Greece. Student movement in Greece. “We need a general strike to defend free public education”

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For several weeks, mass protests have been growing in Greece against the proposed law that envisages the establishment of private universities. In this interview, Ionas Aggelis, student and activist at NAR, discusses the characteristics and perspectives of the movement.

In Greece, student protests and general assemblies are increasing against the proposed law that envisages the establishment of private universities. Ionas Aggelis, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Western Attica and an activist of NAR, the Greek revolutionary communist organization, looks at this massive student movement as a reminder of the striking power of the youth in a country still suffering the consequences of the crisis. from 2008.

Permanent Revolution: Why are Greek youth mobilizing today?

Ionas: The large mobilizations that we are experiencing today at the national level do not come from nowhere. There is a general mood of opposition to the government's proposals among young people who, during the first term of Kyriákos Mitsotákis, the Greek prime minister, took to the streets and made their demands for education, jobs and a decent life. The struggles of the last five years against the laws of SYRIZA and New Democracy (Mitsotákis party, the right-wing party in power, NDLT) represent an experience for the student movement.

Today, the number of university professions is increasing, the voice of students is becoming louder and louder in all parts of Greece, confirming that the plans of the bourgeoisie will be reversed. Young people understand that the government is under pressure, they find prospects for victory in this struggle, which is why thousands of students participate in the general assemblies of student organizations.

Young people are mobilizing because they know that if private universities are created, if education is completely privatized, most children in Greece will not be able to get an education. At the same time, they are mobilizing for much more, because education in our country already requires a lot of expenses from the families of pupils and students. They mobilize because they want to work in the profession they are studying, with good wages and good working conditions. They are mobilizing because they realize that we can now gain much more by fighting for a truly public and free education for all.

RP: What is Mitsotakis' general plan for education and public services in Greece?

Ionas: The government basically continues the work of the previous governments (PASOK, SYRIZA), following the guidelines and requirements of the European Union, not to mention education based on the Bologna agreement. The government's plan includes institutionalizing the complete degradation of the public university and intensifying competition among institutions, as it now puts private universities in the race for funding. At the same time, it creates multi-level degrees, directly attacking the professional and labor rights of young workers, with the aim of creating a cheap and flexible workforce, exacerbating class barriers in education and work. This will also affect the subjects that are taught in the schools themselves, because private schools will transfer the over-specialized part of the subjects and thus contribute to the fragmentation of our labor rights. Furthermore, the creation of private universities undermines the very foundations of free education, as the state subsidy that provides free education is always called into question. Finally, it is a profoundly undemocratic and conservative project.

However, the model of “liberalization” of social goods is not a new phenomenon. After all, it was the height of the memorandum imperative – with the ensuing looting of social property. Health, electricity, transport etc. are all public sectors that have been degraded over time by all governments so that the private sector can intervene as a “machine god” to save and consolidate the bureaucratic and unproductive public sector. We saw the results of these privatizations in the pandemic, in the accounts of DEH (the main electricity supplier in Greece), during the train accident in Tempi…

RP: How was the mobilization organized? How do students organize in the face of repression?

Ionas: Mobilizations are organized by decisions of general assemblies, which are the dominant body of student organizations. General assemblies are a place for meetings and discussions of the entire student community, where political organizations and independent students take positions and give their proposals. Ultimately, student organizations and the university itself have a say in the final decision, which they actively decide. Each university puts up its own banner and has its own procession in the street. Faced with repression, all students organize themselves, protecting each procession from a possible police attack. This is always done with the aim of protecting the people participating in the protests as well as the political message being conveyed there.

RP: What are the prospects for mobilization?

Ionas: I believe that the movement is currently at a turning point, after a month of general assemblies, occupations and demonstrations. The time has come for the student movement to organize national marches and coordination committees that will together find a common leadership that will be able to organize multi-day occupations, formed by coordination committees and that will have different types of actions every day, with the aim of bringing the occupations closer together. in life. Furthermore, the student movement must also agree with the educational movement with a view to the university and educational front – that is, agree with the struggles of teachers and students – and, more broadly, with the labor movement. In other words, it is clear that a general strike is necessary for everyone to stand up for free public education. This is how we will intensify our struggle, this is how we will achieve victory.

RP: Can you tell us something about the student movement of 2006-2007 that saved Article 16?

Ionas: 2006-2007. it was one of the greatest moments of the student movement and is a lasting example that fuels our current struggle. It is a fight that was fought in the worst context, with high percentages in the parliamentary elections of New Democracy and PASOK (the historically corrupt right-wing and social democratic party). It is a struggle initiated by the forces of the anti-capitalist left who sought to give continuity to the struggle, succeeding in bringing the rest of the militant forces to position themselves in this way. It managed to maintain occupations inside the schools for six months, creating a crack in bourgeois politics and succeeding in practice in delegitimizing the revision of Article 16, because it managed to influence large parts of the population. Obviously, the movement also had its weaknesses. But the victorious collective images of the struggle of this period are diverse, and it is important to recognize the dynamics and weaknesses in order for today's struggle to be victorious.

RP: What is the responsibility of SYRIZE and PASOK, which stated that they are open to the possibility of creating non-state universities?

Ionas: The responsibility of SYRIZE and PASOK is enormous and to this day it plays an important role in the restructuring of education and the movement itself. Both of them contributed to the restructuring of the education map and program, strengthening the commercial function of universities and neoliberal public education projects. We are not surprised by their support for the new bill, and the response we must give as a student movement must be comprehensive and attack not only the current government, but all civil parties and bourgeois politics as a whole. In fact, this is also part of the debate within universities, with student organizations clearly positioning themselves against the entire legal framework for education that all governments have gradually put in place over the past 15 years.

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