August 21, 2012
The workers in the “Greek Steelworks” plant destroyed the plans of the employer and continue fighting using other forms of struggle.
Aspropyrgos, Steelworks plant, Monday 30/7, 9:05 a.m.
Thus, they once again destroyed the plans of the industrialist Manesis, who made it clear that he wished for the degradation of the strike and the dismantling of the trade union. In this he was fully supported by the government, which put at the industrialist’s service the state repression machine.
The strikers, along with all the members of the trade union board of the “Greek Steelworks” headed by the president of the trade union Giorgos Sifonios, entered the gate in a coordinated and organized manner as true winners of the 9-month strike.
Prior to this the employer posed outrageous offensive demands, using the riot police forces. He demanded that the workers entered the factory one by one, showing to the police their identity cards and wait for the permission of the employer to enter the territory of the factory. The decisiveness of the steelworkers forced the employer to yield.
The riot police forces as well as the remaining police forces were withdrawn and the workers entered the factory on their own and headed to their posts applauded and cheered by those present: “this 9-month strike will not be forgotten”, “The steel is hardened by blood and sweat, the steelworkers will not surrender”, “struggle, rupture, overthrow, the steelworkers lead the way”.
The proposal to suspend the strike and continue fighting by using other forms of struggle was posed unanimously by the board of the trade union. It was presented by the president of the board, Giorgos Sifonios and adopted by the vast majority of the assembly.
The report stated:
“272 days ago, when Manesis blackmailed us forcing us to choose either a 5 hour workday or 180 dismissals we held an assembly and unanimously decided to go on strike. We did what every honest worker who esteems himself and his class should do. None of us could foretell then that we set upon a struggle that would come to be one of the brightest of the labour movement of our country and internationally, that would become a benchmark. (…) In conclusion, we would never have managed this, if we did not tame our fear, if we did not fight unitary and decisively.
Our action was rich. We organized 20 General Assemblies of the Union, where we collectively assessed the situation and decided upon our next steps. Alongside the trade union board we formed committees helping to lift the level of organization, the safeguarding, the propaganda and the solidarity. All the members of our families participated in the struggle, both women and children. We addressed the working class, the toiling people and asked them to support our struggle. We fueled an unprecedented solidarity movement from every corner of Greece and from many countries worldwide. We organized more than 50 activities, meetings, concerts, book presentations, activities for children and women in front of the plant. We celebrated together Christmas, the New Year’s Eve, Carnival and Easter. Through our struggle we became “one family”, as workers should be. Thousands of workers came to the gates of the “Greek Steelworks” factory, young people, pensioners, pupils, students, workers from all over the world. Our strike became a school of class education and awakening. Our struggle crossed the gates of the “Greek Steelworks” factory and reached the whole world. We addressed tens of factories in Attica and other cities. All over Greece as well as in tens of cities abroad there were held hundreds of meetings and solidarity actions. We initiated the organization of a series of solidarity strikes in the broader region of the plant, Thriasio, in Attica, in Volos (the region of the other two plants of the group of “Greek Steelworks”) in order to better organize the resistance of the workers at workplaces. Our strike inspired workers, youth and students to struggle. We have received hundreds of touching solidarity letters sent to us by pupils. Poems and songs were written about us and it is certain that much more will be written in the future. People will read about our struggle, they will discuss it and sing about it years to come.
Its rich experience and conclusions will be used in future struggles. This is why its input is vast. There are people that are well-meaning and others that are prejudiced who raise the question: “What is the outcome of this struggle?”, “What have steelworkers gained, since their demands were not satisfied?”. We say: “The answer is simple”. No past struggle nor future ones had or will have guaranteed results, there can be no impeccable calculation of the odds. There are no such struggles in life. They merely exist such in the minds of the bureaucrats, those who have settled those who are scared and those who compromise.
The outcome of a struggle is not judged merely by the material gains. There are struggles resulting in much more than those, since they pave the way for the next steps, for the next struggles of the working class as a whole. They significantly contribute to the general awakening, to the repulse of terrorism, they become benchmarks. Such is the strike of the steelworkers and we should evaluate it as such. This is how all the workers think of it and this is why they have considered us already as winners.
What have we achieved through our struggle? Our struggle put in the forefront the strength and the value of the united class struggle, the greatness and the strength of workers’ solidarity. It showed the merits and the good traditions of the labour and people’s movements of our country, as well as the steel, disciplined, vanguard characteristics of industrial workers. It tamed the fear, the audacity of the employers, it stroke a blow against fatalism and moaning. It caused a severe blow to the so-called realism, the compromised stance of the employer-led and government trade unionism, to the so called social dialogue. It demonstrated vividly who produce the wealth and who steal it.
At the gate of the “Greek Steelworks” factory the clash of the two opposing classes, of the two opposing worlds and civilizations was vividly demonstrated. On the one hand the class of Manesis, with its government, its state and judicial system, its means of propaganda and its people in trade unions. On the other hand the steelworkers, their class, the solidarity and support of the class labour movement and its allies.
None of our opponents nor Manesis, nor the government, nor the employer-led and government trade unionism expected us to be as strong. They underestimated us, they thought we were inferior, frightened, submissive and they have been totally proven wrong. They also tried to discredit the efforts of thousands of workers to support our struggle materially by saying that “we get paid to strike”. They tried to name bribing the workers’ solidarity offers, collected from the meager means of the working class in order for us and our families to be able to withstand. They failed, because our great struggle cannot be slandered. We have prevailed, such is our conclusion! We have prevailed because we were right and united. They did not manage to divide us, no matter how hard they have tried, because we worked based on the principle “one for all, all for one”. Because we fought and at the same time safeguarded our struggle.
