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14 December 2008

Comments

DD

Thank you for quoting the above. Unfortunately, we are seeing just the beginning of this. I fear that the initial outburst has now "shown the way" to other elements and demonstrated how unarmed and indecisive the Greek state is. This is the worst possible recommendation. It's like declaring an open day on Greece ...

Pandelis Parianos

Thanks for the excerpt. This is not just a Greek problem. The elites of the world have excluded too many from the future. Bank employees and auto workers in the US and UK bear painful testimony to that. Here are a couple of other good links:

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/dec2008/pers-d15.shtml

http://circleof13.blogspot.com/2008/12/riots-or-revolt-insight-into-why-greece.html

Kevin McEvily

"La réforme - OUI, la chie-en-lit - NON!"
de Gaulle
Mai, 1968

Stavros

Kevin,

"La chienlit, c'est lui ! - the chienlit, it is him!" and "La chienlit, c'est encore lui ! - it is still him!".

DD,

Outstanding work, it seems eerily familiar. I will be reading your posts regularly. Keep it up.

Pandeli,

I agree that it is going to spread elsewhere. There is a great deal of discontent, exacerbated by the economic meltdown. I think it is very complicated. Turning it into a class struggle is dangerous because it will not address the problem. It is an old and discredited solution.

Many thanks for the links. There is quite a bit there that is well worth reading even if I may not agree with all of it.

DD

Thanks, Stavros. I sat with good teachers. I tried to start a blog on GR many times before, but I guess this was the right time. Your blog was on a list I was given as I was trying to set LOM up. I'm glad I found MGO.

Stavros

DD,

Your welcome. I too had a teacher who gave me a push or two in the right direction. I'm glad you found MGO, too. Good blogging.

Dimitrios

Here is a sad example of the propensity of Greeks in general to sacrifice the here and now in favor of a radiant, but often inhuman, ideal and vision. The vision is the "Great Society", incorporating an old romantic ideal of ancient Athens: citizen aristocrats living in leisure, supported by all the technology of the modern world (interestingly Marx, the excellent classical scholar who was fluent in Latin and Greek, had a similar vision of communist society after the Revolution).

According to the BBC, most of the hard Left activists at the center of the riots feel that they are going through an "anti-1989", where popular revolts would topple capitalist states, presumably in favor of communist/socialist ones. Also, presumably once the revolution happens, as in the Soviet Union, most of the hard left activists now in the vanguard would be put up against the wall and shot by their fraternal comrades, or at least get an icepick to their heads for their trouble (Trotsky, anyone?)

No, that doesn't stop the glorious idealists, the "best and brightest", from doing their part to demolish the bourgeoisie...oh, wait, the REAL bourgeoisie can just leave Greece, with their money, before the skata really hits the fan. It's the "petty bourgeoisie", the lower middle class and small shop owners, the "mesea taxi" of Aristotle, the ones who provide the essential leaven of society, that first pay, and then suffer.

I sometimes think it would have been better if Scobie and the British did not interfere with the Greek communists after the Second World War, Then (by analogy with Yugoslavia) after a Tito-like dictatorship by Markos, and perhaps later by a Milosevic-like "rule by brute-squad", perhaps the disgusting pretenders of both Left and Right in Greece would have been cured of their respective idealist delusions- the Communists of "the Workers Paradise" and the Rightist Laiki-types of Metaxas' "New State". Then, perhaps, a talented, capable people would have been able to make their way in a hard world successfully, uncumbered by dangerous illusion.

Yeah, right. Kai tha klenei ei renges.

Stavros

Greeks are the product of their history and as the current situation has made readily apparent we are its prisoners as well.

