• The “Indignants’” movement in Greece and the claim for real democracy

  • By Elena Papadopoulou | 16 Jun 11
  • Not long after the big manifestations of the “Indignados” at the Square of Puerta del Sol in Madrid and other spanish cities, a similar call quickly diffused through the social media (blogs, facebook, twitter) invited the greek citizens to protest against austerity on the 26th of May at Syntagma Square (the main square in the center of Athens). The turnover was impressive enough to make the need for a second call so self-evident, that it was almost unecessary. People were there to stay.

    It is now the 17th day that Syntagma Square-as well as many other central squares around Greece- seems to be the only place where tens of thousands of people feel that their «indignation» can find a real expression. This is perhaps one of the most prominent characteristics of the diverse- in many respects- croud that consitutes what we now call «the Greek indignants». A characteristic that points to a legalisation and representation crisis of the political system that is becoming more and more difficult to conceal.

    The grave economic situation that Greece faces, three years inside the global crisis and one year after the activation of the “rescue plan” of the IMF-EU-ECB in cooperation with the greek government does not seem to head towards its resolution. The background that would justify a strong reaction of the greek people was, thus, obvious. What was not- and is still not- obvious, however, was the form that this reaction would take, whether it would produce a common condensation of “who is to blame for the crisis?”, whether, in turn, this condensation would articulate some kind of common claims, and if so, what kind of claims they would be.

    These, I think, where the questions that initially preoccupied many of the people that participated in the first demonstrations in Syntagma (apart, of course, from their need to express their exasperation and feeling of injustice), and mostly the people of the Left. I say, mostly because they- of all- seemed to be more aware that, what can potentially come out of such a “spontaneous” come-together of a heterogeneous society is not for granted and what is more, it is not grantedly progressive. Unfortunately, in the context of a short article like this, it is hard, if not impossible to analyse all the interesting issues accruing from this discussion (and for this, it is rather preferable not to open any). Fortunately, the greek Left actively participates in the big “indignat” movement that still strives to find its identity.

    But what is actually going on in Syntagma during these 17 days? In a very brief- and thus inevitably simplifying way- I would say, a process of self-organisation and open dialogue together with a generalized depreciation of the political system as a whole. Some of the people are gathering on the upper part of the square, right opposite to the Parliament yelling against corruption and injustice and clinking empty pots, while others participate in the so called everyday “popular assembly”, an open discussion where everyone can express their opinions, proposals and feelings, where there are no representatives and where the claim that dominated since its initiation was that for “real democracy”. Through this procedure the “indignants” managed to arrive to a common text outlining their common characteristics, express their claims related to the economic situation, organize smaller thematic assemblies were specific issues could be more thoroughly discussed (there were already two broadly attended debates about the debt crisis), decentralize the dialogue at the neighborhood level, create a web-site that puts together all the day-by-day developments and serves as a central, self-controlled information point (http://real-democracy.gr/). Many others are camping, playing music, cooking, painting and engaging in various other self-organised activities.

    The major political goal now stemming from the “popular assembly” is the opposition to the voting of the new medium-term austerity program, due to be discussed in the greek Parliament on the 15th of June. Whether this will be the primer for political developments, it remains to be seen. What is already conquered is the active reclaiming of the public space and an invaluable experience for many fights to come.