Rioters of the world unite

Rioters of the world unite

EVERY scholar of 20th-century history can tell you about the Communist International—usually called Comintern, and strictly speaking the third in a series of four global fraternities whose aim was to pursue the class struggle all over the world.

Is it possible to imagine an Anarchist International, a trans-national version of the inchoate but impassioned demonstrations that have ravaged Greece this month? (Perhaps because it is easier to say what Greece’s malcontents are against than what they are for, the word “anarchist” is an accepted catch-all term for the anti-establishment rebels who form the hard core of the Athenian protesters.)

By definition, anarchy is harder to propagate than rigid Leninism. Whatever is spreading from Athens, it is not a clear programme for a better world. The malcontents of Greece include ideological class warriors, nostalgists for the protests against the junta of 1967-74 and people (including drug dealers and bank robbers) with a grudge against the police. Relations between police and the counter-culture have worsened recently; the police are accused (rightly) of bullying migrants, the bohemians of dallying with terrorism. A messy scene, with no obvious message.

But the psychological impulse behind the Greek protests—a sense of rage against all authority, which came to a head after a 15-year-old boy was killed by a police bullet—can now be transmitted almost instantaneously, in ways that would make the Bolsheviks very jealous. These days, images (moving as well as still) spread faster than words; and images, of course, transcend language barriers.

Of particular interest:

The spread of sympathy protests over what began as a local Greek issue has big implications for the more formal anti-globalisation movement. That movement has ignored the idea of spontaneous but networked protest, and instead focused on taking large crowds to set-piece events like summits. Such methods look outdated now. Governments are not the only things that networked “anarchy” threatens.

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