Clashes in Exharcheia Reveal Athens is Still Explosive

Clashes in Exharcheia Reveal Athens is Still Explosive

By Joshua Tartakovsky On Friday night, February 6,  in the neighborhood of Exharcheia in Athens, it was clear how fragile and explosive events are, even when a Left-dominated  government is in power. Exharcheia is an anarchist/bohemian neighborhood, teeming with restaurants and cafes, graffiti and hanging light bulbs, smoking teenagers and political activity. The police remains constantly on guard outside the neighborhood, after severe clashes in the past. Any entry is seen as a provocation, as this is a off-limits area. Anarchist land. It’s unique environment resembles an island in the midst of chaos, a place of tranquility and laissez-faire. It is a safe place for adults and families, people do not get mugged. While sitting in a cafe with a few friends, I noticed outside a group of helmeted policemen with shields and batons, speedily and in perfect order, making their way into the Exharchia Square. The Square is a place where people of all kinds hang-out, and where taking pictures is strongly discouraged. The police snatched a few people and hurried away. Some people yelled out “Fascists”. Anger was sizzling. Youth ran after the police and began throwing bottles. The police immediately responded by firing tear gas. Clashes ensued. Youth before throwing a bottle at the police; the latter can be identified by the shields in the picture. After taking pictures and with clashes intensifying, I went back into the cafe although a friend wisely advised against it. Within minuets the cafe was filled with tear gas. From the window we could see police clashing with youth. Yet we could not leave the cafe. After making our way...
Syntagma Square, Athens: Following A Call At 1 AM, Greeks Gathered to Support the Government

Syntagma Square, Athens: Following A Call At 1 AM, Greeks Gathered to Support the Government

Last night, Thursday, Feburary 5, 2015, 6,000 Athenians gathered in front of the Hellenic Parliament in a shot of support for the new Greek government as Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, met with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble that day. What started off as a Facebook event, managed to gather an impressive rate of attendance. The first call for people to gather was posted at 1.49 am the night before. The text reads (Bing translated) “URGENT! Wednesday night 4/2 [European Central Bank President] Draghi chose to play the game of Merkel again and to blackmail the Greek people and the new Greek Government. I’m not going to succumb to blackmail. We are not afraid of none. The Republic spoke and nobody has the right not to listen. We descend to the Constitution and the other squares in the country on Thursday 5/2 at 18.00 and as many other days you need to send the message to those who think that we have at hand, that something have not understood well.  Stand strong.”   This was not only the first time people in Greece actually gathered together to show support, rather than objection to, their government, but also the first time in several years where people could actually walk on the Plaza where the guard traditionally stands, that has been for years off-limits to the public. In a laissez-faire spirit, the police allowed journalist, photographers and the curious, to climb up the stairs to the area overlooking the square. Two policemen did not prevent people from going, though traditionally this has not been allowed.  Later on, they politely asked people to leave, but were not too...
In Greece, Liberalism is Exposed As A Fig Leaf

In Greece, Liberalism is Exposed As A Fig Leaf

Photograph: Zuma/Rex   By Joshua Tartakovsky, Athens, January 24, 2015 The Pontiac Tribune There is no place like Greece to expose ‘liberalism’ as an empty shell, devoid of any real passion for humanity, and entirely unaware of its own contradictions, a comfortable cover for neoliberalism and imperialism. In affluent countries, the fact that liberals practice nothing of what they preach is less clear. But here, where capitalism broke at its weakest chain, political and economic realities become clear, and in the future, they may also become more clear in other parts of the world. It is not just that George Papandreou, the Social-Democrat Prime Minister of Greece in 2009-2011, introduced the EU bailout to Greece which resulted in mass austerity for the people, while enriching the Greek financial elite and impoverishing the masses. It goes deeper than that. ‘Liberalism’ can exist, so long as there is a large middle-class enjoying financial security, which can claim to support ‘human rights’ or ‘gay rights’ as an abstract concept, while not being deeply disturbed by the undemocratic power exercised against the public by a tiny financial elite, and by  austerity plans which means that the public bears the brunt, for (intentional) mistakes and misdemeanors  carried out by immense financial actors. In Greece, where the population of unemployed is greater than the employed population, a majority of the population will vote for the radical-left Syriza tomorrow. A random encounter I had several days ago with a Northern European tourist in Athens, illustrates the hypocrisy of liberalism very clearly. Had we had this conversation in a cafe in Stockholm or London, perhaps its contradictions would have not appeared as...
Greece’s Revolutionary Moment

Greece’s Revolutionary Moment

Thursday, 22 January 2015By Joshua Tartakovsky, TruthOut | Op-ed How do you know when you are in a country that is experiencing a Revolutionary moment? There is mass unemployment; high numbers of people are radicalized either in the Left (Communists, socialists, anarchists) or Right (fascist, neo-Nazis). Modest poverty that seeks to still disguise itself somewhat is widespread to the point where it can no longer disguise itself as convincingly. There is massive graffiti throughout the city, not merely in certain neighborhoods, but in the downtown area next to luxurious shops. The police do not enter certain neighborhoods, while it stands guard outside of them. Tents of protesters can be seen in parts of the city. People walk into cafes, trying to sell things. Others pass by and ask for a few coins. All this applies in Greece. I am in Athens now. At the same time, cafes and restaurants are still busy with people, even if they spend hours on one cup of coffee. Groups of tourists come and go in perfect safety. The Greeks love tourists and know how to treat them well. The calm around the Acropolis gives one the impression that all is perfect and that no storm is about to emerge. However, locals in cafes I spoke to told me how in past years their earnings have gone down. Prices went up. Everything is expensive. Life is not easy. When they look backwards and around, all they see is national debt and austerity. When they look ahead, they see the same. The time that is ripe for a Revolutionary change is when there is no other choice....