Second Wave: Another Lockdown, Another Rebellion

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What the Riots around Southern Europe Tell Us about the Pandemic and the State

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In the United States, liberal opposition to Donald Trump’s bid for reelection crystalized around his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions charging that his government has not done enough to contain the spread of the virus. Yet in Europe, where governments have taken a more hands-on approach, their efforts have also provoked popular unrest, as the vast majority of their interventions have focused on expanding the power of the police, not extending resources to those struggling to survive the virus and the economic crisis. On the eve of a Biden presidency, we should revisit the question of whether we can trust any government to prioritize human life over capitalism and how we can respond when the government uses the pretext of protecting our lives to intensify social control.

Southern Europe saw widespread unrest in Serbia last July in response to uneven preventative measures and the introduction of a new curfew. Riots erupted in Naples on October 23 in response to a new wave of COVID-19 infections and government-ordered lockdowns. These spread throughout Italy, inspiring similar unrest in Spain and in Slovenia as well on November 5.

While in the United States, demonstrations calling for the re-opening of the economy have simply been a vehicle for the far right, conspiracy theorists, and science deniers to advance the capitalist agenda, the story in Europe is more complicated. Like the Gilets Jaunes movement in France, most of the protests across southern Europe involve a contradictory mix of apolitical angry poor people, fascists, leftists, and anarchists—some competing to determine the shape of future protest movements, others simply reacting to the violence of the virus, the economy, and the police without any long-term strategy or aspirations.

In the United States, where more than 250,000 people have died as a consequence of the government’s ghoulishly cynical policies, it has been simple enough to frame a dichotomy between self-organization, protest, and life on the one hand and government, capitalism, and death on the other. In Europe, this has been much more complicated, as centrist governments seek to present a different dichotomy, juxtaposing austerity, obedience, and life to unruliness, protest, and death—associating freedom with irresponsibility even as they render life almost impossible for the poor and set precedents to legitimize far-reaching and invasive new forms of state control. This presents thorny questions that may soon confront people in the United States as well.

In the following collection, anarchists positioned around the Mediterranean—in Spain, southern and northern Italy, Slovenia, and Greece—report on how government policies responding to the pandemic have impacted their communities and describe how people have responded.

November 5, Ljubljana.


Spain

Due to the saturation of the tourist economy, Spain was one of the first European countries in which COVID-19 spread out of control. The Spanish state’s response to the pandemic, beginning in mid-March, was characterized by centralized control measures and strong state intervention, including a strict lockdown that confined people to their houses. The lockdown was rigorously enforced; police gave out hundreds of thousands of large fines and conducted thousands of arrests. The number of infections dropped quickly—but not before thirty thousand people had died, largely due to crowded housing and the poor quality of the Spanish public health system, which has been gutted by years of austerity measures.

Spain, as a post-fascist state, presents a stark contrast to the US. In the US, the federal government was largely hands-off; the state response to the pandemic was a sort of necropolitical intervention of structural neglect, killing huge numbers of poor and racialized people. In Spain, the government took the pandemic as an opportunity to increase centralized power. For at least a month, Spain was a police state in the standard sense of the term: you couldn’t even go outdoors unless you had permission papers, were walking a dog close to home, or buying groceries.

The Spanish government’s approach to the pandemic changed dramatically in May and June, after the death toll in the US surged past 100,000 fatalities. US policies lowered the bar for other countries, desensitizing the public to massive death counts and redefining what constituted an acceptable public health response. In Spain, with the left in government and the right focusing their ire against confinement, there was little possibility for a mainstream conversation around prioritizing healthcare, as the Socialists had been complicit in the austerity measures and the current governing coalition of Socialists plus Podemos had not made much space in their agenda for healthcare.

Consequently, in May and June, the government began promoting a rapid, premature, and almost total “reopening,” with one of the only preventive measures kept in place being the mask requirement. One of the chief reasons for this was an urgent desire to restart the economy in time for the peak months of Spain’s now year-round tourist season. Tourism constitutes a higher proportion of the Spanish GDP (12%) than in almost any other country in the European Union—nearly five times what it is in the US.

