On June 16, 2008, noted Israeli historian Ilan Pappe explained "The Israeli Recipe for 2008: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleaning in the West Bank." He wrote:
"Not long ago, I claimed that Israel is employing genocidal policies in the Gaza Strip." After re-thinking this highly-charged term, he "concluded with even stronger conviction: it is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in Gaza" because of its repeated atrocities now greater than ever.
In his January 3 "Israel's Righteous Fury and Its Victims in Gaza" article, Pappe updates his outrage:
Once again, "Israel is engulfed....with righteous fury that translates into destructive policy in the Gaza Strip. This appalling self-justification for the inhumanity and impunity....is based first and foremost on sheer lies transmitted with a newspeak reminiscent of (Nazi Germany). Every half an hour," radio and TV bulletins call Gaza victims "terrorists and Israel's massive (slaughter) self-defense."
Israel is the righteous victim. Gazan men, women, and children "a great evil....There are no boundaries to the hypocrisy....It seems that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as discrete events, unconnected to anything (from the past) and not associated with any ideology or system."
Today, as Israel slaughters Gazans, "world outrage continues to resonate - on city streets, by solidarity activists, and by human rights groups globally....By connecting Zionist ideology and the policies of the past with the present atrocities, we will be able to provide a clear and logical explanation (to galvanize) public opinion not only against the present genocidal policies in Gaza, but hopefully (to) prevent future atrocities."
Most important is to "puncture the balloon of self-righteous fury that suffocates the Palestinians every time it inflates (and) end Western immunity to Israel's impunity." Without it, "more people in Israel (America and everywhere) will see the real nature of (these) crimes" so their fury will be directed where it belongs.
The Global BDS Movement
The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine) Movement demands: "Stop the Massacre in Gaza - Boycott Israel Now." From Occupied Ramallah, it reported on the bloodbath, "far more ruthless than all its predecessors," the slaughter of innocent civilians, young children going to and from school, "an act of genocide against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied coastal strip. Israel seems intent to mark the end of its 60th (anniversary year) the same way it established itself - perpetuating massacres against the Palestinian people."
More than ever, the BDS Movement calls on international civil society to condemn the massacre, join its efforts to end Israel's impunity, and hold it accountable for its persistent crimes of war and against humanity.
UN General Assembly President, Miguel D'Escoto Brockman agrees, and in a recent address before the Assembly said:
"More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a nonviolent means of pressuring South Africa to end its violations. Today, perhaps we....should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations."
Israeli writer/activist Uri Avnery founded Gush Shalom ("The Peace Bloc") in 1993 "to influence Israeli public opinion and lead it towards peace and conciliation with the Palestinian people." He calls the killing and destruction in Gaza "a vicious folly of a bankrupt government (that) let itself be dragged by adventurous officers and cheap nationalist demagoguery (into a futile conflict that) will bring no solution to any problem" - either to Israel or "besieged Gaza."
He says Israel, not Hamas, broke the truce, and the IDF followed up with "calculated raids and killings....The war in Gaza is (Ehud) Barak's elections campaign, a cynical attempt to buy votes with the blood and suffering" of Gazans.
~ more... ~
Monday, January 5, 2009
On June 16, 2008, noted Israeli historian Ilan Pappe explained "The Israeli Recipe for 2008: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleaning in the West Bank." He wrote:
Understand your enemy, and understand the weapons they use. Then use those same weapons against them. The money system is the head of the snake. Cut the head off the snake and the rest of it will whither and die. There need be No violence, no guns, no banners, no slogans, no group think, just a united act of global non compliance. Remember that it is much easier to fight for principles than to live up to them and it takes a far braver man to stand up for what is right and spit in the face of authority than it does to blindly follow orders due to fear of the consequences. Understand that we are all one and the key to real change and unity in this world lies with love. It is time for the people of the world to stop and realise that the divisions that supposedly exist amongst us are an illusion. There IS NO division and its time for everyone to understand the truth of this. It is through the constantly promoted illusion of division that the system is able to function but in order for it to do so, it needs public compliance. Stop complying with it and you will shut it down. Its time for us all to collectively stand together and address the root cause of the problems. Everyone.
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday called for a global boycott of the US dollar and US-made products, including Coca-Cola, in protest over Washington's backing of Israel.
Mahathir, who during his two decades in power was a leading voice in the Muslim world, said people had to take action against the United States over its support for Israel, which is conducting a military offensive in Gaza.
"If you stop accepting US currency, the US can't trade and can't make any money, it will become very poor and it will have to stop the production of more and more weapons in order to kill people," he told a press conference.
"We should not be buying all these weapons from the US, we can buy from the Russians if we must have aeroplanes and things like that," he added.
"People must act... they won't die if they don't drink Coca-Cola."
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Hypocrisy is the salient feature, the peculiar characteristic, of every century of our Christian era, right down to our own day; and indeed this vice has always stalked abroad with more crying shamelessness, in direct proportion as mankind, in spite of Christendom, has refreshed its vigour from its own unquenchable and inner well-spring, and ripened toward the fulfilment of its true purpose. Nature is so strong, so inexhaustible in its regenerative resources, that no conceivable violence could weaken its creative force. Into the ebbing veins of the Roman world, there poured the healthy blood of the fresh Germanic nations. Despite the adoption of Christianity, a ceaseless thirst of doing, delight in bold adventure, and unbounded self-reliance, remained the native element of the new masters of the world. But, as in the whole history of the Middle Ages we always light upon one prominent factor, the warfare between worldly might and the despotism of the Roman Church: so, when this new world sought for a form of utterance, it could only find it in opposition to, and strife against, the spirit of Christendom. The Art of Christian Europe could never proclaim itself; like that of ancient Greece, as the expression of a world attuned to harmony; for reason that its inmost being was incurably and irreconcilably split up between the force of conscience and the instinct of life, between the ideal and the reality. Like the order of Chivalry itself; the chivalric poetry of the Middle Ages, in attempting to heal this severance, could, even amid its loftiest imagery, but bring to light the falsehood of the reconciliation; the higher and the more proudly it soared on high, so the more visibly gaped the abyss between the actual life and the idealised existence,  between the raw, passionate bearing of these knights in physical life and their too delicate, etherealised behaviour in romance. For the same reason did actual life, leaving the pristine, noble, and certainly not ungraceful customs of the People, become corrupt and vicious; for it durst not draw the nourishment for its art-impulse from out of its own being, its joy in itself; and its own physical demeanour; but was sent for all its spiritual sustenance to Christianity, which warned it off from the first taste of life's delight, as from a thing accursed.—The poetry of Chivalry was thus the honourable hypocrisy of fanaticism, the parody of heroism: in place of Nature, it offered a convention.
Only when the enthusiasm of belief had smouldered down, when the Church openly proclaimed herself as naught but a worldly despotism appreciable by the senses, in alliance with the no less material worldly absolutism of the temporal rule which she had sanctified: only then, commenced the so-called Renaissance of Art. That wherewith man had racked his brains so long, he would fain now see before him clad in body, like the Church itself in all its worldly pomp. But this was only possible on condition that he- opened his eyes once more, and restored his senses to their rights. Yet when man took the objects of belief and the revelations of phantasy and set them before his eyes in physical beauty, and with the artist's delight in that physical beauty,—this was a complete denial of the very essence of the Christian religion; and it was the deepest humiliation to Christendom that the guidance to these art-creations must be sought from the pagan art of Greece. Nevertheless, the Church appropriated to herself this newly-roused art-impulse, and did not blush to deck herself with the borrowed plumes of paganism; thus trumpeting her own hypocrisy.
