2015 - The year of the workers NO!

2015 opened with electoral rhythms.  On December 17, a few days before the hated Samaras / Venizelos government collapsed. The results of the January 15th elections demonstrate a total turn towards the left. Never before has the combined vote for the left reached such historic levels.
Syriza is confirmed as the first party and the added electoral percentages of SYRIZA, the KKE, of ANTARSYA and of the other left forces outside parliament nationwide reaches 42,56%.  In the working class districts of the big cities the percentages increase for the left:  In B Athens they reach 45,1% and for Piraeus 51,2%!

The results are celebrated on the night of election day in all of the centers of struggle.  At ERT (the Greek public broadcaster that was illegally shut down by the previous government), at the encampment of the Cleaners of the ministry of the Economy, and everywhere where the struggles that were happening that caused the collapse of the previous government.  But the first signs of the betrayals of people's expectations came early on the next day.  Despite the fact that one in two Greeks voted for the left, the government to be formed is between SYRIZA and the far right Independent Greeks (AN.EL.)

SYRIZA run a campaign based on promises of suspension of the memoranda austerity measures and return of the past gains of the labor movement (i.e. the "social state") but from the very beginning it is clear that the government is on a trajectory of severe compromises.  After the start of the negotiations with the lenders and despite the communicative games it was shown that the gains of labor would be determined again in the pavement. 


The workers or ERT are the first to send this message with a demonstration under snowfall on February 2nd, demanding the government meet their immediate demands as an answer to the government's "wait for to the negotiations".

Early in February the squares are filled with demonstrators.  SYRIZA rushes to co opt these gatherings as demonstrations in support of the government's negotiating team.  But as the demonstrations are increasing, within their ranks also increase voices that speak for the negotiations to stop, for a break with the EU, demanding that the government make "not a single step backwards". 
Finally not even a month has passed since the government was brought into office and under the pressures of the lenders, comes a big step backwards with the agreement of the 20th of February.  This first agreement is about an extension of the memoranda and freezes all the promises for the fulfillment of the demands of the labor movement.  The raising of the minimum wage is postponed till the year after, the privatizations will continue as planned and the laid off workers would not be rehired.  ANTARSYA organizes a demonstration against the agreement on the 26th of February and despite the downpour many hundreds demonstrate putting forward the anticapitalist alternative.  The cancellation of the debt, a break with the EU, nationalization of banks and workers control. 
In the case of ERT the legislation for the reopening gives back the jobs to the majority of the laid off workers, but not those under temporary contracts.  Meanwhile the experience of ERT under workers control was replaced with ERT under the control of Mr. Tagmatarhis (in Greek Mr. Major: a right winger who had pushed for ERT to be shut down initially).  In any case, the rehiring of the 2000 workers at ERT sent the message that "those who struggle get the goods".  

Likewise with those workers subject to "contract renewal".  During the same period the legislation is presented in parliament for their rehiring and even past its passage by parliament they persist with their encampment outside the ministry of the Economy "until the first day we all go back to work".


Parallel with the reactions of the already indignant ERT workers, come the first, under the new government mobilizations in the hospitals, organized from below, with work stoppages on the 11th of February of hospital workers who are part of the "Coordinating Committee".

At the same time in the ships a massive job's retention campaign by the seamen takes on the shipowners for unpaid wages.  On the 20th of March the temp workers at the ministry of Culture strike demanding full time and permanent employment.  On the next day, on international day against fascism and racism, the streets of Athens fill with antifascist demonstrators and this is mirrored in Thessaloniki, Chania and Patra. 


In Thessaloniki ERT3, VIOME, Chalkida Cement, the Cleaners of the ministry of Economy, school guards, all coordinate for the "Caravan of Struggle and Solidarity" that starts on the 3rd of April from Thessaloniki and arrives in Athens after 4 days, while making stops in many cities in between to demonstrate for the total priority and victory for all the struggles "at any cost".

It is the around that time when the "bomb" of the ports goes off.  In January, in the transfer process of the ministry of Shipping, the new minister Dritsas reassures that "the privatization of the port stops here".  Two months later the new minister of Shipping Dragasakis announces the government's decision to sell 67% of the port, and within a matter of weeks, causing an uproar in the seamen and port workers that will bring new mobilizations in the near future.    

The "robbery of the pension funds", the transfer with an emergency legislative act of all the savings of public institutions in order to pay the bonds, shows the harsh reality of what it means to abide by the demands of the Troika. 

April is also the month when the trial of the neonazis of Golden Dawn beggins.  On the first day of the trial on April 20th, ADEDY the public sector workers union strikes and hundreds of antifascists demonstrate outside the court of the Korydallos prison, demanding life sentences for the murders of Golden Dawn.


