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Greece: Austerity, Resistance, Rebellion. „The Government wants war, We Will Give Them War.“ + Eyewitness Report

Events in Greece have of course been all over the news lately, and although our „proximity“ to Greek anarchism is no secret, sadly over here at Fire and Flames there has not been the time to cover events over there as we may have you used to.

Last week saw a 48 hour general strike (the first in decades), together with a mass mobilization aimed at preventing parliament from passing the latest roun of austerity measures. What ensued was not only a massive confrontation, but also a brutal police repression operation targetting basically anybody who dared be on the streets of central Athens. Besides motorcycle units storming through a tourist district, cops could also be seen massively throwing rocks at protestors. For the record, this is far from new in Athens. New is however that they do it so massively and in broad daylight, instead of „just“ at anarchists in the dark streets of Exarcheia around the Polytechnic. For example:

Cops attacking the entrance to the metro at Syntagma:

The state is more and more revealing that its power and legitimacy is the monopoly on violence, and it will be very interesting to see how the situation develops over the next few months.

The following is an eyewitness report posted on Occupied London. It is far from perfect, and some of the statements in it are somewhat questionable, but it is useful in that it gives an impression of the scale and intensity of the events. As far as claims of anarchists or „black blocers“ attacking other demonstrators…there is indeed, as in most places only in Greece somewhat more virulent, a strain of „anarchist“ over there who reacts very violently to other peoples concepts of resistance. Yes, its an issue. No, it shouldnt overshadow or discredit the exemplary role of the large part of the anarchist „movement“ in the resistance over there.


The Battle for Syntagma: an eyewitness report

This is a personal report from an outsider in Greek society who was inside the protests over the past week. It is hoped that this report, which is a mix of general reporting and personal experience and which must surely be flawed at some points due to lack of information or confusion, will provide some inside information to people across the world about what has been happening in Greece.

Dire circumstances

Plenty has been written about the economic attack on the Greek people by the banks and states of the West. This article is meant as a report from within the resistance against this attack. But in short, the Greek people are being made to pay for the financial crisis that was caused by international banks, states and corporations. It is said Greece is in debt. But two questions have to be asked: 1) Who is “Greece”? 2) To whom are they in debt?

The answer to the first question is that when corporate media talk about Greece being in debt, they talk about the Greek people, but in reality it is the Greek state. A state that is everything but democratic, and does not work in the interest of its citizens. Still, the measures that are forced through will be hurting the Greek people, who hardly benefited from the money that the Greek state borrowed. The answer to the second question is international financial corporations, the same ones that should be held responsible for the current crisis. They have willingly and knowingly pushed through loans to Greece and others, often through their good connections with the state managers. Now that new loans have to be initiated, it’s the same banks that are “helping” the state managers achieve this. Especially the advisers of Goldman Sachs play a prominent role behind the scenes. What they are helping with is selling of the public property of Greece to speculators, rich people elsewhere, and so on. They are helping to increase unemployment, lower the wages, and privatize public services. It is self-evident that such acts will be highly profitable for the corporations that are involved, and will cause a lowering of the life standards of the average Greek people. And all Greeks can attest to this; everyone I talked to seemed to have either a personal story or of people they knew that lost their jobs, whose wages were cut in one way or the other, PhD’s who had to take up jobs in supermarkets to survive, or people who were just jobless for endless amounts of time, depending on family and friends for survival.

One month Syntagma

Amidst the dire circumstances of economic warfare by the combined forces of state capitalism, the people in Athens took up the example of Spain by camping on the central square of the capital – which in Athens also houses the parliament. Since the 5th of May people have occupied Syntagma square and are holding daily assemblies, open to anyone, to decide upon their goals, demands, actions and more. Overall, thousands have been participating, with several hundred sleeping there as well. Sundays are the biggest, with thousands of people, many of whom are standing on the upper parts of Syntagma, in front of parliament. These crowds are even more mixed, with nationalist forces and slogans more present (and now and then fascists trying to mingle among them as well). But in general such tendencies (including anti-immigrant slogans) are few and countered well. For instance, the few Greek flags that are there are countered by the flags of Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, and others, to show that we’re in the same struggle.

Without many anti-authoritarians or anarchists being there, the assembly decided on its second day to be based on the principle of direct democracy. Around 90% voted for this over “real democracy,” which had connotations of “improving parliamentary democracy,” “replacing the corrupt politicians with better ones,” and so on. Now one of the main banners in front of the parliament calls for Direct Democracy. And by their actions the people show what creative power lies in the cooperation of the masses. Next to the many tents, information stands, a media center, a medical station, a cooking area, and many more things have been created. Moreover, recycling is brought to new levels, with different color garbage bags for different materials. Regularly one can see people sweeping and cleaning the square.

But perhaps the most impressive are the big assemblies. High quality boxes have been installed (donated by a famous Greek singer, who wants to stay anonymous so as not to take any credit), and people can come forward to the central microphone to give their opinions, which are heard by everyone present. The previous speaker has left center stage, an impressive quiet ensues in anticipation of the next speaker. Ninety-nine percent of the people are extremely respectful towards the speakers; if they stumble over their words they are encouraged to continue by the crowd. People have agreed upon signs to show approval and other feelings, without disrupting the speaker too much. Opinions verging on racism or strong nationalism are booed, but in general people are given a lot of leeway.

Although plenty of debate is possible over how democratic such big open assemblies are, they are certainly much more democratic than anything known in current society. It’s surprising how well it functions, considering its size (often hundreds of people, and at some nights even more). Now and then there is some (verbal) fight over the microphone, when someone is talking too long; now and then there are some hotheaded people, but in general these things solve themselves. The same holds for what people have to say; sometimes discussions are slow, with a lot of repetition and apparent irrelevancy, and sometimes people even start talking about a personal problem they had with the state or some institution.

But this should not discourage anyone. We should be open and understanding, however difficult it might be at times. People come to such assemblies with the values of the old society still in them. It is in the course of discussions, of actions, and of active participation that people start to change themselves as well. By its very being, and by people participating in it, people gain the needed experience for true democracy. And although many Greeks don’t know much about the gatherings on Syntagma, since the corporate and state media are scarcely reporting on it, polls seem to show that a large majority (70+ %) support what’s happening.

There are also neighborhood assemblies, many already existing for years – many since the events of December 2008 (the murder by the police of a young boy, followed by massive protests and riots). However, these are often more dominated by political parties/groups, different factions fighting for different directions of the assemblies. On Syntagma they have failed in their attempts. For instance, last week Friday a faction, ARAS, of the revolutionary socialist coalition Antarsya brought 50 people to a separate assembly on Syntagma, which was going to define what the group was and wanted, to vote for their text. Two days later, in the general Assembly, this decision was overturned and postponed for full discussion in the general Assembly. And if one looks at the texts that have so far been produced on Syntagma, one cannot be but excited about the capacities of people to think for themselves, without dogmatic political groups enforcing their strict ideas on them. By this they also show how well people can cooperate without having to agree with each other on every single point.

A Mix of Anger, Hope and Fear


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