Worldly dominion, however, had its share also in the revival of art. After centuries of combat, their power armed against all danger from below, the security of riches awoke in the ruling classes the desire for more refined enjoyment of this wealth: they took into their pay the  arts whose lessons Greece had taught. "Free" Art now served as handmaid to these exalted masters, and, looking into the matter more closely, it is difficult to decide who was the greater hypocrite:—Louis XIV., when he sat and heard the Grecian hate of Tyrants, declaimed in polished verses from the boards of his Court-theatre; or Corneille and Racine, when, to win the favour of their lord, they set in the mouths of their stage-heroes the warm words of freedom and political virtue, of ancient Greece and Rome.
Could Art be present there in very deed, where it blossomed not forth as the living utterance of a free, self-conscious community, but was taken into the service of the very powers which hindered the self-development of that community, and was thus capriciously transplanted from foreign climes? No, surely! Yet we shall see that Art, instead of enfranchising herself from eminently respectable masters, such as were the Holy Church and witty Princes, preferred to sell her soul and body to a far worse mistress—Commerce.
~ more... ~
Many of us grew up among the reverberations of the 1960's. At that time there was a feeling that the world could be a better place, and that our responsibility was to make it real by living it. Why did this take root? Probably because there was new wealth around, a new unifying mass culture, and a newly empowered generation whose life experience was that the graph could only point 'up'. In many ways their idealism paid off: the better results remain with us today, surfacing, for example, in the wiki-ised world of ideas-sharing of which this conversation is a part.
But suppose the feeling changes: that people start to anticipate the future world not in that way but instead as something more closely resembling the nightmare of desperation, fear and suspicion described in Cormac McCarthy's post-cataclysm novel The Road. What happens then?
The following: Humans fragment into tighter, more selfish bands. Big institutions, because they operate on longer time-scales and require structures of social trust, don't cohere. There isn't time for them. Long term projects are abandoned—their payoffs are too remote. Global projects are abandoned—not enough trust to make them work. Resources that are already scarce will be rapidly exhausted as everybody tries to grab the last precious bits. Any kind of social or global mobility is seen as a threat and harshly resisted. Freeloaders and brigands and pirates and cheats will take control. Survivalism rules. Might will be right.
~ more... ~
The aerial bombings and the ongoing ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli ground forces must be analysed in a historical context. Operation "Cast Lead" is a carefully planned undertaking, which is part of a broader military-intelligence agenda first formulated by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001:
"Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas."(Barak Ravid, Operation "Cast Lead": Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)
It was Israel which broke the truce on the day of the US presidential elections, November 4:
"Israel used this distraction to break the ceasefire between itself and Hamas by bombing the Gaza strip. Israel claimed this violation of the ceasefire was to prevent Hamas from digging tunnels into Israeli territory.
The very next day, Israel launched a terrorizing siege of Gaza, cutting off food, fuel, medical supplies and other necessities in an attempt to “subdue” the Palestinians while at the same time engaging in armed incursions.
In response, Hamas and others in Gaza again resorted to firing crude, homemade, and mainly inaccurate rockets into Israel. During the past seven years, these rockets have been responsible for the deaths of 17 Israelis. Over the same time span, Israeli Blitzkrieg assaults have killed thousands of Palestinians, drawing worldwide protest but falling on deaf ears at the UN." (Shamus Cooke, The Massacre in Palestine and the Threat of a Wider War, Global Research, December 2008)
Planned Humanitarian Disaster
On December 8, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte was in Tel Aviv for discussions with his Israeli counterparts including the director of Mossad, Meir Dagan.
"Operation Cast Lead" was initiated two days day after Christmas. It was coupled with a carefully designed international Public Relations campaign under the auspices of Israel's Foreign Ministry.
Hamas' military targets are not the main objective. Operation "Cast Lead" is intended, quite deliberately, to trigger civilian casualities.
What we are dealing with is a "planned humanitarian disaster" in Gaza in a densly populated urban area.
Three years after the 2005 riots in the suburbs of France post-Marxist sociologist, Slavoj Zizek, wrote that the rebellion was meaningless and without "any positive utopian vision."
Enter: a post-ideological era.
It's not that we no longer have ideologies, of course, but the dominating capitalist ideology has disguised itself so well that the ruling class can get away with unfounded impassés. We say "economy" instead of "capitalism"; we say "journalism" instead of "spectacle"; "community policing" instead of "racial profiling", etc.
Above all, what better proof is there of capitalism's triumph in the last three decades, Zizek asks, than the disappearance of the very term "capitalism"? Or perhaps the disappearance of an anti-capitalist narrative? And the disappearance of an "anti-social" narrative, where social unrest - especially 'violent' unrest - is "anti-social", and violent social stratification is ordinary.
"The fact that there was no program in the burning of Paris suburbs tells us that we inhabit a universe in which, though it celebrates itself as a society of choice, the only option available to the enforced democratic consensus is the explosion of (self-)destructive violence."
This is the most difficult task for us. To be able to explain why - what looks like "self-destructive violence" - is actually a tremendous breakthrough. There is a tendency, however, to see unplanned explosions of revolt as "without program". Zizek contrasts the suburb riots with May 1968's positive utopian vision in France. But it is true that even in 1968, the social rupture had no clear objectives most of the time either.
"The fact was that to anyone who asked rationally enough 'What do you want?' I had no answer," said a radical recalling the first Night of Barricades. "I couldn't say that I didn't even know who these comrades were, couldn't say that I was demonstrating for the sake of demonstrating."
In other words he couldn't say whether the outburst had any program, at least that he was aware of. The promise of a better world lying beneath the cobblestone street can seem like a surreal joke, once it failed to meet its objectives. Having expected nothing less than the overthrow of the dominant social order, the surreal then turned on itself.
~ more... ~
Greek politicians - from military colonels to business leaders - since the 1970s have denounced Greek rebels as "anarchists," "nihilists" and, in classic Greek disparagement, "barbarians" with no aim whatsoever. The same mantra again this week. But Greece, often considered the birthplace of democracy, is also the site of an ongoing struggle against fascism. The fascists who lost power in the 1970s did not disappear - they simply work behind the scenes. Today's political structure in Greece - "Athenian democracy" for whatever it is worth - owes itself to an anarchist and student movement which organized in the 1970s against a US-backed military regime.
In the early 1970s students barricaded the National Technical University in Athens, law students used radio transmitters to broadcast anti-state communiques, and workers throughout Greece joined the General Strike. The city was in revolt and people gathered around radios to hear students broadcast from the occupied university, "This is the Polytechnic! People of Greece, the Polytechnic bears the standard of our struggle and your struggle, our common struggle against dictatorship and for democracy!"
The military, furious, crashed through the University's barricades with tanks, then beat and killed students and workers near Exarcheia and the campus premises. The military regime was eventually overthrown, in large part due to the student-worker organizing from the campus. Since then Greek campuses were deemed off-limits to government police and military. It is illegal for police to be on campuses.
The Greek anarchists who shouted "This is our life!" just before Army tanks and paratroopers stormed their campuses in 1973, as shown in these pictures, is burned into the memories of many survivors.
What did it take to topple this regime? It was the anarchists, students, and workers who toppled this regime.
Yesterday and Today
But much of what was reported then sounds like what is happening today, and the media is constantly dismissing the youth as hackneyed, easily-angered, aimless etc. Even the BBC wants things to return to normal:
"In Athens, too, shopkeepers are fed-up... there must be something in their head."
But what is in their head - who dares to ask?
