Notes on the Crisis and the Revolutionary Perspective in Greece

Notes on the Crisis

Something like an Introduction
“On the daily 8 o’clock newscasts, the voice of the regime’s spokesmen has lost all confidence it used to have in the past. The state representatives attend fiestas, parades, restaurants and public streets only as long as they have assured an escape route, just in case they will have to run. Supermarkets are full of commodities and empty of consumers. The government’s people are trying on khaki clothes, military jackets and quotients and make their voice sound squeaky and metallic, just like the one of Michaloliakos (1) or of Papadopoulos (2). The numbers of suicides are dashed. Some other farfetched guys pretend to be political messiahs, create parties and climb on TV crates to talk about the salvation of the people. The streets of the Metropolis are filled with cops and homeless people, cops and laid-off people, cops and protesters.
The Beast, which all these years had swallowed us, is now ill and at the same time pregnant. Corpulent and aged, it slowly dies out with the threat either to take us with it or to offer us to its newborn child as its legacy. Some have already loved the beast and refuse to face its upcoming end; some, having been trapped in its stomach for so long, cannot imagine any possibility of living without it; some others felt quite comfortable all these years with the safety it provided them and suddenly got terrified. Nobody knows what is there, outside the Beast’s stomach. Yet, the Beast is either going to die, or give birth, or both, and it’s getting ready for all cases. Now it’s our turn to start getting ready. In order to have the upper hand, we have to catch to kill it. At the same time, we must learn to live without it.”

How do we develop our protagmas (3) in relation to the current actual social relations

When going through the protagmas of the anarchist-libertarian (A/L) movement in Greece since the beginning (foothills) of the crisis, we come across a multitude of difficulties which have occurred from the relative inability to adjust the anarchistic protagmas to the new conditions which the Crisis had set, as well as from our inability to develop them at the point when they had already been adopted by a large number of the people. We regard the Insurrection of December to be the first crucial spot, where all our so-far protagmas on insurrection, against repression and against consumerism where embraced by an infuriated youth and gave clear political characteristics to this metropolitan insurrection; they turned the symbolism of past years into an insurrectionary daily life. Yet, when the crisis stopped just being a tool used for terrorization, aiming to an awareness of and conformance to the social regularity, when it turned into a daily life too, it found the majority of anarchists being literally unprepared, still stuck to protagmas against repression that belonged to the age of prosperity. In the beginning of the Crisis, the A/L movement was expanding under these very protagmas, unable to spread protagmas that remained buried in the slogans of the political texts as a solution to the crisis. The burning of a bank (Marfin) and the death of four of its employees during the largest general strike since the political transition of 1974 (4) (on the same day Greece entered the IMF) signified the end if this period; it turned the redetermination of the A/L protagmas and of the impact they should have on society into an urgent necessity.

A factor which for sure influenced our interference in society in a suppressive manner was that, ourselves being an integral part of it, we were affected by the so-called shock doctrine too. For quite some time we simply stood as spectators without acting towards promoting anything; we kept repeating mechanically what we had been doing during the last years.

The Movement of Aganaktismeni, the Greek equivalent to Intignados, came unexpectedly and found us unprepared in the same way as the Crisis did. From one day to another, thousands of people gathered in central squares of cities, a heterogeneous mass in the form of a slightly apolitical, but at the same time very spectacular, celebration, which for some people had no signs of politicization. That’s where our mistakes are rooted. The majority of our movement tried to “judge” this heterogeneous mass as a whole and to give it characteristics that had nothing to do with the movement, while for some of us it was quite obvious that there was an implicitly revolutionary part among all those people, that touched the anarchistic structures which we had been suggesting for years: self-organization, anti-hierarchy. The other mistake which we could examine a posteriori is our persistence on issues that have to do with violence and on ideological fixations. Namely, while everybody was talking about peaceful demonstrations, we rushed to doom this “movement”, being unable to understand that people, who had never experienced procedures related with “being on the streets” and had no prior contact with revolutionary violence outside its deformed version projected from the mass media, would never be able to adopt it as one of the first means of their struggle. Of course, this became obvious when ‘the squares’ called for the first general strikes with the protagma of a parliament blockade, where, when people experienced State repression, they either responded with counter-violence or they acclaimed it everyway. The persistence on ideological frames is something that held us back as it exposed our weakness to create something together with the rest of the society, which did not share our “truth” from the very beginning, yet it was approaching it without labelling it politically in the same way we did.

The positive sides of our intervention in the squares was that within the followed procedures we were constantly raising subjects of antiauthority and horizontal structuring which were accomplished/actualized to some extent. Furthermore, with our interventions we tried to spread more radical ideas, in contrast to those who wanted to transform this movement into a group of Citizens simply asking for a more propitious State administration. Through summer demonstrations and mainly in Athens, we “legitimized” political violence in people’s eyes and de-legitimized the regime, which for many became something shaky that needs to be removed.

