Sunday, December 21, 2008

Greece: further analysis

An overview and analysis of the recent Greek rebellion from, which assesses what has been achieved and what can advance the movement.

In one scene, Molotov cocktails rain down in the night on a police station, their explosive flashes lighting up an otherwise dark street; in another, the national Christmas tree is torched by angry protesters. The current unrest in Greece seems to have taken place under the sign of fire, one that was ignited by the police killing of a teenager in Athens two weeks ago. Beyond the pyrotechnics, however, there has been another kind of conflagration: what started as concentrated rage at the police has assumed the dimensions of a social rebellion, moving beyond the actions of a “violent fringe” to involve large numbers of young people. While undoubtedly having specifically Greek characteristics, this burgeoning movement has attracted attention elsewhere. French officials have expressed worries about a “contagion” spreading to youth in their country. They have even gone so far as to withdraw a plan to reform French secondary education, citing the fear of a possible replay of the Greek events as a reason. There have been solidarity protests in a number of countries, including exemplary actions by Turkish anarchists eager to show their sympathy with their counterparts in Greece.

If the reaction to the police killing had been limited to skirmishes between cops and a few anarchists, however, the Greek events would have literally burned themselves out after a few days. What is interesting about the current situation is precisely how it grew into something larger, expanding from street battles to the occupation of secondary schools and university faculties, and showing not only combativeness but a sense of initiative and imagination, as in the dramatic seizure of television and radio stations by protesters who took control of the microphones and cameras. Viewers of a national NET television channel on December 16 saw the broadcast of a speech by the Greek prime minister interrupted by another emanating from the network studio and showing protesters there holding a banner that said, “Stop watching television. Take to the streets.” A day later, protesters draped large banners over parts of the Parthenon, transforming a tourist site into a forum from which to launch their call for a Europe-wide solidarity action on December 18. On December 18 itself, young demonstrators in Athens wore large bar codes to symbolize their rejection of being treated as objects, as commodities. These gestures were both poetic and to the point, showing the ingenuity of the movement.

As the counterattack against the police turned into a broader offensive at the end of the first week’s clashes, the revolutionary minority at the rebellion’s core—whom the Greek government and media sought to isolate and vilify as “criminals”—found that its anti-state and anti-capitalist message resonated with a generation facing bleak economic prospects. Moreover, as others—mainly, but not only, students—became involved, the rebellion no longer “belonged” to the anarchists, who in any case had never asserted any claim of ownership. Language considered extreme only a few weeks ago had now entered into a larger public discourse where many voices could express themselves. Amidst this polyphony, a kind of dialectics (διαλεκτική, argument or conversation, in the original Greek) was being practiced in the streets and occupied buildings of the country. The uprising had also ceased to be a purely Greek affair, as sizeable numbers of young immigrants—with their own long history of grievances against the police—joined the fray. There were indications of workers joining the movement. Significantly, on December 17, a group of “insurgent workers” occupied the headquarters of the main Greek trade union federation. The occupiers issued a declaration that, among other things, stated the goal of their seizure of the union building:

To open up this space for the first time—as a continuation of the social opening created by the insurrection itself—a space that has been built by our contributions, a space from which we were excluded. (…) We have to acquire a voice of our own, to meet up, to talk, to decide, and to act. Against the generalized attack we endure. The creation of
collective “grassroot” resistances is the only way.
Communiqué of the General Assembly of Insurgent Workers, Athens, December 17, 2008

Arrayed against the rebellion have been the forces of the Greek state, abetted in some places by the fascist thugs of the Golden Dawn organization. Also playing their allotted role in counter-insurgency have been the political parties, including the Stalinists of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece), who issued vile calumnies of those fighting the police in the streets. More adroitly, the independent “new left” party SYRIZA (Coalition of the Left and Progress) has sought to position itself—by extending a kind of critical support to the protest movement—so as to be able to co-opt the discontent for its own electoral ends.