While some Greeks may be confused about how this situation exploded out of thin air, the media is telling them which side of the barricades they should be on. They complain that students are "exploiting a legal loophole" to occupy university campuses where police cannot go. What does that mean: People are "exploiting"? the fact some places where the state cannot go exist. Aren't the police exploiting a legal loophole which allows them to be everywhere else?
~ more... ~
It's been a very busy few weeks. What has happened in Greece is momentous. But since Christmas, the flow of news has slowed considerably, as evidenced by the shorter, sparser postings here, so this seems as good a time as any to reflect on these events and their implications for anarchists in the U.S. (with apologies to all of our new readers from around the world, although hopefully you'll get something out of this too.)
As we've learned from this excellent interview over at the CrimethInc. Ex-Workers' Collective blog, what happened in Greece was not accidental. In fact, the rioting, firebombing, street-fighting, occupying, looting, and marching was largely initiated and coordinated by autonomous affinity groups of anarchists, some more defined than others, with roots in the occupations and social centers around Greece. This should come as no surprise to observers; these actions bear all the hallmarks of non-hierarchical self-organization, from the break-away marches to the nighttime arsons to the spray paint. And it worked, beautifully.
If there's a lesson to be learned from such a structure--beyond a confirmation of our long-held belief that affinity groups form the basis of anarchy in action--it's that projects that sustain our communities are critical components of our fights elsewhere. That is not to say that mimicry of the Greek model will lead to success. Many anarchists have found that the maintenance of squats or occupations or social centers or infoshops in the U.S. is more draining than it is sustaining, and the events in Greece don't invalidate those criticisms; there may be reasons why such spaces are easier to maintain in Greece (and the rest of Europe for that matter.) What it does prove, though, is that we must build a sustainable, multi-generational anarchist community through projects that nurture and embolden our ranks over the long-term if we are to launch meaningful attacks on capital and the state. Inevitably that will look different here than it does in Greece; our task is to figure it out for ourselves.
Perhaps the most crucial point in the interview, however, is that anarchists in Greece have consciously worked to end their subcultural identification. It is worth quoting at length:
After '93 we had a strong tendency in the Greek anarchist movement—accompanied by many serious internal fights—that eliminated the influence of “subcultural” styles inside the movement. This means that there is no punk, rock, metal or whatever anarchist identity in the Greek anarchist movement—you can be whatever you like, you can listen to whatever music you like, you can have whatever style or fashion you like, but that is not a political identity...The separation from subcultural identity politics made people understand that to call yourself an anarchist it takes much more serious participation, planning, creativity, and action than just wearing a t-shirt with the antichrist on it and walking around punk concerts drinking beer and taking hypnotic pills. Now there is an understanding that to call yourself an anarchist you have to come to demonstrations, to come out into the streets... Also, that you should participate every week in one, two, or three different assemblies with people for one, or two, or three different preparations of different actions, plans, or struggles to call yourself an anarchist. You have to be friends with people you trust 100% to plan anything dangerous, you have to be aware and informed about anything that is happening in this world to decide what the proper course of action is, you have to be crazy and enthusiastic, to feel that you can do incredible things—you have to be ready to give your life, your time, your years in a struggle that will never end.
Unfortunately, this could not be a less accurate description of anarchists in the U.S. Most anarchists here are content to languish in a subcultural ghetto comprised of amateur fashion critics and energetic music consumers. The strong subcultural affiliation of anarchist organizing in the U.S. is perhaps its greatest weakness, ensuring its inaccessibility and irrelevance to most people, even those with strongly-held anti-authoritarian politics. What is also obvious to most observers is that subcultures are rooted in fads, and only a tiny fringe of eccentrics remain attached to a dated fad. We cannot build a workable anarchist community if no one believes it has long-term viability, and our subcultural affiliation is in large-part responsible for that mostly accurate perception. Glorifying consumption habits, whether in clothes, music, or reading material, is not a strategy, it is a fetish, and in this case, a fetish that nullifies a great deal of otherwise valuable work. Pro-actively working to end this affiliation is necessary if anarchists are to become a force in American society, as they have become in Greece by doing the same.
~ more... ~
The evolution of Anarchism in Greece has shown a series of historical paradoxes which have to do with both the insufficient historical coverage of such events, as well as the distortion of historical facts due to ideological bias. It is also very difficult to trace the connections of the various Anarchist leagues and affinity groups, as they remain mostly anonymous. It's important to note that anarchists in Greece have emerged from occasionally overlapping but mostly diverse inclinations.
~ more... ~
15 Apr, 2005
After the collapse of the so-called "existing socialism", in most countries of the world capitalism inaugurated a series of promises together with some cries about the "end of history" and so on. But as none of the then dreams of capitalism went as wished, we have already entered in a new phase where the capitalist sovereignty is manufacturing a new consent, via ideologico-political promotion, on the one hand, of so-called security and "anti-terrorism" and the acceptance, on the other hand, by all people - if it is possible - of a social consensus that has been created and continues to be created with capitalist production. Thus, we see everywhere the so-called welfare state shrinking and disappearing, mass political parties losing the reason for their existence and everything being moved into the arena of merchandising, everything for sale.
Greece: The general social, political and economic situation in Greece and the Greek anarchist movement
THE GLOBAL GENERAL SITUATION:
After the collapse of the so-called "existing socialism", in most countries of
the world capitalism inaugurated a series of promises together with some cries
about the "end of history" and so on. But as none of the then dreams of
capitalism went as wished, we have already entered in a new phase where the
capitalist sovereignty is manufacturing a new consent, via ideologico-political
promotion, on the one hand, of so-called security and "anti-terrorism" and the
acceptance, on the other hand, by all people - if it is possible - of a social
consensus that has been created and continues to be created with capitalist
production. Thus, we see everywhere the so-called welfare state shrinking and
disappearing, mass political parties losing the reason for their existence and
everything being moved into the arena of merchandising, everything for sale.
THE SOCIAL SITUATION IN GREECE:
In Greece this situation is being attempted to be built and solidified with
some particular "national" terms. And we say particular "national", because
despite the general tendency of capitalism for globalisation, the particular
capitalist arrangement of the country continues to de dependent on state help
to conserve and further the maximisation of its profits. So, Greek capital it
is not a non-existent identity. It is, of course, dependent on the central
financial powers of the European Union and those of the USA, but this
dependance - especially over the last decade - has brought Greek capital into a
more beneficial position with regard to the other economies in the Balkan area,
where it already plays an important role.
During recent years a complete Americanisation of political life in Greece has
been attempted and almost achieved via the almost absolute yoking of the
country to the chariot of American "anti-terrorism" - on the side of the USA -
and the essential participation of the country in the wars in the Balkans and
in Asia, and for this the clear and natural responsibility lies with the former
"socialist" government of PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement). At the same
time, the country, through the clammy mass media had been drawn into a kind of
official "informantry" with an attempt to transform a large number of people
into informers, on the occasion of the "break" of the armed marxist-patriotic
organisations of "November 17" and ELA (Revolutionary Peoples' Struggle), after
the requirement and with the guidance of American intelligence and other
With the government of PASOK in power for almost 20 years after 1981 (with the
exception of the interval between 1989 and 1993), the effort to passivise Greek
society was the number one objective. Thus, we reached a point where the
complete Americanisation, dependance at the same time on the European Union,
the new big National Idealisms such as the success of the Olympic Games in 2004
and the establishment of strict "anti-terrorism" were considered as renewal,
hope and prospect, that with the recently-fabricated illusory arguments for a
supposed "participatory democracy" have changed Greek social and political life
in recent years at a high level.
