Saturday, December 27, 2008

Zimbabwe and the new Cowardly Colonialism

The media reports about Zimbabwe's elections present them as a clash between the 'evil' Mugabe and the 'heroic' Tsvangirai, an electoral battle for Zimbabwe's soul. Mugabe is depicted as having brought Zimbabwe to its knees, causing widespread poverty and enforcing terror and repression, and Tsvangirai is discussed as the harbinger of a dignified 'revolution' against Mugabeism (2). This is a fantasy. It ignores the key role played by Western governments and financial institutions in using sanctions, tough diplomacy and the proxy interventionists of the South Africa government and the African Union to isolate and harry Zimbabwe over the past decade. Such self-serving external meddling has contributed to Zimbabwe's economic crisis - and it has dangerously distorted the political dynamics inside Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the south of Africa.

Over the past 10 years, American and European governments cynically transformed Mugabe's Zimbabwe into the West's whipping boy in Africa, the state they love to hate, a country against which they can enforce tough sanctions to demonstrate their seriousness about standing up to 'evil'. The West has imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, warned off foreign investors, denied Zimbabwean officials the right to travel freely around the world, demonised Mugabe as an 'evil dictator', discussed the idea of military action against Zimbabwe, and used moral and financial blackmail to cajole South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki to 'deal with' Mugabe (3).

Objectively, this singling out of Mugabe's regime as the 'worst government on Earth, the most brutal, destructive, lawless government' made little sense (4). No doubt Mugabe is a nasty piece of work, but then so are some of the government heads that the West is more than happy to work with. Indeed, one could argue that, over the past decade, there was more choice and openness in Mugabe's Zimbabwe than there was in Rwanda and Uganda, both close political allies of America and Britain. No, Zimbabwe was labelled the demon of Africa, not in response to events on the ground in Zimbabwe itself, but in response to the needs and desires of governments in the West looking for a purposeful mission in international affairs.

Western meddling pushed Zimbabwe to the precipice. Yet listening to the discussion of the elections, you could be forgiven for thinking that the country had suffered from a sudden, inexplicable case of Spontaneous National Combustion. The economic crisis is depicted as a peculiar phenomenon on a continent where there has mostly been economic growth in recent years. Where most of Africa's economies have been growing at a rate of between five and six per cent recently, Zimbabwe is the only African country that had a negative GDP in 2007/2008. It is reported that the Zimbabwean economy has shrunk by more than a third since 1999, a 'decline worse than in major African civil wars', says one newspaper (5). Apparently there's an unemployment rate of around 80 per cent, and inflation is running at 100,586 per cent (6). Yet the only explanation given for this economic nosedive is Mugabe's seizure of colonial-era, white-owned commercial farms eight years ago. As the UK Guardian says: 'The economic crisis is largely blamed on the seizure of white-owned farms that began in 2000, disrupting the agriculture-based economy.' (7) It is true that foreign exchange earnings from these former white-owned farms have plummeted, causing major economic problems; but there is more to Zimbabwe than tobacco and the other cash crops once produced by the white farmers.

A key driver of Zimbabwe's economic crisis has been the West's attempts to bring down Mugabe by turning the financial levers. Relentlessly, the American and British governments, and the European Union, economically punished Mugabe's Zimbabwe for what they considered to be its political disobedience. In November 1998, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) implemented undeclared sanctions against Zimbabwe, by warning off potential investors, freezing loans and refusing to negotiate with Zimbabwean officials on the issue of debt. In September 1999, the IMF suspended its support for economic adjustment and reform in Zimbabwe. In October 1999, the International Development Association, a multilateral development bank, suspended all structural adjustment loans and credits to Zimbabwe; in May 2000 it suspended all other forms of new lending (8).

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Germany looks to Russia for clues on WWII massacre

A spokesman for the Potsdam prosecutor said an official request for information about the massacre was forwarded to Russian authorities in November.

"It's our last chance to find those responsible. We've already gone through all the relevant German documents," said Christoph Lange.

"Maybe something can be found in Russian military archives, possibly something relating to orders, or reports, or photographs," he said.

But he acknowledged it was unlikely the truth would ever be known.

The town's mayor Michael Knape is less than happy about charges now brought against "persons unknown" in a bid to force Russian authorities to speak out about the massacre.

"All we wanted was reconciliation. It was never our purpose to go after the Russians," he said.

Charges were brought by a small association, the Forum zur Aufklaerung und Erneuerung (Forum for Resolution and Renewal), which seeks to bring to light some of the darker secrets of east Germany's communist past.

"Now that charges have been brought, the whole question of guilt has been resurrected," says Knape, who acknowledges that "the townspeople are very reluctant" to discuss what remains a taboo subject.

Even his grandmother, who lived through the events, "refused to discuss it," the mayor said.

Most of the dead are buried in six large rectangular pits in the town and a nearby memorial now preserves their names.

"The bodies were buried in layers, 12 atop one another. Those who helped bury them kept a secret tally, but gave up counting after 721," according to local historian Wolfgang Ucksche.

On the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, Ucksche, a former petrol station attendant who now runs the town museum, asked citizens to write down what they remembered of the times.

Russian troops occupied Treuenbrietzen on Saturday, April 21, 1945.

According to witnesses, the massacre took place two days later, possibly because a Soviet officer had been shot dead in the town.

Men were gathered together, taken to nearby woods, and shot. A number of women were also raped and killed.

Ucksche said nearly every family in the town lost relatives.

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Time travelling or does Obama have any kind of deal let alone a new ‘New Deal’?

In the essay by Stanley Aronowitz 'Facing the economic crisis', we read the following summation,

“Progressives have advanced hope that Obama will usher in a 'new' New Deal. But the New Deal of yesteryear was never intended to pull the United States out of the depression. While it did employ more than a million workers in government projects, even considering that these might have produced three times or 3 million jobs, as late as 1940, unemployment hovered at about 20% of the labour force. What the New Deal accomplished went well beyond its relatively modest economic impact; more important was its ideological and political force.

“In contrast to Herbert Hoover and the first New Deal's focus on stimulating economic activity by pouring capital into business corporations, controlling prices and wages in order to foster profits and limiting its direct aid to the unemployed to feeding the hungry, the so-called 'second' New Deal put money in the pockets of the jobless through public works and service programs, promised to save small farms from foreclosure through government purchases of crops and paying farmers to retire part of their growing capacity in a land bank. But it was the farmers themselves who, through direct action and mass organizing, sometimes prevented evictions, created cooperative enterprises to oppose the big processing corporations and, even before the depression became official, created their own political vehicles.

“And, after the mass industrial strikes of 1933 and 1934 conducted without a legal framework for union recognition, in 1935 the National Labor Relations Act guaranteed workers the right to organize unions of their own choosing, established a procedure for official union recognition and collective bargaining, and outlawed company unions and competitive unionism within the same bargaining unit. In short, the second New Deal was a consequence of a popular upsurge, not only the brainchild of FDR and his advisors. It remains an open question as to whether the organizations at the base of the Obama administration will match, let alone exceed, the achievements of the New Deal. There is little or no prospect that, within the current framework of neoliberal, market capitalism, the deepening economic crisis can be significantly reversed. Will the Left urge direct action to address the crisis, open a dialogue about its capitalist roots and propose possible radical solutions?” — 'Facing the economic crisis', Stanley Aronowitz [emph. added Ed]

Dream on folks, with union membership at an all-time low and a barely existent left, the prospects for some kind of comparable action look exceedingly dim. Yet without collective action there is little we can do about the crisis of capital that confronts us. We are doomed to be swept along by forces over which we have no control, let alone the 'masters of the universe'. At best, they take care of their own, hence the trillions of dollars spent bailing out the bankers.

It should surely be apparent now that the 'neo-liberal' counter-revolution has taken us back to a time before the New Deal! Indeed, the current situation is directly comparable to the situation that preceded the Crash of '29 in that, without organized working class actions we are powerless to avert this disaster.

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UK government bans photography

In a letter to the National Union of Journalists, the Minister for security and counter-terrorism, Vernon Kay, clarified that the police may stop photographers taking pictures or videos when “the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations or inflame an already tense situation or raise security considerations.” The Police have already been using heightened security tensions and their powers under the Terrorism Act to remove and harass people documenting political demonstrations, which was the cause of the dialogue with the NUJ.

This signifies the Home Office coming clean and admitting from now on the Police will have ability to remove anyone at all with a camera - all the police have to do is declare, possibly not even publicly, that there are special circumstances:

“Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace or to avoid a public order situation or for the person's own safety and welfare or for the safety and welfare of others.”

