Unions join the party

If Greece’s trade unions were free from party affiliation and bias, they would be one of the strongest forces for renewal. Because of its size and role in production, the working class is the solid base of the economy. If the unions did a credible job of representing the working class, they would not be a government’s privileged interlocutor. For no administration would choose to ignore the huge potential support of millions of workers. In Greece, unfortunately, the union movement has become a party instrument. In a bid to build on its civil war victory after 1945, Greece’s Right assigned the selection of union leaders to the security forces. Labor movement leaders were jailed or exiled. It was Andreas Papandreou who abolished the security-controlled unions along with the police state in 1981. But instead of resulting in strong, independent unions, the restoration of union freedom came with the union’s complete subjugation to the party – in this case PASOK – and the gradual transformation of union leaders into a nomenklatura. PASOK-affiliated unionists joined the party structure with an eye to becoming deputies or ministers. Intoxicated by their growing power, the arrogant unionists eventually clashed with Papandreou in 1983. As for the Left, it was reduced to sterile rejectionism. The outcome of these mistakes is known to all. Workers have turned their backs on the unions and the General Confederation of Greek Labor survives thanks to state subsidies. If it weren’t for the government’s support of the Public Power Corporation, PPC unionists would not be so quick to occupy the company offices all the time. But the current situation is, first of all, the responsibility of the parties which use them for their own ends. It was no coincidence that last week’s invasion of the PPC offices was spearheaded by opposition politicians.

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