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“Returning as Shadows”
greece / turkey / cyprus | community struggles | opinion / analysis Thursday August 04, 2011 06:26 by Kostas Svolis
It is the people that have already passed the threshold between indignation and resistance that constitute this square which is trying to find other squares in order to provide them with the ground for locality in terms of resistance, claiming and creation, it is this square that brought together tens of thousands of people, it is this square that fought a tenacious battle in the center of Athens on June 28th and 29th. It is this square that by passing the threshold etches a new path and keeps the door of future and hope open for others, it is the social pioneer of the Greek society, it is the rival to the one-way course imposed by capitalism, it is the shadows that will always return through the teargas clouds…
“Returning as Shadows”*
Greece’s Parliament may have ratified the mid-term austerity plan, but just a few days later, the Greek government still faces the same dead-ends. Its fiscal programme is collapsing and its sole anxiety is to continue to serve its borrowers and to improve profitability terms for capitalists, by continuously decreasing labour costs, dissolving small property, selling out public wealth and ravaging nature and the environment. Any kind of measures taken by the Greek government seems ineffective in relation to the structural crisis involving not only the Euro, but Capitalism itself. Greece in not alone in this downfall; the company keeps growing. Debt, inflation, recession, stock market indices, are just a reflection of the true causes of crisis…
The Greek Government succeeded in ratifying the mid-term austerity plan in Parliament, through the cloud created by 2,500 teargas and stun grenades fired by riot police forces at tens of thousands of enraged citizens trying to dissuade the voting procedure on measures that continuously tighten the noose around the necks of workers, farmers, self-employed people and mostly, unemployed youth. Hundreds of citizens were injured by riot police batons in a battle that lasted 48 hours and during which, in spite of the terror and violence exercised by praetorians, they were not able, not even for a moment, to evacuate Syntagma Square and disperse the people who, since May 25th, have turned it to the center of their struggle as well as a symbol of resistance.
This time the case was not about clashes between anti-authoritarians/anarchists and riot police, but about a broad popular movement of resistance. Photos and videos on the Internet say it all: senior citizens who were trying to stop fully-armed riot policemen or young girls standing up against the barbarity of State violence with their unprotected bodies as their sole weapon. Those of us who were there during this time have lived and felt the dignity of resistance and “ya basta”. Because we were returning as shadows to the square after each and every attack of the uniformed murderers, through teargas clouds, shouting “the Junta did not end in ‘73”…
Through the 48-hour strike and the attempt to blockade the Greek Parliament, a circle of struggle was escalated. A struggle that started on May 25th, after the alarm clock, set by our comrades in Puerta del Sol in Madrid, rang – and we thank them for it. Because that alarm clock rang at the moment when, while the uninterrupted assault by capital, the government, the IMF, bankers and EU leaders continued, the deadlock of the previous circle of struggle was a given. Because it rang at the precise moment when, through the outspread attacks by fascist gangs on immigrants, social cannibalism was being transformed into a strategic tool for handling the popular classes’ pauperization and despair by power centers and the media.
The coincidence of the call for uprising at Syntagma Square with the disclosure of the austerity measures included in the mid-term plan, was the main reason for the mass participation of people in demonstrations. It is notable that neither trade union bureaucracy, nor primary-level trade unions, Left-wing parties nor even the anti-system political movements were able to take that sort of an initiative. The call by the Real Democracy initiative succeeded, in spite of any contradictions, contrasts and problems, to unite people who wanted to protest, whereas all initiatives taken in the same direction until that moment had only succeeded in separating them. This was due to the fact that unification took place on common ground: the people’s opposition to the memorandum and its consequences, in combination with an open procedure of exploring what the content of the people’s reaction would be. In contrast, the separations which marked the previous forms of popular reaction that were expressed mainly through general strikes, took place on the basis of ideological-political symbols and parties, as well as closed and predefined political content. The continuity promised by the Real Democracy call at Syntagma Square gave an answer to the problem that most people had already realized, i.e. that one-day general strikes were fragmentary and did not create any prospect for long-term resistance.
