postvirtual

Outside Pressure

In Italy, March to Athens on 6 March 2012 at 19:18
March to Athens
Day 119-XLV, from the river valley to Irsina, 15 km.
Day 120-XLVI, from Irsina to Gravina in Puglia, 20 km.

View of Irsina

Gravina in Puglia, March 6

Dear people,

It was good to be out in the countryside for a day, with no noise around us, just goats and wide open space.

Yesterday we marched on Irsina. It’s a peculiar place, a dying village with two very distinct faces. When you arrive on top of the hill you have the old centre to your right. You will hardly encounter a living soul there. On your left there’s the new centre, where you will find what’s left of village life.

It starts to rain when we’re about to take the square, but local sympathisers help us find shelter in the form of the local sports centre. Later on they come by and bring us wine. One of them is a former councillor for the communist party. He is young, not older than me, but he recalls with the typical nostalgia of a communist that Irsina used to be the red beating heart of Basilicata.

Comrades Lucia, Chequita and the dog.

Those times are fading. The proletariate of Irsina was mainly made up of farmers. But with the industrialisation of agriculture, they left. The town used to have more than ten thousand citizens. Now there are little over three thousand, mainly old folks.

The others have emigrated, almost all of them to Sassuolo near Modena. There are now more people from Irsina living in Sassuolo than in Irsina itself. This is typical for many villages. Once a small nucleus has settled in the north, the rest follows.

Our sympathiser went up to live in Sassuolo as well. As a former councillor he gives us a little insight in Italian politics.

In general there are no real divisions. Almost everyone has surrendered to neoliberalism. Left and right have no problem to sell out public utilities to private enterprises. But when it comes to the past, people are ready to take to the barricades. In Sassuolo for example, a street had to be named after an obscure preacher, or a partisan, or an otherwise controversial figure. It led to heavy discussions, accusations and open warfare in townhall.

Arriving in Gravina

Today we descend further. We arrive in the green foothills, harbinger of the fertile plains of Apulia. The town is called Gravina, and you immediately feel that things are starting to change. We are emerging from the wilderness. We are once again on the treshold of civilization.

In the square we have an encounter with police. They are very polite, but they make the mistake of asking for ID. We refuse as usual. And when they say that we need a permit to camp, some of us start to laugh. The authorities try to convince us for a while, but when the entire group has arrived they give up. What amazes me most is the complete lack of communication between the police forces of the towns and villages in the region. Here in Gravina, they had no idea who we were, what we’re doing, where we’re from etc. You would think that someone would inform the next village about us, but no. The authorities might present themselves as a monolith, but behind the façade, their organisation is worse than our own.

On the square in Gravina

There’s discontent in the group, you can feel it. In the country side we reached a consensus that was a logical result of the decision taken in Potenza. As far as we are concerned, the Agora Athens begins on May 5, the last possible date of our arrival. After months and months of discussions, we finally produced a date. But a day later, our people in Athens, together with a few occasionals from Madrid and Barcelona, said they weren’t happy with it. They want us to be there on April 28.

The outside pressure starts to become pretty annoying. Some of the people who want us to be in Athens on April 28 have marched with us. They know how people reason here. If you are not walking, and you want to impose a date of arrival on those who are, then you will have but one response. The middle finger.

Our people in Athens wanted a date. Now they have one. I’m really sorry that they didn’t accept it, or showed a bit more of tact in negotiating an alternative.

As for me personally, I have my hopes set on the great demonstration of May 12, and not so much on Agora Athens. I’ve seen Agora Brussels and Agora Rome, and it wasn’t like people from other countries came to participate in large numbers, or that we produced something memorable. We were a couple of dozen, we all knew each other, and we organised our assemblies mainly for ourselves.

In my view, the march is much more important than the agora. The march reaches many people every day, in places that wouldn’t normally be touched by revolutionary fever. The view of us, pushing our shopping carts through the streets and camping on the squares in the cold is much more eloquent than all the words you can dedicate to a better world in a thematical assembly.

Sunset in Gravina

  1. Hi, I’m Greek and I suspect your Greek connection swant you to be there late April so that you gain more support during the national festive day of 1st of May (Worker’s Day). It is, I suspect, a publicity tactic to be there there on 1st of May. From the other hand, it doesnt make much sense because every sunday is also a day when ppl are more relaxed, not working, and celebrating sort of.. so you can also make a protest during a Sunday for sure. I am sorry but Greek socialistrs/communists can be pretty authoritative and lacking understanding and I know that cause I also tried to orgganize a protest with a party in Greece but I got tired of them giving me orders as if I am their pawn or something, often without explaining to me why I must do what I am ordered (the logic behind). If you want to order someone you better explain thoroughly what you have in mind. That is, im hapilly a pawn for a good cause, but I need to know ‘how it works’, otherwise I am merely being someone’s personal pawn.. and that unacceptable cause I don’t offer help for someone’s personal power sense, but for the general good.

  2. Hello march!
    First of all I want to apologise as one of the people in Athens. It was really ugly to ask for any date and then change the demand to a specific one. I want as well to disagree with you article writer… I know that the march is important but you can’t say that the manifestation will be of more importance of the Agora. You can’t take the examples of Rome and Brussels because here we have more time to prepare it, people dedicated to it and more potencial of participation of Greek people. So the Agora can be something more productive than a day of demonstration.
    Now I want to present the image we give to outsiders. Imagine a group of europeans walking towards athens, fighting for the ideal date for two months and continuing fighting through mumble. DOnt see it as “march” and “people of Athens”… Locals here see us as a whole, and for sure they will think that we are ridiculous. We have come to organise an international meeting at their home, teach them how make the revolution, and we can’t agree between us.
    Thsose that prefer the date of 28a say that it will make the Agora an international event (giving time to europeans to return to their home for the 12M). Well the Agora will not be an international event in any case because we have been arguing the date that now there is no time for international diffusion. So please, dear people, marchers, people in Athens, everyone, let’s see how ridiculous we are and try to pick a date- any date-, as soon as possible.
    My regards

    • Ciao Marianne!

      Good to hear from you. I’m glad you understood how this march works.
      The reason why people want to start the Agora on the 28th, like you mention, is exactly what makes many of the marchers so angry… They would have to run so that a handful of Spaniards – some of whom have never walked a single leg of a march in their lives – can ‘do the Agora’ and be back home in Spain for the celebrations on the 15th of May…
      Screw them, people say. And I completely agree. If they want to be in Spain on May 15, then let them stay in Spain. If they want to be in Greece for the Agora, then they should celebrate the anniversary of our movement in Athens. You can’t have it all.
      As for the date, we already have a date. It’s May 5 (‘Liberation Day’ in Holland🙂. And I doubt very much that people will be willing to change it. We have other more important things to decide upon soon.

      Take care, and send my love to all the comrades of the March on Brussels.
      Oscar

  3. Recuerda los carteles del caracol durante la acampada:

    “Vamos despacio porque vamos lejos”.
    🙂

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