Anarchism in Greece
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Anarchism in Greece has emerged from occasionally overlapping but mostly diverse inclinations. It is often difficult to trace the connections of the various anarchist leagues and affinity groups, as they remained mostly underground.
The first libertarian texts were published in Greece in 1860 and some organized anarchist action started in Athens around the same time. Much was written and published by anarchists and libertarian radicals of that time, deeply influenced by the activities of similar European movements. Emmanouil Dadaoglou, a merchant from Smyrna, had probably come across anarchist ideas after meeting Italian political refugees, who first arrived in Patras in 1849 due to the War of the Two Sicilies. Together with Italian anarchist Amilcare Cipriani, founder of the "Democrats Club", they organized a group and took part in the revolution against Otto of Greece in 1862. They put up a barricade near Kapnikarea in Athens. From 1864 to 1867 Dadaoglou lived in Napoli where he became a member of the International Workingmen's Association (IWA), following the ideas of Mikhail Bakunin. At that time he met Maria Pantazi, a former prostitute, who became his lifelong companion. In the late 1860s he returned to Greece, where he died in 1870. After his death, Maria Pantazi left Greece and died in the aftermath of the Paris Commune, at the hands of the Royal Guards, in 1872. The first anarchist publication in Greece appeared on 3 September 1861, in the daily newspaper "Φώς" (Light), issue 334. It's the main article of the paper, titled "Anarchy", part A, by an anonymous writer. All the copies were confiscated a few hours after their release and a police raid was staged, forcing the owner of the paper to condemn the article, so part B was never published. Libertarian movements also occurred in the Ionian Islands, with the names of Mikelis Avlichos and Nikos Konemenos saved for us. Avlichos studied in Bern, Switzerland where he met Michail Bakunin, and afterwards he returned to Cefalonia, his birthplace. He published some articles. Konemenos, living in Corfu, was one of the first to use the term "communism" and one of the first to speak for women's rights. In 1893 he published a book in Italian called Ladri ed omicidi (Thieves and murderers).
The seeds sown during the previous decade flowered, producing revolutionary organizations in many parts of Greece, such as Athens, Syros, Messinia, Aegio, Filiatra, Cefalonia and Patras. Yannis Kordatos, in his Comprehensive History of Greece, writes: "The anarcho-socialist ideas found ground to spread in Patras in my opinion, due to the presence of 5,000 proletarians, the proximity with the Ionian Islands and their radicals and the good communications of the city with Europe." Anarchists in Patras formed a collective called "Democratic Association" in 1876, which, because of the city's favorable position and its port, acquired close and constant relations not only with fellow Anarchists from nearby Italy but with other European organizations. They tried to coordinate all the groups in Greece and to form the first Greek Chapter of the International Workers Association. A league called "Democratic League of the People" was formed and in an article in the Italian paper Il Martello published in Bologna, Italy, was an announcement of the league's existence: "...later on we will send you the general policies of the Democratic League of the People and the specific policies of the Company of Patras... Soon enough we will publish our socialist newspaper as an instrument of IWA ...". The following repression from the Greek state was in accord with a European state agreement, a fact that can be proved from several diplomatic papers. In the newspaper Bulletin of the Jura federation on 10 June 1877: "Greece in its turn joins the agreement of civilized nations, those who are sleepless in taking measures of pressure in keeping the social order".In 1896, two new associations are established: One in Patras and the other in Pyrgos. The most active members were D. Badounas, D. Arnellos, D. Karabizas and the poet P. Tsekouras. They translated various anarchist articles and later the same year they published the anarchist newspaper Epi ta proso ("Forward") with Anarcho-socialist inclinations around which gathered Anarcho-Christians, Anarcho-communists, Socialists, and even Individualists. At the turn of the 20th century most of the urban centers in the country had an Anarchist nucleus. At the same time Anarchist Marinos Antypas, a legendary hero of the peasants' movement, was active in central Greece. In 1913, Anarchist Alexandros Schinas shot and killed King George of Greece in Thessaloniki. He was tortured and murdered by the police six weeks later.
