Second week of uprising in Greece: Protesters seize TV studio

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Unionist
Second week of uprising in Greece: Protesters seize TV studio

Quote:

People protesting against the death of a teenager shot by Greek police have attacked banks and shops in Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki. ...

The streets of the capital were already strewn with glass and rubble after a night of rioting sparked by Saturday's shooting, in the Exarchia district.

During the overnight violence, protesters hurled rocks and petrol bombs at the police and damaged dozens of buildings - one four-storey shop near the tourist area of Monastiraki was gutted. At least 70 cars were set on fire. ...

The unrest, the worst in the country in several years, later spread to Thessaloniki and the southern island of Crete. ...

Our correspondent says the police appear powerless.

[url=">http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7770086.stm]Source.[/url][/u]

 

 

robbie_dee

From the article linked above:

Quote:
One protester told the BBC he had been greatly angered by the actions of the police.

"It's not the first time. They always kill people - immigrants, innocent people - and without any excuse," he said. "They murdered him in cold blood."

"I think [the violence] is justified. Peaceful demonstrations cannot get a solution to the problem."

The march soon turned violent, with protesters chanting "killers in uniform" and throwing petrol bombs at riot police, who fired back tear gas.

 What is the basis for this level of hostility/mistrust between the public and police in Greece? Is it a legacy of the military dictatorship? Underlying ethnic tensions? (The news report makes no mention of the ethnicity of the shooting victim, but the protester above makes reference to the police killing "immigrants.") Hostility toward the government in general?

 

Edited to note that the police officers responsible for the shooting have been [url=http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081207/ts_afp/greeceprotestathens]arrested....

Unionist

robbie_dee wrote:

What is the basis for this level of hostility/mistrust between the public and police in Greece? Is it a legacy of the military dictatorship? Underlying ethnic tensions? (The news report makes no mention of the ethnicity of the shooting victim, but the protester above makes reference to the police killing "immigrants.") Hostility toward the government in general?

The youth had a "Greek" name, if that's any indication. There seems to be no "ethnic" issue here, and I don't think Greece is much of an immigration destination. [url=http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/12/09/greece-riots.html?ref=rss]Perhaps this sheds some light:[/url]

Quote:
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appealed Tuesday for unity in the
country, but socialist opposition leader George Papandreou has called
for early elections, arguing the conservative government's inability to
deal with the rioters has eroded public confidence.

"The government cannot handle this crisis and has lost the trust of the Greek people," Papandreou said.

Karamanlis's governing conservatives have a majority of one seat in
the 300-member parliament and have already recently faced one round of
violent demonstrations — against their economic reforms. The latest
widely televised scenes of destruction are likely to further undermine
his government's razor-thin majority.

"This country does not have a government," Papandreou said. "This
chaos ... is a result of the decisions and omissions made by a
government that has become dangerous for the Greek people."

If the president agrees to call an election, it would be held within a month.

Observers have said the growing hostility among Greek youth is being
fed by public discontent over low wages, frequent public corruption
scandals and a strong historic distrust of government rooted in past
political upheavals.

Some analysts have compared the riots to a 1973 student uprising, which helped topple a military junta.

 

Unionist

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/12/08/greece-riots.html?ref=rss]Greece is burning - I'll bet the government doesn't survive[/url]

Quote:

"We are not counting any more…The incidents cannot be counted," one Athens fire brigade officer told Reuters.

Protests were reported in 10 cities across the country, including
the tourist islands of Crete and Corfu and the northern city
Thessaloniki, where rioters smashed buildings and threw Molotov
cocktails.

 

Unionist

[url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7771628.stm]Rebellion deeply embedded in Greece[/url]

Quote:

The riots that have swept Greece for the past two days and look set
to continue for the foreseeable future underline why the most important
day in the national calendar is "Oxi" or "No" day.

"Oxi" day commemorates 28 October 1940, when Greek leader
Ioannis Metaxas used that single word to reply to Mussolini's ultimatum
to allow Italy to invade Greece, propelling his nation into World War
II.

When Greeks say no, they mean it in spades.

Rebellion is deeply embedded in the Greek psyche. The students
and school children who are now laying siege to police stations and
trying to bring down the government are undergoing a rite of passage.