In August, after the death rate had dropped almost to zero, infections began to rise again, subsequently exacerbated by the return to school. We’re now in the midst of a full-blown second wave with some of the highest transmission rates in the world. Deaths are still low, but in some places, the intensive care units in the hospitals are nearly overwhelmed.

Madrid was the epicenter of the second wave. Before the central government stepped in, the city’s right-wing government deployed a selective lockdown targeting poorer neighborhoods; as in the first lockdown, the military was sent into the streets to help with enforcement. This sets an ominous precedent for selectively enforced measures targeting the public on the basis of class.

In late October, the central government declared a state of emergency extendable through May 2021, with nightly curfews, strict limitations on gatherings, bar and restaurant closures, and, in some regions, the prohibition of travel between municipalities, either on weekends or throughout the week.

At the same time, social assistance measures have been weak. Employers can use the pandemic as an excuse to release workers with the government picking up the tab for unemployment benefits, but the government did not provide the resources to manage the surge in unemployment claims—so many of the people who have been laid off have waited months without seeing a penny. Meanwhile, employers have used this program to fire people engaged in workplace organizing.

The right has mobilized to blame migrant farmworkers for virus outbreaks, and there have been cases of farmworkers’ encampments being set on fire. Apartment evictions have continued unabated, with hundreds occurring every month in some of the major cities.

The state of emergency and the evictions have been a flash point for some small riots at the end of October in Barcelona, Madrid, Burgos, and some other cities, with some major stores being looted. The far right was present at some of these protests and may have organized some of them, leading to the undying debate about whether to take the streets whenever we have reason to do so and do our best to kick out the far right, or surrender the streets to the far right because they got there first.

Over all, social peace still reigns, but there is a lot of pent up anger and desperation just below the surface.

November 5, Ljubljana.


Italy: A View from the South

“No, we did not become ‘Agambenians’ overnight,1 we still believe, even more so given what has happened, that this is not a simple flu, that the first task we have to face is to take care of ourselves and others so that the infection does not spread… It is time to reaffirm that health itself is a social issue and that rebellion is the symptom that shows the need for change.

-Infoaut, translated for Enough 14.

To Our Comrades, a Partial Introduction

On October 23, 2020, demonstrations erupted in Naples in response to expected economic closures and partial lockdowns threatened in light of rising COVID-19 cases, as well as a curfew.

According to Noi Non Abbiamo Patria, the demonstrations followed earlier anti-lockdown actions in a small suburb to the north of the city. Since then, the country has instituted national curfews and closures on a tiered scale that makes little sense; these are more expansive in scope than the curfews from last spring.

On October 23, the composition of the people in the streets was heterogeneous, to say the least. As in other recent eruptions of anti-neoliberal energy, such as the “yellow vests” in France,2 this has enabled the corporate media and government to defame those in the streets. It is telling that in the countries in which Euro-Communism crashed and burned—or rather capitulated to statist power and hierarchy—vast numbers of political subjects and workers not necessarily beholden to any party ideology are pigeonholed by elites and the media.

Following this intense night of rioting and clashes with police, further unrest spread to many cities across Italy. In most cases, as in Florence, the composition of demonstrators was again heterogeneous. All over the country, fascists are trying to seize this moment to increase their visibility. In Rome and Catania (two historic fascist battlegrounds), fascists violently occupied piazzas but were forced out by a diverse array of anti-fascists including radical leftists (most numerously from the national party Potere al Popolo), anarchists, communists, and the community members of the piazzas, such as shop- and café-owners. These piazzas, typically central, have become key stages of conflict in this current moment of revolt against the government. While fascists enter the fray to promote “hooliganism” or to make themselves more visible, the vast majority of demonstrators on the streets that night and since are protesting austerity, neoliberalism, and statist violence.

