Greece capitulated on May 2 to eurozone creditors’ demands for more cuts, in return for releasing bailout funds. The Syriza-ANEL coalition government — elected in 2015 on an anti-austerity manifesto — agreed to a new round of pension cuts in 2019. It committed to maintaining a strict budget surplus target along with new tax increases after the current bailout programme — signed in 2015 despite voters rejecting it in a referendum — ends next year.
In return, the creditors will pay Greece 2.8 billion euros it needs to avoid defaulting on its loans in July, and start talks on how to ease the country’s debt burden.
The agreement with creditors was reached after a nightlong session of talks at the Hilton hotel in Athens. Government officials said lenders dropped their demands to abolish a long list of employment rights and also agreed to the expansion of benefit schemes for jobless and low-income families.
Across the political spectrum, this latest development has been condemned. Even the right-wing New Democracy opposition pointed out that Syriza promised more funding without austerity, only to implement more austerity with no additional funding for social needs.
“This is a painful compromise,” Interior Minister Panos Skourletis said to state television ERT. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose Syriza-led coalition has a parliamentary majority of just three seats, has said he will stand down before the 2019 general election.
Hours before the deal, protesters gathered at the entrance of the Hilton during large May Day rallies in the capital, but riot police blocked them from entering the building
The main protests were organized in 78 cities across the country by the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME), including a mass rally at Syntagma Square near the parliament in Athens, under the slogan “with the workers of all countries for a world without exploitation, wars and refugees.”
Thousands joined the PAME demonstrated against the new anti-people measures that the “left” government of SYRIZA-ANEL is imposing on behalf of capital, as well as against imperialist war.
The May 1st rally escalated the preparations for a May 17 general strike in the public and private sector, in response to the new raft of anti-people measures in Parliament.
A large delegation of the leadership of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) took part in the rally, including General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumpas.
The rally opened with Bertolt Brecht’s one act play “Job creation”, presented by members of PAME’s theatre group. This play belongs to the work “Fear and Misery of the Third Reich”.
The Palestinian Ambassador, Marwan Emil Toubassi, brought a message of greetings, as the demonstrators expressed solidarity with the 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. The rally demanded that a delegation of PAME and the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) be allowed to visit with the hunger strikers.
The main speech was delivered by Giorgos Perros, a cadre of PAME, who spoke about the anti-people political line of the SYRIZA-ANEL government, and urged the Greek workers not to shed their blood for capitalist profits. He ended by saying that “the struggles of the working class in each period are the only ones that can place the exploiters in a difficult position and challenge their dominance and power. Because the working class can abolish capitalist slavery and also build a new society without them and their parasitism. This is what the exploiters all over the world are afraid of.”
After the rally ended with a rendition of the “Internationale”, the demonstrators marched to the US embassy, stopping outside the Hilton hotel, where the negotiations were taking place between the SYRIZA-ANEL government and the “Quartet” of international creditors.