Translated to Spanish here.
“Q: What will my benefit be as a citizen/ professional / visitor in Athens?
A: The functional and environmental rebirth of the centre will shed light on even the darkest and most unwanted sides of it. Panepistimiou Street and Omonoia Square will become the liveliest neighborhood, as a city centre for shopping during the day and as a nighttime “place to be”, whereas the area will become a special meeting place for Athenians from all neighborhoods. Living conditions will improve significantly and a large part of the centre will be re-inhabited, whereas the trade, entrepreneurial and tourist activity all over this area will be revitalized.”
From the website of Rethink Athens. (Original in English, Original Grammar has been retained, http://www.rethinkathens.org/eng/faq)
Athens centre  supposedly is preparing for one more big regeneration project. This time the city will have to reconstruct anew one of its most central streets, Panepistimiou, including Athens’ two most central Squares: Syntagma and Omonoia. The project will involve a semi-pedestrianization of Panepistimiou Avenue, which will be re-paved, while several new features such as water fountains or trees will replace the asphalted avenue. An international architecture competition took place during 2012 and the winner (a Dutch urban development office) was announced in early 2013. The political authorities of the country including the Prime Minister (PM) participated in the launching event. The PM was clear in his speech that ‘Rethink Athens’ is part of a larger project, which involves the privatization and regeneration of the old Athens airport along the regeneration of the Athenian seafront up-to Cape Sounio, 60km southern of Athens centre.
The PM’s talk sounded like it came from two decades ago when Greece was a “Construction Contractors Republic”. Back then the “steam engine” of the thriving Greek economic growth was the construction sector, and the country was indeed being rebuilt en masse. New and allegedly overpriced highways, airports, shopping malls, stadiums etc. conquered the cityscape. Back then a widespread optimism was growing in reference to the development of urban materiality, the newly funded virtual economy of credit, the forthcoming Olympic Games, the European Monetary Integration and the Europeanization/modernisation projects. “Development” and “modernisation” at that time were elevated into the main political slogans of the governments. Nevertheless, the rapid accumulation of built and virtual capital was soon followed by the economic bust.
Today a promise to fix the “problems” of Athens’ centre via some more urban development sounds pretty hollow, according to people who work, use or just exist on Panepistimiou street and the surrounding streets of the centre.
For example, one of the central Athenian merchants explained that many public works from that golden period of contractors had been catastrophic for certain businesses. The case of the repeated (but poorly explained) reconstructions of Omonoia Square the last twenty years is often quoted as such a project that altered violently the order of things in the centre of the city. Moreover, another informant talked about the pedestrianization of Ermou Street at the second half of the 1990s. Ermou is a street departing from Syntagma Square and it was traditionally one of the busiest commercial streets of the capital city. The project of its pedestrianization lasted for some time and by the end of it several of the smaller Ermou shops had been closed down. This happened first of all because the rents rocketed in the reconstructed street but also due to the decreased consumption, during the period of the construction works. However, another part of the problem was the wider global condition in the history of European capitalism. Namely, 1990s was a period when international retail chains entered the market of Greece, leading to the economic “death” of some of the smaller merchants. Ermou Street, where many of the shops of the early 1990s today have been replaced by branches of big international chains, is a witness of both the global process, but also the local urban peculiarity.
But a central Athens’ employee in retail sector explained that businessmen “took out their eyes, with their own hands”. In the recent past during the economic growth of 1990s and 2000s quite a few of the smaller independent merchants made big openings taking risks within a market that functioned under new –unknown before– rules. In order to do the openings they often took one of those high interest bank loans, which were too easily available at the time, leading eventually to their catastrophe when they could not pay back. For example, when all the new shopping malls were built around Athens some independent merchants expanded renting a unit in one of the new malls. However, a mall is a big corporation which does not allow for much flexibility with debts. Merchants who rent and do not own their shops sometimes have to ask the owner of the property (typically another middle-class person) for flexibility, which usually is provided, but indeed something like this is out of the question when you rent in a mall which is a big corporation.
However, such an observation refers to the recent past rather than the catastrophic present, a lot of independent merchants who made further ‘economic openings’ during the period of prosperity, when the crisis broke out, vanished overnight under the weight of quickly accumulating debts. “Some colleagues ended up in the soup kitchen”, mentioned a merchant on Agiou Markou Street. The association of Athens merchants, these days maintains a social grocery for its members, namely a shop were former shopkeepers can acquire some basic goods gratis. Today on central streets of Athens such as Stadiou there are former shop-keepers who own the retail properties where they were housing their shop, so they had no rent expenses, and yet still they went out of business after May 2010 due to decrease in consumption. The aforementioned retail worker, explained the temporality of their narrative: “Stupid movements of the businessman or problematic structure, this is past and forgotten now – now first they tell you to cut down salaries, because they are not doing well, then they cut down the personnel and then they end up working with one tenth of the employees, and them are just members of the boss’ family and then one day they close down for good.”