They may be the iPod generation, but they are the inheritors of
a tradition that goes back centuries, when nuns would rather hurl
themselves to death from mountain convents than submit to the ravages
of Greece's Turkish Ottoman invaders.

 

robbie_dee

Thanks for the info, unionist. 

[url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081210.wgreece1210/... and Mail: General Strike paralyzes Greece[/url]

 

Quote:
The rioting and demonstrations were set off by anger at the shooting but fed by months of widespread discontent with the conservative government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, whose party holds a majority of a single seat in the 300-member parliament.

More than 10,000 people marched through the centre of the city to protest the conservative government's economic policies. Riot police began firing tear gas when a small group of youths threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at them near parliament in the centre of the Greek capital.

Flights to and from Athens International Airport were cancelled, and public hospitals across Greece were operating with a skeleton staff. Schools and universities were closed.

Mr. Karamanlis has faced growing opposition over changes to the country's pension system, privatization and the loosening of state control of higher education, which many students oppose because they feel it will undermine their degrees.

The government's support has dropped lower as gangs of youths maraud through cities across the country, torching businesses, looting shops and setting up burning barricades across streets.

This is getting big.

arthur seaton

From Socialist Worker newspaper in the UK.  
  
Greek mass movement rises up against the state

 Workers Solidarity)</span>

Athens was rocked by mass protests on Sunday against the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos (Pic: Workers Solidarity)

Panos Garganas spoke to Socialist Worker about the demonstrations shaking Greece

The furious response to the police killing of a 15 year old boy in Athens last Saturday has seen mass protests, strikes and student walkouts rock Greece's right wing government.

Police shot Alexandros Grigoropoulos in the Exarchia area of the capital city on Saturday evening.

The killing has provoked rage among workers and students already angry at the government's neoliberal economic policies.

Immediate protests broke out as news spread. The police attacked the demonstrators and people smashed up the centre of the city.

Movement

While much of the international media has focussed on the riots, they have virtually ignored the mass movement sweeping Greece's streets and workplaces. This has successfully targeted anger against the government.

Large demonstrations took place across the country on Sunday calling for the resignation of the interior minister and punishment for the police involved.

There was a mass walkout by school students in around 100 areas on Monday morning. They then protested outside local police stations.

The atmosphere was very similar to that of March 2003 when tens of thousands of young people spontaneously walked out of schools to demonstrate against war in Iraq.

The anger has spread throughout the population. Over 40,000 people joined a demonstration in Athens this Monday evening against the killing – called by the anti-capitalist left.

There was a separate demonstration by the Greek Communist Party nearby, but there were so many people that the two protests merged into one.

The government has a clear strategy – to use the police to break up demonstrations, leaving people to riot. It is shutting down colleges and schools in an attempt to stop people coming together to organise.

The police attacked Monday night's demonstration with teargas, and smoke and percussion grenades, forcing people to disperse.

Large groups of young people then engaged in a running battle with the authorities. There were other protests across the country on Monday that followed this formula.

The government is hoping that public opinion will harden against the rioters and the situation will calm down. But workers and students have taken the lead in turning up the heat on the government.

There were stoppages in local authorities on Monday as workers attended mass meetings, which voted for resolutions supporting the young people against the police.

The teachers' unions in primary and high schools struck on Tuesday of this week, the day of Alexandros's funeral, so that students could attend the funeral. The lecturers' union called a three-day strike from Monday of this week.

Students

University students have been at the forefront of the struggle against the government's plans to privatise higher education.

There was a three-day occupation of the colleges last week – a continuation of the movement that rocked Greece 18 months ago.

The unions have also called a general strike for Wednesday of this week against the government's budget, which will give 28 billion euros to the bankers.

This is a very explosive mix for the unpopular government. It has been rocked by a series of scandals – two ministers were forced to resign earlier this year over their roles in land deals between the state and a wealthy monastery.

A year ago the government called a snap election as it faced a wave of student occupations against its education plans. It won a small majority and thought this would get it out of its mess.

But now the government is in even worse trouble than before. The police officers responsible for Alexandros's killing have been arrested and the government has said that they will be punished. But their first response was an attempt to cover up the killing.

