“Call me when you get there”: this has become the iconic phrase of the revolt that has erupted since the February 28 train accident that claimed the lives of fifty-seven passengers, mainly students. 65,000 workers and youth demonstrated on 8 March throughout Greece. In Athens, Syntagma Square, just in front of the Parliament, echoed the 2010-2011 demonstrations against the Troika’s (IMF-European Commission- European Central Bank) austerity programme.
Feeling the threat of revolt, Prime Minister Mitsotakis (New Democracy, right wing) is trying to weather the events: « I apologize for myself, but also on behalf of all those who have governed the country for years. » The apology was lambasted as « belated » by the main « leftist » party, Syriza. But Syriza bears just as much responsibility as the right, and the « socialist » PASOK Party for the privatisation of the railways, which has led to the Tempi accident. The privatisation drive was initiated in 2005 under a right-wing government, continued in 2010 by PASOK, which implemented the European Commission and IMF’s austerity programme, and it was completed in 2017 by the Syriza government which sold out the railways to FS, an Italian company.
The Association of Athens Students called for the first rallies on 4 March. It was joined by teachers’ and rail workers’ unions. The leaders of the seafarers’ union denounced the same appalling conditions and lack of staff in its sector. The public service unions (ADEDY) and the Athens Labour Exchange called for a 24-hour strike on 8 March, as did sailors and bus and trolley drivers in Attica, who followed suite. In the railways, on strike since 2 March, the strike was extended until at least 8 March. It is in fact impossible to run any train because all the reports since the accident have shown that the basic safety devices are out of order everywhere! So then, by tens of thousands, young people and workers took to the streets, despite the brutal police slam down on demonstrations. On 8 March in Athens the Students’ Association demonstrated behind a banner reading: “They were students! Down with this government of murderers! Privatisation kills!” And, as in 2010- 2011 against the austerity memorandums, protests were staged all over Greece. In Nafplio (14,000 inhabitants), in the northern Peloponnese, on the afternoon of 8 March, several organisations – hospital unions, teachers’ unions, the Communist Party and women’s organisations – called demonstrations. 600 workers, retirees and youth responded. Such a massive turn-out had not been seen for a very long time. Among the slogans: « You count your profits, we count the victims!« , « Syriza-Pasok-New Democracy: this crime has a history« .
With our correspondents in Greece