Greek society has been rocked by mass protests, strikes, and riots since police shot and killed 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in December. Bryan Koulouris recently interviewed Nikos Anastasiadis from Xekinima, the Greek section of the Committee for a Workers’ International (The international the Socialist Party is a section of).
What is the background, before the shooting, of the discontent in Greek society that led to these events?
Since the mid ’80s, both governing parties tried their best to implement austerity packages that hit hard the workers and poor. Even during the last eight years of constant and relatively big growth, the living standards of Greek working people were falling.
2006 and 2007 were years of mass struggle to prevent the education reform and the pension bill that the government wanted to impose. These movements were treated with hard repression from the police, and eventually were defeated. These defeats (as well as last year’s price hikes) made the situation for ordinary people much worse. All this was happening while Greek capitalists were recording huge profits.
How do you feel about the rioting?
We can make a distinction between violence used by angry students against police stations and police cars, and the violence of organized anarchist groups against everything.
In the first case, the siege by the students of police stations was supported by the majority of the population. In many cases, workers intervened against the police to stop them arresting students or using tear gas. This kind of violence was a genuine expression of the anger of Greek society.
In the second case, throwing Molotov cocktails at the police, breaking and burning shops and public buildings, this was not supported by the population, and was used by the media and the government to discredit the mobilizations.
What role did Xekinima, the Greek section of the Committee for a Workers’ International, play in these events?
From the first moment, we took an active part in all the actions organized. There were daily demonstrations, occupations in schools and universities, local protests, etc. All our forces were participating, intervening, and sometimes leading these actions.
Our proposals were based on three key points:
- The need for the working class to be drawn into the struggle, pressuring the trade union leaderships to call a general strike in support of the movement.
- The need for a democratic structure for the movement, with action committees in every school, university, and neighborhood in order to discuss and decide with all the layers in society the course of the movement.
- The need for a politicization of the struggle. The slogan which SYRIZA [a new left political party] put forward, “Down with the government of killers,” was massively adopted by big parts of the movement. There was a need for a discussion about the political alternative to the government and the system it represents.
We also played an important role inside SYRIZA, which has become a focal point for most workers and youth since last year. SYRIZA was the only party that didn’t line up with the government in its call for “national unity” and “condemnation of the movement.” This created a lot of discussion inside the left, and SYRIZA now has become the center of interest again.
The movement is not over yet. In the period that is now opening, there is the potential for a continuation of the mobilizations. At the same time, conclusions will be drawn about the way to take the struggle forward and about the need for a political, a socialist answer to the dead-end of capitalism in Greece