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Greece, the new Argentina: John Holloway on the desperate excitement in Athens

It’s so exciting to be in Athens in these days. I’ve been in Athens many times but I have never felt it like this. The only other time in my life that I have I felt so much tension in the air was in Buenos Aires where I happened to be at the beginning of December 2001. So much desperate excitement in the air, so much excited desperation… The feeling that things could not continue as they were… The feeling that something had to break… And ten days later it did break. And the people went down to the streets and there were thousands and overthrew one president after another in the most exciting open revolt of this century. Let us hope that you too here in Athens can transform such a horrible situation into something so beautiful.

Rage… Rage then… These are days of rage… Rage here in Athens of course, rage in North Africa, rage in Madrid, rage in London, in Dublin… The time of crisis is inevitably a time of rage. A time of frustrated hopes, frustrated expectations… Suddenly there is no money there to do anything. We want a job but there is no money for it, there is no for the people who have money cannot make money out of employing us so there is no work for us. It is not that we do not have the skills. It is not that there are not things that need to be done in society. But there is no money! And for millions and millions, the millions who are hungry, who live hungry until they die hungry, for them too there is no money. It is not that there is no food in the world. It is not that they do not have an appetite. It is simply that they do not have the money to buy the food that is there. And when we go out in the streets to protest, they attack us; they shoot us, they beat us almost to death. Rage then… Rage in homage to Alexis, rage to all those in these days who have been beaten and imprisoned just because they wanted a different world. And so we rage and we rage all the more because we do not know what to do with our rage. We rage against the obvious. We rage against the government. We rage against Papandreou, against Berlusconi, Cameron, but we know that that is not the point. We know that if we change government, a new government will be no better. We know that representative democracy has us trapped like rats caught in a maze with no exit. We run from one leader to another, from one party to another, but there is no way out. And so our rage goes down dead-end streets. But that is dangerous, that is very dangerous. Because if our rage looses hope, then it can easily lead us to depression. Or to something much worse. It can lead us to a personalized, a fascist rage. Blame the foreigners, blame the people who are not like us, blame the Turks, the Albanians, the Africans, the exarchiotes… But our rage is not and cannot be like that. Because we know that that rage is the road of death. Our rage is, has and must have a different logic. In place of “we hate the Turks, the Africans, the anarchists…”, we do not say and we cannot say, “we hate the Americans, the Germans, the fascists…” Because if we reproduce their logic, we reproduce their society. Our rage is not a personalized rage, or rather it is a struggle [towards?] rage that pushes beyond personalization. It is not a personalized rage because capitalism is not a “who” and not a “what” but a “how”. Capitalism is not a question of who rules, capitalism is a question of how society is organized, how we do things; of how we relate to one another. So if capitalism is a “how” then our rage has to be a rage against that “how”, a rage that has a different logic, a different structure. And that is why there is no symmetry that can be, no symmetry that can be, no symmetry that can be, no symmetry between our struggles and their struggles. And the “how” of capitalism has a name and that name is money. We rage then, we rage against the rule of money. Not just against the rich, not just against the bankers, not just against the windows of the banks or automatic bank machines, we rage against the rule of money. That does not mean that we do not want money. Of course we want money. We want money to be able to live, we want money to be able to do what we want, we want money to make parks, we want money to make things beautiful in the city, or so it seems… But really I think what we want is not so much money, we want to be able to do what we can do and want to do without money being an obstacle. We want a society where money does not stand against us, money or our lack of money. We rage then against the rule of money. Money of course is seductive, it looks lovely, it is a face of fearlessness and equality, and yet we know that it is not so. We know that money is not a thing but it is a form of holding society together, it is a form of social cohesion. It is a form of relating, of people relating to one another. It is a form of social organization that takes from us the possibility of self-determination. In a society ruled by money there can be no self-determination by members of that society. So if we call for real democracy then we must understand that that is tried against money. So money deprives us of the possibility of deciding our lives for ourselves. But it also locks us into a dynamic of death and destruction. A society ruled by money is a society of violence and injustice. It is now clearer than ever that a society ruled by money is a suicidal society. Rage then, rage against the rule of money. And yet it seems ridiculous. Rage against the police and we throw stones at them. Rage against the bankers and we break their windows or try and catch them in the street. But rage against the rule of money it seems like going out in the street raging against the air, waving our hands, arms, around… It seems ridiculous and yet it is not ridiculous. History, of course, is the history of class struggle. But class struggle has for centuries that focused [?] on the imposition of money as a way of doing things. On the imposition of money and the struggle against that imposition. In the last