Updates from the Greek Squares and People's Assemblies

There is a virtual blackout in international media about what is an escalation of popular resistance in Greece since May 25th. In Athens and numerous other cities and towns, too many to mention, there have been square occupations and daily demonstrations of up to hundreds of thousands of people. These were inspired by the square occupations in Spain, but have taken a different direction, one that favours direct democracy against parliamentary democracy and representation

Submitted by Django on June 26, 2011

This is a daily blog with the latest developments from the popular assemblies, the streets, neighbourhoods and workplaces.

The focal point is the people's assembly at Syntagma square in Athens - the Parliament square with all its political significance - where decisions are taken about forms of struggle and demands, and ideas and practice are developed for alternative organising and politics. Thousands gather to discuss and deal with the most urgent problem - extreme austerity, the debt, and now the impending sell-out of all the assets of the Greek state imposed by the 'troika' - the IMF, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank. Discussions on the economy and possible solutions frequently take place. The possibilities considered are stopping interest payments; declaring the debt unpayable; the establishment of an audit team to examine the legitimacy of loan agreements; exiting the eurozone; completely reorganising the economy around needs, and other ideas. The other issue discussed is Greece's loss of sovereignty under the terms of the Memorandum signed with the troika (without it even being ratified in parliament) which contains terms that guarantee the primacy of the rights of lenders, violating several articles of the Greek Constitution. Nationalism is a constant troubling element within all this but the extent of its influence is unclear. It certainly doesn't dominate the assemblies, but it is still there... And of course there are various political groups within the assemblies attempting to pass their own line...

Republished from Mute.


Friday, 24 June 2011

Both the assembly of Syntagma in Athens and of the White Tower in Thessaloniki today had 'consultation & discussion' days. Thessaloniki's was on debt, with Manolis Glezos, Spyros Marketos (Lecturer in Politics specialising in the history of social and political ideas) and Petros Stavrou, an economist.

I have read a text by Spyros Marketos on the crisis and I felt his analysis was rather misleading. He argues that private banks should not have the exclusive right to print money, and that this is what has created the bubble (displacing the issue away not only from the wider crisis in capitalism but also from the logic of derivatives and trading on debt). Still, his proposal to write off the state debt and institute 'Seisachtheia' for private debtors could be a first helpful step in the current situation… I imagine that those who mention 'Seisachtheia' do not mean protection from debt bondage - fortunately as far as I know debt bondage is already illegal - but the protection of the debtor's basic assets and belongings, so as to stop reposessions, for example.

In Syntagma it was a day of consultation on the EU summit and the new Treaty on the Euro. The speakers invited were Kostas Vergopoulos (lecturer in Political Economy), Apostolis Kapsalis (researcher on industrial relations at the GSEE-ADEDY trade unions research institute), Giannis Kimbouropoulos (leftie journalist) and Vasilis Minakakis (writer, member of NAR - New Left Current). The discussion was not broadcast, but having read some of the speakers' texts, all of them, with the exception of the more liberal Vergopoulos, point to a non-patriotic, anti-capitalist stance - although not one that would go into a critique of waged labour. Following the discussion there was no assembly, but a poetry event…

At least I managed to learn that the fascist group's tent was evicted today. Tomorrow is a discussion day against racism, with cultural events and speakers from immigrants' organisations, as well as one of the 300 hunger strikers who won their demands in March, so I hope that will clear the air even more.


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Syntagma was rather depressing today… but I'll leave the depressing bit for the end…

The assembly started more than an hour late, because the preceding 'consultation and discussion' about alternative eco-communities lasted longer than expected. The speakers invited talked about time banks, 'economic solidarity' with and without money, the transition towns movement, and agrotourism. I will not go into a critique of these ideas here. It is good that they are being discussed I guess. Ideas about agriculture seemed to attract the most attention, since much of the countryside is being rapidly depopulated, a process that is associated with EU agricultural policies that did not support the kinds of products cultivated in Greece. Various ideas about boosting agriculture were discussed, but those who had experience of the difficulties of that kind of life sounded more realistic than the ecologists… While a woman from Karpenisi even suggested that 'we should organise our own tourism, by dressing up in ancient greek garms and selling our craziness … why should we be going hungry?' Definitely more faith in the power of entertainment than that of agricultural products to draw people in!

A proposal was made today to send a text to the police forces - as a response to the police union protest march attempting to join the Syntagma demo today - writen in a warning tone: 'Don't you dare become an obstacle to the popular will'. The text follows a nationalist logic, metioning 'the political rulers, who have given up the country to foreign centres of power.' A couple of speakers criticised the nationalist wording ('separation is not between nations but between exploiters and exploited') and also pointed our that the police cannot possibly join the side of the people. The text was finally approved with just removing the word 'traitors'.

Another topic was how to practically surround the parliament, how to support private sector workers who are not supported by their unions in striking, especially those near the square, and how to attract more people in the square. A speaker proposed to organise a popular music gig every evening, which they agreed on.

What became clearer than the previous days today, however, is that everyone interprets what is happening at the square, what the protest is for, in their own way, no matter how divergent… I suppose too much is left open. First, the rather nationalist text to the police, which is out line with other texts by the assembly, gets voted through. Then there is an announcement that a fascist group has been seen to come in and out of a tent in Syntagma with crowbars and bats, attacking immigrants, and shouting racist slogans.

The assembly had voted from the second day to not tolerate fascists and racists in the square, however it turns out they have tolerated them in practice. Many people have been speaking of fascist groups in the square. I was under the impression that they were peripheral, and that the ones who had attempted to influence the assembly in the first week had been kicked out. Apparently not so. This tent had been noticed a while ago, but there has been a tendency to silence this, to maintain 'peace' and 'unity' by avoiding confrontation, or to say that the group of fascists is so small that it can be 'ignored'. Now it turns out that a group of up to 40 fascists have been launching anti-immigrant attacks and ultra-chauvinist campaigns around the square from a tent in the Syntagma occupation.

This 'tolerance for difference' seems pretty racist I must say. I cannot imagine how someone would tolerate the presence of such a group in there if they are not a little racist themselves, just enough to think it is OK to strech our 'tolerance for different attitudes' a little bit, to include those that are 'nationalist' - because this is what they call themselves as they stab immigrants in the streets of Athens on a daily basis!

This attempt to silence things even extended to someone proposing yesterday that ALL tents should be evacuated from Syntagma because 'we do not know who is in them and it is a security concern' - without even mentioning the motives behind such a proposal. Now it turns out that some would prefer to silently get rid of ALL occupiers in the square instead of raising the issue and getting rid of that particular one! Fortunately the idea was rejected, twice, after it was proposed again today for a second time, and there was a call to collectively confront the fascists instead.

At that point a young man came to speak saying he is homeless because his father's home was reposessed; that he sleeps in a tent in Syntagma and begs by day. His next statement was that he supports the protest, that he is 'nationalist, not racist' and that he doesn't like to see Pakistanis around. The jeers where too much and he was forced to go… Extremely sad situation.


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The government's ministers today approved the implementation framework for the medium-term programme. It is to be rushed through parliament on Friday, possibly together with the medium-term programme itself, using emergency procedures.

This means that the squares movement, the unions, and everyone else who has pledged to fight against the programme may not be able to organise a concerted action in time. In the Syntagma assembly today there was still confusion as to what date they are preparing for, and with things so unclear, speakers resorted to repeating encouraging messages and pushing for better organising. On the other hand, some praised the spontaneous actions of demonstrators on the 15th, pointing out that it is not necessary to coordinate every single action, but that it might be enough to be ready to respond to challenges as on the 15th.

On a more positive note the Syntagma 'actions group' has been talking with the unions and there is agreement for concerted action on the days of the general strike. Unions have called on workers to join square demos on a daily basis, and union demonstrations will participate in defending the square from evacuation attempts. At the same time the obstacles posed by trade union bureaucracies that are friendly to the government are clear to everyone, and one of the aims is to find ways to bypass them.

The electricity workers' union GENOP, who began a series of repeat 42-hour strikes on Tuesday against the privatisation of the Public Electricity Company (DEI), today occupied the Ministry of Infrastructure & Networks and turned off its power supply. It does seem that at least GENOP are prepared for actions that go beyond the ordinary.

Workers in the metro have not gone on scheduled strikes in the past weeks to allow people to join square demonstrations, but they are having to resist pressure from their management and police, who say the stations must close for 'security reasons'.

A pessimistic view was also heard in the assembly, that the parliament is very likely to vote in favour of the medium-term programme, and that the real question is what the movements do next, how they could gain control of their lives despite that.

The pessimistic view may also be realistic, given European pressure not only on the government, but also on opposition parties, to support the massive austerity and privatisation plan… And if this happens, what next...?


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The demonstration against the vote of confidence to the government today was not very big. About 10,000 people gathered in the evening, blocking the streets around Syntagma square in front of Pariament. They painted the word 'thieves' on the walls of Parliament with lasers… Some said the low number is a sign of how little influence the assembly has.

