Monday, 6 June 2011
Continuing Eyewitness Account: Greece Central Athens Square Occupation
Eyewitness Account: Greece Central Athens Square Occupation
For over 11 days Greeks have occupied the main squares in many cities, Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Iraklion. Left leaderless from all the parties that inhabit Parliament they are confronted with more IMF imposed measures to save a moribund capitalism which seeks to maintain its rule only at the expense of turning Greeks into a modern version of slaves of a new Roman Empire. The wholescale privatisation of Greece is on the cards alongside mass redundancies in the public sector as well as the control of the Greek Economics Ministry directly from Brussells.
Whilst the movement of occupation started as the consequence of the last general strike and influenced by events in North Africa from Tunisia through to Egypt and Libya, the Greek developments have taken on a distinctly Greek colouring. Based on ancient Greek history and the battle of 300 Greeks alone against the Persian hordes, a group of Greeks, and not only them decided to camp in the main city square opposite Parliament and demand a Plebiscite on the IMF imposed measures. Most of them were organised previously in the Spitha movement associated with Mikis Theodorakis but disillusioned with it when they heard there were moves to form a government they started a tidal wave which has grown beyond their initial expectations. Many via Facebook started to campaign independently for direct action by occupying squares and when one evening on 25th May more than a hundred thousand turned up a new movement was born.
The media has presented the demos as those of the 'Indignant' who aren't political when they actually imply there is no politics because no political party owns it but the event is deeply political by the fact that the slogans are extremely militant and the displays and discussion totally political. No one wants anything to be sold, or privatised anymore or the country to be broken apart and sold off bit by bit to foreign banks. What we are witnessing is the people in motion against the Parliamentary parties. If there was a real Left it would have left Parliament and campaigned with the people for an indifinite general strike until the govt falls, but this clearly does not exist.
The last weekend starting on Saturday and finalised this Sunday more than 500,000 have turned up at Sindagma to show their opposition to the MP’s in Parliament. There are essentially four parts to the events that occur.
a) A group of drummers that arrive with loudhailers and chant slogans between 7-10pm every evening
b) The group of 300 hundred citizens who have occupied the square on the corner and demand a Referendum on the IMF
c) A group that has occupied the main square outside the main metro station and have nightly debates in a Popular assembly.
d) There are also groups of people from artists, intellectuals, poets etc who have camped out on the square .
Sundays Event +700,000 in Athens
From early Sunday when the sun was going down massed crowds started to arrive. Pensioners, mothers with children some of whom were being breastfed on the square, disabled victims in wheelchairs, young people of all ages and they all participated in the various events in the centre which have taken their own logic. Those who wanted to chant slogans went to the front under the two main banners: ‘Bread Education Freedom, the Junta Didn’t Die in 1973’ in this square the IMF will fall’ and another massive banner with the slogan OUST (Out) with a massive picture of a helicopter’. Then they could go down to the square and engage in political discussions with the various stalls and displays or the discussions in the main square. So many arrived from all over Greece that the police started to use roadblocks in the Corinth area and also they used teargas to block protestors trying to arrive in the Athens demo around the Evangelismos Hospital and tear gas was used.
They wont be able to leave now this has started as many have been left leaderless by the opposition. The CP was on the periphery of yesterdays event handing out leaflet advertising all the new measures that the IMF is going to impose in a four colour leaflet as if the protestors don’t know what is coming or aren’t arguing against it with their countless original slogans which change daily and are reported by all Greeks to their friends, workmates when they go back home. In a conversation with a KKE militant he said even if the IMF goes as it did in Argentina nothing will change. The same people were condemning their own members this time last year for trying to occupy Parliament calling them ‘provocateur’s’ and their leader stated openly that she does not condone the disruption of meeting held by PASOK, in other words she hasn’t got a problem when politicians use riot police against peaceful citizens protests, as everyone knows and politicians most of all, that they cannot appear in public anywhere anymore without confrontations and protests.