Many anarchists participated in the socialist "Federacion" of Saloniki and later in the Socialist Worker's Party of Greece, which was to become the Communist Party of Greece (CPG) in 1923, and which slowly absorbed most of the Greek revolutionaries. Many other anarchists were active in local workers' struggles that flared up in the 1920s and 1930s. Notable examples were Constantinos Speras, anarchosyndicalist and leader of the "strike of Serifos" (murdered by CPG thugs in 1944) and Yannis Tamtakos, one of the leaders of the general strike of 1936 in Thessaloniki. During the dictatorship of Metaxas (1936–1940) and the occupation of the country by the Nazis (1941–1944) the repression of the working class and its revolutionary element reached its peak. Thousands died in the war, in exile, in jails, and in concentration camps. Meanwhile, the Communist Party (CPG) stalinists were gaining enormous power in the country, thanks to their policy of "National Resistance" against the Germans. In December 1944, two months after the end of the Occupation, the CPG staged an "uprising" in Athens against the re-emerging pre-war regime and its British allies. During the three weeks of fighting, Communist Party hit squads eliminated many Anarchists, trotskyites and dissident members of their own party along with other "class enemies", before they left the city in the hands of the British army. The "civil war" that followed until 1949 ended with the defeat of the Communist Party and the ruthless suppression of all revolutionary activity.
In the repression that followed what the government had called a "Communist Insurrection" (1944–1949), many anarchists were persecuted, exiled, and jailed along with sympathisers of the banned Greek Communist Party (CPG), as a threat to Cold War order. Many died and more emigrated to America, Australia, and North Europe. Until the middle of the 1960s Anarchism remained alive only because of a handful of libertarian poets and writers (mostly in exile). The main struggle was between the colonial reactionary government and the "democratic left", supported by the CPG.
The new phase of the Greek anarchist movement started during the dictatorship of the Greek military junta of 1967-1974. Students returning from Paris, where they had taken part in the events of May 1968, getting in touch with leftist and anarchist ideas, started spreading these ideas among the radical youth of the time. In 1972, Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle was published in Athens, along with other Situationist texts. Mikhail Bakunin's God and the State and Peter Kropotkin's Law and Authority followed. "Black Rose" bookshop carried these publications of "Diethnis Vivliothiki" ("International Library"), which went on to publish books by Rosa Luxemburg, Ida Mett, Henry David Thoreau, Murray Bookchin, Max Nettlau, Jerry Rubin, and many others. In 1973, "Electoral Strike", a translation of a 1902 French text against voting in bourgeois elections was published, as an answer to the junta's "democratization process" and planned elections. Anarchists were among the main actors in the student movement against the junta. Greek anarchists in the light of May 1968 and the Italian autonomist movement opposed Anarcho-syndicalism in favor of direct class war. Their influences were the classics (Bakunin, Kropotkin) but also the Situationist International and autonomist Marxism. They came mostly from communist backgrounds, disillusioned with the reformism of "communist" parties worldwide. They were against fascism, capitalism, imperialism, bureaucracy, racism, sexism and any kind of authority - especially that of the Communist Party (KKE), which was projecting itself as the sole keeper of revolutionary truth.
The turning point came during the student uprising against the junta at the Polytechnic School in Athens in November 1973. Anarchists painted "Down with the State" and "Down with the Capital" on the front gates of the Polytechnic, took part in the first occupation committee, put up barricades in the surrounding streets, and fought battles with police and army for three days. On the night of 17 November, army tanks and police moved into the Polytechnic, ending the occupation and killing dozens in the process. Seven months later, the junta collapsed and a new, "democratic" government was sworn in under right-winger K. Karamanlis. In September 1974, left-wing organisations (including the GCP) were legalized again after 25 years. This led to an explosion of Maoist, Trotskyist and Guevarist groups, which together with the Anarchists were at the left of the GCP. After 1976, another libertarian publisher appeared, "Eleytheros Typos" ("Free Press"), popularising Anarcho-communism, the Spanish Revolution, and dissident movements from around the world.
