War-Zone Athens: three people dead, many buildings burning as general strike march turns into a battle

War-Zone Athens: three people dead, many buildings burning as general strike march turns into a battle

Three people have suffocated to death as a result of a fire in Marfin Bank during ongoing battles between anti-measure protesters and police in Athens.

The Athens protest march marking the zenith of the general strike called for the 5th of May was attended by an approximate 200,000 (20,000 which is the foreign broadcast number referring to the PAME march alone), although because of lack of media coverage due to the media participation in the general strike no concrete estimates can be made. After the PAME (Communist Party union) protesters left Syntagma square, the first lines of the main march started arriving before the Parliament with the first clashes erupting at the end of Stadiou street. The march then walked on the Unknown Soldier grounds leading the Presidential Guard to retreat, and attempted to storm the Parliament but was pushed back by riot police forces which today demonstrated a particularly staunch attitude and resolve against the demonstrators. Soon battles erupted around the Parliament with protesters throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks, with one riot police armored van torched, and the police responding by extended use of tear gas that soon made Athens’ atmosphere unbearably acrid. As more blocks reached Syntagma square, the battles spread across the city center and lasted for more than five hours.

During the clashes several state buildings were set ablaze including the County Headquarters of Attika. At the time of writing the Ministry of Finance is reported to be on fire, and vital tax documents as destroyed by the raging fire. However the strange thing is that it is the fourth floor of the building that is burning, at a height inapproachable to petrol bombs. The building is in danger of total collapse.

According to news reports that began at 14:00 Greek time after, under pressure by the events, most radio and TV stations decided to break their strike, claim that the fire at Marfin Bank’s Stadiou street branch that has led to the death of three workers (one a pregnant woman) was started by protesters. However this remains an unsubstantiated claim. A similar case three decades ago had originally put the blame for the fire at Kappa-Marousi building on Panepistimiou street, leading to the death of several people inside, to anarchists, while its was later proved the fire was caused by tear gas fired by the police.

A video of the fire-brigade trying to evacuate the building can be seen in http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8661385.stm

After the tragic death of the three workers made the round of Athens, new clashes started to spread in the Greek capital, with a large crowd gathered outside the burned bank when Marfin's boss tried to visit the site. Clashes broke out between the crowd and police when the former attacked the bank magnate accusing him of forcing the dead workers to scab on a general strike and locking them in the building despite them demanding to evacuate it since 12:00.

In Parliament the Communist Party of Greece has accused the government for the deaths, claiming it was a result of agents provocateur fascist groups. The claims of the Communist Party are based on the fact that 50 fascists tried to enter the PAME demo bearing the flags of the union earlier in the morning. The fascists were spotted, chased and sought refuge behind riot police lines. Accusing the extreme-right as being behind the deaths, the Coalition of Radical Left has declared in Parliament that the government cannot pretend to be in grief for the loss of life, as it has been attacking human life by all means possible.

Meanwhile, extended clashes broke out in Salonika where approximately 50,000 people marched destroying dozens of banks and corporate shops in Greece’s second largest city. Clashes with the police continued for several hours. According to news broadcasts anarchist have occupied the Labour Center of the city.

In Patras, around 20,000 protesters were joined by tractor drivers and garbage truck drivers on their vehicles, as flaming barricades were erected along central streets of the city and clashes developed between protestors and the police.

In Ioannina the protesters attacked banks and corporate shops leading to extended use of chemicals by the police. In Heraklion, 10,000 people are reported as marching against the measures. In Corfu, protesters taking part in the anti-measures march occupied the County Headquarters. Protesters have occupied the Administrative Headquarters of Naxos and the City Hall of Naoussa.

As a result of the Athens riots, the police have cordoned off the entire center of the city, erecting check points of entry and exit, while all police work permits have been recalled. At the time of writing battles continue to rage in the inner city, while news broadcasts claim the police is mobilising its forces to storm an anarchist squat in Exarcheia.

Posted By

taxikipali
May 5 2010 15:14

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Mark.
May 10 2010 10:59

There's a text in Greek by the Autonomy or Barbarism group at
http://autonomyorbarbarism.blogspot.com/2010/05/marfin.html

I'm hoping this gets translated into English. In the meantime if anyone is interested they could try using google translate on the text and the discussion that follows.

Samotnaf
May 10 2010 11:33

allybaba:

Quote:
Samotnaf, thats surprising what you said about the post office workers in Handsworth. Just cos they tried to secure the contents of the post office should hardly mean they deserved to die for that act or am I misunderstanding u? I can't imagine that they were highly paid managers, just ordinary workers although correct me if im wrong. I know Handsworth and I think saying that to people there who remember the incident would land you in a serious argument.