The police claimed they had been attacked and then fired a warning shot that ricocheted, hitting Alexandros. But there were too many witnesses who have said it was a direct shot. The government had to move against the police in an attempt to calm the anger.

The mood is such that even shopowners who have had their windows smashed made sympathetic comments, such as, "It is no time to talk of compensation as a young boy has just died."

Things are collapsing at the top of society, while people on the ground are in a fighting mood.


Greek government tries to push through cuts

The Greek government is attempting to push through a series of austerity measures in response to the growing crisis.

It is making cutbacks to public services, and introducing pension reform and privatisation. Workers' anger over rising job losses and high inflation has led to this week's general strike.

The Greek TUC is under pressure to produce action against closures and privatisation. The country's parliament is voting on a budget which will give billions of euros to the bankers, in the week before Christmas.

The unions are calling for strikes and demonstrations – and the wave of protests will continue until Christmas and probably into the new year.

Greece has a long history of distrust of the state. A US backed military junta ruled the country between 1967-74. The 1973 student revolt soon turned into a general uprising against the regime – leading to its collapse.

Since 2004 there have seen a wave of struggles against Kostas Karamanlis's right wing government. These have included demonstrations by short-term contract workers for permanent jobs. These, and the last week's events, have weakened the government.

Panos Garganas is the editor of Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker's sister paper in Greece

derrick derrick's picture

Greek protesters seize TV studio:

 "Protesters in Greece have interrupted a TV news bulletin to call for the continuation of mass protests over the recent killing of a teenager by police. Ten youths briefly seized a state NET TV studio, holding banners saying "Stop watching, get out onto the streets".

 

scott scott's picture

 Shades of May 1968.

__________________________________

One struggle, many fronts.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Hopefully with a happy ending this time.  And hopefully, without the Communist Party selling out the revolution this time, as they did in France that year and Italy the next.

 

__________________________________________
Our Demands Most Moderate are/
We Only Want The World!
-James Connolly

Tom Vouloumanos

The Greek Social Uprising is now in its third week.

The uprising has been mostly (but not exclusively) lead by youth.  In its height (last week) 800 secondary level schools and 200 university faculties were occupied throughout the country.  The headquarters of the largest trade-union confederation (GSEE) were also occupied by workers who  underlined that this was not just a student or youth revolt.  Dozens of TV and Radio stations across the country were also broken into and used to read declarations.  With the most famous slogan on TV being: "Stop Watching Televsion and go to the streets!"

The schools and faculties which are referred to as free zones are governed by direct democracy general assemblies and they coordinate their actions via SMS or delegates who communicate back and forth with other student bodies.

I have been reading up on events daily (sometimes almost hourly) scouring through the various websites and blogs from the various protagonists involved in the Uprising and speaking to friends in Greece. What is going on has shaken every institution. 

The mass media whether public or private, the various political parties (left through right), the trade unions and all other institutions are not admitting nor accepting that this is a grassroots revolt, not lead by any single organization, it is in fact deeply anarchist in nature.  There are complaints by some of the older leftists that no charsimatci student leader has arisen (as many of the November 17 student leaders became politicians), but this is precisely the underlying fact, that this is a leaderless grass roots movment based on affinity groups and general assemblies.

It is true that there are many who have joined in who are the so-called Euro-700 generation, university graduates (1 in 5 Greeks has a university degree) who make 700 euros a month when rent in Athens is at least 1000 euros, there are many marginilised people as well, migrant workers and Roma who have dealt with police abuse for years, but the instigators of this Uprising whose message now resonates with mainstream youth are deeply embedded in revolutionary anarchism.

The declarations of the rebels (easily available in English on Indymedia Athens) are agressively anti-capiltalist, anti-state and anti-authoritarian and these communiques are reasonating. 

