Comment by John Malamatinas – First published in German on neues deutschland
The right-wing conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, elected only last summer, does everything in its power to encourage protest movements. After having started to evacuate self-organized occupations of fugitives, declared war on the inhabitants and anarchists in the left-alternative district of Exarchia in Athens, it is now the turn of the students. The latter have been protesting since the summer against the repeal of a law banning the police from entering the university campus and protecting student protests. The law was a legacy of a student uprising on 17 November 1973 during the military dictatorship, when a tank rammed through the gates of the Athens Polytechnic. Dozens were killed that day.
Yesterday’s pictures of the attack of the Greek infamous Riot police MAT on the students of the Athens University of Economics ASOEE went around the world. Six days before the historic date, MAT units stormed the campus with the aim of preventing the political occupation – an incomprehensible provocation and, at the same time, a political demonstration of power that evoked memories of the dictatorship in the public debate. Actually, the action was intended to flatter right-wing voters – exactly the opposite was achieved: an occasion for a social movement! And this in a difficult phase for the organized left after the years of austerity and the related loss of trust of the people in social change.
When I opened Facebook this morning, a feeling filled me that I had been missing since the last big general strike in February 2012: real hope! Numerous Greek activists, but also ordinary people, shared the pictures and videos of yesterday evening’s demonstrations. There are thousands and thousands of young people who do not want to be intimidated by the police operation and take up the challenge to fight for another future – a future without right-wing police cowboys, racist barbecues to “protect the Greek tradition” against fugitives or homophobic and sexist attacks. It is a two-sided struggle against the re-emerging “Greek values” and the social disintegration forced by Mitsotakis through privatization and displacement.
It should be remembered that the cycle of crisis protests in Greece did not begin with Papandreou’s famous speech from a yacht near the island of Kastelorizo in April 2010, in which he announced “that we will not make it without the financial support of our international partners”, but the youth sounded the alarm much earlier: During the student protests 2006-07 against the neo-liberalization of the universities and in the uprising in December 2008 when the 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot by the police and the marginalized part of society laid the cards on the table. For weeks, school and university students together with precariously employed and unemployed people organized themselves in occupied universities and town halls and attacked police stations throughout the country. There is currently no lack of inspiration: in Greece, too, everyone is looking excitedly at the current uprisings in the world.