I didn't say they deserved to die, but that I didn't feel sorry for them. If people put the property of their bosses before themselves (and with not even the threat of the sack or anything like that), it's hard to feel sorry for them. Which is not the same as saying they deserved it.

Worse, in some ways, than the Marfin bank was the attack on the Bradford Labour club in 2001 (iirc), when , during a riot, people chucked a molotov into the club and barricaded the front door so that people inside couldn't get out. It was by sheer luck that the mostly oldish inhabitants were able to climb out the window at the back. Worse, anyway, in intent - not in consequence,as no-one got hurt. But psychotic in intent. Some lefties supported this action (whilst somehow ignoring the barricade bit) because it was a Labour club, and therefore was apparently a critique of NuLabour.

Devrim - we've been through this argument before. Maybe a year ago. I don't have the copy of World Revolution but i know that Neil Fernandez quoted it in his "A Communist Effort" and that people round the London Worker's Group took the piss out of the ICC about it. Really don't want to repeat the argument that's on some thread on the glories of Scargill initiated by sickdog .

gypsy
May 10 2010 13:15

Ok Samotnaf im sorry I came to the wrong conclusion when you said that. That was shocking what happened at the Manningham Labour Club sad

Samotnaf
May 10 2010 15:45

allybaba - no problem - everyone gets things wrong sometimes, particuarly when emotions are high as with the 5/5 deaths.

I think it might be useful to anticipate some of the conspiracies/strategies of tension in Greece. Our enemies are certainly brainstorming in private on how to control Greece and the various movements round the world (some people are saying that British intelligence might have been involved in what looks like the trap, probably fallen into by some of those adherents of the macho militantism of the anti-authoritarian milieu, at Marfin's bank). We should be doing the same against such control, but some of this brainstorming is going to have to be public, particularly anticipating their manipulative tactics.

Taxikipali has mentioned the dominant forces attribution of a fascist bombing to anarchists in 1991 (http://libcom.org/history/kappa-marousi-tragedy-athens-1991). But couldn't anti-fasicsm equally be used by the State, particularly by a party claiming to be of the Left? In the early 80s Francoists were allowed by the democratic State to invade the Madrid parliament and threaten a coup - enough to rally everyone round the nice reformed bourgeoisie, who quickly arrested the fascist consprators. I don't know how applicable this might be to Greece, but I thought I'd mention it.

In 1982 a beleaguered Thatcher, very low in the opinion polls and with everyone preparing for a second summer of riots, this time with train strikes looming, allowed Argentina to invade the Falkalnds, thus giving a temporary boost to the spectacle of the anti-fascist bourgeoisie (with Michael Foot in toe) defending the Nation against yet another fascist invasion. Though the Dunkirk spirit was more a media-driven idea, it did kill off the chance of riots that year and helped fuck over the train strike (returning soldiers/pilots hung a banner over the side of their battleship with the slogan "If you launch a train strike, we'll launch an air strike".) It was enough to give her a reversal in the opinion polls and she was overwhemingly elected a year later, amidst the greatest attack on the working class since a helluva long time. Later, during the miners strike Thatcher referred to the Argentinians as "the enemy without' and in the same breath referred to the striking miners as "the enemy within", though by that time the nationalist show had somehow lost its gloss; nevertheless, the Falklands show had bought time for the rulers and lost time for the social movement - and time is essential for the rulers to keep control of the initiative. Is it possible that the Greek ruling class will allow something like this to happen, maybe using Macedonia? Don't know enough about Greece and the Macedonia question to see if this is applicable or not.

During the miners strike, Libya became the bête noir - particularly after the killing of the cop, Yvonne Fletcher, though now there are lots of indications that she hadn't been killed by Libyan agents, but by some mysterious gunman firing from a window next to the Libyan embassy. An MI5 agent implanted in the NUM arranged to accept money collected for the miners in Libya in front of the cameras so that the miners could be made to be seen as supporting Libyan terrorism ( http://libcom.org/library/chapter-15-september-–-october-1984-2nd-dockers-striketuc-brighton-conferencepathetic-le ).

And so on. The trouble with using the past to anticipate things the rulers might do is that in practice the rulers usually innovate past manipulations, because they know that, second time around, people might too quickly suss them as manipulations. But we can try. Don't know if all this is useful, or really pertinent, for the Greek movement to anticipate some "conspiracies" or not - but it's worth brainstorming about, i think. What do peple "out there" think?

