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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #297 - Greece: Exarcheia, the neighborhood that scares the bourgeois (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Thu, 12 Sep 2019 10:09:18 +0300

The right-wing government that succeeded Syriza decided to end this famous district of Athens, the Mecca of anarchism and symbol of popular resistance. ---- In 2015, the Syriza party, which presents itself as a left-wing alternative to the austerity policy imposed by the Troika [1], campaigned with the slogan " Hope Comes " . If this hope was successful in bringing Alexis Tsipras to power, he was soon showered. In a few months, the coalition of the radical left and part of the social movement has metamorphosed to best apply European directives or even anticipate. Syriza's economic policy did not stand out from those of its predecessors Pasok (Greek PS) or New Democracy (ND, right).
It is therefore not surprising that in July, during the legislative elections, Syriza was overthrown by New Democracy, led by Kiriakos Mitsotakis. The latter was elected on the basis of a program very right, especially on issues of " security ".

One of his flagship campaign promises was the massive increase in police recruitment, with 1,500 additional positions. Security rhetoric works all the better in Greece as the country has in recent years been the main gateway into the Schengen area for people who do not have the chance to get a visa. Since 2015 in particular, the country is facing a severe crisis of reception. For example, more than 630,000 people passed through the island of Lesbos alone. Faced with this situation, the other European countries have refused to welcome more people or have sought to close their borders and criminalize irregular entry into their territory.

In Greece, a tremendous momentum of popular solidarity has accompanied the action of NGOs to allow a dignified welcome possible. But the right and the overwhelming majority of the mainstream media have for years been playing a dangerous game by equating crime, including drug trafficking, with migrants and refugees. Symptomatic fact: the Ministry of Migration Policy was absorbed by the equivalent of the Greek Ministry of the Interior, symbolically delegating the reception of migrants to the police. Border and big-city controls have been strengthened and the state seeks to speed up the return of migrants to Turkey, regardless of respect for human rights. The right also annulled a decree that allowed access to social security for migrants.

Authoritarianism as a solution to clientelism ?
New Democracy has dominated Greek political life for decades, alternating with Pasok. Before Syriza came to power in 2015, these two party-institutions were largely served by the state apparatus to place their respective lieutenants in strategic (and highly paid) posts and to reward their loyal supporters, particularly in within the employers. The game is to scream scandal when one is in opposition and to reproduce the same pattern once in power. Barely a month after taking office, ND dismissed Vassiliki Thanou, former adviser to Alexis Tsipras, as chair of the Competition Commission. But the best is yet to come: New Democracy wants to " depoliticize the senior civil service "(sic) by prohibiting access to an independent administrative authority to anyone who has held a position in a cabinet or political office. It remains to be seen whether this will also apply to his own supporters.

At the same time, Mitsotakis is promoting institutional reform aimed at strengthening the power of the Prime Minister (to the detriment of other ministers and Parliament).

In education too, we find this same desire for control with a reform that proposes to evaluate teachers throughout their careers. Universities, in particular, are counter-powers that are far too embarrassing for this new government. The opening of higher education to competition and the private sector is the same logic: to undress and control the public sector of education to open new markets juicy for capitalists.

Country for sale
Mitsotakis surfaced on the popular discontent generated by ten years of drastic austerity. Syriza boasted of having restored the country's financial balance and even being in surplus, but at what cost ? Taxes have increased, while wages stagnate or decline. The right had only to pick the fruit. It offers the luxury in July to reduce the property tax by unanimously on the political chessboard. This tax, very unpopular in a country where nearly three-quarters of the population owns, had become the symbol of the crisis.

On the other hand, the liberal program that Mitsotakis is preparing is clear and is made to last: a reduction of taxes on companies, a multiplication of public-private partnerships (for the renovation of the port of Piraeus in particular), a law allowing employers to dismiss without giving reasons. decision and without warning the employee ... Taxes on dividends should also be halved. And it is probably not the Troika that will see anything wrong with this policy, even if it continues to watch.

Finally, to complete the picture, the first decree of the new government was, in two lines, to remove the anti-fraud brigade of the Greek tax (SDOE). Created twenty-four years ago to fight tax evasion (about 30 billion euros per year until recently), this brigade is now a thing of the past. As a first political decision, it is difficult to make more clear about its ambitions.

The thorny anarchist file
Greece is one of the countries in the world where the anarchist movement is the strongest. Indeed, the student struggles of the 2000s and especially the uprising of December 2008, after the assassination of Alexis Grigoropoulos (15 years old) by a policeman, contributed enormously to the development of anarchism in this country.

Since 2015, a group has made itself particularly known under the name of Rouvikonas (" Rubicon ") by multiplying actions of solidarity and mutual assistance, participation in street demonstrations or direct actions against state institutions, foreign representations (the French consulate has been repeatedly targeted) or representatives of capitalism in Greece. Based on the Automedia, the group practices a form of direct action that is radical and accessible. The speech is deliberately simple, the targets are often consensual (headquarters of employers, Ministry of Defense, National Bank) and the actions are claimed in the open.

New Democracy intends to solve the problem by transforming the law so that such actions of the group fall under the antiterrorist legislation and that all members can be held responsible for all actions on behalf of the group, including those where they and they are not present. The most exposed of them and they incur at the moment sentences of several years of prison for facts which normally fall, from a legal point of view, of the simple vandalism.

The battle of Exarcheia
Rouvikonas is part of the myriad of anarchist collectives who live the Exarcheia district in Athens. The Greek state estimates that the latter is home to 23 occupations, including 11 places of anarchist and anti-authoritarian collectives. The other 12 are home to migrants and refugees, who would be homeless without the action of activists. Not to mention the legal places (publishing houses, cooperatives run by activists ...) that also exist in the surrounding area, and the self-managed park of Navarinou, erected for ten years in place of a project parking.

But for the right, the district of Exarcheia, it is above all the drugs and the violence, protected by the university " asilo ". Since the student uprising of 1973, the universities are a sanctuary almost forbidden to the police. New Democracy intends to abolish this law to be able to fetch protesters who take refuge there and prepare themselves during clashes with the police. In Exarcheia, the famous Faculty of Polytechnic is explicitly listed among the short-list of places to put in step for the new government. In August, the police carried out no fewer than four raids in the neighborhood, citing drug operations.

Behind this, the goal is to " clean " this central area to prepare it for the gentrification and tourist rental market on which all the property developers are eyeing. As Katerina Papakosta, NDP deputy who became Deputy Minister of Police in the Tsipras government in 2018, puts it, the challenge is to " make Exarcheia la Montmartre " Greek. Empty " peaceful " rebel places, then erase the graffiti that decorate the walls, " green " the neighborhood, renovate the buildings and remove the libertarian imprint that has shaped the area for decades by holding the police, l State and the mafias in respect.

The government is putting pressure on all sections of society, especially those who resist the most. But the Greek social movement is not dead and the comrades are brewing their weapons while waiting for future battles. As we go to press, a violent police attack targeted four Exarcheia squats, two of which housed 143 exiles, brought to a center to control their situation. Three other people were arrested. International solidarity will have an important role to play in supporting resistance in Exarcheia.

Gio (UCL Le Mans), August 26, 2019

[1] In exchange for a state refinancing loan after the 2009 " debt crisis ", the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have taken control of the country's economic and social policy. country, imposing austerity in defiance of democratic pretensions.

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