To end with, some part of the A/L movement managed by their presence to isolate people from the far-right that approached the popular assemblies, who were nevertheless hostilely confronted by the largest part of those actively taking part in such assemblies. Yet, the expiration of this movement for one more time accentuated our weakness to develop our protagmas when they have already managed to spread within society. By de-legitimizing the regime in the largest part of the population we are at the point again where the redetermination of our protagmas is necessary. The deficiency on central political protagmas that would overcome the level of political slogans is resonant and for that reason we should examine from now on the Real/political implementation of our proposals and for once more overcome symbolisms.

How do we pass from the theoretical level to the Real/political implementation of our proposals, how do we intervene in pre-existing self-organized projects and in processes of organizing society on its basis

The Crisis of the capitalist system by now has become tangible, something that is not known only to us anymore. We have also been merged in the dance of the impoverishment, of the deterioration of the living standards, of the end of the social welfare, and our ability to survive on political terms or not, will determine the survival of the A/L movement through the Crisis. Our proposals towards society not only should be realized, but as well be a reality within us.

Agricultural collectives now take shape and, if not isolated thus becoming just another form of labor within capitalism but used as means for spreading the anarchist ideas and for the essential economical support for the purposes of the movement, the give out an political notion on survival. The same applies to housing squats that have emerged in every corner of Greece.

The challenge is how these projects can be shared with the rest of the society without us becoming the Robin Hoods of Greek society, namely, without realizing this task for them without their participation. A good example for this issue is the intense rise of the expropriation of super markets from A/L groups and the distribution of foods in public markets. If such a thing is not analyzed in terms of symbolism of the expropriation of goods, then does it maybe relate with humanitarianism as long as the rest if society does not appropriate it as its own tool.

Another acknowledgement regarding the crisis is that, since social normalcy, as we knew it so far, now falls apart, society will be choosing between collective living and social cannibalism. Now combined with the depreciation of most political institutions as we knew them so far, we will see assemblies, collectives and neighbourhood organizations/groups emerging which will have not been created by us and which might have fragmented or reformist demands. As long as they don’t have racist-cannibalistic characteristics (e.g. task forces against illegal immigration), our intervention in them is essential, not only because the topics they deal with concern our survival as well, but to get to spread those radical ideas in them, that will give revolutionary features to any reformist struggle. Such projects are neighbourhood assemblies in the capital (Athens), groups against the exploitation-destruction of the environment in the name of growth or green development, “I won’t pay” committees for tolls, means of public transport or electricity, in which there is an increasing A/L intervention across the country.

How can we approach all social fields

Given the deflation of the middle and petit bourgeoisie, as a direct result of capitalist Crisis, we have to observe the course that this so-far apathetic/dull and colourless political class will follow. For sure, a great part of the now impoverished middle class will be proletarianized thus becoming more easily approachable in social struggles. Yet, we have to examine part which will not acquire the consciousness of the oppressed, but it will constitute a social part “outside” society and any given relations. The consequence of the existence and primarily of the rapid growth of this part of society is the clear metropolitan violence in Athens. It is this population that staffs the raging youth which clashes with the cops at any chance it gets, but, on the other hand, it seems that it partly staffs the gangster type racism or fascism which targets migrants. The Left at best ignores them and at worst condemns them; the anarchists stand beside them in clashes but afterwards break apart and follow their own way. The inability of the revolutionary movement to understand/comprehend this social phenomenon reveals the inability of an overall understanding of the new social situation that has been shaped. The revolutionary movement should detect these practises, should be in solidarity to the people that follow them, be influenced, influence and create the conditions for their spreading.

On a street and conflict level, we should stop treating metropolitan violence as political and try to politicize it. We should graft it with the features that turn social conflict into liberating and differentiate it from the relieving violence of the football fields. The revolutionary movement must organize the rage that exists on the basis of the social pyramid, give it liberating nuances, a plan and a perspective. Without any anathemas, understanding that it addresses people that don’t have much to lose and have pure class hate within them. First and foremost, it should realize that in the “outsiders” class, like in all social classes, there exist people with class consciousness on the one hand and people with cannibalistic reasoning on the other and it should pursue and intensify this division.

To the extent that we have to intervene in all levels of social life, we must explore all its aspects and levels. In order to tear down the existing social structure, that falls apart anyway, and to avoid substituting it with an even worst one, we have to comprehend society, not to change but to change ourselves with it.