To show how the nature of capitalist sovereignty in Greece has changed at a
high level it appeared also from all the backstage for the change of leadership
- and supposedly of policy - in PASOK in 2004. It was attempted impress on the
majority of the population that the changeover between Kostas Simitis and
Georgios Papandreou in the leadership was enough by itself to bring about a
change of policy in favour of the population. This was something, of course,
that for another time, had been proved a lie. Now it seems that "Nea
Dimokratia" (New Democracy), the right-wing conservative party, with its leader
and now prime minister Kostas Karamanlis, which won the last (March 2004)
elections, is the selected choice of the American and European sovereignty in
order to promote their interests better in Greece and the wider Mediterranean
and Balkan area.
Also with the electoral victory of the right-wing conservative party, the
existence and consolidation of a bipartisan system in Greece was once again
confirmed, despite the fact that the traditional Stalinist Communist Party of
Greece (KKE) managed to increase its vote slightly and still maintains a
somehow powerful force within the trade unions.
THE ECONOMICAL SITUATION IN GREECE:
The Greek economy depends on international capital, American but mainly
European. The former PASOK government and especially the former prime minister
K. Simitis, as a real supporter and protector of European capital and its
interests (and especially German), managed to include Greece in those
country-members of the European Union which fully associated economically
amongst themselves (ONE), but this became possible only after mass
privatisations, a direct sell-out of the public sector, ferocious violations of
even the most basic democratic rights which had been won after long and usually
bloody struggles, an almost total revision of the whole system of social
security and wages. To achieve this, the former government had the help of the
then opposition and now government of Nea Dimokratia, which, on the one hand,
appeared to be close to the working class and the people's interests, but on
the other hand, in the background, was loyal to the extreme liberalism of the
market as it is, promoted further cuts in wages, benefits, social security
etc., something that it is already doing now that it is in government.
But the biggest fraud in contemporary history took place in 1999 through the
Athens Stock Exchange. Through this fraud, the money of thousands of people was
stolen even through government advertising before the elections of 2000,
telling the people that if they invested their money in the Stock Exchange then
all their financial problems would be solved! But one sunny morning the Stock
Exchange "collapsed" and the people's money ended up in the pockets or in the
bank accounts of executives or other close friends of the then government. None
of those responsible have ever been held to task for this fraud.
Apart from this, we also had the introduction of the Euro in Greece in 2001,
something which created lots of problems and now half of the Greeks owe money
to the other half and all together in the State, banks or private loan and
other similar institutions. Despite the important role of Greek capital in the
Balkan area, the Greek economy is one of the last in the European Union in
terms of development, although there was some recovery in the last year mainly
because of the preparations and investment for the Olympic Games. But almost
everyone was expecting worse days to come after the Olympics.
An important ally of the former "socialist" government was the controlled trade
unions, especially those who lean towards the former ruling party, PASOK. The
General Confederation of the Workers of Greece (GSEE) stuck to the union
sectors of the four biggest political parties (Nea Dimokratia, PASOK, the
Communist Party and the Coalition of the Left) and was unable during these
years to even organise a successful 24-hour strike; the only thing it does is
praise each government. Almost every president of the GSEE becomes a member of
THE RECENT AND MOST IMPORTANT SOCIAL STRUGGLES IN GREECE:
Over recent years, one of the biggest social struggles was the struggle of
unappointed teachers for the ASEP (High Council for Personnel Selection) in
1998, when the then government wanted to "make an order" in the appointment of
teachers mainly in secondary education, but which, in reality, wanted to set
the terms of the whole case supposedly through of the introduction of a system
of "meritocracy" in their appointment. This pushed not only the concerned but
also wider social groups into revolt and there were also in some cases wild
clashes with the police forces. Leftist and anarchist groups also participated,
bringing their own mark to the struggle and that's how the clashes with the
repressive forces happened. Of course, the reformists and their allies finally
managed to extinguish the revolutionary flame which was lit during the
mobilisations. But responsibility belongs also to the leftist groups and
anarchists who remained only for the clashes with the police and did not manage
to form a total platform of demands with which they could push forward the
whole struggle. If these demands had been adopted by the majority of teachers
then the left and the anarchists could have been protagonists in the struggle
of this section of the workers.
The struggle against reforms in the social security system (1999) was another
serious struggle against the government's plans. The government, in accordance
with its economical and financial policy towards the country's incorporation
into the European Monetary Union (EMU), introduced legislation to increase the
pension age and other similar "radical" reforms of the whole system which was
met with rage by almost the entire population. But again the reformist parties
and trade unions, especially those who lean towards PASOK and the Communist
Party (KKE), managed to extinguish every revolutionary tendency and hope and
led the mobilisations onto a path which was brought no danger to the regime.
We had also the struggle of local communities against the destruction of their
local natural and ecological environments (since 2002) because of the
construction of stadiums, freeways and other works for the Olympics Games. We
must particularly mention the struggle of the locals of Makrygiani-Filopappou
(areas almost in the centre of Athens) and the struggle of the locals in
Argyroupoli and Ilioupoli (south-eastern suburbs of Athens) against the
expansion of the DEI (the state electricity supplier, which wanted to expand
its establishment there in order to cope with the demand for electricity during
the Olympics). In these struggles, especially the one against the DEI,
anarchist groups participated from the very start, forming an autonomous local
resistance committee beyond and outside any political party control or
In 2003 and 2004 one of the main issues that the various leftist groups and
anarchists focussed on was direct resistance to the Olympic Games. Central,
local and regional demonstrations were called, and also propaganda material was
printed and distributed widely. These manifestations had one aim for a
significant section of the anarchists: to destroy the competitive, commercial
and nationalistic spirit of the Olympic Games. One of the central slogans was
"Let's destroy the Olympic Games in the country where they were born". But once
again there was no total perspective, giving the impression that the only ones
against the Olympics were the anarchists and some lefties, and not other
broader sections of the population.
MIGRANTS IN GREECE:
The migrants are another important issue in Greece over recent years. At the
moment roughly over a million migrants live and work in Greece. Most of them
come from neighbouring Albania (more than 600,000), but also from other Balkan
countries such as Bulgaria and Romania. There are also thousands from the
countries of the former USSR, especially from Georgia, Ukraine and Russia, and
also from Poland. In addition, there are lots of Filippinos, Pakistanis,
Iraqis, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Egyptians, Sudanese, Sri Lankans, Indians and
others. Only a few of them legally live and worke in Greece, as only in the
last two years have there been attempts by the State to register them and to
give them "green cards" for residency and work.
The vast majority of migrants work in the hardest and dirtiest jobs, where
Greeks do not want to work, in various small factories and small businesses.
Many migrant women are servants or do similar jobs. Thousands of migrants also
worked in workshops for the Olympic Games. A significant number of women,
mainly from the former USSR, are particularly oppressed because they have been
forced by underworld networks to work as prostitutes.
It is unnecessary to say that the myth about foreign delinquency, the
unemployment which has been created by the presence of foreigners and in
general racism against migrants, are theories and practices which are popular
in Greek society during recent years. This was also contributed to by the
almost complete absence of a State immigration policy and the brutal and
barbaric confrontation by the police and other repressive forces against the
migrants and also the stance of the unions which is identical with the racism,
especially those which are controlled mainly by the KKE (Communist Party). In
the detention camps spread throughout Greece where migrants who have tried to
enter Greece "illegally" are detained, living conditions are very poor.
Deportations are also a daily phenomenon.
There are some leftist groups and publications which are pre-occupied with this
issue and with their aid, for some years now in the big towns, there have been
cultural migrant centres or info centres operating, where various
demonstrations are organised, legal and other information provided, activities
against deportations held, Greek language classes etc. As well as anarchist
groups working with the migrants and a wide range of publications such posters,
leaflets etc are also in languages other than Greek. But these interventions
are not so specific and with a perspective and these political forces, the
anarchists included, do not yet have a more specific project of political
action, nor the necessary reflections to achieve even limited results in this
sector. Most of the times these forces are running behind of events.