If the Greek movement of occupations becomes more generalized, then this rebellion may turn into the most significant revolt in Europe in the past 20 years, eclipsing the kinds of protest waves seen in France in recent years, for example. What makes the Greek uprising especially interesting has been its fluid, shifting character—or to use another good Greek word, its protean nature. It has been part insurrection, part protest movement, part movement of occupations, without being defined by any single category. However, this rebellion will develop further only to the extent that it widens and deepens “the social opening” referred to in the communiqué cited earlier, thereby becoming a truly mass phenomenon and not merely an affair of radical youth. There are signs that this is possible, but it will only happen if the revolt moves from pure negation to affirmation, beyond a necessary and militant No to a daring and visionary Yes. If this doesn’t occur, the movement is likely to devolve into a predictable, albeit interesting, kind of street theater. One of the rebellion’s most popular slogans, spray painted in English, has been “No Control.” In this, one hears an echo of the punk “No Future”; one might find a distant link to the most radical of the Spanish anarchists who proudly called themselves los incontrolados (the uncontrolled ones). And the difference in meaning is crucial: either the movement leads to self-organization, to the prefiguration of new social relationships, as in the Spanish Revolution, or it ends in a kind of nihilism.

By attacking both capital and the state, the Greek insurgents have shown that these are two sides of the same coin, a currency whose denominations are hierarchy, exclusion, and exploitation. They are not seeking another government but another society. Their rebellion has also been a timely reminder that the radical transformation of the world does not depend on the workings of some ineluctable “laws of history.” In addition to the necessary objective conditions, it also requires a decision on the part of large numbers of people to fight back, to make themselves heard, and to make change.

In the Byzantine era, Greek Fire was a devastating weapon made from a mixture of elements whose exact composition was a closely guarded secret. The present rebellion in Greece represents an altogether different kind of fire, one whose fuel derives from conditions found everywhere. Its heat has already torn holes in the shroud enveloping an era of diminished horizons and worsening social conditions. In place of resignation and fatalism, it offers other choices, putting the world in another light.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the end it is still only that: imitation. Trying to blindly replicate the Greek scenario elsewhere is doomed to failure, especially in the U.S., where conditions are quite different. To begin with, the rules of engagement for cops here do not include much tolerance for Molotov cocktails (it is more than likely that American cops would start shooting), nor are there the kinds of “no go areas” (like the Greek universities) in which to shelter from the police.

To emulate the spirit of the Greek rebellion requires little, but yet requires a great deal: audacity and verve, but also creativity and intelligence.

Just as the last pages in the Greek events have not been written, this is an unfinished text.
We hope to expand it in the near future. Comments, additional information, and inquiries would be most welcome:

P.O. Box 61036
Palo Alto, CA 94306

Type rest of the post here

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Greek Workers Occupy Unions

The historic central offices of the General Confederation of Greek Workers in Athens have been occupied by militant workers.

The action forms part of a strategy to counteract the designs of the union bureaucracy to distance its membership from the current revolt, and protest its management and mediation of workers' struggles in Greece. The occupants aim to create a space in which to facilitate a grassroots and self organised workers response to the crisis, and bring the wider working class into the events unfolding on the streets of Greece. Town halls in Athens and Thessaloniki have also been occupied in order to hold general assemblies.

The communique of the "General Assembly of Insurgent Workers" follows below:


We will either determine our history ourselves or let it be determined without us

We, manual workers, employees, jobless, temporary workers, local or migrants, are not passive tv-viewers. Since the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Saturday night we participate in the demonstrations, the clashes with the police, the occupations of the centre or the neighborhoods. Time and again we had to leave work and our daily obligations to take the streets with the students, the university students and the other proletarians in struggle.


-To turn it into a space of free expression and a meeting point of workers.

-To disperse the media-touted myth that the workers were and are absent from the clashes, and that the rage of these days was an affair of some 500 "mask-bearers", "hooligans" or some other fairy tale, while on the tv-screens the workers were presented as victims of the clash, while the capitalist crisis in Greece and Worldwide leads to countless layoffs that the media and their managers deal as a "natural phenomenon".

