Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieved?(An outsiders view in Athens)

 Protests and Bank Smashing In Athens. What has it achieved?

 I arrived in Athens 27th December and one of the first things i noticed was the burnt out banks and burnt out Kiosks. A strange contrast. The Graffiti written all over the place , an assortment of Anarchist signs and things such as "Fuck the police" and " Revenge against the police" etc, was impossible to miss. Also difficult to miss is the state of Athens, lots of homeless people, beggers, street sellers, high price food and goods etc. Oh, and did i mention the facist cops who travel in packs with guns and huge batons , staring at anyone who looks a bit different. (including me no surprise)

Being that i was visiting people who live in Athens i took the opportunity to ask them what they thought about what had happened. The general gist was that they were appalled at the killing of the young kid, who wasnt even involved in the riots, and they generally did not like nor trust the police or the government for that matter. However, there was anger at the smashing and burning of Kiosks, very small buisness holders who hardly represent the corruption of banks. There was also some anger at the banks being demolished, this was more borne out of inconvenienece for people who then found it difficult to withdraw cash to get by on a day to day basis.

I also spoke to some students who had been involved and quickly discovered a lack of propper organisation involved in this, which got me to thinking what had they actually achieved? The banks were back up and running in no time, major stores where opened again quickly and everything  went back to as it was, barr some graffiti on walls and a few shops still burnt out(not major corporate stores) The answer it would seem is nothing really. I believe this to be the case for the following reasons, if you are organising such a massive demonstration or action that involves attacking the banks and the state building you need major organising in the surrounding communities so as many as possible living there are on side or are aware of what is going on and will be prepared to weather out the lack of access to their own money, or for small buisness to know to close their kiosks and stores(most of whom barely break even in this economy) It cannot be just students, it must be action which draws in old and young, students and non students, unemplyed, homeless, and employed.

An irony of it all is that i noticed that starbucks had avoided being hit and i asked a local high school student who knew people at the demo why this was? The reply was "most of us meet up there and have coffee there so no one wanted to ruin their meet up place."

On a positive note , it could be argued that Greek government recently denying the U.S to move weapons for Israel through Greece was a result of the government being aware of the chaos which would hit the streets were this to be allowed. this in itself, if the case, would show that there is some strength for causing such chaos. Also the occupying and taking over of the TV station was pure genius and should have been held longer with better prepared stuff to replace normal programming. One can only hope that it will become more organised as this goes on, and it will. The economy is horrible here with food prices for basics at a rediculous level, as is basic goods like clothing or kitchen appliances. The police are still brutal and fascist gun carrying nutcases, in general , and the government(or choices of) are still crooked as they can be.

 

Comments

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By Jon B

Thanks for your article :) You are right, that the damage to shops and banks isnt the most effective kind of action.  However, a lot more has been going on than burning out shops, banks and car dealerships! For example:

  • There have been clashes between locals and riot police in the south Corfu town of Lefkimi over the construction of open refuse dump.
  • After 18 days of a hunger strike involving 7,000 prisoners in greece, the ministry of justice concedes to a series of their demands, promising to release half the country's prison population by April 2009.
  • Barricades were erected and two police stations smashed in Athens over the destruction of park by the City Council. Neighbours fought riot police to stop the destruction of one of the few green spaces in the capital
  • Hundreds of Cretan farmers landed in Athens and clashed with riot police, leading to wildcat general strike in Crete, over the unpopular agricultural policies of the right wing government.
  • A 24 hour general strike in Greece sees all public sector and large part of private sector closed as well as clashes between demonstrating strikers and riot police in Athens

These things and more are all happening as a result of the economic problems, and the repression from a brutal right wing government. The mainstream media focuses on the riots between the anarchists/anti-authoritarians/students and the police, but hardly mentions all the rest of what is going on.

 

 

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By Civillianslave

Thanks for that response and extra info. I had heard of some of the stuff you mentioned but had not been able to speak to anyone who was involved or knew people who were, was trying keep the commentary to my experiences and discusions with locals i met. All very intersting stuff which i will keep an eye on while here and try  to find people who may have been involved or know people who have.peace