The movement strengthened in the late 1970s, when many people left the Communist Party and a host of Maoist and Trotskyist groups (who were strong in the mid-1970s) and found themselves on the side of autonomists and Anarchists. Rock music and hippie culture had a strong impact. The university occupation movement of 1979–1981 was largely instigated by Anarchist and leftist groups. Near the Polytechnic, the student neighborhood of Exarchia became a "free zone", where leftists, Anarchists, hippies, and others were in charge. In the riots of May 1976, masked Anarchists attacked the police and public buildings, fighting on the side of thousands of workers and students. That led to arrests and the first "anti-terror" legislation. By 1980, the government's "anti-terrorist" campaign and the orchestrated heroin epidemic had begun to take their toll. An attempt to unite groups from Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, Agrinio and Livadia in a Federation failed.
The first generation of Greek anarchists were disappointed, and the great majority of them left the movement gradually, when the first Socialist Party government was elected in 1981 and in alliance with the Communist Party attempted to end "the social conflicts" of the 1970s. Isolated from everywhere, the anarchist movement took a downturn. A new wave of young anarchists, more aggressive and violent than the first generation, emerged in the mid-1980s, influenced by the punk subculture
Between 1985–1986, almost daily demos and clashes between anarchists and the police took place in Athens. Α 15-year-old youth, Michalis Kaltezas was shot dead by the police during this period and his killing caused huge riots in Athens and Thessaloníki. The government's reaction to the occupation of the Chemistry Department of Athens University made the oppression against anarchists almost unbearable, but the anarchist movement survived, and managed to stage demonstrations with thousands of participants in Athens. The attack by an anarchist demonstration on the hotel "Caravel" hosting a far-right conference (among the participants was Jean-Marie Le Pen) was also a peak in the anarchist movement of the 1980s. In 1989 the Socialist Party was again in the opposition and the Communist Party in the (right-wing) government.
The 1980s generation faded slowly, and a new wave of anarchists appeared in the wake of the 1991 high school student uprising. The 1991 high school student movement was the most massive ever in Greece, involving about 1500 school occupations and demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people. The murder of leftist teacher Nikos Temponeras by thugs of the ruling right-wing New Democracy party caused an almost general insurgency in all main Greek towns, with a 25,000 strong demonstration in Patra where Temponeras was killed, which was followed by the burning of the police station and the Town Hall. The same day in Athens four people died in a fire which occurred during a massive demonstration. The civil unrest stopped only after the minister of Education resigned.
In 2002, the "Anti-authoritarian Movement" ("Antiexousiastiki Kinisi") was established on the general lines of Left Anarchism and direct action. It is active mainly in Athens, Saloniki, and a few more urban centers. In 2004, Anarchists opposed the staging of the Olympic Games in Athens because of the intensification of state control and repression. Since that time, many Anarchist posters and pamphlets appear in two or more languages: Greek and Albanian (and sometimes Cyrillic, Arabic, and Georgian), showing solidarity to "foreign" workers in Greece.
On 6 December 2008, 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, was shot dead by a policeman after a verbal exchange in the libertarian stronghold of Exarchia, Athens. Within an hour, anarchists, leftists, and sympathizers rioted and attacked banks, police vehicles and government offices in the area. The government's attempts for a cover-up and refusal to apologize brought thousands to the streets for daily clashes and demonstrations. The parliament building was besieged for weeks by angry crowds. Major violence erupted during one of the marches, with rioters attacking and setting fire to many public buildings, banks, and shops. Thousands of young people staged angry protests across Greece for a whole week, attacking police stations in every town. In almost every neighborhood of Athens and Piraeus, police stations, banks, and big businesses were firebombed. The "December Unrest", as it became known, gave a new impetus to the anarchists, who were at the forefront of the movement.