This means if you witnessed the police bundling someone into the back of a van and decided to film it on your camera phone, you would be breaking the law. If a professional journalist did so, they would also be breaking the law.
Though this is a frightening development, it is only the latest in the governments' campaign against civil liberties. Earlier this year the government announced plans requiring anyone buying a mobile phone to show their passport and to be entered onto a database. Coupled with other developments, such as compulsory ID cards, it is clear the government is deliberately curtailing the rights of its citizens. This begs the question; why?

It would seem no coincidence that the continuous curtailing of freedoms has intensified in pace since the outbreak of the “credit crunch”, an economic crisis which looks to be the most severe in recent history. Though the impact of it has not yet been felt, if previous crashes are anything to go by, it will be accompanied by large amounts of unrest from those workers who have their conditions and pay attacked in order to squeeze out money to bail out the bosses and banks.

Already we have seen mass redundancies from the various city banks and financiers, and on the high street Woolworths and MFI are the first major casualties. However these are just a small sign of what is to come. As more companies either slim down their staffing in order to curtail expenses, or simply go out of business, masses of people will be made unemployed. This will flood the labour market, driving down pay and conditions for all those who have to work for a living.

The public sector will also be affected. Having given the banks a 500 billion pound bailout, five times the size of the annual NHS budget, Gordon Brown will have to figure out a way to recoup his expense. The obvious choice seems to be intensifying the cuts of public services, increasing privatisation and diminishing public sector pay.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many people will not accept being punished for the mistakes of the bosses. A clear correlation can be seen between economic downturn and resistance from the general population. In Greece currently the police murder of a young boy has acted as a trigger for a widespread anti-police and largely anti-capitalist rebellion that has seen symbols of wealth like luxury hotels and high-end shops looted, whilst banks and police stations have been torched across the country. The uprising continues with many town halls being occupied by locals and there are ongoing street confrontations with the police. What the Greek rebellion represents is how resentment of the government and the state apparatus twinned with long term economic depression can quickly develop small revolts into generalised insurgency in the current financial crisis – even in the first world. With very minor solidarity riots occurring in other European countries, this is exactly the kind of omen our governments are panicked by, and exactly what they hope to avoid with this legislation.

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Press reports on Greek revolt

From A sanctuary for dissent in Greece?

As Greeks try to make sense of the chaos – and prepare for another week of protests, ranging from sit-ins to nationwide roadblocks – many here are beginning to ask whether the asylum law is protecting free speech or simply harboring criminals.

"The university asylum is for the freedom of movement of ideas, but not of commitment of criminal actions," says George Bergeles, a professor at the Polytechnic who is sympathetic to the students' complaints, but not their harsh tactics. "The law about university asylum I believe is a fantastic achievement of the university movement, but we should protect it by not allowing criminal offenses to happen inside."

The Polytechnic holds historic importance for Greeks. In November 1973, students barricaded themselves inside in rebellion against the country's military junta, which had been in power since 1967. Fearful that the revolt would spread, on Nov. 17 the national police moved in with tanks, killing a still-disputed number of protesters.

The junta fell less than a year later. Greece's new Constitution gave special status to universities and other schools, forever barring the police from entering their grounds.

Today, the Poly-technic and other institutions of learning are once again brimming with revolutionary zeal. Across Athens, high schools and universities are under occupation by students and other youth angry at the Dec. 6 killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos and also at a political system they see as corrupt and incompetent.

[ ... ]

A heavy cloud of tear gas and smoke hung over Exarchia, which felt like a rebel-held enclave in a city at war. Police lingered warily on its edges as young people set up burning barricades and attacked government buildings and banks. And clashes erupted once again outside the Polytechnic.

Few here think the unrest will end anytime soon, and the rage of Greece's youth continues to smolder. The death of Alexandros's has tapped into anger about a range of broader complaints – about corruption, nepotism, a failing education system, and the poor economic prospects of young people, including unemployment rates in the 25 percent range.

Protests are expected to continue throughout the week, with activists calling for roads to be blocked nationwide on Tuesday. They say they want to bring down Greece's whole political system – it's not just the current government that is seen as tainted, most believe the main opposition is little better. The protesters, however, struggle to articulate exactly what they want in its place.

"Don't bend your head down," they chanted as they confronted police recently in front of parliament. "The only way is resistance."

From Witnesses tell of Greek police 'brutality'

The businessman said that while he was walking his dog and came across a "largely peaceful" demonstration passing the bars and coffee shops about 3km (two miles) from the Acropolis. He decided to tag along.


There was a "carnival atmosphere", he said, as the demonstrators chanted slogans and invited young Greeks to put down their drinks and join the group.

"As the group, numbering about 600, walked up Pireos Street, several bus loads of riot police arrived and began to deploy at the front and back of the demonstration and on side streets," he said.

"After the majority of the protesters had passed one of these side streets, a group of riot police charged and forced about 15 young men and women into a dark shop front on the corner of the street.

"As the protesters put their hands on their heads to signify that they were not intending to fight, the police began beating individuals with their batons, issuing threats of extreme violence. The women were handcuffed together and the men strip-searched.

"Additional police joined the group to stop passers-by witnessing what was going on. Four young men aged about 20 and clearly not connected to the demonstration walked past. They were ushered on.

"As they were walking away, a riot policeman ran up behind one of the men kicking him in the back making obscene comments about his size. As the man turned, the policeman began beating the young man with his baton, striking him on the head and the side of his face."

Police denial

The BBC asked Greece's police headquarters to comment on the allegations, and after initially denying knowledge of the case, returned our call within 10 minutes with a statement vigorously denying the use of force.

From New generation flexes its muscles

Greece has the potential to be the most wonderful country in Europe. Besides exquisite landscapes, brilliant climate, unrivalled history, it is blessed with a well-educated youth whose ambitious parents are willing to sacrifice their present to enable their children to have a better future.

But young people's expectations are suffocated by a system that borders on the feudal.

'Power of the pimps'

Despite having good degrees, many graduates find it impossible to get a job that matches their ability. People rely on patronage to make progress. Bribing an official to smooth the path is easier than taking the honest road.

This is a land of European prices and African wages. Many breadwinners hold down two or three jobs and still can't make ends meet.

Early in his tenure, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said that he wanted to break the power of what he called the pimps who really control the country.

He didn't refer to them by name, but they are widely believed to be some of Greece's wealthiest media barons and industrialists.

There is a common perception here that they use their newspapers and television stations to smear and undermine their opponents. They prefer compliant politicians who pose no threat to their oligarchies.

Mr Karamanlis has failed to diminish their influence. He has failed to eradicate the tradition of the fakelaki, the envelope packed with high denomination notes passed under the table. His administration, which promised to be squeaky clean, has been mired by corruption scandals.

The bullet which killed Alexis has also done for Mr Karamanlis. He was never radical enough to implement the structural changes required to clean up Greece and enable youth to flourish. He will not get another chance.

From 'The anarchists are misunderstood'

I think these people have been very much misunderstood. Everything has escalated since the death of Alexis, as we know him over here.

It all dates back to about 1984/5. I don't know the full details as I wasn't born then but there's a deep-seated and long-standing concern about the way things have been handled by the police and the authorities, and the death of the teenager has made things worse.

The feeling here is if you have money and status you can pretty much do what you want.

We have a saying here: "If you've got money, you're innocent."

There's a feeling that it's the rich versus the rest, and there's unity between those who aren't rich.

You just have to look at the reaction over the last few days to see how people have come together.

There are three groups involved. There are the communists, who believe in peaceful protest and are not damaging property. They are the ones who try to stop the others destroying buildings or burning banks.

The anarchists are the ones you may have seen on television wearing masks. They are burning the banks and state property. They do have support from some communists.

The third group are the younger people who like to think that they are anarchists but they don't know what they stand for.

They are the ones who have been looting - they are neither anarchists nor communists.

They are calling themselves anarchists but making things 20 times worse.

I sympathise with them. I went inside the university and spoke with some of them.

They feel the only way to make themselves heard is to do these things.

People have lost faith in the authorities or anyone in government - they are so angry.

They have started smoking and drinking on the metro - all rules are out. There's been a total breakdown in law and order.

From Rebellion deeply embedded in Greece

The riots that have swept Greece for the past two days and look set to continue for the foreseeable future underline why the most important day in the national calendar is "Oxi" or "No" day.