Patriotism as a tool of the State

The main argument of the bosses in their attempt to justify the economical plunder is to appeal to the national interest. Patriotism becomes a tool in the hands of the bosses who try to create an artificial national identity for the newly poor that look for support. At the same time, they invoke it like the new religion, for the sake of which slaves of all kind will endure the tortures of Crisis. On the other hand, within the movement, the state bets on patriotism and on the fabrication/invention of a common imaginary regarding pure patriots and traitors, precisely to maintain its right to purify itself when the time comes. Patriotism has a double role; it constitutes the whip that bosses use to assert themselves and at the same time the barricade towards constructing class consciousness.

The rise of the extreme right

It is clear that in times of Crisis, the state subsidizes the rise of the extreme right in order to survive without having the necessary social legitimacy, by sowing fears about the safety of citizens and the lack of social consistency, which will be achieved when we resign from a few more of our democratic rights. The far right party of the Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) says it clearly: first we are Nationalists and secondarily Democrats, meaning that when the nation is threatened, their democratic façade is removed.

On the other hand, the rise of the extreme right is due to the extreme propaganda against “illegal immigration”, through which minorities are blamed for all society’s evils. Is taxation too high? Blame the immigrants that don’t pay taxes! Do we have a bad health-care system? Blame the immigrants that are treated for free! Is crime rate rising in the cities? Don’t blame poverty; blame the immigrants’ delinquent character!

Unfortunately, you cannot beat this emerging threat only through propaganda. This rhetoric is the overall defence of the system and reaches every home through the media, through schools and it is self-reproduced in families and in workspaces. The situation will increasingly polarize and more and more people will be taking extreme positions. What certainly obstructs the rise of the extreme right is our strong presence in all spaces, as well as the creation of anarchist nucleuses everywhere: in schools, in neighbourhood assemblies, in workspaces, on the streets, in self-organized ventures. It’s a fact that they have no space there where we act. After all, national socialism is something contradictory, it is socialism made for the few, for the pureblood; this contradiction will become more and more clear to those that will take militant positions.

Certainly, the war against the extreme right should not be lacking a militarized part. The intensification of the Crisis accumulates metropolitan violence in inner cities, which will be getting a racist character in many cases; we should respond to it with violence of a corresponding degree, since violence of this kind is an essential component of class struggle anyway.

The suppression of the A/L movement

In the name of social consistency and safety, the State is not going to invest only in the rise of the extreme right, but as well in the brutal suppression of any reaction dangerous for the status quo. The A/L movement is in the frontline of such reactions and we can already witness that the so-called “terrorism of the hood-wearers (koukoulofori) (5)” is among the first topics in the political agenda of all political powers, from right to socialist or leftist. In the near future, the legislation of suppression will be enforced, and the overall illegalization of the A/L movement –it including group arrests of comrades, closing down political spaces (stekia (6)) and targeting of A/L projects- should be examined as an eventuality. Something like that might sound like a science fiction scenario to some, but so did the Crisis to us some years ago. Therefore, for such an eventuality, we should start investigating from now structures that will allow us to go over to a state of action under conditions of illegality.

The effective confrontation with the status quo and how do we go beyond the scope of symbolisms

The Crisis and all dynamic situations that occur from it are a phenomenon with historical dimensions which constitutes a problem with many aspects and equally many solutions. The collapse of illusions and the end of a secure petit-bourgeois life for most of society mobilizes vast heterogeneous masses in general strikes and public demonstrations. On the one hand there are indignant (aganaktismenoi) patriots, bankrupt borrowers and petit bourgeois complaining for wage cuts and on the other hand there are impoverished students, young proletarians, degraded pensioners, anarchists and leftists, migrants and metropolitan subjects all together and without exceptions are all pieces of a raging crowd that took shape at least in the three occasions of 5/5/10, 28-29/6/11 and 12/2/12 (7) and creates significant insurrectionary moments. After two years of economic plunder, the intensification both of police violence and of the movement’s counter-violence turned all pacifist beliefs and state control techniques into useless and inapplicable. In times of Crisis, the control of reactions is actualized at other levels.

A key element of the situation in Greece should be pointed out here: the fact that political violence never stopped existing. Even in times of absolute, smooth capitalistic function, student riots, armed militant groups and the December of 2008 marked important moments that created a state of rupture, diametrically opposed to the disposition of the social majority. In the emergence of Crisis, these are the ones that will constitute the confrontational forefront of the social movement and that will prevent the smooth integration of reactions. In all this, anarchists will lead in all insurrectionary procedures; they will gradually achieve such a qualitative increase of the movement’s counter-violence that in the end they will simply be a part of the people in conflict. At the same time, the successful targeting of institutions and buildings, the occupations of ministries and the operational improvement of groups formed during general strikes, will mark historically momentary situations that the state could hardly manage.

