Thursday, December 25, 2008

A road to revolution? By Uri Gordon

... The mainstream media simply cannot stomach the notion that what is happening in Greece is by now a proactive social revolt against the capitalist system itself and the state institutions that reinforce it. It is time to acknowledge that the Greek anarchist movement has successfully seized the initiative after the killing of one of its own, framing the issues in a way that appeals to a larger - albeit mostly young - public. Few people realize that the Greek anarchist movement is appreciably the largest in the world, in proportion to its country's population. It also enjoys wide social support due to its legacy of resistance to the military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974. Highly confrontational demonstrations are a matter of regularity in Greece. It is practically a bimonthly occurrence for anarchists and police to engage in fiery street battles in Thessaloniki or Athens. The current events are only marked by their breadth and duration, not by their level of militancy. Another rarely appreciated factor is that Greece is a country in which the security apparatus is normally kept on a relatively tight leash. For example, Privacy International's 2007 assessment of leading surveillance societies found Greece to be the only country in the world with "adequate safeguards" against the abuse of government power to spy on its citizenry. The legacy of the dictatorship has created a lasting image of the police as inherently oppressive, even among the middle class. Will the riots in Greece lead to an anti-capitalist revolution? Only if the opening they have torn in the social fabric widens and deepens, involving ever-growing sections of society and creating new grass-roots institutions alongside the destruction of the old. This seems unlikely in the short term, as bureaucratic labor unions and the Communist Party attempt to domesticate the revolt and cut their own political coupon with their demand to disarm the police. But there is no doubt that a new benchmark has been set for what can be expected in Western countries during the coming era of economic depression and environmental decay. European governments will no doubt ratchet up their policies of surveillance and repression in anticipation of growing civil unrest. But that may not be enough to keep the population subdued, as crisis after crisis calls the existing arrangement of power and privilege into question. Uri Gordon is the author of "Anarchy Alive!: Anti-Authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory" (Pluto Press);

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