Updates from the Greek squares and people's assemblies
This page functioned as a regular blog updated almost daily with developments from the squares movement in Greece – particularly Syntagma Square in Athens – from 25 May to 30 July 2011.
There was a virtual blackout in international media about the square occupations in Greece since May 25th. As soon as violent clashes started taking place in demonstrations on the 15th June general strike, the silence was lifted, to cover them somewhat inaccurately. 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 political direction, one that favours 'direct democracy' against parliamentary democracy and representation.
The focal point has been the 'people's assembly' at Syntagma Square in Athens - the square in front of Parliament - where decisions have been taken about forms of struggle and demands, and ideas and practice have been developed for alternative organising and politics. Thousands have gathered to discuss the most urgent problem - extreme austerity, the debt, and the impending sell-out of 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 ideas discussed 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 bailout signed with the troika. Nationalism and the far right is a constant troubling element within all this, but the extent of its influence is yet unclear. It 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...
Saturday, 30 July 2011
Today at 4am in the morning the square was evacuated by riot police together with municipal security. The public prosecutor came and stated that the occupation of the square was an offence and asked the occupiers to leave peacefully. Riot police and security then wrecked anything that was not voluntarily removed. They were particularly eager to take down banners, damage tents and the medical centre and they arrested eight people who will be in court on Monday. Here are some videos.
There was a warning by the mayor in the previous days that this would happen and there were allegations that drugs were being distributed in the square.
The Friday assembly discussed this issue but it was largely consumed by infighting between certain speakers, including the moderator, who wanted to make sure whoever distributes (hard) drugs is evicted. There was also a proposal to remove the tents prior to any riot police attack. The tent residents reacted very intensely to that, so the proposal was withdrawn and a tent residents group established which had a meeting late at night to discuss planning the way in which the tents were laid out in the square. They also agreed to stay put. These discussions however were missing the point as a suprise attack was imminent and there were not enough people there to defend the square by now.
At 6pm a realtively small number of people gathered at the square to protest while riot police were encircling the square to prevent them from going out into the street.
The assembly that started at 9pm was the biggest since those of the few days after 28-29 June. This gave a positive feeling and there are now discussions, not of setting up tents again, but of being mobile, continuing to hold daily assemblies and organising actions through August. There were also debates about things that were not discussed in a while, such as (good old) violence and the role of people who belong to political parties within the assemblies. They decided to hold a protest march at the courts on Monday in support of those arrested and against the evacuation. It was also decided to occupy a nearby public building in order to store equipment, and to organise to prevent a reposession at Exarchia in 19 days' time.
Sunday, 24 July 2011
I may have not posted updates here in a while but this does not mean that the Syntagma occupation is over, neither is the one in Thessaloniki. The groups and assemblies are still continuing discussions, although with fewer people. Assemblies still take place every evening and there are several ideas on how to regroup. The feeling in the square was very positive for me at least, despite some concern about the low numbers, and the only way I see the occupation ending is by force.
It is very clear now that the politics coming out of the square up until recently was strongly influenced by 'incognito' Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) groups who tried to guide the political line from the beginning by proposing new thematic assemblies which they populated with their people. For more details on this see the really good report by TPTG, who have been active in the assemblies since the beginning:
Now, however, most of the SYRIZA people have left the square and the dominant politics is often more to the left, but there are still leftist 'panels of experts' being invited, so a degree of influence still remains. The assembly audience tends to get excited whenever someone speaks about class, the role of capital and the state, of popular power, of the role of political parties of the right and the left in serving the interests of the bourgeoisie etc. The discussions on organising non-payment campaigns and other self-organised practices from below have been continuing and the group on 'resistance to the Midterm' is organising actions to disrupt the sale of assets. There have also been discussions on resisting the new education bill that is pushing through the Bologna agreement regulations and abolishes the university asylum.
There are a lot of people willing to organise resistance over the summer, although it is really hard because there is a wider social expectation that there are no protests in late summer, so it is hard to mobilise. The artists' group have proposed a caravan that would tour through the biggest towns to promote the message and organise events, but this will depend on gathering funds. All in all, taxi drivers have been the only ones able to organise a long-term strike and well attended demonstrations through Athens (in taxis honking their horns) in the past week, protesting the opening (loss of protection and red tape to promote open competition) of their occupation.
Another proposal that has been made, which I personally felt is a little out of time, was to organise a day of direct democracy to draft our own constitution on the 3rd September, the anniversary of when the first constitution of Greece was established. There were some objections to this idea - that the constitution would have to be something that emerges from our struggle, if and when we are able to establish and institute some sort of alternative form of power to the current state, that we are not petitioning that the current parliament implements what we are proposing. There was agreement on that, but those promoting the idea insisted that our 'constitution' would be needed to express out basic political principles so that we know what we are fighting for.
My feeling is that over the summer there will be low level resistance and regrouping taking place, and from September student resistance to the education bill is likely to spark a new round of protests and trouble around Greece. In many regions residents could organise resistance to asset sell-offs, and there will probably be new strike actions.
As regards the new 'deal' for Greece decided by the EU Summit, this does not seem to have been discussed very much or to make any difference to the movement. This is seen merely as a deferral of debt, but it makes no difference to all the impoverishing government measures that have already been voted in and are starting to be implemented.
Saturday, 9 July 2011
The Mayor of Athens yesterday stated that he intends to remove the 'slums' from Syntagma square. At the moment policing in the square is still low key...
On Friday the movement's self-analysis ended. The main self-criticisms mentioned were that the mobilisation on the 28-29th was not as massive as it should have been, which partly means that the government has been successful in convincing the public that the Midterm/bailout is the only way possible, that there is no realistic alternative worth fighting for. It is has also been a problem that the assembly made many decisions that it was then unable to put into practice. The issue that concerns the assembly the most now is how to keep the fight going over the summer. Summer and particularly August is a difficult period, as that is the time most people go on holiday. The numbers have already dwindled in the past week, but this is as much to do with having specific targets over this period as with the holiday season. In terms of actions, apart from those already mentioned on previous days, there has been a proposal for organising a large mobilisation on 3rd September.