The politics of ‘Rethinking’
Many merchants of Athens’ centre blame the recent increase of demonstrations and protests that take place in the centre of the city for the commercial failure of their businesses. The idea is that the revolt of 2008 was the first big strike to the centre of Athens, then it was the riots of May 2010 and then February 2012 riots. The truth is that one can hear this argument more and more in the corporate media ever since 2010 when the austerity started, and increasing portions of the population (including the shopkeepers) feel that they have better reasons to protest. However, the narrative of most shopkeepers does not identify straight-forwardly with the governmental/corporate media argument. When they use the term ‘demonstration’ (diadiloseis/διαδηλώσεις) or ‘riots’ (episodia/επεισόδια) they usually add ‘teargas’ (dakrygona/δακρυγόνα) and the blockade of every street or metro stations around the centre of the city. Whether expressed explicitly or implicitly, the fact is that teargas and violence, or the blockade of routes, are police tactics that have been applied increasingly the last years. Police these days close down most central metro stations and all the streets leading to the centre of the city, many hours before and after a protest march. During protests one can hear demonstrators claiming that the police are trying to limit access to protesters, but also to enrage the rest of the centre’s users, against the various social groups who protest.
The point is that while merchants in the first instance seem to agree with corporate media/government, most of the time they use a different phrasing and add different elements. For example while, the corporate media often add Molotov cocktails or the hooded protesters as part of the city centre’s problem, the business people I have met rarely refer to these elements. The different perspective of most merchants of the centre is even more explicit when they talk about the events of December 2008. In fact irrelevant of the politics implied in the rest of the language used, the merchants of the centre I have talked with, usually use the term ‘revolt’ for the revolt of 2008, instead of riots (epeisodia/επεισόδια) as most of the governmental and government friendly discourse label December 2008. Moreover, other wording used has been the ‘events of Alexis’ or ‘…of Grigoropoulos’ or ‘…Alexandros’ etc. referring to Alexandros Grigoropoulos, the 15 year old person who was assassinated by the police on December 2008, and whose death triggered the social uprising of 2008. This terminology of personification reflects much more the language used by the participants in the revolt rather than the authorities or the corporate media.
The bottom line is that merchants are running a business and they judge spatial tactics and spatial practices according to the impact they have to their custom. As one of them told me on one of the streets which once upon a time was the major commercial street of the capital city: “In the past, even if your shop was smashed, you did not care that much. We often did not even approach the insurance companies, we used to fix them ourselves, and we did not care because we had customers, at the same moment that we were fixing the damages.” Things are not that rosy anymore. Allegedly today that every single shopkeeper struggles to survive financially, insurance companies play major role in the situation of the centre, they do not even pay for damages occurring during protests or they ask for enormous fees in order to insure a business in the area. Until the recent past when properties were destroyed in Athens centre they were fixed quickly. But most of the buildings destroyed during the riots of February 2012 remain in ruins still in late May 2013, which is an unusually long period of time for that area. “When people’s pockets are empty, there is no reason to fix and open again a shop that for whatever reason closed down” concluded the same shopkeeper of the Athenian centre.
Certainly the centre of the city (contrary to what the decision-makers of ‘Rethink Athens’ may believe) does not have only commercial activities – one of the many things happening in the centre is also protesting. The problem is that the governments of the last few years seem to target very explicitly protesting, suggesting that it is the single problem of Athens centre. For example on April 27, 2013 the Greek minister of Public Order (Police) Nicos Dendias gave a brief interview to the Voice of America during his visit to NYC to exchange knowhow with FBI, in this interview he stated:‘Let me give you an example of a policy we are trying to implement and it will change the whole life of the capital city of the country […] it is the restriction of small demonstrations, demonstrations of 100-200 people, from closing the Athens city center, occupying the entire road preventing access to the center of Athens.’
Blaming demonstrations for the failure of businesses in the centre of the city has at least two benefits. First, it masks the fact that austerity policies, unemployment and cuts to the income prevent people from buying anything and second, is part of a wider attempt to limit protesting at a time that more and more people have increasing reasons to protest against the government. In fact today poverty has increased to the extent that gradually the majority are changing their eating habits. In other words people are forced to severely cut their food budget, so clothing or other needs are limited even more if not vanished. Under such circumstances several groups each week protest, hassling the various governmental plans.