In fact, leaked government reports show that the Ministry of the Interior is very worried about the ideological influence anarchists are having on Greece's youth.  The Greek Communist Party (which never supported pereistroika or any attempt at reform from Soviet-era dogma) understood quicly enough that its political organs could not control or manipulate events and as such it has attacked the uprising as being under the influence of right-wing agents provocateurs and is holding its own seperate protests. Iis true that alot of the destruction is executed by Greece's largest and most organized Neo-Nazi group "The Golden Dawn".  The Golden Dawn has used the situation to attack small indpendent shops and loot.  Many suspect that the Golden Dawn has close ties to certain officials in the police forces who are either sympathetic to the ideology or are members of this far-right organization.  As such, they attack independent shops and surrounding homes to place blame on the protestors and get public opinion against them.

 he more militant anarchists have been clear about their targets: the Banks, the State especially the Police, and other symbols of Capitalism (major chains, luxury stores). They have made it clear that they do not want to attack or harm small independent shops, homes etc.  In  fact, many of the protestors have been trying to put out fires when any of the foregoing were aimed at or inadvertantly attacked.

By and large (i.e. over 90%), the Uprising has been peaceful, through non-violent protest and non-violent civil dissobedience such as the occupations.  It is true that anarchists have been at the forefront of the revolt but there have been other groups which have been critical in organising this uprising such as the Socialit Worker's Party and the (Luxemburghist/Left Communist) Greek Communist Organization and many others. 

Nevertheless, whether Marxists or Bakunists-Kropotkonists the ideas of the libertarian left seem to have gotten a hold on the youth of Greece which barring the more syndicalist CNT and CGT in Spain seems to have the largest militant anarchist movement in the world.

There are many reasons for why this movement has grown and many reasons why it at least generally resonates with a large portion of left wing youth.  But I can get into that in other posts if Babblers find it useful.

 

For now, reports talk about the revolt slowing down and students going back to their homes to enjoy the holidays.  In fact, it is true that many occupations have been ceased, but if you read the various communiques, the students now want to organize the rest of the populations and they can't do that by locking themselves up in their campuses.  This is not a single issue movement, this has awakened something...

Activities are to resume on January 9th..

Unionist

Thanks for the detailed information, Tom. Yes, it would be fascinating if you helped us keep tabs on this (including the analysis of what's happening), although speaking for myself there's little we can contribute to the discussion other than questions.

Tom Vouloumanos

My pleasure Unionist.  I'll be sharing whatever analysis I can give (without claiming to in any way to possess the over all narrative on this situation, no one does, it is fluid and shifting) but I am relatively comfortable in modern Greek history and politics and I can read the language so I'll try and sum things up as they happen and give backgrounders (without going into dissertations as I sometimes tend to doWink).  And honestly, I don't mind a barrage of questions, in fact, I do sort of feel duty bound to contribute as much as I can from the communiques and blogs I am reading.

The young insurgents (as they call themselves) want to get the word out, they want the world to know, they want this to spread outside their borders.  They know about the solidarity protests in over 50 cities aroudn the glove that supported their cause.  They know about the young Turkish protestors who held up signs with the words "My Name is Alexis" (in reference to Alexandros Grigoropoulos, the 15 year old who was shot and sparked the revolt), they feel empowered over the fact that Sarkozy - after referring to the Greek Syndrome and after French solidarity protests in tandem with the Fench Cultural Centre in Athens being occupied - backed down on the proposed neoliberal education reforms.  They know that every European government is worried about this. Yet, their message is being drowned out by every institution and they know that they can only get the word out via the internet, this is why the spend hours translating their communiques and asking anyone and everyone to spread the message and keep this thing going. 

They are aware that for this to have any success it must spread to the  the world...

...it is a fascinating historic moment.

plagal plagal's picture

Le Monde Diplomatique has a great article that gives a good overview, without having the usual "pro-establishment" viewpoint.

"Bailouts for the banks, bullets for the people Mass uprising of Greece’s youth"

Tom Vouloumanos

Here is some background regarding the Coalition of the Radical Left (SY.RIZ.A) mentioned in the above LMD article. 

 

SYRIZA has its roots in the KKE,  the Communist Party of Greece, a pro-soviet orthodox marxist-leninist party.  In 1968, a faction of the KKE that critiszed the party's subservience to the CPSU split from the party when it supported the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia.  The dissident faction created the KKE-Interior and took on a Eurocommunist ideological orientation similar to the Italian Communist Party.

