[Marxism] Greece Is Burning
walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Dec 13 09:49:17 MST 2008
Here are several news reports on the Greek situation but to
start, a commentary from the Wall Street Journal which says,
in essential terms, that the capitalist state is collapsing
in the face of a combination of mass protests rooted in the
popular perception that life as it is today offers no future
for the ordinary working people of the country. Below a look
at how the struggle in Greece is resonating across Europe in
a way which could spread utter panic among the powers that
obtain today among the rich and powerful. The question which
remains is what about leadership, direction, organization?
Los Angeles, California
There was a wonderful half-hour panel discussion on BBC radio
today about the Greek situation. Here are two more stories on
Greece from the BBC:
Greek PM rejects election calls
Greek economy woes fuel backlash
WALL STREET JOURNAL
*DECEMBER 12, 2008
Greece Is Burning
Lost principles have led to lost control.
By TAKIS MICHAS
When Greece's conservative New Democracy party came to power in March
2004 it promised three things: to "reinvent" the state, to eliminate
corruption, and to initiate much-needed educational reform. Four
years later, the situation remains unchanged: The state is still a
tool for bestowing benefits and favors, corruption in the public
sector is still rampant, and attempts at educational reform have
Plundering thugs who are following their own self-interests.
This sets the context for the riots that have engulfed Greece since
Sunday. The postcard picture of Greece as the land of sunny beaches
and friendly people has been shattered, revealing a country torn by
social strife and consumed by hatred and senseless violence.
The ostensible cause for the rioting was the killing -- under
circumstances that remain unclear -- of a 15-year-old boy by a
policeman last Saturday near the Athens district of Exarchia, a
popular hangout for lefties and professed anarchists. Two officers
have been arrested and charged with the boy's slaying. Poor training,
lack of motivation and low salaries make for a notoriously
incompetent police force whose members are prone to cause such tragic
incidents. In that sense the police share the malaise of the rest of
the public sector in Greece. The only difference is that they carry
The death quickly led to mostly peaceful mass demonstrations all over
Greece by students who were understandably unhappy with the killing
of their peer. They are also fed up with an overcentralized education
system that thrives on rote learning, which stifles innovation and
But soon the protests turned into ugly riots. Groups of masked
anarchists set about an orgy of torching, looting and vandalism in
Athens, Thessaloniki and other major cities in Greece.
What was unique about the events in Greece -- as opposed to, say, the
riots in the banlieues of Paris a few years ago -- was the total
withdrawal of the government and the security forces from the scene
of the riots. Civil society was left alone and unarmed to fend off
the violent attacks on their property by the hordes of predators. On
Tuesday night, one of the worst nights of rioting, more than 400
shops were attacked in Athens: Some were torched, others looted and
All of this took place while the security forces simply stood by and
watched the disaster unfold. They were following the explicit orders
of their political masters to assume a "defensive posture" -- which
in effect meant that they did not try to prevent the orgy of
Anyone watching this absurd scene could be excused for concluding
that a secret deal had been struck between the government and the
rioters: We let you torch and plunder to your heart's content, and
you let us continue pretending that we are in charge.
The government justified its passivity by arguing that any attempt to
stop the vandalism might have produced human victims. At the same
time, in order to pacify the enraged shopkeepers who were seeing
their hopes for a profitable holiday shopping season go up in smoke,
it promised to use taxpayer money to compensate them for the damages
caused by the rioters.
"What we are witnessing is the total abdication of responsibility by
the Greek state," says Antonis Papayanidis, the former editor in
chief of the conservative daily Eleftheros Tipos. "This happened both
in the case of the shooting of the youth by an incompetent policeman
as well as in the case of the riots that followed."
The government's passivity amid this dissolution of law and order did
not simply reflect bad crisis management or sheer incompetence. At a
deeper level the conservative government's failure to respond
decisively signified its defeat in the battle of ideas, especially
among the young.
The abdication of responsibility was in part the result of the New
Democracy party's abandonment of the values of classical liberalism,
whose cornerstone is the rule of law and the respect of private
property. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis,
the party has over the years purged from its ranks all voices of
classical liberalism and has explicitly rejected values-based
narratives in favor of an ill-defined pragmatism. This has proved no
match for the ideological assault by the left, which ended up
monopolizing the marketplace of ideas in the universities and the
other educational establishments of the country.