A banner in front of riot police read: 'Your mum and dad are down in the demo. Throw them some more chemicals to make history'

In Thessaloniki there was a demo of around 4000 people (it's a city of 1 million).

Meanwhile Wall Street rallied in anticipation that the vote would be positive They were not mistaken. The right-wing parties, New Democracy and the far-right LAOS, were called by the PM to show support, and they did. The final vote was 155 for, 143 against. Yet other investors were getting ever more convinced of a default, with the cost of Credit Default Swaps rising steeply.

After the vote, at around 2:15am, the remaining demonstrators were in an agitated mood. They threw water bottles towards MPs exiting the parliament, and riot police imediately responded with teargas. More squads soon arrived and gathered at the top entrance of the square trying to push in, with protesters trying to keep them out. It looked like an evacuation plan. The speaker on the mike was asking the police to leave, while anti-cop hip hop was blasting through the speakers… The pushing continued, and some demonstrators barricaded one street wiith wheelie bins. The Cretan lyra band then started playing for courage (it still is playing as I write), 'to cast away the evil spirits and the bloody disappointment!' as someone said. After positioning themselves through the streets surrounding the square, and clearing up some rubbish from the barricades, the riot squads finally returned to their positions, with people going after them to make sure they don't come back… And the lyra party continued with dancing… 'This square will never be emptied, until the parliament is dissolved, until we achieve what we want...'

Video of riot squads leaving. The sound of lyra playing, singing, and statements on the mike cannot be heard, sadly.

And a statement from yesterday's assembly:

"Our end goal is not just the fall of the current government, not even the revocation of the Memorandum. We declare that we are determined to remain here, to continue discussing and developing our vision, until we build a society that is just, without exploitation, and until we win a life of freedom and dignity."

The only hope now seems to lie in organising together all the sections of society that have staged powerful protests in the past year, together with strikers and the popular squares movement, and orchestrate a barrage of attacks and disruptions using a variety of tactics... Because this vote of confidence suggests that the government might have a chance of passing the extreme austerity measures and privatisations outlined in the medium-term programme, unless it meets serious resistance.


Monday, 20 June 2011

Tomorrow is the vote of confindence for the "new' government, and the Syntagma assembly has called for a demonstration to send a clear message of rejection (see call below). They will focus on actions so there will be no assembly tomorrow.

One of the most interesting topics raised today was: 'will our struggle be over if they give us jobs and better salaries? What is our end goal?' Not only today, but also on previous days, the answer to this question has been that the aim is to generalise the people's assemblies as a new form of politics in every neighbourhood and every workplace. In this sense, participants in direct democratic procedures would never leave the public space and collective decision making to return for good to their private lives. A speaker promoted the idea of a "popular constituent assebly" as opposed to elections. Others reminded the demand that public wealth is not privatised, that sovereignty over the country is regained, and talked about self-management of the means of production and taking over factories as was done in Argentina.

Out of the call for self management the assembly agreed on two proposals. One was to create groups that would organise together with public sector workers to take over and self-manage their workplaces so as to prevent their sell-off. A second proposal was for students to occupy and self-manage their universities.

It would be interesting to see if there is the will for such takeovers to happen in a wide a scale right now. The seeds for this exist, since there have been increasing numbers of factory occupations in the past 4 years, and university occupations across the country went on for a year in 2007-8. However, these were protests that did not establish self management. So, will there now be a turn from disruption to production? If taking over production and social reproduction does not also challenge the rules of the game, self-management can become a form of self-imposition of labour according to the laws of the market and capital… But I'm probably jumping far too far ahead.

For now, the immediate actions planned for the day the Medium-term programme is put to the vote involves maximum disruption. Not only a 42-hour general strike (and pushing for longer) but also to "blockade the parliament together with any means we can: cars, taxis, lorries, tractors, garbage trucks, buses etc." Again, this is not unprecedented as farmers and lorry drivers have blockaded highways around the country for long periods of time in the past 2 years; lorry drivers even blockaded the roads in front of parliament last September. It will be interesting to see this being done by multiple groups and unions, if this call is taken on board...

Tonight, they also voted in favour of stopping payments on household debts (I guess this will have to be organised in some way?), while the assembly in Heraklion in Crete has decided to occupy local branches of the Bank of Greece, Inland Revenue, public sector organisations, Social Security, and payment points for services such as electricity and telephone, in order to disrupt the flow of revenue to the State.


This is the Syntagma call issued yesterday, which shows that there is no confusion by the offer of new representatives. Indeed discussions in the assembly are pretty clear that this is not about electing new, better, representatives (anyone who's read this blog this should be clear about this by now) but about power from below, beginning with popular assemblies.

"On Tuesday 21 June, the Prime Minister is asking for a vote of confidence for his 'new' government. Manolios changed - he put his clothes on inside-out [Greek proverb]. Yesterday, the vice-president of the government said that we are "shedding leaves", but there are more of us every Sunday.

On Tueday at 19:00, we cast our our own vote into our own ballot box at Syntagma, a vote of 'NO CONFIDENCE'. Those who created the problem cannot solve it, however many cabinet reshuffles they make. However many chairs thay change, it does not concern us. The medium-term programme will not pass.

We call all our friends and comrades to fill up the squares across Greece. We call on all first-level unions to find us in Syntagma. We call on all peasants, workers, unemployed, small business owners and freelancers, Greeks or immigrants, mothers and children, grandmothers and grandfathers.

To their violence we respond: our weapon is our solidarity and our courage, and we tell them that "next to their shots, there's also the lyra player".

[This is in Cretan dialect, alluding to the square being assaulted by riot police with teargas on the 15th, while people had been dancing the Pentozalis dance to the music of a Cretan lyra player - see video]

Everyone in Syntagma on Tuesday 21/6 from 19:00 to shout out loud: We will not go until they go, govenment - troika - the debt."

Today's statement hasn't been published yet, but it is a call for all workers, migrants, assemblies and protesters from Athens neighbourhoods and from around the country to come and demonstrate at Syntagma and surround the pariament on the day the Memorandum is put to the vote (still unclear when as the Gov is moving the dates around tactically. For the moment it's still the 28th). Local assemblies, e.g. the one from Thessaloniki, have decided to demonstrate in Athens that day. That day is also important as there has not been a 48-hour general strike in Greece for 20 years now. However, the Syntagma assembly wants to push it more, so it also decided for groups to go to unions and push the idea of a long-term general strike (if I remember well that was the action agreed, or something similar). Several speakers pointed out that the lesson from the 15th is that uniting the striking workers with the mass movement developing in the squares can bring on an overthrow of the regime. Promoting a long-term general strike has been voted on several times but it seems that it hasn't really been put into practice because of the objective difficulty of getting unions to support the idea. Another proposal was for all those who are union members to push to discard current union leaderships, which was turned down. (Possibly because it was read as leadership replacement, the proposal was unclear). Many also mentioned the problem that many workers in the private sector are unable to go on strike because they are not unionised and would risk losing their jobs...

The Legal and Economic thematic group's analysis of the Memorandum agreement is interesting to read. It makes clear the way in which the Memorandum violates the Greek constitution, and why it is necessary to cancel the national debt. The equivalent team from the assembly in Thessaloniki also pointed out that it was the EU's Lisbon Treaty that gave the EU the power to impose economic policies in Greece and not the Memorandum itself. Also that the loan agreement follows British Law, which gives the lenders the right to confiscate Greek assets, but that this is not valid in International Law, so it holds little weight. They say that Greece could legaly stop paying without any sanctions. Of course such a thing would begin a wave of crisis across Europe, but as a speaker said in the assembly today, this is another bubble that would burst sooner or later since this debt is unpayable… he said that this makes resistance in Greece all the more important, sending the message across Europe that the lower classes are not the ones who should carry that burden of debt.

The solidarity thematic group made some decisions today. An immediate issue they deal with is homeless families living in the square. They are organising providing first aid medical support for them by calling health organisations and doctors' associations to create a first aid station at Syntagma. Also they are organising basic support lessons (reading and writing) for their children who have been unable to go to school.

Here is a video showing the I WON'T PAY movement (yellow flags) blocking Syntagma metro station validation machines today, together with Syntagma protesters. "Workers! come down to the metro station to show them! don't pay them! We don't owe to them, they owe to us!". Their slogans are: "We've paid enough, we pay no more. The small fish will eat the big one" "Go, [common] people. Don't bow your heads. The only way is insurrection and struggle" "You sell and you sell off, you're gonna get a beating" "The Junta didn't end in '73" "A helicopter for every minister, and a whaler for Pangalos" "Did we spend it together? - No" "Attention, attention, little Boboles [Bobolas is a media magnate] in uniforms" etc… Is this video extremely funny or is it just me?