Anarchist groups organized and participated in protests against the measures implemented by the government to resolve 2010 Greek economic crisis that was precipitated by the 2010 Greek sovereign debt crisis. In April 2015,the authorities shutdown Indymedia's internet server at Athens Polytechnic, but activists forcibly reopened it a few days later.
17th of November and anarchists
17 November is now an official school holiday in Greece, celebrating the Athens Polytechnic Uprising of 1973 against the military junta. Massive demonstrations take place in the large urban centers in memory of the dead and almost every year riots occur. Anarchists are usually responsible for inciting these riots.
The first parliamentary elections after the fall of the military junta were planned to coincide with the first anniversary of the Polytechnic Uprising, so the demonstrations were to be postponed to 24 November. Many people were opposed to that (including leftist groups and the Communist Party). In the end, two demonstrations took place: one on the 15th and the other as planned on the 24th. On the 15th, a text was distributed to the people arriving at the demonstration, which read: "Comrades, salaried slaves, one year after the November Uprising the counter-revolution is in full swing. Comrades, the November Uprising made the owners and the aspiring owners of authority shake. Comrades, all the lackeys of state and capital ask us to be productive robots, passive spectators of our lives...", and it was signed by the "Anarchist Group of Extremists". The demonstration committee declared that their position was different from the text and asked the people present to isolate the Anarchists. On 23 May 1976, a general strike turned to violent clashes between left-wing workers and students and the police. For 12 hours all of central Athens was like a battlefield. A woman was killed when a police tank ran over her. Anarchists and others fought over barricades near the Polytechnic. On 17 November 1976, the first organized Anarchist bloc took part in the demonstrations.
In November 1978, the rally was taking place in the Polytechnic. The government had forbidden the customary march to the US embassy. The police had a very strong presence, and before the march started, minor conflicts occurred. The National Student's Union of Greece declared that the demonstration was to be canceled due to the large police force. Despite that, people went on marching and clashed with police.
In November 1980, the atmosphere was very charged due to the killing of Assistant Commander of police's Riot Squad (MAT) by the Marxist group Revolutionary Organization 17 November. The march to the US embassy wasn't allowed to take place, but a demonstration took place on the 16th and Anarchists took part. When the leftist/Anarchist bloc reached Syntagma Square and attempted to march towards the US embassy, the police attacked with tear gas and smoke bombs. The demonstrators retreated, breaking windows of banks, shops and public buildings, putting up barricades and lighting fires. A small group broke into a bank and tried to break open the safe, with the intention of taking the money out and burning it in the street. The safe didn't budge. Other people were looting the jewellery and liquor stores. The police attacked back. After hours of street fighting, the result was several people injured and two dead, I. Koumis and S. Kanelopoulou. The next day another demonstration took place. In November 1982, Anarchists burned Greek flags and the wreaths laid at the memorial of the Polytechnic Uprising by politicians. Some clashes occurred.
On 16 November 1983, the office of Communist Party's mouthpiece Rizospastis was attacked and damaged by Anarchists, in solidarity with the Polish workers who were revolting against Stalinism. After the demonstration on the 17th, the offices of the Technical Chamber of Greece were attacked.
On 17 November 1984, a concert "against state repression" was planned but was prohibited at the last moment by the Polytechnic's rector. Massive riots started outside the Polytechnic. A text that was published after the event read: "This gave food to the rags and those who think that the university is their kingdom. It's up to us if they will taste this food for a lifetime and burp happily or if they will throw it up and then crawl in their dirty un-orgasmic Party offices."
In November 1985, clashes with the police could be witnessed from the beginning, something which could be explained by the following events: Few Anarchists took part in this year's demonstration but when it ended, they broke into the offices of South Africa Airlines, as a protest against apartheid. The clashes continued around Exarchia Square and a 15-year-old, Michalis Kaltezas, was shot dead by a policeman. The Anarchists occupied the Polytechnic and the clashes continued until the police broke in. The same day the school was re-squatted and Stournari street was blocked. Demonstrations and further clashes occurred with the police but in the night everything stopped. Leftists criticized the clashes and said that if the Anarchists didn't riot more people would demonstrate for the death of M. Kaltezas.