century all of great struggles were struggles to push back the rule of money. That is what thousands of people died for in the Russian revolution and all other revolutions, to create a society that would not be ruled by money. And more gently perhaps that is what people struggled for, for the Welfare State. To push back the rule of money or at least create spaces where money would not rule. But now we can see that those great struggles and they were great struggles, suffered from a terrible weakness. They were weakened by the fact that they failed to see that money is just one of three faces. And the other two faces of money are called State and labor. And so these struggles struggled against money but they accepted the State and they glorified labor. And they failed and in many cases it was much worse than failure. The revolutions of the 20e century failed not because they were too radical but because they were not radical enough. And now money comes back in all its arrogance. Neo-liberalism is the triumph and return of money. Bow low to the rule of money, bow low to the rule of the King. And nowhere and never perhaps has that been said more clearly than in Athens in this moment. Bow low to the rule of money… But what we do, what we say? We say no, we refuse. We refuse and we pick up the banner left on the front by the communists of the last century. Although sometimes we do not want to see it, there is a continuity there, a continuity of struggles. But where they saw State and labor as the struggle against money, our struggle is against the trinity of money, State and labor. Against the State because the State is tightly bound with money. It depends on money and the accumulation of capital for its existence. It excludes us from control of our own lives in the same way that money does. And we are against labor because labor understood as capitalist labor, is simply the activity forced upon us in our daily lives by the rule of money, by the need to earn money. Labor understood as alienated or abstract labor is the activity forced upon us day in day out by the rule of money. So to reject the rule of money is to reject the rule of the State, is to reject the rule of labor. And then they say “what? How can you struggle against labor, are you lazy or what?” And we say “no, we are not lazy”. But what we want is a world where that contrast between laziness and labor simply does not exist. Labor is an activity dominated by money and we know that that cannot change the world. What we want is a different sort of activity, a doing, an activity that makes sense, a doing against labor. We want to emancipate our doing or activity from the rule of money. And they say “well, that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? How can you emancipate your activity from the rule of money in a society dominated by money?” And we say, well…well, we know that there are some difficulties, we know that all our struggles are contradictory and partial but that is what we are doing. We are creating spaces or moments of refusal and creation; spaces in which by choice or necessity we assert a different logic; spaces in which we do things in a different way. And we create spaces and we put up signs around them, saying: “capital, money, State, labor, stay out!”  Stay out because here the people rule. And it sounds silly but look around you. Look at Syntagma tonight; look at Navarino park; look at social centers like Nosotros; look at the [?] group; look at Tahrir square; at Puerta del Sol; at the Zapatistas region of Chiapas; at the hundreds of thousands of land occupations of the landless workers’ movement in Brazil; look at the occupied factories; look at the community gardens; look at the millions of teachers in the world who say “we will not teach this rubbish, we want our students to be critical”; look at the millions of students throughout the world who say “we want a future, we will not simply reproduce the lies of capitalism”. So many refusals and creations; so many cracks; so many walkings in the wrong direction; so many communes pushing against the metropolis as our French friends might say; so many possible embryos of another world; so many dignities; so many pushes to create a political economy of resistance and revolt, as it is sometimes called. We refuse then, we refuse and create. We say no to the payment of the dept, why should we, why should we accept that, why should we accept the aggression of money, the aggression of the rich? We say no to the imposition of cuts in everything; no to the restructurings of the university that are taking place throughout the world; no to every attempt to impose the rule of money. But at the same time that we say no, we create our own ways of doing things; our own ways of living; our own ways of social cohesion. And if that is not what we are doing tonight, and if that is not what the people in Syntagma are doing, and if that is not what millions of people all over the world are doing in this moment, then I do not know why we are here. But it is not enough. No it is not enough but at least we are walking. And how can we go further, we can only go on, we can only continue walking asking because we do not know the answers. And it is important to say that we do not know the answers. Because if we know the answers, then we are trapped in a politics of monologue. We reproduce the structures of State politics because State politics is a politics of monologue. To admit that we do not know the answers opens a different type of politics. A politics of dialogue, a politics of asking and listening and talking, a politics of B-FESTS and Syntagmas. We do not yet know the answers but we know that we rage against the rule of money that is destroying us. And we know perhaps that the only way to create revolution, the only way to get out of the present situation, is through these cracks, these dignities, these refusals and creations. The only way we can think about the revolution that is so urgent, is through the creation, expansion, multiplication and confluence of these cracks.





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