These daily protests are taking a logic of their own and they will lead inevitably to some form of conflict as the state cannot allow indefinitely for this to go own. They are waiting for it to dissipate. But it has grown stronger so far. The possibility always exists for a Latin American style provocation (use of manufactured conflict amongst the protestors, or use of bombs) and then to clear the centre under health and safety rules, but this will be difficult to sell due to the volume of people participating. The social crisis aint going on holiday so the situation does not appear to be orientating towards a de-escalation, thought nothing can be totally guaranteed. What is clear is that a large body of people are now in a political vacuum. No one wants any of the old parties and they openly rally against them. We are clearly in a transitional period where the old is dying and the new has yet to be born.
Monday 7th June
On Monday the media apart from the govt one was on 'strike' so no reports occurred regarding the size of Sundays demo. The tickets on the Athens metro were reported to be around 250,000 and only a third ever pay and schools as yet haven't gone on holiday. Last night a Govt Minister went to give a speech in an area of Athens and the police used tear gas for the first time against citizens protesting and they had to get her out on a police motorbike wearing a police helmet.
As far as one can make out the politicians wont be able to travel at all anywhere. The KKE condemned most of these events as a sign of populism and they condemn all signs of violence whatever that implies, as the violence of unemployment, price rises and the IMF of course are 'hidden' from view. As the situation spirals out of control the KKE makes declarations of legality to the state.
Late last night frictions were created in the square as the people who organise the speeches under an umbrella organisation called realdemocracy.gr organised by the Euros who for years carried greek flags are now opposed essentially to people who wear flags on their backs and support the demonstratins chanting Hellas Hellas (Greece Greece)alongside other anti-govt slogans. The topic of debate was the issue of the Debt by the 'sprecialists' those who allegedly are up to the job of analysing the crisis, as if it isn't specialists who allready in power.
General Strike called today by government public services, Post Office plus Savings, Telecoms, Water, Ports, Greek Defence Industry plus Banks. Whistles and hats were distributed by many of the unions and the demos were separate once more but were on the same path. The KKE had around 1,000 whilst the others were at least 5-6 times bigger. The slogans weren’t that militant and are clearly behind what is going on Sindagma Sq. They marched passed the Sq and did not stay there to give speeches, but the midday sun was so hot everybody would have collapsed anyway if it occurred in front of Parliament but it could have occurred at the bottom end of the Square below and it didn’t. The union bureaucracy’s don’t want to be associated with the ‘riff raff’ on the square presumabely.
There are severe difficulties for the govt at the moment as it is being pressurised by the EU-ECB to propose a new round of measures which are agreed by the two main parties PASOK-NEW DEMOCRACY to be sold to the Greek people, but agreement appears to be difficult for it would imply hara-kiri for both.
The issue is now when the vote is alleged to occur on 15th June whether agreement will have been reached by then or whether the govt will have fallen. Another possibility is for a provocation to occur on the square and force the people to go home and they don’t appear to be doing so. Each day doesn’t have as many but various events increase or decrease numbers accordingly. Many should come again this weekend and if they continue this will put even more pressure on the govt to take some form of action. This situation cannot go on indefinitely and allready sections of the media are stating Athens in under siege. Over the last 5-6 general strikes black hooded characters have thrown molotov cocktails at police ranks right in the middle of the workers demonstrations and then given the green light for the police to attack and disperse the crowds. So far they haven't appeared on the square, but this being Greece, one is sure they are never far away.
Schools are supposed to break up this week and hopefully school students will join the ranks giving new blood to the movement. Greece isn't necessarily like Spain, where it was stated today the camps in the square were withdrawn and it is closer to Egypt. So far its been peaceful, but for how long especially now that the govt cannot essentially go anywhere. A protest has been designated outside Papandreous house next Wednesday as well....
