Thursday, February 12, 2009

When, in late January, people occupied the opera house in Athens Greece, declaring it liberated, the news became, if somewhat belatedly, widespread across the "anarchonet". Since then nothing. Perhaps that might be because the occupation ended 5 days ago.

It is perhaps not unexpected that news can travel slowly, and nobody is to faulted for not being "up to the minute". Even so the spectacle of one anarchist news site reporting the occupation a day after it had ended was jarring (NO, it wasn't LibCom, one of the earlier publishers of the news-we'll leave the offender nameless). Molly is certainly not without sin, even if I do my best to check before putting into print, in this sort of thing, and I'd be a hypocrite to criticize others too severely.

What is worse than being late is to leave the matter hanging in the air. I think that reporting the end of a protest may be just as important in many cases as reporting its beginning. Often far more can be learned from the end than from the beginning. I certainly saw a similar thing around the German 'Strike Bike' occupation in 2007. Huge publicity at the beginning, and not even a "closed sign" when it ended. Once the matter had ended it seemed to be dropped like a hot potato by its most enthusiastic publicists. I remember doing a post script months after the end of the occupation then, entitled, I believe, "What Happened to Strike Bike ?"

So, to not let the Athens Opera House occupation suffer that fate here is the statement of the occupiers when they abandoned the occupation last Saturday. the following is from the Tapes Gone Loose blog, produced by a Greek presently resident in England (I believe). See LibCom for the original report on the occupation in English.
Today, Saturday 7 February, the Assembly of the Rebelling Opera House, decided to depart from the Opera House, having won 9 days & nights of autonomy, liberty, creation, & self-organization in practice.
1st Act
We liberated the Opera House as a response to the strangling of free expression, to the imposition of counterfeit[/fake] desires, to the cement bombing of public spaces & to oppression. When even elementary rights are being trampled underfoot with chemicals, bullets, & sulfuric acid, the time to assume a stance has arrived.
2nd act
We made ours a symbol of status-quo art, redefining the relations between creator & spectator, teacher & pupil. For 9 days, a human mosaic that met each other in December, took shape through direct-democracy procedures & united politics with art, inside & outside the Opera House. We are not divided into artists & non-artists; we are life's budding flower.
Whoever thinks that the end of the occupation means the end of dissent should check their glee. We do not surrender culture to Niarchos, Lamprakis, or any other "specialist". It doesn't belong to them anyway. Our presence & actions in the Opera House shows that not only is the distinction between "high level" & "low level" culture nonexistent, but also that [this assumed distinction] is an expression of authority-related structures which divide us & fence us off. For us, art is a combat field.
3rd act
We continue getting self-organized, expressing ourselves & acting in public spaces, acting & creating in togetherness on the basis of autonomy & self-organization.
This occupation has come full circle once already, [a circle] which contained us all. We'll continue as centrifugal cells, diffusing our common experience & dynamics outwards in every neighborhood, park, or street.
Along the lines of our mobilization, the workers & artists of Buenos Aires's Teatro Colon Opera expressed their solidarity to our experiment during their mobilizations against 500 job cuts &, in essence, the dissolution of the Opera.
Messages of solidarity arrived also from the Universidad National de Rosario in Argentina, from the movement 'Rebellious Women Of Brazil,' from Venezuela, & from the Popular Artists' Union of Ecuador (UNAPE). We stand in solidarity towards all these [people], & we extend a call to every worker to redefine his role inside the dominant relations & structures.
The artists of life are not the jokers of authority, We do not want to become human flashbang grenades in the artillery of psychological repression, but [rather] fireworks of joy & deep feeling on the road towards societal liberation. We invite people to assume the initiative for analogous experiments, to meet & to shape together autonomous experiments.
Solidarity to Konstantina Kouneva & to everyone continuing the struggle.
Support those injured during the uprising.
Immediate release of those apprehended.
Reclaim the public spaces. [Say] no [to] cement-bombing.
We stand in solidarity to the Palestinian people.
The streets are our theater - the uprising is our art.
Coming up: 4th act.
What follows is an account of the march that was the last act of the occupation. It comes from, of all places, a Finnish Trotskyist site, the Marxilianen Työväenliito. Try to get past the unintended comedic picture of the Trots' EEK (all ten of them) spinning their feet wildly to get to the front of the demo and make sure their banners were photographed there to make it seem like they were leading the crowd behind. How little things have changed in the world of Leninist sectarianism in the decades that I have lived and how similar these people, in their innocent "seriousness", are the world over ! Things are the same the world over and "forever and ever, Amen". Don't get me wrong. I actually have some residual affection for Trotskyists. In their deadpan, clean-cut way they can be quite amusing, sorta like a Boston Terrier. I would be very much more pissed off if a Maoist sect tried the same trick which they do, of course. It's all the difference between what I see as naive and misguided and what I see as thuggery, a Boston Terrier versus a Rottweiller with a toothache. In the brave new world, post Marxist revolution, the Trots and I would be sharing the same jail cell. The only differences would be that the winners in the power contest would get the Trots first and, for some bizarre reason (known amongst the cognoscenti as "dailectics") the Trots would still be arguing that the dictatorship that was going to murder them was "progressive".
In any case the article actually provides a good picture of the spirit of the march, and its bows to leftist sectarianism are rather minor. I have edited the following, as per usual, for English grammar.
The artists and workers who have occupied on January 30th the National Opera House-Ethniki Lyriki Skini (ELS) and renamed it the Eksegermeni Laiki Skini (ELS)- Popular Opera in Rebellion- decided to end the occupation last Saturday February 7th . But they left the area that they had liberated not defeated; by their own decision they will continue the struggle in other places the next period. They departed from the Opera with a triumphant march in the streets of Athens to celebrate their success of attracting, for a week, thousands of people to an unique experience in recent Greek history of unification of art and revolution, despite the constant threats of the bosses and of the capitalist State, despite the conspiracy of silence of all the mass media.

