'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Struggle on the Streets of Greece (Part 1) 

Clashes between protesters and the police in Athens in advance of a parliamentary vote tomorrow on intensified austerity measures required for additional IMF and European Central Bank funds are ongoing:

23.30 GMT+2 Up to this time, there are constant harsh clashes. Continually, medics run to help numerous injured protesters, transferring them from outside Hotel Grande Bretagne.

23.17 GMT+2 Dissent is generalized; there are people hurdling rocks to the police across the centre of Athens. In Stadiou Street police are now attacking demonstrators, and the clashes continue in Syntagma as before. Filellinon and surrounding streets are lined with police squads. There are at least 5-6 police units outside the Russian Church near Syntagma. At the Zappeion hundreds of DELTA motorcycle police forces. At the junction of Ardittou and Vouliagmenis streets, near First Cemetery of Athens, there are dozens of motorcyclist cops.

23.15 GMT+2 A huge crowd at Syntagma tonight, multiple times larger than the crowd at the general strike demo in the morning. Clashes between police squads and demonstrators forced the temporary halting of the concert. There are many stun grenades and tear gas thrown against demonstrators’ heads.

Such confrontations have been taking place for hours:

17.00 GMT+2 Demonstrators move away, so the tension shifts to the lower side of the square. Othonos Street has re-opened and is gradually filled with people. The area is under continuous attack from tear gas and shock grenades.

16.50 GMT+2 Syntagma: A lot of tear gas inside the metro station, from Amalias Street. The majority of anarchists are not present at the time, but comrades remain near Syntagma. Police raid en mass the upper side of the square; melees between demonstrators and cops. From Othonos Street a minor militant group with football fans’ distinctive features throws stones against the numerous repression forces. Several organizers of the Syntagma Assembly, possibly along with far-right ‘300 Greeks’, are offering Maalox in order to protect people from chemicals.

16.40 GMT+2 Ongoing clashes; tear gas thrown now in front of the Unknown Soldier Monument. The majority of the people have split away from the place. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 remain gathered. Nevertheless, demonstrators do not leave the square.

16.05 GMT+2 According to reports, three people have been detained at Syntagma – one of the detainees is a trade union member.

15.57 GMT+2 Protesters are taking back the area around Filellinon Street, at the lower side of Syntagma square.

15.45 Athens: Police squads evacuated Amalias Street by a savage chemical warfare operation; asphyxiant gases were poured inside the metro station and thrown even against the Medical Centres’ tend in Syntagma square.

For updates, go here and here.

Obscured by the pyrotechnics of the immediate confrontation is the probability that the Greek government will approve the austerity measures by a slight margin. Upon such approval, the conflict will enter a new phase, mass resistance to the implementation of the austerity and privatization program. European capitalists are already aware of this prospect, as reflected in this article in the Guardian last week:

There is doubt, though, over whether the measures can be imposed on an increasingly unhappy population.

Everything depends on Greece implementing the measures, Lord Brittan, the former vice president of the European commission, told the BBC's Today programme. Legislating is one thing, implementing is another, and Greece's history of implementation is not a happy one, Brittan added.

Jane Foley of Rabobank International agreed, saying there was widespread scepticism in the bond markets about the ability of the Greek political system to implement the reform.

In effect, investors are beginning to imply that regime change will be necessary to ensure the repayment of Greek debt to French, German, British and American financial institutions. Or, to put it more bluntly, a coup, whether initiated by the military, or by a government of national unity within the existing political system. So far, Prime Minister Panpandreou and the Socialists have been unable to reach agreement with the rightist opposition, but the EU, the IMF and the ECB may soon broker such a marriage to preserve the constitutional legitimacy of the austerity program and the repression required to execute it.

No doubt, the EU, the IMF and the ECB are desperate to avoid the installation of a new junta in the service of international capital, given the grave damage that it would inflict upon the project of a united Europe, but, if necessary, they will accept it. Supposedly, Greek media outlets have been disseminating alarms over the possibility of military intervention in recent days. Proposed new border controls within the EU, prompted by fears of a mass migration from North Africa, will also serve the purpose of keeping most Greeks incarcerated in their newly created debtor's prison. One hopes that the Greeks are already planning beyond this week to resist these measures.

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