Such was the ideological confusion of the government that on the
night of the great destruction the only criticism that Interior
Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos could voice against the plundering
thugs was that they were following their own self-interests. Adam
Smith would surely turn in his grave!
Even worse was the statement by Panagiotis Stathis, spokesman for the
national police, explaining the authorities' inaction: "Violence
cannot be fought with violence." With this remark, he effectively
equated violence exercised by the authorities to defend the social
order with the violence of those trying to destroy it.
"The fall of Rome," wrote Seneca, "took place when Rome's pragmatism
ceased to be pragmatic." Unfortunately, the conservatives in Greece
do not read Seneca -- or much else for that matter.
Mr. Michas is a journalist with the Greek daily Eleftherotypia and an
associate of the Center for Studies in Classical Liberalism in Athens.
* DECEMBER 11, 2008
In Greece, Protests Echo European Students' Ire
By PHILIP PANGALOS and DAVID GAUTHIER-VILLARS
Thousands of students were joined by striking workers in a fifth day
of protests in Greece, an uprising that mirrors growing discontent
among youths in many European countries over outdated education
systems, lack of jobs and a general apprehension about the future.
>From Rome to Berlin to Madrid, young people graduate from university
much later than their peers in Northern Europe, the U.S. or U.K. When
they do, they struggle to find long-term jobs with social-security
A protester throws stones at riot police during a demonstration
outside the Greek Parliament in Athens on Dec. 10, 2008.
In Germany, many young people -- including large numbers of
university graduates -- have struggled in recent years to find
employment that pays a full wage. Instead, they have found themselves
working as interns for no or low pay for long periods. German media
have dubbed such economically insecure young people "Generation
In Spain, a generation of young people is entering the workplace with
few benefits or protections, often moving between temporary contracts
so that employers can avoid the country's onerous employment laws.
The media have dubbed them "mileuristas" -- loosely, those who scrape
by on a thousand euros a month. In Greece, this same group has been
dubbed "Generation 600" -- referring to the country's national
minimum wage of €600 (about $776) a month.
French students are planning a nationwide protest against government
plans aimed at giving state universities more autonomy in managing
their budgets. Students fear this will create a two-tier system, with
wealthy campuses attracting private funds and poorer colleges
languishing. Three years ago, French students took to the streets to
protest the "precarious" nature of a new temporary job contract the
government was trying to introduce.
Last month, thousands of Italian students took to the streets to
protest the government's attempt to change laws governing the entire
school system, including cutting budgets for state universities.
The backdrop for Wednesday's demonstrations was a general strike --
planned by unions before rioting started Saturday -- to protest the
conservative government's economic policies, including changes to
pension laws and privatizations.
Thousands of high-school and university students walked out of class
and joined the demonstrations to protest their discontent with the
government's higher-education and employment policies.
"For decades, Greeks have been pursuing the American dream: plenty of
money, nice cars," said Eleanna Horiti, 42, an Athens architect. "But
for Greek teenagers, the American dream has now vanished."
The Greek economy has enjoyed a decade of rapid expansion and is
expected to grow about 2% next year. But one lingering dark spot is
unemployment among young people.
Some 25% of Greeks 15 to 24 years of age are unemployed, meaning the
benefits of the country's economic expansion haven't been equally
distributed, said Claude Giorno, an economist at the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development.
Meanwhile, many students can't get into Greece's highly selective
state universities and are forced to go abroad or to local branches
of foreign universities, said Achilles Kanellopoulos, dean and CEO of
the American University of Athens. The problem, he said, is that in
most instances the Greek state recognizes only state universities.
"It's unfair," he said.
Alexander Kitroeff, associate professor in history at Haverford
College, said the length of protests among high-school and college
students is particularly striking because it is an age group that
hasn't been politically active since the early 1980s. But now, he
said, "they feel that they're not getting jobs and that they don't
have the same opportunities" of earlier generations.
The clashes across Greece were set off over the weekend after the
fatal shooting by police of a 15-year-old boy during an altercation.
A Greek court Wednesday ordered that two policemen be held in jail
pending trial for the shooting. One was charged with murder.
As the protests continued Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Costas
Karamanlis called for calm and announced a string of financial
support measures for businesses damaged in the rioting.
"The government is determined not only to make citizens feel safe but
to support businesses which suffered damage," Mr. Karamanlis said in
a televised message, announcing a string of subsidies, soft loans and
tax-relief measures for those whose property had been damaged.
