Protests, demonstrations, and actions across the globe marked the International Day of Solidarity called for by the occupying students at the Polytechnic in Athens on Saturday. GreekSolidarityMap makes interesting use of Google Earth to map the places all over the globe where solidarity actions have happened or were planned for. Though the site appears limited in its inclusiveness, it’s an innovative use of the technology and just pretty cool. While the mainstream media here in the U.S. continues with horrible to non-existent coverage of the situation in Greece- as well as the wave of radical and youth-oriented demonstrations and actions that it has inspired the world over- E.U. reporters and government officials are increasingly concerned by a situation that is not only out of their control at the moment, but could rapidly turn into a much, much bigger problem for capitalism and the State. The International Herald-Tribune looks at the situation from France:
Firebombs and breaking glass, tear gas and burning cars. The images from Greece this month were enough to put the fear of youth into the hearts of European leaders.
That dread was palpable in France when President Nicolas Sarkozy abruptly delayed for one year a plan to overhaul France’s high schools, after students from Bordeaux to Brittany took to the streets in protest.
Those demonstrations haven’t turned violent yet. But French history, and the example of Greece, suggests they might. At least that is what people like Laurent Fabius, a Socialist Party leader, are saying on French radio.
“What we see in Greece is not out of the realm of possibility in France,” Fabius said on Europe 1. “When you have such an economic depression, such social despair, all it takes is a match.”
Of course, the intelligent reader may notice the dismissive and condescending attitude conveyed in that (and most other mainstream press) towards youth-movements, radical-movements, and radical-youth movements. The truth of the matter is that the situation in Greece, and its spread through Europe and the rest of the post-industrial world is far more complicated and nuanced than anything that the media or the capitalist press is going to give voice to. The UK’s Independent commits all of these same crimes in its reporting, which again is nonetheless helpful in illustrating the growing sense of fear and anxiety swelling up amongst the ruling elite:
Europe exists, it appears. If Greek students sneeze, or catch a whiff of tear-gas, young people take to the streets in France and now Sweden. Yesterday, masked youths threw two firebombs at the French Institute in Athens. Windows were smashed but the building was not seriously damaged. Then youths spray-painted two slogans on the building. One said, “Spark in Athens. Fire in Paris. Insurrection is coming”. The other read, “France, Greece, uprising everywhere”.
It was a calculated and violent attempt to link disparate youth protest movements. Links between protests in Greece and France – and, to a lesser degree, unrest in Sweden – may seem tenuous, even non-existent. But social and political ailments and their symptoms transmit as rapidly as influenza in the television, internet and text-message age.
With Europe, and the world, pitching headlong into a deep recession, the “Greek Syndrome”, as one French official calls it, was already being monitored with great care across the European Union. The attempt to politicise and link the disputes across EU frontiers may prove to be a random act of self-dramatisation by an isolated group on the Greek far left. But it does draw attention to the similarities – and many differences – between the simultaneous outbreaks of unrest in three EU countries.
The ignorance articulated here is neither unique nor unexpected, though it is a terrible disservice to the people at large, who deserve first and foremost a press corps that is interested in understanding and disseminating the events of the day in a way not married to one political or economic outcome or another, but in service of educating the population and working for the collective good of society- all society (see my recent Wither Ye Fourth Estate). But we needn’t be surprised by the faulty products of the corporate media- only aware and diligent.
As pathetic as the mainstream press has been, some very provocative and fascinating currents are appearing all over the left media- particularly the blogosphere and the internet in general. Not that the far left and radical media isn’t replete with its own garbage and “tow the line” crap; but nuanced observations and clever analysis of the situation in Greece (both at present and historically) as well as the large global uprising that is swelling before our eyes is happening on a very large scale. An editorial on CrimeThink CrimethInc. (of all the most despicable places) offers just one example of some interesting thinking (if not completely good thinking, at least provocative and engaging- much more than could be said of the MSM):
Anarchists and students, supported and often joined by significant swaths of the population, have clashed with police, destroyed corporate and government property, and occupied government buildings, trade union offices, and media outlets, not to mention the usual universities.
What’s going on in Greece? Is it simply a matter of disenfranchised youth protesting a discouraging job market, or is there something more afoot?
The corporate media has ignored the banners decrying police brutality and unaccountable authority, seizing instead on the idea that the unrest is the result of widespread unemployment and poor economic prospects for young Greeks. Thus prompted, many people—including some radicals—have focused on these issues as well.
At such a distance, we are not equipped to speak on the causes of the riots or the motivations of the participants, but we know better than to trust the media.
Should we accept that the rage being vented in Greece is economic in origin, the implication is that it could be dispelled by economic solutions—and there are capitalist solutions for the crisis in no shorter supply than socialist ones. Perhaps the exploitation, misery, and unemployment currently rampant in Greece could be exported to some meeker nation, or else enough credit could be extended to the disaffected stone-throwers that they could come to identify as middle class themselves. These approaches have worked before; one might even argue that they have driven the process of capitalist globalization.
If Greece could somehow be transformed into Sweden—if every nation could be Sweden, without any having to be Nigeria—would it be OK to shoot teenagers then? They shoot anarchists in Sweden too, you know.
To the extent to which the resistance in Greece is simply an expression of frustration at dim financial prospects, then, it is possible that it can ultimately be defused or co-opted. But there are other forces at work here, which the corporate account de-emphasizes.
Corporate media generally ignore anarchists, trivializing them with qualifiers such as “self-styled” when they refer to them at all. That corporate outlets have been forced to detail the anarchist involvement in these and other struggles in Greece attests to the depth and seriousness of anarchist activity. Leftists may attempt to portray the events in Greece as a general uprising of “the people,” and certainly countless “normal” people have participated, but it is clear even from this vantage point that anarchists started the rioting and have remained the most influential element within it.
Like I said, there are certainly a lot interesting and provocative things to pull-out from here- regardless if one’s included to agree or not. For my part, I’ll agree with the above as far as rejecting and in fact being suspicious of the corporate press’ narrative, I’ll agree that it appears (from the soil of North America, not informed by the privilege of being in Europe) anarchists and radical youth’s began the- physical aspect of the- rebellion that is happening in Greece, and not finally I’ll agree emphatically with the author’s point about how the narrative of this social unrest as entirely caused by poor economic factors is mis-leading and suggestive that “if every nation were Sweden there’d be no anger, no suffering”. But I have a tickle of a disagreement here: the economic realities of the capitalist order breed, by their nature, isolation, disillusionment, and dissatisfaction; the capitalist system by definition is a pathology of human nature, and as such is the cause of the unrest in Greece and across the globe.
In the meantime, while the corporate media leaves us wallowing in confusing- and plain wrong- narratives, in the real world the U.S. government itself is well aware of the potential of radical provocateurs, coupled with dwindling prospects for a livable economic recovery and the growing pain and frustration experienced on a daily basis by the most poor-off (economically and otherwise) segments of society. The Arizona Business Journal exemplifies this reality:
A new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks.
“Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” said the War College report.
The study says economic collapse, terrorism and loss of legal order are among possible domestic shocks that might require military action within the U.S.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned Wednesday of economy-related riots and unrest in various global markets if the financial crisis is not addressed and lower-income households are hurt by credit constraints and rising unemployment.
U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted.
It’s a long road ahead of us, one of uncertainty and struggle, to put it lightly. Only time will tell what comes of it all.