"Oxi" day commemorates 28 October 1940, when Greek leader Ioannis Metaxas used that single word to reply to Mussolini's ultimatum to allow Italy to invade Greece, propelling his nation into World War II.

When Greeks say no, they mean it in spades.

Rebellion is deeply embedded in the Greek psyche. The students and school children who are now laying siege to police stations and trying to bring down the government are undergoing a rite of passage.

They may be the iPod generation, but they are the inheritors of a tradition that goes back centuries, when nuns would rather hurl themselves to death from mountain convents than submit to the ravages of Greece's Turkish Ottoman invaders.

The centre for this December rebellion is the Athens Polytechnic, where students have been out on the streets with wheelbarrows and shopping trolleys to collect and recycle rocks and pieces of marble used in the previous night's assaults.

The violence began in Athens and then spread to Thessaloniki

The polytechnic is the symbol of modern rebellion.

On 17 November 1973, tanks of the then six-year-old military dictatorship burst through the iron railings to suppress a student uprising against the colonels.

The exact casualty figure is still unknown to this day but it is believed that around 40 people were killed.

The sacrifice of the polytechnic was so significant that the post-junta architects of Greece's new constitution drafted the right of asylum, which bans the authorities from entering the grounds of schools and universities.

That is why places of learning are the springboards for the current wave of violence and it also explains why many of the riots are in university towns.

From A Few Words on the Greek Insurrection

The social rebellion in Greece contains all the explosive potential for a revolution. But an insurrection alone is not a revolution. Now more than ever discipline is needed to keep the struggle going and intensifying — not the discipline of waiting but the discipline of acting, the discipline it takes to step up the struggle faster than the authorities are able to control. More than that, it requires a more definite social content than fighting police and ransacking banks. Insurrections that fail to deepen and intensify inevitably become defensive, then either are defeated by the State or simply fade out. Without discipline and direction, this rebellion will fail to deepen and intensify. By deepening, I mean moving from only immediately fighting the police and State forces to seizing capitalist and State property, as well the need for social self-organizing of the people, more specifically of the rebellious workers and anti-authoritarian students. That is how this uprising can become a revolutionary struggle.

The anarchists and the rebellious people of Greece have shown they know how to fight, that they know how to agitate and organize well enough to effectively resist the State. It is unlikely that even their best efforts will lead to a complete revolution, but with disciplined, concerted effort they could make some real revolutionary conquests. Furthermore, the uprisings in Greece point the way to wider anarchist agitation and involvement in popular social struggles to resist the oppressive apparatus of the State. Anarchist groups and organizations should openly support the rebellion in Greece and make every effort to equal the achievements of our Greek comrades. At the same time, all must be wary of the old mistake of substituting riot for revolution, the past failure of our movement of letting confusion and disorganization prevent us from being at the front of social struggles and turning rebellion into social revolution.

Critics question army readiness for post-WMD-attack domestic patrols

By Elaine M. Grossman
Global Security Newswire
24 Dec, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army's ability to help restore public order after a large-scale domestic terrorist attack -- a mission the president could assign to federal troops during a crisis -- is in doubt, according to a number of critics (see GSN, June 27).

The Defense Department, deeply cognizant of public aversion to martial law, has generally been reticent to discuss the possibility that federal troops might be ordered to patrol U.S. streets following a nuclear, chemical or biological attack.

In fact, the role is extremely limited, reflecting a nationwide preference for disaster control at the local level. Area police, fire and rescue personnel would almost certainly serve as the "first responders" for preventing or containing chaos after an attack, with National Guard troops under state-level control potentially serving as backup.

Only in an instance in which a governor requested federal help for overwhelmed first responders, or if a president determined such assistance was necessary, would federal military forces play a potential law-and-order role, according to U.S. officials. Most would be expected to come from active-duty Army or federalized Army National Guard forces, experts say.

"There's a political decision that would have to be made before you would use any military enforcement capability," Gen. Victor Renuart, who heads U.S. Northern Command, told reporters last week.

For example, active-duty federal troops might be needed to lead an orderly evacuation following the detonation of a nuclear bomb, or to enforce a citywide quarantine during a man-made epidemic, experts have said.

"It is prudent for us always to look at the potential threats out there," Renuart said. "[A] terrorist [scenario] is really the one we focus on most heavily. And so we do think about the possibilities that might require use of DOD military."

Northern Command, the U.S. military's homeland defense headquarters, recently expanded its ability to offer medical and search-and-rescue capabilities to local communities in the event of a major attack (see GSN, Dec. 18).

However, a new 4,700-troop unit -- formed under an unwieldy moniker, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-yield Explosive Consequence Management Response Force -- would not assume any law-enforcement role, command officials emphasized.

Some critics have argued that Northern Command has not paid as much attention to preparing federal troops for a possible role in patrolling U.S. streets and helping restore order after such a large-scale event.

While such a contingency might be unlikely to occur, it is vital that federal forces learn beforehand how to handle such a sensitive task, these experts have argued. The concern is that without proper training, federal troops could unwittingly compound an already intense situation with inappropriate applications of force.

"There's a lot of worry about [the federal military response] if a nuclear weapon goes off in a U.S. city," said one homeland security specialist, retired Air Force Col. Randall Larsen, in an October telephone interview. "If we don't properly organize, train and equip, we shouldn't deploy active-duty military forces in our cities."

"If the situation is so dire that they are [called on] to do that, then they need to get it right the first time," agreed James Carafano, a Heritage Foundation homeland security expert. "You don't want them learning on the job in response to a nuclear disaster. That's not a good time for them to do that."

Without special training, the "rules of engagement" for such circumstances might be quite unfamiliar to U.S. troops during a real-world event. Such rules could determine, for instance, under what circumstances troops could set up a cordon, use force or detain people.

Renuart said his command does prepare for the mission, despite its improbability.

"I don't lose sleep that you would have a breakdown of such magnitude that both a state and federal law enforcement response, as well as a state National Guard response, might be inadequate," Renuart said at the Dec. 18 breakfast event, sponsored by the Center for Media and Security. "[However,] our role is to have a capability that can respond if the president were to choose that action."

Standing Ready

U.S. military officials have said that more than 3,000 federal troops typically stand ready for this potential domestic patrol mission.

"The fact of the matter is there are trained and ready forces to do this ... in the event we have to do it with Title 10 [federal military] forces," said one U.S. homeland defense official who asked not to be named. "This stuff is done by serious people who want to do it right."

The Pentagon has designated a "Rapid Response Force" that could be used for "domestic emergency response requirements in support of civil authorities," according to Lt. Cmdr. Gary Ross, a Northern Command spokesman.

The RRF assignment rotates annually among active-duty Army units of at least brigade size, Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for U.S. Army North, told Global Security Newswire in October. His organization provides Army forces to Northern Command.

Army brigades normally number between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers.

Ross said a smaller "Quick Response Force" could deploy even more expeditiously than the larger, more capable RRF unit to which it belongs. He would not divulge how many troops or which particular units are assigned the rapid-response role.

"[The] exact number, composition and home station location of QRF/RRFs is flexible, depending on the nature of the domestic emergency and the requirements of civil authorities," Ross said.

However, a unit tapped for this responsibility remains "eligible" for deployment abroad to hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan, Johnson said. The Army North spokesman said he was unaware of whether rapid-response forces had, in fact, been directed to missions seen as more pressing elsewhere around the globe.

Given how strained Army forces have become following years of an arduous deployment cycle, though, Johnson conceded that he "wouldn't be surprised" if troops earmarked for homeland defense had been sent overseas one or more times. In such a case, he said, another brigade-sized unit at home would be identified to assume the rapid-response role.

Yet, some experts wonder whether in such cases, stand-in forces receive adequate training for the homeland defense mission, particularly given that they might be recovering from recent deployment or preparing for their next tour abroad.

If the best-trained troops for civil defense missions are "in Iraq or Afghanistan, then how are we going to deploy them to Los Angeles?" Larsen asked. To set a higher standard for ensuring that federal troops are ready to take on the mission in an emergency, he said, "maybe we should throw in a fourth word: organized, trained, equipped and available."

Antique Laws and Emerging Missions

A law dating back to 1807 gives the president the authority to assign active-duty soldiers a law-enforcement role on U.S. soil only under very narrow circumstances, when a state requires assistance in subduing violence. The Insurrection Act's terms have been invoked just a handful of times over the past 50 years.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush exercised the law when he sent federal troops to respond to riots in Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict. Some critics have complained that the troops -- lacking advance training for quelling domestic turmoil -- overused firepower in that instance.

