News :: analysis
Greece unrest: Interview with a libertarian syndicalist
25 Dec 2008
Modified: 08:33:00 PM
An interview with Yannis, International Secretary of the ESE (Eleftheriaki Sindikalistiki Enosi - union of libertarian syndicalists), discussing the death of Alexis Grigoropoulos and the events that have followed.
Can you describe the events surrounding the death of Alexis again?
For the last three years the Greek police's strategy in Exârcheia, a district famous for popular struglle and home to many students, young people and libertarians, has been one of provocation.
Police patrols have become more frequent recently and on a daily basis the police are insulting the people in the area.
When it comes to the murder of this 15 year-old boy all the witnesses (resdients, passers-by etc) state that the police were provoking a group of young people by insulting them. When the youths responded the police parked their car and then returned to where the youths were sitting then they fired three times. The witnesses state that the murderer fired directly at Alexis who died on the pavement.
What are the tactics of the Greek police?
Since the end of the dictatorship of the Colonels dozens of Greeks have been killed by the police. Amongst the dead are: Mikalis Kaltezas, a 15 year-old anarchist militant killed in 1985; Issidoros Issidoropoulos, a 16 year-old extreme left-wing militant killed in 1976; Koumis and Kanellopoulou, two demonstrators and also a number of immigrants and people from ethnic minorities (gipsies and Thracian turks etc). Recently the police murdered a young disabled boy.
At the same time we're seeing countless cases of militants, demonstrators and immigrants being tortured by the police; as well as a systematic and unjustifiied use of tear gas bombs and other gas weapons at all demonstrations.
I'll add a final note, a police officer has never been killed by a demonstrator, furthermore no police officer, has ever spent more than two and a half years in prison.
What is going on, and where?
The revolt has exploded in virtually all the regional capitals. In Salonika, Agrinion, Yannena and across Crete there have been clashes between police and demonstrators. In Patras the police attacked demonstrators accompanied by a battalion of armed neo-nazis, so-called "outraged citizens".
Every day in Athens there are two or three different demonstrations, with tens of thousands of participants. In solidarity 20000 demonstrators attended the funeral of Alexandros Grigoropoulos. This isn't about "blind rebellion" like the media claims, on the contrary it is a real movement and one that continues...
The targets of the demonstrators are the banks and the multinational enterprises that are the symbols of poverty and suffering.
The revolt unites young and old, militants and the non-politicised.
It is the largest revolt in Greece since the Second World War and the Civil War which folowed in Greece. It could be the largest revolt in the western world for the last forty years. For us this revolt is a completely legitimate response.
Apart from the murder of this young man, what are the other reasons for this explosion of protests?
We are the first post-war generation to experience worse economic and employment conditions than our parents.
In Greece we often speak of the "700 euro generation". Without a doubt this slogan doesn't express how bad things are. In fact the majority of people under 30 live on less than 700 euros a month. The only jobs available are casual or short term, a lot of people are forced to work on the black market. The bosses fire people, blaming the crisis, mean while Greek Capital is benefiting from the massive profits gained from the pillage of the balkans.
The situation is worse for immigrants who suffer from racist laws, widespread xenophobia and attacks from nazi groups which go unpunished. We must underline that immigrants have played a large part in this movement and, as usual, they have been the main victims of state repression. Of the 400 arrests so far, half have been of immigrants.
As far as politics and corruption goes I can briefly sum up the situation for you:
Recently there was a scandal as the 'Vatopedia' affair saw the government giving land to the church.
Two families, the Papandreous of the centre-left and the Caramanlis of the right have governed Greece for 34 of the last 40 years.
To this we can add the disastrous mismanagement of the fires in 2007 and of the aftermath; the attacks on Social Security by the Socialists in 2001 and by the right in 2006. And the privatisation of the electricity company, the ports and of Olympic Airways.
Interview by Jérémie, International Secretary of the CNT-F