On their part, the migrants themselves, or at least some of them, have started
organising. Filippino women servants formed a union several years ago called
KASAPI and recently the same was done by some Albanians and workers of other
nationalities. Also, Albanian workers have organised and participated in
strikes, mainly in agricultural workshops in rural areas.
ANARCHISTS AND ORGANISATION IN GREECE
Before we say anything about anarchist communist tendencies, groups and similar
organisational attempts in Greece, we consider it necessary to give a short
Greek anarchism first appeared during the last quarter of the 19th century as a
result of the then unfavourable economic and social conditions of poverty,
distress and the dependance of the country on European capital, but also as a
result of the importing of revolutionary and radical ideas from the European
area. But despite the generous and proud attempts by some individual activists
and a few very small groups, mainly in the western Pelopponese and in Athens
from 1890 on, it was not possible for any particular tendency to appear and for
the most part the beliefs of the individuals and groups involved reflected an
ideological mixture including almost everything, from beliefs about individual
terrorism to a fully undefined synthesis of anarcho-romanticist and
anarcho-workerist ideas, in which some christian-social and other ideas were
also involved. Only between 1896-1898 and 1916-1925 were there some more or
less anarcho-syndicalist groups which tried to intervene in the unions of the
time and the working-class struggle.
>From the mid-'20s and until the popular uprising against the dictatorship at
the Polytechnic School in Athens in November 1973, apart from some rare and
individual cases of activists, there was no organised anarchist activity in
Greece. Very simply, anarchists were a rarity. The main reason for this was the
almost complete domination of Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism within the
working-class movement as a result of the Bolshevik coup in Russia and also of
the succesfully repressive and opportunistic policy of the Communist Party of
Greece (KKE), which after the end of the Second World War and the German
occupation participated initially in the government and found itself just one
step from the total seizure of power. But there are also some other determining
reasons: the existence of an atrocious dictatorial regime (1936-1941), the war
and the German occupation (1941-1945), the civil war (1947-1949), the
American-backed police and terroristic State regime (in the '50s) and mass
migration to the USA, Canada, Australia etc. Only during 1963-1965 did some
radical ideas amongst the left wing of the popular movement of the time start
to reappear but a new military dictatorship came (1967-1974) and added its
contribution to the whole situation.
Before we say anything about the reappearance of anarchist ideas and activities
in Greece after 1973, we must clear up - to avoid any misunderstanding - that,
at least typically, anarchist communism and Greece are incompatible. Because
apart from some small groups - which although they tried to do something, never
managed to create a tradition and a perspective and for which we will talk
about later - it has been nothing else. Of course in Greece, and until today,
there are lots of anarchists who refer to communism or anarchist communism, but
they do not do it frequently, because they do not want any confusion with the
Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which was always very critical and violent
towards anarchists. Besides - to give an example - this was the reason that the
anarchist Editions "Diethnis Vivliothiki" ("International Library") - which was
active since almost 1972 - when they published books and magazines, in their
translations of the various articles, where there was the word "communism" they
replaced it with the word "anti-authoritarianism". (This was really bad since
organisations as "Movement Communiste" for example, not only were authoritarian
but also were not anarchist or libertarian...)
Since November 1973 (a small anarchist group participated in the uprising in
the Polytechnic School), but basically since 1974, after the fall of the
military dictatorship, and during the '70s some anarchist groups appeared. But
again we had no crystallisation of a particular tendency and what dominated was
a mixture of ideas and practices influenced by the Situationists, May '68, the
counter-culture movements of the '60s, together with a mixture of beliefs from
almost all historical tendencies of anarchism. The biggest majority of those
involved were university and high school students and really few workers. Some
groups tried to be more specific, such as the "Omada Symvouliakon Anarxikon"
(Group of Council Anarchists) and the "Omada Anarxosyndikaliston" (Group of
Anarchosyndicalists), which apart from some leaflets, small pamphlets and some
activities did not leave us any other tradition or perspective.
We must note that with the fall of the dictatorship and almost until the end of
'70s there were very few anarchists who participated in the attempts to create
an autonomous workers' current through the formation of base unions in the
factories and a few wildcat strikes. But, the KKE managed to destroy these
attempts through its extremely powerful structures of the time.
In 1982-1983, there was an attempt to form an anarchist federation of
synthesis, but it was mostly an attempt at critisism and theory rather than
something practical with a perspective for the future.
Until then, the "Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists"
had not been translated into Greek with only the first reaction by Errico
Malatesta being translated and published in the first issue (Winter 1981) of
the anarchist magazine "Mavros Ilios" (Black Sun) under the title "Ena Anarxiko
Programma" (An Anarchist Programme).
During the '80s, some anarchist communist groups were formed and tried to
create a say. The most notable of them was the "Omada Anarxokommouniston Neas
Smyrnis" (Group of Anarcho-communists of Nea Smyrni - an almost inner suburb in
south-central Athens), which co-operated with the anarchist bookshop
"Eleftheros Typos" (Free Press) and others in producing the magazine "Anarxos"
(Anarchos). This group published lots of leaflets and participated in many
activities in its area and in central Athens. Ideologically, they referred to
the anarchist communism of Peter Kropotkin and the ideas of Murray Bookchin.
The magazine "Anarxos" in its second issue also declared a clear anarchist
communist position and stance. The magazine published five issues between
November 1983 and December 1986.
In November 1987 some of the "Anarxos" participants, together with some "Omada
Anarxokommouniston Neas Smyrnis" members and others, started the publication of
a bulletin called "Ektropi" (Diversion) with the sub-title "For the liberation
of desire. For an anarcho-communist perspective". But only one issue was
In 1986, another group appeared - the "Anarxokommounistikos Pyrinas Ano
Liosion" (Anarcho-communist Cell of Ano Liosia, a really poor working-class
suburb in the west of Athens). Basically, this cell consisted of three
brothers, who worked in the construction industry and had previously had
contacts with or were members of the Communist Party (KKE). Initially, this
cell published a small photocopied bulletin called "Aftonomi Drasi" (Autonomous
Action) and at the same time published leaflets, posters etc. Later they
co-operated with an anarchist (but not anarchist communist) circle from Pireaus
and all together published "Aftonomi Drasi" as a magazine with a better
appearance. This magazine had five issues in the period 1988-1991.
At this time another small group of smaller range and importance was the
"Anarxokommounistiki Omada 'Irida'" (Anarcho-communist Group "Iris") - from the
northern suburbs of Athens - but except for two small statements it left us
with almost no written documents or other elements about its activities.
>From March 1989 to December 1990, a comrade who participated in the "Omada
Anarxokommouniston Neas Smyrnis", "Anarxos" and "Ektropi" (his initials are
S.K.), published four issues of a bulletin called "Parekklisi se mia
Anarxokommounistiki Prooptiki" (Deviation in an Anarcho-communist Perspective).
In April 1991, the same comrade together with three other ex-members of the
"Omada Anarxokommouniston Neas Smyrnis" formed a new group called "Omada
Anarxokommouniston-Koinotiston Neas Smyrnis" (Group of
Anarchocommunists-Communalists of Nea Smyrni) and they started the publication
of the bulletin "Gia mia Anarxokommounistiki kai Koinotistiki Koinoniki
Armonia" (For an Anarchocommunist-Communalistic Social Harmony), mostly known
to us as just "Koinoniki Armonia" ("Social Harmony"). However, in August 1992
this comrade resigned from the group which almost at the same time broke up,
but today S.K. still publishes the bulletin "Koinoniki Armonia" by himself, so
far publishing 26 issues. The same comrade has translated and published in
separate pamphlets articles by Kropotkin, Bakunin, Berneri, Magon, Cleaver and
others (16 pamphlets up to now) in the series with the name "Epoikodomitikes
Katedafiseis" (Contructive Demolitions).
