We want first of all to say a collective yes! to the uprising in Greece. We are artists, writers and teachers who are connected in this moment by common friends and commitments. We are globally dispersed and are mostly watching, and hoping, from afar. But some of us are also there, in Athens, and have been on the streets, have felt the rage and the tear gas, and have glimpsed the dancing specter of the other world that is possible. We claim no special right to speak or be heard. Still, we have a few things to say. For this is also a global moment for speaking and sharing, for hoping and thinking together...
No one can doubt that the protest and occupation movement that has spread across Greece since the police murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos in Athens on 6 December is a social uprising whose causes reach far deeper than the obscene event that triggered it. The rage is real, and it is justified. The filled streets, strikes and walk-outs, and occupied schools, universities, union halls and television stations have refuted early official attempts to dismiss the social explosion as the work of a small number of “young people” in Exarchia, Athens or elsewhere in Greece.
What remains to be seen is whether the movement now emerging will become an effective political force – and, if it does, whether it will be contained within a liberal-reformist horizon or will aim at a more radical social and political transformation. If the movement takes the liberal-reformist path, then the most to be expected will be the replacement of one corrupt party in power by its corrupt competitor, accompanied by a few token concessions wrapped in the empty rhetoric of democracy. These would almost certainly be the smoke-screen for a reactionary wave of new repressive powers masquerading as security measures. Only radically democratic and emancipatory demands, clearly articulated and resolutely struggled for, could prevent this outcome and open the space for a rupture in a destructive global system of domination and exploitation. As we count ourselves among those who experience this system as the violent negation of human spirit and potential, we could only welcome such a rupture as a reassertion of humanity in the face of a repressive politics of fear.
Observing events in Greece and the official and corporate media discourse developing in response to them, we note the emergence of what begins to looks like a new elite consensus. The “violent unrest” in Greece, we are told with increasing frequency, is the revolt of the “700-Euro generation” – that is, of overeducated young people with too few prospects of a decent position and income. The solution, by this account, is to revitalize Greek society through more structural adjustments to make the economy more dynamic and efficient. Once all people are convinced they will be welcomed and integrated into consumer reality and rewarded with purchasing power commensurate with their educational investment, then the conditions of this “revolt” will have been eliminated. In short: everything will be fine, and everyone happy, once some adjustments have made capitalism in Greece less wasteful of its human resources.
We have seen this strategy before, in response to the uprisings in the suburbs of Paris and around the CPE “reforms” in France several years ago. Indeed, since the 1960s this has been the perennial, preferred strategy of power to all uprisings that show themselves unwilling to disappear immediately. Its functions are crystal clear: to channel the movement in a neutralizing liberal-reformist direction and to provoke divisions by means of lures and promises. Those who don’t take the bait are left isolated and can be safely targeted for repression.
We hope those in the streets and all those who sympathize with and support them in and outside of Greece will see through this strategy and expose and denounce it. We’re sure that there is much more at stake, and much more to be imagined, hoped and struggled for, than will be on offer in this neo-liberal sleeping pill. And we hope that, in the space opened up by the real rage and courage of people who have left passivity and hopelessness behind, this social movement will now organize itself into a durable political force capable of scorning such recuperative enticements.
In light of the above, we declare openly that:
1) We are moved by the courage and humanity of those who have repeatedly filled the streets and are now occupying schools and university campuses in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, and cities across Greece. Our solidarity with them will not be shaken by official attempts to divide the movement into “good” protesters and “bad.” In the face of the police murder of a 15-year old – only the most recent in a long series of such murders by state officers – and in the face of the grinding inhumanity and relentless militarization of everyday life under the capitalist war of all against all, the destruction of private property does not upset us. To be clear: We’re not endorsing violence blindly; in fact we’re heartened to see that actions are becoming more selective, more political, with each day. But we know how divisive fixation on the “violence” of protesters can be in moments such as these. And so we refuse to go along with attempts to isolate certain groups. Those who play along with that script allow themselves to be used in a way that delivers others to direct repression.
2) We call for the immediate liberation and unconditional amnesty for all those arrested for participating in the uprising – more than 400 people at this writing.
3) We reject all attempts to trivialize this uprising by reducing it to the revolt of an overeducated “700-Euro generation.”
4) We categorically reject any attempt to smear this uprising with the label of “terrorism.” The only terror it is appropriate to speak of here is the ongoing state terror inflicted on the autonomists of Exarchia, on immigrants, on the poor and vulnerable, and on all those who refuse to conform and submit to the bleak and violent givens of capitalist normality. We condemn any attempt, now or in the future, to apply draconian “anti-terrorism” laws and measures against those participating in this movement.
Brett Bloom (Urbana)
Dimitris Bacharas (Athens)
Rozalinda Borcila (Chicago)
Peter Conlin (London)
Alexandros Efklidis (Thessaloniki)
Markus Euskirchen (Berlin)
Nathalie Fixon (Paris)
Bonnie Fortune (Urbana)
Kirsten Forkert (London)
John Fulljames (London)
Jack Hirschman (San Francisco)
Antoneta Kotsi (Athens)
Isabella Kounidou (Nicosia)
Henrik Lebuhn (San Francisco)
Ed Marszewski (Chicago)
Jasmin Mersmann (Berlin)
Anna Papaeti (Athens)
Csaba Polony (Oakland)
Katja Praznik (Ljubljana)
Gene Ray (Berlin)
Tamas St. Auby (Budapest)
Gregory Sholette (New York)
G.M. Tamás (Budapest)
Flora Tsilaga (Athens)