Saturday, 18 June 2011

Today discussions surrounded the vote of confidence for the Government next Wednesday, how to stop it, and how to support and connect with the strike of DEI (National Electricity Company) workers (the same ones that were booed on May 25th!) starting on Monday. A 48-hour general strike also starts the following Tuesday and it was decided to push for it to continue for longer, making clear the popular rejection of the Medium-Term programme and the second Memorandum, and demanding the repeal of the first Memorandum. The are also inviting strikers and demonstrators from other cities to come to Athens to demonstrate. Some speakers' ideas:

"We need to call on all workplace unions and small businesses to go on a long-term general strike, to picket shops around the city and call them to go on stike "
"We should call on unions to come down with cranes and trucks and block the streets on the general strike"
"On Tuesday we should blockade the parliament again, and not allow any MP to get in and give a vote of confidence to the Government"
"We should block the streets with our cars"
"We should organise uplifting art and music events around the square"

The anti-capitalist nature of the movement is starting to become apparent after yesterday's discussion about direct democracy and the parliamentary system. A speaker summed it up: "direct democracy also means a rupture with capitalism". There was also a conservative speaker however who complained "everyone here speaks about capitalism. But I want a mixed system, why doesn't anyone speak about that?" and another who called the audience to "remember that you are Greek, that our country is in danger". The latter was far more positively received than the former… I feel that in Greece there is a very clear new tendency towards a patriotic kind of anti-capitalism, which may not be that popular in the assemblies, but is probably rather dominant elsewhere…

The discussion on violence continued again today. Some speakers emphasised self-defence: that the occupation in the square must be defended; that people should come down to the next demo wearing masks to protect themselves from the chemicals and hold bin shields to protect themselves from the riot police. Others insisted on a sitting protest and holding white flags… The point was made that the sitting protest in Zappeio was assaulted with teargas anyhow, without any provocation. But an older man made a point that I thought was particuarly apt, that "the revolution will not come with 400 people fighting riot police but when millions come down to the streets", meaning that the black-bloc-style youth that acted as 'defenders' of the demonstration, counterattacking police with sticks and stones, were unnecessary; that a big enough crowd can learn to defend itself without that kind of 'support army'.

A young immigrant, however, spoke in their defence: "Those 'hood-wearers' that many of you condemn are the only ones who have supported us against racist attacks in this country, and in Syntagma they were not 'stopped' by members of this movement as is often said, but in fact they were provoked into a fight by fascist groups."

The assembly later also voted to invite all immigrant workers' unions and collectives to join the square.

Thematic assemblies:

The thematic assembly for gender equality has released statements pointing out that all the 'expert' speakers invited to Syntagma have been male, and that the audience is often addressed in the male gender. They also alerted speakers to be aware of the sexist and localist nature of Athenian 'democracy', which excluded women and immigrants, and that it cannot be mentioned unproblematically as an ideal. Their other statement that listed what they are fighting against (sexual harrassment, violence against women, the silencing and non-persecution of violence) is a reminder of how sexist Greek society still is, and what the women there are up against…

The group for social solidarity has put forward several proposals, mostly to do with providing support (nutritional, medical, educational) for people who are homeless, unemployed, or without an income, by inviting them to speak about their problems and needs. Also to invite reps from all thematic groups and support teams or relevant organisations that provide social support in the city to discuss their needs. Their initiative really is about creating support networks from inside the square. All this reminds me of the big society a bit. The proposal to demand immediate benefits for those who are homeless, deistitute, or unemployed, seems to have been faced with some scepticism, reading the minutes, which probably is the result of scepticism towards any attempt to make demands from the government (i.e. we no longer trust you to sort it out for us, we'll do it ourselves). Interesting point to think about in such a situation, and it is scheduled for discussion in the coming days.


Friday, 17 June 2011

So the government 'reshuffle' is done and there is not much worth mentioning about it. Just certain ministers moved to different ministries, some promoted, some demoted.

Meanwhile the GSEE (Greek Trade Unions Confederation) announced a 48-hour strike on the day the Medium-term programme is put to the vote (unclear when, last announced date was June 28th).

On Al Jazeera finally there is a more well-rounded article on Greece written by Hara Kouki and Antonis Vradis of Occupied London - while the Independent's Sean O'Grady sees a catastrophe in a potential default.

Meanwhile at Syntagma today was a day of discussion on 'direct democracy'. Speakers were invited and a discussion followed. I wasn't able to (remotely) attend it, but I'm reporting from what info I've got so far…

The most well-known speaker was Manolis Glezos, legendary for his involvement in anti-nazi resistance in WWII. Photo. Some quotes:

"We need a comprehensive review of the Constitution in favour of the people"

"What we do here must be done everywhere - in workplaces across the country …"

Other speakers debated on representation and parliamentary democracy. Some discussed about a from of political representation that would confront established power/authority. Others spoke against Parliamentarianism as
"a system of govenment that serves the interests of capitalism" and which
"essentially cedes the rights that belong to those who have voted"

"Direct democracy cannot be won through constitutional reform"

There was talk of self-education through involvement in assemblies and gaining self-confidence to move forward.

When the minutes go up I will add more details of the discussion.

Another video emerging from the 15th:
A very clear aerial view video of the Syntagma square cleansing-teargassing.

This article on Occupied London is a very good account of how assemblies are organised and the kind of progress they have made over the past 3 weeks. It was published a few days ago but hadn't seen it. Essential reading…


Thursday, 16 June 2011

So, the 'carrot' the Prime Minister, George Papandreou, is now offering is not a resignation, but a cabinet reshuffle (to be announced tomorrow at 9am) which will then ask for a vote of confidence in Parliament. Today he organised a long series of MPs speeches, some of whom asked him to give up his own position. The PM also tried to appeal to popular sentiments by saying he is 'open' to forming a 'government of broad cooperation' between parties that would 'renegotiate' the terms of the bailout. He also mentioned potential changes to the political system, the electoral law, changes to laws about party funding and parties' relationship with the mass media, laws regarding MPs' remuneration and responsibilities, even changes to the Constitution. Such a 'government of cooperation', he said, would promote sell-offs "in terms that are favourable to the people" - rather than question the sell-offs themselves of course...

The most important of those appeals was his suggestion for holding referendums on such changes. But do protesters buy such an appeal? Well first of all it would depend on what the referendum would be on, and he does not seem to want to risk much. In the Syntagma assembly again many speakers said that the point is to continue until 'they all' go, until all 'anti-popular' measures are withdrawn, until the people can establish a new order of things. There is a feeling that they have had a victory and they have to continue, but that there is still a lot of work to be done.

The assembly's 'thematic group' on economics stated that there are 3 possible 'ways out' now. 1. The Memorandum, which people have rejected; 2. 'Hard' debt restructuring with issuing a common 'eurobond' to finance european state debt (proposed by political economist Henrik Enderlein and others on the FT), which the group thinks is utopian; and 3. A radical redistribution of income, the nationalisation of banks, writing off the debt, and popular democractic control on the economy and production, which is the solution they favour. The vote on their text was favourable.

The text states: "We know the road we have chosen is hard and that we will face threats and blackmail. They will tell us about the default, the isolation of the country, even about the danger of derailment of democracy. We know we will go through tough times, but the road they are taking us down, with consecutive Memorandums, will be worse. [...] With popular self-organisation and direct democracy everywhere, in squares, places of work and study, with faith in our abilities, we will win our future!"

So I guess they are in favour of a form of popular/participatory socialism, which can look exceptionally radical under current dire circumstances. But even that is not set in stone...

Another speaker wanted to discuss about the form of money and possible alternative methods of exchange, and it was agreed that a day's assembly would be allocated to that. Other assembly speeches again were about the question of 'violence' and tended towards showing solidarity to all those who were involved in confrontations with police, asking for the release of those who had been arrested. 'the guilty party is elsewhere' said someone. They again voted against the idea that demonstrators 'violence' legitimises state repression and in favour of condemning the mass media for misinforming the public and covering up murderous attacks by riot police.

Syrian immigrants demonstrating against state repression in their country were invited to Syntagma, and the assembly (at last!) decided to allocate a day on discussing xenophobia and racism. Finally, They decided to translate all banners into English to gain more international understanding and support.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Syntagma assembly is over. They voted on a statement to continue fighting. There was no agreement over adding statements about a 'long-lasting general strike' (unclear why), and they didn't favour a condemnation of violent 'hooded provocateurs'. Some quotes from speakers: "A big thank you to the Metro workers who kept its doors open and provided medical support to those who were hurt by teargas" "We will not tolerate another government of technocrats" "The only solution is in our hands, we are the only solution and we must be ready to provide it" "Those rogues (Dias riot police team) are hooligans and we should vote to condemn them"...

