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December was a Question

An anonymous submission with a personal view from someone not from Greece but connected to the place and its events in recent times. We publish this article as part of our 10 years after police murder on Alexis series.

Submitted to Enough is Enough.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

You will find the all articles of our series 10 years after police murder on Alexis: here.

December was a Question 

I was far away from Athens in December 2008, both physically and
mentally. Consumed mostly with my own life, but questions about the
functioning of the wider world had started to open up. Around the same
time a supposedly content, stable and invincible social and political
order had revealed it was in reality fragile. The financial crisis of
2007/8 had exposed its rotten foundations. Images of failed institutions
and bailed-out banks dominated for months, till suddenly other images
emerged. Unknown figures moving along narrow burning streets. Crowds
confronting the police, banks smashed and broken.

Who were these people and why was their city burning? The news reports
did not really say much. A boy had been killed, perhaps by accident they
claimed, but beyond that not much explanation. It took some time till it
was admitted that Alexis death was no accident, the police had treated
this 15 year old as their enemy. Eventually, I understood that Alexis,
and those who took the streets after he fell, were doing more than
questioning, they had moved on to confronting their corner of this now
fragile world. Fighting the police who killed, the political parties
that govern, the banks that were going bust and the fascists who rallied
to the state. They had already asked their questions and knew where they
stood. Watching these people who did not look so different from myself
in a city that could have been anywhere could not help but answer some
questions for myself and anyone watching. Though I was not there,
December was a galvanising event.

As was said at the time December was a question. It was a question both
for the Greek state and the anarchist and anti-authoritarian space. For
the state the weeks of riots and protests which made up the revolt
marked the beginning of a decade of crisis. It was not the moment 18
months later when the state was declared bankrupt that began the crisis.
Only later would the question of economic policy, austerity or debt
relief, euro or drachma come to dominate. Before that there were crowds
of people on the streets revolting against much more than just a policy.
People were fighting the police, the guardians of the state. The forces’
record of clamping down on demonstrations, abuse of migrants and
refugees, along with the accompanying ‘accidental’ deaths, and its ties
to the far-right and petty mafias was well known. Nor was the murder of
a 15 year old anything new. People were no longer listening to the
political parties in parliament, their promises of change and reform had
grown old twenty years ago. The supposed foundations of the modern
society, the free market consumer society was being rejected. Banks were
trashed and stores looted. What’s more the crowds were rejecting their
role as the individual citizen and were acting collectively to fight, to
organise and discuss. There were few calls put forward for reforms,
instead the different pillars of the state and capital were rejected.
For all its troubled history the Greek state was meant to be beyond such
questions like so many other states. All of a sudden the happy Greece of
the stable parliamentary democracy, of the Olympics and acceptance into
the Euro was gone. Once it happened people had to admit the revolt was
inevitable and there were deep problems in society. Here the crisis
began.

Ten years later the crisis has been declared over. The economy has been
shredded but the eurozone survived. A number of Prime Ministers and
governments came and went but many of the same characters still lecture
from parliament, the man in charge of the police in December is now
President of the Republic. The salvation of the country turned out to
mean a great reduction in wages, rises in workplace deaths and suicides,
a reduction of social services and the marketing of whatever piece of
earth or property can be sold to the world’s wealthy. Following December
2008 more were to die like Lambros Foundas and Pavlos Fyssas. Others
were loaded with charges and imprisoned. On the streets it is now
nationalism that is mobilising people. The state has not yet really been
able to provide any answers to its own crisis, it continues to reign
because no one else managed to find any either.

December was also a question for the anarchist and anti-authoritarian
space and all who see themselves in it. Every revolt leads to the
question of how to go further, how to build, how to progress and perhaps
how to move from revolt to revolution. Such questions remain open. The
last ten years saw many things and while the movement was part of
numerous significant moments the major questions are unanswered. With
the bankruptcy of the state hundreds of thousands were on the streets.
After a brief period trying to fight for their own needs most were led
back into line behind a variety of parties which went on to revive the
very programme people were struggling against. Naturally, demoralisation
set in across a large part of society, a process the movement was also
caught up in. Important things were still to come, the fight against
Golden Dawn and fascism as well as the continuing refugee solidarity
efforts. But the way has yet to be found to keep the fires of revolt
burning and spreading. We were unable to convince people to break away
from a failing social and political system rather than seek some new
manager of that broken system. How can we as anarchists do more than
react to the crisis of the state and capital and start to follow our own
path taking along as many people as possible. These questions that
December posed continue to be the questions of today.

Ten years on is December 6th just a commemoration and unanswered
questions? Other revolts also ultimately failed to provide answers to
their times and their memory became part of the institutions. Alexis
could join the list of those who died in past struggles. But December is
not just a stale memory. The state has had troubled dealing with the
memory of a revolt so explicitly directed against the state itself and
every December since has had its political stakes. Even for those
watching from afar the events had an effect and continue to be an
inspiration. In more miserable times how can we not remember the moments
when thousands of people took to the streets to give the police the
response they deserved and act collectively against this individualised
society. We may still be searching for solutions to grand problems but
as it did no doubt for many individuals December certainly answered some
questions about who we are and where we stand in such moments.
The last few years have been bleak, and the future looks far from
promising, but December showed how quickly things can change. If the
question of December remains open that is also the case for everyone.
The central fact of our time is that the world is increasingly
precarious, the stability global capitalism once enjoyed is still not
restored. Ten years on there are people who continue asking questions
for now as much as then tomorrow remains a day when nothing is certain.
Since December 2008 much has changed but just as much has stayed the
same and so the revolt remains a living memory and inspiration. 

An anonymous international- December 2018


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