Report from Greece – Students resist new laws & occupy
September 1, 2011 4 Comments
by Costas Todoulos, who has previously spoken at an EAN teach-in.
After 3 hot months of general strikes and square occupations, the student movement in Greek Higher Education started early this academic year: Since August 29, Student Unions at universities organised emergency general meetings, and more than 155 are under occupation (by September 1st).
The government, under the direction of IMF, ECB and EU tried to catch the movement off guard, by passing the new set of law in HE within August. These new laws will force students to buy textbooks and possibly introduce tuition fees in the future – although this is still constitutionally forbidden!
The Greek government is opening up the way for private capital to fund universities, while limiting public funding and cutting both lecturers’ jobs and positions, and student facilities. Further these laws will curtail democratic participation of students and lecturers in decision-making at universities and introduce managers who will further steer universities towards the market. And most importantly, they are abandoning the hard-won right of ‘Asylum’ within universities which protects academic and political freedom, and forbids police and uniformed authority from entering and making arrests on university premises.
Shockingly, the ‘Labour-type’ PASOK government passed these laws in parliament with the help of all right wing parties and even the fascists on August 24. This move threatens everything the movement in HE has fought for and won in the last 35 years since the fall of the Junta in 1973. They want to take our democratic rights, victimise and terrorise the movement. During the last two successful waves of occupation (2006-07) similar laws never were implemented.
With the recent student uprisings in the UK and Chile the Greek movement has caught fresh wind. The whole academic community inGreeceis against these laws even though exams period has started. Lecturers’ unions are supporting action and the teachers’ unions have pledged their support to demonstrators. The PASOK youth also supports the occupations and has officially distanced itself from its party which has passed these laws. However, it was the initiative of the radical left and grassroots activists within the universties whose proposals are backed by big majorities in the occupations.
The Students Unions have called a demonstration for today (September 1st) and further steps are being taken within the general meetings. The occupied universities are becoming centres of struggle and surely they will play a big role in this new wave of resistance this autumn.