A wave of struggles, occupations, and protests has erupted across Greece against the regressive property tax of 3.6 billion euros which is being collected via utility bills.
The government backs the tax demand with the threat of cutting off electricity to those who refuse to pay the tax, because of poverty - monthly incomes of ?300, ?400, or ?500 - or because of political opposition to the tax. To cut off electricity for ill people, the elderly, and little kids is an act of naked barbarism.
But the central office from which orders to cut off electricity were to be distributed round Greece have been occupied by trade-union, community, and left wing activists.
Representatives of the left groupings, Syriza, KKE, and Antarsya, were present and expressed their unconditional solidarity with the “Don’t Pay” campaign. “Illegal is not the non-payment of the regressive property tax. Illegal are not the struggles of people resisting the tax. Illegal is this government’s attempts to cut off electricity”.
The occupation has epitomised the solidarity and fraternity of what are considered as the “privileged” sections of the working class (for example, utility workers) towards the most vulnerable.
As of Monday night 21 November, the minister of Energy and Climate Change, Giorgos Papakostandinou, has asked for a judge’s intervention in order to declare the union’s occupation of the central office illegal. The judge has called for the breaking-up of the occupation and for the arrest of the union activists.
In response, a large number of people have joined the occupation and are physically defending it.
In about 40 to 50 local authorities, all around Greece, despite the threat of disciplinary actions by the government, mayors and councillors have joined and in some cases led the fight against the regressive property tax.
Massive open neighbourhood meetings are being organised in every city square, and occupations of utility sector buildings are increasing from day to day.
Citizens are storming council meetings and utility sector buildings and asking councillors and utility sector workers to form a united front of refusal to pay the regressive property tax. People’s committees are being formed to defend people’s homes and re-connect electricity wherever it is cut off. Lawyers are offering free legal advice.
Pushed by open neighbourhood meetings with the participation of left-wing activists and a lot of ordinary people, councils have pledged to block cut-offs, to re-connect electricity supply where it is cut off, and to give legal aid.
Under the pressure of the emerging civil disobedience movement, the first cracks have started to appear in the front of the National Unity Government. Dora Bakogianni of DHSY (a neo-liberal splinter from New Democracy) has stated that her party does not support the regressive property tax.
Antonis Samaras, the leader of ND (equivalent to the Tory party) has asked the government (of which ND is part) to exempt lower-income families from the tax. Giorgos Karatzaferis of the ultra-right populist LAOS has called on the government (of which LAOS is also part) to exempt citizens that own small properties.
Already, under the pressure of the neighbourhood movement, the government has exempted very disabled people from having their electricity cut off. (Even under pressure, the government’s sensitivity comes in small doses!).
The regressive property tax is only a continuity of all the anti-working-class measures of the last 18 months, imposed by the Pasok government and the European Union/ ECB/ IMF Troika with the effective support of the whole bourgeois political establishment.
It has been imposed to pay for a class-created debt which the people neither created nor benefited from. It is part of the comprehensive attacks by the government and the Troika on every aspect of workers’ lives: wages, pensions, jobs, welfare, pensions). All the different movements that are developing against different parts of this attack should be united in a dynamic movement of disobedience, resistance and revolutionary overthrow of this system.
Already the government has started active implementation of the scheme to put tens of thousands of public-sector workers in “reserve” (efedria) prior to redundancy by sending out the relevant paperwork.
In response to the threat, transport workers on the trams and the metro have called a three hour strike for Tuesday 22 November.
The rank and file workers movement should demand from GSEE (the union federation for private sector workers) and ADEDY (public sector workers) a call for a general strike on 7 December, the day that the 2012 budget will be voted on in parliament. However, a one day general strike called by the union bureaucracy is not enough.
Greek workers should aim at a continuous general strike alongside the poor peasants, the ruined small shop owners, the pensioners, the unemployed, the school and university students, and the neighbourhood community movements.
Workers in every workplace should form workers’ committees in order to organise and direct their struggle from below. As the struggles evolve and escalate the workers are looking at solutions, to defend their lives and rights, outside the “whole system” and its laws and structures. It is essential for the revolutionary left, not only to participate and observe the struggles, but to help organise, coordinate, support, defend, escalate and politicise the struggles.
The revolutionary left should be at the vanguard of all the struggles and win workers on a radical, anti-capitalist program of transitional demands.