Greece: the government is retreating – the student movement is insisting

Last Thursday Greece witnessed another massive mobilisation of the students. The government is adopting delaying tactics. In the meantime the students have appealed directly to the union leaders to call a general strike, which is to take place this Thursday.

The demonstrators outside the Greek ministry of Education

 The demonstrators outside the Greek
ministry of Education

Thursday of last week there was another massive mobilization of students in Greece. There were huge demonstrations of around 50,000 students in Athens and Thessalonica against the government's education policy. Just two days before the demonstrations were to take place the government officially announced the "freezing" of the new bill on Universities. This was clearly a manoeuvre on the part of the government – an attempt to confuse the student movement and to win time.

However, it will take more than this to save the government. The students were not fooled by the government. They organized massive assemblies to discuss and decide on what would be the next step and with a big majority they rejected the government's manoeuvre. They made it absolutely clear that they will not bring the struggle to an end unless there is a total withdrawal of the new bill. They also added that they would continue the struggle unless the government announces that it is abandoning its plans to change the constitution so as to allow for the setting up of private Universities.

The main slogan raised at the massive assemblies and also on the demonstration in Athens was "the river does not turn back". By this they mean that the massive wave of occupations and demonstrations is not going to stop, but on the contrary, is going to be escalated in the coming days.

The students in front of the vice-minister of Education
 The students in front of the
vice-minister of Education

The fact is, there is widespread sympathy for the students among the people of Greece, particularly within the labour movement. Under the pressure of this public sympathy towards the movement the police were forced to change their tactics. This time the police had a very "soft" approach and did not provoke the students.

In the assemblies we could see what effect such a big movement can have on the consciousness of the youth. This was reflected in the influence of the various political forces. The DAP-NDFK student front has emerged as being extremely isolated and in all the assemblies their proposals aimed at bringing the movement to an end got less than 10% of the votes. This represents a very sharp turn, because as recently as last April in the students elections the DAP-NDFK received an impressive 46% of the votes, while the PKS (KKE, Communist Party), EAAK (a federation of different left groups) and DIKTIO (the Synaspismos front) ‑ the forces that are now leading the movement ‑ received 14%, 9% and 4,5 respectively. We should also note that the PASOK student front, after the party leadership dissolved the PASOK Youth  (without any reaction from its members), received approximately 26% of the votes in those elections. The PASOK student front is now divided and in crisis, after it officially came out against the movement.

At this moment the number of occupied University Faculties has risen to 400. The most important thing is that the students have understood the need to link up the struggle with the workers. Last Wednesday a very significant event took place. The coordinating committee of the students' strike visited the headquarters of the GSEE (the Greek TUC) and asked the trade union leaders to give official support of the labour movement to the struggle of the students. It was after this meeting that the national executive committee of the GSEE came out with a call for a 3-hour general work stoppage next for Thursday. It also agreed to become a co-organiser of the next big national demonstration of the students, which is to take place on the same day. This reflects the big pressure of the workers who strongly support the struggle of their sons and daughters against the bourgeois government and its violence actions against the students.

The demonstrators in Athens
 The demonstrators in Athens

One opinion poll recently published by one of the serious bourgeois newspapers "Eleftherotypia", shows clearly the huge level of sympathy for the students' struggle among the workers: 57.4% said they were against the setting up of private Universities; 65% said that there was no reason for the police to use violence against the young demonstrators and 62% said they were in favour of the occupations of the Universities.

The Greek Marxist Tendency is intervening actively in this movement with a special edition of their paper Marxistiki Foni and is hammering away within the student assemblies the idea of a common front of the students with the workers in defence of state education. It is also linking this to the need to fight for a new left government that would carry out a socialist programme in the interest of workers and the youth. Our slogans are starting to find a serious echo among many of the most advanced and militant youth and this gives us more confidence to continue to fight for the ideas of revolutionary Marxism in Greece. We will keep the readers of "In Defence of Marxism" informed about every new development in the situation.

June 19, 2006

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