Yes, Greek workers are fighting back by taking over their workplace. But there is also some bad news too – namely, that the racist Golden Dawn are sending in goons to hospitals to intimidate patients that appear ‘non-Greek’ as well as their doctors. We report on both news items below…
A. Reclaiming the workplaces
The fight back against the politician/banker led failed economy in Greece has taken an interesting direction. Striking workers at the Vio.Me factory in Thessaloniki, who had not been paid since May 2011, decided to restart production under workers’ control on 12 February. Their decision was supported by, literally, thousands of locals (see photo of gathering/march, above).
The factory of Vio.Me. started production under workers’ control and is the first experiment in industrial self-management in crisis-stricken Greece. The workers of Vio.Me. are confident this is going to be only the first in a series of such endeavors. The mobilization kicked off with a big assembly of the workers and solidarity organizations and individuals in a central downtown theatre on Sunday evening. Here the course of action of the solidarity movement was discussed, and everyone had the chance to take the microphone and express their opinion on the workers’ struggle.
On Monday evening there was a march in the city centre, followed by a huge benefit concert with several well known folk bands and singers. Among them Thanassis Papakonstantinou, one of the most important contemporary Greek songwriters, who is, in a sense, “part of the movement” since he always supports with word and deed the efforts of society for self-determination. The attendance exceeded everyone’s expectations. Unfortunately about a thousand people didn’t manage to get in, as the stadium was packed.
The stellar moment of the night was when the workers took the microphone and explained their vision of another society, based on social justice, solidarity and self-management. Five thousand people were applauding, shouting and chanting songs of support. It was then that everyone realized that this endeavor was bound to succeed!
Early next morning the mobilization went on with a vibrant march towards the factory. The workers were already in their positions and the production was triumphantly kick-started in front of the cameras of national, local and alternative media. The workers organized a guided tour of the factory and explained all the details of the production process to journalists and participants in the solidarity movement.
There is still a long road ahead. The costs of production are high and access to credit is impossible and getting a part of the market in times of recession is uncertain. The workers are, however, optimistic: the proceeds from the benefit gig and the donations of supportive groups and individuals collected through viome.org should be enough to keep the company afloat in the first few months. And the support of the social movements means many of the products will be distributed through the existing structures of social and solidarity economy (the parallel economy).
The workers of Vio.Me. are already researching new cleaning products, based on non-toxic ecological ingredients, apt for home use. The factory makes quality building materials (mortars, plasters, tile adhesive paste and jointing materials, waterproof grouts, etc.) and the workers know very well how to improve the quality even more while lowering the production costs and hence the price. The challenge is now to find a market for these materials, which unfortunately are too voluminous to be transported across long distances and should be sold within Greece or the surrounding Balkan countries.
The forty workers of Vio.Me. and hundreds of participants in the solidarity movement have for three days lived an unforgettable experience, which is only the start of a long and difficult road. Now more than ever we need to be united and strong, determined to build a new world based on solidarity, justice and self-management!
Statement of support
“We urge all workers, the unemployed and all those who are affected by the crisis to stand by the workers of Vio.Me and support them in their effort to put in practice the belief that workers can make it without bosses! To participate in the struggle and organize their own fights within their work places, with directly democratic procedures and without bureaucrats.” (Union’s website: biom-metal.blogspot.gr)
As with all factory recuperations, the question of initial financing is central. While solidarity has been able to maintain the lives of the workers of Vio.Me and their families, the capital needed to continue production is huge. The workers’ union has a business plan that is sustainable, but will take time to get off the ground. These first months are crucial. Financial help can make all the difference. Any contribution is helpful.
Direct financial support can be sent to thenVio.Me workers’ union in Thessaloniki through the International Solidarity website: viome.org Solidarity statements swell as questions can be sent to: email@example.com
Signed, Thessaloniki Solidarity Initiative, Brendan Martin (Working World), Dario Azzellini and Marina Sitrin
Supporters of this initiative include: David Harvey, Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis, John Holloway, Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis, Mag Wompel (labournet.de), David Graeber and The Cooperativa de Trabajo lavaca, BuenosAires, Argentina
See also LibCom article on this.
B. Golden Dawn target foreign-looking patients
Last week Golden Dawn thugs showed up at the Doctors of the World Clinic in Perama, on the outskirts of Athens, shouting racist slogans. At the time, over forty patients were being treated by the staff. The Greek chapter of Doctors Without Borders issued a statement as follows:
“We declare that we refuse to “take fright” and we will staunchly continue to defend the right to Health care wherever there are people. We deem that Golden Dawn bears moral responsibility for any potential attacks our Clinics may be subjected to in the future and for this reason the relevant authorities will be notified accordingly. We call upon the Greeks who share the same solidarity principles with us to support our efforts with even greater determination.”
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