On Saturday, delegates from assemblies around the country and Athens neighbourhoods gathered in Syntagma for a general nationwide assembly. They were invited to describe their activities so far, the positions they have developed, and an assesment of the past month. Delegates from 34 assemblies spoke. Most assemblies were in the same tune as Athens. Their actions involved occupations, demonstrations (mostly against local politicians), protests about local privatisations and private contracts for public services, anti-fascist campaigns, film screenings, support for workers' struggles. Many have also decided - and some undertaken - to organise mutual support among those affected by the crisis, those unemployed, evicted, destitute, unable to get healthcare etc. This is associated with an initiative that began back in February, 'Nobody Is Alone In The Crisis'. I should also note that such activities had already begun in several pre-existing assemblies dating back to December 2008. The speaker from Lamia presented a particularly thoughtful self-assessment that pointed out the need to inform and attract a wider public, the need to be realistic about the movement's ambitions, and to focus on daily achievable actions, instead of aiming for the ultimate overturn of the system in a matter of weeks, in a haphazard fashion. He pointed out that the movement should have made it clearer to the public that the mid-term programme was not the main aim of this movement, but only a battle, that this is going to be a long fight.
Sunday is the second day of discussions for the next steps of the movement around the country, and I will be in Athens for that.
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
The atmosphere in Syntagma is not all that calm yet. Teargas and stun renades were thrown on Sunday to rescue an undercover cop who had been uncovered and was being assaulted by people in the square. Small scale confrontations between demonstrators and police have also taken place. On Monday night a firebomb was thrown at a riot squad protecting the headquarters of the governing party, PASOK. Apparently Greek Police officials have had a meeting on toning down the situation, and decided to relax policing on the square.
In the past couple of days there have been demonstrations against police repression, as well as outside the courts in support of those arrested. The assemblies seem a little slow in their reactions, however, to my eyes at least, considering that right now the government is aiming to arrange sell-offs and pass new austerity bills over the summer. The first is the education bill, which transforms Higher Education almost in line with the British model (3-year programmes, quality control, flexibilisation of academics, but without the fees so far), recommends the 'exploitation of the HE Institutions' assets', and abolishes the university asylum. The latter has played an important role in social struggles, having been won through the students' rebellion against the colonels' regime. The government has also pledged to the troika that it will submit to parliament a second 'implementation law' for the midterm, which contains details about reduced public sector salaries, public sector layoffs, and reductions in social security and pensions. Up to mid-August, 7000 public sector workers risk being made redundant, as 11 public companies will be closed down or merged. In the next couple of days the full list of 350 lots of real estate for sale will be announced, with the sale to be managed by impartial and dependable organisations such as the National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, Eurobank, Investment Bank, Emporiki Bank and others.
In light of this, I have to say I get a little impatient with speakers at Syntagma who talk about how the assembly needs to 'clarify its principles on the kind of society it wants', to 'clarify its position on violence', to 'make a plan on how to institute direct democracy', etc. Some people even talked about organising all-night parties and tours to the islands. I am not against these things in principle but they are far from a priority!
Fortunately there have also been some proposals for taking action as well, the most potentially effective of which is probably the organised non-payment of tax, bills and debts. Information campaigns have also begun that will send the message that the government's measures are not the only solution. Others are proposing networks of solidarity in neighbourhoods similar to the Argentinian model, as well as organising with students to resist the education bill. A group has been created for reappropriating public space, especially unused space, to turn it into social spaces, children's playgrounds, or use it for cultivation. The 'actions group' is also working on organising 'committees' and actions against reposessions.
An uplifting statement was that by an immigrant on Sunday, which was greeted with cheers and slogans of solidarity: "On the 48hr strike demonstrations, we also saw, beyond the teargas, how fascists were protected by police who rescued them from an angry mob and took them into the Parliament grounds. And today and yesterday these guys burnt the mosques in Evelpidon St. They are trying to divide us between Greeks and foreigners, to isolate us in our struggles, because migrants and refugees were present on 28-29, we fought together with Greeks and we will continue to be here. Syntagma square should take a clear position on this, participate in antifascist organisations, organise antifascist events as has already been done, and I support the respective discussion on Wednesday. Because a common enemy requires common action."
From Tuesday onwards the assembly is involved with evaluating its work in the past month, so there are enough sobering remarks as well as cries of victory…
And something that had escaped my attention. In the town of Trikala protesters intervened on a local TV channel on June 30, as the PASOK MP Soula Merentiti was being interviewed. Here's a video.
Saturday, 2 July 2011
Syntagma is hoping to move towards becoming a centre for wider struggle, not simply targeting the mid term programme, but about wider resistence and self-institution. There is a wider desire to discuss actions and make connections with workers and students affected by the mid-term measures and with similar movements around europe. To organise actions that will have an impact and hit the system where it hurts. However, so far, proposals so far focus less directly on the everyday than such a desire would suggest.
What has been decided so far :
- Continue practically resisting the measures of the mid-term programme, to stop their implementation.
- Continue campaigning for and organising a long-term general strike. Work to help increase participation.
- The team that focused on the mid-term will continue to work as a group of action/overturn of the mid-term so as to address and fight against the implementation of the measures.
- Creating an international day of action for blockading stockmarkets (unclear if this involves a physical blockade, nonpayment of banks or withrawing money...)
- Organising an action group that will inform people in neighbourhoods using loudspeakers.
- Discussion day on Higher Education
- New measures have been proposed that reduce work security for lecturers, reduce staffing levels, and threaten public free education.
- March ouside the offices of the two main political parties, PASOK and New Democracy on 6 July
- Send a letter to the government that declares we don't recognise this government, this system, this debt. Demand the opening of the bank acounts of all former and present MPs
- A motorcycle march to the building where George Papandreou is having a working dinner with Socialist International leaders
- Paneuropean day of action on 3 July
- Every Wednesday a round-up where all teams will give an account of what they have been doing, what obstacles they have had, whether ideas are feasible etc.
