Sunday, October 25, 2009

The new socialist (PASOK) government of Greece is giving early signs of following in the footsteps of its conservative predecessor in terms of its repressive actions towards various social movements. Coming to power upon a cloud of vague generalities about a better deal for the Greek working class PASOK has had to face several militant strikes, each of which makes to more apparent than the last that the new government has few fiscal resources with which to grant any great concessions. As to immigrants and the extra-parliamentary left (of which anarchists make up a large proportion) there is even less likelihood of anything but feel good words. The following story from the LibCom website tells the story of an event that sparked the most recent clashes, the police raid on a book launch of all things.
Police forces invade Exarcheia and raid a book presentation in Athens, leading to scores of detentions, amongst which was a leading historical figure of the anti-dictatorship struggle.

The police raid on Exarcheia in the evening of Wed. 21/10 came as a total surprise. Government sources are claiming it was a result of an attack with rocks against a foot patrol in the outskirt of the area. This claim remains unverified and disputable.

The occupation army, as the locals call the riot police, entered by any possible route with menacing intentions. For reasons still unclear 50 plain-clothed policemen wearing helmets invaded Floral, a newly re-opened historical cafe of the area, where a book presentation was being held with the presence of prominent writers, journalists and the leader of the Radical Left Coalition, Mr Tsipras. The cops proceeded to arbitrarily and indiscriminately arrest customers, amongst which was a well known left-wing journalist. According to eye witnesses the cops exited the building howling and posing with the victory finger-sign.

Just outside the cafe, on Exarcheia Square, the police also arrested Mr Papachristou, a symbol of the resistance to the Junta of the Colonels and the radio-voice of the Polytechnic Uprising in 1973 against the dictatorship. A State TV journalist who tried to film the arrest with his mobile phone has been also arrested.

As a first response to the unprecedented police attack, the arrest of Papachristou is estimated to be either a gross symbolic mistake on part of the Socialist, or the signal for a turn of the clock back to the darkest days of greek history.
Well, something that appears to be concessionary has developed from the events in Exarcheia, as the following story also from LibCom details. But, as the story hints, the reason for the dismissal of the Greek chief of Police may have more to do with freeing up a perk for a supporter of PASOK rather than any sincere desire to control the often brutal Greek police.
Chief of police resigns over book presentation raid in Athens:
The Chief of Police of Greece, Mr Tsiatouras, has resigned after the demand of the Minister of Public Order over the book presentation police raid in Athens, while thousands marched against the police-state imposed in the last 15 days in Exarcheia.

On Thursday 22/10 morning the Minister of Public Order Mr Chrisochoidis has demanded and got the resignation of the Chief of Police of Greece, Mr Tsiatouras, over the police raid of a book presentation the previous night that led to scores of detentions of unsuspecting citizens, amongst which Mitsos Papachristou, a leading figure of the resistance against the Colonels' Junta and the 1973 Uprising. Mr Chrisochoidis has apologised once more about the incident but his attitude has been received with mixed feelings as many see it as just a chance for him to get rid of a high ranking officer of the last government, and not a sincere move against police arbitrariness which if anything has skyrocketed since the new, Socialist, government was placed in charge of the country 15 days ago.

Mr Chrisochoidis is widely considered to be in a personal battle with the revolutionary and social antagonistic movement that has swept the country since the December Uprising in 2008. Having gone public in the last week claiming, on the one hand, that he is friends with anarchists (well yeah, I can see this. I don't chose my personal friends by politics either, but...politics are agreat way of predicting how people will act in certain situations-Molly ) and shares many of their ideas, and on the other hand that anarchists are simply "economic criminals hiding behind a quasi-ideological veil", his reliability is in serious doubt. His latest delusional statement is that "the police will remain in Exarcheia till the last hooligan is routed", the word hooligan referring to anarchists, leftists and other radical groups which have made the particular city quarter a most vibrant center of cultural, political and social creativity and critique in the last half century.

At the same time that the government is parading in TV channels trying to keep its propaganda machine oiled, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Athens against the police-state. The dynamic march which started from Exarcheia square made the circle of the historical centre of the capital past the Parliament and ended at Propylaea in front of the occupied University's Rector Headquarters. During the march police presence was particularly discreet.