The first steps of limiting and banning protests have been evident in the publicly performed police violence during protests. Since 2010 this violence has reached its post-dictatorial peak, with tear gas and beating up by police being used in industrial scale (e.g. June 2011 general strikes). In fact the evident aim is to terrorize those who may participate in protests, since anyone who dares to protest know that their health and wellbeing is in danger. But a much more evident spatialisation of the anti-protest policies came in 2011, when the government withdrew the so called academic asylum. Since the early 1980s the Greek constitution instructed that army or police should not access university grounds, unless the university authorities decide for such an action. Academic asylum is one of the main reasons that Panepitimiou street has emerged as the necessary part of almost every single protest march. Panepistimio (panepistimio/πανεπιστήμιο) in Greek means University, and Panepistimiou Street is where the University of Athens Refectory is located . The Square in front of the neoclassical Refectory was and still is the most common point for the gathering, departing and terminating of protest marches. The various university buildings during the history of Athens have been a haven for the protesters who have been chased down, beaten and attacked by the police. The central Athenian campuses functioned as centres of resistance both during the occupation of Athens by the Nazis and their Greek collaborators in the 1940s, and more famously during the anti-dictatorial resistance in the 1970s. Indeed, today universities are not a safe place anymore since police can raid them, restrict or ban any activity that takes place in there. The future erection of so many physical obstacles along the Panepistimiou Street of ‘Rethink Athens’ probably will lead to the end of Panepistimiou as part of protest marches.
The death of academic asylum, and the material regeneration of the main street of Athenian centre come at the same time with an explicit political decision to limit protest. In a profound move, since January 2013, almost every single major industrial action (metro workers, sailors and teachers) has been basically banned by the government in the name of public benefit, via the application of a very debateable law regarding civil conscription. But in May 2013 when the high school teachers’ strike was banned, their unions decided to start one of their first protest marches against the ban on the pedestrianized Ermou Street. A place where protests are located rarely. Perhaps that was an early semiological warning that one way or the other protests will not vanish from the city centre whatsoever material regeneration projects will be applied on Panepistimiou or elsewhere. Indeed they may vanish due to political reasons, e.g. if gatherings will be banned completely (indeed it is a possibility given the recent banning of strikes and the aforementioned statements of the Minster about limiting certain marches) but a simple reconstruction project will not be enough.
“One eats the other”
But capitalist competition and class structure in their purer form are not the only source of tension on the Athenian high-street. There are some more tangibly violent occurrences around the centre. These days around Omonoia or Kanigos Square, army-personnel-looking security guards walk in front of shops. One informant told me that they are working for the bank branches. Someone else said that the smaller shop-keepers received a good offer from a new private security company, which has pretty dangerous looking employees in order to kick out the homeless. When the sun sets, blankets and sleeping bags make their appearance in the arcades and the thresholds of the shops. The city centre is gradually transformed into a huge sleeping place in the nights, homelessness increases to unprecedented level. Additionally, these days a new cheaper drug, sisa, has appeared on the streets. Sisa has almost replaced the more expensive heroin, but sisa’s effects are much more severe. People lose their consciousness or are heavily tripping for hours – so homeless or not – addicted people often end up unconscious in the threshold of shops, with some businessmen blaming that situation for the bad fate of their enterprises. One way or the other, the point is that these private guards in all black military outfit seem to do the dirty job of keeping the urban poor out of public view in early morning.
Beyond the everyday violent encounters there is another process, violent as well but more structurally violent. This is phrased in various ways but one of the most common motifs seems to be the so called ‘interests’. Nobody seems to be sure but many people active in the centre of the city are angry with these “interests” (symferonta/συμφέροντα). This is a term referring abstractly to political or economic powers bigger than you (often including international agents) which act in an unethical way, having an impact to your everyday life. In the current case the implication is that there are agents who collaborate secretly for the drop of real estate prices in the centre of the city in order to devalue the properties and eventually buy them for peanuts. Although the rumour is more and more widespread and although in certain areas of the centre -such as Keramikos and Metaxourgeio- do emerge a tendency of companies which buy large number of properties, there is no evidence as yet for such an activity that aims at the entire centre of the city. ‘Rethink Athens’ will come in that deregulated real estate market changing anew the prices in the centre. But certainly the prices of real estate in Athens are in a free-fall. Some small independent merchants, feeling the pressure of the economic failure become verbal about the increasing structural unfairness of the new conditions implemented to the market the last fifteen years. Many blame explicitly the authorities that allegedly have done everything to pave the way for larger retail corporations to eliminate small independent shops and so to force the unwanted small/independent businesses to move out from the centre. The truth is that new infrastructures and big shopping malls have appeared en masse during the golden period of economic growth (1990s-2000s), within the centre but also in the Athenian suburbs altering radically the existing – back then – balances of the market. Moreover, there are various changes in policies the last decade which deregulate the market, a deregulation which has an impact to the smaller players, eliminating many of them. “But that’s the system, one eats the other, everyone is against everyone […] and so that’s the system, I have no different way to name it” a wise and cynical shopkeeper mentioned, in a bitter moment of realization.