What to make of all these stories about provocateurs? I guess there are a few of them but that's not to say that there wasn't a "real" fight between demonstrators and police as well, it's not to say that there is no black bloc. Are they being provoked and used to legitimise mass teargassing? Maybe that's what those who hired the infiltrators think they are doing. That they cultivate the delusions of those who still believe that if they are peaceful the state won't dare repress them. Today it seems however that this delusion was damaged... Few in the assembly blamed anyone for the teargas and violent repression but the riot cops themselves, and it seems that there was a 'no blame' attitude since 'hooded provocateurs' are virtually indistinguishable from other demonstrators fighting against police lines. When a man asked "who were those people throwing stuff" some in the audience responded "it was us!"...

An account from Occupied London - The last hours of Pompeii

Photos & videos from today's demo Preza TV, Demotix, Indymedia Athens, Commentators Without Borders (the best timeline blog I've seen for today, far more informative than my tweets, but in Greek), B.T.dk

Occupied London also have a timeline of events here

Protesters dancing video

Man taken to hospital after getting beaten by police today pics Preza TV

And a video of the riots on Al Jazeera which seems to me like pretty stereotypical demo coverage.

The people's assembly has started. Thoughts on police violence and resistance. Proposals on continuing the fighting, not buying the 'carrot'. Just back from work - been tweeting updates since the morning. Here is a timeline:

teacherdude: @ThraxAnarmodios "Oh joy, two parties full of people suspected of corruption get ready for joint rule" #greekrevolution

Vasilis Papakonstantinou sings revolutionary songs at #Syntagma. Very positive climate.

@ThePressProject LIVE on the press project What Greek Police do to those who are not their mates (for those still having doubts) here and here

Cops hanging out with their mates. here and here. How Greek Police "protects citizens' freedoms"

Paul Mason: Papandreou offering "unity government" with or without himself as PM, as his majority evaporates. Who is the EU now dealing with? #newsnight

teacherdude: Greek PM's resignation marks final act of Greece's political Ancien Regime. 2 main parties are economically & morally bankrupt

teacherdude: According state run NET TV news Greek PM's decision has surprised cabinet as much as everyone else. #greekrevolution

RT @antiz Thessaloniki motorcycle march passing through the city photo

RT There are 30 injured #Syntagma protesters who were taken to hospital today article

Good, altho I saw too many reports of provocateurs & random police violence to just blame 'anarchists'... @paulmasonnews blog

DentNEWS.net: #greekrevolution (VIDEO) Police in Athens attacks with tear gas, people that were dancing in the square #15J video

Things calmer now at #Syntagma. Everyone is invited to go down. The demo is scheduled to continue late into the night

Stacy Herbert: More syntagma square: here and here Uploading video now

Missing the point: RT @BBCWorld 'Greek PM willing to step down & make way 4 unity government on condition it supports EU/IMF bailout plans'

Breaking SF News: Greece debt worries send stocks down sharply: (06-15) 06:43 PDT NEW YORK, (AP) -- Stocks are falling sharply in... article

@Manjalyian all happening in Athens, Greece Syntagma (Parliament) Square and surrounding areas.

teacherdude: Scenes of police attacking demonstrators in Athens has potential to spark off new round of civil unrest on scale of 2008 #greekrevolution

teacherdude: Video of Greek police beating handcuffed man. #greekrevolution

Haramoun Hamieh: video #police brutality in #Athens #GreekRevolution teacherdude: Doubt if change of govt will defuse protests, lot of anger directed at political system and not just 1 party #greekrevolution

teacherdude: Greek PM says he's willing to quit to let opposition leader A. Samaras form coalition govt. #greekrevolution

news More people returning to Syntagma square. Soon those who couldn't strike will join...

Riot police of Dias team assault demonstrators sitting in the National Gardens nr the Parliament. Elsewhere they made arrests.

Many injured and many w breathing problems in #syntagma. Medical team asks for supplies. Even the Metro station was teargassed.

teacherdude: "Difficult time for those in Syntagma Sq, police firing tear gas into tents" @ThePressProject #greekrevolution #15jgr Occupation of the Town Hall by demonstrators in Volos

teacherdude: Despite repeated police attacks and extensive use of tear gas protesters refuse to abandon Syntagma Sq. #Greekrevolution

The centre of the square has been kettled by riot police. Throwing lots of teargas even onto the medical team. They need support

Greek TV confirms Molotov throwers were police online stream @guardian_world

Police now beating a man in front of Great Britain hotel

Anne Boleyn Énot: Athens, Greece: Policemen dress as anarchists and cause trouble to dissolve peaceful protest and create violent incidents #greekrevolution Riot police have attacked the Cooking team of the square. Teargassing continues. That's 'protecting Parliament' @guardian_world

Guardian headline is 'petrol bombs'. Offensive. Do you only ever publish police reports? article @guardian_world

Many groups of demonstrators blocked by police throwing teargas. Ppl determined to remain in Syntagma despite teargas

Many injured and passed out in the square. Ambulance has difficulty getting through. Lots of teargas.

NET Tv news finally reports it: Golden Dawn fascist stabbed a demonstrator in the ear. Those guys were against Syntagma from outset.

Photo evidence of provocators preparing. TV says it's 'anarchists'. Anarchists say known fascists jumped on them. photo

teacherdude: Video which seems to show people arming themselves with clubs will next to them are riot police units who look on video

Thessaloniki demonstrators still blockading the ex ministry of Macedonia & Thrace despite torrential rain

teacherdude: Big turnout in anti-govt march in Thessaloniki, Greece, but torrential rain prevented people from surrounding ministry bld. #greekrevolution

Tv channels keep showing the clashes repeatedly but all is calm now. Assembly ppl on mike calling on everyone to stay at #Syntagma.

Outside Ministry of Economics ppl throwing plastic bottles (!) police throwing teargas. Teargas all over Syntagma it seems

Large demos and occupations of Municipal HQs in Heraklion, Crete & Syros island.

Clashes bt anarchist & far right blocs continue in Syntagma. Police throwing lots of teargas. Excuse to break the demo?

Crowd caught and kicked out hooded provocator who threw a Molotov bomb. He had a police ID

Some clashes bt far left & far right groups at south side of #Syntagma

It appears the strikers' march from the Museum can't reach #Syntagma because it's already too crowded

PASOK Politicians already making tv statements about 'violent demonstrators' how surprising

All the streets leading from Kolonaki to Parliament are flooded by demonstrators

Riot cops now pushing the crowd away from parliament

The 10 arrestees were released earlier. Teargas at Queen Sophia St blockade that the crowd was trying to break.

Around 10pm 10 demonstrators arrested and 2 injured at Rizari / Vas Konstantinou blockade. At Rigillis they obstructed MPs' cars

In Thessaloniki the Ministry for Macedonia & Thrace surrounded by thousands of demonstrators

#skg Huge crowd outside Parliament already, many streets blocked by demos & workers' pickets in Athens city centre

RT @gfek303 Photo taken 8:30am. They put up walls on Queen Sophia St #m25gr #syntagma #15Jgr photo

Paul Mason: Massive demo now by PAME, communist union fed, filling Stadium St, at least 100k. Wide demographic: lots of men with superthick flagstaffs Crowd is attempting to climb the police fencing around parliament

Parliament surrounded. Copcorridors 4 MPs Deadzone bt political class &popular base. Bourgeois democracy in its best RT @galaxyarchis

Journalists called off their strike today in order to broadcast what is happening. Appeasing popular hostility this way? Hmm

Riot police are trying to separate the crowd vertically in front of parliament, creating tension @ThePressProject

Paul Mason: On syntagma: chant - bums, grasses, journalists - xtreme hostility to all media, accused of "supporting big capital"


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Tomorrow is a general strike and an important day of action for the 'squares' movement. It is seen as a testing ground of their power before the 28th, when the Medium-Term budget is put to the vote. This budget outlines cuts to services, wages, pensions and (what little exists of) benefits, and public sector layoffs, along with a long list of privatisations - the first step towards the total sell-off demanded by the Troika. An interesting 'innovation' is that workers and pensioners will be charged an extra 'unemployment solidarity tax' to pay for the one-year benefit given to the increasing numbers of the unemployed. Adding to this, it foresees that after all these measures are taken, in 2015 Greece's external debt will only have been reduced by a tiny fraction.

The assembly at Syntagma today mainly focused on responses to repression and there was a debate (or rather opposing positions - peaceful vs militant) on the question of violence. The positions were familiar: 'let's remain peaceful so that they won't have an excuse to attack us and we keep the public on out side' vs 'the system is violent, the state is violent, the Memorandum is violent, we must stay here by any means'. 'Violence' as such was thankfully not put to the vote: they stayed with the default position of keeping the word 'peaceful' in the call to the demonstration, but voted against doing a sitting protest or waving white flags, or making a brotherly call to the police to join them. Instead there was a lot more agreement with repeating their call to all the striking unions to join them and stay in the square tomorrow.