 In 1986, the KKE-Interior wanted to become a broader left party so it abandoned the Hammer and Sickle as well as the name Communist and changed into the Hellenic Left (E.AR.) lead by Leonidas Kyrkos mentioned in the article.  A dissident faction of the Eurocommunists who did not support that cosmetic electoralist change refounded the Communist Party Interior - Renewalist Left (acronym:  KKE-ES-AN.AR.)

 In 1988, the KKE and the E.AR. signed an electoral agreement and created the Coalition of the Left and Progress (or simply Coalition, Synaspismos in Greek).  The Synaspismos also included disgruntled socialists who left either independently or in factions the larger and then ruling Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement or PA.SO.K.

 The Synaspismos contested the 1989 elections and then did a European first it formed a governing Conservative-Communist alliance with New Democracy (the conservative party).  PASOK at the time was knee deep in corruption scandals and the Synaspismos thought it could displace the socialists as the major force on the left by participating in a one-year government who's role was to clean up corruption.  This alliance lasted a few months and many long time leftists were pissed off and left the Synaspismos all together.  Leonidas Kyrkos, although iconic as the article states, is a very controversial figure as he is seen by many socialists  the architect of the ND-Synaspismos alliance which was bent on destroying the socialist party...but that's another matter

During the collapse of the Soviet Union, a reformist wing within the KKE wanted to reform and renew the party by denoucing the past totalitarianism of the USSR.  During its 1991 congress, the hardcore Stalinists purged the reformists from the KKE, took complete control of the central committee and placed hardliner Aleka Papariga as its general secretary who pulled the KKE out of Synaspismos.  

 The remaining KKE members and the E.AR. decided to turn Synaspismos into a full fledged single party by the same name.  In the 1993 election, Syaspismos lost representaiton in parliament because it of the constant bickering  and contradictory ideological statements between its cadres and factions. 

After refounding itself and electing a Chairman who unlike the majority of its members had no Communist background it returned to parliament with an electoral force of about 5% but its fortunes faltered to 3%.

 In 2003, Synaspimos again refounded itself as the "Coalition of the Left, of Social Movements and of Ecology" to underline that it now became the party of the Greek Social Forum.  It also more clearly defined its own ideological orientation as a party dedicated to the creation of a particpatory socialist society that is ecological, feminist, internationalist and civil libertarian.  In order to deal with internal ideological conflicts it created officially recognized internal tendencies  which run against each other as slates within the party.  

 In 2004, Synaspismos formed an alliance with the inheritor of the above mentioned KKE-ES-AN.AR. which had by this time turned into the largest extra-parliamentary far left party and had now become, the Renewalist Ecologist and Communist Left (or AKOA).

 Synaspismos and AOKA's accord sought to bring together the various non-stalinist communist parties and radical socialists under one electoral umbrella and created the Coalition of the Radical Left or SYRIZA which was made up of the foregoing parties as well as various Trotskysists, Left-Greens, Maoists, Radical Socialist and left libertarian groups. 

 Syriza has been in the mid-teens in recent polls, it is extremely popular amongst youth and has only recently fell in the 8-12% zone as it was attacked by the other parties and espeically the KKE as encouraging the riots - which is a lie, it supported the uprising but not any of the violence or vandalism and was harshly critisized by anarchists and autonomists as being interested in mere electoral gains

 What is important to note is the positioning of the KKE and Syriza.  The KKE has been commended by the Greek establishment (i.e. the ruling Ship barons who own the media, the conservative party and a good chunck of the socialists) for its responsible role while Syriza has been mocked as being a bunch of political thugs and adventurists. Nevertheless, Syriza may be thrown a political lifeline by PASOK who will need their support in a future minority parliament and the constant attacks against them may be relaxed.

 More importantly still is that unlike past uprisings (like the 1973 student revolt which ended in bloodshed on November 17 but precipitated the fall of the military disctatorship) the youth have no illusion (if their own statements, slogans, blogs and websites are to be taken seriously) that any party or leader will emerge to lead them to the socialist promised land...they have been deeply influenced by the libertarian ideals of the anarchists and autonomists and realize that they must organize a mass participatory movement to bring about the changes they want.

 This realization has shaken every hierchical institution in Greece and this most important story is being muted while the media focus on the riots and police clashes.  