- Creating a team for 'unorthodox defence' for addressing crises and for self-defence, against attacks on the square. There have been proposals to coordinate the mass of people against the police, since usually the police are grossly outnumbered.
- Collective lawsuits agaist C. Papoutsis, the Minister of 'Citizen's Protection', and against the Police. Demanding the immediate arrest of C Papoutsis as the mastermind of the murderous police attacks on demonstrators.
- Demanding the release of all arrestees including those falsely accused of carrying explosives (typical Greek police practice).
- Demonstration outside the Courts where arrestees are being tried.
- Create a fund to collect money for those arrested, to help bail them out
- March and demos outside the houses of the Minister of 'Citizen's Protetion' and the Police Chief on Sunday.
- Demand the abolition of 'pretorian mercenaries', of police special forces, of the use of chemical weapons.
- Distribute a text defending the freedom flotilla to Gaza, condemning damage to boats, demanding that boats are allowed to sail, demanding freedom for the american captain who was arrested for disobeying the ban, an end to searches of flotilla passengers as if they were terrorists.- Mass demonstration to the Syrian embassy in collaboration with the Syrian community, who asked for help because they are not allowed to demonstrate, and if they do this alone they risk deportation. They were invited to set up a stall in the square and give information about the struggle in Syria.
Other topics proposed for discussion at a more abstract level:
- How the people will take hold of power
- What economic model to advocate
It seems that what happened on the 29th did not put an end to the violence/nonviolence debate… Those who took part in clashes and stayed in Syntagma when everyone else had left are offended because their contribution in warding off police is not recognised by everyone. They are branded as 'troublemakers' by some, while others see it merely as a matter of tactic… This partly reflects the difficulty of political coexistence in Syntagma of anarchists and other leftists, most of whom belong to left political parties. But there is also a split among those who don't belong to any of these groups. The best statement I heard out of this debate was "I don't want the specialists of declarations, neither do I want the specialists of violence".
Meanwhile, a legal precedent that can enable personal debts to be written off took place today. An Athens court decided that a pensioner's debt of 200,000 would be written off, based on Katselis Law on over-indebted households. This will encourage more debtors to request debt write-offs.
Thursday, 30 June 2011
The square is back, fully reoccupied.
Despite everything, people went back into the square among the ruins and rebuilt everything, set up their tents and stalls, washed the pavement to get rid of the teargas, and by evening it was all like before. The smell of teargas was still lingering in the air, even more so inside the metro station. A lot of anger and fearlessness. Photos [rebuilding - and finding CS canisters from 1979... | populous assembly]
In the evening there was a well-attended demo in front of parliament again, and a populous assembly, which gave out a melodramatic feeling. Pretty justified. Police thuggery had no mercy. About 200 people were hospitalised, some in a serious condition. To make things worse, the Minister of 'Citizen's Protection' is justifying the violence, spreading ridiculous conspiratorial scenarios about a secretly-formed 'guerrilla army' in Greece that started from Keratea residents' protests against a landfill in their area. People talk about living in a regime that is extremely scared of public discontent - some speak of it as a 'junta'. It is almost taken for granted that this movement can't stop here. Everyone has invested so much of themselves in it, and are amazed by the solidarity and resilience everyone has shown. Some talk about strategy, that it is important to regroup, rethink, assess the power of the beast, and think of alternative ways of confronting it. Some even say - if we continue to be pushed like this, we will pick up arms! I see this as a temporary extremism, flared up by events just now...
Another positive thing about today was that the square was totally free of fascists and the far right for the first time ever.
There is little point in talking about the decisions of the assembly today. When the voting started, it was a real anti-climax because a few proposals were made that were out of place (such as, let's make a silver Greek currency) and alienated most people. But they did decide to create a group that discusses 'defence tactics' for the square occupation, and a non-payment campaign on the banks…
Here's another video from yesterday, showing the mass of demonstrators having crowded in the metro station, escaping police violence and teargas, shouting some classic anarchist slogans: 'Hellas of Greek Policemen*, Ruffians, Murderers and Torturers' 'The Passion for Freedom is Stronger Than All Prison Cells'. Then more teargas is thrown into the station… (*Play on 'Ellas Ellinon Christianon' [Hellas of Greek Christians], a motto introduced by the dictator Georgios Papadopoulos, still used by the religious far right)
Regarding the rioting, this much is clear to those who were present at the demo: That in the face of extreme and unprovoked police violence, on top of economic hardship, unemployment, homelessness and a political elite who voted to make things even worse, anyone could have picked up a stone.
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
By 1pm today, the demo in front of parliament is as normal, no clashes, no reports of numbers yet as some neighbourhood blocs had trouble joining Syntagma because of street blockades by police... There have been some clashes in streets around town. A young woman had her leg injured by police and was taken to hospital.
9:30 Police attack on bloc at Hilton video
Syntagma is resounding with jeers and and all the usual anti-IMF, anti-parliament, anti-Memorandum slogans.
The Guardian has a live blog - please note times on that blog are GMT - add 2 hours for Athens time. The vote is due at 2pm
It is expected the mid-term austerity programme will pass as most governing PASOK party MPs will vote for it. However, everyone is saying that this is when the real struggle begins...
1:30pm People have broken the police cordon in front of parliament and are walking towards it. Lots of cheering and clapping. Teargas and stun grenades thrown but people not leaving. It is as if a stage for fighting has opened up in front of parliament.
1:45pm The great mass of demos has now withdrawn away from Amalias in front of parliament, some into the square, some into other streets, as teargas continues to be thrown. This was not 'provoked' by anything more than some people getting closer to the parliament than police wanted them to. Now they are poisoning the square with massive quantities of teargas. The place is resounding with 'cops pigs murderers' 'bread education freedom the junta didn't end in '73'. ... 10 minutes later... Looks like people are returning into Amalias. Still lots of teargas.
2pm Even Paul Mason now admits this attack was unprovoked on a peaceful crowd. Of course, the crowd is now throwing stones and firebombs. What did they expect? Riot police is trying to push people further to the other side of Syntagma.
2:23 Teargassing continues. Great masses of demonstrators remain in the other side of Syntagma. Live stream camera focuses on young women breaking a small wall to gather ammunition.