This is in contrast to some Thessaloniki 'indignants' who were giving out flowers to riot police tonight (the cops weren't having it, living up to their reputation). Thessaloniki is known to be a rather conservative place so not so suprised. However, I don't see any more conservatism in what comes out from Thessaloniki assemblies in comparison to Athens. Their calls and statements are extremely similar. Tonight they also attempted to make an intervention into the local TV channel ET3 while the evening news was being broadcast, but they were stopped by security.

Very similar calls and resolutions to those of Athens have been released today by assemblies in Korinth, Ermoupoli in Samos, the neighbourhood of Vyronas in Athens, and I presume many more that aren't published in the main website. They call for occupations and blockades in local public buildings and services. The difference in how different assemblies refer to themselves stands out. Some call themselves 'citizens' while others, e.g. Vyronas refer to themselves as 'workers, pensioners, unemployed, immigrants...'. The call from Vyronas also clearly states: 'We declare that we do not want new saviours, technocrats, entrepreneurs, to come in the place of these ones.'

Here is a list of the announced strikes taking place tomorrow. Many unannounced strikes are also expected.

Paul Mason now writes a blog on what's going on in Syntagma. I'd object to the equation of political parties with politics that his guide seems to take for granted, calling the whole thing 'non political'. This is a phrase right-wing Greek journalists use to describe the whole thing. How can a mass desire to bring down the government, to stop paying for the state's debt, and a demand to change the political system - while beginning to enact that change - be non political?


Monday, 13 June 2011

There is a lot of worry but also a lot of optimism in the Syntagma assembly about Wednesday: Will the police attack and how to respond? How to organise and reoccupy if evicted? How to spread the message to make sure the strike is truly generalised and combined with a mass blockade of parliament?

There were several ideas, including one to collaborate with the journalists' union in order to occupy the premises of ERT (Greek Broadcasting Corporation) and broadcast messages from the assemblies and news from the demonstrations. This was not decided upon today, unclear why...

Around the topic of 'what next? what if we take the parliament?' two speakers raised the issue of money as commodity, that it must be abolished or used only for the simple exchange of goods. This was put to the vote and the vote was in favour of abolishing public limited capital, interest and stockmarkets, and establishing a ceiling to individual property. I am not clear if this shows popular distaste just towards debt and financial capital or against capital as such!

They also voted to demand the abolition of political parties, and to hang banners that say 'all the power to popular assemblies' and 'Greeks and immigrants united'.

Almost every day, a change of procedure is voted in. Today it was decided to discuss fewer topics each day, based on written proposals submitted to the secretarial team, and that any vote must be preceded by collective discussion in the assembly. Seems obvious but with a format that tries to accommodate as many speakers as possible it is extremely hard to have a 'discussion' as such.

A little kid also turned up and sang a song, 'I wish I could fly with you and see the sky'...

It seems there might be something on the BBC about all this soon. Paul Mason of Newsnight is off to Athens today and was asking for contacts... Will be interesting to see what comes through.


Sunday, 12 June 2011

This Sunday's 'peak day of struggle' was significantly smaller than last week's at Syntagma, but with thousands of demonstrators still there blocking the streets. One of the reasons might be Monday's bank holiday, when many residents leave the city. At the assemblies, preparations are being made to organise actions for the general strike of 15 June. The Syntagma assembly decided among other things to:

- invite popular assemblies from all Athens neighbourhoods to blockade the parliament
- ask the General Electricity Company (GENOP) workers to cut off electricity to the Parliament building on 15/6 - demand that Unions call a 48 hour strike on 23-24 June
- demand that Public Service companies go on repeat strikes and close down services
- occupy municipal buildings
- create and distribute a manual for resisting police repression
- make a plan for reoccupying the square in case they are evicted

The popular assembly at Syntagma is streamed every evening at The Press Project site.


Saturday, 11 June 2011

Resolution of the People's Assembly of Syntagma Square

24 hours in the streets!


June 15th, we encircle Parliament

Now that the government is putting to vote the Medium Term Austerity Programme, we encircle Parliament, we gather and we stay at Syntagma. All together, we continue and strengthen the mobilisations that began on May 25th. Our first stop is the General Strike of June 15th. We won't stop until they withdraw it.

We support by all means the General Strike and we demonstrate peacefully.

On June 15th, we do not work and we do not consume. We coordinate with all citizens who want to express their disagreement to the Medium Term Austerity Programme, with the strikers and their unions, with the people's assemblies, with all those who participate in mobilisations and occupations across the country.

We call artists to support the mobilisation, to take to the streets with us and to give it their own touch.

We will have three staging points: Everyone on Wednesday June 15th, at 7 am:

1. In front of the Parliament building
2. At Evangelismos metro station
3. At Panathinaiko Stadium (on Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue)

Until June 15th we will be leafletting all around Athens to make sure that the call of the People's Assembly of Syntagma is spread everywhere. We promise to meet again to struggle the day that the Medium Term Austerity Programme is put to vote. Let's make our own voice heard loud:



Thursday, 9 June 2011

Statements are great, the problem now is how they move to action... The 'medium-term' budget was submitted in parliament unexpectedly today ahead of time, and it will be voted on the 28th rather than the 15th as originally planned. The assembly failed to act on what had been decided (to surround the parliament) because of an extremely messy assembly with lots of screaming and shouting... There had been a decision to rotate the facilitator by selecting a new one by lottery. The woman who turned up to facilitate was not aware of prior decisions and suggested that the question of whether they encircle parliament or continue with the assembly is put to the vote. That sparked a lot of shouting and attempts to grab the mike from those who thought this was an overturning of a prior decision already taken. And more shouting came from those who thought those who had intervened were not following process... The mess continued until midnight and no decision making or a demonstration took place... But there weren't enough people there to 'flood the squares' from what I could gather anyhow. Maybe tomorrow...

The process is tough, and discussion is made difficult, because everyone has only 1.5 minute to speak, and can only speak when their 'ticket number' is called. This was decided to deal with the large number of potential speakers. Decisions are made by voting and not by consensus like in Spain which means that things move fast but sometimes they are rather rushed as proposals are hardly ever developed at length (even though on several occasions speakers have angrily disrespected the time restriction). There have been several objections to this rule but there doesn't seem to be a broad desire for it to change... Popular boredom with long speeches? Annoyance at party acolytes who turn up to read their manifestos? Yes but the only people given the freedom to speak at length so far were specialists: Economists, experts on the Constitution and the like.

Another note: Workers from the occupied milk products factory Dodoni are distributing milk for free at Syntagma. Nice... Dodoni makes the best feta cheese...

Background: Dodoni was founded in 1963 as a cooperative by cattle-breeders. They all contributed 500 drachmas. They took a 30 million dr. loan from the Agricultural Bank of Greece, which, instead of money, acquired 60% of the shares. The cooperative members now argue that the bank holds the shares illegally, and have taken it to court. Meanwhile the Agricultural Bank of Greece is now planning to sell its share of the company, as it is going through a rationalisation process. Dodoni is a profitable company while maintaining good payments for cattle breeders, but this would not be guaranteed if it is sold. The Bank is already attempting to reduce payments for producers. Workers and cattle-breeders have repeatedly occupied the factory premises demanding that it is sold back to cattle-breeders cooperatives at a symbolic price.


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

This statement I think demonstrates how far the square's radicalism can (and cannot) go. On one hand they say "we want to stop working for the bosses" and on the other they want "work with dignity" and "work for all". It is quite evident they tried to incorporate both far left and more social democratic voices...


We are unemployed, flexible workers, permanent but by now precarious workers in the private or public sector, here at Syntagma square. We are those who produce wealth, but are not able to live. Regardless of how differently we express ourselves, we are united by a common problem: exploitation. We know who our enemy is: employers, the government, the Troika, the IMF and the Memorandum, who, allied with the mass media, are trying to divide us, turning us against each other and assaulting us all, with the so-called "debt crisis" and the financial crisis as the pretext and bogeyman. *

Starting now, and setting as benchmarks the dates of strike on 9th and 15th June, we want to take a big step forward, to make a counterattack against those who have waged war on us, creating and expanding solidarity networks and centres for struggle of workers and unemployed in all neighbourhoods and workplaces.

*We want to stop working for the bosses. We want to work for society, for the fulfilment of our needs, taking hold of our lives.
* This political and economic system that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer can no longer decide for us without us and must be overthrown. We meet to discuss, to decide together and to execute our decisions ourselves, against those who all these years have been living off our lives. We call on all workers and the unemployed to come to Syntagma so that we can join forces, fight together, and develop a solidarity network.
* We oppose any attempt to give us the blame. We refuse to fall into inertia and misery. We break the isolation. We are searching for a new kind of world through forms of struggle that we will invent ourselves. We meet at Syntagma and at squares in all neighbourhoods.
* We will fight in every possible way for work with dignity, social security, fewer hours of work, work for all. We call on all workers to press on trade unions for a Long-Lasting General Strike; to take hold of the Unions, away from the sold-out leaderships of GSEE (General Confederation of Greek Workers) and ADEDY (Civil Servants' Confederation); to get ready to occupy closed-down businesses; to reappropriate the means of production. We point out that this prospect is no longer utopian and unfeasible, but necessary and fundamental to our dignity, equality and freedom.
* We will organise actions and fight for:

- Reduction of working hours - work for all
- Free transport for all
- The excemption of the unemployed from debt repayments and payments for public services.
- Full health and medical cover for all - social security for all

- Unemployment benefit equal to the most recent salary

On Thursday, 9/6: distribution of the text to striking workers who will be demonstrating. Meet at 11:45 at the metro station entrance, Korai square.