Mr. Karamanlis's center-right government -- which has a one-seat
majority in parliament -- was already trailing in public opinion
polls before the riots. George Papandreou, the leader of the main
opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, has called for early
—Davide Berretta in Rome, Marcus Walker in Berlin and Thomas Catan in
Madrid contributed to this article.
Riots in Greece Spark Protests Across Europe
* DECEMBER 11, 2008, 9:34 P.M. ET
ATHENS -- Student protesters pelted police stations with rocks and
bottles, overturned cars and blocked streets in central Athens on
Thursday, and police responded with tear gas, as sporadic violence
persisted amid Greece's worst rioting in decades.
There were signs the unrest was spreading as violence erupted in
several other European countries. In small but violent protests in
Spain and Denmark, youths smashed shop windows, attacked banks and
hurled bottles at police, while cars were set alight outside a
consulate in France.
Protesters gathered in front of the Greek Embassy in Rome on
Wednesday and some turned violent, damaging police vehicles,
overturning a car and setting a trash can on fire.
Authorities say the incidents have been isolated so far, but
acknowledge concern that the Greek riots could be a trigger for
antiglobalization groups and others outraged by economic turmoil and
a lack of job opportunities.
"What's happening in Greece tends to prove that the extreme left
exists, contrary to the doubts of some over these past few weeks,"
French Interior Ministry spokesman Gérard Gachet said.
In Greece, four people were detained and at least one man was
hospitalized with injuries on Thursday, authorities said. In
parliament, lawmakers held a minute of silence for the 15-year-old
boy whose shooting death by police on Dec. 6 ignited the uproar on
At least 70 people have been injured and about 100 arrested since
then, when the rioting broke out within hours of the killing of
15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
Greece's conservative government has come under intense criticism for
its handling of the crisis, despite authorities' insistence that they
avoided heavy-handed policing to prevent bloodshed.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, whose government has a one-seat
majority in parliament, has ignored growing calls from the opposition
for early elections. He has promised shopkeepers affected by riots
handouts of €10,000 ($12,800) to cover short-term needs.
An opinion poll published on Wednesday showed that 68% of Greeks
disapproved of the government's handling of the crisis. Before the
riots began, the Greek government was already facing public
discontent over the state of the economy, poor job prospects for
students and a series of financial scandals.
as the rioting in greece enters its seventh day . . .
Diary of a protest
'We were full of anger and sorrow'
Natalia Bersi, aged 20, one of the student leaders behind the protests
sweeping Greece, here gives a day-by-day account of the turmoil that has
shaken the country over the past week.
"It all started very quickly, within an hour of the kid being murdered. I
was with friends in a taverna, our hangout in Exarchia, when one of us got a
call around 9pm that gunshots had been heard in a side-street. Later it was
confirmed that four kids had been involved in a clash with police and one of
the kids had been killed. By 10pm 2,000 people had gathered in Exarchia
Square. Even residents, who were neither young nor activists, sided with us
because this is not the first time that someone has been murdered by police.
The cops started hurling teargas. We were not only full of anger but full of
sorrow and with all my might I screamed "blood has been spilt and it demands
revenge". Then we marched towards the [Athens University] Law School,
chanting "cops, pigs, murderers". Some of us also started smashing banks and
daubing the walls with graffiti. We stayed at the Law School until 7am,
about 1,500 of us crammed into the building. The entire night, riot police
lobbed teargas at us.
"All of us - students, leftists, anarchists - got together in the morning
and decided that we'd march on [Greece's] Police Headquarters at 2pm. That
never happened because the cops attacked us, using teargas but we marched
nonetheless. People were so angry they began setting fire to shops and other
targets, mostly banks, which is symbolic and I think legitimate given
today's economic crisis. In the end, the march was broken up. A lot of us
like me hid in houses, shops, apartment buildings, anything to avoid being
picked up by the cops.
"That morning we all worked the phones like crazy, getting in touch with
students from other schools to plan what we'd do next. We decided we'd march
on parliament. We started off at the Propylaea [entrance to Athens
University] at 6pm but so many turned up, there were thousands of students,
parents, leftists, workers and anarchists, that the police didn't let us get
anywhere near the parliament. I realised how serious things were, that
people had had enough, that this wasn't just about police brutality but
popular discontent for policies that are so unfair. At around 8pm we
retreated to the Law School where we had an open discussion about what we
should do next. There were about 1,200 people inside the school. We decided
our struggle should continue with protests every day and that our basic
demand should be the fall of the "government of murderers".