2:27 Police now throwing teargas further into the crowd. They are relentless. They obviously want to evacuate the entire area. Fire is set to skips to break the teargas cloud, and young people are carrying objects for barricades.
2:47 Situation continues with more teargas thrown, beatings, and demonstrators throwing stones in a back and forth movemement as they are trying to retake the space. Some demonstrators freak out and claim that this is not teargas but asphyxiation gas, and Maalox doesn't work with it.
3pm Live stream reporter confirms that a very large number of people that is unrelated to the anarchist scene is now clashing with police. The demonstrators leave to take a breath and come back, they are not withdrawing. Even the live stream reporter needs to take a break because even from high up where he is located the air is suffocating. Police have also assaulted journalists. Teargas even thrown inside Metro station. Rebetico now playing through the megaphones - Vamvakaris: 'All those who become prime ministers, they will all die - The people are after them for all the good they're doing'
The police has failed in both dispersing the demo, and averting clashes with youths. The former is obstinately still there, ready to return in front of parliament, and the latter has been escalated by their provocation. The square has received 4 or 5 attacks by police but they have withstood them, many people are sick and fainting from teargas.
Town hall occupations in Chania and Komotini, trade union offices occupied in Kozani.
3:20pm Police assaulting people with stun grenades trying to evacuate the space in front of Grande Bretagne Hotel. Police are also throwing stones at demonstrators. The megaphone in the square is shouting against the Memorandum and the mid-term programme.
Video a group of demonstrators runs to escape police attack. One man is injured.
The livestream commentator mentions an event he witnessed yesterday daytime: Demonstrators blocked the street to riot police bikers (DIAS team). Police came off the bikes and with the help of other riot police they tried to get demonstrators out of the way but they weren't leaving. The DIAS team finally left.
3:30 Police have pushed demonstrators out of the streets surrounding the square, clashes continuing.
3:40 Group of demonstrators trapped between two riot squads in Phillelinon street, who throw teargas at them from both sides.
3:50 Demonstrators have come back into Amaliast street and things are calmer now. Still teargas but not as frequent.
3:53 A young demonstrator hit a policeman. In response 7-8 riot police beat him up and drag him around.
4pm Police reports 26 people taken into custody 3 arrested, 19 injured. Clashes in Philellinon street. People seriously injured in the Metro. Megaphone calling on police to step back. Disagreements between those wanting to throw stones and those wanting to stop them. Megaphone says to police if you step back we will step back. They did... They need the air to be cleared and things to calm down so that those who are injured can be treated or taken to hospital. Things calmer for a few minutes.
The Mid-term programme has passed in parliament, as was expected, 155 for 138 against.
4:38 In Philellinon street youths start throwing stones again and police respond with rounds of teargas. Same stuff all over again.
In Chania, protesters broke into and vandalised PASOK offices.
4:48 Philellinon emptied and riot police have entered the square, throwing teargas... Someone was arrested and police threw teargas spray and pushed away photojournalists taking photos of the arrest.
4:53 Police and protesters throwing stones at each other... Teargas is thrown in front of parliament at Amalias which was now full. The Demonstrators have now all crowded inside the square and the lyra is playing.
5:03 The square is attacked with tons of teargas, between tents, cloud of smoke everywhere. Many left, unclear how many people remaining and how long they can persist. Stone throwing between demonstrators and police in the square. Police pushing people to get them to leave on Amalias. Police throwing teargas and demonstrators shout back: 'more! more!' People passing out from teargas. They need medical supplies. Teargas thrown even at people making a human chain to allow the injured to get to the Metro station. Video
Violent attack on square occupiers video
5:19 Youths throw stones at police. Police responds by throwing teargas not at the stone throwers, but at the people in the square.
Riot police attack on grocery store video
5:30 People have been trapped into the square and gassed from all sides. Someone still playing the drum while poeple in urgent need of oxygen, medical support, while police teargassing unstoppably, including the medical team. People don't have the power to defend themselves.
The young stonethrowers made a concerted counterattack on police forces and forced them to withdraw. When they tried to come back they had stones thrown at them again and some were injured.
5:42 There is an official complaint from the Ambulance Service that police is preventing them from getting to patients. Meanwhile in Syntagma police continue to throw paving stones at demonstrators... Not only prior 'troublemakers' but everyone today have lost their patience with police, stone throwing is generalised...
Things being said on twitter "Don't be surprised, the next time a riot cop is torched even the trees will be celebrating"; "The only thing they are achieving by throwing so many chemicals is people's genetic modification - the sheep will become wolves!" "What we have here is STATE TERRORISM in all caps. Until yesterday I thought troublemakers were making a mistake, provoking riot police. I no longer believe this." "Arseholes! Cops ONCE AND FOR ALL! No excuses from cops' mothers any more! The are NOT doing their job! THEY ARE TORTURERS!" "Since they are not letting people demontrate peacefully nobody can say anything now for anything that happens from now on" "You who take away my right to demonstrate peacefully and throw chemicals at me for hours, don't you talk about democracy. Bloody FASCIST!" "And for me composure has ended. The police are cops. The MPs who were voting next to chemical suffocation are subhumans" "Let's say it: throwing stones, bottles etc towards riot police is no longer 'troublesome' behaviour. It is generalised"
5:54 A man has been beaten on the ribs, hardly conscious, another beaten on the head with a baton... They need urgent medical support
6:15 Teargassing of the square and stone throwing between police and protesters continues. Now police encircling Syntagma possibly in order to arrest all the remaining demonstrators. Still teargas. Police were still too few and disorganised so they departed from the square.
Meanwhile inside the metro stration there are many injured crowding for help. Police throws teargas inside the station. video
6:22 Riot police have attacked an Ambulance worker. Reported on SKAI TV
6:28 Lots of people still holding the square while police seems to have withdrawn and things seem quieter for a while.
6:30 Police now hitting protesters in the square. In Romvis and nearby streets Delta team terrorising random people with stun grenades. Report that earlier in Plaka Dias team threw rocks and chased protesters.