On Friday, 10/6: blockade of the metro ticket validation machines at 5pm (the organising meeting is at 4:30pm at Syntagma square). Daily blocking of validation machines for as long as we remain at Syntagma square (this will be reconsidered daily depending on numbers of people).

We call on 'I WON'T PAY' committees to participate. Actions and local assemblies at OAED (Organisation for the Employment of the Labour Force) and IKA (Social Security Institute) to demand that booklets are stamped and unemployment benefit payments are issued. For this reason we invite all workers and the unemployed to take part in the assembly of the group for workers and unemployed on Tuesday, 14/6, 6pm at Syntagma. People's Assembly of Syntagma Square


Monday, 6 June 2011

Today was allocated to talks and Q & A from economists and specialists on the constitution. There have been complaints about the 'compromised' political affiliations of the speakers, and various speakers said that they were disappointed the popular assembly had to bring 'experts' in while the rest of the 'commoners' are never allowed to speak long enough. The speakers were:

Giannis Varoufakis, Economist (associated with Kouvelis' Democratic Left)
Efklidis Tsakalotos, Economist (member of the Radical Left Coalition party)
Dimitris Kazakis, Economist (ex-member of Spitha - Theodorakis' 'movement')
Giorgos Katrougalos, Lecturer in Constitutional Law

I was not able to attend the speeches from the beginning but all speakers agreed that Greece must remain in the EU. Kazakis is the most well-known of the speakers, and his position is that Greece should return to the drachma, that would refrain from currency trading, and reform the economy by nationalising banks, producing gold and other minerals and confiscating the assets of large corporations. He believes that these policies would prevent currency devaluation and hyperinflation... His proposal does look like a single-state socialism sort of model. You can hear some of his views on this interview on Athens International Radio.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Another huge demo at Syntagma today (parliament square), again they talk of over 100,000 people. Indymedia reported water cannons being parked on streets leading to the square but so far they have not been used. Outside parliament, police have placed metal fencing to prevent attempts to get nearer the building. For other recent minutes, calls and resolutions see the english translations forum. Some interesting stuff in there including a call for an 'unemployed square' in Pireaus with ex-workers from Perama Shipyard Zone. http://real-democracy.gr/el/forums/en-english-texts

Here's a brief video from the popular assembly.

Reuter's finally wrote something about today, typically undermining the size of the demo... Greek austerity plan draws 80,000 to Athens square


Saturday, 4 June 2011

The latest assembly resolution:

Resolutions of People's Assembly


Over the next few days they will again try to decide for us without us. They will submit the medium term programme for budgetary policy, an even tougher memorandum, to make the poor poorer and the rich richer and to sell off whatever remains of public wealth. The moment they submit it we will take to the streets, we will flood the squares so they don't pass it, and until all those who rob our lives are gone - governments, troika, memoranda, banks and all those who exploit us. Now we take our lives into our hands and carry on.


Every decision by the P.A. of Syntagma Square should be typed up and handed out the following day. IN FAVOUR
Demonstrations should be held outside buildings such as the offices of SEV [Association of Greek Industrialists] and the headquarters of the Bank of Greece. The campaigns team should make specific proposals at the next popular assembly. IN FAVOUR
The P.A. calls on residents of local neighbourhoods who organise their struggle through popular assemblies to march to Syntagma each day at 18:00. IN FAVOUR
The P.A. calls on the homeless to join the struggle in the square and for us all to organise together in order to address our common problems. IN FAVOUR
To form a human chain around parliament during the discussion of the medium term program. IN FAVOUR


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Resolutions of the People's Assembly of Syntagma Square 2/6/2011

1. Now it's us doing the talking! Call for pan-European uprising on June 5 Since May 25th, thousands have flooded the squares across the country to attempt to take our lives back into our own hands. We have different ideological backgrounds, but we share a resentment of what is happening and a longing for justice, equality and dignity. We are different, but we will stick together, united! Simultaneously, similar movements are happening everywhere in Europe. On Sunday, June 5 we are synchronizing our steps with the whole of Europe, and meetings will take place at 6:00 at Syntagma, in all the squares of the country and throughout Europe. They should hear our loud voices everywhere: - Because they can not sacrifice whole nations to avoid penalizing lenders, the debt is not ours and we will not pay,

- Because this political system that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer can no longer decide for us without us, and must be overturned.
- Because we want to live with dignity from our work without the constant terror of unemployment.
- Because they should punish those who looted the public wealth.
- Because free public health and education are the inalienable rights of everyone.
- Because the Medium-term Program must not pass.

Organized disinformation does not frighten us. We will stay in the squares until they leave and to make sure they do not return in any other form, those who created the current deadlock: The IMF, The "Memorandum", The Troika, the governments, the banks and any of those who exploit us. We will continue to march, united and together until "Turmoil shall fall on Hades, and the planking shall sag under the great pressure of the Sun."

Direct Democracy Now!
Popular Assembly of Syntagma Square, June 2, 2011

2. Future People's Assemblies of Syntagma Square, until Sunday, June 5 should address the following question: How to organise the demonstrations starting early morning on June 15 in all the squares of the city with posters explaining the terms of the Medium-term Program. Following this to organise protest marches that will encourage everyone to participate, ultimately leading to Syntagma Square for the occupation of the square and the blockade of parliament.

3. Syntagma occupation Radio "intensity" 100.1: Proposed suspension of scheduled radio programs, in order to come to the square and to broadcast from Syntagma Square.


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Resolution of the People's Assembly on June 1st We call all workers to a long-lasting general political strike. We urge and support all the strikes that are announced (including those of June 9th and 15th).


Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Just watched the final 2 hours of the assembly in Athens Syntagma Square, which was streaming live on ThePressProject website. That was up to 2am local time, but despite the tiredness, problems, conflicts etc., it gave me a positive feeling. Main points:

- Tomorrow there will be a decision on how to promote a long-lasting general strike. There have been worries that the assembly can't just 'call' a strike, and that this might fail to generalise. It has to promote it in some way, and make sure there is support for it to be successful and not result in victimisation of participants. Ideas ranged from occupying the GSEE offices to going into unorganised/ununionised workplaces to encourage this. It's all still in progress...

- It has been decided assemblies should expand to neighbourhoods and workplaces. The first neighbourhood assemblies have already formed. There is a lot of discussion on how to achieve this.

- A lot of people talked about the urgency to expand action beyond the square, and to not make demands that validate representative power (the parliament), that we don't want a new government but to take things over instead while being aware that this is extremely hard.

- Regarding the national debt, the point was heard that we will not become the State's consultants, and our aim is not to manage the debt (although there is a working group on the economy to consider scenarios) but to defend our lives as workers, pensioners etc against the imposition of debt.

- They sabotaged the ticket validation machines in Syntagma metro station.

- There is continuous self-criticism regarding process, how to make it direct and fair but also functional, the role of working groups, and how to unite the assembly with the 'other half' of the square that until now has largely consisted of demonstrators who did not participate, and who appear more patriotic (more on that below).

- There is constant awareness of the issue of immigrants and possible attacks against them. Looking at recent minutes it does look like some immigrants started to participate in the assembly and make proposals.

- The community organising at the square is resolutely against using money, they operate by announcing what is needed for organising and people bringing and sharing stuff. There is free food and water.

- There is also a self-organised group by homeless people bringing their voice to the assembly.

Earlier, in front of Athens University, which is not far from Syntagma Square, a new old wannabe leader had made his appearance. Mikis Theodorakis. (see Wikipedia entry for biog) Now, if this was the 'old' Mikis, the one who rebelled against the colonels' junta and was tortured in exile, it would have been alright. But that side of his personality is long gone. Over the years he has moved to the right, and now he has reemerged with a new nationalist "independent citizens' movement" called Spitha (Spark).

So Mikis Theodorakis turned up for his campaign, together with one other member of his movement (who declared, "do not fear, we, the intellectuals at the universities, are here to guide you!") and some priests (Orthodoxy couldn't be missing from this!). He attracted a vast flag-waving crowd, and made a speech about kicking out 'foreign dependency', that the 'system of power' and capital is to blame. He mentioned the 'foreign' overseeing body that will sell off Greek assets to 'foreigners', and developed scenarios, for our vigilance, that the buyers could be 'Turks' or 'blacks from Tanganyika' (!!). He said the solution is to go beyond 'left and right', to be neutral, to follow the 'Delphic ideal' and the 'olympic spirit' and create a patriotic popular front. Then they all sang Theodorakis' revolutionary songs from the 70s, and he commented that 'our movement has great music'...