Shortly before the publication of "Koinoniki Armonia" a magazine called "Ta
Paidia tis Galarias" (The Children of the Gallery) published by two comrades
who previously had close ties with the two anarcho-communist groups of Nea
Smyrni. Production of the magazine is still going on (10 issues so far) and
ideologically represents a mixture of anarchist communism and council
communism. They have also published some other documents (some of them in
English), participated and still participate in a number of social struggles
and maintain contacts with groups and publications from other countries.
Parallel to these publications, in the '90s a left communist circle appeared
with the name "Anexelegkta Proletariaka Stoixeia" (Uncontrolled Proletarian
Elements). They published the magazine "Tyflopontikas" (Mole) and last year the
magazine "Kommounismos" (Communism).
In 2002, the publishers of "Koinoniki Armonia", "Ta Paidia tis Galarias", one
of the editors of the university student magazine "Undercurrents" from
Brighton, UK (who was from Greece) and some others, created an editorial group
called "Kokkino Nima" (Red Thread), publishing initially the book by G. Dauve
(J. Barrot) "Eclipse and Re-emergence of the Communist Movement", then a book
under the title "Anarxokommounismos. I dierevnish tou mellontos sto paron"
(Anarcho-communism. The future's investigation into the present) which is a
compilation of anarchist communist articles by Kropotkin, Cleaver, Alain Pencan
and a third book about the collective Kolinko from Germany.
(Addresses: "Koinoniki Armonia", P.O. BOX 76148, Nea Smyrni 171 10, Athens,
Greece and "Ta Paidia tis Galarias"/"Kokkino Nima", P.O. BOX 76149, Nea Smyrni
171 10, Athens, Greece, email email@example.com .)
Parallel to the groups and publications mentioned above, during the last three
years in Greece some other groups and movements have appeared which, amongst
others, refer somehow to anarchist communist, council communist and other
similar ideas. These groups are:
* "Eleftheriaki Protovoulia Peiraia" (Libertarian Initiative of Pireaus). This
is just one comrade who hosts this remarkable collection of mostly anarchist
communist documents in Greek (but he has not appeared over the last 6 months)
at http://www.geocities.com/redblackflag . Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
* The website http://vrahokipos.stedana.gr and email email@example.com with
a really good collection of documents in Greek.
* The magazine "Eftopia" (means "good locality" or something similar) (P.O. BOX
72086, Ilioupoli 163 10, Athens, Greece) which mostly refers to communalist
* The groups "Provokatores tou Isyxou Ypnou" (Provocateurs of the Calm Sleep)
and "Esoterikos Exthros" (Internal Enemy) from Thessalonika, which amalgamated
at the start of 2004 into one group under the name "Tristero". They publish two
magazines, "Nea Topologia" (New Topology) and "Anares" and they have a really
good website at http://www.tristero.gr email firstname.lastname@example.org and
But despite their serious beliefs and frequent references to anarchist
communism and other similar ideas, these groups have not occupied themselves
with the historical document, the " Organizational Platform of the General
Union of Anarchists" and they cannot be intentified as clearly
In 2002, one of the undersigned (Dimitri or James Sotros) translated for the
very first time the "Organizational Platform of the General Union of
Anarchists" into Greek, but did not publish it immediately. In 2003, he sent it
in some close comrades and friends by email and it began to be known in some
close anarchist circles in Greece. In August of the same year, he started
co-operation with a comrade from Pireaus and they decided to publish it as a
separate pamphlet with a preface written by the second comrade. But during this
procedure news became known of the formation of the "Omospondia Anarxikon of
Dytiki Ellada" (OADE - Federation of Anarchists of Western Greece), members of
whom had independently translated the "Platform" together with all the
reactions and the responses by Malatesta, Makhno, Arshinov and others. This
actually became a book published in March 2004.
OADE was formed in the middle of 2003 and consists of anarchist groups and
individuals from towns in western Greece sush as Nafpaktos, Distomo, Patras,
Agrinio, Astakos, Arta and Ioannina. They also have contacts in Athens and
other places. Most of its members live in Agrinio, Patras and Ioannina. In
Ioannina, the members of OADE form a group called "Xeironomia" (Gesture) which
is an anarchist university student group and local section of the
"Antiexousiastiki Kinisi" (Antiauthoritarian Movement). (This scheme is the
continuation of the Antiauthoritarian Movement Salonica 2003, which was an
anarchist co-ordination project between some Greek anarchists to organise the
actions against the European Union Summit in June 2003 in Thessalonika. Now it
is a country-wide co-ordination project and publishes the monthly newspaper
For the OADE, the term "western Greece" does not represent any narrow
geographical criterion but only the decision for the anarchists who live, work,
study etc. in this area of Greece to organize themselves. The OADE has already
started its interventions mainly at a local level, that is, where its members
live, work and study. It has published a long leaflet which it used in its
intervention in the struggle of the locals of Astakos against the fish-farming
industry, which is destroying the area economically, socially and
environmentally, an intervention which was successful, since many locals
accepted this action positively. The leaflets published by OADE so far are
written in an understandable, simple language.
The members of the OADE in Agrinio initially opened an office there and the
members in Patras started the formation of an anarchist archive and also
started publishing a local bulletin called "Mavra Grammata" (Black Letters).
The office of the OADE is now in Patras, where the contact section is located.
(Postal address: P.O. BOX 1333, Central Post Office, 26001, Patras, Greece).
The OADE does not yet have its own magazine, but members from various towns
publish the magazine "Contact" (P.O. BOX 93, Agrinio 301 00, Greece
email@example.com) (This magazine was first published in Agrinio four
Also, we must say a few words about the "Eleftheriaki Syndikalistiki Enosi"
(ESE - Libertarian Syndicalist Union) which formed in Autumn 2003 in Athens. It
is an anarcho-syndicalist organisation with the ambition raising some important
issues among the Greek working-class movement. At the moment the organisation
consists of small groups in Athens, Paros, Rhodes and Trikala and tries to
maintain contacts with similar organisations from other countries. But it seems
that it is more sympathetic to the international ILS-SIL initiative
(International Libertarian Solidarity). Some of its members are sympathetic to
the "Platform". For contact there are the emails firstname.lastname@example.org and
Generally speaking, this is the background and the current situation of
anarchist organisational attempts in Greece. We do not know how and if the
OADE, the ESE and the other groups and publications will complete their aims.
However, what is sure is that some issues have already arisen and something has
started to move. Time, but also the particular initiatives and interventions by
these groups, will tell...
Spyros Fragos, OADE (Greece) member
James Sotros, OADE international relations and Melbourne ACG member
~ Infoshop News ~
Youth protest and anarchism - Are the Greek youth riots a harbinger of youth unrest to come world wide?
December 15, 2008
As many followers of European news note: This weekend in Athens there was further rioting and anarchistic activism.
According to the KUWAIT TIMES, “The ferocity of rioting by frustrated young Greeks shocked many across Europe but provides a warning to the continent's leaders as they discuss ways to confront the global economic crisis. Seven days of protests, which caused hundreds of millions of euros of damage across 10 Greek cities, were triggered by the police shooting of a teenager on Dec 6, but fed on resentment at high youth unemployment, low salaries and inadequate welfare.”
