Athens protest: ‘We are at war with them, as they are with us’

Nationwide strike painted as the beginning of a backlash against the ‘tsunami of attacks on workers’

Helene Smith in Athens
Guardian [UK]
10 February 2010

They called it a “river of fury”. And the seemingly endless flow of Greeks who marched in protest today over the government’s painful fiscal policies were motivated by a single force: rage.

Anger in Athens starts with graffiti and by dawn the calls to battle were daubed across the facades of banks and shops and government buildings. By noon it had morphed into a “resistance movement” as militant leftwingers and striking civil servants – some holding banners, some pounding drums, some shouting themselves hoarse – took to the streets to denounce measures seen as the only way to extract Greece from its worst economic crisis in decades.

“We are at war with the government because it is clearly at war with us,” snapped the former communist MP Dimos Koumbounis. “The working class will respond with ever greater force and intensity to overturn these unjust and antisocial policies.”

Under unprecedented pressure from markets and his EU colleagues, the socialist prime minister George Papandreou said he had no other choice but to implement the “painful but necessary” policies last week. The measures include public sector pay freezes, the raising of the retirement age, slashing of bonuses on salaries and tax rises across the board. For the newly-elected socialists, forced to roll back many of their campaign promises, these measures are imperative if Greece is to rein in its €300bn (£270bn/$420bn US) public debt. Papandreou has pledged to trim the deficit from 12.7% to within the EU’s permissible 3% limit by 2012.

The article continues at the Guardian.

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