The first general strike against the concessions of the government materialize on Mayday.
One week later the seamen strike against the selling off of the ports.

On the 20th of May thousands of hospital workers strike and demonstrate, meanwhile all municipal workers join in with work stoppages.  The first long term strike against the government takes place in the docks of Syros island with workers fighting for their accruals, and those out of work for 17 months, contract labor of Organization of Freelancers, occupy the offices or OAEE starting on May 5. 

On May 8 the greed of the Latsis sends to the hospital 6 workers with grave injuries from a fire that broke out at the oil refinery of ELPE, a result of lax safety and work intensification.  Four of those injured workers will lose the battle for their lives.  The workers enraged walk out on a strike that will last several days.   

On May 11th, the workers or ERT collectively, organized and with their own initiative open the sealed gates of the ERT headquarters and with raised fists they return.  Mobilization at the headquarters follows with the slogan "we won and we continue the struggle", within a month the official ceremony of the re-opening of ERT takes place. 

The leftward turn is mirrored in the university students elections on MAY 13th.  The ballots cast for the left amount to percentages totalling 44% and within those the anticapitalist left reached 14% of the vote.  The 4 day long festival Marxism 2015 takes place with a large attendance at the School of Economics from May 21 through May 24.


June opens with the movement against the gold mine of El Dorado in Skouries, as it makes its way south to Athens on June 3rd and declares "Tsipras-Lafazanis-Tsironi, patience is running out".
Ten days later it is the turn of the LGBTQ movement with the largest Pride in Thessaloniki and for the first time outside in Heraklion in Crete. 

In the arena of the negotiations the threats of the lenders continue and a new deal of austerity is coming close to being signed.  Sintagma fills with thousands of people on June 21st in a demonstration and rally called by ADEDY, with ANTARSYA at the forefront and demonstrators hanging a banner against the agreement at the entrance to parliament.  In a gallup poll that was published in AVGI, the SYRIZA newspaper, 84% of the SYRIZA voters were against the backtracking by the government.  Tsipras is forced on June 26th to announce the referendum for July the 5th.  The question of the referendum is YES or NO to the deal offered by the lenders, of a new and harsh austerity.  But quickly in the minds of the voters it becomes YES or NO to the memoranda, the blackmailers, the Troikas and the compromises. 


The next ten days are days of unbelievable class polarization.  The battle for the OXI takes place in every workplace, in every neighbourhood, in every social space.  Labor unions call on their members to vote OXI.  The rallies for the OXI fill Athens and the center of the city is flooded with people.  But similar actions take place in most cities in Greece and outside the country internationally. 

ANTARSYA gives all its forces in this battle while SYRIZA is debating whether it should cancel the referendum it has called.  A large section of the KKE voters defy the call of the party to boycott or sabotage the vote and go ahead and vote NO. 

The campaign for the YES mobilizes all the bourgeois forces and all the terrorizing tactics.The banks closed and limits were set to withdrawals-making the anticapitalist demand for nationalization of banks under workers control the only reasonable alternative.  The media in sync, terrorized people 24h a day on the "dire consequences" of a NO vote, by presenting fake images as they proved to be in favor of the YES vote, going on about retires and the long lines at the ATMs.  

Schaeuble and company take an open position threatening with a forced grexit in case the NO wins.The parties of YES try to mimic the rallies of the NO camp unsuccessfully.  The bosses chart busses for the YES rally to the Kallimarmaro stadium by threatening people with sackings and withholding of wages, but the people who charted those buses instead went to the NO rally at Syntagma.

The result of the referendum on Sunday July 7th show the real balance of forces in society. The NO vote is 61,3%.  In the working class districts of Western Athens and Piraeus it surpasses 70%.  Tens of thousands of militants demonstrate in the morning hours celebrating and demanding the results of the referendum be the dismantling of the memoranda.    

But from the side of the government it's already decided:  At the eurogroup meeting on June 13th under the threats and blackmail of the "partners" of Tsipras in the EU, he continues and signs the 3rd memorandum.  The series of compromises that begins on the first day of the government on January, reached its apex only 24 hours after the NO. 

Internationally there is talk of a coup and the phrase "this is a coup" dominates the internet with over 2 billion hits.  On July 15 takes place the first public sector strike against the new memorandum.  On the 22nd of July, ADEDY, private sector unions, The Coordination against Closures and Layoffs and thousands of people demonstrate again during the vote on the second package of the demanded measures. 


