Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Who are these Greek anarchists?

The Greek government has narrowly survived a confidence vote. This morning, a BBC reporter told us that the next wave of street protests will come when Greek MPs have to vote on the austerity measures needed to reduce Greece to an obedient IMF/ECB satrapy. According to the reporter, "anarchists" will be prominent in the street protests.

There's still something a bit paradoxical about the idea of anarchists taking to the street to take on those who'd like to cut the state to the bone. OK, anarchists came out in support of the Spanish Republic, but that was a marriage of necessity. Anarchists knew that their very existence wouldn't be tolerated by a ruthless junta of authoritarian, militaristic, centralist generals, so being on the side of the Republic was a bit of a no-brainer.

If there are real anarchists on the streets these days, I wonder what's going on in their heads? Maybe it's a watered-down version of being part of the Spanish Popular Front; they may be against all authority, but maybe they feel more allied a state that's supposed (however corruptly and inefficiently) to serve the Greek people, than to the authority of international institutions that protect corporations nobody voted for, rich rentiers and the get-rich(er)-quick scams of debt farmers. Or maybe, they're just young and angry and want a riot without having thought through what they're rioting for.

Or maybe it's not the rioters who are confused, but the journalists. Are anarchists really behind the riots? Are the "anarchists" really anarchists at all? Or are they just nihilists (itself just a fancy-pants shorthand for frustrated youths lashing out at The Man)? Or even apolitical thugs who see any disorder as the chance to pile in and have a good old ruck?

Or are they just relatively ordinary Greeks, driven to fury by the useless bankers and machine politicians who drove the ship onto the rocks and are now telling everybody else to swim for it, from the comfort of their gold-plated lifeboats? If so, maybe we're witnessing the rebirth of the mythical anarchist fanatic as the default scapegoat for disorder in hard times.


john b said...

I know "useless bankers" is general GFC shorthand, but Greece is one of the few countries where bankers don't deserve the tag.

Greek banks lent responsibly and didn't need bailouts - the Greek crisis is a sovereign debt one, where the government lied about its books in order to borrow money it couldn't pay back, so that it could keep paying out loads of money without charging any tax.

It's the opposite of Ireland, where the populace should indeed raze the banks to the ground and hang the bankers.