An update for English-speaking friends who want to make sense of what is happening in Greece: Late at night on February 28th, the collision of two trains in the recently privatised and chronically degraded railways left at least 57 dead, most of them students at Thessaloniki’s local universities. Since then, there has been permanent mobilisation, marches, demonstrations and strikes. At the same time, in the last few months, theatre students and artists have been mobilising to defend their labour rights; National Theatres in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras and other cities are occupied, as also National Drama Schools and Fine Arts Schools at universities in Athens, Thessaloniki, Nafplio and other cities.
March 8, the women’s strike coincided with a general strike; there have been demonstrations in more than 80 cities, towns and islands. Athens and Thessaloniki have seen their biggest demonstrations in about a decade with more than 100.000 people demonstrating in Athens only in the morning general strike demo and the night feminist demo.
Feelings of mourning and rage have overtaken the country, as a large part of the population is waking up to the fact that the train collision was not an isolated incident owing to human error, as they want to have us believe, but the logical outcome of years of degradation and precarisation of our lives orchestrated by all governments in favour of private profits. The incident exposes deep decay on many different levels: the criminal neglect and degradation of public infrastructure, the understaffing and underfunding due to austerity cuts, the colonial-type privatisation agreements, the clientelist appropriation of public services, the collusion of politicians with constructors in big infrastructure works, the defamation campaigns against railway trade unions that were constantly denouncing security deficiencies, the incompetence and irresponsibility of the government, the cynicism of politicians who seem to care more about their re-election prospects than the massive loss of life, and the complicity of the oligarchic mass media, which lie and manipulate to cover up the real responsibilities.
The train collision hits very close to home, as everyone identifies with the young passengers and their mourning families. But there is a deeper discontent expressed in the protests, as the last few years have marked a drastic degradation of living conditions for most, carried out by a cynical and arrogant political class in service of international capital and their own clientelist networks, aided by the media blackout and police repression of all dissenting voices. People feel expendable and unprotected. The mass murder at the railroads is only the culmination of the Greek state’s necropolitics, with hundreds of migrants dead at the borders, tens of thousands of preventable Covid-19 deaths at hospitals ravaged by austerity cuts, assassinations of dissenters and minorities at the hands of the police and a surge in femicides in the last few years. At the same time, an estimated 100.000 households are due to lose their homes to vulture funds, and the government paves the way for the privatization of water companies – which was successfully stopped by a mass movement 10 years ago – as well as healthcare and education.
High school and university students, representing a generation that has known nothing but precarity and neglect, are at the forefront of the mobilisations. Feminist organisations, trade unions, teachers, artists, migrants, leftist, anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups are also mobilising, against an arrogant government that has been ruling for too long through repression, propaganda, fear and surveillance. Protests are routinely met with tear gas and riot police charges, but this is hardly enough to scare people away. Among the slogans are “this was not an accident, it was murder”, “their profits, our dead”, “they talk about profit and loss, we talk about human lives” and “our tears have dried up and turned into rage”.
Report: Theodoros Karyotis