The day after the riots: reforms and crisis in Greece

Reforms and fears about the explosive economic crisis mark the days after the latest riots in Greece

The day after the latest riots, which erupted as a response to mass preventive repression against the commemoration of Alexandros Grigoropoulos murder, is characterized by the launching of an array of reforms by the greek state struggling with an explosive economic crisis.

On the educational front, the Minister of Education and Religion Ms Diamantopoulou held a conference with the rectors of the greek universities in a secluded area in Lavrion (fearing popular mobilisations against it). During the conference it was decided that the government will not challenge the anti-constitutional law introduced in March 2007 amidst, a year long mass mobilisation and periodic riots against it, by the right-wing government. The Giannatou-law as it is known in effect breaches article 16 of the constitution by ruling that university asylum can be lifted if a state attorney gets the approval of the rector due to crimes being committed. The constitution rules that the asylum can be lifted only by a unanimous agreement of the rectorial-lecturers-students council. Moreover, the educational conference decided to demarcate which area are included in the asylum and which not, without of course any agreement by the students who were not even invited in the talks. Finally the conferees have decreed to oust permanent building or room occupations within university premises, referring to anarchist antiauthoritarian and autonomous social centres operating within universities since the 1980s. The reforms enjoy the support and aggressive promotion by bourgeois press and media interests.

On the repression front, the napoleonic-delirious Minister of Public Order has once again attacked the left as "hypocrites and professional sensitives" covering "nazis that planned a Crystal Night", insisting on the validity of preventive arrests (illegal according to the constitution), and pointing out most ominously that leftist and anarchist violence will lead "in the immediate future to extreme-right terrorism by yet unknown groups". The declaration, reading more like a threat than like a prediction in the light of the two armed attacks against premises of the antagonistic movement during 2009, came after two bombs were diffused by the police pyrotechnic corps after warning phonecalls on Saturday 13. The bombs which did not go off because of some technical problem were targeted at the social security bureau of the media. The ministry has repeated its promises of abolishing tear gas and replacing it with water cannon tanks, as well as of abolishing the anti-hood law after Christmas.

The reform suggestions come amidst greatest economic crisis since 1974 with the greek government juggling with austerity measures that stretch from a three year freeze of public sector salaries, to coupons for meat milk and bread for the unemployed, to the abolition of the Easter half salary bonus. Fearing mass reaction to the measures, the PM has played cold and hot, taking back proposed measures hours after proposing them, and calling a conference of "national unity" for Monday. It must be noted that a mass strike has been called for Tuesday including an array of labour sectors, while a shoe factory (Elite) has come under workers occupation in Athens.

Comments

Steven.
Dec 13 2009 14:52

yes, it looks like the government has been holding off imposing austerity measures to bring down the national debt for quite a while now due to fear of repercussions. Especially while this highly antagonistic social movement is in existence, they appear to be keen not to severely attack workers at the same time. Does this seem like an accurate assessment to you?

At some point, however, the government is going to have to...

taxikipali
Dec 13 2009 16:52

Yes Steven, the national debt crisis has been looming for years (decades really), but the rise of social antagonism has largely halted structural measures underway since 1996. The "mild greek model" professed by Papandreou the 3rd was one of the things that won him electoral victory in October versus the right-wing self-confessed austerity crusaders. In the face of a labour uprising the government is treading cautiously, as the case of dockworkers has demonstrated.

Steven.
Dec 13 2009 18:36

I wonder if the situation in Greece could be comparable to that in the UK in the late 70s and early 80s. There was a big debt problem in the late 70s, was mass urban rioting at the beginning of the 80s, then the cleverly developed capitalist counter attack was really stepped up in 1984 against the miners.