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By ann arky

Having been in Greece for the month of December and part of January I can't say I agree with the report. I do agreed on his description of the police. They look more like roving packs of swaggering armed thugs usually in threes and fours. I attended four demos and spoke to some of those involved and found them very well informed and what I saw also well organised and they could call on thousands at each demo. One demo I went to was the 17th day of continuous demos and the group I spoke to said they were dissappointed in the turnout and to my estimation there were in excess of a thousand present. These demos took place in every major city in Greece and some of the smaller towns and all were well into the thousands some in the 10s of thousands. You can't draw on these numbers over the whole country on a continuous basis without organisation. Also it was not just students, at one demo 15 lawyers were arrested. At another I was speaking to a dentist, there were lots of grey hairs among some of the demos. These figures on the street must have politicised  thousands of young people and given them the confidence and courage to challenge the establishment. As for the Starbucks story, I find that hard to believe considering that there is a whole district in Athens where the young and old activists meet in a range of cafes and coffee shops. I also visited a coffee shop in the outskirts of Athens and asked the waiter what he thought of the demonstrations, his eyes lit up and he said "I'm with them, I'm with them all the way, burn the fancy shops, burn their fancy cars. It was not the shooting of that little boy that started this. All they have done is steal the wealth up to themselves and left us with nothing but poverty and very poor wages. The little boy's death was not the reason behind this it was merely a, a, a," ( He seemed to be struggling for a word and I said catalyst?) and he said "yes a catalyst." I agree one interview does not register a country's opinion but it was the first and random. Also while there, there was a strike of the Athens tram system and on another day a strike of the Metro and as I left the main route through Greece from the north to the south was block for several days by farmers with their tractors. The country is in turmoil, filled with corruption, nepotism and an ever increasing poverty among the general public.

annarky @radicalglasgow.me.uk

www.radicalglasgow.me.uk

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By Civillianslave

Cool, interesting stuff.

 

Was not meaning this piece as an end all and be all, i accept that those i spoke to are not necesserally the voice for dissent. I also know that I was unable to get along to every event to evaluate everything going on . Thanks to your contribution though I now know stuff I didn't manage to catch so thank you.

I do still think that there is something missing from all this, I worry that the KKE are trying to make this into a movement that will benefit them. Also , the starbucks story is true, I had that reconfirmed to me by another student(now i am saying that it is true as far as i have heard, it would explain why a major target was left untouched along the same street major banks and corporate stores where smashed, come to think of it Mc Donalds didn't seem damaged either, yet the bank just up from there was gutted)

I must say i would love to see this much energy and gusto back home in the UK, the strathclyde occupation has given me a little light in my heart though, am just sad i wasn't there to take part. We need loads more action like this and the actions here in Greece and Across Europe if we are to achieve any real social change.

 

Peace and solidarity from Greece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By ann arky

I don't recall any coffee shops or cafes being trashed, (the Greeks are the cafe society, perhaps there is a reverence for these places.) Around Syntagma Square four banks were trashed, the Christmas tree was burnt to the ground but none of the cafes or coffee shops seemed to have been touched. It always seems to be retail outlets, banks, ATM machines, police stations and government buildings. I don't think you can slate them for those targets. There was also a supermarket raid and the food taken to a village and dumped in the street for all to help them selves. I also spoke to one of the young organisers and he said that he had lived in England for about two years but stated that he would be very surprised if anything like these events ever took place in Britain. He said that he felt that we were too programmed to work hard all week and then get wasted on alcohol all weekend. Any comments on that last statement???

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By Civillianslave

I agree that this will never likely happen in the UK, to quote bill hicks "it is an orwellian nightmare". The mass amount of electronic surveillance alone causes problems for us which are not here in Greece, and thats only just one thing. The culture is much more expressive here also, people are not afraid to vent, unlike the UK where things are bottled up publicly or ignored. But generalisations aside I would highly doubt taht the UK would ever follow suit, not unless the malls are closed and no one can shop or watch TV, then...maybe...

 

As for the coffee shop culture that may explain why starbucks was left alone. Kiosks where hit though , i have seen them on October road, burnt out shells. These were set up after world war two for returning veterans who were injured to give teh mployment, since past on down the family. As there are so many of them, they cannot make a great deal of profit, more inportantly they are not big buisness, or corporate. Though to be fair there were facists posing as protestors smashing shit up too, an i am fully in side with the movement here 100%. Just wish the UK had the same passion and spirit.

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By aa

I'm from Athens and I study in Britain. I was in Greece on December and January and I can say from first hand that reacting in any way has become part of the every day routine for everyone, even until now. Of course Greeks have a long tradition of protesting, striking and generally reacting, but what's happening the last couple of months has no precedent in "democratic" times in Greece. And it's beyond the spectrum of youths and students.

