NEWS

Ferment in the labor movement is reflected in stance of parties

During the seamen’s strike, the Greek Communist party (KKE) followed Lenin’s criticism of social democracy as expressed in his work «One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.» It reversed the order of the steps and, instead of a tango, took two steps forward before and after the government ordered strikers back to work and then retreated. This tactic surprised those who expected the party would agree to a solution to the strike immediately after the civil mobilization, thus facilitating the government, and those who expected it would take the line of «revolutionary exercise,» without unanimous decisions. On the contrary, although the KKE forces controlling the strike and the PNO sailors’ union were in the minority, they acted according to unanimous decisions made by the unions. This rallied to their side other unions and forces which would agree to suspend the strike. They pulled back at the moment they judged would bring political benefits but also risked their allies’ policy on rural workers. While evaluating the tactics of the unions controlled by KKE, one must not underestimate the fact that the shipping sector has traditionally been a hotbed of extreme tendencies that are not acceptable to the party leadership. But one may still draw some conclusions about the party’s tactics in the run up to the municipal elections. To start with, in certain sectors – and unlike the troubled union movements in other parties – it remains the most organized and concentrated force, able to operate according to a plan and uniform tactics. Likewise, KKE clings to its view of the limitations of union action. These limitations translate into a rejection of political allies (as in the municipal elections) and the party’s promotion of itself as the only credible opposition force. So it withdraws from battles it instigates – such as the seamen’s strike – when it deems it can reap political benefits. It endeavors to draw such benefits from the reserve of potential voters from Synaspismos Left Coalition (SYN) and PASOK to which it feels entitled. This also highlights how the party’s tactics in the sailors’ strike reflects what is happening in PASOK and SYN. The fact that KKE took a more extreme line is due to burgeoning leftist tendencies within PASOK and SYN. Pressure toward left In the former, the pressure on the leadership for more left-leaning opposition tactics is such that it has forced the circle of party leader George Papandreou not to dictate a line to the unions it controls, allowing them full freedom of action. More and more PASOK members are wavering between primitive populism and full compromise. A classic example is the lack of a clear line in the OTOE bank employees’ union which, while it might demonstrate in support of Coca-Cola workers on the issue of work contracts, seems to have no plan or tactics. It clashes outside bank branches, but the social insurance issue is unresolved and it has not even capitalized on the change of leadership at the Labor Ministry. One exception to the rule is the GSEE umbrella union and its leader Christos Polyzogopoulos, who appears to be gaining credibility as he acquires a more independent role. Among SYN trade unionists, the trend to the left is reinforced by the presence and declarations of its president, Alekos Alavanos, but it also boosts the tendency to defect, which plagues the party.