 Although the term Athens centre refers to a large area with very different micro-histories, for the current text the word centre is used in reference to the area between Omonoia and Syntagma Square including the surrounding streets. (go back to text)
 Although the street was renamed Venizelou street on 1945, no single Athenian calls it anything else but Panepistimiou. (go back to text)
Join us for an evening of discussion at the London book launch of ‘Crucible of Resistance: Greece, the Eurozone and the World Economic Crisis’ by Christos Laskos and Euclid Tsakalotos.
Challenging mainstream accounts of the ‘Greek Crisis’, the book argues that Greece’s exceptionalism is largely a myth. They show how the causes of the 2008 global financial crisis lie in key features of the neoliberal economic order, including income and wealth inequalities and the hollowing out of democratic institutions.
A progressive exit from the crisis, for the Eurozone as a whole, means confronting the limitations of the neoliberal order.
Euclid Tsakalotos is MP for the Syriza party in Greece, economic adviser to party leader Alexis Tsipras and a professor of economics at the University of Athens.
Costas Douzinas is a law professor at Birkbeck, University of London and author of Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe.
John Palmer is visiting practitioner fellow at Sussex University European Institute and former European editor of The Guardian and founder political director of the European Policy Centre in Brussels.
Chaired by Hilary Wainwright, co-editor of Red Pepper magazine.
“Crucible of Resistance is a clear account of how Greece and the Eurozone got into such a mess. It shows that the crisis is not only economic, but also one of growing regional and social inequalities and the retreat of democracy. The authors bring to the fore what the emerging radical left in Greece and elsewhere can do to get us out of the crisis” Alexis Tsipras, head of Syriza and Leader of the Opposition in the Greek parliament.
Venue: The Lucas Arms, 245a Grays Inn Rd, Kings Cross, WC1X 8QY London
The European Contribution Towards the Formation of the Greek National Narrative
republished from chronosmag.eu
Let me begin with a few words concerning the title and subject of this paper. My focus will be on writers for whom the study of the Greek War of Independence is part of a wider reflection on the Greek national past; therefore their texts are not just event-centred approaches of 1821.
This basically concerns the philhellene historians who would subsequently be recognized by the representatives of Greek national historiography as the ones who paved the way for the writing of a “genuine Greek national history” – a history which would be, as the Greek historians desired it to be, the “history of the Greek nation from ancient to modern times”. There are a number of names included in the list of the pioneers of Greek national history, but the names which stand out the most are those of the liberal Irishman James Emerson (1804-1869), the German historicist Johann Wilhelm Zinkeisen (1803-1863) and the Scottish liberal historicist George Finlay (1799-1875). They authored all-encompassing histories of the Greek national past.
Let me also say a few words concerning the terms liberalism and historicism: one term refers to a political-ideological concern on the Greek Revolution; the other refers to a more scholarly concern. Naturally, there have been many cases where both co-existed; nevertheless, even in cases like these, one can still see that one determines the other.
We have only recently started to distinguish between historism and historicism in English bibliography. In my paper, I am referring to the classical German Historismus of the early 19th century which, during the Greek revolution, influenced a large number of European scholars.
As far as liberalism is concerned, the relevant bibliography states that the liberalism of the 1820s (thus including philhellene liberalism) is not identical with the liberalism of the 18th century. Liberals of the Restoration period are not only afraid of the despotism inflicted by the rulers; they also fear extremism to which leads the love for freedom (the fear of a new Terreur). One might say that, at least compared to older, these are more modest liberals, and I am not just referring to the British who are known for their institution-focused liberalism; I am also referring to the French, many of whom come from the ranks of the doctrinaires. Both wish for the control of power to be constitutionally recognized and, most importantly, they demand for boundaries to be placed on monarchical arbitrariness.