Absent such extreme conditions, another vintage law -- the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act -- would normally prevent the U.S. military from conducting domestic police functions day to day.

While local law enforcement or National Guard troops under a state governor's command remain the first responders of choice in such circumstances, the president could call on federal soldiers if it is determined that regional authorities are unavailable or overwhelmed.

Lawmakers and legal scholars see a delicate balance between the civil rights protections offered by the Posse Comitatus Act and the civil order concerns embodied in the Insurrection Act.

Congress last year repealed a short-lived Bush administration move to strengthen the president's ability to deploy federal troops for law enforcement, under the Insurrection Act.

Key Capitol Hill opponents of the fiscal 2006 Defense Department measure exhorted lawmakers to remain vigilant on the issue.

"The effort showed that elements of the defense bureaucracy still have the impulse to take unwarranted control of [state] National Guard assets," Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.), co-chairmen of the Senate National Guard Caucus, wrote in a June 3 opinion pieceThe Hill. published in

"There is some irony in that impulse, given that the active military does not itself fully grasp the civil support mission," the two lawmakers added. "Congressional questions about what equipment the [Defense] Department needs to carry out this mission too often are met with blank stares and contradictory answers, which underscores the lack of adequate planning and coordination in this arena."

In films such as "Outbreak" (1995) and "The Siege" (1998), Hollywood has conjured up visions of heavily armed federal troops riding roughshod over innocent civilians grappling with a terror attack or a pandemic virus.

However, "you should never let the script of a movie drive you to a conclusion about how we would use military capability," Renuart told reporters.

"If we got to something so significant where federal forces might be required, it would be sort of unanimous among every citizen in the country, as opposed to sort of imposing that," he said.

Following the recent announcement about the new WMD response units, a number of bloggers and news writers stoked worries that the military is preparing to expand its domestic law-and-order role, according to Northern Command officials.

Homeland defense experts have responded that, paradoxically, practicing the controversial role in military exercises might be the best antidote to excessive use of force under such sensitive circumstances. Improved readiness, these experts say, could help ensure that troops understand the limits of operating inside the 50 states.

A Need To Do More?

A loss of order in the wake of a large-scale attack is not a given, Carafano noted.

"People generally follow rules after a natural disaster and listen to authorities," he said in a Dec. 19 telephone interview.

Some critics have charged, though, that the U.S. military's distaste for a domestic policing role has contributed to a failure to identify enough troops or to provide sufficient training and nonlethal devices for the fairly unique mission.

"I am pleased that there are dedicated forces," Larsen said. "But ... I am worried that the training and the equipment is not at the proper levels right now."

Richard Danzig, a senior defense and foreign policy adviser to President-elect Barack Obama, said the Pentagon has been slow to embrace its homeland defense role. He spoke during an Oct. 2 breakfast with reporters, while the presidential campaign was still under way.

"The strengths of the Department of Defense come in recognizing a mission, training for it, developing situational awareness, [and] having the kind of capability to do it," Danzig said. "And if we don't have those kinds of capabilities, then we put our men and women from the military in harm's way, and we wind up not being able to perform the mission as well as we want to."

The former Navy secretary acknowledged that the Pentagon had taken some initial steps to identify its homeland defense responsibilities. However, the military must now follow through to ensure readiness, he said.

The Defense Department "needs to focus not just on recognizing a responsibility here but on actually preparing for it," Danzig said. "And, that, we haven't gotten to yet."

Looking across the range of skill sets required after a large-scale disaster -- to include medical, search and rescue, hazardous materials containment, and law enforcement -- Carafano said the Defense Department does not have readily available the roughly 60,000 skilled and equipped military personnel that he thinks are needed to respond within the critical first 72 hours. That is the time frame in which the most lives can be saved, he said.

"They're probably one-third to one-half of the way there," Carafano said. "They're a lot closer than they were at 9/11, but not quite there yet."

Of those 60,000 required, it is unclear how many might be needed to restore order and enforce laws, with many factors depending on the nature of the crisis, he said.

However, Carafano said, "I don't think a brigade would be enough."

Some Army officials contend that years of conducting stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have given a broad number of troops the skills needed to undertake security operations at home, even if they have not received special training for domestic contingencies.

"We are training and equipping to conduct stability operations anywhere," said Harvey Perritt, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Carafano disputed that contention, asserting that homeland disaster response missions must be handled with an even greater emphasis on less forceful tactics and the use of appropriate protective equipment.

"Your typical U.S. military unit today is not trained to operate in a domestic civil-military environment, and they're not well equipped for it with nonlethal devices to subdue people," he said. Further, Carafano said, "the military protection gear is not really designed to protect troops ... against rocks and bottles."

The Leahy-Bond commentary sounded a similar alarm.

"Northern Command is unlike any other military command," said the two senators. "It has to be sensitive to the needs of the states in the same way a command must recognize the needs of host countries, but the Northern Command must go even farther because it operates here at home, among the American people. Its operations must be defined and limited accordingly."

The Army this month published an updated field manual suggesting that virtually any unit could be called on to play a role in a domestic emergency.

"Since the homeland is vulnerable to attacks and natural disasters, all components must be prepared to conduct civil support operations on short notice," states Field Manual 7-0, Training for Full Spectrum Operations. "Regular Army forces are normally involved in civil support when natural or man-made disasters and incidents within the United States and its territories exceed the capabilities of reserve component organizations and domestic civilian agencies."

Given the deployment and personnel strains on Army units, it is not clear how much they should turn their attention to the unique demands of less likely domestic missions, according to some officials.

"In the relative scheme of priorities domestically and internationally, where does 'man, train and equip' [for domestic patrols] fit in, when they're not the force of first resort?" asked the U.S. homeland defense official. "How much training does that require?"

~ Global Security Newswire ~

Vendée French call for revolution massacre to be termed 'genocide'

In early 1794 – at the height of the Reign of Terror – French soldiers marched to the Atlantic Vendée, where peasants had risen up against the Revolutionary government in Paris.

Twelve "infernal columns" commanded by General Louis-Marie Turreau were ordered to kill everyone and everything they saw. Thousands of people – including women and children – were massacred in cold blood, and farms and villages torched.

In the city of Nantes, the Revolutionary commander Jean-Baptiste Carrier disposed of Vendéean prisoners-of-war in a horrifically efficient form of mass execution. In the so-called "noyades" –mass drownings – naked men, women, and children were tied together in specially constructed boats, towed out to the middle of the river Loire and then sunk.

Now Vendée, a coastal department in western France, is calling for the incident to be remembered as the first genocide in modern history.

Residents claim the massacre has been downplayed so as not to sully the story of the French Revolution.

Historians believe that around 170,000 Vendéeans were killed in the peasant war and the subsequent massacres – and around 5,000 in the noyades.

When it was over, French General Francois Joseph Westermann penned a letter to the Committee of Public Safety stating: "There is no more Vendée... According to the orders that you gave me, I crushed the children under the feet of the horses, massacred the women who, at least for these, will not give birth to any more brigands. I do not have a prisoner to reproach me. I have exterminated all."

Two centuries on, growing calls from local politicians to have it declared a "genocide" have sparked intellectual debate.

"There was in the Revolution a clearly stated programme to wipe out the Vendéean race," said Philippe de Villiers, European deputy and former presidential candidate for the right-wing traditionalist Movement for France (MPF) party.

"Why did it take place? Because a people was chosen to be liquidated on account of their religious faith. Today we demand a law officially declaring it as a genocide; we demand a statement from the president; and recognition by the United Nations."

Mr de Villiers – who opposes Turkish entry into the EU – was in Armenia last month, where he compared the Vendée of 1794 to the 1915 massacres of Armenians. In neither case, he said, "have the perpetrators admitted their fault or asked forgiveness of the victims".

The bloody events of the Vendée were long absent from French history books, because of the evil light they shed on the Revolutionaries. However, they were well known in the Soviet bloc. Lenin himself had studied the war there and drew inspiration for his policies towards the peasantry.

According to the historian Alain Gérard, of the Vendéean Centre for Historical Research, "In other parts of France the revolutionaries killed the nobles or the rich bourgeoisie. But in Vendée they killed the people.

"It was the Revolution turning against the very people from whom it claimed legitimacy. It proved the faithlessness of the Revolution to its own principles. That's why it was wiped out of the historical memory," he said.