I won't get into details on actions that have been taking place because it seems that they are more or less known. I just wanted to comment on the Starbucks and McDonalds matter. I don't doubt that there could be some kids thinking that Starbucks should not been burnt down for the reasons you mentioned. But you should consider that these teenagers are the playstation generation and they are basically struggling to find an identity into all this. No one should expect these young kids to already have concrete political or ideological thinking. That doesn't happen overnight nor in two months' time. But having a start like that in social life is very promising. On the other hand, it wasn't of course only those kids on the streets. You have to understand something on this. Demonstrating and protesting is an interractive procedure (I say this cause I've been in demos in Britain and they don't seem so spontaneous, at least not the ones I've been). What gets to be burnt or hit or whatever, is not predetermined. It depends on the exact moment and the atmosphere. To your information Starbucks and McDonalds are a permanent target on demos. The McDonalds in Syntagma Square in particular is something like a joke to Athenians. It could be hit even outside a demo, at any time. It just happens that they are not always. Sometimes the statement you want to make is different. For example, when there are parastate people burning down small shops to turn the public opinion against the movement, you may decide that today we don't hit any kind of shop. At the same time, the particular Starbucks had been burnt down the three first days of riots, but as you can understand they can fix the damages in no time. In my opinion, it seems that you saw the tree and missed the forest, and I'm saying this with no intention of judging or criticising. I understand that being a kind of an outsider into a situation like this can make things tricky in terms of being able to have an overall view. I'm still struggling to understand how things work in Britain, and I've been here for two years now.

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By aa

I forgot to say...

 

The outcome of what's been going on in Greece cannot be appreciated in full length yet. The main reason for this is that a social unrest of this size doesn't dissapear from one day to another. However, we can conclude two things at the moment. The first is that destruction of specific targets with some meaning has become well accepted by the society (a year ago most people would condemn these actions). This in itself is very important because it indicates that people have reached a point that they won't take any more shit. And that leads to the second conclusion. The fact that people have been heard in Greece at last, and although I don't personally have any faith in the political system, the politicians are at least - and for sure - afraid of the people. And that's how it's supposed to be. So, I think we're getting there. Time will show.

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By ann arky

Obviously a visitor to any country can find it very difficult to find out exactly what is going on. As a frequent visitor to Greece I keep trying to compare but it is not comparing like with like. This country UK has a very fragmented society, it has broken into its own little enclaves. The youth are seen as hoodies, junkies, lazy layabouts while the 20-30s group doesn't want to mix with the youth and the middle age are old and over the top, while the elderly are grumpy old wrinklies who don't like the middle aged think the 20-30s are selfish and thoughtless and teenagers are seen as threatening. Very wild generalisations, but these groups don't seem to want to mix and the consumer society caters for them as different groups, helping to keep them apart. However in Geece I found them very much more family orientated, there is a greater tolerance of youth and to my mind much less ageism. The fragmentation of our society makes it very difficult for the groups to see common enemies and common goals. For those reasons I think we in this country are a long way of from mass demonstrations on the scale in Greece. I also believe that this fragmentaion makes mass spontaneous demonstrations impossible. Until we can see a more class grouping as opposed to the present grouping we are doomed to the pattern of different pressure groups organising their own demonstrations, all trying to involve the other strands that don't see common cause them them.
     Also I think Greece's recent history has been one of resistance on a massive scale. They were occupied by the nazis in the 40s during the 2nd world war, then the surprise six months war with the British, followed by a short spell governemnt which was overthrown and replaced by the generals up to 1973/4. That is almost 30 years of national resistance, a lot of people were being politicised, and as I said before what has been achieved by this recent wave of actions is that a lot more young people are being politicised. I think we in the UK can only look on with envy and keep plugging away.     www.radicalglasgow.me.uk

Re: Greek Protests, riots and bank smashing. What has it achieve

By aa

On second thought, and after this last comment by ann arky, I think that the most important thing that was reinvented in greek society over the last few months was solidarity. It is true that the reflexes of the Greeks have been a bit more active due to their recent history. That's exactly the case with other southern countries with similar history such as Italy and Spain. However, over the last 20 years Greece has undergone an extensive "westernisation" - if I can say it like that - which has gradually eliminated social solidarity. In my parents' times, right after the dictatorship, people would run to help and support each other instantly. That was lost for many years and although there have been protests about everything, they haven't had that character of unconditional support and unity. That's exactly what has been won today.

At the same time, I think that that's exactly what's missing from Britain. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I find the british society very much supressed. That of course is a result of many things, but nevertheless,  it seems that people here have been pushed so much into their corners in order to create this fragmentation and consequently this superficial atomicism. It is undoubtedly a characteristic of the western society, protruding the self instead of the whole. And inevitably, solidarity is out of question. For example, I am very much surprised every time I hear people in their late 20's to speak about their jobs. Instead of talking about the problems they face in general as a generation that is working in a worse frame than their parents, they measure their own personal success by their annual income. This is maybe just an indication, but it does demonstrate the lack of unity among people with more or less the same prospects in life. But I also think that this will be the challenge for the british society today. The results of the economic crisis may at last remind people that they have more things in common and that they are living under the same sun. And that's the trigger for social unity. Don't forget that what happened in Greece was not because of the boy's murder. This was only the sparkle that lit the fire. 

 

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