Well, I was pretty scared when I saw that on video. Theodorakis is planning to turn Spitha into a political party, and is the ONLY politician who was not just tolerated but cheered passionately by this 'Indignant' crowd. He turned up as an 'artist/intellectual' who showed his support, but everyone knows he is planning to start a nationalist party (which also supports 'participatory democracy' - accountable to the party leader of course - and is against immigration because 'only capital benefits from it'). Yes, he is very old, and the crowd that surrounded him was a lot older than that seen in Syntagma generally. But still, the whole thing seems rather worrying. The assembly just viewed Theodorakis' speech as a farce and denounced it afterwards. But I fear this may not be as negligible as they seem to think. So here we go... things are far from a daydream situation... Syntagma is definitely split, politically, as well as spatially...

On a more positive note, the Parliament's main exits were blocked by crowds by the evening, so the MPs had to escape through a back door...

Check out news and discussion about tonight on Occupied London


Sunday, 29 May 2011

Decisions of the Popular Assembly in Syntagma, May 29

Upcoming mobilisations and call-outs

- Monday, May 30th at noon, Stadiou and Sofokleous str: Support of the workers at the Post Bank against its privatisation
- Monday May 30th, Mars Field (Alexandras and Patision Ave): Demonstration through neighbourhoods to end up at Syntagma square
- Tuesday May 31st, Karaiskaki square, Piraeus: Support of the dockworkers fighting against the sell-out of the port
- Call for popular assemblies in neighbourhoods aiming at the spread of the popular uprising and the coordination of assemblies. Monday June 1st, cooking pan demonstration toward Syntagma square.
- Thursday June 2nd, Klauthmonos square, 11 am: Support of the Telecommunications workers who have a strike and national protest.
- June 2nd, Propylea: At the same time, education demonstration
- Saturday June 4th, 11 am, Klauthmonos square: Worker demonstration and support of ATHENS PRIDE
- Call-out to the assemblies of students in schools and universities on Tuesday and Wednesday for their demonstration to end at Syntagma square
- Sunday June 5th, call for the repetition of the European-wide day of rising up, or if possible, a global one.Call for the creation of a banner of the popular assembly and its placement in front of parliament.
- Call for participation in all workers' mobilisations in the coming days.
- Call to everyone and all groups for the organising and coordination of anti-fascist action in the following days. - Call for actions at the Syntagma metro station.

The only defeated struggle is the one never fought


Saturday, 28 May 2011

1. The Occupied London blog has the translated the 'Resolution of the Popular Assembly at Syntagma'. They have changed their slogan from 'real democracy now' to 'direct democracy now', in line with the general disgust towards political parties and the Parliament. Among other things they are calling on striking workers to join the demonstration at Syntagma.

2. I have read brief updates from yesterday's assembly that there have been proposals of a long-term general strike, with cheers from the audience. The 'real democracy now' online forum contains such proposals but there are also those who attempt to create 'tangible' demands that 'the public can understand' such as 'the creation of an audit committee for the debt (i.e. to emulate the Ecuadorian tactic suggested in the popular Debtocracy documentary); the voting out of the new measures; to stop the selling out of public property; the state should never give money to banks again without getting shares back' Those are usually the 'more knowledgeable' 'specialists' The general feeling of the dialogues though is more utopian, more about self-determination and acting collectively, the values of solidarity and mutual respect, justice, about completely changing politics and society "The assemblies have been described as 'group therapy of the people'"

There is still concern about the insistence on lack of political identification, about the forgetting of the struggle made by the left, the unions and the anarchists historically and more recently in Greece, the recent demonstration where police almost killed one person and injured many. But from what I see there is only a small, clearly rightist and not very influential minority that creates trouble in this respect, attempting to exclude associations with the left, even in its independent, extra-parliamentary guises.

Much of the conservative media continue to be extremely enthusiastic about the Square occupations, Going on about how they should never allow the left militants 'co-opt' them because they would then 'lose their humour'! So I guess from the establishment point of view all this still looks like some sort of frivolous festival of resistance?

This is an interesting diary account of an anarchist who is very enthusiastic about what's happening... His political viewpoint is pretty clear through the text, and I suppose it colours his critique... I don't like the 'Greek Tahrir' thing (if anything it sets it all up for defeat! - and maybe that is the truth of it...) but some interesting anecdotes in there. The Wonderful Nights of Syntagma Square


Friday, 27 May 2011

Today it was raining heavily in Athens but the momentum was still there. Numbers not as large but very good considering the weather. Been reading reports in indymedia, where anti-authoritarians/anarchists are either extremely sceptical of events or find some hope in them and call on everyone to take part. Their main fear is the presence of far-right nationalists in the demo, but the good news is that nationalists are usually booed down when they turn up to speak, and if any kind of separation is made between Greeks and migrants. Their numbers are rather small (about 30 someone said) and are conspicuious by their carrying Greek flags and occasionally abusing the migrants who are present in the demo selling stuff. What is rather problematic is the tolerance for the Greek flag only. This was actually discussed in the assembly tonight, and there was talk of the national flag being a bourgeois symbol. There was a call for not having any flags at all, or a new flag if they must. At some point someone (who was described as known not to be very sane) took out a 4th International flag, and was pushed out of the demo by those standing around him. But really, fair enough if no parties are tolerated. He later came back to protest about it and he again had no support. I suppose patriotism is also an unavoidable element when you have a large mass of not so politicised demonstrators who are only just starting to think about what is happening to them.

Apart from all that, things sound rather positive in terms of a communal spirit being created, and people helping each other to get things done. Tents were brought in today, working groups have been set up for various affairs and it is just a matter of being there to get involved. (I only found out after translating yesterday's minutes that they had been written by a friend of mine who happened to be standing there). There is also talk of writing a manifesto expressing their main aims.

And another account of the slogans heard...:

Take the Memorandum and get out of here!
The people don't forget, they hang traitors
Aah! Ooh! And I fuck the IMF
Liars, rats, come and get us
It must burn, it must burn, the brothel that is Parlament

Police were again today very relaxed...


Thursday, 26 May 2011

These are the minutes of the first open meeting in Syntagma Square. Proceedings were held from 10.00pm to 1.00am. Overall, there were 83 speakers. Among them, there were unemployed, students, public and private sector workers, self-employed, journalists, artists, students and teachers, homeless people, housewives and many others. The minutes are presented in a chronological order, without giving the speakers' personal details, which were often not mentioned anyhow. There have been suggestions for organization, cries of agony, cries of condemnation, but opinions were always respected and were formulated in a process of direct democracy.

The minutes of the first Assembly.