Given the complicated nature of the events and the successes that fascists have experienced dominating media coverage, we seek to issue a communiqué on the situation to alert people in other parts of the world on what may likely develop elsewhere as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and the pandemic-brand “state of exception” austerity continues. In many cases, this will be fertile territory for the right wing to capitalize on crumbling liberal systems. As we saw in Italy in the past, political violence and surveillance, austerity, and intra-European “colonization” create an opportune terrain for fascists to acquire territory and supporters—as illustrated by the rise of Casa Pound and Forza Nuova.3

Our intention with this report is twofold. First, we aim to show that the historical, material conditions of rampant austerity and violently repressed revolutionary activity are the catalysts for the unrest that has erupted in this moment. Second, we argue that we must not allow fascists to continue gaining institutional legitimacy and popular support as they endeavor to use the lockdown protests to their advantage. On the latter point, we emphasize that the greater part of the demonstrators in the streets are the so-called “qualunquista” (“undecided” or rather not-yet radicalized proletarians). This is the result of a historical emptying of meaning of terms such as “communist” and “socialist,” following decades of the institutional left’s conciliations to ruling power structures. This also follows nearly two decades of rapid “proletarianization” of many workers, intensifying since the 2008 economic crisis, especially in the south of Italy, where a vast undercommons4 of surplus labor seethes behind the veneer of tourist-friendly façades.

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COVID-19 in Italy

After grueling months during which coffins filled the streets of various cities in the north last spring, the summer in Italy was less obviously violent—epidemiologically, if not economically. Closures were all but lifted; clubs were open, restaurants too. The number of cases was low—but there was little foreign tourism, a devastating reality for some cities that have been turned into outdoor theme parks by neoliberal administrations over the past few decades.

No social infrastructure was set in place over the summer to protect people from the virus and its devastating social and economic consequences. Contact tracing was scarce and inefficient; the healthcare system did not receive the economic and logistical support politicians had promised. Schools were not sufficiently prepared to reopen, yet they remained partially open for in-person classes.

The regional and national administration invested resources only to maintain tourist economies: people were offered holiday bonuses to go on vacation. But when September arrived, no one was prepared to face the risks of an anticipated second wave of COVID-19. By mid-October, the number of cases had risen again. The health crisis overwhelmed the system and the authorities announced the closure of economic activities. In less than two weeks, people were ordered to confine themselves again. The domestic space was turned into a care facility/hospital with family members required to take care of their sick relatives without health guidelines or protection. The social space became a space of contagion. Only work was authorized.

Now people face a choice between work-consume-and-silently-die at home or die-of-COVID-19-repression-and-starvation outside. Poverty rates are skyrocketing. Some of the most vulnerable of the social groups impacted by the economic crisis ignited by the pandemic include undocumented workers, people with disabilities, migrants, single mothers (since the incarcerated male population has skyrocketed over the past decade), and families that have lost their income. These are the people who are now joining the protests across Italy demanding the redistribution of wealth.

Today, as we edit this communiqué, Italy is recording higher infection numbers than in the spring. On November 5, Italy reported 445 new deaths, the highest since April 23, while people are preparing for a new wave of protests despite the regional lockdowns and nationwide curfew.

The Response of Corporate Media and the Political Establishment

Following the demonstrations, corporate media and the political establishment quickly moved to delegitimize those out on the streets in the eyes of the public, labeling them fascists, criminals, or even, in the case of Naples, members of the Camorra mafia.

This is similar to how politicians and liberal media spread myths in the so-called United States about “outside agitators” during the rebellion following the police murder of George Floyd, using this to escalate violence against protestors. This is now continuing into the post-election moment, as pundits spread nonsense and police in various cities stage police riots and mass arrests, while the press spreads fear about “Antifa.” All of this is calculated to sow divisions and distrust.

Rather than reducing the demonstrators in Italy to party or ideological affiliation, an interview in Dinamo Press describes their central concern in Naples on October 23 thus:

“Many who came down to the streets last night blamed the national and local administration for the state of things. Rather than saying “the virus doesn’t exist,” many said: “What the fuck did you do this summer” … Many never saw the money they were promised. Napoli has its epidemiological memory: last spring, even hustlers disappeared from the streets. But now people are exhausted, the pandemic in Naples hit in a fragile context, both in economic and social terms. Furthermore, the second wave was announced, but they did not prepare our healthcare system, they did not put social security measures into place, and now we all seem taken by surprise.