Lawyers of the Legal Support Association have strongly condemned the government of installing a police-state in Exarcheia, bringing back not just memories but concrete practices of collective punishment of the 1960s dictatorship. The Association has publicly called for the resignation of the Minister who, it claimed, was out-of-the-law. Mr Mavridis, lawyer and anti-dictatorship veteran, has gone public saying that "if this situation continues, the government will be facing not just the youth but an older generation, ready for war and with a good knowledge of it".
As far as I can determine the present socialist government of Greece has decided (wisely) to back down over these matters. They certainly have much more serious challenges, both economic and social, and a much more serious potential opposition should they be unable to mollify the Greek working class. Greece may be unique in the modern world in that, while the majority of Greek anarchists do not agree with insurrectionist ideology (which is far too often merely bastardized Maoism), that there has been a decades long tradition of petty terrorism that has never destabilized the Greek state (nor in reality can it ever do such a thing ) nor led to enough of a repressive response that would end it. Greece has learned to live with this petty terrorism, and the Greek anarchist movement has been continually growing and exploring alternatives to this 'anarcho-Maoism'. These alternatives have often been quite successful, as I can attest to from my own visit to Greece some years ago.
The last conservative government lost power for a number of different reasons. Its overwhleming corruption, a characteristic it shares with most "defenders of traditional morality" conservatives across the world, is only one reason. The other is that large numbers of ordinary Greeks believed that PASOK could actually protect them from the effects of the economic downturn- and were actually willing to do such a thing. As an ex-social democrat, however, Molly can testify that social democracy in power is the Mr. Hyde to social democracy in opposition's Dr. Jekyll. There are structural reasons why this will always be the same. The final article below, once more from LibCom gives at least an outline of the disgraceful history of PASOK in Greece. It's good reading, and all that I can say is that it should have included a much longer section on PASOK's betrayal of the aspirations of ordinary people and not just their repressive actions towards those who are to the left of their party.
Change in khaki: a very Socialist repression looms in Greece:
Continuing waves of mass police operations in down town Athens set the pace for new era of repression in Greece.

Everyone thought it was just a show of power - but it proved to be the Socialist government's plan for "change" after 5 years of brutal right wing rule.

The police invasion of Exarcheia, the Athens alternative-radical hub, on the early hours of Friday 9 October was evaluated by most journalists, activists and veteran politicians as a power-show of the new government, in response to a limited solidarity attack against banks in the area just out of Exarcheia earlier the same day. Minister of Public Order Mr Chrisochoidis, the notorious anti-terrorist mastermind of the last Pasok administration, appeared to many as just typically determined to show who is the new boss. But the continuing waves of police invasion (3 by Friday 19:00 pm) into an area which is commonly acknowledged as the most vibrant intellectual, student and political hub of the country, with hundreds of people stopped and checked, many manifold times in the same day, shops stormed, and locals humiliated by being made to kneel on the pavement and body-searched, has come to prove the new government's self-professed "antiauthoritarianism" a bitter joke.

Pasok, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, now in power has a long record of police brutality. In its first 8 years of rule, the "democratisation of the police" was revealed as a sham with the execution of 15 year old anarchist Michalis Kaltezas in November 17 1985 during the usual protest marches commemorating the 1973 Polytechnic uprising. The identification of Pasok with police rule at the time was reflected in a popular slogan about the chief of the Athens police: "Change cannot happen without Arkoudeas; he is not a man, he is an idea!". In the second round of Pasok rule from 1993 to 2004, the Socialists gave away any remaining scruples by ordering the evacuation of the Polytechnic on November 17 1995, breaking for the first time the academic asylumtime since the student massacre of 1973, with 500 people arrested. Also under the 1990s Pasok administration the Golden Dawn, the infamous neo-nazi organisation of thugs, was allowed to form a paramilitary unit and participate in the Serbian sacking of Srebrenica, and the consequent massacre of thousands of muslims.

The new Pasok administration under Papandreou the third (son of Andreas Papandreou, founder of Pasok, and grandson of George Papandreou, the PM who led the British tanks against the people of Athens in December 1944) has assumed an antiauthoritarian gloss of postmodern proportions. The PM has called his government "antiauthoritarians in power" whereas Mr Chrisochoidis has gone public today saying that he is good friend with many anarchists and agrees on many things with them - pointing out that he is against vandals not political groups. Mr Chrisochoidis also claimed that from now on no police violence will be tolerated and any cop who brutalises citizens or has connections with the Golden Dawn will be immediately sacked. These official announcements have received great media coverage but also the scorn of people whose memory is not too short to remember Mr Chrisochoidis's 2002 chemical torture of Savas Xiros, the first arrested member of the urban guerrilla group November 17.

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