Greek steel workers by YORGOS KARAHALIS / Reuters
A working class hero is something to be.
ongoing revolution is taking place during the last nine months in
crisis-stricken Greece. I'm not referring to the known scenes of
indignant citizens marching outside the Parliament. I'm referring to
a less known, but much more significant, story. It's a heroic
struggle that is taking place outside the steel plant of the
"Hellenic Halyvourgia" (Greek Coal/Steel industry) at
Aspropyrgos, a suburb of Athens. The story is a characteristic
example of class struggle within the context of the severe capitalist
crisis which dominates the country since 2009.
For 264 consecutive days, the workers of the private-owned industrial colossus "Hellenic Halyvourgia" remain on strike, thus trying to defense their obvious rights with all the means they got in their hands. It could be the story of any worker, in any part of the world. Last Tuesday, a mass rally in support of the steel workers took place in central Athens -- the message was more than clear: the struggle of the strikers will continue until victory!
From his side, in a profound effort to terrorize the workers, N.Manesis (the owner of "Hellenic Halyvourgia") has publicly threatened that the Aspropyrgos steel plant will be soon closed if the strike continues. The whole story started last October: The administration of the industry -- the largest of steel production in Greece -- decided to reduce the working hours and cut the salaries in an effort to counterbalance the losses generated by the economic crisis. On October 2011, taking advantage from the anti-labor laws passed under the EU-IMF bailout agreement, the employer announced drastic cuts in wages, the layoffs of 36 workers and his plan to fire 180 from a total of around 400 working men and women. The action provoked a strong response from the Union -- supported by the All Workers Militant Front (PAME) -- which decided the first 24-hours long strikes.
Answering the hypocritical arguments by the industry's administration, the president of the steel workers Union Giorgos Sifonios presented data according to which: the production of iron at the steel plant had been increased from 194,600 tones in 2009 to 231,000 in 2010 and even before the end of 2011 it had already reached 266,000 tones [ Rizospastis, 2.11.2011 ). It therefore became absolutely clear that the motives behind the layoffs and the cuts is the maximization of the owner's profit -- the very essence of the capitalist system's function.
then, the steel workers continue their strike under especially
difficult circumstances. While the government "washes it's hands"
calling for a "commonly accepted" solution, a propagandistic
mechanism has tried to throw mud on this heroic struggle. I copy from
a recent announcement issued by PAME, the working coordination center
affiliated with the Greek Communist Party:
"The last press releases coming from part of the Media and people working for Manesis slander the trade union and the steelworkers' struggle and are by no means random. They are parts of the plan to terrorise with threats and blackmails, to break the steelworkers' proud struggle, and show "green light" to the employers in total. In this game of impressions one loyal ally of Manesis is the governmental and employers' trade unionism. They never lose the chance to attack the trade union, for the tactics it has been following, and to advice it to submit. On Thurdsay Mr Panagopoulos (president of General Confederation of Greek Workers), making statements in one of the state TV channels, supported the position that "mo matter what salaries and working relations, as long as jobs aren't lost". Right now the capital has got one and only goal. They want to crush the price of labour power, under the conditions of crisis, so all these can be used as "fertilizers" in order to achieve recuperation. The struggles the workers not to become slaves, is called "blackmail" and "the cause of shutting down the factories". On the other hand wages of 400 euros and crushing the workers' lives is considered healthy entrepreneurship and necessary realism".
All these months, the leadership and members of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) have been by the side of the steel workers and their families. Talking to the media, the KKE Secretary-General Aleka Papariga brought the issue of the strike at the center of the political interest. During her last visit to the plant earlier this month, Papariga called the political parties to support the demands of the workers, contrary to the threats of the employer. And indeed, there is no middle situation on that case -- you can be either with the workers or with the industrialist. Any other stance can be described only as a hypocritical speculation or pure opportunism.
264 days the Greek steel workers try to protect their vested rights
contrary to a mechanism of terrorism. On June, the Athens First
Instance Court declared the strike as 'illegal' following a
decision by the judge who argued that the
31 October 2011, was
without holding a... secret ballot. The
strike was therefore 'unlawful', according to the class-oriented
standards of Greek Justice. As a consequence, a secret ballot was
held by the workers union on the 28 th
of May which showed 204 votes for and only 42 votes against.
the mechanisms of manipulation and anti-labor terrorism continue to
blame the striking workers for closing down the steel plant. But the
truth is that the workers striking activity has absolutely nothing to
do with the closing of the industries -- it is the competition
character of the capitalist, free market economy and the neoliberal
policies which have put lockers to many Greek industries and
For example, a number of industries in Greece have either
cancelled their function or moved their plants to neighboring
countries: United Textile (Lanaras), Diamond Hellas, Ideal Standard,
the shipyards at Skaramangas port, Katselis Thessaloniki, Foco, Mines
at Kassandra, Viosol and many others. The Thessaloniki Industry
Chamber has provided data according to which 627 small and large
enterprises have shut down during 2012.
Who should be blamed for closing down all these private industries? The workers or the industrialists? The struggles of the working people or the governmental policies?
A common struggle.
The nine-months long struggle of the steel workers at "Hellenic Halyvourgia" is a struggle of the whole working class in Greece. It's a common struggle. And it gives a message to the working people around Europe, but also to the rest of world, wherever the rights of the workers are threatened by the laws and practices of capitalist oppression. Messages of solidarity, from Spain to Mexico and from France to Cyprus have been issued in support of the Greek workers who demand a better future, for them and for their children.