Greece:Interview with Union President Nikos Photopoulos

Interview with NIKOS PHOTOPOULOS, President of the GENOP-DEH union of workers of the Greek national electricity company, who is to be sentenced on the 10th of January, 2012, along with 14 of his comrades

Interview conducted in Athens, December 1st, by the ILC International Newsletter

Q: Facing the heavy prison sentence that you are faced with, shouldn’t we plan to undertake a broad campaign in the international labour movement to demand the lifting of any legal proceedings, especially between now and January 10th, 2010?

A: I thank you for the proposal, because we need such a campaign in order to pressure the government. We need to show the workers that they are not alone. The government and the Troika [IMF, European Union, European Central Bank — tr. note] have committed to a war to the bitter end. Nothing will stop them. With the government and the Troika, the accounts have been opened. These accounts are going to be settled in the streets. It is either us or them. We can no longer bear this policy that makes the workers pay while the rich get richer. It was not us, the workers, who were governing when the debts were contracted, so it is not up to us to pay those debts.

Today, a class war is taking place in Greece and for us the workers, it is our survival that is at stake, because they have blocked all the roads to the future. But we will bring those obstacles down. We are going to win back our dreams, which have been stolen. Greece already counts a million and a half workers under the poverty level, and a million of unemployed.

For over a year and a half now, they have been trying to brainwash us, to make us believe that we are responsible for what has happened to our country. But the brainwashing isn’t working. The people have awakened and their combat is at the heart of the situation.

That is why we did not hesitate to stand up to them, to show that we are not afraid — and we are doing so in all awareness and in order to open the way forward.

Yesterday, if the judgement sentencing us to prison had been pronounced, we had decided collectively not to appeal, in order to make them face up to their responsibilities. We did so in all awareness, not acting as heroes or as martyrs, but not lowering our heads. Our conscience is clear.

Q: How was the decision to occupy the centre in the Kholargos district taken, and what role did the union play?
A: We came to occupy to block the electricity cuts that have hit the unemployed and the poorest who can not afford to pay. This occupation was unbearable to the government, who sent the police to oust us. We knew that things would end up like this. We are demanding that the law be cancelled, because access to electricity should not be used as a means of pressure on society. The MPs who voted for this tax could never survive for even an hour without electricity Š but, as for others, they don’t give a damn.

Q: Yesterday, on the eve of the general strike called by the GSEE and ADEDY confederations, the court that was judging you and the 14 other activists of the GENOP-DEH, postponed its sentencing to the 10th of January, 2012. What are you accused of and what might your sentences be?
A: We are accused of “blocking the action of the forces of law and order” and blocking the proper functioning of public services”. Prison sentences of 6 months to 5 years are being sought against us. But the government fears having to declare us guilty because of the consequences that they would have to face. That is why they have put off this decision.

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