While local and national officials continue to engage in debates about social versus economic health, framing the two as opposed to one another, speaking about the need for “sacrifice” on behalf of the workers who have nothing left to give, it is obvious that economic and health safety must be engaged together. To quote those writing in Infoaut once more:

[W]e know very well that it is we who are at the bottom, who pay the most in this crisis, which is caused by the globalized economy, privatizations, environmental destruction and the transformation of health into a commodity. But caring for ourselves and for others means not ignoring those who have lost their jobs in this crisis and those who are in danger of losing their homes and loved ones with a selfish gesture. It means fighting alongside them, because as long as the management of the crisis is solely in the hands of politicians, as long as the only ones with a strong voice are the corporations, we will be the ones who will count the dead and the sick in our ranks, whether it is COVID or hunger.

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Fascist Occupations of Piazzas and Anti-Fascist Resistance

In Rome, in three different instances during the week of October 26, fascists congregated in two different piazzas, Piazza del Popolo and in Campo de Fiori. They were small in numbers but extremely violent. The police engaged them, arresting some. In Catania (Sicily) and more visibly in Florence, fascists tried to infiltrate the piazza but it is hard to say how much of the crowd they comprised. In Naples, this is not a question: fascists were not the dominant force, nor even a visible presence.

It would be impossible to overstate how central the piazza is to Italian civic (and thus political) life. Each piazza in each neighborhood acts as a buffer between private and public life; in cities like Naples, the piazza still functions to erode both of those distinctions to a certain degree. As Walter Benjamin already picked up on long ago, in Naples, “just as the living room reappears on the street, with chairs, stove, and altar, so, only much more loudly, the street migrates into the living room.” In recent weeks, as restrictions struck small businesses, which are predominantly staffed in most southern cities by undocumented workers or unsalaried workers paid under the table, two key elements of the piazza came into play: their composition (including workers, residents, and those who spend time there), and their specific histories. Undocumented workers, “flex” workers, clerks, bartenders, small retailers, small business owners, migrants, unions, militants from the left and right came out into the street to fight for social protections.

In Naples, the demonstrations have continued to involve diverse participants: precarious youth (some marching with Extinction Rebellion banners), undocumented workers, Potere al Popolo organizers, women (who marched against gender discrimination in the workplace), families, migrants, and retailers. The pressure on the local administration is high.

In Rome, on Saturday, October 31, a movement of various left forces appeared in the streets: autonomous militants, migrants, Kurdish immigrants, young people. The police presence was very high, but the demonstrators did not escalate violence—in what seems like an attempt to offset what many would expect would be further de-legitimization in the media. Despite the suffocating provocation of militarized police and media propaganda, the action in Rome showed an ability to remain fluid: to use insurrectionary energy at one moment and restraint at another. We do not write this to decry “peaceful protest,” nor to call for it, but rather to insist that which tactics to employ is always a contextual question that must be decided in the moment by the demonstrators involved.

For better or for worse, media coverage of the October 31 demonstration was minimal at best the next morning.

The Battles to Come

Further protests, gatherings, and actions are planned for the next few weeks as lockdowns spread across the peninsula. It is hard to predict what will happen, but one thing is clear: given the speed of events, what happens will not be determined (only) by organized political institutions, nor along strict ideological lines. It will continue to be heterogeneous and autonomous, with all the advantages and disadvantages those entail.

The need to contain the spread of the virus—which, like all capitalist crises, will continue to disproportionately affect and brutalize an already vulnerable undercommons—must be reconciled and engaged simultaneously with class struggle. Those in power will continue to demonize those taking to the streets while also denying them adequate healthcare or forms of survival. This situation in Naples—as in Italy, and in the rest of the world—is complicated and dynamic. Struggles will continue and intensify as winter approaches; it will be vital to continue thinking about these demonstrations through the lens of anti-capitalist struggle, even if not all the participants are explicitly anti-capitalist or anti-statist. This is why we have issued this short note, to provide context to dispel the myth that those in the streets are purely “negationists” (the term used to describe COVID-19 skeptics in Italy), rather than those fighting for their lives and livelihoods.

