On Sunday, the 23rd August 2015, about 2000 people attended on a demonstration in the mountains of Skouries. During this heavy clashes between demonstrators and the police took place, with police making massive use of teargas and shock grenades. 78 persons were detained, of which 4 are still being held in custody.
The demonstration was organised by the anti-authoritarian platform against capitalism, Beyond Europe, together with activist committees of the local villages in the area of Skouries. This protest march was the practical culmination of the international Beyond Europe camp, which has been taking place at the beach of Ierissos close to the area of Skouries. At this camp, 400-500 anti-authoritarians from all over Europe came together in order to exchange ideas with each other and discuss political analyses and practices. The location was chosen very consciously in order to support the ongoing ecological-social struggles against the extraction of gold and other heavy metals in Skouries. and of course we are not only active on behalf of but alongside the local activists. For a long time now, Beyond Europe activists have been engaged in practical solidarity and support for this struggle. It has a strong impact for social movements in Greece and the whole of Europe as an important frontline in the struggle against the reconfiguration of European capitalism through the Troika on the back of the many.
For us, the camp and especially the demonstration is a political success, by being set in the right place at the right time. In January 2015 the left party Syriza took over power and evoked hope in many Leftists. Concerning the issue of Skouries, Syriza played the role of the party of the movement during opposition, but has acted very different since it has been in power. Shortly before the march the Alexis Tsipras’ government resigned, only two days after the start of the Beyond Europe camp and since Syriza had learned about our demonstration. Meanwhile the energy minister Panos Skourletis ordered to suspend the mining operations in Chalkidiki on 19th August, claiming the company violated environmental contract terms. We attribute the announcement to close the mine as a result of us choosing to organise a camp here, but we did not rely on the government’s announcement as being the end of the struggle– which we have seen to be justified. One day after the announcement, during our walk from the camp to the mountain by the village Megali Panagia we could see that the works at the mines were continuing. This was just one more expression of the most basic but important lesson in the questions of relation between parties and the movements: although they may improve tiny things within their limited capacity, the possibility to create real progress and emancipation lies in our hands. Delegating desires for change towards parties will always be a dead end, since parties in power will always need to work to enact national interest. We agree with Syriza that the mines in Skouries need to be closed, but it is up to us to fulfill this task. Our action sent this message to any party which will take power in the Greek re-elections in September.
Sunday’s demonstration put the important and vital struggle of Skouries back on the table. Its impact was felt deeply all over Greece and beyond. We see this as a political success as now, since the first time after the huge general strike of 2012, a new political dynamic from below is being created in Greece. After a drought of social movements since that year, Syriza’s seizure of power seemed to have paralyzed large parts of it due to a position of granting the Tsipras’ government time. Our camp and demonstration was an effort to put an end to this drought and rely on our strongest weapon – self-organisation and social struggles.
As always when social struggles are effective, the state’s repression also continued yesterday. In the several years in the ongoing issue of Skouries, police and secret services have been heavily trying to oppress the local movement by harassment, arrests and juridical prosecution. Yesterday again, the police violently dispersed the demonstration, arrested 78 people and injured several. One person suffered a broken leg while being arrested by the cops. Our wishes for a quick recovery are with her and with everyone else suffering beating or gas injuries. And of course we are in solidarity with the four still detained, as well as all the other activists being prosecuted in the last years. This might only have been a small step towards an anti-authoritarian organisation beyond borders and against the sadness of real existing capitalism, but it was a step nonetheless. And there is more to come.
Beyond Europe 24/08/2015 Ierissos