers.

Despite anti-strike war waged by the bourgeois media, amongst which the more bloodthirty ones like Kathimerini is urging the government to crush the protests “even if some protesters die”, the Athens march is estimated to be the largest in 15 years, and has demonstrated the resolve of the working class to fight back against the capitalist onslaught.