It’s not then surprising that liberal voices shouting out for the Greek cause after the beginning of the 1821 Revolution are not concerned with fundamental human rights so much, but are more specifically concerned with the Greeks’ right to regain the freedom which they lost in 1453 (and not, perhaps surprisingly for someone who doesn’t know the era well, in 146 BC), to “seek revenge”, as they used to say, for the enslavement of their ancestors. In this case, my opinion is that this doesn’t only concern respect towards the needs and choices of the rebelled Greeks; nor that even the most liberal European thinkers realise that it doesn’t suit the Greek Revolution to identify with carbonarism. It’s not only the aforementioned that makes scholars of the period insist that Greeks do not have a claim on an ex-nihilo state based on human rights (something which would go along the lines of the logic of the social contract theory) .
It’s also the fact that the main objective of European Liberalism is now the control of monarchical arbitrariness under the auspices of law obeying states, and the Ottoman Empire is considered by far the most arbitrary state. As is the fact that even liberal scholars of the era are now familiar with the historicist sense of historical continuity and more or less consciously use the same term, Greeks, whether they refer to the glorious Ancients, the obscurantist and decadent Byzantines or the Modern Greeks.
In other words, the term Greeks is no longer a value judgment, so to speak; being Greek stops being something which one either deserves or doesn’t deserve to be, as it was during the Enlightenment years, and starts having a purely historical, ethnological if you like, dimension. And even though many intellectuals of the period are not ready yet to fully accept the consequences brought on by historicism and thus de-ideologize the historical past (de-ideologize of course, as was understood by the historicists themselves), they are, for instance, ready to start looking for the “bright exceptions” of the Middle Ages. Constantine Palaeologus will be such an exception. His self sacrifice is portrayed by contemporary writers as the element that legitimizes the Modern Greeks’ right for revenge.
It’s characteristic for liberal philhellenes, when they try to interpret 1821, to exploit the perceptions of the French traveller and diplomat Choiseul-Gouffier, a non liberal scholar, a supporter of enlightened despotism, who was to become the most endearing reference for philhellene writers, regardless of ideological origin: from the day Constantinople fell, the Greeks are the people that never ceased to resist their Ottoman conquerors. Some of the liberal philhellenes, with Finlay being the most important, would go as far as to make a historical generalization concerning this position by stating that: the Greeks are the people who have always resisted their conquerors, from the time of the Romans (or, according to others, the ancient Macedonians) to the present day. It is evident from this that the term Greek continues to be something of a value judgment, as it was during the Enlightenment, but the new element of the 1820s – of historicist inspiration – is the attempt to recognize the Greeks’ insubordination as an “eminently national characteristic”.
The main issue that pre-occupied the pro-Hellenic literature concerning 1821 was: what were the factors that contributed to the national awakening of the Greeks and to the outbreak of the Revolution? Of course, the debate focused very quickly on two couples: commerce and education on one hand, as well as religion and the Greek Church on the other.
There seems to be a universal agreement among writers of the era for the coupling of commerce and education, which was considered as the most crucial factor towards the national awakening of the Greeks. However political differences seem to matter here. For liberals, about a decade before their rise to political power in Great Britain, trade and education creates a real tandem, which works towards liberating a people (even though historical generalizations are not as open as they would later become – in the logic of Georges Grote for example, who would reveal ancient Athens as the timeless standard of liberalism).
For the more conservative on the other hand, this was more about the relationship that the Greeks developed with civilized western Europe (clearly commercial at the beginning, and then cultural). This is what allowed them to be a step ahead of the “retarded” Ottomans and want to find their own place in the European system of balance.
The emphasis placed on matters of balance between states highlights 19th century historicism which was influenced by Ranke. An element which sets Zinkeisen (a Ranke’s protégé) apart from the wave of philhellenic historiography between 1821-1832 is the attempt to integrate the Greek Revolution in an analysis of the developments that were taking place at the time, not only on a European but also on a global level.
In attempting to substantiate the view that the Revolution of 1821 was bad timing for the Greeks, Zinkeisen explains the role played by developments in the New World, particularly the independence of the United States from Great Britain; according to him, these developments explain why, initially, Greek Independence was not favoured by the Great Powers. In any case, the use of the concept of a “European system of balance between states” by Zinkeisen is effective in his attempt to understand the implications relations between the Ottoman Empire and the Great Powers had, both during the initial phase of the Ottomans’ expansion in Europe and in the role which the Great Powers eventually played in the recognition of the Greeks’ right to obtain their own independent state.
It’s not then surprising that Zinkeisen is able to understand even the way which relations between the Greeks and the Ottomans evolved through the logic of the EuropeanStaatensystem. This basically implies that even historical phenomena such as the rapprochement between Greeks and Russians, as well as the initially successful attempts of the Ottomans to exploit local, personal or other divisions among leading groups of Greek populations cannot be understood on their own, that is without considering the position of the Greeks and Ottomans within the “European system of balance”. In this way of thinking, Zinkeisen’s final conclusion arises almost effortlessly and concerns a distinction to be made between a purely local and an international or European phase of the Greek issue.
