Greece: From Anger to Resistance!

After the deadly police shots aimed at 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, there have been a wave of uprisings across Greece. In almost all cities and every part of the country, the anger at the shots and the cynical attempts by the ruling class to hide the circumstances of Alexandros Grigoropoulos’ death has found an outlet in street battles with the police. It is not the first time that protesting youths in Greece have had to die on the receiving end of police bullets. The Greek police apparatus, notorious for its brutality, is shot through to an exceptional extent with fascists and reactionaries, and can look back on a long tradition of repression. Again and again, the police act against the struggles of workers, students and migrants with extreme violence. A resolution passed by a mass meeting of the occupied Thessalonia Theatre School encapsulates the widespread anger against the repressive powers in the following way:

The police murder of the young Serb student Bulatovic in 1998 in Thessalonika, the murder of the youth Leontidis by a policeman on Cassandrou Street in 2003, the death of 24 year old Onohua, after he was pursued by a plainclothes officer in Summer 2007, the murder of 45 year old Maria in Lefkimi in connection with a police attack on people resisting a waste-disposal site, the murder of a Pakistani migrant on Petrou Ralli Street in Athens last month, the daily degradation of, and violence against every petty offender in police actions all over Greece, the shots against participants in student demonstrations last year, the violent suppression of demonstrations, the violence against everyone who protests... And, of course, the daily murder of economic and political refugees by the border police. Even the deaths in the icy waters of the Aegean or the mine fields of Evros: all give an accurate picture of the Greek police.

Social Misery

But it is not just the irrepressible and justified anger against police powers that has brought people onto the streets. The seriousness of social and political misery is reflected in the present wave of protest. In recent years the country has been shaken by a series of corruption scandals. Politics, the administration and justice has been ruled by nepotism and corruption. Simultaneously, the crisis has hit the already-shaken Greek economy especially hard. As in other countries, after the turbulence in the finance markets, bankers and billionaire capitalists have been “supported”, whereas, in contrast, the working class has been loaded with further tax increases. The Greek pension fund is empty, the measly social security benefits are sufficient neither for life, nor for death. Many households are overburdened with debt. It is feared that many people will soon lose their flats or houses because increased interest payments means that they can’t pay for credit. This hits the younger generation especially hard. Many of the young, despite training, have no career prospects and are forced onto the treadmill of precarious employment. The so-called “700 Euro Generation“ is the phrase on everyone’s lips.


Against this background, it was only a question of when, and where the anger, against these conditions would break out. After days of continual street fighting the question posed now is of a perspective which goes further. As important as it is to defend oneself against police attacks, and to thus answer state repression, the burning of cars, banks and government buildings provides no basis for a political generalisation of the protests. In the long term the present level of confrontation can only be kept up with difficulty. A further fear is that the government will succeed, through its deliberate planting of provocateurs, in derailing the movement politically. The other danger is the hostile takeover of the beginnings of the movement by the bourgeois left and the unions. The Social Democratic PASOK, like the Stalinist Communist Party, see the chance to use the present situation for their own ends. They are unanimously orientating themselves for new elections and are trying to provide an escape valve by sowing illusions in the parliamentary spectacle. At the same time, the unions are pulling out all the stops to keep control of the situation, and to prevent the industrial core of the Greek working class from resolutely entering the struggle. Much will also depend on whether the beginnings of the movement succeed in maintaining and developing further their self-activity and solidarity against these defenders of capitalism. With all its limitations the current protest movement is an encouraging indicator that not all the chicanery of the capitalist system will be swallowed. At the same time, however, it also underlines the necessity for the construction of a communist alternative, an organisation which is, in equal measure, both international and internationalist, and is in the position to carry consciousness and perspectives into the movement, and which acts solely and wholly in line with the imperative: “to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, abandoned, despicable essence” (Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right).

For a stateless, classless society!

Gruppe Internationaler SozialistInnen (December 2008)