Greece: Political Action the Correct Response

No new posts for a few days due to being too busy, and now the Greek situation seems to have calmed itself down. There are still though valuable lessons that can be learned from the shooting of a 15 year old boy by the police there. After several days of rioting, there have been renewed protests today, with the social democratic opposition PASOK calling for new elections, and trade unionists putting the protests in the context of a rapidly rising unemployment rate. There is huge dissastisfaction with the government, while university buildings have been occupied. Some of the more infantile on the left, and paranoid on the right, have been searching for signs of revolution in these events.

For serious political analysis we need to turn to the Greek Communist Party and its youth organisation (the KKE and KNE). The KKE is a significant force in the political life of the country, with members of the native and European Parliaments, and a very strong presence in the trade unions, student and youth movements giving it added significance. The KKE has protested vigorously against the shooting, organising mass protests in major cities on the one hand and raising questions in parliament on the other. The KKE has also supported protests called by trade unions and other mass organisations of young people and pupils. Even civil servcants have been striking, something that seems inconceivable in our part of Europe in response to such an event.

A general strike linked to the ongoing economic situation, in defence of pensions, salaries, jobs, and for the right to education and childcare took place on December 10th, which also gave voice to the protests. And here we come to the crux. The government sought to exploit the riots and violent protests to put presure on the labour movement to call off its actions in defence of workers’ rights. In the words of the KKE, “what is needed today is political condemnation of the government, of the whole net of mechanisms of intimidation and state repression, including the invisible ones. The reply to state autocracy is struggle within a mass movement in order to ensure the true causes were not covered up.” In other words, the KKE sees the shooting as the outcome of anti-people and authoritarian policies aimed at weakening the labour and social rights of workers and young people.

What they call the coordinated rioting is in the view of the Greek Communists only playing into the hands of the elements within the state that want to weaken the power of the extra-parliamentary protest that is such a vital weapon for progressive politics in other countries that just does not exist in the UK and the Republic. “The way to react does not lie in retaliatory riots. On the contrary such events are quite accomodating for those that want to impose fear and intimidation to the people, who are trying to prevent the emergence of an organized and mighty mass movement that will be able to sweep not only the ND and any other anti-people’s government, and pave the way for a real change at the level of power in favour of the people”. The statement issued by KNE lamented that the rioting has enabled the capitalist media to ignore mass political protests, and pointed to an attempted attack on the KKE offices in Thessaloniki by a group of rioters, and claimed there was an attempt to spark trouble at a KKE rally, from both the police and the organised hooded rioters. It also quoted the General Secretary of the KKE calling on ultra-leftists to stop “caressing the ears of the hooded individuals” in an opportunistic effort to secure more votes and influence.

The main core of the KKE message is therefore simple – the death is a tragedy, and justice must be done, but the events must be understood in their proper political context, and the response of the people, especially young people, must be at the same level. Rather than indulge in violence that can serve to strengthen repression and the ability of the state to withstand popular pressure, “we call upon the working people, particularly those who in recent years have – for different reasons – withdrawn from an active interest in politics, or those that are still hesitating, to organise themselves into the trade unions, the associations, both in workplaces and at the neighbourhoods. It is absolutely necessary for our country to be staffed with struggling workers because a major storm is ahead of us, because of the economic crisis and on the pretext of the crisis.”

This seems to me to be a sensible message. Some people have learnt nothing from the empty experience that was 1968. Rioting students with under-developed politics and a fetish for bricks and bottles will not – and cannot – effect political, and certainly not social, revolution. However, they can strengthen reaction, as happened in France in 1968, and cost real progressive politics many of the potential best activists of a generation. While some of the rhetoric of the KKE might seem exaggerated to us, we must remember the different history and political culture there, as instanced for example by the attempted attack on the KKE office from those supposedly on the left (there is a background here in Communist resistance to attempts to turn the annual protests on the anniversary of the Colonels’ coup into riots as well), and the more open use of intimidation against popular protests by state forces there than we are used to here. The anger of people is justified, but if not properly directed, it will achieve little.

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7 Responses to “Greece: Political Action the Correct Response”

  1. WorldbyStorm Says:

    “No new posts for a few days due to being too busy”

    Hey…. that’s my excuse! 🙂

    Sensible stuff from the KKE… am I on the only one who finds that acronym just a little… weird… to type in?

  2. Garibaldy Says:

    Sensible stuff indeed. Thankfully I’ve so far avoided typing ‘k’ three times in a row so far. A great organisation, that works hard to be active in all areas, and provides leadership not just at home, but internationally as well. Politics is most certainly where it is at.

  3. Lao-Tzu Says:

    Interesting stuff about riots underming political activity. Do you think
    something similar happened with the LA riots turning public attention away
    from police brutality?

  4. Garibaldy Says:

    I think that’s a very valid point you make Lao-Tzu, but I’m not sure how comparable the situations actually are. Inner city LA lacked the political infrastructure that is available to people in Greece, and that, I feel, can mount a more effective challenge than riots. And in fact, I do feel that some of the rioting was aimed at damaging precisely that political infrastructure. I doubt too that the rioting in LA was of the organised kind that has gone on in Greece. It was a much more spontaneous eruption. Had there been a stronger trade union movement that could have brought out a general strike in response to the Rodney King beating, then that would probably have been a more effective action. But there wasn’t, so it’s all counter-factual I guess.

    I have no principled opposition to direct action or confrontational tactics, but the most effective strategy should be applied in each set of circumstances.

  5. Stuff to Read Elsewhere « Garibaldy Blog Says:

    […] are worth thinking about in relation to Lao-Tzu’s challenging point in the comments to my own piece on the Greek […]

  6. Harry Crake Says:

    Would you have condemned the poll tax rioters in London during 1990 Garibaldy? As I remember much of the labour movement did and the rioters certainly included many anarchists and headbangers but that riot is credited with a serious role in the downfall of Thatcher. The demonstration that day, big as it was, wouldn’t have got half the publicity worldwide if it hadn’t kicked off.

  7. Joint statement of 69 communist and workers parties - Page 15 - Politics.ie Says:

    […] politically-immature, giving ammunition to the forces of reaction through its infantile actions. Greece: Political Action the Correct Response Garibaldy Blog As for October. No, I don't believe it was a permanent revolution. And, as I said earlier, even if […]

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