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PORTSIDE  June 2011, Week 5

PORTSIDE June 2011, Week 5

Subject:

In Syntagma Square, some see the dawn of a new politics

From:

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Date:

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 22:45:05 -0400

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text/plain (93 lines)

In Syntagma Square, some see the dawn of a new politics

 As Indignant protests enter second month, opinions
 divided about nature and future of the movement
  
By Harry van Versendaal
Published on Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Ekathimerini  (Greece)

It's past midnight in Syntagma Square, the epicenter of
Greece's month-long anti-austerity demonstrations, and
Stathis Marinos is sitting at a corner cafe overlooking
the colorful tent city under the trees. Flipping a string
of worry beads while sipping a frappe, the 37-year-old
software engineer muses about Greece's financial crisis. 

"The memorandum is unsustainable," he says of the loan
deal signed last year between the socialist government of
George Papandreou and Greece's foreign creditors to avert
default. He thinks the debt-choked country is being
stifled by a mix of brutally rigid measures -- and that
they must be resisted. "But you cannot use the system to
fight the system. You must not get caught up in this
process," he says, criticizing calls among protesters and
pundits to declare the bailout agreement unconstitutional.

A few yards away, in the heart of the white marble square,
a loudspeaker crackles with rhetorical din from the
ongoing session at the makeshift assembly meeting. Modeled
after Spain's "Indignados" who took over Madrid's Puerta
del Sol and other public squares earlier this year,
Athens's "aganaktismenoi" (Indignants) have camped in the
capital's main square since May 25. A month after the
first call on Facebook and other social media, Syntagma,
or Constitution square, the starting point to the
capital's main commercial street, is playing host to a
postmodern incarnation of the ancient Athenian agora.

Every evening, hundreds of people gather here to discuss
anything and everything about the crisis. Speakers, who
are chosen by lot, are given a two-minute time limit so as
to allow for the greatest possible number of
contributions. There is little of the typical booing and
hissing, and audiences react mostly with hand gestures:
waving their hands in the air for approval or giving a
thumbs down when they disagree. Interpretations of what is
happening in the square range from the groundbreaking to
the delusional or just plain silly. 

"This is not a movement -- and it will by no means evolve
into a political party. It's more like a trend," says
Marinos, who has joined in every evening after work since
day one. He has often taken part in street demos, but
points out that he has never belonged to a political
party. "It's great that people familiarize themselves with
the political process; they learn how to engage in
dialogue with each other; how to participate in civic
life," he says of the meetings.

In the beginning, the Indignants were mostly portrayed as
a non-political grouping. It was in the wake of a mass
demonstration earlier this month that Greece's mainstream
parties, PASOK and the right-of-center New Democracy, came
close to clinching a unity coalition deal. Talks
eventually fell through and Papandreou went on to conduct
a cabinet reshuffle designed to galvanize his base. He
also proposed a referendum in the fall on a proposal to
revise the Greek Constitution. The fact that the
Indignants have put pressure on the government and the
politicians, some argue, means that they have now become
political.

for the rest of this article, go to
http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite3_1708_26/06/2011_396010/

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