The government decided to vote for the new memorandum in the middle of August in order to minimize reactions.  The demonstrations outside Parliament continue and when it finally comes for parliament to vote it manifests the height of the clash inside Syriza.  32Mps vote against, another 11 vote abstain and Tsipras manages to pass it with the votes of New Democracy, PASOK, The River and ANEL.  23 of those who voted against not only announce their departure from SYRIZA but also the formation of Popular Unity.  In the following days the departures from SYRIZA come in waves. SYRIZA youth is near collapse following the splitting of it's majority and its Central Committee.  Tsipras announces new elections for the 20th of September.


Despite the electoral campaign, strikes continue.
On September 9th thousands of working people demonstrate at the International Expo in Thessaloniki.  ANTARSYA and EEK decide to run on a joint electoral ticket and spread the campaign for the anticapitalist alternative throughout the country.  The central electoral rally assembles and marches to the EU office in Athens.
In the elections of the 20th of September, SYRIZA wins as people vote tactically to keep the right from returning into office and with the promise that it will deliver a memorandum with a human face.  Despite this SYRIZA loses 300,000 votes.  New Democracy enters a deep crisis while the forces to the left of SYRIZA, despite that fact that Popular Unity misses the opportunity to enter parliament with 2,9% of the vote, the combined percentages for Popular unity, KKE and ANTARSYA come close to 10%.


The victory of Tsipras does not mean an end to the struggles.  The implementation of the memorandum and the new loan agreement translate into a new round of harsh measures that need to be voted on in the parliament. 
The resistance to the privatizations, to the cuts in pensions and the bankrupting of the public funds that are leading the cuts in health insurance, the fights around the budgets for hirings in health and education, those are the centers of the mobilizations.

In Piraeus, unions and councils of the area are coordinating and demonstrating in Drapetsona in the hundreds on October 10th against privatizations.  On the 13th of October the Panhellenic Federation of Workers of Local Authorities brings the garbage trucks outside the ministry of labor against the exemption of the sanitation workers from the Heavy and Unhealthy Professions clause.  Teachers and professors organize mobilizations against the gaps and shortages in the schools.  In the hospitals a "mutiny"and work stoppages break out over inadequacies in the healthcare system and the undermining of healthcare overall.  University students in Rethymnon occupy the university for 4 weeks against the dissolution of their right to housing, meals and transportation.  On the 16th a new mobilization takes place at Syntagma square against the new measures that are being demanded by the deal.  On the 22nd of October is the turn of the port workers to strike and demonstrate in the rain outside the ministry of Shipping.  These and tens of more worker's mobilizations on the day after the election force the union bureaucracy to call for the general strike of November 12th.   


On the 1st of November takes place a nationwide meeting of the Coordinating Committee Against Closures and Layoffs where it is renamed Coordination against the Memoranda, where workers from dozens of workplaces take part.  The day after seamen come out on a strike that lasts 4 days, with continuous strike pickets that takes place at the boat cranes in coordination with ANTARSYA and the Coordination.  In Thessaloniki the historic newspaper Aggelioforos locks out the 110 workers and they keep producing the striking workers now newspaper.   

In the municipalities, a dress rehearsal for the general strike to come with occupations of municipal buildings being organized by the Panhellenic Federation of Workers of Local Authorities on 4/11.  The 5 monthers, workers in the municipalities who were hired for 5 months only, begin a struggle coordinated from the rank and file, for permanent employment.    

Lasting strikes are taking place in the recycling factories in Ioannina and Heraklion against layoffs.  In Ioannina after 17 days of strike, the layoffs are stopped.   
On November 12th the success of the general strike surpasses all expectations.  In dozens of workplaces pickets are taking place while the demonstrations resemble the larger general strikes of 2012-2012.  The success of the general strike gives a push to many other sections of workers to escalate and puts pressure for another general strike on December 3nd. 

Workers in the railroads, ports and public transportation are coordinating for joint strike activity against privatizations, the 5monthers continue with weekly mobilizations.  The government postpones legislation on the healthcare bill that was to be voted on in parliament at the beginning of November and pushes it forward in the new year..  


The workers at the supermarket chain Carrefour strike on December 1 and the health inspectors walk out on December 1st through out the country.
Οn December 3nd is the general strike lockdown with tens of thousands striking and demonstrating in the center of Athens and other cities.  Lasting strike actions are taking place in the factories of Rodopi, Zouras against layoffs and owed back wages.  The workers in the peripheries strike on December 11th.
the 5monthers escalate with occupations of municipalities and an encampment outside the ministry of Labor, and they pull ADEDY into a public sector work stoppage on December 23rd, closing the year with a strike, a year full of struggles and confrontations and challenges for the labor movement and the left.  

(translation: Iannis Delatolas)