Naples.


Italy: A View from the North

Naples, October 23. A scream, a revolt, a turning point: a night of clashes violating the curfew, proclaiming that the unconditional acceptance of anti-COVID closures is over. This has echoed in every other major Italian city over the past weeks, sometimes looking like a single episode, sometimes more like a mark of things to come.

The chief anti-COVID measures that the state put in place in spring were coercive: the lockdown, movement limitations, charges, monetary fines, increased power for the police to detain people, and the like. The population accepted all this as a collective effort for the benefit of all, as hard as it all was. The only exception was a week of violent revolts that shook the prisons of the whole country in March, during which 14 detainees died under unclear circumstances. After the first proper attempt at expropriation in Sicily, in fact, the government allocated bonuses to support workers and activities closed due to the lockdown, and people just waited for it all to end. But this emergency approach could only be palliative.

No structural intervention has been implemented to address the pandemic; every bonus has been funded via debt. Both the Recovery Fund from the European Union and large deficit spending are temporary solutions which will be unbearable in the long run within the capitalist system. The objective, as elsewhere, is clearly saving the socio-economic organism rather than saving lives. A paradigm of sacrifice.

As the second COVID-19 wave is hitting hard in Italy, it’s becoming clear that it won’t be possible to save both lives and the economy. A massive crisis is knocking at the door: the only thing possible for the government is to delay its effects with a mixture of emergency support measures and fake “soft” lockdowns, since they don’t have a real solution. What results is a political strategy of blowing to push a storm cloud away: naïve or desperate.

This explains why people have lost their faith in the measures of the state, forced to choose between saving their health and providing for their material basic needs. It is becoming clear that it’s not possible to safeguard both under these conditions.

Initiated in Naples by small shop owners, spontaneous eruptions of anger against the curfew have taken a different form in each city, with remarkable similarities in the north. In Milan and Turin on October 26 and in Florence on October 30, there were ambiguous calls to break the curfew, a strong non-ideological presence in the streets, and demonstrations of mixed composition. In Turin, some youngsters looted a couple of luxury shops; the broken window at Gucci became iconic. In Milan, most of the arrestees were minors. In Florence, a wall demanded “give us a future” in capital letters. In all of these cities, the unrest generated hours of clashes with the police, who are instinctively understood as the chief target.

A lot has been said about the youth of the suburbs,5 unprecedented key players in those nights of rage. These young gangs have been the most energetic and brazen opponents of the police, but there were plenty of comrades, groups of ultras [i.e., hooligans], and probably fascists, too, though they had no active role as a group and were implicitly marginalized by the genuine multi-ethnic composition of the new generations in the streets. When the right wing held their gatherings, these youth gangs simply avoided them, isolating them. Here in the north, shop owners and stakeholders of the economic sectors that are impacted by the curfew haven’t been so influential.

In northern cities, it seems we’ve experienced a foretaste of the crisis to come, but these outbursts have remained episodes without a follow-up. This could be due to the widespread de-ideologization of the people, or to disorganization and the lack of deep and continuous relations between social movements and the suburbs, or to the massive preventive police crackdown on the following calls to demonstrate.

Yet these calls still proliferate, and we don’t know where they come from, we can’t foresee how each and every one is going to end up. It is instructive that classic militant calls to amass in the streets do not have a wide appeal at the moment; they sometimes are merely self-referential and self-conservative.

Some people believe that the present context offers an opportunity for fascists to gain momentum, focusing on this threat to the risk of excess. Looking through another lens, considering the situation from the perspective of possibility, we could also argue that the current scenario offers a fertile ground: people are reacting against the economic debates, they value human relations more after months of abstinence, they show a keen interest in using public space as a political arena. Social movements should step out of their comfort zones to face the strange challenges of these times, offering expertise instead of fixed solutions.

The famous broken Gucci window in Turin.


