The student movement in Greece: the first battle is won but the war continues

The strength of the Greek student movement has been truly amazing in these recent weeks. It forced even the conservative bureaucracy of the trade unions to organise a solidarity strike with the students. In the mass assemblies the students concluded that there should now be a pause and the movement should prepare to remobilise in September.

The student movement in Greece: the first battle is won but the war continues On Thursday we witnessed the closure of a week of important student mobilisations in Greece against the government’s education policy. On June 22 there was a common mobilisation of both workers and students including a 3-hour general strike on the same day. There were rallies of thousands of students, with the participation of some trade unionists. The rally in Athens was again very big with 25,000 mainly students present. Although the students had just completed three weeks of university occupations the mood was still a very militant one.

On July 27, 28 and 29, the students also organized a big protest outside the parliament building where the MPs were discussing the proposed changes to the Constitution that would allow businessmen to run private Universities. They also organised another rally outside the summit of the OOSA, the international strategy centre of capital, who were discussing education today “in the era of the free economy”.

During these mobilisations once again the students had the opportunity to understand the real nature of the bourgeois state, as they face the brutal attacks of the police against the peaceful young demonThe student movement in Greece: the first battle is won but the war continuesstrators.

After these mobilisations the student assemblies - with massive participation - decided to stop the mobilisations for now and prepare to launch a new struggle against the New Democracy government in September.

Now the students feel that they have achieved one first victory but, as the students of the Marxist Tendency explained during the assemblies, this is only the first battle. The government is trying to play for time by speaking of a “dialogue”. In reality, with the open support of the PASOK leaders, who only disagree with the government on the way it has managed the situation, in September the government will return with the same reactionary law that is at the heart of the recent mobilisations. This law abolishes the concept of asylum in the Universities by giving permission to the police to do anything they want on the campuses. It de facto expels working class students from the universities, and gives the green light to the private universities.

The most astonishing thing is that the leadership of PASOK in parliament has once again announced officially its support for the setting up of private universities, and seem not to care about the fact that the opinion polls reveal that the PASOK has actually 1 or 2% less than one year ago, in spite of the fact that the PASOK has been in “opposition” for two and a half years now.

Political conclusions and perspectives

After one and a half months of University occupations and massive mobilisations, four main political conclusions can be drawn from this extraordinary youth movement.

The student movement in Greece: the first battle is won but the war continues The first is that the youth – after some years of passivity - is rapidly moving towards mass action and as is normal, in so doing they are moving to the Left. The youth always reveal the general direction that society as a whole is moving in. This recent development indicates quite clearly that the majority of society, the Greek proletariat and the poorest layers of the petit bourgeoisie, are preparing to stand up and fight against the attacks of the parasitic Greek bourgeois class.

The second thing is that from this political wave towards the left it is the KNE (Young Communist League of Greece) that will mostly benefit. At the moment the KNE is by far the biggest left youth organization in Greece, with roots in the proletarian youth. Although in the first stages of the struggle, the leaders of the KNE adopted a strike-breaking position, the situation very quickly changed. As their own ranks were taking an active part in the movement, the leaders of the KNE were forced to change position very quickly. And as the KNE was now supporting the mobilisations, the youth moved closer to this organization because it is seen as a strong and viable force within Greek society.

The youth of the Synaspismos and the other left groups did play a certain role in the mobilisations but they remain very weak and because they are dominated by petit bourgeois ideas and methods they will not benefit much from this movement. On the other hand, the Youth of PASOK is in a deep crisis. In reality at this moment it does not even exist formally as an organisation after Papandreou recently closed it down. In the Universities the PASOK student organisation has no official line and is divided over the key issues concerning the students.

The student movement in Greece: the first battle is won but the war continues The third important conclusion is that the leaders of the GSEE (the Greek TUC) will very quickly feel big pressure from the ranks of the labour movement to organise mass action against the Karamanlis government. We have to remember that it was only as recently as last April that these leaders signed a scandalous agreement with the bosses’ organisation, the SEV which gave the workers a mere 0.77 euros wage increase per day. This was their way of bringing to an end the big movement of workers that unfolded last March against the government. The new president of the GSEE, Yiannis Panagopoulos, an ex-“Trotskyist” bureaucrat of PASKE (the PASOK front in the GSEE) in the immediate future will come under a lot of pressure. This we can see in the fact that the same old leadership of the GSSE was forced to call a general strike in support of the students, albeit a 3-hour one.

The last but not least meaningful conclusion is that the example of the mobilisation of French students in May was not an exception in Europe. The Greek student movement gives us a picture of what the future will be like in all the European Countries. It will be a future of massive movements of the youth together with the workers against the capitalist policies.

The supporters of the Marxist Tendency, gathered around the journal Marxistiki Foni after these mobilisations have gained a lot more experience and they had won the support and sympathy of many hundreds of militant youth. Marxistiki Foni - only one and a half years after it was first published – is now a well known paper today, especially among layers of the Communist Youth and this puts us in a better position to fight for the cause of the socialist revolution in Greece.

July 1, 2006


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