Nevertheless, the 48-hour strike and the blockage highlighted in the most distinctive way a threshold which, even today, the majority of Greek society has not yet passed; the threshold that separates indignation and protest from resisting and claiming. At the exact moment when the struggle reached its climax, it became obvious in the clearest way that there were two Syntagma Squares. One where people are able to express their indignation and protest, fling abuse at the Parliament and shout “thieves, thieves”, blow off steam for free and then return to their daily lives, with the innermost hope that new leaders will emerge who, through “purification” and the punishment of scapegoats will reconstruct consensus and, by engaging in national regeneration, will succeed in preserving even a small part of the apparent consumerist affluence that has characterized the previous decade. These are the same people that went to the square each weekend and afternoon and although they took part in the striking gathering of Sunday June 5th when the number of people surpassed 300 thousand, not only did they not participate in the June 28th and 29th demonstrations, but they didn’t even go on strike, as it is notable that in the public sector the percentage of strikers did not surpass 20%, a percentage notably smaller than the same one during other general strikes that took place in previous months.
On the other hand, there is also the “other square”, the “square” of resistance, demands and creation. The “square” where a great effort takes place, an effort to discover and construct structures and content that will reflect the possibilities and necessity for the establishment of a new field for exercising the political power of the people, totally different to parliamentary democracy, as the only way out from various alternatives that are being elaborated by capitalist power centers.
It is this “square” that is looking into the future, seeking to build a new tomorrow that will be based on a new perspective of how society should be and not just to return to the “happiness” of consumerism and spectacle. Nevertheless, this new tomorrow is not a prefabricated political outline with existing ideological symbols and predefined forms of struggle, but an open procedure of redefining not only the struggle’s nature and the content of the demands involved, but social needs and values as well:
Direct democracy, autonomous self-organization, denial of mass media mediation, the open content that is reshaped through continuous dialogue, egalitarianism in terms of assembly procedures (time limit, speakers’ draw, speeches) that works in an anti-hierarchical way and in juxtaposition with “political speech specialists”, are only some of the ideological stances and practices that appear as a given for a significant number of people participating in the procedures of the Syntagma Square assembly.
Furthermore, other ideas are fermented such as squatting the means of production, changing the model of production and consumption, the necessity to redefine social relationships and the relationship between society and nature, free access to common wealth, the necessity for a new statehood of direct democracy that will surpass the representative nature of parliamentary democracy, redefining the notions of politics and citizenship.
Nevertheless, all of the above does not mean that there are no views and concepts that although they should, they are not yet included in the fermentation agenda, such as: abolition of ownership of the means of production, the current commercial nature of both production and consumption, paid work relationships and numerous other issues. It is also a fact that there are equally problematic issues and characteristics that are being fermented in the wrong direction: a nation-centered perspective of growth, the essential absence of immigrants as a critical part of society, a lack of criticism of the role of commercial economy, non-class oriented perceptions regarding who is responsible for the debt and the fiscal crisis (politicians and bankers are being accused as responsible, but this is not the case with capitalists and bosses), the concept that economic and not productive capital is responsible for world crisis and much more…
But it must be kept in mind that this is a procedure that started little over fifty days before and it is only natural that in its current form it will not be able to provide answers, but it will bring forward these issues and start a public debate around them.
It is the people that have already passed the threshold between indignation and resistance that constitute this square which is trying to find other squares in order to provide them with the ground for locality in terms of resistance, demands and creation, it is this square that has brought together tens of thousands of people. It is this square that fought a tenacious battle in the center of Athens on June 28th and 29th. It is this square that, in passing the threshold, etches a new path and keeps the door of future and hope open for others. It is the social pioneer of Greek society. It is the rival to the one-way course imposed by capitalism. It is the shadow that will always return through the clouds of teargas…
What’s the time?
It is time to take our lives into our hands.
* This title is from a book by Paco Ignacio Taibo II
Wed 22 May, 12:46
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