SYRIZA’s complex-ridden relationship with the hard boys of the anarchist scene will end in tears. The ruling party is fooling itself that despite being in power it can remain an activist movement, and so, instead of trying to put limits on anti-establishment forces, it likes to believe it can maintain good terms with them. The latter, however, in their need to break free from this embrace – while exploiting the impunity it gives them – behave in an increasingly aggressive way. SYRIZA’s flattery, in other words, does not undermine the spirit of rebellion among the kids in cargo shorts and hoodies; on the contrary, it fills them with self-confidence, giving them an institutional aura. Maybe we are already at the point where the fantasist rebels will see any effort to rein them in as an act of war.
A week ago, when two SYRIZA MPs joined a demonstration in solidarity with a young woman convicted on terrorism charges, they came under a hail of coffee cups and water bottles. The mob wanted to show that its priority was to defend its revolutionary purity, that it would tolerate nothing less than anti-establishment activism. Two days later, after senior government members loudly criticized a council of judges that rejected a motion to suspend the young convict’s sentence, enraged youths were allowed to rampage through Athens’s most commercial district, Ermou Street, smashing scores of shopfronts at will. How could the police clash with those who were simply expressing in action the anger at the judiciary that SYRIZA first declared? How could the vandals be expected to show self-restraint when this would leave the field of righteous anger to the government?
This question hangs over the city as, almost every night, gangs of youths attack police, invade public and private spaces, cause damage and then leave without being challenged, continually expanding their field of activity. We have often seen that when less extreme forces adopt the language and tactics of extremists, it is the latter who win – they gain legitimacy and, at the same time, they are pushed to ever more extreme acts so as to maintain their street credibility. The self-proclaimed anarchists’ motives are simple: they want to provoke society to the greatest extent possible.
SYRIZA, which undertook the country’s governance two-and-a-half years ago, has not decided whether its priority is to defend citizens’ interests or to maintain its own myths. And as long as anarchy is allowed to expand, the later clash will be worse. Unless, of course, it is SYRIZA’s plan all along to leave behind it a country that is impossible to govern.