The other important matter which pre-occupied the philhellene writers was the part which religion and the Orthodox church had to play in the preservation of Greek national identity – and, consequently, in the national awakening of the Greeks. Even the most liberal writers could not deny the fact that the difference between Greeks and Ottomans was religious above all.
Nevertheless, almost all philhellene writers agree with Abel Francois Villemain – a spokesman for French liberalism of the Restoration – who wrote, essentially following Choiseul-Gouffier, that Ottoman conquest didn’t just unify the Greeks on a political level but it also made any sort of assimilation of Greeks and Ottomans impossible due to the religious distinction which existed between conquered and conqueror. For reasons that Villemain did not analyze, but which would later be studied by those particularly inspired by his writings, the Orthodox Church was for the Greeks, according to philhellenes authors, “a kind of political and religious government”, an actual Staat im Staate as Maurer would later write, and its history since then identifies with the history of the Greek people.
There are two important factors here. On one hand, the liberal heirs of the Enlightenment tend to distinguish between obscurantist and ultra-obscurantist religions; Islam is thus considered as one of the main factors of cultural backwardness, decline and, of course, a representation of the despotic character of the Ottoman empire. This, however, is not the case with other writers such as the historicist Zinkeisen and, later on Maurer, who prefer to view the whole matter as an issue of cultural antithesis between the West and the East (or, according to others, Europe and Asia). On the other hand, the British liberal philhellenes often proved to be militant representatives of protestant beliefs and, despite their critical attitude towards the Orthodox clergy, the usual was to face the Eastern church as it was less authoritarian than the Catholic – since the Eastern church was conciliar and generally closer, in terms of institutional organization, to early Christian communities.
The most typical representative of this trend was Emerson. According to the Irish Baptist writer, the survival of the Greek nation after Ottoman conquest was because of the stiff resistance of the otherwise corrupt Orthodox clergy against papal claims on the eve of the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Prior to this, it was responsible for the survival of the language and writings of the ancient Greeks, which would have been completely “forgotten” if “the language, customs and traditions” of the West had been imposed on their descendants. This in fact would have been a particularly painful development not only for Greece but for the whole of Europe, as it would have left the papal Latin West with sovereignty over everything.
Emerson’s perceptions would have been passed on by Finlay, another representative of British Liberalism. However, Finlay’s law studies at the University of Gottingen made him study all of this through German historicism. Indeed, Finlay concludes that the historical continuity of the Greeks was founded not only on language and religion but mainly on ancient political institutions that carried language and religion from generation to generation. Therefore he comprehends the Greeks’ present as well as their rebellion against the Ottoman empire in reference to the origins and peculiarities of their national institutions. The Greeks’ freedom, according to Finlay’s perception, produces but also requires «peculiar [what the German historicists called “eigentümlich”] national (political) institutions», it has, that is, positive content, and is not simply attributed to their legendary tendency for insubordination which all philhellene scholars have spoken of since Choiseul-Gouffier. Finlay even recognizes this Greek national peculiarity in the very same synodical organization of the Eastern Church.
In other words, Finlay not only produces a perception of the historical continuity of the Greek nation but also provides a consistent narrative to justify this continuity: the Greeks survived historically, their language and religion also survived historically, and they withstood the Ottoman conquest, precisely because the Greeks have always had a tendency to form institutions of autonomy and self-government (such institutions were the communities of the Ottoman period) at all levels of social life, no matter how tough their submission was.
Finally, I would like to return to the point from which I began for a last minute clarification: philhellene writers of the period 1821-1832 not only paved the way for the writing of a “genuine Greek national history” but essentially, and through different paths, actually founded the very premise of the historical continuity of the Greek nation from ancient to modern times. What Greek nationalist writers would have done at a later stage would be to de-politicize, so to speak, this historical continuity, so that the final narrative could not only include the insubordination of the Greeks to the occupiers themselves but also the so called timeless ability to “hellenize” the people they would come into contact with (either by conquering them or by being conquered by them).
