Athens Burning

We haven’t written anything about the riots in Athens and other Greek cities that have now been going on for five days. The pretext that triggered them was an encounter between two Athens policemen and a large gang of “youths” who apparently were threatening them. One of the policemen fired his gun and hit a fifteen-year-old boy who had been part of the gang, killing him. The Greek government, which is conventionally described as “right wing,” I suppose in an effort to signal that the rioting is in some way justified, has responded weakly, arresting the policemen involved in the incident and allowing rioters to devastate Athens and Thessalonika. Here, riot police are dodging Molotov cocktails:


Rioters in front of a burning barricade in Athens:


A crowd of rioters, by daylight:

Here, rioters burn a car:


As usual these days, it is hard to attribute any clear political ideology to the rioters. They are leftists/socialists/fascists/anarchists/Communists/ignorant louts. Red flags are much in evidence; this one is the flag of the Committee for Workers International:

The perpetrators are generally referred to as “protesters,” rather than what they really are, rioters, i.e., criminals. Sympathy riots have broken out in several other European cities.

I find all of this profoundly depressing. At the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard fashions an elegant argument that ties the rioting to European Union monetary policy, but I don’t buy it. Economic problems are ever-present, the modern version of “the poor you have with you always.” Monetary policy doesn’t explain “youths” with Molotov cocktails and governments too weak to maintain order.

What we’re seeing here strikes me as a depressing return to decades gone by–the 60s and 70s. All we’re missing is the Che Guevara posters; they’ll probably appear before long. Objectively, I suppose there is no connection, but with Molotov cocktails in Europe and commentators gleefully anticipating a return of the New Deal in the U.S., it feels as though we are heading back toward the past in the worst possible ways.

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