Greece - The Thessalonica anti-EU demonstrations

The EU summit that was recently organized in Thessalonica from June 19 to 21 was met with tens of thousands of Greek workers and youth showing their opposition to the this international club of capitalists gangsters. The European "leaders" were discussing the new EU Constitution and the problems of illegal immigration. The EU summit that was recently organized in Thessalonica from June 19 to 21 was met with tens of thousands of Greek workers and youth showing their opposition to the this international club of capitalists gangsters. The European "leaders" were discussing the new EU Constitution and the problems of illegal immigration.

However, while they were discussing in the comfort of the luxurious venue this event was held at, outside there were people with a different opinion. The "anti-globalisation" movement was present, protesting at the plans of the European capitalists. Most of the parties and small groups of the Greek Left had placed this summit at the centre of their activities and had been preparing for it for more than a year. This time the behaviour of the PASOK was different from the past. The PASOK government not only avoided provoking the demonstrators, but on the contrary it provided camping areas and tents, and also halls for the organizing of events and discussions.

The police authorities had other plans. The atmosphere of fear that the officials and the police had spread through the media had in fact led many of the people of Thessalonica to go out of town during this three day event. The shop-owners closed their shops and tried to protect their property with metal bars.

The main demonstration was organised for Saturday 21. The problem was that there were three separate demonstrations, which unfortunately has become a feature of the Greek labour and left movement over the past few years, with different forces competing to see who can get the biggest attendance, rather than coming together in one united movement.

The biggest demo was organized by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) together with its trade union wing (PAME) and also with other KKE front organisations. This demonstration was attended by 30,000-40,000 people.

The second demo one was organized by the Forum. The trade unions, the Greek TUC (GSEE) and the Civil Service union, as well as left forces such as the Synaspismos (the fourth biggest party in Greece) attended this demo which attracted 10,000-15,000 people. The third demo was organized by a smaller left grouping called the NAR, with 3,000-5,000 people.

The main difference between this "anti-capitalist" demo and other anti-EU summit gatherings that have taken place over the last few years is that there was a much smalerl participation from other countries. There were only a few hundred people from other European countries and some from Turkey.

The event was marred by uncalled for violent actions. Some hundreds of so-called anarchists - in fact they were merely hooligans - smashed up shops and set fire to buildings and cars on the roads. The police replied with a storm of tear gas that led to the breaking up of the demonstrations. The hooligan elements once again played into the hands of the police. The police did not isolate these small groups. Instead they pushed them back towards the main body of the demonstration, towards all the people who were trying to escape from the tear gas, and thus used a tiny minority as an excuse to attack the bulk of the demonstrations and break them up.

Conclusions

What we can say is that although there was a sizeable turnout, the demonstrations in Thessalonica did not attract the numbers that the organizers had been expecting. This is even more marked if we also take into account that there had been a huge preparation beforehand.

There are several reasons that explain this relatively small turnout. Firstly it was only a couple of month ago that we saw the enormous demonstrations against the war. Huge numbers of workers and youth took part in those demonstrations people. People had been mobilized repeatedly in many demonstrations over a period and they felt that they had already done enough. There was also the feeling of disappointment about the way the war ended. The masses in Greece mobilized not just once but many times in large numbers hoping this would have an effect on the warmongering plans of the imperialists. But as we have explained many times, demonstrations are not enough. The movement must be built up against the very system that spawns war, the capitalist system.

Another major reason was that the way the demonstrations were organized. The fact that there were three separate demos did not help at all. It gave a feeling of divided movement, which inevitably has the effect of keeping a large layer of people away. Lastly the police and the local authorities had built up an atmosphere of fear for some time before the summit. All these factors played their role. This explains why the events of Thessalonica 2003 did not become the continuation of Genoa, or even of the recent Evian Conference, but just their echo.

However no one should interpret this in anyway as a lack of willingness to struggle on the part of Greek workers and youth. Greece has seen very large strikes and demonstrations over the past two years, with general strikes and mass demonstrations. What we need is one united movement with a clear programme and objectives. Presented with this the masses would respond massively.