Friday, 3 April 2009
Another instalment of Castoriadis and the Greek riots
In commenting on the post David Ames Curtis tells me off over Castoriadis and the Greek riots, Troy asks:
Why is 'cops, pigs, murderers' not a proper rallying slogan? By what measure can this argument be made? Because it does not conform to some ready-made notion of what proper 'activism' consists?
Also, on what grounds can the comparison be made between a) physical battles with the cops and property destruction and b) bloodshed and gunplay? The authority of the police is one of the most restricting heteronomies currently plaguing the economic North. Although you personally disapprove of the actions taken by the Greek anarchists in challenging this heteronomy, I think you would find an unwilling ally in Castoriadis if he were alive to offer his own opinion. If he were opposed to street battles, why did he support the actions of May '68?
My brief response:
‘Cops, pigs, murderers' is not a proper rallying slogan because the Greek police are not pigs or murderers; they are human beings and creations, as individuals and as an institution, of society. If your aim is an autonomous society, then your slogan should be freedom, truth, justice, community – which is what Castoriadis says defined the '68 movements and why he supported them.
And I continue to refute the idea that Greek 'anarchists' by throwing petrol bombs at the police, ransacking Athens university and so on, were challenging heteronomy. Radical social change does not mean 'street battles'; it means changing institutions and the collective rewriting of the social imaginary significations behind institutions. If anything, the pointless, self-indulgent, anti-social actions of the Greek 'anarchists' did the oligarchy ruling Greece a big favour.
In the immediate aftermath of the killing of Alexis Grigoropoulos, Greeks were asking themselves what kind of society is it we live in, what kind of state do we have, in which a 15-year-old schoolboy out with his friends can end up shot dead by a policeman who revels in the nickname 'Rambo'?
With the riots, Greeks started asking themselves a different question. What kind of society do we live in, what kind of state do we have, that allows the trashing of private and public property, that cannot defend itself or us, its citizens?
The first question contains the possibility of democratic interrogation and the creation of new forms; the second question, shaped by fear and cynicism, leads to a retreat from society, into private spheres and solutions, the every-man-for-himself mentality that Thucydides describes as existing during the Plague of Athens.