-To flay and uncover the role of the trade union bureaucracy in the undermining of the insurrection -and not only there. GSEE and the entire trade union mechanism that supports it for decades and decades, undermine the struggles, bargain our labor power for crumblings, perpetuate the system of exploitation and wage slavery. The stance of GSEE last Wednesday is quite telling: GSEE cancelled the programmed strikers' demonstration, stopping short at the organization of a brief gathering in Syntagma Sq., making simultaneously sure that the people will be dispersed in a hurry from the Square, fearing that they might get infected by the virus of insurrection.

-To open up this space for the first time -as a continuation of the social opening created by the insurrection itself-, a space that has been built by our contributions, a space from which we were excluded. For all these years we trusted our fate on saviours of every kind, and we end up losing our dignity. As workers we have to start assuming our responsibilities, and to stop assigning our hopes to wise leaders or "able" representatives. We have to acquire a voice of our own, to meet up, to talk, to decide, and to act. Against the generalized attack we endure. The creation of collective "grassroot" resistances is the only way.

-To propagate the idea of self-organization and solidarity in working places, struggle committees and collective grassroot procedures, abolishing the bureaucrat trade unionists.

All these years we gulp the misery, the pandering, the violence in work. We became accustomed to counting the crippled and our dead - the so-called "labor accidents". We became accustomed to ingore the migrants -our class brothers- getting killed. We are tired living with the anxiety of securing a wage, revenue stamps, and a pension that now feels like a distant dream.

As we struggle not to abandon our life in the hands of the bosses and the trade union representatives, likewise we will not abandon no arrested insurgent in the hands of the state and the juridical mechanism.


Wendesday, 17 December 2008, 18:00

General Assembly of Insurgent Workers

A banner handing from the facade of the building reads

From labor "accidents"
to the murders in cold blood
State - Capital kill

No persecution
Immediate release
of the arrested


Workers' self-organization
will become the bosses' grave

General Assembly of Insurgent Workers


Insurrection in Greece — the real story

Text from the ground in Greece, which highlights the fact that the current news angle is a false one — that this is more than 'gangs' looting or protesting, and in actual fact the natural result of the capitalist system and the economic crash. This action has actually been building all year, in the universities and in the workplace...

WE DESTROY THE PRESENT BECAUSE WE COME FROM THE FUTURE - statement of proletarians from the occupied ASOEE

"Τhe first dawning light comes out of the deepest darkness"

Up until the Saturday night of 06/12/08 we could say that "jusqu' ici tout va bien", watching everyone's personal fall into the desert of the capitalist system. Then the crash came, and the destructive madness seized large parts of the youth of the country. At first, like so many times in history, it was the actions that did the talking. First the cop gun talked, shouting in the crudest manner the repulsion of Authority of every kind toward the phenomenon of life. The blood of a teenager was spilt, and immediately another cry instantly transmitted from Exarchia to the economic center of the metropolis and other big cities, a cry made out of collapsing glass and flames, transforming banks and malls into a raging cloud with the inscription: REVENGE.

Two days later the christmas centers of the cities looked as if they had been the targets of war bombing, while the already crisis-ridden economy took another deadly blow in its heart by hordes of "hooligans" looting commodities. "The Varkiza Treaty is broken, we are at war again". We are talking about the return of class struggle to the foreground, we are talking about the solution to the crisis: For us. And we're only getting started. Let's go…

We are part of the revolt of life against the daily death the existing social relations impose on us. With the destructive power that was latent in us we realize a wild (but contradictory) attack on the institution of private property. We occupy the streets, we breath freely despite the tear gas, attacking the most despiteful image of ourselves: the image of ourselves as the bosses' slaves, that in its most extreme, most repugnant form is the cop. We erect a steadfast barricade against the loathsome normality of the cycle of production and distribution. In the current conjunction, nothing is more important than consolidating this barricade against the class enemy. Even if we retreat under the pressure of the (para-) state scum and the insufficiency of the barricade, we all know that nothing will ever be the same in our lives.

