mara karagianni on Sat, 13 Dec 2008 16:42:12 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> On the Greek binaries of controversy

a first impression...

The episodes that are going on now in Greece are the result of a
continuing series of its government's policy of privatization and
corruption scandals that came into surface since the beginning of
2008; the 25 % of the public telecommunication [OTE] stakes sale to
the Deutsch Telecom company[2], the Siemens scandal that secured the
German company's contracts with the Greek state for constructions
during the Olympic games[3] and the most recent exposure of land swaps
ruled by the Orthodox church with the aid of parliamentary officials
from both the previous social governing party Pasok and the current
Karamanli's right party[4]. Those scandals dealt with millions of
money laundering and a big loss of public money.

And the list goes on; the forthcoming closure of the Olympic airlines
and its foreseen privatized new launch with a huge reduction of
working staff[5], the decision to render private institutions'
diplomas equivalent to the public universities' ones in a country
where entrance into public education goes through very harsh exams,
while the financial support for studies such as loans and funding is
out of the question [the only existing public funding supports only
post graduate education and it becomes more and more limited]. And
finally an overall pessimistic feeling among the young people about a
precarious future.

Giving money to bankers and withdrawing money from the education,
the pensions, extending working hours and the retirement age cannot
be plausibly accepted by public opinion. In Den Hague the European
summit for space exploration managed to gather its funding for the
next 3 years. Esa's director argued; 'In space, you are investing for
the next five or 10 years, meaning that space cannot be dependent on
economic cycles which are disturbing the situation of today but which
will not disturb the future'[1]. Of course they have to look into the
future of the outer space stations if people on earth are dying of
food shortage, epidemics and even by police officers. Car industries
close down but space companies may flourish. And of course they should
secure the earth's monitoring of the climate change [instead of
actually doing something about it].

But the riots now in Greece has turned to fuel a profound rupture
between property owners and a radical youth, extreme rightist groups
and anarchists, and even between communists and alternative radical
leftists. The two first conflicts are being nurtured by the mainstream
TV media that have manipulated and censored audio files [Mega channel
was accused to add sound effects in an audio file that was recorded
during the arrest of 2 teenagers and Alpha channel demanded a take
down notice to the same file that was posted online, without the
effects, for copyright infringement] and have been emphasizing on
reports about immigrants looting shops and generally about the
destruction of private property.

But also local TV channels across the country spread rumors about
organized anarchic attacks that want to bring down Karamanli's
government and foster the state into chaos. The third split is related
to the fact that the new radical left party [Syriza], which by the
way has entered the political realm very dynamically, found the
riots sound as a consequence of the accumulation of scandals and the
socio-economic problems that Greek society suffers from. This was
condemned by the Communist party [KKE] which accused Syriza of backing
up the violence of the riots. Friends that joined a demonstration
within the communist body were forced to open their bags to show that
they did not carry with them any threatening widgets. On Thursday the
entrance of Pantios University, the school of Philosophy and other
schools, were safeguarded by the youth of the communist party [KNE]
that did not allow anyone to enter in order to eliminate any possible

In addition, the public general disillusion by both major political
parties, which stems from their involvement in the mentioned financial
scandals, seems to have caused a crisis in the Greeks' political
identity. The attempt to reach a new consensus over which party
best represents them is not obvious. And this is an extra layer of
confusion over a Greek society that carries a history of civil war
full of controversies.

The civil war in the 1944-49 [the first proxy war in the Cold
War] between the Communist partisans [ELAS] and the Royalist army
had provoked very bitter after effects and had divided public
consciousness into an extreme political dualism[6]. Until 1974 [the
date of Papadopoulos dictatorship came to an end] the civil war was
used as a tool for anticommunist propaganda through the history school
books [in Greece the only history books that can be taught in class
are published by the state], and afterwards when Pasok came to govern
in the '80s it was used as a support for a national unity.

Now KKE is being criticized of allying with Karamanlis party because
it is against the character of the riots. But it seems to me that KKE
strict deprecation of violence and the urge to suppress it may derive
from the burden of violent accountability carried by the communists
after the civil war and the failure back then to reach a wider Greek
population that felt intimidated by the partisans' attacks. Another
option may be that KKE tries to stumble a possible coalition between
Pasok and Syriza, if new elections take place.

The possibility of a governmental coalition between the two big
parties [Pasok and New Democracy] is left out, even if their
differences are less than their similarities, because this is more of
a taboo issue; If you are not with us you are with the others. If you
are not a nationalist Christian you are a leftist anarchist. If you do
not protest against the country of Macedonia that wants the official
recognition of its name but which first belongs to the Greek Northern
region [Greek state uses instead the name FYROM for its neighboring
country] you do not see the jeopardy of your country's borders[7]. You
are not respectful of the ancient heritage and history of the Great
Alexander, who was Macedonian and thereby of course Greek [even though
the concept of the Greek state came into existence in 1829 and at that
time the broad region of Macedonia was a land over which Bulgarians,
Serbians and Greeks were fighting to assimilate into each one own
But the Macedonian and Balkan wars are another subject of controversy
in the history school books that also serves the construction of the
national imaginary. Why did, in 2004, a football game between Albania
and Greece, in which the latter lost[8] light Greek nationalistic
mobilizations, racist slogans and led to the killing of an Albanian
man on a Greek island? Because the majority of the public was full of
pride with the success of the Olympic games and the country's European
Football Championship 2004 that could not have accepted such a defeat.

And I do not have to go far, only a couple of weeks ago there was an
extreme anti-foreigner protest held by the residents of an Athenian
suburb [Ag. Panteleymon]. They asked the police to take drastic
measures in order to send away the migrants from the neighborhood
because they have grown in number and have been breeding animals in
their houses [since when is this forbidden?], and all these frightened
the Greek residents[9]. Shall I also recall here that children of
migrants born in Greece are not legitimate for the Greek nationality?
But to go back to the riots, a phrase that was frequently repeated
after the teenager's shooting by the police, was 'what would you
have done if it was your child? Wouldn't you go out in the streets
as a kamikaze terrorist'? However this is one more sign of people's
inability to get the bigger picture of the seriousness of social,
cultural and economic problems that Greece is facing and whose
intensity led to the riots that do not need the owing of a child to
follow up.

At the same time the authorities and media steer public attention
towards the 'questionable' manners of the killed teenager [this is
what the defense lawyer of the two policeman has declared along with
his account of the shooting as an accident, or do I need to mention
the CNN news allegedly reporting that the youngster was holding a fuel
filled bomb?[10], the high cost of the destroyed private property and
the tale of an underground organized anti-governmental plan. Before
it was the migrants and the name of Macedonia, now is the anarchists'

The public announcement by the students' occupation of the Athens
School of Economics [ASOEE] is right to claim that they do not just
wish for the government's resignation. They struggle for a deeper
social change against the bourgeois democracy and the system of
the capital. But if history continues to be written under narrow
perspectives to reassure nations' collective memory, and promoting
friends/enemies political concepts, then the production of such
violent conflicts and public division will remain inescapable.


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