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Social Movements

by Akis Gavriilidis

In December 2008, Athens became world news for the first time in recent years, for a reason that was soon overshadowed by the financial and debt crisis that came immediately after. I think it would be useful to revisit this event now, when it is not so loaded any more in terms of public attention and affect.

This reason was a totally unpredicted, contingent event: the pointless murder of a youngster by a policeman, which sparked a wave of massive and angry protests for several days in Athens –including in neighbourhoods where no demonstrations had ever taken place in living memory- as well as in all major Greek cities, and several minor ones. These consisted in mass rallies, mainly by equally young people with no previous experience in social protest, occupation of public buildings, “sieges” of police stations, but also considerable damage on private property and some looting of shops by the demonstrators and/ or others. The difficulty to tell a demonstrator from an “other” was precisely an important part of the whole picture, as no political or other body or organisation had made any official call for these protests. But this does not mean they were “spontaneous” in the usually pejorative sense that this term has in the left-wing tradition; many of these actions displayed a high degree of Read More

Dimitris Papadopoulos, Vassilis Tsianos & Margarita Tsomou

Metropolitan blockade is when urban space turns against itself, blocks the movements and the connections that sustain it, only to mobilise space as a direct means for political action. Metropolitan blockades are today the chinks in the wall of established politics through which we can get a glimpse of the future. It was the blockade of Syntagma square in Athens in 2011, which gave birth to a new frame of time and space in Greek politics, where future was again at stake, where future took place instantly in the discourses and practices in people’s assemblies. The area of Syntagma square became a zone outside of representational political power and oligarchic democracy. From the perspective of established political power this turn of urban space against itself is conceived as process that creates Read More

By Akis Gavriilidis & Sofia Lalopoulou

First publication: Law and Critique (2012, DOI: 10.1007/s10978-012-9110-0)

Mια πρώτη μορφή του άρθρου αυτού είχε δημοσιευθεί στα ελληνικά εδώ

Abstract

In October 2011, George Papandreou, the then Greek Prime Minister, announced he was planning to hold a referendum in order for the Greek people to decide whether to agree to the bailout plan prepared by the International Monetary Fund, the Central European Bank and the European Commission. This intention was aborted due to intense pressure by Papandreou’s European partners, especially Germany and France. This interference clearly shows the problematic relationship between the so-called “markets” and national-popular sovereignty. This article raises the question why this interference happened in the first place, why the global markets felt such a big threat before the possibility of a vote taking place in a small country of 10 million inhabitants. And also, importantly, what this means in terms of potential for political agency by those who are usually considered be lacking such agency, as having “no other alternative” than to follow the one way course of neoliberalism.

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1. The radicalisation of the Greek society exceeds all the formal social and political dynamics that have burst into the central political scene in the context of the two rounds of the Greek parliamentary elections (May 6 and June 17). The electoral results are overshadowed, in many respects, by the social forces and antagonisms that continue to push existing parliamentary politics to its limits.

The last gasp of the old political system was the attempt to strip off the electoral campaign from these antagonisms. The attempt has been ‘successful’, but only within the horizon of the short-term reduction of their electoral losses that seems impossible to sustain for much longer. In both elections, there was no political party campaigning with a pro-memorandum agenda (apart from some fringe neo-liberal parties (practically sponsored by media and corporate conglomerates) who didn’t even manage to reach the threshold of 3% of the votes in order to elect MPs. All the parties of the old establishment shifted towards a ‘re-negotiation of the memorandum’ platform that was supposed to neutralise the ‘politics of the nullification of the memorandum’ proposed by Syriza. The electoral dilemma was then set as one between ‘responsible multilateral negotiations’ with our European partners and a politics of unilateralism (that would automatically jeopardise Greece’s Euro membership according to the anti-Syriza bloc), but all within the framework of ‘the memorandum is not sustainable’ discourse. Along these lines, the ruling parties pursued a strategy of re-nationalisation, calling for national unity ‘to change the memorandum in the best we can’, and castigated Syriza for being the obstacle to the re-institution of this national unity. Read More

1. The 12th February demonstration in Athens, consolidated, what is becoming clearer in the past weeks: a growing majority of the Greek people support the refusal of the memorandum no.2 no matter what. In spite of the fear mongering spread by the pro-memorandum forces that a negative parliamentary vote would entail an immediate euro exit and the ensuing Africanisation of Greece, the popular support for the new EU-ECB-IMF loans and the correlated austerity measures is waning significantly. The formal political debate is increasingly based on a politics of fear: the government’s and mainstream media’s principal argumentation is stripped, on the one hand, to the bare threat of what a disorderly Greek bankruptcy would entail -invoking often assumed similarities with Greece’s plight during the World War II occupation by German and Italian troops- with basic food and medicine shortages and a lack of basic public amenities like gas, heating, electricity; on the other hand even mainstream media cannot but be critical vis-à-vis the most dismantling provisions of the memorandum no.2 for any sign of consensual legitimacy, such as the automatic decrease by 22% of minimum wages, the content and scope of collective bargaining and so on, insisting however ‘in the final analysis’ that the dilemma posed leaves only one choice.  Read More

 του Άκη Γαβριηλίδη

Ένα κοινό ανάμεσα στο κίνημα των «αγανακτισμένων» και το Δεκέμβρη του 2008 είναι ότι και τα δύο κατηγορήθηκαν για «αφωνία», για το ότι ήταν ασαφή, συγκεχυμένα, χωρίς συγκεκριμένα αιτήματα.

Βέβαια, αυτοί που διατύπωσαν εκάστοτε την κατηγορία δεν συμπίπτουν.

Αυτοί που συμβατικά θα αποκαλούσαμε συντηρητικούς, φιλελεύθερους ή mainstream σχολιαστές, την διατύπωσαν και τις δύο φορές. Εκεί που διέφερε η κατάσταση ήταν στο Read More

Akis Gavrilidis

Prva greška koju moramo izbeći, pokušavajući da shvatimo nemire koji su potresli Grčku u decembru 2008, jeste da ih čitamo kao ’’slepo nasilje’’ ili ’’emotivni izliv mladih’’ bez političkih implikacija.

Ovaj pokret, iako je sigurno imao afektivnu stranu (ili, precizno, baš zbog toga), već je direktno i eminentno politički, u mnogo dubljem i širem smislu nego što je uobičajeno. Tačno je da pokret nije istakao nikakve specifične ‘’zahteve’’ (nekom drugom na Read More