~ more... ~

Jan 20: An invitation to ungovernables

Dec 20, anarchists across the US made gestures of solidarity with the rebellion in Greece. Putting into practice some of our earlier experiments from the summer and before, nodes in a network of revolt made attacks on monuments of capitalism and the state -- but our force of attack was limited. Our capacity could not meet the demands of urgency because we are dispersed over such a large geography. We would like to meet again to share more, and to do this as a force with a central point of entry.

Dec 20, anarchists across the US made gestures of solidarity with the rebellion in Greece. Putting into practice some of our earlier experiments from the summer and before, nodes in a network of revolt made attacks on monuments of capitalism and the state -- but our force of attack was limited. Our capacity could not meet the demands of urgency because we are dispersed over such a large geography. We would like to meet again to share more, and to do this as a force with a central point of entry.

Jan 20, a president will be inaugurated in Washington DC. There is already a call for an anti-capitalist manifestation to converge at a location away from the inaugural address and make capital and its appendages our object. We want to use this opportunity to extend the gestures we made on Dec 20, but in a more social context. In global capitalism, what happens in Athens, what happens in Marseilles, and what happens in St. Paul, inhabit the same worlds. The insurrection in practice does not begin at this or that location for this or that cause, it merely manifests at different frequencies. This is what Greece knows and what we have yet to see unfold. January 20, we want to put to use the diversion of politics in order to expose a local, organic practice of insurrection – our embodied potential for care and destruction.

~ more... ~

Join The Revolution - Fall in Love

Part 1

Love transforms the world. Where the lover formerly felt boredom, he now feels passion. Where she once was complacent, she now is excited and compelled to self-asserting action. The world which once seemed empty and tiresome becomes filled with meaning, filled with risks and rewards, with majesty and danger. Life for the lover is a gift, an adventure with the highest possible stakes; every moment is memorable, heartbreaking in its fleeting beauty. When he falls in love, a man who once felt disoriented, alienated, and confused will know exactly what he wants. Suddenly his existence will make sense to him; suddenly it becomes valuable, even glorious and noble, to him. Burning passion is an antidote that will cure the worst cases of despair and resigned obedience.

Part 2

Love makes it possible for individuals to connect to others in a meaningful way - it impels them to leave their shells and risk being honest and spontaneous together, to come to know each other in profound ways. Thus love makes it possible for them to care about each other genuinely, rather than at the end of the gun of Christian doctrine. But at the same time, it plucks the lover out of the routines of everyday life and separates her from other human beings. She will feel a million miles away from the herd of humanity, living as she is in a world entirely different from theirs.

~ CrimethInc Ex-Workers' Collective ~

How to organize an insurrection

By CrimethInc Ex-Workers Collective
25 Dec, 2008

We humbly present one of the first inside reports from participants in the upheavals that shook Greece after the police murder of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in the anarchist neighborhood of Exarchia on December 6.

This is only the first set of answers to come in from our Greek comrades. We hope shortly to receive further perspectives from other elements of the Greek uprising, so we can provide a comprehensive background on the context and dynamics of the revolt. If you or someone you know is situated to give your own answers to these questions, please email them to us at

How were the actions coordinated within cities? How about between cities?

There are hundreds of small, totally closed affinity groups—groups based in longstanding friendship and 100% trust—and some bigger groups like the people from the three big squats in Athens and three more in Thessaloniki. There are more than 50 social centers in Greece, and anarchist political spaces in all the universities of the country; also, the Antiauthoritarian Movement has sections in all major cities, and there is a network of affinity groups of the Black Bloc active in all Greek cities, based on personal relations and communicating via telephone and mail. For all of them, Indymedia is very important as a strategic point for collecting and sharing useful information—where conflicts are happening, where the police are, where secret police are making arrests, what is happening everywhere minute by minute; it is also useful on a political level, for publishing announcements and calls for demonstrations and actions.

Of course, we can't forget that in practice the primary form of coordination was from friend to friend through mobile phones; that was also the main approach used by young students for coordinating their initiatives, demonstrations, and direct actions.

What kinds of organizing structures appeared?

a.) All sorts of small companies of friends were making spontaneous decisions in the streets, planning actions and carrying them out themselves in a chaotic, uncontrollable manner: thousands of actions taking place at the same time everywhere around the country…

b.) Every afternoon there was a General Assembly in squatted schools, squatted public buildings, and squatted universities…

c.) Indymedia was used for announcements and strategic coordination of actions…

d.) The various communist parties also organized their own confederations of students…

e.) …And also, one especially influential federation was organized by the friends of Alexis, to organize the students' demonstrations and actions, the squatting of schools, and to publish general announcements from the students' struggle.

Were there any structures already in existence that people used to organize?

For the young students who were in the streets for the first time, and also for the immigrants who participated, the telephone was more than enough; this produced a totally chaotic and unpredictable element in the situations. On the other hand, for anarchists and anti-authoritarians, the General Assemblies are the organizing tool they have used for the last 30 years during any kind of movement. All affinity groups, squats, social centers, university occupations, and other organizations have their own assemblies, as well. Some other participants included left political organizations and left and anarchist university political spaces. During the fight, a lot of new blogs appeared, and new coordinating networks of high-school students.

What different kinds of people have participated in the actions?

The majority were anarchists, half of them older ones, some at high risk as they had previous charges for actions and would have to face custody if they were arrested. Beside them were thousands of school students 16-18 years old. Alongside these groups were immigrants, thousands of university students, many “gypsy” [Romani] kids taking revenge for social repression and racism, and old revolutionaries with previous experience from other social struggles.

What different forms have the actions taken?

a.) Smashing, looting, and burning were the main actions that the young people used. They often attacked the expensive shopping districts, opened the fancy luxury shops, took everything from inside, and set fire to it in order to counteract the effects of the tear gas in the air. Many turned cars upside down to serve as barricades, keeping the police at a distance and thus creating liberated areas. The police used over 4600 tear gas bombs—nearly 4 tons—but people set countless fires, enough to maintain areas in which you could breathe despite this chemical warfare waged by the state against the people.

When the thousands of people on the streets realized that the black smoke of the fires could cancel out the white smoke of the tear gas, they used the tactic of burning everything at hand as a protection from the tear gas. Other techniques included the smashing of the pavement with hammers, to produce thousands of stones for people to use as projectiles; and, of course, the personal initiative of producing and throwing molotov cocktails. This last tactic was used especially to force the riot police to fear and respect the demonstrators, and also as a way of controlling the space and time of attack and escape.

b.) Attacks with sticks, stones and molotov cocktails were carried out against countless banks, police stations, and police cars across the country. In smaller cities, the banks and the police were the primary or only targets, as the small-scale society and face-to-face relations discouraged the smashing of shops, with the exception of a few multinational corporate franchises.

c.) Hundreds of symbolic occupations were carried out in all kinds of public buildings, municipal offices, public service offices, theaters, radio stations, TV stations, and other buildings by groups of 50-70 people. Also, there were many symbolic acts of sabotage and blockading of streets, highways, offices, metro stations, public services, and so on, usually accompanied by the distribution of thousands and thousands of pamphlets to people in the area.

d.) Every day there were silent protests, art happenings, and non-violent actions in front of the parliament and in all cities. Most of them were brutally attacked by the police, who used tear gas and arrested people.

e.) Leftists organized concerts in public spaces with the participation of underground bands and also politically conscious pop stars. The biggest one in Athens involved more than 40 artists and drew over 10,000 people.

f.) Controlled student demonstrations were organized by the Communist Party. Many of these attracted much less participation than the chaotic spontaneous student demonstrations.

How many of the participants in the actions have been involved in similar actions earlier? For how many of them do you think this is their "first time"?

Many thousands of people were experienced anarchist insurrectionists, anti-authoritarians, and libertarian autonomists; half of them were older anarchists who come into the streets only in very important struggles, as most of them have previous charges. There were also many thousands of young people who were radicalized over the last three years in the course of the social struggles for Social Insurance and against the privatization of education, and also in the huge spontaneous demonstrations that took place during the fires that burned almost 25% of the natural areas of Greece in the summer of 2007. We estimate that for about 30% of the people, this was their first rioting.

Which of the tactics used in the actions have been used before in Greece? Did they spread in the course of this rebellion? If they did, how did it happen?

Most of the tactics used in this struggle have been used for a long time now in Greece. The most important new characteristic of this struggle was the immediate appearance of actions all over the country. The assassination of a young boy in the most important area of anarchist activity provoked an instantaneous reaction; within five minutes of his death, anarchist cells all over the country had been activated. In some cases, the police were informed much later than the anarchists about the reason they were facing attacks from the people. For Greek society, it was a surprise that the majority of young people in the country adopted the tactics of “anarchist violence, smashing and burning,” but this was a result of the generalized influence that anarchists' actions and ideas have had in Greek society over the past four years.