More than 2000 people, mainly very young artists, participated in the march. The official Left, including the so-called “radical, extra-parliamentary left” was absolutely and shamefully absent. The demonstrators were non –organized revolutionary artists and workers, anarchists and the Trotskyists of EEK, with their leadership in front.

The three banners, which were for a week raised in the front of the Opera House, led the march: the main banner saying “Our theater is the streets, our art is the revolt!”, the banner calling for “Solidarity with Konstandina Kuneva”, the Bulgarian immigrant worker savagely attacked by acid, and a banner for “Freedom for the arrested of the December revolt”. During the 2-3 hours march, the symbol of the Popular Opera in Rebellion was reproduced on the walls of the buildings of the main streets: a ballerina on her pointes with a Molotov cocktail in her hand, an gas mask protecting her face and the inscription over her head, in Spanish, Viva la Revolución!

Thousands of leaflets were distributed to the passengers of the buses and to those in the streets, explaining the content of the struggle and expressing also solidarity for the artists and workers of Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires who were fired, thanking the comrades of Lucharte in Argentina who introduced the issue of the occupied Opera in Athens to the workers of the Teatro Colon and organized solidarity from all over Latin America (Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador). The leaflet of the artists in rebellion expressed also their full solidarity to the people of Palestine.

Behind the banners, many artists were dressed as for a show or as clowns. In front, marched a very beautiful, very young, ballerina with the two wings of an Archangel on her back, with her left fist raised while she was shouting revolutionary slogans- a really messianic figure! There was an orchestra playing music and supporting the songs of the marchers: a Cretan revolutionary song that we used to sing during the last military dictatorship of the colonels and in the 1973 Polytechnic uprising, “Bella Ciao”, ‘Commandante Che Guevara”, the International, but also the Toreador from the opera Carmen by Bizet, Ravel’s Bolero, as well as jazz (“When the Saints go marching in”), music from the popular theater of shadows Karaghioz, etc. There was also a caserolazo producing a fantastic noise.

The march has passed first from the place where the young Alexis Grigoropoulos had been assassinated by the police on December the 6th, a site which has been transformed into a popular shrine. At that point there was absolute silence, and, suddenly 2000 youth started to shout with what is called by the Bedouins in the Arab lands, “the Scream of the Desert”. It was like the simultaneous cry of 2000 wounded cubs. Nothing else. No slogans, no songs, just a scream for Alexis.

The march continued through the streets and the main square of Exarcheia, and then passed to the Polytechnic University. The marchers wrote a long inscription in its walls saying “Over the ruins of bourgeois civilization, we plant the forests of our dreams”.

The demonstration marched in the central avenue of Patission and it was directed to its final destination: a park which was destroyed by the right wing Mayor of Athens who cut all the trees of that popular place (the same Mayor had sent the riot police to guard the hideous Christmas Tree in Syntagma square during the December clashes) . The park was destroyed to make a parking lot for a big capitalist company. The people of that area (Kypseli) revolted last week, the mayor sent the riot police- and three kids were sent to the hospital (including one young comrade of ours who saw three toes of his foot cut off by a smoke grenade of the police).

When the march arrived at the destroyed park (where the people now try to plant new trees and they are camping there all night to prevent the building of the private parking) a popular fiesta started, full of joy, during all Saturday night, interrupting, of course, the traffic in own of the main avenues of the Greek capital!
La Luta continua!


rsrcher said...

A much appreciated posting! I'd noticed the news item (a single text containing a communique and a couple of details that went up quite number of places around the 6/7/8th), and it seemed a bit atemporal...I tried a couple of searches, and got a ton of sites with the same item. Frozen in text.

This is of particular interest as I am cobbling together a bit of a project (a lucky convergence of personal interest and a cool anthropology class) on the ongoing/aftermath of the Greek uprisings on the net, and finding some dissonance between post-facto reconstructions and analysis (or those that have dropped the matter for fresher news) and the bits and pieces that seem to suggest things still a level that would be a really big deal if it were happening in Montreal (where I find myself these days). The news is thinning out in a lot of channels, and just as I was getting hooked!

Anyhow, thanks for digging up the good stuff and posting it for the rest of us (and extra thanks: I linked this on my blog for the project I'm working on...hope you don't mind.)

mollymew said...

Nope, no problem. Link away.
As I alluded to in the article I am somewhat disturbed by what I see as an oft repeated pattern around reportage of this, that or the other struggle. If you want to put it crudely, "every marxist sees every strike as 'the revolution' while too many anarchists see every riot as the same". To say the least this way of lokking at things is that old Marxist swearword "ahistorical", a swearword that marxists hardly ever comprehend the meaning of.
This is particularily sad in the 200th year of Darwin, when historical thinking should have become part and parcel of our everyday thoughts. I'm sad to say that too many "radicals" live in what I consider a dreamworld of abstractions and emotions. This blinds them to the ever shifting waves of struggle and passivity that comprise class society. they respond with fantastic enthusiasm to tghe peaks of the ways but learn nothing from the troughs, often ignoring them entirely.
Too bad.