Guest post. Translated from the French by Tim Gupwell
On Thursday 14th June a woman from Crete, aged 32 years old, stole three packs of milk and an ice-cream from a supermarket in Héraklion, causing a loss to the shop of 20.77 Euros. For several days, her four children had been given nothing but plain pasta to eat. Caught in the act, the young unemployed woman was immediately remanded into custody. She has just been released (Friday the 15th June) and the charges have finally been withdrawn, thanks to the mobilization of the town’s workers’ trade union group and also, thanks to the media exposure of this local news which became decidedly…national.
On Thursday evening, a man aged 55, in long term unemployment, committed suicide in his garden in Agrinio, in the heart of the country, with his hunting rifle. “It was a blood bath”, declared the neighbours, shocked, according to the news report. In this way, political realities under the ‘Troïkans’ are rendered through the symbolism and practice of spilling blood. It’s already an established fact in the mentalities and the collective logic that the death instinct has been reawakened, thanatos is on the verge of becoming a political contract. There is no longer any point in feeling sorry about this, it has to be dealt with, but how?
Greece is returning to the essential once again, surviving, dying, spilling one’s blood, and (for the moment) voting. So, the violence exercised on society is in the process of legitimating in practice, all violence. Against oneself and against others, and at the moment we are no longer living through a great historical moment in respect of the acknowledgement and appreciation of the other. The indecent and incessant attacks (that last Franz-Olivier Giesbert’s article in Le Point “And if we handed Greece over to Turkey…”) stigmatizing the Greek nation, and the humiliating remarks of certain political leaders coming from the Euro centre, don’t help matters.
Happily we can still hope to change our destiny and perhaps even, help to inspire change in the other peoples of Europe – through the vote.
Yesterday, at the huge Syriza rally in Athens, there were a lot of people and one sensed that the tone was already a lot more serious than had been the case for the gathering in May. The real political left is always more conscious and conscientious when it comes to acting with government responsibility; besides, it is so rare that this is the case and that it has the possibility of taking power.
Within Syriza, worries persist, whilst its most left wing element (Panagiotis Lafazanis and iskra.gr), is violently attacked by the system’s media. At the same time, François Hollande’s intervention was not well received, which is the least that can be said, and is one of the themes tackled in one of my recent blog articles.
Heading towards the Northern districts of Athens on Thursday, I fell (the verb is appropriate) upon the Golden Dawn meeting, underneath the equestrian statue of Marshall Papagos, victor of the Greek Civil War (against the communist army in 1949), situated opposite the Defence Ministry. I stayed for about ten minutes; it is difficult to hold out much longer, it’s almost physical let’s say.
In effect, we could describe it as a small pro-Nazi “group”, but this kind of analysis is unfortunately already out-of-date, since its recent political progress indicates that it is in the process of becoming a mass movement. I observed the participants, lots of young people, very young, in other words a populist “demography”, the children of Piraeus, such as those encountered in the Autumn of 2011, all trainees from the Merchant Navy School, unemployed sea-men and ‘Golden Dawnists” already at heart.
Under the statue of Marshall Papagos this Thursday could also be found certain more elderly man (and their wives), who seem visibly to have come from outer space and other unforgettable servants… of the colonels’ regime. These men, who at the time wore a very characteristic little moustache, are dressed in almost identical fashion to that of 1974. To see them in this way, plunges us back into childhood memories. At that period, these same men who were responsible at the time for state security, notified at their places of residence to all the left-wing Democrats and sometimes even right-wing, fear and deportation. Style… cannot tell a lie, clearly.
There, the Meta-Nazis of the Golden Dawn were peddling their wares, including the unavoidable insignia of the colonels. The organisation’s militiamen were jubilant. Amongst the slogans “Slaps for lesbians!”, “Immigrants out”, “Greece belongs to the Greeks” (this last one was also a slogan of Andréas Papandréou and of the… proto-Pasok party between 1974 and 1985). No comments are really needed, I imagine
The first speaker was Ilias Kasidiaris (the Deputy who attacked two left-wing elected representatives on the television set of Ant-1), child of Piraeus, chemical engineer (still plying his trade), specialist in health security and food quality, martial arts instructor, former army commando and… occasional novelist. He promised to make his act a “basis for future political action and at every level, more apt than any other, to meet Angela Merkel with”, a violence that the population seems to accept easily if I can believe my ears (and the other changing signs of the time.)
We are fighting the “nice monster” of the world of finance as well as the variations of the ecumenical “TINA (There is no alternative)” which flows from it, but at the same time, the Far Right which claims to reject this same monster under another form, is swept along by the trade winds of globalization and is preparing itself to “resolve” the enigma, creating its own monster. The task for the Golden Dawn is easier than that of the left-wing, as there is practically nothing that can be done in this time of crisis; this is glaringly obvious in Greece. Syriza, the left-wing (the far-left and all those who feel themselves concerned), humanists of the Enlightenment and plain old humanists, have to accomplish a virtual miracle: cultural and philosophical awakening on a grand scale. Something which is by no means easy to achieve.
We will be thinking of this on the 18th June, from dawn. But today, on the 15th June, we share a thought too for Manos Hadjikidakis, who died on the 15th June 1994. He wrote “The children of Piraeus” ( “ta pedia tou pirea”).