Lionel Zivals, leader of the Tendencia Piquetera Revolucionaria from Argentina, met Xaris Manolis, member of the leadership of the 9 months strike at Halyvourgias, the metal factory in Attika, Greece. Fire just before the defeat of the struggle, he is now organizing solidarity actions with others strikes and struggles, solidarity with the unemployed movement and others actions. He is a member of NAR and Antarsya.
“AS WE SAY HERE IN GREECE TO THE GOVERNMENT: ‘ONE DAY, AS IN ARGENTINA, YOU’LL HAVE TO TAKE THE HELICOPTER’”
LZ: Xaris, Could you please tell me how did the strike begin?
XM: It was in October 2011. The employer wanted to reduce the salaries between 40% and 55%, making us work 5 days, 5 hours each days, and cutting also extra hours. From the start we knew that he was like the “rabbit” of some capitalists: if he could do it, others would follow him. When the decision was taken, we gathered and reject the plan of the boss. We said that we wanted the 100% of our salary and if he fired anybody, we would start a strike. So, the boss fired 15 workers, and the strike started. When the attack of the boss began, the government wanted our defeat a lot, as they knew our union had lots of left members.
LZ: and how did you manage to develop a 9 months strike? Could you tell us the most important moments of the strike? What was the attitude of the left parties towards your struggle?
XM: For us solidarity was very important, we received amazing quantity of food, money to support the strikers, solidarity demonstrations. We raise more than 1.5 M euros in solidarity, so every worker on strike was earning 100 euros per week, in order to be able to continue fighting. Tons of food arrived from Germany, Cyprus, Belgium, Sweeden, etc. PAME [union front of KKE, RN] gave also lots of material support to the strike, as they were leading it. Antarsya also did it. On the opposite, Syriza came only once at the day 45 of the strike. Tsipras promised to visit the factory but he didn´t do it. Their line was to try to make the government give us a solution.
We also created a propaganda committee, a committee to collect money, a women committee. The women committee formed in the struggle did a great job, managing to arrange lots of problems of the families of the strikers. The lawyers union also helped us with attorneys and money. We received great solidarity from others workers, from students, from pensioners. I think solidarity was one of ours main weapons.
Regarding the important moments of the strike, I think it was very important when we called a 24hs strike in Elefisa [the zone of the factory, RN] and then in Attika [the province, RN]. The first one was mainly frustrated by the bureaucracy of PASOK, who controls the GSEE section there. They did “informative talks” in the workplaces so they block the workers join us in the demonstration. The second one, in Attika, was very good; almost 20.000 workers joined us in the demonstration.
LZ: and why it was defeated?
XM: From the start, the owner and the government attacked us arguing that it was an illegal strike as it was decided in an assembly, when it’s supposed to be decided with ballot boxes according to the law. So when in May 2012 we did the election according to the law and we decided to continue the struggle, the government changed the tactic: in June 2012, the police got into the factory. As we were blocking the way out of the factory, to avoid the owner get out material worth in 50 M euros, the police develop a great repression. Also a group of “strike breakers” paid by the boss started to convince some workers to go to work again, promising that they will be safe and employed, and they managed to convince some people and made a list of 100 workers that said they wanted to work again.
At that moment, the representatives of the strike gathered. The line of KKE was to “freeze” the strike, and going to work again. I totally disagreed. I said that we had to go to the end, because if in that moment we made a step back, we were going to be defeated. And that was what finally happened. When we return to the job, many of us were fired, including me.
LZ: and what is the situation nowadays?
From the finishing of the strike until now, the factory didn’t work more than 2 month. The boss did some half time work, some “suspensions” [the workers don’t work and they earn half of their wage, RN], etcetera. The situation is that now, workers are earning between 300 and 500 euros and only 200 workers remain. Nowadays sometimes I receive a call of a comrade saying that I was right, that we would have had to go to the end.
LZ: In fact, from the Tendencia Piquetera Revolucionaria we think that the challenge is mainly political: if we can develop a struggle movement until overthrowing the government, because otherwise they will continue applying the austerity against workers. That’s why in my intervention in the 2nd conference of Antarsya I pose the need of a United Workers Front to overthrow Samaras and the struggle for a Workers’ Government. In your opinion, which are the political conclusions of the strike? Which are the tasks for you in the political situation now in Greece?
I think that if we want to win, the workers have to be united and fight to overthrow the government. There is no other way out.Antarsya should focus in this struggle. As we say here in Greece to the government: “one day, as in Argentina, you’ll have to take the helicopter”. I think that it’s very important to address to the basis of Syriza and KKE, in order to call them to fight in the streets with us. I am part of Antarsya because I believe in its program and because Antarsya is fighting in the streets. We have to fight against the debt, against euro and EU. It is not as KKE says that we have to vote for them and wait. They have just blocked the teachers strike with the argument that the children needed to go to school. I ask myself for what. For what future if we don’t manage to overthrow this government? KKE has an important presence in unions and they use it to block the strikes; this is something we have to overcome. Also we have to overcomeSyriza’s orientation: I don’t think we can change this from the parliament; I want to destroy this parliament!
LZ: You know that during the ‘90s in Argentina, as many workers were fired, the representatives of the workers in the factories (those who were fighters, not bureaucrats), started to organize the unemployed people and fight for their claims, as jobs, subsides, food to the popular cookings. There were the origins of the piquetero movement, which then intervened in the political crisis in 2001, overthrowing De La Rúa. It’s a way to unite both the employed and unemployed workers. I do believe this is an important experience for you to organize here.
Yes, I am working on it. I have made a solidarity committee with the fired from the factory and we are developing some activities in my neighborhood as meetings, festivals and so on. I am trying also to start a permanent committee of unemployed workers in my neighborhood. Antarsya in my opinion should develop this work in a national scope.
LZ: Anything else you’d like to add?
No, thanks for the solidarity and remember that it’s our main weapon to fight all together.
Tendencia Piquetera Revolucionaria is a revolutionary organization from Argentina. Tendency split from the PO of Argentina and of the CRFI (Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International, represented by EEK in Greece), was the only Argentinian organization that in the last greek elections (2012) called to vote for Antarsya. We call for a united front to kick out to Samaras out.