taxikipali
Dec 13 2009 21:27

Honestly I think there could be nothing more remote Steven...the Nazi occupation, the resistance, the 1944 revolution, the civil war, the absolute monarchy, the 7 year fascist dictatorship all in the last 60 years is what creates a historical substratum that can generate today a social upheaval that seems so un-european. Imagine that in a recent poll by a bourgeois newspaper 25% of the people asked agreed with urban guerrilla warfare. That is 1 in 4 people, despite all the media propaganda since 2002. Moreover in contrast to Britain of the late 1970s there are no demands, no distinct groups or identities that can be enclosed. And this is what scares the bosses most.The greek state in 1981 averted the post-junta revolution through recuperating all the struggles (labour, education, minority etc, far more systematic than today's) in a grand feast of corruption. Now not only there are is no economic or structural surplus to do this, but there is no "subject" to be enclosed. There is no enemy as such to scare or bribe, only a rising mass tide of hatred and violence against everything identified with the state or with capital. It was striking that in a TV discussion between students and intellectuals a few days ago in a central private channel not one of the students condemned looting of shops during the riots - a taboo even for revolutionaries until recently. To be honest it is difficult even for veteran activists or analysts to decipher what precisely is going on in greek society right now. We seem to be in the midst of an event that has shifted the very grounds of this society and of which December was only a first sign.

Steven.
Dec 13 2009 23:19

yes I suppose I didn't really think about the differences. Very interesting

Samotnaf
Dec 14 2009 08:02

I agree there are obviously very great differences between the history of the class struggle in Greece and that of the UK (apart from what taxikapli says, my understanding of the greek working class is that they are still connected to the land - many, if not most, have, within their extended familiy, a plot of land that gives them some degree of independence from the world market in terms of growing stuff for themselves; this is something that was virtually wiped out by the Industrial Revolution and the enclosures in the UK 200 years ago or more). But you should remember that the riots of '81 also had no demands, and that group identities were superceded in the riots (blacks and whites, gays and "straights", etc.). But we still lost. The fact that there are no demands does not in itself mean that the enemy can't deal with it (in the UK by gentrification, investment, etc.). And the failure of the miners strike was not down to the fact that they made demands. I know the margin of manoeuvre for the Greek ruling class is a lot less than that of the UK in the first half of the 80s, but don't think that a combination of the 3 R's - reforms, recuperation and repression - can't teach the the proletariat some very painful lessons. Beware of an over-optimistic determinism.

By the way, taxikipali, what do you think of the text "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down". It seems badly translated (?) and jargonistic, but it's got some interesting stuff in it.
One of the problems with it is partly down to the fact that it doesn't give enough examples so that those not living the movement in Greece can assess the validity (or otherwise) of the theoretical reflections. But,even if it sometimes does it badly, from this distance, imo it tries to say something fresh and pertinent (particularly concerning the strategy of reformism and reforms, which many Greek revolutionaries were dismissing as impossible less than a year ago). What do you think?

taxikipali
Dec 14 2009 15:39

Naturally there is no question of determinism or optimism, but there is no reason for deterministic pessimism of the "greece if 20 years behind it will too become like europe". Its both telelogical, ahistorical and rather colonial minded.
Regarding the text you mention there is a habit in greece not to publicly criticise discursive or other weapons of comrades, a revolutionary ethic to which I subscribe. The efficacy of the critique of this text and any text will be judged in battle not in some online comment box. The revolution is not a reading group...

Samotnaf
Dec 14 2009 22:00

In the heat of battle I understand your impatient dismissiveness: you've got other more immediate fish to fry.

