Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sooner or later you have to give your own opinion. Molly is "semi-familiar" with Greece, having visited the country a few years back, having a slight acquaintance with the language, and having followed events in that country for some years. I do not claim to be an "expert", and neither do I claim any precognition as to how events will play out in that country, with its complicated politics and with the inability of other countries to intervene at this time. All these caveats, however, don't say that one can't apply common sense to what is happening in Greece now, particularly insofar as it has "world importance" outside of the borders of Hellas- which indeed it does. Here are a few of my preliminary thoughts. Further developments may prove these right or wrong.


What is unique about the present rebellion in Greece, as compared to other previous uprisings in Europe, is the role of present technology in its development. After the original police murder the first protests were brought together within hours via such things as text messages. people gathered to protest without any organization that claimed to give out the call. This is, of course, very anarchistic, but what it does, in reality, is merely compress the "time frame" that has been evidenced in previous rebellions across the world. All previous revolutions have been the work of ordinary, non-aligned people rather than the work of conscious revolutionary organizations. Even the Russian Revolutions were, at first, a totally spontaneous uprising. The October Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power depended on their alliances with other forces such as the Left SRs and the anarchists, and this "revolution" would be better described by the term "coup d'etat" rather than "revolution". The actual "revolution" that the Communists set about forthwith to destroy was being made in the factories, the regiments and the rural estates of Russia by the people themselves. The "signals" were carried more by foot than by any other method. Trains and telegraphs, of course, spread the rebellion faster than word of mouth could, but the speed was still much slower than it is today.

This has meaning which has to be taken account of. The immediate success of the Greek rebels has, perhaps, given them an illusion of effectiveness that isn't justified by subsequent events. The best illustration of this is the call for an international day of solidarity on the 20th of this month. this was given with a very short notice. The illusion was that if, protests could be organized in Greece within hours that they could be similarly spread internationally within a day. The call was responded to, but, outside of Germany and France, it gathered few numbers and those only from the anarchist activist "scene".

The whole point is that the apparent success of the rebellion in Greece is predicated on a technology that has its limitations. It allows immediacy, but it also fosters the illusion that considered thought is unnecessary, and allows the participants to imagine that their own situation is the same as others. These sort of illusions can be forgiven when radical politics is a matter of "game-playing". they are unforgivable in situations where real goals are at stake.


The rebellion in Greece is already passing into history, and it will be compared to other such events in European history in the past half century. How does it compare to such events as the French uprising of 1968, Solidarnosc in Poland in 1980-81 and the Romanian Revolution of 1989. In one sense it is best equivalent to the latter. The first two had positive programs ie an idea of what was to replace the old order. The latter, much more violent than the events in Greece today, was also an inchoate uprising with no clear goals, and, of course, it was taken advantage of by those who had such goals. Nowadays in Greece those who would want to use the rebellion as a stepping stone to power, the socialists and the communists, have, like in France in 1968 been appalled by what has been unleashed. They are presently doing their best to restrain the movement, and have pretty much abandoned their own power seeking goals. The sheer persistence of the movement has astonished them and also frightened them. it has escaped their control.

The closest equivalent in modern history to what is happening in Greece today is France in 1968. The differences are instructive. In Poland in 1980-81 the rebellion was a trade union one, by definition a rebellion of the average person, of the population as a whole. In France in 1968 the rebellion was triggered by students, as a caste separate from the general population. Yet, the working class joined in, inspired by the goal of "self-management". Today in Greece this goal has barely been articulated. No doubt the phrase has been debased in the past few decades. It is presently one of the ideological shibboleths of those who have absolutely no intention of ever implementing it in reality, of social democrats, of Trotskyists, of communists and even of the most vicious and dictatorial of all- the Maoists. All of them use it as a slogan, but none of them mean it. They all try and confuse the matter, as the present Caudillo in Venezuela does, by pretending that control by state bureaucrats is the same as that of control by the workers themselves in an enterprise. is fucking not, and that is obvious !!!!

Yet, no matter how long the young people in Greece can "hold out" and continue with their protests they cannot succeed unless the general population joins in. Quite unfortunately the present movement in Greece is very much driven by disgust with the present government, and, unlike France in 1968, there are few indications of a positive idea of an alternative. This will condemn the movement to eventual defeat, no matter how heroic it may be. This is where the movement fails- its lack of a program.


As I have said "revolutionaries don't create revolutions". Such events are far beyond the control of sects and parties. They happen when a population is really and truly fed up with an intolerable situation. What "revolutionaries" (amongst whom Molly does not count as belonging) can do, however, is to provide a clear idea of "what to do" to the people during such times as the people themselves rebel. This is predicated on a long period of organization before such uprisings and clear and careful thought as to the perennial question of "what is to be done". It also depends on a clear and non-rhetorical idea of what is possible or not in a given situation and time. It also depends on recognition that you may get half-way there and be much further ahead than if you go for an end goal that is unachievable.