Slovenia

The Slovenian government officially acknowledged the pandemic on March 12, 2020, establishing the legal basis for the first phase of lockdown. One day later, the new far-right government was sworn in. One of their first actions was to introduce authoritarian measures aimed at controlling the population, disguised as efforts to control COVID-19. These included restrictions on movement between municipalities, a ban on protesting, the prohibition of gatherings outside immediate family units, and expanded powers for the police.

The anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement responded swiftly. Affinity group actions broke out all around the capital city of Ljubljana. This momentum culminated on April 24, when the first demonstrations took place. At the time, most of the northern hemisphere was deep in lockdown; Ljubljana was one of the first places to see massive demonstrations during the COVID-19 era. Six turbulent months of weekly protests and actions followed—the longest continuous anti-authoritarian mobilization in the history of Slovenia.

Since April 24, protests have occurred every week, along with several weekly actions addressing a variety of different themes including environmental struggles, precarious cultural work, and the pro-choice movement. At first, these demonstrations took the form of mass bicycle rides; as the police became more prepared to respond to those, the demonstrations assumed other forms. As in many other parts of the world, after severe repression, the fight against the police became the central issue of the protests for a while.

Anarchists had seized the initiative to shape the narrative around these protests, positioning them in the coordinates of anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-statism, mutual aid, and solidarity—leaving little space for conspiracy theorists and far-right provocateurs to lead the actions on the streets. At the same time, the spring wave of protests also successfully halted the new government’s initial authoritarian push, rejecting the social claustrophobia it had created. One of the most valuable achievements of the protests was to reject the imposed individualism and isolation of the quarantine. Through these protests, new forms of collectivity became possible again.

After a period of relative ease during the summer months, the epidemiological situation began to worsen again during September and October. After decades of neoliberal privatization, the public health system was not prepared for the challenges of the new wave of COVID-19.

On October 20, the Slovenian government declared a general curfew between 9 pm and 6 am. This was the first police curfew since fascists announced a curfew in the occupied territories of Slovenia (then Yugoslavia) during World War II.

Slovenia is not an exception: curfews have been introduced in almost all the territories of the European Union. Not surprisingly, we are chiefly seeing them in places where authoritarian state measures traditionally provoke fierce resistance—France, Spain, Italy, and Belgium. As European countries experience the second wave of epidemic along with the deterioration, privatization, and collapse of the public health system, they are also facing the first obvious signs of economic and social crisis. People are starting to lose their jobs, homes, and dignity on a massive scale. In response, governments are implementing more and more measures to exercise total control over the population—as if they are already anticipating the revolts that are yet to be born.

The curfew in Slovenia was accompanied by several other restrictive measures. These included a prohibition on travel from one municipality, region, or country to another; an attempt to invest the army with more authority; restrictions on public gatherings and heavy penalties for any kind of protest activity; and the introduction of phone tracking of the infected. Not only is the state exercising its own control over people, but also, as in any other totalitarian regime, it is encouraging us to police our friends and neighbors while stigmatizing those who are not healthy. Many of these measures have nothing to do with fighting the virus; they are meant to fight the virus of resistance and to keep the economy going.

Since the introduction of the curfew, the cities have come alive at night again with everything from burning trash bins and graffiti to fireworks, chanting, and smaller gatherings and protests. The struggle we have been experiencing for more than six months took another turn with the new set of authoritarian measures.

The riots of November 5 in Ljubljana.

On November 5, rioting broke out in Ljubljana. Originally, the online group Anonymous had called for some sort of demonstration for this date; right-wing media engaged in fear-mongering, causing every formal organization to distance themselves from the event, but apparently building curiosity among the restless and disaffected. The composition of the crowds that gathered was diverse, but for the most part, it consisted of people who had probably not been engaged by the previous protests. This time, workers and angry youth came out, and the general atmosphere of the night was hatred against the police. The fighting lasted for several hours. Because riots do not occur often in Slovenia—before this, the last time the police used their water cannon was in 2012, during an uprising that forced the government to resign—only anarchists have raised their voices to speak affirmatively of these riots as a genuine expression of the anger of the people. Other groups that supported the previous protests are now distancing themselves from the violence on the streets.