A New Interpretation of the 1821 Executions in Cyprus.
republished from chronosmag.eu
Michalis N. Michael
The 9th of July of 1821 in Ottoman Cyprus was the day when many Orthodox, amongst which the Archbishop and four bishops were executed as a result of müsellim Mehmed Silâhşor’s (known as Küçük Mehmed) actions. These events have been used until today, to create a framework for analysing and interpreting the entire Ottoman period of the history of Cyprus. As a highly ideological construction, traditional historiography tries to create and demonstrate a growing national movement to overthrow the Ottoman framework that existed on the island. Additionally, the Church of Cyprus is presented as a national institution that always represented an existent nation that was in national conflict with the Ottoman authorities. The majority of the Turkish historical texts also refer to these events by connecting them to the Greek Struggle of Independence, and most of the time they are presented briefly. Read the rest of this entry »
Maria Margaronis on November 7, 2013 | THE NATION
Greek riot police block the main entrance of the former state broadcaster ERT in Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
“Even words lose their meanings,” says the disembodied voice. It’s speaking to fill the space before the silence, to be present. “Are these your orders? Yes, those are my things….Somewhere here we close, dear listeners. The voice of Greek radio falls silent. Good luck to everyone. We’ll find each other, we’ll meet again. These microphones are shutting down. Deep soul.”
Early this morning riot police broke into the Athens headquarters of ERT, Greek Radio and Television, which was officially closed by ministerial decree on June 11 but whose journalists and technicians have continued to broadcast over the Internet. After dispersing protesters outside with teargas, armoured police cleared the building room by room. Union representative Nikos Tsimpidas was last at the microphone, calling for a “magnificent demonstration, not just for ERT, not for our jobs, but for democracy itself, against…this virulent repression, this rewind through decades, for all the things we should have stood up for but couldn’t…” Read the rest of this entry »
open political event of dawn of the greeks in the social center Jugendclub-Bureau, Sulzbach-Rosenberg //Greece! the rise of a fascist societyPosted: November 2, 2013
The first open political event of dawn of the greeks will take place next Friday (September 20) in the social center Jugendclub-Bureau in Sulzbach-Rosenberg. You can read a brief description of the event below
pogroms, assassinations, police repression, fascist speech, society of control, detention camps, greek borders
In the last Greek elections, in May as well as in June 2012, the neonazi party Golden Dawn took 7% with half a million votes. Worse than that, in the recent pulse surveys of the past months approximately the 15%-17% of greeks support the neonazi party and they sympathize with the neonazi party activities. At the same time attacking immigrants in Athens and various other greek cities has become mainstream in the last years.
However racism and antisemitism, nationalism, homophobia and fascism have been permanent features of the greek society for years .
Greek society knows how to treat and show hospitality to strangers. From the busy districts of Athens to the fields of the greek countryside, migrant workers, refugees, Roma people and others often were shot, raped, murdered, detained all the past decades with the support and silence of the greek majority.
Der größte Teil der Veranstaltung wird in Englisch abgehalten werden, da der Hauptreferent aus Griechenland ist. Des Weiteren wird ein ca. 10-minütiges Video gezeigt werden und Bernd Volkert wird einen kurzen Einblick in anarchistische Untergrundorganisationen.
Mark Bergfeld review of ‘Crucible of Resistance’
Political blogger Mark Bergfeld has written a review of Crucible of Resistance by Christos Laskos and Euclid Tsakalotos. The book challenges the mainstream accounts of the Greek Crisis, and critiques the world economic system.
The review begins by commending the authors on dividing their attention between the national and the international:
The authors successfully integrate the Greek crisis in the broader framework of the eurozone and world economy. They continuously highlight the interplay between the national and international; the neoliberalization of Greece after the collapse of the dictatorship in 1974 and the recurrence of capitalist crisis in different parts of the world.
Bergfeld then analyses several of the key points made in the book:
“The most likely resolution to the crisis will be either in the direction of a far more authoritarian capitalism or moves to transcend capitalism in some important dimensions.” (9) They aptly label this “the no-turning back thesis”. I would agree with their position insofar that every economic crisis results in fundamental instability of the political and its re-negotiation. The repercussions of the East Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 are still being mobilised around in Thailand to this very day. The consequences of this deep and prolonged crisis in Greece and other Southern European states (and even the Northern ones) will transform the European political landscape in an unprecedented and unimaginable way.
He mentions the few “sticking points” of the book, but concludes that while Laskos and Tsakalotos don’t have all the answers, their questions do prompt interesting discussions:
There are a few sticking points which the book does have. The authors seek to answer why social democracy vis-a-vis PASOK didn’t reassess its commitment to neoliberalism post the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The tentative answer they provide is that social-democratic parties and their members are “cognitively linked” to the neoliberal project. Thus, they cannot act beyond what they know from their own past experiences. Hollande in France, the German SPD and other formations are named as a living proof that social-democracy finds itself in crisis. Whether this crisis is structural, cyclical or secular is not answered. It also must be questioned whether quasi-psychological answers suffice to explain social-democracy’s demise. Their book might not have all the right answers to the questions but it can allow the kind of discussions which might arrive at them.