"That morning I attended a general assembly at the Polytechnic at which
representatives from all the schools and student groups decided to put their
differences aside and step up action against the government. At noon we
gathered at the Propylaea, this time with schoolkids in tow, and marched on
parliament. Each day the behaviour of the police has got more provocative.
By the time we reached Syntagma Square we were screaming "Let the bordello
parliament burn" and throwing stones at them. Even though school children
and their teachers were also there, they attacked us with teargas. After
that I returned to the Law School where it was decided that we'd intensify
the protests nationwide because the government was being so unreasonable and
the police such pigs.
It got very hairy as we all marched through Athens with thousands of workers
who were staging a general strike to protest not only at the killing of the
kid but the [conservative] government's policies. Outside parliament the
stones and petrol bombs were flying and there was so much teargas it was
hard to see. Later we met at the Polytechnic and decided to make it the
centre of our operations because of its historic significance as the site of
the 1973 [student] uprising against the junta. We also decided to create a
radio station there to inform Greeks about our struggle. At around 5pm I
decided to go and speak to kids at a school after handing out leaflets
calling people to take to the streets.
"I went to our base at the Polytechnic quite early and was given the task of
addressing the public over a Tannoy. My generation has never lived moments
like this in Greece. For hours I sat there in the Polytechnic courtyard with
a microphone in my hand appealing to people to join us, trying to make them
understand that our struggle is just, before attending another rally in the
"At around 2.30pm thousands of us marched on parliament. When we got there I
shouted 'down with the government of murderers' and yet again the police
responded with teargas. The two cops who killed the kid have made very
provocative statements, saying he was a troublemaker. That's inflamed us
even more so we also shouted slogans demanding that they be properly
punished and not let off the hook.
In the days and weeks ahead we're going to continue sit-ins at our schools
and will hold daily protests to keep the pressure on the government. Our
hope is that this will become a social insurrection. There's deep discontent
in Greece and the heavy-handed tactics of the police has only made it
* * *
Greece 'runs out of tear gas' during violent protests
By Nick Squires in Athens
Last Updated: 6:41PM GMT 12 Dec 2008
Greece has issued an international appeal for more tear gas after supplies
ran low because police fired so much of it during a week of violent protests
across the country.
Officers released 4,600 capsules of tear gas during confrontations in Athens
and nearly a dozen other cities since riots erupted over the fatal shooting
of a 15-year-old schoolboy by a policeman last Saturday.
The greek government is urgently seeking fresh supplies of tear gas from
Israel and Germany, the police said.
Yesterday, a report disputed claims by lawyers for the policeman accused of
killing Alexandros Grigoropoulos that the bullet hit the boy after
The Kathimerini newspaper said that the results of forensic tests on the
bullet indicated that it had been fired directly at the teenager.
Athens Bar Association condemned the policeman's lawyer, Alexis Kougias, for
"desecrating the dead" by claiming that the 15-year-old had been a
The claims "constitute a moral murder which fuel tensions", the association
Yesterday, heavy rain helped to curtail demonstrations compared to the
intensity of recent days but still students and Left-wing activists again
hurled petrol bombs and stones at police outside Greece's national
parliament building in the seventh consecutive day of violence.
A group of around 80 students peacefully occupied a radio station in Athens,
reading a statement over the air and playing music, as many Greeks expressed
their frustration with the dire political and economic situation.
"It was one of the most intense protests we've had in Greece, but today it
could be the last day. I'm afraid it will be forgotten, like everything has
been in the past," said Fani Stathoulopoulou, 25. "Politicians didn't react
as they should."
Greece's socialist opposition has stepped up calls for the prime minister to
call new elections, amid the worst unrest Greece has seen since a military
dictatorship ended in 1974.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, whose conservative New Democracy party has
a parliamentary majority of just one seat, said he had no intention of
"It's evident that we are undergoing a very serious financial crisis as well
as a crisis in terms of what has been happening in the last few days and we
therefore need a consistent, responsible government and a firm hand to guide
the country," he said at an EU summit in Brussels.
"This is for me the priority and not any scenarios about early elections or
a change in leadership."
As Mr Karamanlis spoke, about 5,000 protesters marched through Athens
carrying banners saying: "The state kills" and "The government is guilty of
Several schools and universities remained occupied by students and
professors on one campus formed a human chain around the main university
building to protect it from further damage.
Los Angeles, California
"Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"
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