- The other day the far right were beating and stabbing immigrants, those immigrants from countries that pioneered and taught the rest of the world the insurrectionary actions taking place in recent months.
- We should set up camps in all open spaces around Greece; we should set up working groups with clear tasks and obligations.
- We have beauty with us against baleful bankers and bad politicians.
- Every politician who does injustice, every politician who does not respect the popular mandate must go home or go to jail.
- This is an open demonstration, a congregation where I quiver with excitement as I speak.
- Their Democracy does not guarantee equality or justice.
- We should stay in Syntagma Square, until we decide how we will solve our problems.
- When all of us out here discuss without fear, fear grows in their hearts up there in the House of Parliament.
- Right now words in Greece have lost their meaning. We say Hellas and mean EL. AS. (the Greek Police), we say LAOS (= the common people) and mean Karatzaferis' party (LAOS is a far right party). We should build momentum, find the strength, the words should regain their meaning.
- We should keep Syntagma Square and the streets shut down tonight, and every evening from now until a solution is found.
- We should not find pleasure in being consumers or customers; we should find pleasure in being proper, responsible citizens.
- The Cyclists, on their riding demonstrations on Friday, won their right of movement, they won their space. Let us follow their example.
- We should recognise our power and understand our common problems.
- The plutocratic political system must collapse; we should overthrow it with revolutionary actions.
- We should understand the issue globally, the problem of our plundered lives. We should unite with equivalent movements around the world.
- We should invite academics and lawyers to enlighten us on how to get rid of the Memorandum.
- We should organize cultural events, film screenings and concerts in our camp at Syntagma Square.
- Do not just blame the politicians; we the Greeks are to blame with our individualistic mindset.
- Let's begin with our personal change, the change within ourselves. Let's address our fellow student, our fellow worker and ask them to change their mindset. And we must all contribute.
- Let's carry forward the revolts in the Arab world. Let's rise above motherlands and nations.
- The basic problem in the foundations of democracy is indifference. Democrats are those who respect themselves and their fellow humans.
- Let's look into the eyes of our neighbours. Indifference arose from consumerism. Let's stop being indifferent.
- The system benefits few and oppresses many. Let's create groups and meetings for discussion in every neighbourhood.
- In Syntagma, this evening, I feel happy. Let's make a good start, turning off our televisions. And let's start organising.
- We have become conscious and we now ask for the return of democracy to its base, that is to all of us. There should be no symbol or flag. And let's all dethrone ourselves from our comforts and get organised.
- Let's make a blog for information and coordination.
- We participate the best we can to change our lives, to judge Democracy by the correct measure, the measure of human life and dignity.
- In Pnyx, in ancient times, meetings founded the Republic. Let's change our lives, change our history. In the company where I work, they changed up, hired those unemployed, and gave them a job.
- Let's throw out those who are mortgaging our future. Let's keep strong and vibrant our organising from below.
- This evening, our faces were lit by a smile. We are all emotionally uplifted. Let's keep up it and let's move forward.
- We must punish the politicians and fight for this punishment.
- Every evening at 6.00pm we should congregate, and hold a meeting at the 9.00pm.
- The mainstream media and politicians are fearful right now. The protest is too big, the assembly is too big. Let's not allow them to co-opt us.
- Let's begin to formulate our demands. Politics must change, the government must be ousted, we must formulate our own proposals.
- To hell with the debt they are offloading on us. There should be a radical political transformation of words and acts, with assemblies at its base. We must resist vehemently.
- The Health System is collapsing, there no are supplies, people are at risk in hospitals, they are robbing us and leaving us to our fate.
- I took the microphone to apologize to the young kids, the many young people here, to apologize for Greece and the politics we are handing over to them.
- Let's begin a process of self-determination and self-institution, restoring our relationship to politics. We must work for this tenaciously, to build a better world.
- Let's give strength to all of us, citizens, artists, ordinary people who today took a deep breath.
- Let's exercise our right to civil disobedience; let us proclaim it with passion and strength. Let's make history from the start.
- Democracy began here in Athens. Politics is not a bad thing. For our own improvement, let us take it again in our hands.
- The dissemination and broadcasting of everything going on here is an important step for informing and coordinating, let's seek that in every way.
- Let's bring a saucepan with food, to help us endure the long meetings. This can be the small but significant contribution of those of us who cannot spend many hours here.
- Our problems are common and they are what unites us. Let's not let labels, partisanship or any individual choices of ours separate us.
- People, do not be afraid. Stay calm, this is what I will also convey to my students. You should know that the economics are simple; they were only made complicated by cunning predators.
- It will be a victory when all the young people come to Syntagma Square.
- Self-organization is the only solution. The sooner we realize this, the better for everyone.
- They have brought us to our knees with their contracts. Those plutocrats, Latsis, Vardinoyiannis, the ship-owners, don't have the same interests and the same rights as us. We produce their wealth, our wealth, let's take it back in our hands.
- Debt has degraded our lives.
- The Spaniards gave us the idea and the primer. Let's coordinate with the rest of the heavily indebted South, let's mobilize. The Spaniards showed us the way.
- That we live affects us all: us, the Spaniards, the Irish, all peoples. Make that saucepan 10 saucepans, so that we can organise lawyers, economists, students, all of us, to contribute what we can with our knowledge, but mainly to spread the message, to pass on what happened here in to our family, friends, colleagues.
- Life is precious to us all.
- Young people, take your destiny in your hands. They are taking us back to Middle
-Age conditions of slavery. The current struggle is a struggle against barbarism.
- The politics are also many tools. One of them is coordinated with other rebels. Currently, Spain, on a giant screen broadcast what is happening here.
- For now, we are many; let's start thinking as one; to put it another way, all for one, one for all.
- It would be very nice, if as I speak, I could be translated into other languages, or for there to be a sign interpreter for the deaf.
- It will be a great moment when we rip off the straitjacket they have tied us in. From today we start to renegotiate the balance of power in Greek society and politics, a balance that now weighs to the side of the government.
- They are taking away the social and political gains made over centuries. They are taking away our hope, which we have to regenerate.
- Let's overturn the relations of political and social power.
- A good move for socialisation and discussion would be if we brought here, to the public space, those activities we would have carried out in our private spaces.
- They are slandering civil servants, teachers, lecturers, doctors. Justice is not to be flattened down to 500 Euros. They deprive us of our dignity.
- Politics is an affair that concerns us all. Society is bankrupt. Let's change that.
- My generation, of around 50 years old, is in there in the House of Parliament, and I apologize for what it has led you to endure.
- I am 24 years old, sick and tired of hearing about -isms and a wooden language. I want something to change, through appreciating and recognizing our own responsibilities.
- We are here to find the true Democracy.
- Let's begin with addressing each other like we were brothers.
- What is needed is to live with dignity and with heads held high. To revolt against the mockery. We don't legitimise any Memorandum.
- Greece is on the precipice and the country's money is outside the country. They have robbed us and continue to rob us.
- They promise us equality in social degradation. We must fight for equality in social advancement.
- The first question is to know why we do what we are doing here. I have AIDS and cancer, I am homeless and I'm not ashamed to say it. We all need strength, and to know why we are doing this.
- The isn't a more timely act, with a deep political meaning, than taking our lives into our hands.
- Let us all become servants of and accountable to the people.
- Let us move to defend the Constitution and Greece, as is mentioned in article 120 of the Constitution.
- Here, we are instituting the new political power, and we are crushing fear and misery.
- The message of rebellion must travel everywhere. Let's work for us. All the unemployed must get mobilised and organised.
- Nothing can work without us, without our own hands. Start general strikes everywhere, we must become a fist.
- Let's become a virus and scatter everywhere.
- There are publishers such as Kouris who owe money everywhere, and terrorize and coerce employees.
- The tax system is not the same for industrialists and the big property owners. Same rights and obligations for all.
- It is wrong to think that it is also our fault, wrong to turn a knife against each other. Unity, solidarity and commitment of all of us to our common struggle.
- They are selling off energy, and make great fortunes with their underhand deals.
- Let's start with structures of self
-organization, a collective kitchen, some cultural events, let's find producers to give us their products. Syntagma Square must become a central example of the struggle for the whole of Greece.
- We must safeguard what is taking place here. It is our own affair and must remain so.
- Youth is coming out with heart, with faith, peacefully, not like in December 2008. We have all grown up.
- After 'Velos', and the Polytechnic, this is the first act of direct democracy and moral uplift in Greece. (Refers to ÔVelos', the warship that defected from military exercises with NATO, and the Polytechnic rebellion, both associated with the fall of the colonels' junta in Ô73)


25 May 2011

Today 20,000+ people gathered in Syntagma Square in Athens following the Spanish example, following a call on FB and Twitter, and large numbers have also come out in squares in Thessaloniki, Patras, Volos, Larisa, Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno. The slogans mentioned are 'sell out, sell out, you're gonna get a wallop', 'we are awake, what time is it? Time to go', 'shame on you'... The call was to come out and express indignation away from political parties. A lot of people came out who hadn't joined demos before, because it's almost compulsory you go out 'with' a certain organisation. They are now coming out against representatives of any kind, although this can easily fall prey to nationalism and bland types of demands.

Here are some photos

One of the banners here says 'I can't live with unemployment, or with going to Australia'...

In English from Athens News.

People are staying overnight at Syntagma indeed, planning to put up tents. There's just been a meeting among those remaining in the square about what to do, but also with young people talking about their experiences of unemployment and disillusionment with voting (Zougla.gr is broadcasting live from the square). Earlier on when a trade union march of the DEI (National Electricity Company) workers passed near the square they were booed away. The main reason was not so much that the unions did not represent them well but that the call was explicitly to come down without a flag or banner, as people, not as a group of workers making demands for themselves (which is what civil servants are increasingly seen as). That of course is not miles away from nationalist / rightist anti-strike discourses but it is also something different.

At another point when a group of anarchists turned up, part of the crowd stood between them and the police to prevent any confrontation. The point was to keep things peaceful because street war with police is seen as counterproductive. I suppose this is based on the imaginary of rebuilding the public sphere within the square...? The police has been very hands off so far.

Judging from comments on right wing papers, they did not particularly like what happened, going on about 'how many of those demonstrators are corrupt tax evaders...'

The media emphasise the nationalist and more compromised elements of the congregations but it's not to say they don't exist. The ubiquitous references to 'citizens' and 'Greeks' have attracted some ultranationalist elements within this. At the same time there is also talk of it not just being about Greek citizens. But things are still open ended and it's a question of what will prevail. There is mistrust of the received discourses so it would definitely not help for anyone to turn up now and preach about communism (they'd think they are being patronised by the communist party!) the most hopeful thing would be for assemblies to generate discussions about politics & economics from scratch and to practice relating to each other differently, these are the possibilities opened up by such square occupations...