Printed in the widely read Israeli paper, Haaretz.
A road to revolution?
By Uri Gordon
Three weeks have passed since the unprovoked police murder of
15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Athens, and the riots
engulfing Greece show no sign of abating.
While the student occupations of the capital's three universities
(Economics, Polytechnic and the law faculty) are expected to end
soon, a major student demonstration has been called for January 9,
and the protests, street clashes and seizures of television and radio
stations are set to continue in full force.
A Greek blogger wrote this week: "We have a duty to move here, there,
anywhere but back to our couches as mere viewers of history, back
home to the warmth that freezes our conscience."
The international ripples are also tangible. Solidarity
demonstrations and attacks on Greek embassies have taken place around
the globe, from Moscow to New York and Copenhagen to Mexico City.
Declarations and manifestos issued by student assemblies at Greek
schools are almost immediately translated and posted online in
English, French, Italian, Turkish and Serbian.
In the first few days of the revolt, bloggers were trying to put
together a list of all the solidarity actions taking place, but the
task proved impossible: There have been literally hundreds of them;
thousands of people have taken to the streets. Last Saturday, a
global day of action against police violence saw raucous
demonstrations in over 30 cities worldwide.
The corporate press has trotted out various theories to explain the
cause of the unrest - frustration with a corrupt government, the
global financial crisis, and discontent among Greece's youth, who
face meager prospects of secure employment or welfare rights - the
riots being a blind reaction to objective conditions.
But all these explanations are in fact decoys intended to silence and
ignore the rebels' own declared motivations.
A declaration by the students occupying the Athens School of
Economics was quite clear about how they see the issue: "The
democratic regime in its peaceful facade doesn't kill an Alex every
day, precisely because it kills thousands of Ahmets, Fatimas, Jorjes,
Jin Tiaos and Benajirs: because it assassinates systematically,
structurally and without remorse the entirety of the third world ....
"The cardinals of normality weep for the law that was violated from
the bullet of the pig Korkoneas [the policeman who shot
Grigoropoulos]. But who doesn't know that the force of the law is
merely the force of the powerful? That it is law itself that allows
for the exercise of violence on violence? The law is void from end to
bitter end; it contains no meaning, no target other than the coded
power of imposition."
Or, in another declaration, this one anonymous: "What do we seek?
Equality. Political, economic, social. Between all people. Our
possibility of convincing the servile consumers to refuse being
commodities and subjects is rather limited. What can we do? Ravage
and plunder the market, distribute the goods to everybody, dissolve
the myths that support inequality."
These are no single-issue protests or vague grievances. This is
full-blooded revolutionary anarchism.
The mainstream media simply cannot stomach the notion that what is
happening in Greece is by now a proactive social revolt against the
capitalist system itself and the state institutions that reinforce
it. It is time to acknowledge that the Greek anarchist movement has
successfully seized the initiative after the killing of one of its
own, framing the issues in a way that appeals to a larger - albeit
mostly young - public.
Few people realize that the Greek anarchist movement is appreciably
the largest in the world, in proportion to its country's population.
It also enjoys wide social support due to its legacy of resistance to
the military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974. Highly confrontational
demonstrations are a matter of regularity in Greece. It is
practically a bimonthly occurrence for anarchists and police to
engage in fiery street battles in Thessaloniki or Athens. The current
events are only marked by their breadth and duration, not by their
level of militancy.
Another rarely appreciated factor is that Greece is a country in
which the security apparatus is normally kept on a relatively tight
leash. For example, Privacy International's 2007 assessment of
leading surveillance societies found Greece to be the only country in
the world with "adequate safeguards" against the abuse of government
power to spy on its citizenry. The legacy of the dictatorship has
created a lasting image of the police as inherently oppressive, even
among the middle class.
Will the riots in Greece lead to an anti-capitalist revolution? Only
if the opening they have torn in the social fabric widens and
deepens, involving ever-growing sections of society and creating new
grass-roots institutions alongside the destruction of the old. This
seems unlikely in the short term, as bureaucratic labor unions and
the Communist Party attempt to domesticate the revolt and cut their
own political coupon with their demand to disarm the police.
But there is no doubt that a new benchmark has been set for what can
be expected in Western countries during the coming era of economic
depression and environmental decay. European governments will no
doubt ratchet up their policies of surveillance and repression in
anticipation of growing civil unrest. But that may not be enough to
keep the population subdued, as crisis after crisis calls the
existing arrangement of power and privilege into question.
Uri Gordon is the author of "Anarchy Alive!: Anti-Authoritarian
Politics from Practice to Theory" (Pluto Press); www.anarchyalive.com.