Have any conflicts emerged between participants in the actions?

The Communist Party separated itself from anarchists and leftists, and organized separate demonstrations. Also, the announcements that the Communist Party published, their appearances in the corporate media, their speeches to the parliament, and the negative propaganda that they carried on against all leftist organizations prove that they are a real enemy of any kind of efforts for social change.

What is the opinion of the “general public” about the actions?

What is called “general public” during a period of tele-democracy is something that needs a lot of discussion.

Generally speaking, the “general public” feel fear when the TV says that we were “burning the poor people's shops,” but the people know well what kind of shops exist in the expensive districts where the riots took place; they feel fear when the TV says that angry immigrants came out to the streets and looted, but also they know that the immigrants are poor and desperate, and also that it was only a minority of them that came to the streets. There were many artists, theoreticians, sociologists, and other such personages who offered explanations about the revolt, and many of them were beneficial for our causes; some were probably trapped by their need to participate in the spirit of the times, while others were using the situation as an opportunity to honestly express their real ideas. The "general public" is angry about the murder of a 15-year-old boy by a police officer, and they hate the police much more than before; anyway, nobody liked the police in the first place. The majority of “normal” people in Greece don't trust the right wing government or the past (and probably future) socialist government, and they don't like the police, expensive shops, or banks. Now a new public opinion is appearing that offers all the social and ethical justifications of revolt. If it was difficult to govern Greece before, now it will be much more difficult.

How important to the context of these events is the legacy of the dictatorship in Greece? How does it influence popular opinions and actions in this case?

In 1973, the young people were the only ones who took the risk to revolt against the seven-year-running dictatorship; even if this was not the only cause of the end of dictatorship, it remains in the collective memory that the students saved Greece from the dictators and the domination of the US. It is a common belief that young people will put themselves at great risk for the benefit of all, and this produces a feeling of hope and a tolerance of the students' actions. Of course, this story is now an old story and though it influences the background of the fights, it is not mentioned in reference to this conflict.

Another influence comes from the student struggles of 1991 and 1995 against the privatization of education, which succeeded in changing the plans of the government and saved public education until today. Granted, the revolt of 2007 was probably the apex of the anarchist movement in Greece until now, as it appeared all around the country and with a great deal of influence on the actions and slogans and ideas of a general part of the society; but the earlier student struggles, especially in Athens in 1991 were more visible and more generalized.

Do you think troubles in the economy are as important in these events as the corporate media is saying?

The young people from the many rich areas of Athens also attacked the police stations of their areas, so even the class war Marxists have serious troubles to explain what is happening: the separation of the rich and poor doesn't seem to matter as much as long-existing solidarity and participation in the fight for equality and social justice.

On the other hand, Greeks between the ages of 25 and 35 cannot make families and have children, because of the economy. Greece is the most underpopulated society in all Europe. But we don't talk about that here as the cause of the revolt. Young people are angry and they hate the police, capitalist cynicism, and the government in a natural, instinctual way that doesn't need explanations or a political agenda. The local media tried not to speak in depth about social conditions here the way the English, French, or US media have. The local corporate TV stations attempt to pass off lies about chaotic “masketeers” with no ideas and no social identity, because the moral influence of anarchists is so strong now in this society that if they start to talk seriously about our ideas on television, society could explode. With the exception of some TV programs and newspapers, most of the mass media are trying to separate economic issues from the chaotic revolt.

Even the leftists from the May '68 generation, when they speak to the media, say that the smashing and the riots are not political expressions of the needs and the hopes of the people—that the anarchists and young people don't have the ability to express a political agenda, and the people need other kinds of political representation. Of course, all this has little influence on the young people who will participate in the social struggles of the future, as after this struggle there exists high tension and a great distance between the younger people and any kind of political leadership or authority.

What other motivations, besides anger against the police and the economy, do you think are driving people to participate?

The personal and collective need for adventure; the need to participate in making history; the chaotic negation of any kind of politics, political parties, and “serious” political ideas; the cultural gap of hating any kind of TV star, sociologist, or expert who claims to analyze you as a social phenomenon, the need to exist and be heard as you are; the enthusiasm of fighting against the authorities and ridiculing the riot police, the power in your heart and the fire in your hands, the amazing experience of throwing molotovs and stones against the cops in front of the parliament, in the expensive shopping districts, or in your small silent town, in your village, in the square of your neighborhood.

Other motivations include the collective feeling of planning an action with your best friends, making it come true, and later hearing people tell you about this action as an incredible story that they heard from someone else; the enthusiasm of reading about some action that you did with your friends in a newspaper or TV program from the other side of the planet; the feeling of responsibility that you have to create stories, actions, and plans that will become global examples for the future struggles. It is also the great celebrative fun of smashing the shops, taking the products and then burning them, seeing the false promises and dreams of capitalism burned in the streets; the hatred for all authorities, the need to take part in the collective ceremony of revenge for the death of a person that could have been you, the personal vendetta of feeling that the police have to pay for the death of Alexis across the whole country; the need to send a powerful message to the government that if police violence increases, we have the power to fight back and society will explode—the need to send a direct message to society that everyone has to wake up, and a message to the authorities that they have to take us seriously because we are everywhere and we are coming to change everything.

Are political parties succeeding in co-opting energy from the uprising?

In “real” numbers, the Socialists have increased their lead over the right wing government, gaining an 8% lead in the polls; the “European Social Forum communists” lost 1% even though they helped the revolt, but still they are in third place with 12%; the Communist Party has 8%, the Nationalist neo-fascists 4.5%, and the Green Party is holding steady at 3.5%.

It is also interesting that the leader of the Socialists appears now to be regarded as first in "capability to govern the country" after many years with much less popularity than the right wing prime minister. The riots had a great effect on the political scene: the political parties seemed unable to understand, explain, or react to the massive wave of violence and participation from every level of society. Their announcements were irrelevant to what was really happening. Their popularity decreased dramatically among the younger population, who don't see themselves in the logic and the politics of the political parties and don't feel represented by them.

What has been the role of anarchists in starting and continuing the actions? How clearly is their participation seen by the rest of society?

Over the past few years, anarchists have created a network of communities, groups, organizations, squats, and social centers in almost all the major cities in Greece. Many don't like each other, as there exist many significant differences among the groups and individuals. This helps the movement, though, as the movement now can cover a great variety of subjects. Many different kinds of people find their comrades in different anarchist movements and, all together, push each other—in a positive, if antagonistic, way—to communicate with society. This communication includes creating neighborhood assemblies, participating in social struggles, and planning actions that have a meaning for the general society. After 30 years of anti-social anarchism, the anarchist movement in Greece today, with all its problems, limitations, and internal conflicts, has the capability to look outside of the anarchist microcosm and take actions that improve society at large in ways that are readily apparent. Of course, it will take a lot of effort for this to be obvious, but day by day nobody can deny it.

As for the role of anarchists in starting and continuing the actions… especially at the beginning—Saturday and Sunday, December 6 and 7—and also in the continuation after Wednesday, December 10, the anarchists were the vast majority of those who carried out the actions. In the middle days, especially on Monday when the destructive Armageddon took place, students and immigrants played a very important role. But the vast majority of students found it easy to feel satisfied after one, two, or three days of smashing, and then went home or attended demonstrations with a more pacifist atmosphere. Likewise, immigrants had to face a very strong backlash from locals, and they were afraid to return to the streets.

So the 20,000 anarchists in Greece started it, and continued it when everybody else returned to normality. And we have to mention that the fear of returning to normality helped us to keep up the fight for ten days more, putting ourselves into great danger as acts of vengeance for the assassination of our comrade transformed, in our fantasies, into preparations for a general strike. Now European society knows once and for all what a social insurrection looks like, and that it is not difficult to change the world in some months.

But you need all the people to participate and play their roles. The young people of Greece sent an invitation to all the societies throughout Europe. We are awaiting their responses now.

How much visibility do anarchists have in Greece in general? How “seriously” is anarchism taken by the majority of Greek people?

In a way, you can say that it is just three or four years now since anarchists started to take themselves “seriously” so we are seen that way in the broader society. It is only in the past few years that we have succeeded in expanding beyond the limitations of the anti-police strategy that had characterized our efforts for 25 years. According to that strategy, we attack the police, they arrest people, and we do solidarity actions, over and over again. It took us 25 years to escape from this routine. Of course, the anti-police attacks and fights continue, and the prisoner solidarity movement is stronger than ever, but the anti-social element inside the anarchist movement is under conscious self-control and we can speak, care, and act for the benefit of the whole society now, using actions and plans that can be comprehended much more clearly by at least a part of the society.

