Let’s get it out of the way. Yes, it is ironical that the birthplace of democracy is the first country to descend into dictatorship in the wake of the economic crisis…
Alexis Papachelas’ words from today’s Ekathimerini are far more than routine newspaper cliche or even journalistic outrage. For him, the spectre of 1974 is obviously a very personal matter.
‘It is difficult to discern any logic in such a situation. This is a country with a state that is in shambles, a police force in disarray, mediocre universities that serve as hotbeds for rage instead of knowledge and a shattered healthcare system. It is also on the brink of financial ruin. And now, here we are, debating whether we have a police state, turning back to 1974 and having the same conversations again and again.’
In the same newspaper Nikos Konstandaras wrote that:
“Mr Grioropoulos’ blood would be “used to bind together every disparate protest and complaint into a platform of righteous rage against all the ills of our society.
“It will quickly become a flag of convenience for anyone who has a grudge against the state, the government, the economic system, foreign powers, capitalism and so on.”
“If Greece had already appeared difficult to govern, it will now be out of control.”
The Greeks know all too well the kinds of regime which tend to emerge when a society loses faith in elected government and yearns for a strong leader to embody all its hopes, and assume all its responsibilities, and know what to expect from such unequivocal leadership, having enjoyed it within living memory. The doctrine of Might Is Right is one legacy of that time, and the young are now adapting it for their purposes. ‘The same conversation.’
As Alexis Papachelas puts it:
“They are also getting the message that right now, anything goes.”
“… the young have run out of patience.”
Which is hardly surprising since the Greek police have an unfortunate record of ricochets which went wrong, and arrests of cartoonists and other social undesirables, such as Antonis Tsipropoulos, of ‘blogme.gr’, who was arrested for offending a public figure through the satirical blog Funel. The status of online pamphleteers is shaky under Greek law, putting Greece in the same bracket as Iran, China and Vietnam. Perhaps they could all take time out to celebrate Milton’s 400th birthday by also reading the Areopagitica.
In a way, Greece has been preparing for this showdown for years. It is one European country which has retained an almost vintage brand of ‘ non-parliamentary’ militancy in its students and unions, while at the same time preserving a healthy balance of corruption and incompetence in its leaders and nurturing one of the most hated police forces in europe. Another debt to the Generals. It was always going to be a candidate for ‘events’ if the global economy suffered from ‘events’.
So which country will be next? The Greek alliance between students and workers is historically tempting to consider on this, the anniversary year of the 1968 risings. And globally, there are now more students than ever, suddenly facing long-term unemployment – as are their working class allies. And to help them through this period, all are facing the promise of cuts in social welfare payments – as a reward for their decade of obedience to consumerism. But the parallels with 1968 are as much a warning as a hope. Any serious assessment of that time cannot ignore the factionalism which has traditionally plagued progressive action. So the repeated use of the Greek word ‘anarchist‘ to describe the politics of student unrest must raise some awkward memories.
The anarchist condemnation of socialism:
‘Same cage – different bars.’
Will prove to be no help in solving the problems all working people will face in the next few years, when harnessing the flow of work will need more regulation, not less.
And the traditional socialist commitment to the centralised state – now obsolete anyway – must likewise be reassessed. The mistakes of the Vietnam generation must not be repeated by Generation Obama. ‘The same conversation’ must not happen again.