  

 

plagal plagal's picture

It is not too obvious in your post Tom, but the "Trotskysists, Left-Greens, Maoists, Radical Socialist and left libertarian groups" that you mention have been crucial in grounding Synaspismos in ongoing social movements (labor, student, lgbt, antinationalist, antiracist, etc).

And if you ask me, the way that SYRIZA (as well as the Portuguese Bloco, and other left coalitions around Europe) has operated, despite its flaws and shortcomings, sets a great example that whenever the Left unites it can do great things. Our Canadian comrades should really consider this (and I'm not talking about the Libs-NDP coalition Laughing)

Tom Vouloumanos

Hi Plagal,   I agree it is this extra-parliamentary radical left that has always had a presence on the streets and in the social movements that keeps Synaspismos linked to the broader movement and this is why SYRIZA is not like any of its predecessors.

One of the problems of social movements in Greece has been that are always coopted by parties.  Take PASOK for example, which at one point did bring together a radicalized population, the leadership channeld this force and used it for electoral gain coopting the movement of peple who believed in the "Change" that was supposed to come about in the 80's. The problem was that PASOK was a top down centralized cadre party, with many members, but in essence under the power of one man who used it as an efficient electoral machine.

Parties in Greece have been too overbearing, this is true of both PASOK and the KKE. They control unions and student organizations and as such manipulate grass roots movements for their own purposes. 

I think Greek youth understands this problem of coopting the movement to a party.

This doesn't mean that they won't support a party or even influence it (like I think is the case for SYRIZA) but they need to keep their independence from any party and remain a popular organized force.

This is not a criticism of SYRIZA, merely a social analysis, that no matter what, electoral politics tames social movements if the party rules over the movement.  SYRIZA's multi-party and multi-faction structure may be able to avoid this, time will tell, but the need of building a party-independent organized mass movement that is not a platform for a furture charismatic leader is indespensible if Greeks are to turn their revolt into long term movement for an alternative society.

Therefore, I think there are three important aspects to this:

 

No. 1:  Civil society

The building of a popular based, party-independent libertarian movement (I use the word libertarian in its authentic anarchist sense), this movement should not be a movement of opposition only but a movement of proposition.  It should call for a participatory democracy (i.e. neighboorhood assemblies that are federated into regional assemblies etc.) In my view, Greek youth is very receptive to these ideas as they are not only vehemently anti-capitalist but even more anti-bureaucracy.

 

No. 2: Labour

There is a need for a party-independent labour movement.  This will take long, but I think the young workers would be more receptive to something like the Spanish CGT's pragmatic anarcho-syndicalism rather than being under the control of Union leaders who are preparing to become Ministers in a future PASOK government.

 

No 3: Politics

It is my hope that SYRIZA maintain its decentralized structure and that it move in the direction of its Luxembourgian component and to the ideas of Cornelius Castoriadis.  These ideas of Left Communism or Council Communism in essence worker's self management via councils are very close and in fact converge with the ideas of Kropotkin and Bakunin regarding producer's assemblies.  Instead of eventually turning into a mini-PASOK, SYRIZA can be at the forefront of pushing for the creation of self-governing municipal assemblies, funds for promoting cooperatives, legislation to install industrial democracy within firms, labour funds controlled by workers (and not union professionals) to invest into the economy and other similar structures that lead to a self-managed society. In essence, its ideology should be clear and it should point to a clear socialist vision and that is a society run by its members with of course pragmatic proposals of building these structures in a step by step fashion.  This I believe will trun SYRIZA into a powerful political force since it will campaign on giving power directly to people an idea that can find great appeal amongst the "ungovernable" (I use this word as a sincere compliement) Greeks.

As for Canada, the political culture in this country is very very different, Canada does not have a plethora of left radical parties to unite. Nevertheless, I also believe that for long term change to happen in this country, citizens must organize themselves in similar ways.  The only thing ressembling SYRIZA in Canada is Quebec Solidaire here in Quebec, but QS is far less radical.

 What are your thoughts on the growth of anarchist ideas in Greece (I am not talking about anti-social nihilism, but about libertarian socialist or anarchist-communist ideas) and their potential?