In Greece today there are organizations that have presented something of a "final goal" ie the anarchosyndicalist ESE and the Greek platformists. What they have failed to do is present anything like a way in which movements can be advanced towards such final goals and how temporary gains can be stabilized even if they fall short of the final goal. They have also, and this is no fault of their own, considered how rebellions of "triggers" such as the students can be generalized into the full gun of a revolution. This is hardly the task of small groups, such as anarchists outside of Spain are today. It is, however, something to think about for the future. Hopefully the present events in Greece will lead to a deepening of the anarchist understanding in that country and a growth of those anarchist organizations that can actually point to a realistic way forward. At the present time Greece is in the vanguard of the struggle for a libertarian society. What is needed is time, organization and clear thinking.
No doubt the political horizons of many participants in the protests in Greece today hardly go beyond putting handcuffs on Greece's admittedly brutal police or, at best, forcing the conservative government to be a little less brutal in its policies. Having seen the Greek riot squads marched up and down streets uselessly Molly has little respect for their "size" as compared to the average Canadian cop, but I'm sure that they make up what they lack in stature by sheer meanness if they can corner an isolated victim- but I also have to admit that they aren't great at maintaining formation when it really matters.I sit in wonder as one or two cops chase a group of rioters down a street. Stupid, stupid. stupid. It's a tribute to the ineffectiveness of the rioters that more don't get taken down. But these, of course, are sheerly military comments. Politics are what counts. In this our Greek comrades are both brilliant and deficient. Hopefully we can learn from them, and they will learn from what they are doing now. That is for the future.
More thoughts later as the situation develops.


Anonymous said...

Hey. Molly. I don't know who you are but I like your analysis of this.
What about the initial spill-over into Italy, Spain, Germany that surfaced in the media then quickly subsided? What is Greek media saying?

Dennis Morrisseau
P.O. Box 177
W. Pawlet, VT 05775
802 645-9727

Nicolas said...

Hey Molly,

I found this funny as what is happening is exactly what I had in mind when I wrote «R like Revolution». What's even more funny is that you are comming to similar conclusions despite officialy disagreeing with us back then.

The conclusion of «R like Revolution» is close enough to your conclusion:

There is a gap between the current situation and a revolutionary situation. A gap so great that many believe that a revolution is impossible. Obviously, it is not on the agenda in the immediate future and it does not seem ready to become so in the foreseeable future. That is not the issue.

The challenge is how to increase our relative strengths and to bridge the gap between the present and a revolutionary situation. For our part, we propose a strategy of radicalization of struggles and the creation of counter-powers. It is encouraging the development of consciousness and the autonomy of social movements. Building the power to possibly go on the offensive. Developing self-management and direct democracy in the struggle. Promoting social alternatives without creating illusions.

The revolution is a strategic option, it is our political horizon. It is neither an act of pure will, nor an incantory formula . It is a political perspective. Nobody controls the social climate. Often in the past, when the situation seemed hopelessly blocked, the times have accelerated and the revolution has arisen where nobody expected it.

If it reoccurs, will we ready ?

I would be interested to know if and how you feel what's happening right now and what you are writting here change your gradualist view.

mollymew said...

The two best sources for the solidarity demonstrations are A) The Occupied London Blog ( which has an extensive listing of all such actions and B) the Center for Strategic Anarchy blog ( As hinted above the callout for solidarity CERTAINLY gained a response, but in the worldwide scale of things the response has been tiny. This is only to be expected as the positive vision that I mentioned above hasn't made much of an appearance and likely won't.
No, Nicolas, I'm still very much a gradualist. As I made plain above the present movement- which seems to have passed its peak by the way, see later posts here- lacks the preliminary preparation and positive vision that only DECADES of everyday organizing can prepare. What is tragic is that there wasn't ENOUGH gradualism beforehand to give the sort of vision and living examples that would have drawn a larger number of the general population into actually changing the conditions of life, something that fighting the cops is irrelevant to.
In certain situations both gradualists like myself and those who feel that there has to be some sort of "revolution" in the unforseeable future quite often act EXACTLY the same, as long as the revolutionaries have a realistic perspective of what is actually happening. Too often they don't. But I never disagreed with you as much as you might think.
As I said above I think the Greek movement is now receding, and it is unfortunate that very little will be preserved in terms of partial gains- something that should have been strived for rather than "reaching for the golden ring".

Nicolas said...

I still have not made my mind about the Greek situation. To be honest, I dont know if things could developped into something more then a youth rebellion. Mybe after all it will be their may 60th but without the general strike (or maybe not).

What I do know however is that we never have decades of organising before a window of opportunity opens. If we look at everytime power have tremble on it's basis, it did not last long and it came not after a slow gradual build up but almost sudenly and caught everyone of gard. Even july 1936 came just after a dictatorship and decades where open gradual organising was made virtualy impossible half the time. We can think of many exemples where the potential revolutionary moment happen "too early" in a sense. June 1936, may 1968, 1972 in Quebec.

My take is that it take a revolution to get real social change. And revolution is a possibility. We must prepare for it. In the mean time, yeah, gradual organising. No problem. But we must always be prepare to move things a step further. Right now it might mean a factory occupation in Chicago. Tomorow it might means a scenario à l'Argentine. Or worker's council and a full revolution. But in the mean time we must organise. On this at least, we know we agree.