The mainstream media is trying to paint the violence in Greece over the country’s economic crisis as a popular reaction to the debt, budget cuts and overall economic problems facing the reeling country. The reality is that the violence is being committed by fringe opponents of democracy, including communists and anarchists, who are seeking to exploit the just uprising of Greeks understandably angry with the situation of their nation.
On May 5, three workers at a bank in Athens suffocated to death when protestors set their workplace on fire. Other buildings were attacked, and many police officers were injured trying to hold the country together. Some protestors even tried to seize the parliament, street fights broke out and shops were raided.
The Greek Communist Party and the anarchists had a hand in the attacks. About 100 of its members broke into the historical site of the Acropolis, and put up banners that read, “Peoples of Europe Rise Up.” Strikers that belonged to the party physically blocked boats from arriving in harbors. The Communist-backed PAME union is one of the leading voices calling for workers to go on strike, a call which has led to ferries and the judicial system being shut down.
Business Insider described the union that took over the Finance Ministry as being “aligned with the Greek Communist Party.” This means that the Communists form a key part of the organizers of the protests and demonstrations. This does not necessarily mean that the majority of those on the streets support their cause, but it does put the Communists in a position where they can leverage themselves into power.
The Greek government has not accused the Communist Party of having a hand in the deaths, but did say their rhetoric is contributing to the violent atmosphere. The Communists have attributed the deaths to a conspiracy to make them less popular. “The statements made in the last few days did not help – that the country is under a dictatorship or that the constitution is somehow in doubt. You know how much these words legitimise violence,” Prime Minister Papandreou said.
Communist terrorists are likely involved in the violence. In April, six people were charged by the government for being members of the Communist terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle. When one of the suspect’s homes was searched, plots were future attacks were uncovered.
Graffiti sprayed on stores were signed with the anarchist symbol. Anarchists are also believed to behind various physical attacks on police officers, fire-bombings and acts of arson. The BBC’s Gavin Hewitt correctly wrote that “so far, the violence has mainly come from the anarchist fringe.” Anarchists have also attacked the Greek embassies in the Czech Republic and Argentina.
The words of The Morning Star, a newspaper in the United Kingdom that was founded by the British Communist Party and still operates in support of them, are telling. The newspaper had been drumming up support for an uprising over the past few months, predicting that “the militant movement…will fly the red flag in defence of public services, jobs, and wages,” and boasting of the role of the Greek Communist Party, PAME, and the Young Communists.
The newspaper said that the demonstrators would spread to other countries in Europe, just as we’re seeing now. The Associated Press confirms these groups’ role in the unrest, reporting that “the bulk of Thursday’s protest—organized by the Greek Communist Party…”
Greece has long struggled with far-left terrorists and extremists. The problem has decreased since the Cold War, but these elements remain potent and willing to attach themselves to legitimate political causes. For example, in January of last year, there was similar unrest. Members the Revolutionary Struggle shot a police officer trying to combat the riots. The violence by political extremists including anarchists escalated into May, with homemade explosives striking banks and businesses.
During that crisis, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis accurately framed the purpose behind such violence. “Bullets fired against them [police officers] are primarily aimed against democracy and society at large,” he said. The political extremists do not seek changes in policy within the system. They want to overthrow the system. And the fall of the government remains a distinct possibility.
A senior government official has admitted, “We may have an uprising in the making.” Greece is particularly susceptible to revolutions. As BBC News wrote during the last major crisis that began in late 2008, “Rebellion is deeply embedded in the Greek psyche.”
An overview of Greece’s history during the last century shows that the country’s government has frequently changed between being various forms of a republic, monarchy and dictatorship with these changes often occurring via military coup, civil war, and domestic uprisings. Based on these patterns, a scenario where the current government falls is not something that can be discounted. Should this happen, the well-organized Communists are bound to make a power play.
The high debt levels that caused the controversy are very likely to play into the hands of Communists and other forces railing against capitalism. Reports that Goldman Sachs helped the government hide the extent of its deficit are going to significantly strengthen such voices. It is important that the Communist Party fail in its efforts to equate capitalism with corruption, oppression, and ultimate economic failure.
The Greek people and the media covering their crisis need to accurately report the motivations of those engaging in violence and acts of destruction. The Communists, the anarchists, and the other extremists behind these incidents are different than the average workers who are fed up with government incompetence and have decided to peacefully express themselves. They are acting on a vision they have long held to overthrow capitalism and democracy, and while the protestors are fighting for justice, they must be aware of the allies they keep that could bring them into an even greater crisis.