Diary

Mark Mazower

I arrived in Thessaloniki at the end of October, one hundred years almost to the day after the Greeks marched in to claim the city, ending centuries of Ottoman rule. I’d been invited to a conference commemorating the centenary but it was the current crisis that was on everyone’s mind. A general strike called to protest against the Eurozone summit had just ended. Still, in Thessaloniki history pulls in the crowds and rouses passions; the auditorium was packed. As Yiannis Boutaris, the city’s charismatic mayor, approached the podium twenty young people rose from their seats chanting slogans. It was hard to read the black banner they tried to unfurl. The letters ‘YFANET’ meant nothing to me, but ‘No to the State’ provided a clue. Mainstream politics might be in retreat in Greece but anarchism is alive and well. The demonstrators scattered fliers and then left. I picked one up: ‘One hundred years of Greece, patriarchism, capitalism are enough.’ YFANET turned out to be the name of a long-abandoned textile factory some of the activists have been occupying. Their protest was directed against Boutaris, who they believe wants to evict them. (You would think he had more pressing matters to deal with.) Boutaris stood impassively on stage until they finished: he knew they’d go away eventually.

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