Devrim
May 10 2010 18:25
Samotnaf wrote:
Devrim - we've been through this argument before. Maybe a year ago. I don't have the copy of World Revolution but i know that Neil Fernandez quoted it in his "A Communist Effort" and that people round the London Worker's Group took the piss out of the ICC about it. Really don't want to repeat the argument that's on some thread on the glories of Scargill initiated by sickdog .

Yes, we have. I don't really want to run through it again, and it isn't really relevant to this discussion. You shouldn't be surprised though if you take off the topic digs at people and they respond.

Samotnaf wrote:
In the autumn of 1985 (iirc) a petrol bomb attack on a post office during a riot in Handsworth, Birmingham, left 2 dead. One of the differences between this and the 5/5/10 situation is that these 2 people, despite loads of people shouting at them to get out, which they could easily have done, had decided to secure the valuables of the post office, and so wasted valuable time in not valuing themselves except as servants of surplus and exchange value ("enough with the puns, already" - ed.)
allybaba wrote:
Samotnaf, thats surprising what you said about the post office workers in Handsworth. Just cos they tried to secure the contents of the post office should hardly mean they deserved to die for that act or am I misunderstanding u? I can't imagine that they were highly paid managers, just ordinary workers although correct me if im wrong. I know Handsworth and I think saying that to people there who remember the incident would land you in a serious argument.

I don't remember this event, but from the sound of it it would have been a 'sub-post office'. These are not staffed by postal workers, but are operated on a franchise by the 'postmaster'. When I was working in the Post Office back in the 80s, there were lots of stories about 'have a go heroes' in the POs internal newspaper. The PO officially discourages it, and workers are told not to risk their lives. When somebody tried to rob me in the street with a knife (presumably for the giros), I just gave my bag to them. Despite the fact that it is 'officially discouraged, the POs newspaper is full of examples of these sorts of people, the vast majority of them being sub-Postmasters.

I can't see how burning down Post Offices does anyone any good though. It just means that unemployed people would have had to travel further to cash their giros.

Samotnaf wrote:
The problem with the attack on the bank wasn't that it was violent (there's nothing wrong with attacks on banks as such) but was that they seem to have fallen into a trap set by the highly political boss of Marfin, a trap which could only have worked because of the predictability of much of the anti-authoritarian milieu, who reduce revolt to a repetetive series of 'tactics' regardless of the simplest precautions or any attempt to think out different strategies that might be more relevant or innovative.
...
I think it might be useful to anticipate some of the conspiracies/strategies of tension in Greece. Our enemies are certainly brainstorming in private on how to control Greece and the various movements round the world (some people are saying that British intelligence might have been involved in what looks like the trap, probably fallen into by some of those adherents of the macho militantism of the anti-authoritarian milieu, at Marfin's bank).

Whilst not denying that it could have been a 'trap', I think it is worth pointing out that bosses constantly ignore safety regulations, and try to stop people striking anyway. There doesn't have to be a conspiracy at work here.

Devrim

Samotnaf
May 10 2010 19:22

Devrim:

Quote:
You shouldn't be surprised though if you take off the topic digs at people and they respond.

I was responding to Baboon, who took things "off topic".

Quote:
Whilst not denying that it could have been a 'trap', I think it is worth pointing out that bosses constantly ignore safety regulations, and try to stop people striking anyway. There doesn't have to be a conspiracy at work here.

Devrim

Agreed there doesn't HAVE to be a conspiracy here, but it's a possibility, and the ruling class are constantly thinking up ideas to manipulate people to derail the class struggle or just to increase their profits in a particular sector.
* * *
Got an interesting take, from a Greek friend, on the current bout of self-questioning in the anti-authoritarian milieu: on last Wednesday 5th May, there were lots of instances of proletarian violence, and many of them could have resulted in innocent proletarians being killed. They didn't of course, but though the self-questioning about Marfins is welcome it's still within the framework of "we (the vanguard) are responsible" - a kind of guilty avant-gardism. But in the atmosphere of proletarian fury, terrible mistakes are made; now it is pretty clear that in this instance 'macho activism' played a part, but sometimes it's just stupid carelessness without any particular ideology. Witness the enormous amount of people who got bricked by our own side during the Trafalgar Square poll tax riot of 1990, due often to a kind of release of repressed anger on the part of people who'd probably never thrown a brick before and were maybe too scared to get close enough to the enemy to get their aim right. Sure, killing 3 people is on a very different scale of things but let's not just assume that the struggle for genuine humanity is going to be nice and even and follow the over-simplifications of a 'correct' programme, which always looks good on paper, but rarely get to grip with the complexities of reality, the complexities of a violent break with this crazy world.

