News reports on Tuesday tried to take a conciliatory stance, noting the relative quiet in the streets of Greek cities and the slow clean-up process had begun after four days of intense rioting by leftist youths.  The conservative government, on the brink of financial disaster and looking at approval ratings that would make George Bush envious, dug in and tried its best to put a face of control, calm, and capitalist cool on the fact that Athens and other major Greek cities were all but burnt to the ground.  But then Wednesday came, with a country-wide general strike that union leaders described by saying “participation in the strike is total- the country has come to a standstill.”  Thursday proved that the anger and opportunism of the radical youth movement in Greece- and it’s growing sympathies from the Greek labor movement- is far from out of breath.  Fresh riots spread into yet more cities, with scattered reports that police forces had “run out of tear gas” among other examples that the State itself is closer to exhaustion than the rebellion.  In light of the uprising’s continued spread from radical youths to organized labor, rumors that a state of emergency would be declared so that police forces could raid universities (which are legally declared “no police zones” in light of the national traumas suffered in 1973 when the military dictatorship stormed campus’ in hopes of wiping out dissent- it’s still unknown today how many were killed) have fallen from the headlines as even conservative newspapers are increasingly calling for the Prime Minister to step down and for early elections to be called; left parties, led by the Socialist Party, have seen their popularity soar faster and higher than the best fighter jets that the pentagon can produce.

 

Protesters attack police with petrol bombs in Athens

Protesters attack police with petrol bombs in Athens

All over Europe, solidarity protests have popped up and have brought increasing alarm to E.U. and State government suits.  11 people were arrested and several cops injured in Madrid and Barcelona as anarchists clashed with police in Spain; in Copenhagen 32 people were arrested when solidarity protests there turned violent; about a dozen anarchists attacked the Greek consulate in Istanbul; in Moscow and Rome, the Greek embassy’s were attacked with petrol bombs, and similar violence marked demonstrations in Paris.  London, Berlin, The Hague, and New York are among the other cities worldwide that have also hosted solidarity protests.  Nearly 600 shops and businesses in Athens alone have been damaged or completely destroyed, with damage estimates counted to be at least $260 million and rising.  Several police stations are said to simply “no longer exist”.  

 

At the Greek Embassy in London

At the Greek Embassy in London

 

 

 

The world-over, socialists, leftist political parties (such as the Social Democrats and Socialist Parties), and anarchists have been drawn in to untold numbers of conversations and debates- primarily across the internet and blogosphere- about the merits of the Greek riots, the strengths, weaknesses and character of the rioters, and what it all means and where it will all lead for Greece, Europe, and the global financial order.  One thing’s pretty clear: anti-capitalists of nearly all stripes have been having a hard time containing their optimism, or at least their intrigue.  

Amongst the anarchist milieu, debates have broken down amongst the usual sectarian lines: the value and effectiveness of insurrectionist tactics, the sophistication of the the anarchist-communist pole in Greece, the degree and likelihood of the uprising’s spread across Europe… while many anti-authoritarian commentator’s have noted that the Greek anarchist movement’s two main poles- insurrectionists who believe primarily that capitalism and the State itself are best destroyed through riots and militancy among the radical population and anarchist-communists who take a more nuanced approach, favoring generally the radicalization and militarization of the working class to carry out rebellion and social upheaval- are generally “young”, “underdeveloped”, and (in the words of one friend of mine) “generally representing the worst ideas of each of these poles” it’s nonetheless clear that a combination of Greece’s decades long cultural tradition of permissiveness when it comes to youth-oriented political violence, the rapidly deteriorating economic conditions throughout the country, and a largely ambivalent and aloof conservative, free-market oriented government have set the stage for what has become one of the most significant social uprisings in the Western world in decades.  Comparisons to Paris ’68- both in the scope of conditions on the ground as well as ramifications regarding the possible outcome- have increased; though how warranted they are remains to be seen.

Frankly, the personal and social stresses of the global economic meltdown make the end results from all this entirely unpredictable.  Europe as a whole is well known to not only be far more leftist and socialistic than what we know of politics here in the U.S., but the public imagination- and their patience with incompetent government’s- are far more expanded and short, respectively.  

“We are against the government and the growing power by the police who believe that they can shoot whenever and whomever they want,” said Mario Bakiari, the president of the student body of the Athens district of Peristeri.

“There is no way that the government can justify banks a 28- million-euro bail-out plan yet no money towards the educational system. Classes are without heating and many times are held in portables.”

Meanwhile:

Striking union members condemned what they called “the cold-blooded murder of the young Alexander,” (the teenager murdered by police that set-off the initial violence) as they demanded higher wages, a ban on mass layoffs by companies receiving government assistance, and the doubling of government funding for education, health and welfare programs.

A radical, insurrectionist youth movement alongside- and increasingly supported by- a strong, cohesive, class-conscious labor movement: this could get much more interesting before it fades from the headlines folks.

Advertisements