The recent council elections in Greece saw a surge in support for anti-capitalist candidates, reports Petros Constantinou.
The success of Antarsya, the anti-capitalist electoral slate, in Athens was an important step forward for the left. It was a message sent by the thousands of militants who took part in the general strikes, in the revolt of December 2008, in the struggles of students and teachers, in the resistance against racist and fascist attacks in our neighbourhoods, and in the fight to defend our services against the cuts.
The candidates on our slate were militants who organised and supported all the big fights of the movement, putting forward the anti-capitalist way out of the crisis through strikes, occupations and massive demonstrations. They are the people who organised the revolt of 6 December 2008, just a few hours after police murdered school student Alexandros Grigoropoulos. We had teachers and students who fight to save public education. We had hospital workers who defend our NHS, and transport workers who are resisting privatisation. We had immigrants - members of the Union of Immigrant Workers. Just a few thousand immigrants were able to vote in this election, but many of them chose to vote for the anti-capitalists.
Our electoral campaign has been magnificent, despite having a marginal presence in the media and facing organised campaigns against us fuelled by the Tories and the fascists. It was committees of our militants who organised almost 24-hour programmes of visiting workplaces, neighbourhoods and markets, breaking the silence of the media.
On my mobile I received texts like this: "6am, come to the Acropolis to talk to the workers. The contract workers are going to shut the entrance. Stavroula (contract worker)." We went there and instead of talking we fought together against the riot police. Another text said, "We have left the shipyard and we're heading to close the main road in Syntagma Square. Are you coming? Thanasis (shipyard worker)." We went there along with a big group of comrades.
We went to the tube headquarters when workers occupied the manager's office. Our trade unionists gave confidence to the tube workers and they, in turn, helped us with the electoral fight. We did the same in several workplaces. Everywhere we have been giving hope to the struggle, putting forward our main slogan, "We can find enough money if we annul the debt and stop paying the bankers."
At the same time we received feedback. We understood, for example, that the transport workers were ready to keep up the fight, despite the fact that the government had pushed through a new law attacking the railways.
The struggle against racism was ongoing during the pre-election period, especially because of the Iranian refugees who went on hunger strike and occupied Propylaia Square, in the centre of Athens, demanding asylum. One of their leaders, Semko Mohamedi, was a key speaker at our main electoral rally. The contrast was stark. On the one hand there was an orchestrated effort to make people believe that migrants are responsible for the crisis. On the other hand we had immigrants and the anti-racist struggle on the frontline.
We will keep on fighting, being aware of our responsibility to the people who trusted the anti-capitalist left and who now look for solutions to stop the attacks by the EU, the IMF and the Greek government. That means that we will fight to spread and strengthen Antarsya's networks in order to reinforce our relations with the people who fought in this election. We call on everyone to join the anti-capitalists, take part in the open meetings, bring proposals on how to organise and bring their struggles inside Athens council.
We are happy because the anti-capitalists have a big opportunity to help lead the whole of the left and the movement to a victory of historic dimensions. The anti-capitalists are able to send the message all round Europe and the world that the capitalist attacks are not going to pass and that the fascists are not going to gain through this crisis. This is the time of big alternatives and big fightbacks. The militants who fought this big electoral struggle have gained lots of confidence. These are the people who should receive congratulations - the sort of people that keep appearing on my mobile phone.
Petros Constantinou was elected to Athens Municipal Council as part of the Antarsya slate.
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