Steven.
May 10 2010 20:58

stupid carelessness without any ideology, sure, that is always going to happen, and accidents will happen when there are hundreds of thousands of angry people on the streets. However, in Greece there is a a big nihilist, violent scene around the anarchist movement. Some of us libcom people were on the demonstrations in Thessaloniki in 2003, and people could have been killed there, with shops being burned with people in the building still.

I have no problem with violence as such, but the key to winning is broadening out the struggle, not escalating the violence. I hope that out of this tragedy can at least come something positive in terms of learning for the movement over there.

Samotnaf
May 11 2010 07:17

A friend from Athens writes about the anti-autoritarian milieu:

The problem is that they still see themselves as an avant-garde,
the main enemy the state has to fight, and thus do not see that the
state is trying to delegitimize proletarian resistance and violence in
general through the stigmatization of the particular milieu. No strikes
have been announced for this week, on the other hand, only an afternoon
demo, although other measures ("reform" of the pension system) are
about to be passed. The unions are also capitalizing on the impact of
the tragedy (ADEDY is talking about "populism and blind violence") and
the prospects seem rather bleak.

Mark.
May 11 2010 19:50

"No more hypocrisy - no more mindless violence" (article in Greek)
http://www.anarkismo.net/article/16584

google translation

also "The morbid explosion of ideology"
http://libcom.org/library/morbid-explosion-ideology

Quote:
On May the 5th the explosion of ideology that has plagued radical circles for some time now reached its tragic apex: 3 dead bank workers. With few honourable exceptions, in the next days knee-jerk reactions to the deaths consisted of blaming the police, the bosses, or even more abstractly Capital and the State for the carnage. Among these accusatory rituals, the lack of self-criticism is deafening. If the great silence were merely the result of some sort of existential numbness, it would be purely proof of the radicals’ inability to cope with the inevitable. Yet this silence is structural. It is an organisational component of the degeneration of the radical movement into a cult with its own oaths of secrecy, its own rules of speaking the truth, and of course its own precious totems and taboos...
iaourti iaourtaki
May 11 2010 21:41

o.k. i've stopped all publishings of research plus updates on internet, may it be this site, indymedia (except from greece) or any other bullshit: it makes no sense as "lefties" believe in the mediamachine!
after 18 months all the sects come out to play and endaxi belongs in it too: IT'S THE DECESSION OF THE GREEK REVOLUTIONARIES how they like to fight and all these news junkies should shut up and fight their own fights.
it's like: so many punkrock bands sing about the revolution instead of making anythang. THE REVOLT BELONGS TO THE STREETS AND NOT THE INTERNET cuz in prison we don have!
FREEdome for the ATHENS SEVEN!

Shorty
May 11 2010 22:58

Okay, maybe not the best source to say the least, but ... Vice article

http://www.viceland.com/blogs/en/2010/05/07/the-greeks-are-still-fucked/

Mark.
May 12 2010 10:00

"May 5th events: the anarchists speak out" - links to the various statements in English and Greek
http://www.occupiedlondon.org/blog/2010/05/12/may-5th-the-anarchists-speak-out/

Incubus
May 13 2010 18:04

iaourti-

The Revolt belongs everywhere. If it just stays in the streets it will only end up being defeated.

You cannot fight alienation with alienated means.

You cannot burn down a social relationship.

Acts of destruction are only of symbolic value, expressions of social anger and resistance, unless they are of practical, tactical necessity.

Any acts, or tactics, that are, or can be percieved to be, a threat to the life and health of ordinary workers are self-defeating and therefore counter-revolutionary.

iaourti iaourtaki
May 21 2010 15:25

i still haven't seen any proof that the murderous attack was carried out by revolutionaries and i'm scarred what will happen when they let Kourkoneas leave pre-trial prison on 6th of 7th of june and the case will implode...
also it was kinda phrophecy pointing at the ETA attack at a shopping mall in Barcelona in 87 with 11 or 21 dead victims, may be it was the mistake to talk about that BEFORE!
and i don't see any vanguard!
example: try to book a band in a social centre can take quite some time because the people gather about it... is this vanguard? vanguard isn't anarchy anyway and what about the story from austran t.v. that the arsons at marfin and tax-office were carried out to destroy files?
for me it all sounds like a big misunderstanding like the middle european punx understood "no future" for themselve and not for the queen.

