A NEW - BETTER WORLD IS BORN*
First of all, I would like to thank the Roza Luxemburg foundation and the Journal Social History Online, as well as Mr Peter Birke and Mr Karl Heinz Rot for their invitation to this timely and important discussion.
Today, it is the 6th of December 2011. On this day, 3 years ago in Athens, a police officer murdered the 16-year-old student Alexandros Grigoropoulos. A murder that caused an unexpectedly dramatic uprising that not only shook the Greek system of governance, but, by causing a chain reaction of supporting movements from Europe to Australia and Canada, one could conclude that this event was a turning point for the global social movements that are seeking today their identity and the elements they have in common.
So, let’s examine the events of that period, and first of all, the cold-blooded murder of an underage student. The location was EKSARXEIA, a district in Athens that has been the centre of political osmosis for consecutive decades and the place of birth of social movements, which have affected Athens and Greece in general. Moreover (and as an after-effect within capitalism), EKSARXEIA has been a place where state and para-state violence is heavily present, where agents and provocateurs are a common phenomenon, where the “contamination” of the district with drugs, abandonment and allegedly a high crime rate continuously turns out to be a methodical attempt to spoil the image of social movements and of the left people, who often have EKSARXEIA as their launching point of action.
So in this district, in the historical district of EKSARXEIA, with the “bad” reputation but also with the continuous political action, despite and beyond its notoriety that others have fabricated and continue to fabricate, a small group of students argued with 2 police officers (the specifics that led to the argument are still unknown to this day). The police officers left and then the one of them decided to return to the original scene of the argument and murdered the 16-year-old student in cold blood.
It is natural for anyone to wonder how intense this argument was, especially when knowing the attitude and power of the police force in Greece. A basic experience on the subject would easily suggest that there couldn’t have been be any intense argument at all. And in any case, what could truly -not of course justify- but at least explain this hideous murder?
Only the arrogance and the fascism of power that does not accept critique or any kind of free speech could explain it. Only the longtime shaping of the representatives of power on the streets -that is the police force- not for people’s safety but for their oppression and submission could ever explain this outrageous act.
The child died on the street and in less than 2 hours, Athens became a furnace. It was burning, not by the fires started by the provocateurs, vigorously shown by the mass media, but by the voices of outrage of a people’s gathering, so massive, so spontaneous and self-organized that we hadn’t seen in decades.
And it may be that the beginning of this was the murder of the student, but the reasons were clearly much more political and deeply social and to a certain extent class-struggle generated.
Young and older people from the lower and middle class came down the streets, as well as from almost all classes of Greek society, and this was a massive uprising that in many aspects started to shape its own political, class identity, which of course was still rough and blurry.
The provocateurs (para-state) emerged on the streets almost simultaneously with the riots, showing-off the reflexes of power that proves the constant fear and belief that sooner or later the subdued people cannot but rise up. And, allow me to stress here that this knowledge -and not just belief- should one day become a realization of society itself.
The outcome was the well-known chaos that the mass media showed to the world with a somewhat religious determination.
Nevertheless, in many cases the truth came out shining thanks to numerous videos shot by protestors and citizens that showed clearly the state–organized deceit:
Gradually, and in the following years even more, a growing part of society came to realize the terrible truth: that the ruling class which uses as a mask the state and the government, also uses the provocateurs and the extreme right wing to spoil and blemish the spontaneous social struggles. And the example of Greece is extremely important to the rest of the European countries, especially the ones that now start to formulate their own social movements that express their goals by protests in the streets.
The effect of December 2008 uprising was tremendous. Demonstrations and protests started in too many countries, some of which, such as Australia, had never shown such a fighting spirit and political activism before.
It was obvious that the spark that started in the ghettos of Paris in 2006 and became a fire in Athens in 2008 wouldn’t stop there. The globalised capitalism that nowadays tries to evolve into a global hegemonism, gave birth also to a global movement of reaction that sooner or later will evolve on its own into a movement of resistance and overthrow of capitalism.
In Greece, the social movement that started to form in 2008, might have been silenced for a while but soon enough the attack of the capitalist mafias –that some prefer to call abstractly “the market”- against the Greek economy and society led to a new start of the reaction, this time with a much more dynamically political character.
What is more, the movement of the squares, the Greek “indignados”, put forward, even if not clearly yet, the question of Direct Democracy. And it might be true that the provocateurs (this time under the skin of extreme right wing or other capitalist-friendly hybrids) came to the protests trying to transform the character of the movement and managed to an extend to keep things unclear regarding what direct democracy truly means, but in any case this was a giant leap for our political consciousness and realization.
In 2008, when some of us talked about Direct Democracy, many, some of whom progressive and political human beings, rushed to characterize us utopians. Three years later, Direct Democracy was the centre of discussion. Of course, the issue of a clear view on the subject remains, but it is just a matter of time, effort, discussion and mostly of knowledge. The realization that the representative democracy is a fake democracy, established just in order to cover up the true political rule of a small oligarchy of capitalists and that it must be replaced by Direct Democracy, the only true form of democracy, is a giant historical step.
