Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's amazing where reports of anarchists will turn up, often quite unexpectedly. For some years now Molly has been a subscriber to 'The Economist'. However much I might disagree with their politics The Economist is rightly famed for good news and commentary. The Greek anarchists have been mentioned before in its pages, without the customary tirades that one would usually expect from a "right wing" publication, but also with the usual, probably fully justified, comment that they lack any sort of visible plan or strategy.
So, here I am, reading the May 16th edition when I come across a brief article entitled 'Fear and Loathing in Athens. The article is basically about the recent (May 9) attack on an abandoned court building in Athens(squatted by immigrants) by members of the neo-fascist organization 'Golden Dawn'. As per usual there were accusations that the police involved in "controlling" the mob did little to protect the people inside the building. There were, however, those who did. Here's a excerpt from the article:
"One resident, Moncef. a mechanic from Morocco, says, "The police stood there and did nothing". It took a group of Greek anarchists to come to the rescue"
This sort of thing is good publicity that no amount of money could buy. There is some peripheral comment in the English language section of the Athens Indymedia site ( see http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=en&article_id=1028974 ) by an American apparently visiting in Greece. The comment, however, misses a point that is quite obvious to me. The author seems quite thrilled with the level of militancy in Greece, but he misses the glaring fact that a lot of it is "useless"(to put it kindly). The defence os the immigrants squatters, however, is far from useless. It is the sort of productive way that bravado of street fighting should direct its energies to- rather than pointless, endlessly repeating ritual combat with the police with no imaginable goal besides...more confrontations.
I know that there are some floating about the anarchist milieu to whom the word "effective" might as well be spoken in some sort of obscure dialect of a tiny tribe in Mongolia for all the effect it has. There are, however, many others to whom it makes a good sense as it would to any person possessed of common sense. The action described above actually had a point to it- the defence of the immigrants- and the fact that it can elicit favourable comment even from The Economist might give some pause for thought as to why it should be imitated rather than pointless ritual street dances with the police. I like it a lot.


ann arky said...

Perhaps you are a little harsh on the Greek anarchists. While I was in Athens Dec08/Jan09 I spoke to several of the activists at some of their "demonstrations" and all I spoke to stated that they had continuous discussions on how to try to carry things to another level but admitted that they couldn't find a way to engage the wider public. There has been other ativities besides "street theatre" there has been supermarkets looted and the goods dumped on the streets of towns and villages. One of the problems is that nobody knows the spark that will start the fire, perhaps stricking matches here and there will help.
ann arky www.radicalglasgow.me.uk

rsrcher said...

Thanks for posting this, Molly.

Good example of anarchists 'doing good' (which are uncommon enough in the mainstream, though routine in reality); reminds me of the story in January widely circulated on the 'anarchist web' where a group of Greek anarchists apparently collected something like 13,000 Euro to compensate the elderly owner of a street kiosk that ended up getting torched. Does make me wonder if the representation of international struggles (such as those in Greece) sometimes convinces even supporters that it's all about the street.

I agree that more 'constructive' actions (and well-placed 'defenses') definitely put up a good profile vis-a-vis potentially sympathetic populations...what exactly would you propose as a good set of angles to pursue these possibilitities?

Incidentally, my understanding of the situation in Greece is that Golden Dawn (the small but active neo-fascist anti-immigrant group) and other ultra-right groups in Greece are regularly confronted by some anarchists (and have been claimed to cooperate with police, as in the unofficial 'public-private partnership' that busted heads in Thessaloniki early in the uprising)...so confrontation with the ultra-right - of which your 'good example' is a manifestation - and with the police are perhaps not a clear-cut opposition in this scenario. That's certainly how it's painted in a number of accounts I've read...

mollymew said...

If you think I am harsh you should see what some Greek anarchists say about the movement in their country. It has been some years since the wife and I visited Greece, but I see no indication that much has changed since we were there.
A few points have to be made. The Greek movement is "huge" as compared to those of most countries, but it is STILL a tiny minority of the population. What happened late last year showed the potential but also the serious limitations of the movement there. To be blunt what happened then pretty well summed up the far limits of what the very!!!! loosely organized and often incoherant movement can achieve.
I have little doubt that discussions about how to reach outside the demographics that the anarchists presently appeal to were going on at the time you visited, and I also have little doubt that much of this went beyond the "how to have a better riot" that too often passes for such discussion in the USA. This discussion has been going on for years, and undoubtedly will go for years in the future.
The Greek anarchist movement is NOT one thing. It is made up of a number of different trends, often with quite a bit of anomosity to each other. "Anarchist on anarchist" violence is not an unknown occurance there.
When I was there I basically spoke to people in the ESE and the 'Anti-Authoritarian Movement', most of whom had great common sense. I made a conscious effort to avoid those who are described as the 'Autonomists', the very section that is so admired down in the USA for its pointless violence.It is the sort of thing that makes up the wet dreams of too much of the American movement. What has to be mentioned here is that the sort of petty terrorism carried out by what I believe to be a minority of the Greek movement has become pretty well much an accepted part of life in that country, something between dog shit on the street and car accidents in importance.
It has gotten nowhere in decades, and will continue to go nowhere, except to reproduce itself. I agree that the Greek movement, in general, is gradually moving towards more practical (and appealing to the general population) tactics because of ONE obvious thing. That they recognize that there IS A PROBLEM HERE. I can see it. Many Greeks see it. The Economist can see it, and if they thought the movement was important they'd be happy for it.
Having pointless street confrontations with either the fascists or the police really don't impress anybody but the participants on either side. Actually intervening when the fascists are attempting to DO something reprehensible makes sense.
There is an analogy here. It's like building a house. It takes a bit of planning and thought. Some are convinced that the "proper" way to hammer in a nail is to hold it steady by putting your thumb on top of it. Some think that, if you keep trying over and over to hammer a nail that way, you will eventually get it in instead of banging your thumb- and the house will be miraculously built. Others know better. Still others know that there are a great many steps between hammering one nail and building a house, and that conscious planning is just as much involved as experimentation.
Do I have "the magic plan" up my sleeve ? Of course not, but I do have a number of ideas some of which I have presented on this blog. In other cases i will admit that I just don't know. It is much easier to see what obviously doesn't work than to predict what might work in the future.
In the light of THIS discussion here's one such idea. Drop the idea of theatrical fights with the fascists and the police, and ONLY get into such fights where there is a real consequence- such as the defense of the immigrants was.