We also position ourselves in the historical conjunction of the recomposition of a new class subject, that carries from long ago the promise of assuming the role of the gravedigger of the capitalist system. We believe that the proletariat was never a class because of its position, on the contrary, it constitutes itself as a class for itself on the ground of the clash with the bosses, first acting and only later gaining consciousness of its actions. The recomposition is taking place by groups of subjects that become aware that they have no control over their own lives, from groups that have been -or are getting- squeezed on the bottom of the barrel, and are now entering a contradictionary trajectory toward unification.

Wage work has always been a blackmail. Nowdays this holds even more, as the number of workers that are employed only circumstancially and precariously in sectors which, while necessary for the reproduction of capitalist domination have no social usefulness whatsoever, is also growing. In these sectors, class struggles, exiled from the field of self-management of production, move into the field of the generalized blocking and sabotage. Simultaneously, the automatization of production and the abandonment of the politics of full employment create whole reserve armies of jobless proletarians who are pushed to the fringes of society and resort to insecured labor or turn to crime economy in order to survive. Jobless, precarious workers, highschool and university students destined to become future wage slaves, migrant workers of the first and second generation that daily live the marginalization and the repression constituted along with radical workers' minorities the community of the insurgents of December, a community based on the common condition of alienation and exploitation that defines a society based on commodity-work. Let's remind ourselves that the eve of this feast-day was celebrated from those even lower, from those who have lost every joy in the places of torment of democracy, from the prisoners of the greek prisons.

The owners of the commodity labor-power who had it invested in the stock exchange of social security and in the hope of seeing their offspring exiting this condition through social ascension, continue to observe the insurrectionary party without taking part, but also without calling the police to dissolve it. Along with the substitution of social security with police security and the collapse of the stock market of class movability, many workers, under the burden of the collapsing universe of petit-bourgeois ideology and the state hybris, are moving toward a (socially important) moral justification of the youth outbreak, but without yet joining the attack against this murderous world.

They kept on dragging their corpse on three-month litanies of the professional unionists and on defending a sad sectional defeatism against the raging class aggressiveness that is rapidly coming to the fore. These two worlds met up on Monday, 8/12, on the streets, and the entire country caught on fire. The world of the sectional defeatism took the streets to defend the democratic right of the separated roles of the citizen, the worker, the consumer, to participate in demonstrations without getting shot at. Nearby, not that far away, the world of class aggresiveness took the streets in the form of small organized "gangs" that break, burn, loot, smash the pavements to throw stones onto the murderers. The first world (atleast as expressed in the politics of the professional unionists) was so scared by the presence of the second, that on Wednesday, 10/12, attempted to demonstrate without the annoying presence of the "riff-raff". The dilemma regarding how to be on the streets was already layed in: Either with the democratic safety of the citizen, or with the clash solidarity of the group, the aggressive block, the march that defends everyone's existence with sharp attacks and barricades.

The December events ("Dekemvriana") of 2008 in Greece are the latest link in a series of insurrections that are sweeping through the capitalist world. In its decadent phase, capitalist society neither can, nor does it aim at gaining the consent of the exploited through the integration of partial demands. All that remains is is repression. With the restructuring that began in the mid-seventies (to repel the proletarian mutiny that is known as "movement-68"), capital faced the following contradiction: while it had the ability to create a human mass of passive tv-viewers and commodity-consumers, it had to simultaneously refuse them (by lowering their wages) the possibility of buying these commodities. From this point of view, the looting of a mall in Stadiou str. by people who are daily sharing the promises of a false consumer happiness, while being refused the means to realize these promises, shouldn't come out as a surprise.

The insurrection of December didn't put out any concrete demands, exactly because the participating subjects daily experience, and therefore know the denial of the ruling class to meet any such demand. The wisperings of the left, that initially demanded the removal of the government were replaced by a mute terror and a desperate attempt to relieve the uncontrollable insurrectionary wave. The absence of any reformist demand whatsoever reflects an underground (but still unconscious) disposition toward a radical subversion and surpassing of the existing commodity relations and the creation of qualitatively now ones.