6:36 Riot police destroyed first aid station in the square. Urgent need for medical support.
6:50 Still 100 injured in metro station, with opened heads, breathing problems, suffering from teargas thrown inside the station. Police is not allowing ambulances into Syntagma. A PASOK MP was assaulted by crowd that threw water at him. Police is running after 400 people into Monastiraki and Psyrri. Medic reports over 150 injured seeking help. People are not leaving yet, scattering out when chased but then coming back.
7pm More teargas thrown into the square. Lots of Dias biker riot police arriving to evacuate Syntagma. Desperate call for medical support. Another injured on Ermou needs an ambulance.
7:16 Serious clashes in Monastiraki reportedly where the artists' group had escaped to 'demonstrate peacefully'. Riot police threateningly approached people who had been dancing, and threw a stun grenade and teargas. They then attempted to take people into custody. People spitting blood from teargas in Syntagma.
7:45 People tweet that they are going to Syntagma... Others already there tweet that their face is burning and they feel like they will die.
MP H. Protopapas states: 'We won't let them stop us from entering the Parliament. This only happens in fascist regimes'
7:59 Fire brigade rescued 3 people from inside Acricultural Bank that had caught fire. Riots continue, while others seemed to be walking leisurely on Amalias earlier... It's a back and forth by rioters and police.
8:14 Injured still in Syntagma metro station. Young rioters play drums on empty bins
8:24 Chemical toilet has been set to fire. Another fire inside Syntagma square. People in the square now are in the hundreds, including rioters.
8:30 Meanwhile riot police squads ran after demonstrators into Dyonisios Areopagitis Street, where they sought refuge in a residential block. The police broke in as the residents tried to get the demonstrators into the basement. Police got hold of them and beat them brutally - one was taken by an ambulance. (from tvxs)
9pm Riot police has entered the square again, in standoff with protesters. They encicled the square. Some protesters got in front of the rioters, and walked towards the police lines with their hands up. The police lines withdrew, exiting the square.
9:30 Things seem quiet now. There is slogan shouting inside the square but no clashes. Those who have endured all this are worthy of unreserved admiration... Just as I wrote it - more teargas thrown. They threw loads of teargas into the square from several sides
10:30 Those that had remained in the square came out in one large group, perhaps for self-protection. Not that many people left but lots of teargas still. One riot squad threw teargas at a group of protesters in a nearby street. Another riot squad let another group of protesters pass them by... The metro station is like a war shelter. Injured protesters are still being brought in every other minute. Doctors report over 600 injured of whom 40 are in a serious condition. A priest has brought food and water. Riot police has also assaulted and teargassed people in the Acropolis metro station. In Exarchia there are barricades and teargas has been thrown.
Reports that biker riot police have been swearing at and batoning old ladies, children and tourists.
10:51 Teargas continues to be thrown in Syntagma. Clashes in Exarchia.
11:15 The square has been flattened. The tents have been trampled on and equipment has been destroyed. More teargas clashes in the square. Assembly now taking place in Monastiraki square for reorganising
11:20 Monastiraki assembly march through city neighbourhoods and nightlife areas in Gazi calling on more people to join, in order to reoccupy the square.
01:20 400 Syntagma square people, sprayed and beaten, attempt to make an intervention on Athens 984 municipal radio station. Riot police arrived but people negotiated with radio stration to get their message through. It seems that the station has been distorting what happened. They did not allow demonstrators through, and the latter gave up.
02:17 The 400 heading back to Syntagma. Tomorrow there will be a demonstration at 6pm against the executive legal framework for the midterm. Meanwhile riot police is still in Syntagma where the few remaining people are risking arrest.
Chios town hall was occupied.
2:30 The 400 join the remaining people at Syntagma and are greeted with cheers. Riot police did not attack this time.
Video "This doesn't even happen in wartime" Doctors outraged about riot police throwing teargas inside the first aid centre despite pleas that they were doctors treating injured demonstrators. Police even set fire to the roof of the medical centre, refusing to listen to any pleas. Doctors and patients were trapped inside as teargas was being thrown constantly on the first aid centre for at least an hour.
Photos in the Guardian do show police violence.
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
It was a bit of a battle in Syntagma today. To say the least... The number of demonstrators has been relatively small (up to 20,000) including the strikers, despite the fact that Metro workers finally decided not to go on strike to help people join the demo. The Communist Party march was very large in the morning. It came through Syntagma and blocked off the streets around Parliament. The marches from local neighbourhoods were arriving at around 11:30pm.
Meanwhile a motorcyclists' demo began in Thessaloniki, gathering groups from all over Northern Greece, to ride down to Athens for the 29th.
The CP march only remained at Syntagma temporarily, soon heading towards the columns of the Temple of Zeus (the CP doesn't support the squares movement)...
Demonstrators shouted angrily against foreign journalists and cameramen. Dancing with drums started in the square, while riot police numbers were increasing and putting on riot gear.
At around 2pm demonstrators smashed a surveillance camera at Citibank. Soon there was tension around the square between riot police and demonstrators. Teargas was thrown while demonstrators ran after riot squads. Again clashes between anarchists and Golden Dawn fascists. At some point fascists took out knives and stabbed a man (this is what many say). The crowd cornered them into an alley and the riot police soon rescued them and responded with teargas and stun grenades. Gradually they encircled the square trying to evacuate. Street battles with police again... People threw trash at riot police, who responded with even more teargas... Parasols were set to fire as shops, McDonalds and others, on the south side of the square were being vandalised. A mobile telecommunications van was vandalised and burnt too, and some skips were set to fire (some said the fire clears up the air from chemicals).
However this time the square occupiers did not leave. Like before there was music by the Cretan lyra player and encouragement on the mike and despite the suffering from the tons of teargas they managed to defend the square, from about 4 riot police attempts to evacuate it, dancing, playing football, shouting anti-police slogans and forming human chains. The more 'militant' sections of the demo (the ones you will see in mass media almost exclusively, e.g. in this Al Jazeera video) threw molotov cocktails and pieces of paving stones pushing riot police out of the square into nearby streets.