The fallout from the largest ever post-junta rally (mass media now mentions that up to 2 million Greeks may have participated in all the nations squares) has meant that the govt has now announced that the 2nd round of IMF cuts targeting all and sundry from wage cuts to pension cuts, which was to occur on 15th June has now postponed the decision till 28th June, when it was allegedly to occur next week. They are aiming in dragging out the guerrilla war with the protestors up until they give up and go home.
Papariga the leader of the KKE (Communist Party) stated last night that we aren’t against the 300 MP’s in Parliament as our ones contribute their salaries to their party, as if the issue is solely about what individual MP’s do, not the system in place which has allowed Parliament to be a rubber stamping IMF institution. Instead of the Left leaving Parliament and campaigning on the streets, they are embedded to parliamentary ‘democracy’ till the end. 2 million people have left the traditional parties and aren’t going back in this lifetime, so when they chant ‘they must all go’ the mass media attack them for not offering an alternative, as if one has to offer something first before making demands on the IMF. First the masses have to join the KKE before they can demand PASOK leave, in other words PASOK should stay as the masses haven’t joined... the KKE.
Workers, unemployed and pensioners continue to go to the square daily. Sunday is expected to see large numbers again.
Mass Media calls for Greek Aganaktizmenous-Indignated to Encircle Parliament at 7am
The same call has appeared by those who support the alleged Popular Assemblies in the square at the bottom end of the Square – Euros and other assorted globalists. Up until yesterday ie for the whole of the past year, when thousands attempted to do just that they never called for the government to go. They are also calling for all the popular assemblies in every local areas of Athens to have marches and go to Sindagma. The joke with the KKE doing the rounds is that whilst Aleka Papariga its General Secretary for the last decade has called for people to go on the streets and fight, her latest call was for them to go back to the factories and fight the bosses there...
So what could be the purpose of this call by the mass media for people to encircle Parliament? To truly support the populist demands that those who are ‘thieves of public money’ should be court-martialled like in Goudi or that people should occupy Parliament so the troika of the IMF-EU-ECB are sent packing?
Impossible when taking into account that the Greek media networks are owned by the biggest capitalist sharks who own or take most of the public sector contracts when they come up and are those who are the best lackeys of the IMF-EU. What is being played therefore? But as with every protest movement capitalism seeks to subvert it, utilise it for its own ends and move on, without uprooting the fundamentals. Its no coincidence that for 3 weeks the media has been absent from the square as after all the protestors have chanted 'Scumbags, Grassers, Journalists' and have chanted against two journalists from Mega tv (which has supported the IMF continuously beyond what is necessary even by their own terms) one being female calling her 'Olga Tremi Paid Whore' and Prenteri the Overturn of the System aint a Media Show'. The latter threatened the protestors in an article in the main national daily Ta Nea with a provocation on the square stating that these types of protests occurred in the mid-19th century in France and when some where shot, causing havoc, the army came out to 'restore order' so they should watch what they wish for as the ...worst could develop.
There could be a possibility for provocation Marfin (when bank workers were burnt to death allegedly by anarchist provocateurs but most probably by the security services) style. There could also be the possibility that this government will fall and a new government of ‘technocrats’ and ‘personalities’ takes over to try and continue the IMF dictats but this time by ‘popular will’ ie the pressure of events on the streets. Tomorrow will show.
There will be a widespread general strike tomorrow and for the first time the union federations (GSEE-TUC and KKE-PAME) will march under the background of protests which have already occurred encompassing the overwhelming majority of Greeks who have been in squares for approximately 3 weeks. Many of their members have been on the demos on their own. So will they march together or separately? Will they stay in the squares and encourage the encirclement of Parliament? Will the riot police attack to disperse the strike as they have done at least 3-4 times previously with tear gas? Will the situation spiral out of control following its own internal logic?
At the same time certain PASOK MP’s are alleging they won’t vote for the 2nd round of IMF cuts and Standard and Poor has downgraded Greek govt bonds to below Ecuador and Jamaica.