Some of these European-wide protests were “organized over the Internet or by SMS message, as many young people feel leaders are ignoring their frustrations.”
Do the events in Greece pose a harbinger of dissatisfied masses of youth worldwide over the next decade as more and more young people feel permanently caught in an economic traffic jam as the same old-powerful economic and political leaders maintain the status quo—even in time of recession and depression?
STORY FROM AN ACTIVIST'S POINT OF VIEW
Nikos Lountos, a student activist and Greek Socialist worker party member, both warns and explains the reasons behind the protests and violence, “I think it's a mixture of things. We [in Greece] have a government that's—a government of the ruling party called New Democracy, a very right-wing government. It has tried to make many attacks on working people and students, especially students. The students were some form of guinea pigs for the government. When it was elected after 2004, they tried—the government tried to privatize universities, which are public in Greece, and put more obstacles for school students to get into university.”
Lountos, who was interviewed last week on DEMOCRACY NOW, explained to American listeners, “The financial burden on the poor families if they want their children to be educated is really big in Greece. And the worst is that even if you have a university degree, even if you are a doctor or lawyer, in most cases, young people get a salary below the level of poverty in Greece. So the majority of young people in Greece stay with their families 'til their late twenties, many 'til their thirties, in order to cope with this uncertainty. And so, this mixture, along with the economic crisis and their unstable, weak government, was what was behind all this explosion.”
The same situation certainly exists in the U.S.A. in this decade. Could a major youth revolt be in the offing in the U.S. and other lands more permanently in 2009, 2010 and onwards?
That's right! After the collapse of a decade-long economic boom in most corners of the globe, youth everywhere are feeling a great pinch and they perceive this to be a very long-term pinch.
The first riots in Greece on December 6 had been sparked when police shot to death an unarmed 16 year-old boy named Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
These riots had appeared to die down at the end of last week, but rioting took off again on Saturday after the “one-week anniversary” of the shooting took place and Greek anarchists along with others attacked the very police station where the culprits who had shot young Grigoropoulos were stationed.
Actually, to be fair to a large number of Greek youth, December 13th's one-week vigil of the Grigoropoulos shooting had started peaceably with a candle light vigil being the main focus.
However, as has occurred often in the past week, more violent groups joined and usurped the more peaceful protests.
What is most surprising and notable is that most of the earliest protests in Greece were carried out by school-aged teenagers (mostly between the ages of 13 and 16).
The overall disillusionment of Greek youth reminded me of the “No Future” movements in the 1970s and 1980s in NATO European lands, whereby alienated youth were tuning out all over the continent. This was especially true in the mid-1980s as the political hope of the 1960s had died out and a new Cold War rhetoric had re-enveloped the continent, especially after the year when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the sudden increased spending on armaments across Europe dovetailed with the bad economic effects resulting from the higher fuel prices and high rates of unemployment in Western Europe in those same years.
After 1982-1983, when millions of Europeans had protested the newest NATO armaments expansion in Holland and Germany, most European youth turned inwards and cynical as a “greed is only good” became the political-economic-and social mantra for the next decade.
By the time I arrived to live in Germany in 1986, unemployment and underemployment for youth had been from 10 to 15 percent for many years and sometimes reached over 20 percent. In northern UK and Ireland unemployment for young people sometimes reached double that level unemployment and underemployment in that decade.
FROM GREECE TO PARIS
As noted above, last week there were sympathy protests from youth from Istanbul and Romania to Paris and Madrid.
Meanwhile, back in Greece, one BBC journalist wrote, “What needs to emerge from this tragedy is a new incorruptible force [in Greece] that is brave enough to challenge Greece's vested interests, implement essential reforms, ignore the political cost, and to inspire selflessness and civic responsibility.”
So far, it looks like youth are losing out and pure anarchists are torching the movement even as unions participate on and off.
Meanwhile, Greece developed an economic-political-social landscape resemblance to economies in Asia and in Africa. This is because a preference for young people to defer to their elders, tradition, and status quo has been stronger in lands of western Asia and Africa than elsewhere. This has partially been reinforced by anti-colonialist forces in the development of these modern states.
Overall, in many countries throughout this planet--especially in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa--there are certainly oligarchies of all varieties that have been in place for decades (if not centuries).
Till now, there has rarely ever been any young groups with enough influence to topple them.
The only exceptions, in the late 1980s, were those states involved in forcing the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the fall of Apartheid in South Africa. These had started with the ousting of President Ferdinand Marcos in Philippines. However, within a few short years youthful hopefulness has often turned to cynicism in recent decades.
NO MORE “LOST GENERATIONS”?
The traditional deference of youth to their elders in Asia has certainly been one typical emphasis that world travelers and businessmen or investors have come to expect and anticipate when visiting or doing business there.
Respect of one's elders and waiting one's turn to move up the hierarchy of whatever oligarchy or despotism are especially to be expected in Confucian capitalist and communist countries. However, this Confucian tendency can naturally be experienced in South Africa or South America, as well.
Naturally, the youth-powered movements of Chairman Mao in China are exceptions to this rule.
On the other hand, in the case of Mao's Cultural Revolution and its mass youth movements propelled against the elder peoples in that country was manipulated by higher-ups in the Communist Party.
Similar horrible excesses in manipulating youth movements in Southeast Asia in the 1970s led to the horrors of the Killing Fields under Pohl Pot.
In short, youth movements in many corners of this planet have sadly often been something to fear—especially by the oligarchies. Therefore, these sort of movements have either been put down brutally as occurred in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China in 1989, or have been bought off—as has happened in wealthier lands like Britain, Germany, the USA, Scandinavia, and even in Gulf Oil Sheikhdoms in recent decades. (Of course, unless the governments in these lands don't make it easier for youth to spend years acquiring higher education—rather than try to enter the job market—pressure from soon-to-form full-blown youth movements are not impossible to imagine in Western Europe or North America, either.)
When I think of bought-off youthful generations, I often recall my days in Japan and my two decades teaching and working with Japanese and South Korean students at the university level.
I, personally, was amazed by how much impotence both Japanese youth in general and Japanese college students specifically were manifesting in the 1990s (and later) as their country floundered for nearly 15 years of recession and deflation.
The youth of that era in Japan have even come to be called by all observers as “The Lost Generation”. These age-cohorts were part of the mass of unemployed and under-employed youth in Japan between 1989 and 2003. (In short, Japan was a nation which only finally got out of its economic depression 5 years ago—only to face another one this autumn in 2008. Will youth be able to accept any more of the status quo in life-business and economics?)
I lived in small-town Japan from 1992 to 1994. In small towns some young people have often ended up locking themselves up in their rooms for years.
For this reason, the source of most domestic violence in Japan has been viewed as a role reversal, whereby much domestic violence in the U.S. is simply “adults versus children” or between two spouses, a lot of Japanese domestic violence comes from youth against their parents.
These youth are called hikikomori in Japanese. Michael Zielenziger, a scholar at the East Asian Studies Center in Berkley, is an expert on hikikomori. Zielenziger explains that most hikikomori, are “young men who lock themselves away in their bedrooms,” and they are “fearful of society's expectations.”
Japan's aging working class now also face young women who “shun motherhood”, and do their best not to continue to rebuild the burdensome family relationships that their parents have put up with for generations.
COMPARING THE GREEKS AND JAPANESE
Unlike in Japan, where neither psychological training holds much sway nor where other modes of handling changes in the modern-economic tendency to alienate and under-employ its most youthful populations, Greece should have known better. Greece has experienced youthful discontent every generation for nearly two centuries.
