The fundamental aim of authority in Greece is to reconfigure the university from a space of political resistance to an institution for those who have the class position to support their admission and attendance. The state administration has been unfolding its plan with repressive strikes, measures to intensify studies and legislation. Among these Law 4777 stands out, which provides for the permanent presence of a police corps in schools, controlled entry to university premises by tourniquets, disciplinary proceedings and expulsions of students and, finally, the restriction of admissions to university schools through special bases in examinations.
Abolition of asylum/police in schools
Student asylum is a foundational principle of the university that anticipates non-violation by the state authorities. It informally establishes a form of free activity within the university space, free from external state interventions.
University asylum has been a springboard for social and class struggles over the years, with a significant presence of anarchists in it. A turning point, in terms of the struggles in Greece, was the Polytechnic uprising of ’73, which highlighted the role of asylum in social struggles. The struggles that took place with the asylum as a reference point from the striking workers of a paper industry (MEL) in ’75, the struggles for the restructuring of ’85 and the chemical workers of ’85, the polytechnic of ’95 with the 500 arrests of anarchists, the student movements of ’06-’07, to the December uprising, the long strikes of the workers in the university contracting industry, up to the struggles of the last years. The abolition of asylum is part of the state’s strategy of pre-emptive counterinsurgency against the social and class movement, the squats and the anarchists.
The state apparatus, whether under social-democratic or neoliberal management, is constantly attempting not only to break this thread of moments of struggle with the Asylum as a reference point, but also to deactivate and suppress any focus of resistance and struggle within it. Since 2017, the state apparatus together with the university authorities have been seeking the abolition of asylum and the installation of university police. Locking faculties during the hours when classes are not in session, rolls, and increasing security patrols. In June 2019 the neoliberal administration chose to abolish asylum with its first piece of legislation. Since then, police operations to suppress student struggles have numbered in the dozens. From the 92 arrests of militants in the occupation of the rectorate of the ΕMP (National Metropolitan Polytechnic Institute), more than 40 arrests in the eviction of the occupation, the very recent arrests of students by ΕΚΑΜ ( police unit akin to SWAT) in the ASOEE (Athens University School of Economics), the eviction of the ‘’Biologiko’’ squat and the new shelter in the Chemical School.
One of the last key laws passed by the Greek state was Law 4777, which constituted another link in the chain of attacks on the student movement and on social and class resistance in general (see law banning assemblies and the upcoming anti-worker law), all these enacted in the midst of a generalised and harsh lockdown and repression in the public sphere. Despite the favourable environment for the state (lockdown, ban on assemblies, repression, closed universities, etc.), this struggle, which started before the law was passed, managed to mass and break the bans on the street, resulting in increasingly massive marches of thousands of students throughout the country. The escalation of the struggle found thousands of students, pupils, teachers, militants, anarchists and solidarity activists in the streets on the day of the law’s passing, where there were also dynamic clashes with repressive forces.
Occupations of universities, struggle until summer ’21
After the passing of the law, Thessaloniki was at the centre of the movement, when on 22 February 2021 three student associations occupied the administration building of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, with the state responding by arresting dozens of students, beatings, tear gas and amongst other repressive actions. Despite this, a few hours later the administration building was reoccupied, becoming a centre of libertarian struggle, which was a crucial turning point and massively expanded the student struggle, resulting in demonstrations of thousands of people in Thessaloniki for months.
The occupation of the administration building of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki inspired similar occupations in universities across the rest of Greece which lasted for several weeks. The occupation of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki was evicted for a second time in March, resulting in dozens of other arrests. However, this resulted in the multiplication of occupations in the faculties and the revival of the general assemblies of students, where, in combination with the organized and structured intervention of libertarian and anarchist students within the student associations, a libertarian student majority was created, which is expressed in weekly demonstrations so far, and dozens of other actions.
The dozens of occupations of faculties of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the enlivening of the university with hundreds of events and actions supported by thousands of people, turned the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki into a place of radical political and social osmosis. We note that before the second eviction of the occupation, and while the struggle of the hunger striker D. Koufontina was at a critical point, the state attempted another eviction which failed thanks to the quick actions of the militants. In particular, we note that in a city terrorized by police, 150 solidarity activists carried out the first nationwide evening march amidst bans in order to enter the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki to reinforce the occupiers of the administration, where they succeeded (despite the police).
In response, the state declared that on 15 April it would install police forces within the largest universities in the country. The appointment given by the state was answered by the dozens of occupations of schools and universities nationwide. In the face of joined movement of students, workers and radicals the state was forced to refold and readjust its planning for the upcoming September.
New Year September ’21 to today
In the wake of the dynamic mobilisations, the state repression found space to unfold its attack:
In particular, a summons was issued to 14 militants who participated in an occupation of a university campus for compulsory DNA testing under the pretext of linking evidence to attacks that had taken place against the police some years before. From the beginning, anarchists started solidarity actions, organised information actions, debates and demonstrations. To date, no DNA taking has taken place.
The Permanent Police Presence and Its Preparation
In the past, repression has placed an emphasis on the redevelopment of the university and the preparation of a permanent police presence on the campuses. Specifically, it announced a budget for the redevelopment of the Biology faculty, which included plans for the eviction of the 34-year-old occupation. The eviction and demolition of the occupation took place on New Year’s Eve when the campus was empty of people. In the following days, radicals occupied a new building near the old one, which was evicted a few days later, with an almost simultaneous invasion of an Athens school and arrests of students who were claiming space that the school’s dean’s office had sealed off.
~ anarchist student collective Quieta Movere
This article is the first of a two-part work on neoliberal intervention in European higher education. Part II, looking at the wider European context, will appear next week.
Pic: The Statue of Aristotle is dressed up as a riot cop, provided by authors.