Samotnaf
May 22 2010 06:41

iaourti:

Quote:
i still haven't seen any proof that the murderous attack was carried out by revolutionaries

You're being disingenuous. No-one's going to provide "proof" unless they want to do the State's work for it, but everyone knows that it was people from the "milieu" (we might question who is "revolutionary" and who isn't, but that's not really the point here). I suspect the State is not arresting them yet because they're planning something more useful for it (the State) than just a simple arrest; besides, not arresting them allows the anti-authoritarian milieu to carry out its internal civil war, which is so far just a war of words (though the obnoxious "Nucleus of Fire", which can positively quote Guzzman, the vicious Maoist/Stalinist responsible for almost as many deaths of peasants as the Peruvian State, might take this war beyond words).

This guilt-ridden self-questioning, though it comes a little too late, reminds me a bit of some aspects of Debord's take on the First International; to detourn Debord (thesis 91, "Society of the spectacle"), you could say that the first successes of the struggle of the anarcho-situ milieu in Greece led it to free itself from the confused influences of much of the dominant ideology which survived in it. But the defeat and repression which it is beginning to encounter is bringing to the foregound a conflict between 2 different conceptions of the proletarian revolution. Both of these conceptions contain a self-important ideological dimension and thus abandon the conscious self-emanciation of the working class. In effect, the quarrel between the fetishists of violence and their nihilist tendencies and those who want to minimise the necessarily violent aspect of proletarian revolt (which is rapidly becoming irreconcilable) is 2-edged, each having a partially true, but essentially undistanciated, critique of the other. It is a political battle, an essentially sectarian quarrel which wants to caricature the position of their opponents. Thus there are those who call those who attacked Marfins "parasites" on the movement, as if the movement is their possession, and as if the movement can be reduced to that of the anti-authoritarian milieu. They might decry "vanguardist" tendencies but if they think the a-a scene is the most important aspect of class struggle then they are as "vanguardist" as those they critique. Sure, with the Polytechnic occupation of '72 and the uprising in Dec. 08, this scene initiated a seriously significant attack on this society, but it went beyond their initiatives (occupations, general assemblies, demonstrations even in small villages, various imaginative acts) and people startee to break out of their separate scenes; his should have made the anarchos a bit more clear about the limits of their specific milieu, but sadly far too many just retreated into its safe family-like familiarity, and attacked workers for aparently accepting their lot, whereas the anarchos had seen through the con.

There are also some, who, having denounced public discussion about the fetishism of violence a few months ago, now rush to condemn it publicly without admitting their earlier attitudes; as if, in their panic about the horrors the State might mete out to them in its present viciousness, they can cover their backs - as if the State, like those radicals these individuals wish to manipulate with their present image of "correctness", also has no memory.

On the other hand, there's too much of a swing in the other direction; for instance - in treating violent attacks as just being "symbolic". Banks are not just "symbolic": the head of Marfins is directly involved in the political process of the State in Greece (which is why many people think the whole thing was a deliberate trap); Lehmann Bros was directly implicated in the misery of the Greek proletariat. When people attack these so-called symbols, they are attacking a concrete manifestation of the ruler's violence against them. Of course, this can be, and far too often is, fetishised, but then so are strikes amongst those "communists" who denigrate this particular fetish; strikes are far too often, not violent enough, and there are some, who, when strikes become violent, get all flustered and wave their ideology in the air with a shocked expression, whimpering "no...no" and refer to the wonderful model of 1917 Petrograd (see, for example, on the "insurrectionism, adventurism etc" thread, the ridiculous Impotent Camouflage for Conservatism's - the ICC's - attack on violence in the UK miner's strike). This is certainly not to justify the horrific consequences of a nihilist carelessness, but it does partly explain it. If we criticise aspects of a social movement we have to also recognise what is valid and true in these aspects in order to separate them from what is ideological and stupid.

The situation in Greece is the global rulers' laboratory for repression everywhere amidst austerity (in France, Sarkozy has just announced austerity measures that are getting a bit closer to the nasty measures coming down in Greece; and we all know about Spain and elsewhere), and if we are to contribute towards a social movement and not just mouth correct lines to impress those who are part of our particular groupuscule or scene we have to distanciate ourselves from these "families" and face reality with a greater clarity. Hand-wringing will get us hardly anywhere. And is not much better than the standard response in Greece that just doesn't want to talk about the situation because it's all too depressing (and because if you talk about it, you have to go beyond talk).