2008 Greek insurrection

From Anarchy In Action

On 6 December 2008, 15 year-old anarchist Alexis Grigoropoulos was confronted and killed by two cops in Exarchia, Athens, the stronghold of the country's anarchist movement. Within an hour, anarchists began clashing with the police, and attacking banks and luxury shops. Riots spread across the country. Universities were occupied for a month. The Void Network's Tasos Sagris estimates that more than 100,000 people participated in the December insurrection.[1]

Despite being prompted by a police murder, the uprising targeted much more than the police, focusing on the State and the entire capitalist world-system. A statement in the Greek anarchist magazine Flesh Machine evaluated: "This revolt was, in fact, a rebellion against property and alienation. A revolt of the gift against the sovereignty of money. An insurrection of anarchy, of use value against the democracy of exchange value. A spontaneous rising of collective freedom against the rationality of individual discipline."[2] "We will not dialogue with the State, we will not sit down to chat with Capital. We will not tell them what we want because they already know: we want them to die," wrote A.G. Schwarz in a defense of the movement's refusal to make demands.[3]

At the student occupation of Polytechnic University, people made decisions at a general assembly. Occupiers opened the kitchen and dining hall and served meals to anyone who came to eat. Groups went out every day to expropriate food from supermarkets and bring it to the kitchen.[4]

The insurrection set off many more years of protest. People around the country set up social centers and community gardens. Riots continued. A dog named Loukaninos, known as the "riot dog," ran alongside the protesters at many demonstrations, barking at riot police and, according to some reports, even kicking tear gas canisters back at them.[5]

At Greece's Skouries forest, anarchists and other community members established a blockade against the Canadian gold-mining company Eldorado Gold, which planned to clear-cut old-growth forest and build a massive open-pit gold and copper mine, an underground mine, and a processing mine. Mining trucks and bulldozers were torched.[6]

In January 2015, the country elected the social democratic political party SYRIZA, which had participated in the protests. Upon taking power, this party quickly bowed to the interest of neoliberal capitalism. In a referendum held on 5 July 2015, Greeks voted against accepting austerity policies that the European Union wanted to impose on Greece. A week later, the SYRIZA government agreed to a deal similar to the one voters had just rejected. Observing the undemocratic result and Syriza's recuperation of the insurrection, the social theorist John Holloway argued once a movement enters government, "the conflicts move from the cities to the state, from the streets to the closed rooms of inter-state negotiation."[7] Although the SYRIZA government temporarily banned the gold mining at Skouries, a Greek court decision in the autumn of 2015 allowed the mining to resume.[8] The government has since come to support the mining. According to Vice, "The current left-wing Syriza government was in staunch opposition to any mine expansions when it came into power in 2015, but had to change its tune as the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission, or troika, forced Greece to streamline investment processes, including environmental assessments."[9]

On 22 May 2017, the New York Times reported that, "Anarchists Fill Services Void Left by Faltering Greek Governance." Anarchists were running some 250 community centers, providing homes to Syrian refugees, distributing food and medicine, and patrolling neighborhoods to stop drug sales.[10]

Critique

John Holloway suggests that the Greek insurrection's hyper-focus on resistance in the years since 2008 may have been less effective than a focus on reconstruction. That's because the state has largely come to ignore insurrectionary violence, according to this theory:

If you think of Greece in 2011 and the extraordinary demonstrations there, in which so many buildings in the center were burned down – the state just carries on regardless. I think it’s very interesting and possibly very important in terms of future directions, because the power of attraction of state-centered politics and protests really depends upon the state having some sort of room for negotiation with the trade unions and with people protesting. If the state feels there is no longer any room for negotiation, or simply gets into the habit of saying ‘we will absolutely not negotiate’, then that closes down the margin for state-centered Left politics and pushes people more towards the idea that, really, trying to do things through the state is absolutely hopeless. So perhaps we can hope that non-state oriented politics will become more and more common and more widespread throughout society.[11]

  1. Tasos Sagris, "Nothing Changed, Everything is Different" in A.G. Schwarz, Tasos Sagris, and Void Network (eds.) We Are an Image from the Future: the Greek Revolt of December 2008 (Oakland: AK Press, 2010), 358-363.
  2. John Holloway, "No, No, No," Roar Magazine, Winter 2015, https://roarmag.org/magazine/john-holloway-no-no-no/.
  3. A.G. Schwarz, "The Logic of Not Demanding," in We Are an Image from the Future, 192-194.
  4. Pavlos and Irina, "This is the spirit of revolt" in We Are An Image from the Future, 116-130.
  5. "A tribute to Loukanikos, the legendary Greek riot dog," Roar Mag, https://web.archive.org/web/20141010101950/https://roarmag.org/2014/10/loukanikos-riot-dog-dies/.
  6. Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014), 297.
  7. Holloway, "No, No, No."
  8. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-02/eldorado-surges-on-reports-it-was-cleared-to-resume-greek-mining.
  9. Sarah Souli, "The Plan to Build a Gold Mine on a Seismic Fault in Greece," Vice, 1 February 2019, https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/3k5xz5/greece-gold-mine-earthquake.
  10. Niki Kitsantonis, "Anarchists Fill Services Void Left by Faltering Greek Governance," New York Times, 22 May 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/world/europe/greece-athens-anarchy-austerity.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news.
  11. Jeremy Roos, "Talking about Revolution with John Holloway," Roar, 17 April 2013, https://roarmag.org/essays/interview-john-holloway-revolution-state-power/