Many actions, like the attacks on supermarkets and the free distribution of stolen products to the people, became very popular and well-accepted. The attacks on banks, especially now following the economic crisis, are well-accepted also, and the attacks on police stations have been adapted and utilized by high-school students around the country. In one way or another, we have been the first subject in the news for the last 15 days. Generally speaking, with our participation in students' or workers' struggles and also in ecological struggles, every week some action taken by anarchists attracts attention and offers visibility to the anarchist movement.

This doesn't mean that “anarchism” is taken seriously by the majority of Greek people, as most people still believe the lies of television that describe us as “masketeers” and criminals, and also the majority don't have any idea about how an anarchist society could ever function—that includes most of the anarchists, also, who refuse to address this question! But our actions, critiques, and ideas have strong influence now on left and progressive people. It's not possible anymore to say that we don't exist, and now our existence radicalizes the majority of the younger generation.

What role have subcultural groups—like punk, squatting, and so on—played in making the uprising possible?

After '93 we had a strong tendency in the Greek anarchist movement—accompanied by many serious internal fights—that eliminated the influence of “subcultural” styles inside the movement. This means that there is no punk, rock, metal or whatever anarchist identity in the Greek anarchist movement—you can be whatever you like, you can listen to whatever music you like, you can have whatever style or fashion you like, but that is not a political identity.

In the street fights this month, many “emos” participated, together with hippy freaks and ravers, many punks, heavy metal boys and girls, and also trendy, normal kids and students that like Greek music or whatever. It has to be social and political consciousness, social critiques and collective understandings that bring you to participate in the anarchist movements, not fashion. Of course, for at least the last 19 years the Void Network and similar collectives have played the role of offering a cultural introduction to radical political spaces. Such groups organize many cultural/political events, festivals, and parties every year and have the power to attract thousands and thousands of people to underground cultures. But even Void Network doesn't create subcultural identities, doesn't separate the different subcultures, and tries to organize events that include most of the underground cultures. It's true, though, that the majority of the people in the scene attend and participate in most of the events of the d.i.y. underground culture; many events are organized every month in liberated spaces.

What things have made the anarchist movement healthy in Greece?

The separation from subcultural identity politics made people understand that to call yourself an anarchist it takes much more serious participation, planning, creativity, and action than just wearing a t-shirt with the antichrist on it and walking around in punk concerts drinking beer and taking hypnotic pills. Now there is an understanding that to call yourself an anarchist you have to come to demonstrations, to come out into the streets with banners and black or red-and-black flags, shouting slogans together and manifesting an anarchist presence. Also, that you should participate every week in one, two, or three different assemblies with people for one, or two, or three different preparations of different actions, plans, or struggles to call yourself an anarchist. You have to be friends with people you trust 100% to plan anything dangerous, you have to be aware and informed about anything that is happening in this world to decide what the proper course of action is, you have to be crazy and enthusiastic, to feel that you can do incredible things—you have to be ready to give your life, your time, your years in a struggle that will never end. It is healthy not to have expectations, because then you don't get disappointed. You don't expect to win. You are used to appearing, fighting, and then disappearing again; you know how to become invisible as a person and visible as collective power; you know that you are not the center of the universe, but that any time you can become the center of your society.

In what ways do you think the anarchist movement in Greece could be better or stronger?

We need to find more intelligent ways of explaining our ideas to people. We need techniques of political communication with all of society, better and stronger ways to make the “political translation” of our actions and put the whole struggle in its social context. In a tele-democracy, where the politicians are nothing more than television superstars, our refusal to communicate with or through the mass media is healthy, but we need to find new ways to overcome the mass media “consensus reality,” the media propaganda against us, and find ways to explain the causes of our actions to society. As long as whatever the TV shows “exists” and whatever doesn't appear on TV “doesn't exist,” we will be there with our crazy ideas, the dangerous actions and the street fights to break the normality of the TV program, we will use the negative advertisement of our actions to kidnap the fantasies and dreams of the common people. But how can we explain our positive ideas to everyone? How can we help people cease to trust the media? How can we come into contact with millions and millions of people?

It will take millions and millions of posters and free pamphlets, traveling hand by hand in the streets; it will take millions of invitations for demonstrations and participation in social struggles; it will take more free public services in sections that the government don't want or cannot cover—free anarchist doctors and teachers, free food, free accommodation, information, underground culture, and so on—that can bring people closer to our ideas. It will also take more and more squats and social centers. If you can start a squat, that is better, but even if it's not possible to squat in your town, rent a building with your friends, take care of the bureaucracy, make a collective, start an assembly, and put the black or red-and-black flag in the entrance. Start offering the people of your city a living example of a world without racism, patriarchy, or homophobia, a place of equality, freedom, and respect for differences, a world with love and sharing. We need more “Autonomia” in the insurrectionism of the Greek anarchist movement, to make it shine as a paradigm of a new wave of social life and demonstrate this novel survival methodology in the metropolis.

How effective has police repression been in shutting down the anarchist movement? How have people resisted it?

The dreams and plans of the insurrectionists came true: a huge wave of participation “overpassed” the anarchists, and for many chaotic days people traveled and fought in the city like never before, in an unfamiliar time and space of existence.

In the same days, of course, they came face to face with the limitations of insurrection. The people now spend many hours in long discussions about how to expand popular understanding and invent practices, actions, and methods that will sustain and enrich the struggle. Many people think about ways that will bring really close all the different elements of this revolt. The police repression didn't play a more important role in the conclusion of the riots than physical fatigue did. All of us share a feeling of completion and a feeling of beginning, and these are feelings that the police can not touch.

What do you think the final result of the events of December will be?

Ongoing struggle! A never-ending fight for political, social, and economic equality! Constant expansion of freedom!

In the future, neoliberal governments in Greece and throughout Europe will think very seriously before attempting to implement any kind of economic or social change. The riots in Athens and the economic crisis ended the cynicism of the authorities, banks, and corporations, radicalized a new generation in Greece, and gave our society a chance to open a dialogue about the massive social struggles of the future.

As the slogan of December 2008 in Athens and Exarchia goes:


Questions answered by Void Network (Theory, Utopia, Empathy, Ephemeral Arts); posed by agents of the CrimethInc. ex-Workers' Collective

Appendix I: Links to the Blogs of the Occupied Universities

-This is the blog of the Polytechnic University that was in the center of the riots, 200 meters from the area where Alexis was assassinated. Here you can find links for most of the squats and initiatives that were organized in schools, universities, and many public buildings during the revolt in all country.

-Though most of it is in Greek, this is the blog from the squatted Athens School of Economics, which accommodated hundreds of different anarchist, autonomist, libertarian, utopian and antiauthoritarian movements, actions, and groups. It is located 500 meters away from Polytechnic School in the center of Athens.

-Again, most of it is in Greek, but this is the blog from the first ever occupation of the building of the General Federation of Greek Workers, a syndicalist institution that has functioned as an obstacle to workers' struggles for the past 90 years. The building is located between the Economics University and the Polytechnic School.

-Though it seems that it wasn't used as much for political work and the sharing of ideas as the other blogs, this is the blog of the squatted University of Law in Athens, the main center of the Anti-Authoritarian Movement and many other leftist groups.

Appendix II: Important Squats in Greece

There are countless other buildings, social centers, and projects in Greece—these are just a few.

In Athens:

-Villa Amalias (since 1990)
-Lela Karagianni (since 1988)
-Farm Prapopoulos (since 2006)

…and also we have to mention Nosotros (Free Social Space) in Exarchia, even though that social center is not a squat but a rented building.

In Thessaloniki:

-Fabrika Yfanet (since 2004)
-Terra Incognita (since 2005)
-Delta squat (since 2007)

~ Infoshop ~

Ecuador drops the money ball: President Correa threatens to stiff banks, pay social debt first

Amidst the spreading global financial crisis, a special debt audit commission released a report on Nov. 20 charging that much of Ecuador's foreign debt was illegitimate or illegal.

“We could not only sanction those who are to blame, but also stop paying the illegitimate debt,” said Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa at a ceremony where he presented the findings of the commission, which he appointed.

