Report with statements from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)
Mass march in Thessaloniki, Greece as part of the March 16 general strike — image via PAME Greece International on Twitter
Tens of thousands took to the streets in cities across Greece answering the call of labour unions, student unions, Communists and other left groups for a general strike on March 16 as part of the ongoing mobilizations after the horrific train disaster that killed 57 people on February 28.
There had been mass protests in Athens and other major cities several times previously in March including on March 5, 8 and 12.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) released a statement noting:
On 16 March, tens of thousands of workers, university and school students, through their unions demanded that the crime in Tempe should not be covered up. With their banners and slogans, they pointed out that the capitalist profit, the current government of ND and the previous ones of SYRIZA and PASOK that followed the EU policy, are responsible for the conditions and criminal shortcomings that led to the tragic train crash.
The GS of the CC of the KKE, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, attended the strike rally in the city of Kavala and made the following statement to the media:
“Today, in the 21st century, the modernization that the Greek people, the youth and their movement seek and struggle for is the meeting of all contemporary popular social needs. It is not the modernization of the ‘guild’ of private companies, of investors, of big contractors, of profit, of easy money, of fraud, served by the current government and all previous governments, leading the Greek people to the bloody tracks of disaster.
I wish strength to all of you. Today mass militant demonstrations and strike rallies are taking place throughout Greece. We struggle for the strengthening of our people, of the labour–popular movement, of the KKE!”
The strikers are receiving solidarity statements from around the world:
On March 10 the KKE issued a comprehensive manifesto about what led to the terrible train collision and what needs to be done in Greece — and equally in other countries — to make sure such a criminal and preventable loss of life never occurs again. This was translated into English on March 15. We republish it here in full:
Statement of the Political Bureau of the CC of the KKE
On the train crash in Tempe and the mass protests of the people and the youth
1. We salute the impressive protests of the workers, the people and particularly the youth, who have been flooding the streets of cities and villages all over Greece. The mass strike rallies, the actions in workplaces, the multifaceted moving events staged by university and school students together with parents and teachers, the demonstrations are a new, hopeful element amidst the grief and anger caused by the tragedy in Tempe.
They are a mass, popular and youthful outburst with qualitative characteristics and with strong elements of militancy, collectivity, solidarity and greater confidence in the value of organized struggle. The slogans of these demonstrations are not subject to any distortion or misinterpretation. Their message is clear. The crime in Tempe must not be covered up and the focus must be shifted to the real causes and culprits responsible for this crime.
The remarkable demonstrations of the trade unions, the university students’ unions, the students’ coordinating committees and the mass organizations of the popular movement have from the very first moment foiled the attempt of the ND government to attribute this crime that had been waiting to happen to “human error” or to some “chronic ills of the state” in general, for which allegedly “everyone is to blame” and above all the workers themselves.
They destroyed the propaganda machine of lies and hypocrisy, state repression and provocations, the attempt of both the government and other parties to impose silence in the name of mourning or to defuse anger and indignation through silent and painless protests. Their common aim was to limit the discussion to individual issues so that the policy followed by all governments over time that has served the profit of business groups—including of the transport sector—, the current state and, above all, the decayed system, and does not hesitate to even sacrifice human lives on the altar of profit, remains immune.
Because bad luck or the country in general are not to blame. The culprits are the profit, the state, and those who have ruled and are ruling the country.
2. These demonstrations are an example of the enormous and inexhaustible power of the struggling people, which can really turn the tables. The outburst of the people and youth’s anger did not come as a bolt from the blue. It was not only something “spontaneous”, nor can it be explained solely by the young age of the victims in Tempe, which certainly fills us with rage. The train crash in Tempe was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
It came on top of all the other pressing problems faced by the workers and the people, and a series of recurring events (management of the pandemic, work accidents, wildfires, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters, etc.), where it has been amply demonstrated by all governments that the current state treats the needs and protection of the people as a “cost” that must be ignored because it harms the profitability of capital and the so-called resilience of the capitalist economy. This is the same state that has set up e-infrastructures for electronic auctions of primary residences and electronic profiling, but not electronic systems for train supervision, proving that the utilization of technological and scientific achievements is done according to class-based economic and political criteria.
3. These are the real causes of the train “accident” in Tempe. This is the ground on which shortages, delays, gaps and “human errors” flourish. The culprit is the policy of “liberalization” of the railways followed by all ND, SYRIZA, and PASOK governments, based on the directions of the EU. This policy treats rail transport as a field of profitability and this automatically means that passenger safety is turned into a cost and is treated as such.
It is characteristic that in 2021 alone there were 1,389 serious rail accidents in the EU, with a total of 636 deaths and 513 injuries, of which 97 involved train collisions. In this context, rail accidents have also increased in Greece in recent years, sounding the alarm for a “major accident to come”, as the trade union grouping of railway workers supported by the KKE warned just 20 days ago.