Everything begins and matures in violence – but nothing stops there. The destructive violence that unleashed in the events of December caused the blocking of the capitalist normality in the center of the metropolis, a necessary yet insufficient condition for the transforming of the insurrection into an attempt for social liberation. The destabilation of capitalist society is impossible without paralysing the economy – that is, without disrupting the function of the centers of production and distribution, through sabotage, occupations, strikes. The absence of a positive, creative proposal for a different form of organizing the social relations was –up until now– more than self-evident. Nevertheless, the insurrection of December must be understood within the historical context of an enlivement process of class struggle that takes place on the international level.

A series of struggle practices – some have surfaced in elementary form in many countries where significant class conflicts took place recently – propose and realize in a germinal level the human community that abolishes and creatively transcends the alienated commodity relations: occupied schools can be used as regrouping centers to reclaim the streets and the public space in general; public anti-lessons organized within the context of the recent movement of precarious workers/students in Italy, putting knowledge under the service of the forming community; collective appropriations of supermarkets and bookstores, and the collective life in the occupation as a self-fullfilment of the demands for free feeding, housing, books; the radical contestation of the property relations, cooperation instead of personal appropriation (and sometimes reselling) of the appropriated commodities; neighborhood assemblies linking up, starting from the local issues, prefiguring thus a society where decisions are taken and are executed without the mediation of any separated power whatsoever (sf. Oaxaca); free transportations with the public transportation, the déménages (invading into employment agencies and throwing all their stuff into the street) as were systematically made during the anti-CPE movement in France. These (and countless others, that can be born out of the personal and collective intelligence) are the practises that can enrich and fertilize the powers of negation, so that through the turmoil of insurrection, the free, communist society will start to take shape.

We do everything within our reach not to abandon the occupations and the streets, because we don't want to go home. We get miserable and unhappy with the "realistic" thought that sooner or later we will have to return to normality. We get full of joy with the thought that we are in the beginning of a historical process of enlivenment of class struggle, and that if we want to, if we fight for it, if we believe in it, it can lead us out of the crisis, into the revolutionary getaway from the system.

Proletarians from the occupied ASOEE

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Housing for all?

It is hard to think that a council which recently spent close to $17 million purchasing four poperties throughout Christchurch has the audacity to reconsider a city-wide social housing scheme essential to those in most need. Mayor Bob Parker stated in The Star last week that because of the Christchurch City Councils' loss in court over its proposed 24% rent increase that "this is now the time for the council to reconsider it's future in social housing." According to the council, such an increase was needed to make sure those currently in council housing would foot the bill for ongoing improvements to their standard of living — however the previously consulted increase of 2.5% (Monday 17th March) had become 24% without due consultation, giving tenants, residents and ratepayers only 2-3 days warning of the proposed rates. This process was deamed inadequate and the propsed rate increase was forced to be put on hold. It seems the council's answer to this decision and therefore the problem of making sure people have somewhere to live is the increase in rent, or a complete pull-out of the scheme.

The fact that the council is seemingly unwilling to explore alternative ways to fund a social housing scheme, while at the same time embracing retail development and suburban gentrification at the price of $17m, should come as no suprise to those living in Christchurch. Nor is it no suprise that those very people marginalised and misplaced by the capitalist system are the same ones forced to pay for it's discrepencies — while those privileged enough to own two houses themselves are the same few with the power to end such a scheme of social nature. Alas, such are ways of an illogical and unjust economic system.

There are alternative models which could solve this 'problem'. The council could simply divert funds away from retail aquisitions into the housing scheme — however, this would involve a rather radical change in the thinking and priority that currently prevails in the CCC, and more importantly, Bob Parker. A middle ground could also be found, involving exploration and co-operation between tenants, the council and industry in finding a way to uphold the universal human right of housing for all. Both these options would at least solve issues in the short term. But if the problem is more than a rent increase and actually a symptom of the current capitalist system itself — a system where class divides our lives and our dwellings, where anything short of community and workplace self-management is submission and servitude, where profit always, always, comes before people — then any short term fix is simply a band-aid solution, when what we really need is some serious social surgery.