Along with the spreading of confrontational/insurrectionary practises, their limits will start emerging. The lack of any strategy of a social movement which, if possible, would perpetually clash unsuccessfully in front of the parliament, adds to the lack of strategy of the A/L movement itself, which is certainly not prepared for the next steps. The insurrectionary protagma of spreading political violence lost its content just at the point when this violence spread. The time and place of conflict remained stable to the exact ‘when’ and ‘where’ set by the state, namely in general strikes, whose role doubtfully remains promotional. The duration of confrontations was also restricted within the one or two days of strike, turning them into symbolic. The decompression of social rage for one or two days every three months is the new decompression valve for the system not to actually be at risk. And just because the restriction of the movement in mass and spectacular, yet staged, coalitions can even be a high-risk move of the bosses, the scientific fascistization of suppression comes to enhance the counter-insurrectionary campaign.

Cameras and concentration camps, the thousands of cops and the military threat reveal that the bosses are willing to play by all means. If, on the other hand, we don’t target right in the heart of the Beast, defeat is inevitable. Long-lasting strikes in the field of production, destroying banks and tax offices, blocking harbours, roads and airports so that the normal flow of commodities stops, sabotaging the enemy forces, dynamic self-defence and occupying strategic objectives and decision-making centres, should all be put into discussion as soon as possible. The proposal to society for an overall blocking of Economy at every chance we get and the defence of this move by all means, constitute our own opportunity for a revolutionary attempt. The conditions are more mature than ever and if we’re unable to comprehend this the situation is going to overcome us.

Gaps of power

Together with the lack of strategy comes the inefficiency of using the state’s moments of weakness. Moments when, due to contradictions of the political system, gaps of power are created: insurrections and controlled or uncontrolled bankruptcies signify a first-class battle between the revolutionaries and the status quo. The question is whether new forms of resistance and organization on a social basis will be created, which will manage to be sustainable and sustain the new situation, or whether the restoration of Order from the police or the military will become a social demand. The planning of action in such cases can create situations never seen before. The immediate requisition of food storages for the bankrupts, the dynamic confrontation with the forces of Order and to organize survival through popular assemblies are the first steps necessary for the moral de-legitimization of the state. That way, even briefly, one of the bosses’ worst nightmares could become true: the occupation of gaps of power by their very enemies.

Something like an epilogue (for communication beyond a local level)

The emergence of many projects having counter-power/libertarian characteristics on the one hand points the way towards self-organized, independent struggles in society, but through an overall inspection they constitute small, fragmented and uncoordinated flames of resistance, which, without the necessary effort will remain just that: small flames, instead of being a proper fire threatening the existing social system. So, the problem arises, yes or no to central political action? The answer is certainly not in this text, as the issue is quite controversial. Yet we believe that it should start being discussed on the objective conditions and not on ideological fixations.

From another perspective on the issue, especially in the given circumstance where the revolutionary perspective is emerging even though a bit blurry, the transmission/communication of experiences within the revolutionary movement is necessary and it can offer not only food for thought and material for retrospection, but as well ideas and proposals which have not been a part of our political agenda until now.

Written by Vagian & “Z”

Translated by elf & Carpe Diem

Heraklion, Crete


May-June 2012

1 Nikos Michaloliakos: Head of the Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi), a neo-Nazi group founded in the early 1990s. He won a seat on the city council of Athens in the 2010 municipal elections, the first time Golden Dawn had been elected to political representation. In the May 2012 elections the Golden Dawn party managed to enter the parliament with a 6,97% and obtained 21 seats.

2 Georgios Papadopoulos: Head of a group of colonels that staged a coup supported by the US Government on April 21st, 1967. The seven-year-long colonels’ dictatorship, Junta (1967–1974) ended with a transition of power to civilian politicians in 1974 and elections in November 1974. Whether the post-dictatorial state inherited several of the dictatorship’s legacies remains a contested issue, especially in terms of its oppressive state apparatus.

3 Protagma is the equivalent for the word “imperative” in the Greek context, although the word “imperative” has connotations of dominance which the word protagma has not. It implies both “suggestions” and “proposals” on a political level.

4 METAPOLITEFSI (LIT. POLITICAL TRANSITION): The term used to describe the historical period of modern Greek history that follows the end of the colonels’ dictatorship (1974). Many believe the revolt of December 2008 to signify the end of Metapolitefsi.

5 KOUKOLOFOROI (LIT. HOOD-WEARERS): Somebody who wears a hood or a balaclava during demonstrations. The corporate media use the term pejoratively and often almost as a synonym for “anarchist.”

6 STEKI [SNGLR], STEKIA [PLRL] (LIT. “HANGOUT,” WHERE PEOPLE HANG AROUND OFTEN): In the Greek social antagonist movement, the term steki has been used to describe spaces—rented or occupied, in universities or other urban areas—used by a single group or by groups in close affnity with each other. While most stekia are open to the public, they are distinctively different to social centres in that they are most often associated with a much tighter group or politics.

7 On these dates, large-scale demonstrations took place that turned into extensive street battles in all big cities of Greece.