Undoubtedly, this will lead to other important realizations. There are many people out there who know today that democracy does not exist if it is not direct and that Direct Democracy cannot exist inside the limits of an exploitative, ruling system, hence that direct democracy, cannot but lead to a classless society.
The apologizers of capitalism are trying of course to disorientate us all from this direction. This is what they get paid for, or at least what they hope to get paid for someday by the ruling class whom they fear and obey. And it is also true that still a large part of our society is not ready to accept the perspective of such important changes. The social institutionalization has always been a tool of the ruling systems and it is true that capitalism has turned it into a whole new science.
But as long as the attack of globalised capitalism against the people all over the world continues, the need for solutions and understanding by the people will grow and so the realization of what changes need to be done in the economical and social structure will grow deeper. And this entails the dynamic of an irreversible situation. It might turn out that today or in the near future humanity might not be able to leave behind the barbarism of capitalism. The humanity might even become more enslaved and go through the nightmare of the new, electronic Middle Ages that the rulers have been planning for decades. But whatever happens, humanity will not go back to the illusions of our near past. This is a wall that has fallen forever.
It is most certain that the evolvement of the social movements will not stop here. Perhaps what we have seen so far is only a spark of the upcoming events. Perhaps we haven’t even seen the real start yet, but how many times in history hasn’t the flood really started long after the first weak wave?
For now, silence follows the reaction. The one million protesters went back home, not only because of the murders by the provocateurs but mostly because of the uncertain political identity of the new movement. And if it is useful to search for the reasons of these long intervals of silence, we must honestly search into the sicknesses of what we call leftism. It doesn’t have to do anymore just with the fragmentation of the leftist movement, or with the integration of the leftist movements into the ruling system. The problem is deeper and at the same time rather simple. If we do not overcome the social fragmentation created by the social division of labour, as well as the so-called ideological fragmentation of the social movement, then it will be impossible to overcome the submission to leaders, gurus and in any case rulers and exploiters of society. The new, better world cannot but contain us all. And this is a key point, I believe, closely related to Direct Democracy and classless society. We don’t need leaders or any kind of ruling authorities. We don’t need prophets or messiahs. We need to conquer the knowledge gained and accumulated by humanity to date, we need logic and courage: logic to deal with the crisis and courage in shaping the dream of a better world.
The most important and ironic thing nowadays is that for the first time, this better world is absolutely possible. Not as a compulsive consumerist paradise revealing to be hell, but as a society of real abundance for all the needs of all people. Without the paid slavery and exploitation, without the need of property, without the fear of tomorrow. And all this is not said by crazy dreamers, but it is proven by studies of the institutions of the ruling class. A small research in the statistics of the United Nations can persuade anyone that poverty, wretched living conditions, wars that take place -and may increase- for resources, all this atrocity, is not only a crime against humanity as it has always been, but today it is completely unjustified and absurd. The earth can provide everything to an even greater population than today’s population. The only reason why the capitalistic barbarism continues and still grows is that the oligarchy keeping the world wealth knows that with a few hours of creative work per day, the society may produce all the necessary goods for its members and in a descent way. But this would mean spare time and spare time means creativity and knowledge and these mean freedom. The war is not financial in the strict sense but rather political. What the power fights for is not the accumulation of wealth, as this has already taken place, but overaccumulation of ruling power. In other words, they want to finish up with society. Its goal is not just the low and middle classes but the concept of society itself. The absolute fascism dreamt by the hard core of modern, globalised capitalism would most probably impress even the most lunatic hegemonies in history.
But the natural laws of the universe are still in force. Whenever there is action there is also reaction. Whenever there is suppression, there is also resistance, and against the absolute fascism there is today a global anti-capitalist movement of the people who dream of a free, classless world of Direct Democracy. If five years ago someone said that there would be strikes and uprisings in London, Brussels or New York, everyone would ridicule him. Today, this has already taken place. The social movements in Africa and Asia, and of course the full of promises Latin America, combined with the movements forming their identity in Europe and USA, and most of all the connection of all these in a global movement of resistance and overthrow of capitalism, is a fact. The success of this world movement greatly depends on one basic factor: whether it will manage to develop, remain independent and belong to the people or if it will be manipulated by the right or even left wing of the ruling system.
No matter what happens in the near future, the point is that the collective memory of humanity remembers today what was always known and what the rulers have tried to conceal: that the road to liberation, prosperity, happiness and freedom, the road which will place the humanity out of its barbaric prehistory and will lead it to its real history is the road to Direct Democracy and Classless Society.
* Speech delivered at the meeting organized by the Journal Social History Online and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation on 6/12/2011, in Hamburg, Germany.