It has been proven in the best way who produces the wealth and whose hands hold the power, “without us no cog can turn”…
We have achieved something that 9 months ago would have seemed unbelievable. Workers went on strike for 9 month in order for their colleagues not to be laid off. The laid off workers went on strike for 9 months in order to be reinstated at work. That has never happened before. Finally, the opponent did not manage to beat us and was forced to shed the mask of “democracy and dialogue, to shed the sheepskin” and show his real face, the face of a tyrant, of an enemy of the workers. They were forced to put aside all the pretexts and resort to their final weapon, the repressive mechanisms. Today this weapon exceeds our forces.
All the state apparatus, the government, the parties of the capital, the class judicial system, the mass media, tens of riot police forces’ buses, tens of police cars and hundreds of secret police officers were coordinated in order to protect their boss, Manesis and to strike a blow against their enemies, the workers strikers. They assaulted us who feed them with our sweat all these years.
Manesis will soon bring back to the table the demands to change the working hours and the salaries that are defined by our collective agreement. He has withdrawn them temporarily due to the strike. The opponent knows this. They know that the struggle will not stop along with the strike. He takes measures in order to face us in the time to come.
We can deal with the new situation as we have dealt with the rest of the hard turns of our struggle. United, collectively and led by the board of our trade union. The opponent tries to prevent this in order to act freely in the future. Taking into account the new situation and the need to continue struggling in an organized and coordinated manner the board of the trade union proposes the suspension of this form of struggle.
We return to work by our own decision and will, in an organized, coordinated manner, holding our heads high. We rely on our tested trade union and continue by using different forms of struggle. We will continue fighting for the satisfaction of our demands. In order our 40 dismissed colleagues to be immediately rehired and the rest of our colleagues to be reinstated in due course. Until then no other people apart from our dismissed colleagues should be hired. All together the board, the women’s committee, the committee of dismissed colleagues we continue fighting around issues concerning the loans of our colleagues from banks, our unpaid bills, our problems to have access to medicines, healthcare services and more. We are vigilant and ready to react immediately and to struggle, in case the employer demands once again a change in the working hours and salaries. We will use all our means in order to investigate the reported existence of radioactive materials which use the “Greek Steelworks” as was revealed recently in Volos plant of “Greek Steelworks”. We will use all legal means in order to solve these issues.
We thank from the bottom of our hearts all the workers in Greece and all over the world who for 9 months supported our struggle morally and materially. We would especially like to thank PAME (All Workers’ Militant Front) that helped us throughout our struggle, day and night, and will continue supporting us in the future. It supported in practice all our decisions and initiatives, it spread the message of the heroic steelworkers all over Greece and across the world. This is why the opponent slanders it and fights it on a daily basis.
It turned out that we became the vanguard of the struggle. But we are not flying into clouds, since we understand that a small fraction of the working class, as we are, cannot fight all the state apparatus and drastically change the situation, if all the working class will not follow the path of the steelworkers, if the overall political balance of forces in the working class movement does not change.
Already, our struggle has made a great contribution. Our children will hold their heads high and will be proud that their fathers and mothers fulfilled their duty. They did not surrender; they disregarded the intimidation and threats of the employer. They did not bow their head down and struggled for a better future for their children. The next generations will admire our struggle and talk about it, it will inspire them as an example. We return to work with our head held high and continue fighting for the satisfaction of our demands, using other forms of struggle.
Long live the heroic struggle of the steelworkers!
Long live the working class!
Long live the workers’ solidarity!
The struggle will continue till the final victory!”
In its statement the Executive Secretariat of PAME underlines that: “the seeds that the steelworkers have planted will blossom in future struggles that will spring in the time to come, as a new storm of anti-labour measures is approaching. Each moment of this nine month struggle was an important lesson for the working class, it enabled it to come up to useful conclusions concerning class struggle.
It taught heroism and self-sacrifice! It showed the nature of class solidarity! It revealed the content of the multi-level confrontation! It showcased the necessity of the organized struggle! It revealed the unceasing struggle between capital and waged labour. The struggle of the steelworkers temporarily stopped the implementation of the general plans of the industrialists. The strike begun at a time when in the drawers of a series of factories lay orders to impose employment by rotation with flexible shifts and other general measures. It proved that only class struggle, confrontation with the employers, the government and the imperialist organizations can lead to such struggle. The struggle of steelworkers challenged the so called realism of the employer-led and government trade unionism. In these conditions it pressed employer-led Federations and Labour centres to call for strikes and work stoppages. We are proud of the steelworkers and those who supported them. The fist that they held high for nine months represents the strength of the forthcoming struggles. The General Assembly of the steelworkers’ trade union deemed that the time has come to conclude this great strike.
Those who pretended to be fighters and who tried to extinguish the radical spirit in the workers’ consciousness tried all this time to find blemishes in the strike, they tried to isolate and slander the steelworkers’ trade union. Now they try to present themselves as Christ’s prophets and critics. However, the struggle is not a clock that ticks and tells you what will become in the next second.
The struggle of the steelworkers showed that when the working class decides to stand tall, the cogs of exploitation cease to turn. When the furnace remains cold, each and every Manesis becomes “a null”. The struggle showed the incessant and hidden power of the workers that is revealed when they believe in their strength and decide to start a confrontation. Life itself has placed this struggle amongst the bright and hard class battles. It is a pebble in the incessant struggle of workers against their exploiters” concludes PAME’s statement.
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