Many other demonstrators left, however, or crowded inside the Metro station, avoiding the teargas. This was a much larger amount of teargas than that thrown on the 15th. About 270 people have sought first aid for breathing problems, and 6 were taken to hospital.
By 5:30pm Athens time, the numbers seemed relatively small in Syntagma, lots of stun grenades heard but things looked pretty quiet and relatively empty for a 48hr strike. A gig to start soon with a long line-up of well-known musicians. Suddenly riot police push people out of Amalias Street in front of parliament.
5:45 Large crowd appears to be leaving towards nearby streets, although the square is still full of people. Things seem quiet but the riot police is still throwing teargas and stun grenades, attacking a small group of people out of the blue and beating up one demonstrator.
5:50 Demonstrators managed to break the police line and have flooded the street in front of parliament again, which had been evacuated. Numbers still small but growing. Hearsay account: an 'indignant' riot policeman threw away his shield, baton and helmet. As soon as his colleagues realised, they got hold of him and started beating him.
6:50 The square is now clear from teargas and it's being prepared for the concert. Things are calm, and will probably continue to be until tomorrow. Tomorrow is the 'big day' and the demo is expected to be much larger.
8pm The streets in front of Parliament are packed with demonstrators again. Some people trying to break the fences put up by police at the parliament entrance, and others throwing some bottles at riot police but were held back by the Communist Party demo guards. People started jeering against the CP demo, which again headed towards their meeting point at the Temple of Zeus.
The Athens Police Department reports 17 people apprehended, 5 arrests, 21 police injured 12 of whom are in hospital.
In Patras and Naxos town halls have been occupied.
The Syntagma assembly has published a press release about today condemning police repression and saying 'the situation is in our hands ... we will not stop until we win"
Photos this evening by the Leftwing Mechanics.
8:30 The motorcycle demo has arrived at Syntagma. Deafening noise resounds in central Athens as hundreds of bikers honk while driving to parliament.
9pm A group of anarchists made an unanticipated attack and managed to break the fence in front of parliament, while the concert is taking place. Riot police responded with teargas and stun grenades. People in the demo that had become very large by now, running away into nearby streets, while others throw missiles at riot police.
9.30 Group of helmeted far-right nationalists with flags now taking part in the tension. Meanwhile the concert continues with people shouting slogans in between songs...
A request was made for everyone to stay at the square even though the Metro station is now closing down at 10 even though they had announced it would stay open this morning.
10pm The crowd seems big and it has held the space won earlier...
10:30pm Riot police threw teargas again and has again evacuated Amalias in front of parliament. People still there in the square, megaphone 'we will not leave no matter what they do'.
11pm Tergassing continues while solidarity concert continues. Many injured and a man in his 60s taken to hospital shot by a teargas grenade. 'gas chambers in city centre'. Call on everyone to come down.
11:40pm Clashes continue, with about 200 people throwing stones. Teargassing like rain continues, stun grenades, more parasols burning. Every time teargas is shot: 'cops, pigs murderers'. Punk band now playing. Police moving to surround Syntagma.
12am People are convinced this is all hapening in order to evacuate the space for the MPs soon coming out of parliament. The core of the crowd attending the concert is still in the square while some have withdrawn into a nearby street waiting for the trouble to stop.
12:15 New round of teargassing inside the square now. They need first aid support. Police not letting those who withdrew to return to the square.
12:30 Several arrests being made, the arrestees are being beaten badly (as is common). Some people are saying that less than 30 demonstrators are causing the 'trouble'. Others say they are hundreds, angered by this attack. Police threw 30 rounds of teargas within a few minutes. Meanwhile similar clashes right now happening in Tahrir square...
1am It looks like this situation will continue until the morning. Bombardment of teargas, but people not leaving. Reports that riot police beat a nurse from the medical team.
1:30 Things seem to have become quieter now, but there are many injured. First aid team trying to help. The Metro workers finally kept the stations open until late to allow people to leave.
The minister of economics has invited 'indignants' into the ministry to talk... Thought it was a joke, but no, he did say it.
A pretty good article about today by Michelle Chen on In These Times.
Live streaming here
Monday, 27 June 2011
It's few hours before the 48-hour strike, two days of conflict and repression that everyone has been preparing for... The parliament is due to ratify or reject the mid-term programme on Wednesday evening. One factory was already picketed and blockaded by Monday night, the livestock co-op in Arta, where management had been putting a lot of pressure on workers not to go on strike. Meanwhile, EU leaders have prepared a plan B in case the mid-term is not passed, so the threats of immediate default and catastrophe by Greek politicians are shown to be just that.
Demonstrators from several towns and cities of Greece are already on the way to Athens.
In Syntagma, a large anarchist group attempted to challenge the nationalists who are said to almost excusively populate the area in front of parliament, by distributing a text regarding clashes with police and the presence of fascists in the square. They started shouting anti-nationalist slogans such as 'national unity is a trap, proletarians have no country' among the crowd expecting some sort of confrontation. To their suprise, most people also chanted with them, clapping and asking to read their texts, while those who complained were a minority. I suppose that is an indication that the far-right is a minority in Syntagma, at least by now, at least on a Monday?
The assembly had a variety of speakers, some of whom wanted to form a party, elect new leaders, do a Spanish-style sitting demonstration and denounce all forms of violence. Others spoke against them, pointing out that this movement doesn't need leaders, again emphasising the importance of continuing to fight whether the mid-term programme is passed or not, the idea of class struggle and conflict, the importance of self defence and the interpretation of the word violence ('our occupation is already "violent" according the logic and order of things our rulers uphold'). The proposals to find new 'worthy' representatives are the ones that consitently fall on deaf ears. On the other hand the assembly moved even closer to the attitudes of the anarchist / far left contingent on the question of 'violence'.