But I guess that many of us who are far from such an immediately explosive situation tend to view things a bit differently. Some of us are not just watching but hoping this struggle could partly inspire movements elsewhere. And inspiration comes partly from reading and discussion. It seems to me that this refusal to publicly discuss "discursive or other weapons of comrades", when the "discursive" text itself is a public auto-critique (in part), is a bit evasive (though maybe you've got more exciting things to do). Though it's a fair critique to dismiss those who have an excessively theoretical and unpractical attitude to social movements ("a reading group", as you put it), those who consider theory as an end in itself, I wasn't trying to discuss this text abstractly but asking you about its relation to the development of the movement - maybe I didn't do it very well, but you seem excessively bored by my questions. Online discussions are a part of the connection of this movement to the rest of the world, particularly in countries where wider practical revolutionary questions are not so present as in Greece. If it's true (though I don't think it entirely is) that "there is a habit in greece not to publicly criticise discursive or other weapons of comrades", this is a bad habit and not "a revolutionary ethic"; it's a lazy self-repressive ethic. I'm sure, for example, that loads of people in the movement openly criticise the actions of 'the Sect of Revolutionaries' (and 'revolutionary struggle', if i remember the name correctly). But you often report what they do without critical comment - even though their effectively vanguardist terrorism can, and possibly will, help to derail the struggle. "Online comments" are obviusly not just an exchange of facts.
Just because the old world hypocritically attacks some obvious stupidity in a social movement, doesn't mean that the movement itself has to maintain a united front. History is littered with examples of how people have swallowed, or kept private, their criticisms because the media, the State, etc. have attacked each and everyone involved in the struggle, including those who helped fuck up the struggle from within. And if the movement doesn't take up a public critique, the spectacle surely will - and use it brutally . To make a distinction between private discussions and public ones is part of the problem.

As for "there is no reason for deterministic pessimism of the "greece if 20 years behind it will too become like europe". Its both telelogical, ahistorical and rather colonial minded." - you imply I said something like this, though I never said anything remotely like it.

taxikipali
Dec 15 2009 00:03

Te principle you so deride here is that the movement chooses to criticise what it chooses to criticise in the manner and at a time that maximises its strategic effect and not out of some love for openess and dialogue or any other democratic abstraction. That is why many people might talk against this or that dimension of the insurgency but nobody apart from the parliamentary left writes about it or even worse publishes it in plain sight of the state. This is not out of lack of critique, self-repression or laziness. It is out of the basic principles of protecting people who are struggling even if one disagrees with the way they choose to do it. This does not mean that people are swallowing their critique against tendencies that as you put it threaten to "fuck the struggle from within" (and this is always done by many directions, not just the most violent one). This critique takes place at the mass assemblies, in the protest marches in the occupations and in day-to-day practice. In other words it is a practical critique not an abstract one.

I hope this clears up why I do not provide critical comment on the news I provide but try to report things as dry as possible from the Communist Party strikes to green struggles and from urban guerrillas to anarchist riots. Its not out of a desire for objectivity, but because any critical comment here is certainly first a weapon in the hands of the greek state and only then perhaps a weapon in the hand of internationalism.

Hungry56
Dec 15 2009 05:17
Quote:
Imagine that in a recent poll by a bourgeois newspaper 25% of the people asked agreed with urban guerrilla warfare.

That's great. Can you a give a link? It can be in Greek.

Samotnaf
Dec 15 2009 19:27

taxikipali wrote:

Quote:
many people might talk against this or that dimension of the insurgency but nobody apart from the parliamentary left writes about it or even worse publishes it in plain sight of the state.... critique takes place at the mass assemblies, in the protest marches in the occupations and in day-to-day practice.

Does the state not go to the mass assemblies, protest marches, occupations etc. then?

No problem, though, with the idea that the movement should choose

Quote:
to criticise what it chooses to criticise in the manner and at a time that maximises its strategic effect and not out of some love for openess and dialogue or any other democratic abstraction.

Fine.
But when actions and texts become public, it doesn't make sense to say that some discussion of them shouldn't also be public (although discussing some of the practical implications would obviously have to remain private at least until the practical implications manifest themselves). Anyway - all I asked you was your opinion on a text and then you dismiss asking this as abstract and implicitly playing into the hands of the state. Can't see how you stating at least some aspects of your opinion on the text could be doing this. But it doesn't matter really - forget it.

marme1
Dec 18 2009 03:45

http://www.zougla.gr/news.php?id=31747

I'm not sure that this is the newspaper that taxipali is referring to. It is a mainstream news site... the percentage here is even larger. almost 35%

marme1
Dec 18 2009 20:53

To avoid misunderstanding the question in the link above is:

1st: Do you believe that armed violence, under current circumstances, is unjustified or justified?
34,9% answers "justified"

2nd: Do you believe that armed groups, that take action nowadays in Greece have political motives?
58% answers "yes"

I guess taxipali is referring to another poll, but couldn't find a link.