Simon Baddeley

I was talking, this evening, to my daughter (in the police in UK). She looked at some of the street action on the many videos of events in Athens, and referred me to current thinking in her work books on policing public disorder. I've started looking again at the way the Athens police are deploying, grouping and regrouping and begun to notice patterns in the fog. Having already had intuitions about symmetry in the dynamics of these dramatic scenes - not quite velvet, more like dralon. Amy's pointed me to a missing part of this puzzle. Of course it's been mentioned by others - the limited number of injuries among rioters and police, the minimal use of guns (none authorised) or even baton rounds, the shock aroused by the 'second shooting' - a spent bullet striking a young man's hand rendering it numb; the absence indeed of blood letting except that of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, whose death is unreservedly deplored by the government.
These guys (and some women) have been on workshops and courses, taken notes from slide presentations, discussed scenarios introduced by senior officers who've attended international conferences on the management of urban riots. I know the police have training - of varying quality - but I hadn't realised how far practice had advanced informed by global experience. The Wikipedia entry on riot control is solely about weaponry - and daunting though that is - omits the volume of knowledge accumulated and diffused about crowd behaviour and its implications for policing. The arts of reaction and counter-reaction have been refined and must have spread - notwithstanding the low wages and lack of training that Greek police complain about - to the uniformed men I'm seeing in the gassy flaming streets of Athens.
Riots judged as 'failures' by professionals, are those where violence is escalated or even provoked by police action; especially when police attack violent demonstrators - either because provoked, or because officers who enjoy violence are given rein, or because violent men have been planted in the crowd to provoke ill-trained and undisciplined police and/or because one or more politicians sees advantage in escalation. e.g. Berlusconi in Genoa.
These acts of violence against violent mobs have either played into the hands of those who desire violence - on either side - and have diverted the police from directing their control measures against the violent, so that they end up playing into the hands of the violent, either by attacking peaceful elements in the crowd or killing or injuring aggressive demonstrators who's fate wins the sympathy of moderates, increasing animosity towards the police.
I think Machiavelli would have at least reviewed some of his thoughts on the proper application of ruthlessness in the light of research on crowds since Le Bon's pioneering work in the 1890s.
According to the text books on this subject, the worst thing the police can do is to return violence with commensurate violence. For a testosterone charged male kitted up in riot gear that's counter-intuitive. The police have to avoid being drawn into violence without appearing to appease or permit violence. Those who seek confrontation among the rioters understand this, as do those who wish the same among the police, in collaboration with those in government or with aspirations to government, who seek confrontation to achieve their ambitions. The police have to be wise, as do those who give them orders - if peace is to be waged.
So all those millions of pounds going into the Bloody Sunday Enquiry (13 people killed and more wounded by British soldiers in N.Ireland in January 1972) are, as well as being a search for truth, an investment in the competence of those handling mass disorder. The situation is complicated by the likelihood that many rioters, some with parental connections in government, including those who steer the police, are reading the same manuals. Given that proportionality has been normal in cold war manoeuvring most of my life, how unsurprising that similar dynamics apply to conflict in civvy street - tailored to the circumstances of Greece.
Quote from a US manual on crowd control: "The Tango Team: Tango stands for Tactically Aggressive and Necessary Gambit of Options. This team goes forward and 'dances' with the crowd. The Tango Team can bring to bear the entire spectrum of use-of-force options-from command presence through deadly force-in a controlled, self-contained package."

Stavros

Simon,

An interesting analysis of some of the difficulties involved in Greek riot control. The overarching goal is to exercise control over the crowd using minimal force but as the last paragraph indicates there are a wide range of options which have to be tailored to the situation. I agree that indiscriminate violence may exacerbate the situation. The key is using "measured" force to quell a disturbance. Doing little if anything when events spiral out of control leads merely to escalation on the part of rioters. Every day the rioting continues means that the Greek economy will only sink lower into the morass it is already in.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the rioters are organized and respond to direction. Note the use of effective tactics on their part to counter-act those used by MAT.

Exercising appropriate options requires will on the part of the government to establish and maintain order. The Greek government is paralyzed for a number of reasons. The use of children in the demonstrations, the use of university campuses that provide sanctuary, the post-Junta taboo against the use of the military, the poor state of police training and equipment and a lack of leadership.

Perhaps the government is hoping that with patience, these riots will eventually dissipate over time, although I believe that MAT's staying power may reach the tipping point before that of the rioters.

Of one thing there can be little doubt, the government is stuck in the OODA (Orient, Observe, Decide and Act) loop cycle and unable to repond to quickly changing events on the ground. It is a reflection not only of bankruptcy of leadership at the highest levels but also the poor leadership within the security forces where promotion has been based on political connections rather than talent.

The engine behind all of this is a substantial sense of malaise, alienation, and anger at the entities that are blamed for the current status quo. Civil order may be reestablished, solving the underlying problems will be much more difficult in a society that has evolved an every man for himself ethic.

Simon Baddeley

I keep learning. Thanks for giving these thoughts serious attention. I had an email
e-mail from an academic acquaintance this afternoon:

Him: The riots are the least important thing about the situation in Greece. The strikes and recent general strike are far more important and utterly ignored by the British media for obvious reasons. I think there is a powerful, if somewhat institutionalized/ ritualized, counter-hegemonic bloc there based on the trade unions. I visit the country regularly and attended the European Social Forum in Athens in 2006 - my first experience of car bombs and tear gas!

Me: Sorry to sound naïve - is the British media ignoring the strike because strikes don't make as good pictures as riots? Where can I learn more?

Reply: Perhaps I'm cynical rather than you naive. I reckon it's partly good media, partly because riots can easily be depicted as irresponsible and futile and in the end trivial, and partly because the dominant political narrative in this country (UK)is that class is dead. Hence, any sign that class is not dead, here or anywhere else, must be studiously ignored if at all possible. Anyway on that note I have to go and do some Xmas shopping. Have a great break.


maria

"The Greek government is paralyzed for a number of reasons. The use of children in the demonstrations, the use of university campuses that provide sanctuary, the post-Junta taboo against the use of the military, the poor state of police training and equipment and a lack of leadership"
no wonder we're in a state of anarchy at them moemnt...

just came by to wish you a merry christmas!

Stavros

Maria and Simon,

Merry Christmas to you both and to your respective families.

Kai tou chronou.

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