Passed:- To devote coming assemblies to discussing what to do after the midterm vote - what we do the next day.- ?? ?rganise the defence of our demo to keep out fascists, especially on the corner of Amalias x Queen Sophia St. [where fascists and anarchists clashed on the 15th]- Tomorrow should not be a battle but a celebration, with music around Syntagma.- To be tolerant towards the violence of those who clash with riot police. The megaphones should not speak against them.- Call on everyone to wear masks, glasses, and take Maalox for teargas protection [n.b. on the 15th the media talked of masked/hooded 'troublemakers'. The assembly seems to have finally abandoned this narrative, although even today someone spoke against wearing masks. Masks are pretty essential if you are thrown tons of teargas...]- To make a stamp which will be used to stamp Euro notes to spread our message. It is an idea initiated by fellow protesters in Berlin.- To set a new date for discussion of the proposed political texts that will represent the popular assembly.
Rejected:- To elect representatives among our movement and to work towards forming a 'government of personalities'.- To stop having assemblies at Syntagma and move the assemblies to the neighbourhoods.- To have Sunday local assembles instead of daily ones and to communicate their decisions via the internet.- To condemn all forms of violence.- All of us should wear white clothes so that we can see who wears black and wants to provoke us with violence.- To organise using mobile phones around Greece, so as to synchronise and shout the same slogan at the same time.
I have to apologise for yesterday's account, in which I prejudged the political affiliations of those who complained at the assembly about ANTARSYA's intervention on the vote [text now changed and comments removed]. I should have been more careful. It now turns out that some of those who complained were from the Antiauthoritarian Movement, as they stated on Indymedia Athens. I won't get any more into this, but what does need to be said is that the method followed in the thematic assembly on politics of choosing between long texts writen by small groups, as opposed to composing one based on ideas agreed on by the assembly is just another attempt at imposing a ready-made representation on the movement of Syntagma, regardless of whether the allegation is true or not.
Sunday, 26 June 2011
Day of Denunciations…
Denunciation 1Today the thematic assembly for politcs was meant to present three texts for discussion in order for the movement to make a political declaration before Tuesday. Sounded interesting, crucial even, but this was not meant to be. A group of 16 people denounced the thematic assembly saying that the voiting process was 'rigged' by the revolutionary left party ANTARSYA who had 'brought 50 of their people to get their text voted in'. As would be expected, that caused a huge mess with lots of shouting and indecision. The tension stalled the discussion and it was decided it would be done another day.
Denunciation 2The assembly denounced the decision of the public transport drivers union to go on strike on the 28th and the 29th, which comes counter to the decision of all the other public transport unions not to go on strike in order to provide transport for strikers and demonstrators. The unions had been under pressure by the state and police to close down the stations that day for 'security reasons'.
Denunciation 3A member of the Syntagma technical support team created his own stall in Athens city centre supposedly representing the 'Indignants at Syntagma'. He is part of a group who have appeared in the media as representatives of the movement, and make demands that are similar to those of right wing parties, while asking for unions to go back to work (!) and for secret ballots for strike decisions. Their website is full of nationalist hysteria…
Denunciation 4In the north part of Syntagma, right-wing nationaiists have set up a stall recruiting their own 'guards' for the demo on Tuesday. It is likely that far-right 'guards' will again provoke anarchists, and there will be clashes.
Denunciation 5One of the first denunciators came back screaming to complain that ANTARSYA had distributed their text even though it had not been agreed on. The person who distributed it said it was done for people to read while it was being read out, and apologised for it giving a different impression. The shouting continued...
Depressing… Well that was just the negative side of it all because there were a few pretty good speakers who were outraged by the Deputy PM Theodoros Pangalos' 'dillema' posed today that if the medium-term programme is not passed "the military will have to take tanks out into the streets, to protect the banks and prevent people from withdrawing money"… Especially the younger speakers sounded like they were really up for a fight. There were also several pleas for concrete plans on the day after the vote.
The assembly unanimously supported a pretty good anti-racist text of solidarity with migrants which culminated in the statements 'free movement for all instead of Europe as a fortress and Greece as a detention centre' … 'Immediate deportation of government, troika, memorandums.'
They also unanimously supported a new call to the 2-day demo on the 28th & 29th, which also specified the way in which a few hundred cars would cause a severe traffic jam in order to prevent MPs from reaching the parliament.
Saturday, 25 June 2011
It was an intense day today in the squares, which have been occupied for exactly one month now.
In Thessaloniki, a Golden Dawn (fascist extra-parliamentary party) protest march was planned to pass near the White Tower square, protesting against the construction of a statue of Alexander the Great in Skopje, Macedonia. There was a decision to defend the square with the support of the anti-fascist organisation 'United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat in Thessaloniki'. They blockaded the main street to stop the fascist march going through. Soon riot police arrived, and on the pretext of preventing the groups clashing, charged against demonstrators at the camp, throwing enough teargas and stun grenades to make everyone run away frantically (video). Later, the Golden Dawn marched through Ladadika, Thessaloniki's nightlife area, shouting anti-immigrant slogans, escorted by a riot squad. Apparently things calmed down later, and people returned for the scheduled assembly.
In Syntagma, it was the day against racism and xenophobia. In daytime, migrants' groups set up stalls in the square to spread info, and organised games for children. Teams of Pakistani immigrants played cricket in front of parliament, and Pakistani women made henna tattoos for demonstrators. The Black Thieves band and Back Desk group played a gig entitled 'A Song for Ahmad'. I guess such events may smack of superficial 'cultural' acceptance of immigrants, but giving them space for a cricket game directly in front of parliament, an ares which until yesterday was full of Greek flags and nationalist slogans, I think was a pretty good move. After these events there were talks from the African Women's Association, Action Congo, the Pakistani Community of Greece, and Lahsan Karza, one of the 300 hunger strikers.
An open discussion followed, where, finally, more immigrants' voices were heard. They had to respond to a Greek guy who said that 'we like you as people and we want you to live well but we don't want so many immigrants here'. They reminded that Afghani immigrants are escaping wars in which Greece participated, and Syrians are escaping a repressive murderous regime. They criticised with clarity, using stories and examples, the misguided idea that immigrants, the poorest of the poor in the country, are 'taking away jobs and money', speaking of class solidarity against the state and employers. They also described how they are being exploited as workers, and how impossible the Greek bureaucracy has made it for them to gain legal permits to stay. Many of them did not even state their country of origin, saying 'I came from the earth' or 'I came from my mother's womb'...
