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The battle for public and free education continues in Greece

Tens of thousands of students, teachers, university professors and workers were mobilized on January the 10th all over Greece and particularly in front of the Parliament, in Constitution Sq. in Athens fighting against the constitutional changes that the ruling right wing New Democracy government, with the assistance of the pseudo socialist PASOK, tries to introduce abolishing the article 16 of the Greek Constitution forbidding the function of private universities.

This is the third round in a year of the on-going battle in Greece against the privatization of the educational system, in defense of the right to public and free education. The first round was in May-June 2006 when all the universities of the country were occupied by the students fighting against the introduction of a new reactionary law on high education. Then the government had to retreat claiming that the draft law will be re-introduced later in autumn of the same year. But in October-November 2006 the second round of the same battle erupted, this time with the teachers in the forefront demanding a wage rise as well as the defense of public education. The teachers struggle continued for 6 weeks; they did not won the pay-rise but they provoked a mass popular mobilization of the population in their side and the conflict was temporarily suspended without defeat or victory for any of the opposed camps, waiting for the coming confrontation in January 2007 when the constitutional changes would be debated in Parliament.

The change of a number of articles of the present Constitution, starting form the article 16 on public higher education will expand over other articles, promoting a large wave of privatizations in many sectors of the economy and public services. So the battle started again on the issue of the privatization of higher education but it will continue evolving all the main social issues. The Karamanlis government threatened (particularly the weak official parliamentary opposition) with early elections this year, if the popular unrest on education continues. PASOK is split on the issue of the article 16. The official line supports privatization. But a lot of dissidents on all levels of the Party oppose it and an "Initiative of PASOK members against the change of article 16" was formed and is very active. Apart from this there are two other Initiatives(Coordinating Committees of struggle against the constitutional changes), one formed by Synaspismos( former Euro Stalinists) with the help of a section of the far left grouped in the Greek Social Forum ( including the Greek Section of the USFI), closely cooperating with the PASOK dissidents and preparing the ground for a future Centre Left "alternative" in the regime crisis as well as one formed by the other currents of the radical and revolutionary left, including EEK, the Greek Section of the CRFI, and which is opposed to any Center left scenario. The Stalinist KKE did not join any of the collective initiatives and follows a sectarian self-centered road with a quite reformist policy of "democratic reform" of the current bourgeois Constitution on the same social capitalist bases.

Nobody forgets that the two previous rounds of the battle on Education, the first with the student occupations and the second with the teachers strike, were led by the revolutionary left. The neo-liberal PASOK and the reformists of Synaspismos played no real role and the Stalinist KKE had opposed the occupations. Now, again what road the fragmented revolutionary Left will follow is crucial. On the eve of the mobilization, on January 9, a huge meeting of more than a thousand representatives of all far left organizations took place in the Polytechnic University to discuss perspectives. The speaker on behalf of EEK was Savas Michael. The forces of EEK and of the Radical Left Front (MERA- uniting EEK, NAR, a Maoist group and some other independent forces) fight to meet the challenge with a comprehensive program of transitional demands, for another free, public education in another, socialist society under workers power. The key question is the unification of the movement in education with the entire workers movement in the preparation and organization of an indefinite General Strike against the government.

The struggle will not stop. Anyways the parliamentary debate will continue for months. Already hundreds of University faculties are occupied again all over the country. Next week another mass demonstration is planned as well as an expansion of faculty occupations.

Jan 17, 2007   Savas Michael-Matsas

 



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