This policy started in Greece as early as in the mid-1990s, after the Maastricht Treaty, and was precipitated during the crisis and the memoranda. Since then, the ND and PASOK governments have proceeded to fragment the railway, to break up the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) into various companies, thus separating transport services from the infrastructure, i.e. the wagons from the rails, and paving the way for privatization. Afterwards, it was the SYRIZA government that proceeded to sell TRAINOSE to the Italian company.
As part of this policy, the people were burdened with debts while the investor was subsidized with tens of millions of euros. Workers were reduced and labour relations were made more flexible. The 9-day continuous work regime was imposed on contract workers. In other words, an attempt was made to rid the “former OSE” of everything that could stand in the way of profitability, by cutting back on workers’ rights, protection measures, infrastructure, etc.
No one can, therefore, pretend to be ignorant. The ND government was repeatedly warned by trade unions and the KKE in parliament, and for that reason it bears enormous responsibility for the crime. SYRIZA, PASOK and MERA25 cannot play ignorant since they either implemented or propagated the privatization of the OSE as a solution and drew attention to the conditions under which it would take place.
4. The culprits are also making an underhand attempt to acquit “privatization”, saying that the accident occurred in the area of responsibility of the public limited company owned by the state that controls the networks, thus preparing the next phase of “liberalization”.
It confirms that the bourgeois state and monopolies complement each other, since the state does everything in its power to support investments and its profitability, sacrificing the needs, safety and even the lives of the people. It is this state that sells profitable sectors to private individuals and relieves them of costly infrastructure. It is this state that creates the anti-labour framework for private individuals to employ railway workers on ever worse terms, that subsidizes railway companies with millions of euros, while not spending even half that amount on network maintenance.
This state, which owns the majority of the shares in OSE, operates according to the same laws of profit as the privatized TRAINOSE, while at the same time it has turned transport into a field of action for powerful groups, which undertake projects regarding the rail network through Public Private Partnerships and subcontractors. And it is the same state that just as easily as it privatizes sectors of the economy, it just as easily ‘re-nationalizes’ them, in order to pass the costs on to the people in a different way and then redivide the slices of the cake if necessary.
On the opposite side lies the proposal of the KKE. The railways can be a modern, fast, safe and cheap means of transport for the people and for goods throughout the country. However, this presupposes “liberation” from the tracks of profit, transport and infrastructure based on the meeting of the expanded needs of the people, through a single state organization, utilizing all the modern achievements of science and technology, integrated into the central scientific planning of the economy, social ownership and workers’ control.
5. This crime is not an exception to the rule. Every day, workers are confronted with crimes —either large or small ones— which are multiplied in the context of the capitalist path of development. This is the common denominator that sacrifices rights, incomes, wages, labour relations, necessary infrastructure for the protection of the people and even human lives.
Therefore, the dilemma posed is ruthless: Either we will continue counting losses and victims under the policy that puts a price on the lives and rights of the people, or we will choose the path of organized struggle to overthrow this barbarity.
It is possible for the people to live in a different way. There is no lack of the means that science, technology and human labour can provide. However, these means must be freed from the shackles of profit in order to be utilized for the meeting of the contemporary workers’–people’s needs. This perspective can provide impetus and continuity to the mass mobilizations. It can corner the anti-popular governments and provide some relief to the people. Above all, this perspective can provide answers to the burning questions raised by these struggles such as why is all this happening and how do we get rid of this situation.
In the coming period we will struggle in this direction. This is the only way to get justice for the dead, to ensure that the crime does not go unpunished and, above all, to stop human sacrifices on the altar of profit.
Because our lives matter. They cannot be priced!
6. We call upon the members and friends of the Party and KNE to spare no efforts for the continuation and escalation of this struggle in every workplace, in every place where the youth live, study and work, in cities and villages.
We call upon the people and the youth to refuse to give in to any blackmail and to avoid the traps set by the ND, SYRIZA and the other parties of the system. It is certain that they will try to disorientate and tailor the mass popular mobilizations to their liking by distorting their content. Above all, they will seek to use the electoral battle to make suitable realignments in the decayed bourgeois political system, so as to ensure anti-popular “stability” through the alternation of anti-popular governments.
This is also expressed by their shared concern over the so-called anti-systemic vote and their competition over who can “guarantee normality”. It is clear that abstention from voting, resignation, support for the far-right “offsprings” of the system are not what scares them; on the contrary, they facilitate their plans. That is also the case with the various political formations that, whenever necessary, are exploited to patch up any cracks that appear in the bourgeois political system.
That is why the youth and the working people have every reason to cancel all those plans by their action and their political stance.
On the contrary, for the KKE, the radical struggle of the workers, the people and the youth is the only hopeful path that can create a new impetus for today and tomorrow. That is the only path to target the real opponent, that is, the state and the system of capital, the parties and the governments that serve it. This is where the workers, the people, the youth must concentrate their fire on. They are armed with powerful weapons in this cause, such as their organization and the strengthening of the labour–popular movement, by joining forces with and strengthening the KKE in the elections.
The PB of the CC of the KKE
For a comprehensive look at the different actions in cities across Greece on March 16 see this report from the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME): For the new, grand National General Strike across the country! (pamehellas.gr)