Nonetheless, Greek government leadership this decade has appeared not to appreciate the alienation of its youth at all—despite having much more experience of youthful rebellion and anarchism than has existed in Japan over the past 6 decades.
So, in a fairly brash action, the Greek government, in 2004, began to go out of its way to further alienate younger citizens. The government did this, for example, by reducing the number of university seats available to graduating Greek students and by running up the cost of education while trying to privatize numerous parts of the higher education system in the country.
Unlike their Japanese cohorts who are still under similar pressure, in 2008, Greek children and university students have not responded like their pampered and frustrated East Asian youth. Instead of turning inwards, the young Greeks' attention has turned first to symbolic activism.
This may be primarily because of the wage levels these young people in Greece face, which is from 600- to 800 Euro-per-month category even after decades of biding their time in the school system and in the unemployed world of the Greek economy. These are wages that most Western Europeans would never be able to accept. Moreover, like in Japan, these Greek youth must live into their thirties at their parents' expense in their parents' homes or flats.
Concerning this December 2008 student activism in Greece, Nikos Lountos states, “What was the most striking. . . was that in literally every neighborhood in every city and town, school students walked out of their school on Monday morning.”
Lountos adds, “So, you could see kids from eleven to seventeen years old marching in the streets wherever you could be in Greece, tens of thousands of school students, maybe hundreds of thousands, if you add all the cities. So, all around Athens and around Greece, there were colorful demonstration of schoolboys and schoolgirls. Some of them marched to the local police stations and clashed with the police, throwing stones and bottles. And the anger was so really thick that policemen and police officers had to be locked inside their offices, surrounded by thirteen- and fourteen-year-old boys and girls.”
Lountos emphasizes how these young students' actions were received at a more universal level, “Th[is] picture of these young people in Greece standing up to have their political say during the world economic crises of 2008 was so striking that it produced a domino effect: The trade unions of teachers decided [to have] an all-out strike for Tuesday [last week. Next] [t]he union of university lecturers decided [to hold] a three-day strike. And so, [finally] there was the already arranged . . . . strike . . . for Wednesday against the government's economic policies, so the process was generalizing and still generalizes.”
I ponder whether these events in Europe in 2008 are a one-time affair or whether the expected length of the oncoming world depression or recession will lead to more youth becoming more radicalized world-wide.
SHOULD DISCRIMINATION LAWS PROTECT YOUNG PEOPLE?
My interest in the concerns of youth in Asia, the Middle East, in Europe, and Latin and North America has been strong for decades, especially as I have taught and educated young people now in nearly ten different countries and on a variety of continents since 1985.
Most recently, I have been teaching in Kuwait, where I accidentally got a whiff of the generational wars that potentially may brew here, even though much of Kuwaiti society respects more traditional pecking orders in societies, tribes, and on the global stage. However, as the world-wide global expansion collapse will dovetail with the rise in teenage population in Kuwait over the next decade, will there be youth becoming more vocal?
For example, it was mostly youth—including well-organized Kuwaiti youth often-too young to vote--who organized a political coup of sorts in 2006 by spearheading a movement to redistrict the parliamentary system in the State of Kuwait.
Just days prior to the shootings and the protests in Greece in early December 2008, I observed some 11th grade students in Kuwait holding a debate on the topic of age discrimination.
The topic of age-discrimination is old-hat in many Western countries. In fact, age discrimination has definitely been debated, discussed and banned by law since the 1960s in the United States. However, what was fascinating for me a few weeks ago was that I was observing how Kuwaiti youth in high schools defined age discrimination differently than their western counterparts. For the Kuwaiti students debating the “banning of age discrimination”, age-discrimination was not against elderly people in their societies. Instead, age-discrimination as defined by youth in Kuwait was “discrimination in the work place and higher practice of people of their age-cohort”—that is, young people in Kuwait are being discriminated against by employers, oligarchies, and the status quo. Tradition and status quo mean that they have to always defer to their elders in the marketplace of work and advancement.
Skills are hardly ever under consideration in their hiring and advancement. Age is a determining factor. The older one is the more job prospects one has. Well-educated young people feel locked out of the job market and societal niches which their forefathers have patiently waited for year-after-year. However, young people are being told that there will be less and less government jobs for them and their children. So, like those in Greece, Kuwaitis are promised a job many years into the future—if they sit peaceably in school or university. Now, with the economy in question in the long-term, many youth are more disgruntled at their long-term prospects in Kuwait.
RESULT OF DECADES OF POPULATION BOOM
Would you believe that at the turn of the 20th Century, there were less than 20,000 residents in all of Kuwait? Now, the population is around 3 million.
Therefore, the social and political-economic problems include that in Kuwait—like in most of Africa, South Asia, and South America—the youthful population has continued to boom dramatically over the past 4 decades. This means that the average age of a Kuwaiti is under 24 years of age. Twenty-five percent of the population is under 15. Whereas, young Kuwaiti's parents had been guaranteed jobs for life when they graduated from high school, the present population of Kuwaiti youth finds the bar has been set back decades. That is, most will have to get college degrees and higher level training. This can cause a lot of stress on youth and their families. Suddenly the average marriage age is pushed back. The uncertainties of the world economy and problems with education in Kuwait itself (in general) cause part of this stress. The other facet that causes stress is that despite earning a good degree and having a lot to offer, Kuwaiti society has little to offer that matches the career yearning of younger Kuwaitis. This is because even if a student manages to earn really good educational training or work qualifications honestly from great universities abroad, Kuwaiti youth usually will have to wait behind many more people in order to finally get a shot at their career than their parents or grand parents ever did.
In such a situation, despite apparent adherence to traditional appreciation of the aged and aging in Kuwait, distaste for the system is likely to expand—even here, in a country where a cradle-to-grave welfare system is financed by oil-dollars.
In summary, qualifications are almost always totally thrown out the window in Kuwait when hiring is going on. Either one gets a job through family connections or one waits in line for years until the elders retire before any young person can hope to make his or her mark on how his own country or workplace is done.
NOTE: This is the status quo in Greece and in my homeland, the USA.
However, until now, there has existed a social contract in Kuwait, whereby the young people agree to follow the traditions, tribal rules and practice of age-over-qualification. In turn, they receive their end of the social contract—a good salary and jobs they have been promised. In this way, until this very decade almost any revolt of youth in Kuwait and in the neighboring Gulf Sheikhdoms has been unthinkable. But, what happens when the working population jumps by two or three-fold during a decade of economic downturn?
In the past, disgruntled modern Arab youth have turned to their faith and rewriting of western or modernist societies by throwing themselves into anti-colonial or extremist paradigms, such as offered by the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Already alienation in Kuwait leads to a lot of drug addiction and alcoholism among Kuwaiti youth.
Meanwhile, in other countries, like Greece and Turkey, no social contract as in Kuwait and Japan can be afforded by the current political-economic oligarchies.
In short, many traditional oligarchies all over the globe might be facing years of street battles if they don't realign their economies and allow others to share in the wealth and decision-making processes—sooner than later.
Authors Website: http://the-teacher.blogspot.com/
KEVIN STODA has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades. He sees himself as a peace educator and have been a promoter of good economic and social development--making him an enemy of my homelands humongous spending and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global issues.
"I am from Kansas so I also use the pseudonym 'Kansas' when I write and publish. I keep two blogs--one with blogger and one with GNN. My writings range from reviews to editorials or to travel observations. I also make recommendations related to policy--having both a strong background in teaching foreign languages and degrees in teaching in history and the social sciences. As a midwesterner, I also write on religion and living out ones faith whether it be as a Christian, Muslim or Buddhist perspective."
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