Meanwhile, the far-right 'Citizens' Movement' (tending more towards national socialism) that has been calling on 'Greek citizens to protest in Syntagma with Greek flags' spoke on their website of 'parasites' that 'have set up assemblies and have as point of reference the equality of "gender and race"', 'a circus of the political decay that has corrupted our society and many students.' Scary stuff. It's unlikely these types will now leave Syntagma once and for all, but I hope they've been discouraged…
The main assembly itself today again voted in favour of blocking the streets around parliament with vehicles on the 48-hour striike. They also supported a statement in favour of the conflictual nature of their movement, in favour of self-defence, but against 'self-described warriors', those who fetishise the fight against police lines as an end in itself. Not clear what such a decision would mean in practice. They also condemned the anti-terrorist law that criminalises wearing a hood, and created a group that will organise legal support for those who were arrested on the 15th.
A question that split the assembly, and on which there was no conclusion, was whether they would allow security forces strikers (the police, coast guard & fire brigade) to speak in the assembly. Their union yesterday had a big march in Syntagma, which was jeered heavily, but they still managed to send their message to the assembly that they support its principles because they face the same problems. Some saw this as a victory, suggesting that the security forces are divided, some others said that their solidarity can only be proven by actions - if they also go on strike on the 28th. I suppose lumping together the police and fire brigade can be a little problematic, but nobody seemed to pick up on that...
Other proposals passed were to organise a feminist event with speakers from Greek and African women's organisations, an LGBT event, and to set up a group that would organise a network of direct exchange between agricultural producers and city residents.
They sent messages of solidarity to those in the Gaza flotilla and to Syrian political protesters and prisoners (many Syrian political refugees are in Syntagma frequently).
After the assembly, the artists' group presented a giant one-month 'birthday cake' to the movement and sang 'happy birthday' in several languages while dancing to african drumming…
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… 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 anit-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.
Sunday, 19 June 2011
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.
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…
"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
22:30The Syntagma assembly is over. They voted on a statement to continue fighting. There was no agreement over adding statements about a 'long-term 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? It seems that some people overestimate the role of undercover cops. There are a few of them but that's not to say that there wasn't a "real" fight between demonstrators and police, it's not to say that there is no black bloc. The stories about riots being caused by undercover cops 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 but the riot cops themselves, and it seems that there was a broader 'no blame' attitude. 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.
20:30The 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:
19:00teacherdude: @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.
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
DentNEWS.net: #greekrevolution (VIDEO) Police in Athens attacks with tear gas, people that were dancing in the square #15J video
16:00Things calmer now at #Syntagma. Everyone is invited to go down. The demo is scheduled to continue late into the night
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.
14:00Many 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
13:00The 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
12:00Many 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 undercover cops 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
11:00Tv 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 an undercover cop
Some clashes bt far left & far right groups at south side of #Syntagma
10:00It 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
09:00Paul 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
08:00Paul 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 Programme is put to the vote. This programme 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!
We give our own RESPONSE to the MEDIUM TERM AUSTERITY PROGRAMME
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:
THE MID-TERM AGREEMENT SHALL NOT PASS
Thursday, 9 June 2011
Statements are great, the problem now is how they move to action... The 'medium-term' programme 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...
08/06/2011 RESOLUTION OF THE PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY OF SYNTAGMA SQUAREON THE PROPOSAL BY THE THEMATIC ASSEMBLY OF WORKERS & UNEMPLOYED
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-Term 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 (Ex-PASOK, now 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 argues that Greece should return to the drachma, 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
04.06.11 SUBMISSION DATE FOR MEDIUM-TERM PROGRAMME - END DATE FOR THE GOVERNMENT.
Over the next few days they will again try to decide for us without us. They will submit the medium term programme, 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 that they don't pass it, and until all those who are looting our lives are gone - governments, troika, memoranda, banks and all those who exploit us. Now we are taking our lives into our hands and we carry on.
DIRECT DEMOCRACY NOW
PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY OF SYNTAGMA SQUARE
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 Entasi (=volume, 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-term 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 doing away with '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.
DIRECT DEMOCRACY NOWEQUALITY JUSTICE DIGNITY
The only defeated struggle is the one that was 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 traitorsAah! Ooh! And I fuck the IMFLiars, rats, come and get usIt 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 same immigrants from countries that pioneered and taught the rest of the world the revolutionary 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 vicious 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 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 on 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 fatherlands 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 should participate as 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, they hired the unemployed and gave them a job.
- Let's throw out those who are mortgaging our future. Let's keep our organising from below strong and vibrant.
- This evening, our faces were lit by a smile. We are all emotionally uplifted. Let's keep it up and let's move forward.
- We must punish the politicians and fight for this punishment.
- Every evening at 6.00pm we should meet, and hold an assembly at 9.00pm.
- The mainstream media and politicians are fearful right now. The protest is too big, the assembly is too big. We must not let them to co-opt us.
- We should 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 apologise to the young kids, the many young people here, to apologise 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.
- We should 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, we should take it again in our hands.
- The dissemination and broadcasting of everything going on here is an important step for informing and coordinating, we should seek that in every way.
- We should 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.
- Do not be afraid. Stay calm, this is what I also tell 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 into 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 mobilise. 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 to not be squeezed to €500. 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 apologise 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 recognising our own responsibilities.
- We are here to find the true democracy.
- Let's begin with addressing each other like we were brothers and sisters.
- 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 terrorise 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 'Velos', the warship that defected from military exercises with NATO, and the Polytechnic rebellion, both associated with the fall of the colonels' junta in '73)
25 May 2011
Today 20,000+ people gathered in Syntagma Square in Athens following the Spanish example, after a call on Facebook and Twitter. 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 for them to go', 'shame on you'... This was a call to come out and express indignation 'away from political parties'. A lot of people came out who had not joined demos before. The crowd lashes 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 their 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' or 'citizens', 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.
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 was 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 conservative 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...