The commission recommended that Ecuador default on $3.9 billion in foreign commercial debts — Global Bonds 2012, 2015 and 2030 — the result of debts restructured in 2000 after the country's 1999 default.

Although Ecuador currently has the capacity to pay, dropping oil prices and squeezed credit markets are putting President Rafael Correa's plans to boost spending on education and health care in jeopardy. Correa has pledged to prioritize the “social debt” over debt to foreign creditors.

As of August, Ecuador's total foreign debt was $10.3 billion, or 21 percent of its gross domestic product. Just one-fifth of those bonds were issued to raise money for development, while the rest correspond to refinancing costs, according to Hugo Arias, the debt audit commission's coordinator.

Correa, a U.S.-trained economist, has threatened to default on the debt since he campaigned for the presidency in 2006.


The commission accused Salomon Smith Barney, now part of Citigroup, of handling the 2000 restructuring without Ecuador's authorization, leading to the application of 10 and 12 percent interest rates. The commission evaluated all commercial, multilateral, government-to-government and domestic debt from 1976 to 2006. Commercial debt, or debt to private banks, made up 44 percent of Ecuador's interest payments in 2007, considerably more than the 27 percent paid to multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But the report also lambasted multilateral debt, saying that many IMF and World Bank loans were used to advance the interests of transnational corporations. Ecuador's military dictatorship (1974-1979) was the first government to lead the country into indebtedness.

The commission found that usurious interest rates were applied for many bonds and that past Ecuadorian governments illegally took on other loans. Debt restructurings consistently forced Ecuador to take on more foreign debt to pay outstanding debt, and often at much higher interest rates. The commission also charged that the U.S. Federal Reserve's late 1970s interest rate hikes constituted a “unilateral” increase in global rates, compounding Ecuador's indebtedness.

If President Correa follows the commission's recommendations — which is far from a certainty — Ecuador could default on some portion of its foreign debt, becoming the first Latin American country to do so since Argentina in 2001.

~ more... ~

Making Sense of the Greek Uprising

By Costas Panayotakis
23 Dec, 2008

The Greek Uprising

In the evening of Saturday December 6th, 2008, a police officer shoots and kills Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 16-year old in Athens, Greece.  In the days that followed this incident large numbers of people, in cities across Greece, have taken to the streets, participating in numerous demonstrations and actions against police brutality and the policies of Greece's conservative government.   

The great protagonists of these demonstrations have been young people, including high school and university students, but other participants have included parents, labor unionists, immigrant workers, Greece's political Left, and Greeks from all walks of life.  Especially in the first days after the murder, a small minority of the protesters expressed their rage through extensive property destruction, especially targeting banks and upscale stores both in downtown Athens and in cities across the country. More than two weeks after Grigoropoulos' murder protests are continuing.  There has been a wave of occupations, including occupations of hundreds of high schools and university campuses, a number of municipal halls, the chamber of commerce of the northern city of Serres, and the headquarters of Greece's General Confederation of Labor.  Meanwhile, dozens of Greece's leading musicians and songwriters have participated in concerts protesting state repression and expressing their solidarity with the movement.  Although the holidays may slow down some of this activity, there are already plans to resume protests in January.

All in all, this has been a diverse movement that has raised a number of different issues [1].  Some demands have focused on policing practices, asking that Greek police officers not bear weapons, that they go through regular psychological evaluations, and that special police units, such as the riot police unit and the 'special guards' unit to which the cop who shot Grigoropoulos belonged, be dismantled.  Other movement participants have demanded the repeal of recent 'anti-terrorist' legislation that undermines civil liberties.  Others have asked a change in the government's educational and economic policies, while some, including some of the opposition parties, have demanded that the government resign.  Some of the more radical voices within the movement, including the participants in occupations, such as that of the Greek Confederation of Labor, have articulated critiques of capitalism and called for a general strike and workers' self-management.  Last but not least, many participants in the movement demand that everybody arrested while participating in the recent events be released.

The impact of the Greek movement has been felt across Europe and the rest of the world.  The Athens Indymedia website has posted information on dozens of solidarity actions around the world, ranging from various European countries and Turkey to North America, Latin America, Australia, and New Zealand [2].   The movement has also created anxiety among political and economic elites.  As Andrew Hay of Reuters recently reported, Dominique Strauss Kahn, the Director of the International Monetary Fund, has warned that the deepening global economic crisis could lead to 'more civil unrest like that seen in Greece'[3].   Similarly, a recent piece by Robert Marquand of The Christian Science Monitor suggests that fears of 'backlashes similar to the ones now rocking Greece' may have contributed to the decision by the French minister of education to pull back unpopular education reform proposals and call for 'further negotiations'[4].

Making Sense of the Greek Uprising

The events of the last two week represent the most major social explosion in Greece since the 1973 student revolt that was brutally repressed by the US-backed military regime ruling Greece at that time.  The magnitude and lasting nature of this explosion suggests that Grigoropoulos' murder was merely the trigger that released the rage building up within Greeks as they see inequalities increasing and their country slipping deeper into crisis.

Conservative politicians and Greek pundits have tried to delegitimize the adoption of forms of direct action, such as occupations, by arguing that, unlike the student revolt in 1973, today's government is a democratically elected one.  This fails to convince many of the protesters who feel that, rather than a genuine democracy, Greece's political system may best be described as a two-party rule by corrupt political elites that have consistently over the years failed to address the problems affecting Greek people, in general, and young people, in particular.

Police brutality is one of such long-standing problems.  Even before Grigoropoulos' murder, the conservative government had presided over incidents of police brutality and even torture of political protesters, Roma people, and immigrant workers.  Even the murder of a teenager by the police is not unprecedented.  When the socialists were in power in the 1980s, a teenager was shot in the back by a police officer, who went on to be acquitted after he appealed his original conviction.

As far as education is concerned, the conservative government, with the original support of the Socialist Party's leadership, attempted to amend the provision of the Greek constitution that bans private universities.  It was only after massive protests by a movement that included students, teachers, unionists, the political Left, and many of the rank and file supporters of the Socialist Party itself that the Socialist leadership backed down from its support of private higher education institutions.  The amendment did not pass, but the conservative government is attempting to implement its rejected policy anyway.

Underlying the rage of the protestors is also a feeling that today's Greek youth will be the first generation not to live better than their parents.  Fueling this feeling are high unemployment rates, low salaries that do not keep up with the rising cost of living, high levels of poverty (one out of 5 Greeks is poor), growing household indebtedness, and 'flexible' labor relations that consign many young people to insecure, temporary positions.  This situation is partly the result of the commitment of conservatives and Socialists alike to European Union and its insistence that inflation and deficits be kept low even at the cost of chronically high unemployment rates.

In this sense it is not surprising that some European journalists recognize that 'Athens is not as far away as we think'[5].   One could perhaps go further and point out that, here in the United States too, the deep crisis we are in the midst of has been brought on by the unfettered pursuit of profit, on the part of economic elites, and by the historic willingness of the political elites of both parties to do Wall Street's bidding.

President-elect Obama's claim to represent change may have generated hope for many ordinary Americans, but the first signs are not encouraging.  As others have pointed out in the pages of the Indypendent, Obama's economic team is made up of neoliberals partly responsible for the present economic crisis, while his national security team is filled with 'hawks' who hardly represent a clean break with the past[6].   Faced with political elites unwilling to represent their interests, Greeks took to the streets.  Should Obama disappoint his claim to be an agent of change, Americans may find themselves doing the same.


[1]  The Athens Indymedia website ( has posted the statements issued by some of the groups occupying university campuses and other public buildings, and these statements often include specific demands.  This site includes material both in Greek and in English but not all the material in Greek is translated into English.  For good coverage in English, see the blog of the Center for Strategic Anarchy at

[2] There have also been a number of solidarity actions in New York City, including, most recently, a rally outside the Greek consulate, which was held on Saturday, December 20, 2008, and which, despite the freezing cold, was attended by at least 35 people.     

[3] Andrew Hay, 'IMF Sees Risks of Prolonged Global Crisis and Unrest', Tuesday, December 16, 2008,

  [4] Robert Marquand, 'Grievances Rise Among Young Europeans: Job Prospects and Dreams Fade with Crisis', Christian Science Monitor, December 23, 2008,

[5] Marquand, 'Grievances Rise'.
[6]  See Arun Gupta, 'Obamanomics: Why the stimulus plan will not revive the economy', and Jeremy Scahill, 'Zeroing in on Obama's hawks'.  Both these articles can be found in the December 12, 2008 issue of The Indypendent.

~ The Indypendent ~


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