The riots took place in a situation in which the mobilization was practically over. It seems that, rather than trying to bring it back from the dead in hopes of creating some sort of linear path for social unrest, it makes more sense to figure out how to connect the raw anger we saw in the riots with the struggles of other people we saw on the streets over the past months, in order to create a terrain of common struggle.

You can read an anarchist analysis of the riots from Ljubljana here.

November 5, Ljubljana.


Greece: November in Lockdown

A statement from Radio Fragmata.

Greece is currently in a full lockdown. This includes no freedom of movement. There are only six legitimized reasons to leave the house. You have to text the state in order to receive permission to go outside, and show the SMS confirmation to police when they stop you. However, schools remain open, contradicting the alleged justification for the lockdown.

During the first lockdown in March and April, cases were averaging around 150 to 200 per day; now the numbers are fluctuating between 2000 and 2500 per day, with ICU beds rapidly filling up. The blame for the infection rates can be laid on a business elite that demanded to open borders for tourism in August, despite the fact that this would obviously fail to draw many tourists during a global pandemic. There was a 90% percent drop in tourism, but the few wealthy tourists who showed up spread the virus even further throughout the mainland and islands of Greece.

The New Democracy regime has continued cutting hospital budgets and medical staff, redirecting the funds to decorative urban renewal projects, police and prison staff, and an increased military budget in light of tensions with Turkey. While they use fountains and potted plants to decorate neighborhoods where there is rampant homelessness and drug use, public transportation has not been adjusted to make social distancing possible; subways and buses remain packed with people, likely spreading the virus. This chiefly impacts those who cannot afford to travel to work by car. While the government’s priorities are obvious, they insist that the responsibility for the pandemic lies on individuals passing the virus to one another—that we are the only ones to blame for the alarming infection rates.

Many prisoners have initiated hunger and even thirst strikes demanding better hygiene policies and protection from COVID-19. While funding has been directed towards prisons, almost all of this has been put towards expanding staff and improving their pay.

Homeless people continue to face fines, arrest, and displacement. The state is using the virus to forbid assemblies of any kind; police recently attacked individuals inside a social center in Patras for gathering food to distribute to people struggling during this time. The current lockdown runs through November 17—an anniversary of resistance to the military junta—and will likely extend beyond December 6, which has been observed as a day of resistance since the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos in 2008. The government maintains that their priority is to open up before Christmas, so people can shop freely—the one freedom they approve of.

Like many places in the world, scientists are proposing lockdowns without considering the plight of those living precariously under capitalism. With everything closed, furloughed workers are struggling to survive. And those deemed essential, such as delivery workers, teachers, and grocery store workers, are working with no increase in pay, forced to buy their own protective equipment, wishing they worked in an industry deemed “non-essential” so they could receive a small salary without risking their health for peanuts all day.

We are waiting for society to explode. We are waiting for people to have enough. We recognize the dangers of COVID-19, but we refuse to accept the opportunistic “law and order” policies of the current state that don’t really aim to address the virus.

It is hard not to say that a feeling of depression is here. The days are shorter, the weather colder, and the future is bleak. But if anything is to come out of this virus and this lockdown, is that people will begin to see the mortality of this system, and realize that the state can not protect us—if anything, it is leading us towards our demise.


November 5, Ljubljana.

The state cannot protect you, but it can get you killed.

  1. The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben created controversy by adopting what many perceived to be a dismissive attitude about the virus. See, for example, “The Invention of an Epidemic.” 

  2. For context, see “The Yellow Vest Movement in France” and “The Pitchforks Movement in Sicily.” 

  3. See “Italy: We Partisans—Resisting the Wave of Fascism, Spring 2018.” 

  4. For more on the concept of the undercommons, begin with the book by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten. 

  5. The center-suburb relation in Europe is the opposite of what was common until recently in the United States: historic city centers are expensive and populated by the wealthy, while the suburbs are old commuter areas, mainly poor and lacking services and infrastructure.