He ends in agreement with most of the authors’ points:
Especially for people outside of Greece it is interesting to read Laskos’ and Tsakalotos’ book. The importance they ascribe to mobilisíng labour against capital stands in stark opposition to Etienne Balibar or the Greek Communist Party (KKE) who suggest to mobilise ‘the people’ or, demos. Hereby, they place particular emphasis on “transformative structures” and projects of self-organisation. “People come to see the value of solidarity in practice and come to see politics, widely defined, can actually change things. [P]ractices that are antithetical to capitalist values can also play a key role, and the Left needs to think very seriously about the role of alternative practices” (144). I couldn’t agree more. However, these alternative practices can only be rendered meaningful if they form part of a strategy towards socialism. I think the authors would agree with me.
Read the article in full here.
To buy Crucible of Resistance by Christos Laskos and Euclid Tsakalotos, click on the cover image below.
“This book gives us a clear account of how Greece and the eurozone got into such a mess. It makes clear that the crisis is not only economic, but also one of growing regional and social inequalities and the retreat of democracy. More important still, the authors bring to the fore what the emerging radical left in Greece and elsewhere can do to get us out of the crisis.”
Alexis Tsipras, head of Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) and Leader of the Opposition in the Greek parliament
“The future of democracy in Greece is a matter for all of us in Europe. Laskos and Tsakalotos take us behind the headlines about ‘bailouts’ and ‘crisis’ and share with us both the challenges and the alternatives which Greeks are creating as they resist: from networks of solidarity to a new kind of political party with a strongly European perspective. Essential reading in the decisive months ahead.”
Hilary Wainwright, author of Reclaim the State: Experiments in Popular Democracy
Update 10/31/2013 – The two actors arrested have been released, and they will have a hearing on Nov 14. They’re being charged with disturbing the peace, occupying a privately owned space (squatting), and breaking and entering. A lawyer has offered to represent them free of charge; and next week a protest will be organized for Saturday Nov 9th.
10/30/2013 – From the Open Assembly of the free self-managed EMBROS Theater after the arrest of two young actors at EMBROS – Call for group presence and support
On October 30 2013, police officers from the Acropolis police station arrested two young actors who were holding rehearsals at the free self-managed EMBROS Theater. The two arrested actors were led to the prosecutor, where they were charged with the breaching of seals, disrupting domestic peace, and repeatedly occupying a public building. They are currently detained, and will be tried tomorrow 31/10/2013 with a flagrante process.
10/31/2013 – Two rallies (the night of 10/30/2013 and at NOON on 10/31/13) were held in support of arrested actors from free self-managed EMBROS Theater
For the last two years, EMBROS has been functioning as a non-commodified cultural and social space in the sensitive area of Psyrri, in the center of Athens. The action of today’s arrest is undeniably part of a bigger scheme of a political wipe-out of “lawlessness”, in other words of the freedom of expression, of social solidarity, of self-management and the creation of culture outside the norms of the vulgar market. The attack on EMBROS, a few days after the invasion of social infirmaries, and perhaps a few days before the threatened raid of the occupied ERT public television-radio station, leaves no doubt about the intentions of a government which appears determined to “redeem itself” of all kinds of social solidarity, after having already dismantled state structures.
The Open Assembly of the free self-managed EMBROS Theater moves forward tonight with a night protest, marching together from EMBROS to the Acropolis Police Station, and invites you tomorrow, Thursday October 31 2013, at 12pm noon to the flagrante process “Aftoforo Monomeles Plimmeliodikio Scholis Evelpidon” (Building 2) to show support for the arrested and resistance towards authoritarianism of power.
EMBROS continues its program as scheduled and invites you to actively take part and participate!
SERTUC International Affairs Committee, supported by the SERTUC Race Relations Committee
invites you to a Public meeting
The Danger of ‘Golden Dawn’ and Neo-Fascist Politics in Greece: Briefing for trade unionists –
Thursday 24 October, 7.00pm-9.30pm
TUC General Council Chamber, (top floor) Congress House, Gt Russell St, London WC1B 3LS
(Tea and coffee will be served from 6.30pm, event will start at 7.00pm sharp)
***Please note – it is really important that people register for this meeting beforehand at firstname.lastname@example.org ***
Stathis Kouvelakis Member of Syriza Central Committee
Jane Beach UNITE the Union
Steve Hart Chair of Unite Against Fascism
Paul Mackney Co Chair of Greece Solidarity Campaign