Economic Crisis Hits Workers of Greece

(November 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 35 (Whole No. 94), 12 December 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Dear Friends:

Since I last wrote to you the situation in our country has become worse. The fall of the English pound has disturbed the economic life and especially the exports of tobacco, raisins and olive oil. The income from the merchant fleet is reduced, while individuals and banks who had deposits in London lost tremendous sums. The State Bank alone lost 300,000 pounds, which reduced the paper drachma and put the stabilization of the Greek currency on the edge of the abyss. The state income from taxes is reduced by 60 million drachmas per month ($750,000), and it is forecast that the total deficit of the economic year will total 300 million drachmas. The Government is preparing to reduce the wages of the State employees by 6%, but it was met by unanimous protest from every side, so that action was deferred to December 15th in the expectation of an improvement of the world economic situation after the victory of the Tories in England.

Worsening of the Workers’ Situation

The maintenance of the drachma at the stabilized level of 20% over English currency is followed by the reduction of industrial production and an attack of capital upon wages. Workers are willing to fight, but they are in an awful state of disorganization. The responsibility for that situation rests upon Stalinism, which for ten years by its errors and adventurism helped the reactionaries to take foot in the trade unions, and from an insignificant minority to seize the direction of the unions and the General Federation of Labor, with the assistance of dictator Pangalos. Instead of struggling against them to gain the confidence of the workers, the Stalinists withdrew from the G.F.L. and founded the Unionist G.F.L., which through the policy of the Third Period—the general political strike and the like—became a mere skeleton. In the same period they dissolved the trade unions under their direction and amalgamated them into industrial unions. But at the stage of economic development in which our country was and still is this meant a suicide crime committed against the organization of the Greek workers. The Industrial Leather Union for years was unable to get together in meetings of more than 15 workers. For three years they did not hold elections for Council renewal. We have resisted this crime of Stalinism and in the midst of this struggle our best comrade Theodore Ladas, shoemaker-worker, was assassinated.

Our organization strived in this period to organize the workers and succeeded to have fifteen unions in Athens and Piraeus and ten in Salonica. But this was far from grouping the majority of the workers who are 90 per cent unorganized.

Trade Union Unity

It is natural that the slogan for unity should be at the heart of every worker, and when our organization put forward the slogan of the united front and later of unity, the response from the workers was unanimous.

In Athens there were two bakers’ unions, one of which was under reactionary management, the other under ours. Under our pressure, workers obliged their leaders to accept the unity propagated by the Archio Marxists. The result was that we obtained the direction of the amalgamated union.

Our slogan for unity meets the stubborn resistance of Stalinists, who prefer to have lifeless unions instead of having the masses concentrated in them. In the past, when the Archio-Marxists became a majority in unions under the Stalinist regime, they (the Stalinists) expelled these majorities rather than to surrender the union control. That is the history of the great majority of the unions which are now under our direction. Our slogan for unity is: ONE UNION FOR EVERY INDUSTRY.

The only terms we propose are: proletarian democracy in the union and liberty for the factions.

We also propagated this slogan at the VI Congress of the General Federation of Labor, where Jouhaux of the French C.G.T. and of the Amsterdam International was in attendance. Our organization circulated a tract against this traitor. Two comrades were arrested and beaten up by the police who were protecting him.

In Piraeus there are three bakers’ unions, one under our direction. In a common meeting, the workers accepted our slogan and a committee of fifteen was elected to carry out the fusion of the unions. In Athens, the same will take place with another bakers’ union which was founded by the reactionaries when our comrades were arrested at the beginning of a general bakers’ strike.

Under our pressure, Stalinists made a turn accepting our slogans and declaring that they are prepared to accept a union Congress for the formation of ONE Confederation of Labor.

But in practice, they are putting up obstacles for every real effort for unity and are even collaborating with reactionaries against us. This was the case in the Bank Employees’ Union, where Stalinists worked with reactionaries to defeat the Council composed of sympathizers to our organization. They did not succeed; we have retained our position in the Council.

International Labor Defense Our participation in the I.L.D. groups continues, but we are met with all the obstacles that Stalinism is capable of. They took occasion to expel the entire I.L.D. group in the bakers’ union which protested against the persecution of Rakovsky and Trotsky and the Bolshevik-Leninists of the Soviet Union. The Rakovsky campaign was very successful in bringing to the knowledge of the workers the situation of the Opposition in the U.S.S.R. The Stalinists have been enraged at this exposure, and they began a fierce campaign of calumniation against Trotsky and Rakovsky, whom they calumniated as counter-revolutionists. For the same reason, they expelled from the I.L.D. four of our best comrades who are in prison cells at Syngrow. Now they are preparing the expulsion of every Archio-Marxlst from the I.L.D.

In Salonica prisons, exasperated by the criticism of our comrades in the prison, they rushed against them, twenty against five, and beat them fiercely. They attacked comrade Cavilla, then secretary of the Drama radio, and member of the district committee of East Macedonia and West Thrace, who lately joined our organization, after addressing an open letter to the members of the Party denouncing the crimes of the Stalinists, the thefts, treason, etc. They wounded him in the head with a rifle. Some days later our comrade was discovered and arrested by the police and imprisoned and tortured.

The Terror

The terror against the militant workers is increasing. The courts are dissolving workers’ unions; they imprison, send to jail and deport for years. The foundation of new unions is forbidden. On August 1st the police arrested some of our comrades at Agrini and attached them to the tail of a horse which was galloping. In the shoemakers’ strike, which now involves 4,000 workers in Athens and Piraeus, we have twenty comrades sentenced to years of prison. The secretary and president of the shoemakers’ union (Archio-Marxist) were condemned to eight months’ imprisonment. The comrade who was standard-bearer in a demonstration of strikers was sentenced to eighteen months in jail.

On November 7th at a demonstration in favor of the Russian Revolution, fourteen comrades, members of our organization, were condemned from two to three and a half years’ imprisonment and exile. Among them are two working-women.

For a month now, 4,000 shoemakers are on strike in Athens and Piraeus. In this strike, Stalinism revealed its hideous face. We will give you a.n account of this strike in the near future after the strike ends.

Athens, November 12, 1931


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