International Networking Meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece

From 20th till 22nd of may an International Networking meeting to prepare for the resistance against the G8 took place in Thessaloniki, Greece. It was – and still is – an amazing break from home, and I just wished I would have travelled to Greece earlier. It is my first time here in Greece and it is fucking brilliant. It is usually very bright and sunny, so my mood is bright and happy, too. The Greek activists hold an incredible hospitality towards their guests. Now it is raining though and I am lucky enough to be stuck in an Internet Cafe when it happened. Internet Cafes have highspeed internet access, but usually individuals in their houses have only dial-up. Anyways, here is the invitation for the networking meeting.The first day there were meetings, but the discussion was more theoretically, which is not my strength. I do believe in a strong connection between political practise and theory and like to discuss it together.

On Saturday, the meeting started with incredible 5 hours delay. Unusual for me, but apprantly an hour or 2 later than arranged is quite common here. Not that nobody would turn up at the arranged time- apart from if it is earlier than 12 noon – but people like to socialise and talk together and wait for each other till they start. Anyways, the delay on Saturday was also caused by recent events in Athens, which basically kept the whole of the activists from Athen staying away from the meeting, as repression and tension was rising in the city.

The other thing we haven’t thought about is that for some strange reason it is fairly affordable to travel from Britain to Greece, but not the other way round. For activists here, it is very expensive, so of course, the theoretical question and answer session were more meaningfull than practicalities.

Also the convergence centre issue had been a series of disappointements, and till Tuesday evening no big convergence space was secured. Apparantly I hear the Council has now given in to provide possibilities for free? accomodation, but right now it is all rumours and more details to be known later.

People were impressed with the slide show though we could not screen the VHS videos due to cable problems. I wonder if there ever aren’t any cable problems if 2 technical gadgets meet.

The night there was a big party, and the organisers hoped for about 2000 people, but only about 250 or so made it, apparantly because of Greece winning the European Song Contest was distracting many.
I was one of the first one to go to sleep at about 4am, the last went to lie down and switch off the music at about 10 am, or 11 due to tidy-up. The activists in Greece are very weell organised and tidy. It is such a good feeling that it is not left to women to clean, but everybody here takes responsibility and this is really really impressive. Have never come across such tidy male activists ready for cleaning action in any other country.

On Sunday, all the workshops we prepared were scrapped, and only the Noborder discussion and the evaluation took place. The Noborder discussion was quite interesting: there will be a noborder camp – or noborder action days, not really a campsite as such – end of august near the Bulgarian – Turkish – Greek border. The Turkish – Greek border still has minefields due of the historical conflicts, and many refugees loose their legs, limbs or life or get heavily injured at the border crossing. As well as it is apparantly not particular well signed, so activists told us they were crossing the minefields without even knowing! The second issue that often, even though friends and groups might have official invitations, visas and all necessary papers, they are often not allowed to cross the borders from Bulgaria. It is hoped there will be a noborder camp there, too, and then an international border hopping could take place. The third issue is the (un)availability of political asylum in Greece, at the moment there is a hungerstrike going on for the right and acknowledgement of political asylum, and the activists in Thessaloniki have occupied a public place in the city centre and guard it 24hours a day, I helped a bit with the nightshift yesterday. There was a motorcycle demonstration on Tuesday, which was quite a view and experience.

On Sunday we also went to an anti-war theatre, which was aimed and produced for children and pupils, so it was good for internationals, to understand, too, and it was very very funny and incredibly inspiring.

On Monday we went to Xanthi, where the noborder action days will be, and talked to the local group. It was very interesting to hear about their group’s history and the experiences they had with their struggle against detention centres, whose conditions in these sound quite inhuman and also their struggle to make contact with the local muslim community. Moreover, their squat has just been taken over by a different group, and they have been kicked out. I was more for the frontal political accountability strategie: ‘Lets storm the squat and ask the people in there why”, but the greek activists did not want to do it this way, so we just went in there and had a look.

Today we will go and visit a factory where the workers are on strike, and have a march I think. Also there is a big meeting and discussion scheduled about the court case with some older lefties accused of being members of the 17th of November group or so.

Tomorrow I want to leave to Athens and hopefully will be able to swim in the sea. I haven’t been swimming in the mediterannean for about 15 years, before the Yugoslawia Civil War, and I just can’t wait, but the sea here near Thessaloniki is said to be quite polluted so would need to travel outside the city. Also meet an activist from Indymedia Thessaloniki, they are in discussion if they are disolving their Indymedia, but maybe some of them might come and visit us in Scotland to report about the G8 protests.

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