Destroy to Build

by Marita Virgioti

A demonstrator sees through all the ‛burning and looting’ that took place while politicians vote on the second ‛bail out’ memorandum for Greece, in February 2012

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12.02.2012 the morning after the fires in the centre of Athens. The photo shows the Kosta Boda building and the Attikon movie hall.
Photo by Yannis Drakoulidis / FOSPHOTOS

The destruction of a metropolitan centre may have started as a privilege of the domain of anti-authoritarian anarchy but it has become a widespread practice, gaining the consent and approval of all those who smile, applaud and cheer at the sight of a bank engulfed in flames. The question of violence and street-fighting practices will not be approached from a remote stance but as an experience for a section of society that sanctions, applauds and sometimes adopts such practices.

Before we can examine the question of violence on the streets we need to ask ourselves about the meaning of demonstrations and strikes. Once we have realised that capitalism as a system is designed so as to make us unable to imagine another form of society and at the same time to stifle any attempts to this end, then we shall see unfolding before our eyes a system based on the violence of exclusion and obedience. In such a context, where social acquiescence is obtained by violence, the change in the dynamics of power will only come through violence. The strikes and marches disrupt the mantle of normality; hence they lend themselves to outbreaks of widespread social violence.

The burnt banks, the broken shop windows, the roadblocks in Stadiou Street, the smiles and the cheers for every metre that the cops-swine-murderers are forced to cede are symbols of the appropriation of a metropolis where, in its moments of normality, it is alienation that reigns. Those who have found themselves on a Sunday at Syntagma or one of the crowded streets around it will be well aware of this feeling. Those who see in riots their enemies may not have thought that behind the balaclavas there may be angry unemployed or redundant people, destitute immigrants and desperate students who are smiling while they destroy the source of their oppression. On the other hand, those who only see the police, behind the balaclavas, are trying to justify their own personal inability to retort with violence to the exponents of capitalism and the state. Finally, those who merely lament the destruction of a cinema deserve to remain onlookers for their entire lives.


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