Dear comrades, warm greetings, from the class movement of artists of Greece and PAME. We thank and congratulate WFTU for this important, timely and necessary initiative to meet the militant artists of the world.
We salute and send our solidarity to the fighting artistsof the world who sing, paint and fight against imperialism. And all of you who today from every corner of the earth, miles away, but next to each other, are together in the common struggle against injustice and exploitation.
We are artists-trade unionists of Greece who rally with PAME. Actors, singers, musicians, art technicians and me personally president of the National Union of Musicians of Greece, a union that was born 100 years ago. It is a special moment for us to get in touch with our colleagues from so many countries and to share with you the experience, the struggles and the proposals of the class unions of Greece.
Dear colleagues, these days we are completing one year since the closure of the Cultural Centers in our country. The shock for the employees of our industry was great. The first problems we had to deal with were the cases where employers left many working musicians unpaid. We resolutely intervened against the employers and demanded the accrued salaries. Against us we found the Government’s decision to close the labor control service that helped employers. However, the demands of our Union found a great response to the workers themselves who rallied and massified the Union. The second issue was the dismissals and we demanded that no colleague be fired or suspended from work by the state ensembles.But the biggest battle was claiming to ensure the survival of all colleagues. Especially for the employees of our industry, many of whom work without rights.
An additional issue is that of repression and the crackdown on trade union action. Both with violence and laws against the unions, and with forces that speak against the role of the unions, for “non-partisan” artists, individual solution, internet movements and mainly for logics of common interests of workers-artists and artists-employers, ie logic of “class cooperation” and “labor peace”.
In our country, such a movement influenced many Artists who appreciated the action of our Unions. The line of this movement was classless, putting the demands of both employees and employers under the umbrella of Culture. From there, forces operating in connection with major cultural institutions controlled by capitalist-shipping groups with close ties to the US embassy also operated. A similar role is played by international organizations in the field of artists cooperating with ITUC but also with imperialist organizations such as the EU to support the business groups, but left workers-artists completely unprotected.
Our consistent militant action and our class line did not allow these movements to dissolve our Unions. The prestige of our forces, even to employees who do not agree with us in everything, prevented the attempt to impose the perception of the joint interests of employers and employees, within the Unions. Nevertheless, the struggle with these forces, with the Government and the Employer is very difficult and demanding.
It is also characteristic that the Government chose our mobilization on September 10, 2020 to implement the law banning demonstrations. But the participation of thousands of working artists helped to throw the ban in the trash even when the government brought in police forces to attack us.
Today the situation is very difficult for most artists. Even for those who have received the small allowances given by the Government, the accumulating debts are huge. In combination with being out of work for such a long time, creates psychological pressure.
The government is taking advantage of the pandemic and trying to intervene in the Unions. In this way, it makes an effort to broaden the logic of the self-employed person in relation to that of the employee, in order to pass the responsibility of insurance, Health and safety in the workplace on the backs of employees. On the other hand, it tries to transform our Unions, from organizers of the conflict of employees with Governments and Employers to their collaborators.
The government also introduced new censorship, which censors works of art that are published on the internet and have radical content, while at the same time it prepared the prosecution of Artists based on terrorism legislation. All of these are specifications of EU directives to prosecute the radicalization of youth and to impose severe penalties on young people facing an unjust and exploitative world. This is why we also protested at the Spanish embassy, which, under a similar law, has imprisoned artists such as rapper Pablo Hassel.
The development of mass struggles in the industry has also given the courage to many to denounce the abuse, especially sexual abuse that takes place through blackmail by artists with high positions and high acquaintances with politicians, businessmen etc. Issues that bring to the surface the rottenness of the capitalist system and its culture that reproduces exploitation and injustice.
Certainly when our workplaces reopen things will not be the same as before. Unemployment will have risen and the pressure on workers will be much greater. This pressure will intensify at all levels and in labor rights, but also in the content of our Art. The Government of our country has already clearly shown what it is preparing. Financing based on the amount of the investment and not on artistic criteria. Reduction of wages, attacks to our copyright and related rights that are an obstacle to investments in digital culture.
All these are the needs and consequences of an Art commercial product. On the one hand they make it a profitable commodity and on the other hand they form a content that contributes to the reproduction of exploitative social relations.
However, from the first moment and in very difficult conditions, our Union fought. A very crucial element was our effort to keep the morale of our colleagues high. Every two days we made an announcement that was read by thousands of fellow artists. Announcements that gave courage, stressed that there is no one alone, who tried to develop solidarity, militancy even in quarantine.
In the face of these developments, despite the bans and restrictions, our Unioncontinued to operate. We used all forms of actions. We organized symbolic mobilizations in the Ministries, collected thousands of signatures, made videos, expressed support for the struggles and the demands of workers in other sectors and especially to the workers in the hospitals.
A decisive moment for the development of our struggles was the mobilization of PAME on May 1st, which paved the way for the great mobilizations of our sector in the next period. Despite the Government’s effort to ban the celebration of May Day, PAME, taking all health protection measures and with organized disobedience to the Government and employers, held large workers’ rallies that gave courage and strength to workers in all sectors.
Our union took the initiative and on May 7 we organized a huge mobilization of Artists, along with other Associations from the field of Culture that gathered thousands of employees. The government was pressed and began to take some measures for the artists, which, however, did not actually meet our needs. At the same time, at the international level, we expressed solidarity with the struggles of artists and workers from other countries. While before the pandemic we organized concerts with artists from other countries,
To date, we manage our Union and the class forces in Culture to take appropriate and timely initiatives, which help us maintain a militant spirit and at the same time have the initiative of the movements. We acquired this ability by fighting from the smallest to the largest issue, while at the same time we did not lose the big picture of the developments, having a good appreciation of the opponent, but also of the dispositions of the majority of the employees.
A key issue for us is for our unions to fight for the rights, life and salary of the working artist, as well as for a progressive culture that expresses the anxieties, the desires, the hopes of the workers and the people. With our struggles and our art to serve the struggle of the workers for a world without wars, without poverty and unemployment, without racism and xenophobia, for a world without exploitation.
In the most difficult conditions we have acted in the last decades, we managed to strengthen our Unions. To find new, young people willing to fight. We know that the road ahead of us is difficult and demanding. But now we know that only when you fight against difficulties you become stronger.
We believe that the strengthening of communication, solidarity and the development of joint actions will help our action in each country. For example, the musicians of Greece organized public concerts in front of the Greek Parliament. Something similar could all be organized together on a common date with unions. We agree on May 21st the International Day of Culture, to organize in our countries events and activities with the demands of the workers artists and WFTU
Long live solidarity
Long live the working artists of the world
Long live the WFTU
March 16, 2021