Probably the most massive Anarchist demonstration for 17 November occurred in 1986.
In 1987, when government officials tried to place wreaths at the memorial site of the Polytechnic, clashes started which escalated into a riot that lasted three days. Clashes also occurred outside of the U.S. embassy.
The Anarchist block of 1989 was probably the smallest for a decade and after an attack by the police during the march it disbanded after some small clashes.
In November 1990, Anarchists gathered at the rear of the customary demonstration and attacked banks and public buildings. Minor clashes with the police occurred as well.
At midday, on 16 November 1992, the Ministry of Labor was attacked with firebombs and in the evening a solidarity demonstration to the jailed Anarchists N. Maziotis, N. Skiftoulis, K. Mazokopos and B. Tsouris who were on hunger strike took place. It ended in clashes with the police around the Polytechnic. On the 17th the offices of the New Democracy Party and two bus ticket booths were burned down during clashes. 26 people were arrested.
In 1994, during 15, 16 and 17 November, Anarchists handed out leaflets, made banners for the occasion, and sprayed their slogans on the walls of the Polytechnic. On the 16th, around 30 people attacked a police bus on Kanigos Square and two luxury cars parked outside the General Accountant's Building with firebombs. On the 17th, while the officials were giving their speeches for the "holiday", a group attacked riot police stationed outside the Polytechnic with firebombs, rocks, and flares. Later that evening a van from TV station SKAI was destroyed.
Notable Greek anarchists
- Page 412, "History of late and modern Greece- Volume A'" Tasos Bournas. Kastaniotis ,1997 Athens ISBN 960-600-524-0
- History of the Greek Workers Movement by Yannis Kordatos
- The History of the Greek Workers Movement by Yannis Kordatos.
- Kitis, E. Dimitris (2015). "The anti-authoritarian chóros: A space for youth socialization and radicalization in Greece (1974-2010)". Journal for the Study of Radicalism. MSU Press. 9 (1): 1–36. ISSN 1930-1189. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
Bibliography and further reading
- Revolt and Crisis in Greece. AK Press & Occupied London (2011).
- A brief history of anarchism in Greece. Anarchist Gallery (1986).
- Early Days of Greek Anarchism: The Democratic Club of Patras & Social Radicalism in Greece Edited and translated by Paul Pomonis. ISBN 1-873605-68-4
- Stergios Katsaros-I the provocateur, the terrorist. The charm of violence, S. Katsaros . Mayri Lista (1999). ISBN 960-8044-02-2
- The Boatmen of Thesalloniki. The Bulgarian anarchist group and the bomb attacks of 1903, G. Megas. Troxalia, 1994 ISBN 960-7022-47-5
- Yannis Kordatos, Great History of Greece, Athens, 20th Century Publishing
- The History of the Greek Workers Movement by Y. Kordatos. Athens, Mpoukomanis Publications (1972)
- The Greek Speaking Anarchist and Revolutionary Movement (1830–1940) Writings for a History, James Sotros. No God-No Masters, December 2004
- The Strike of Serifos, K. Speras. Bibliopelagos (2001) ISBN 960-7280-14-8.
Magazines and newspapers
- Solidarity - monthly anarchist newspaper - issues n.1 (15/11/1983)
- The Arena - monthly anarchist newspaper issue n. 1 (?/11/1984)
- Test - anti-authoritarian newspaper issue n. 8 (14/11/1986)
- Against - monthly anarchist newsletter issues n. 1, 2, 6 (1988–1990)
- Riot - anarchist newspaper - issues n. 3, 9, 13, 14, 18, 21, 24, 28
- Anarchist bulletin - Special edition November 2005
- [Diadromi Eleftherias - Route for Freedom - Panhellenic Monthly Anarchist Newspaper since March 2002 https://web.archive.org/web/20080120145931/http://www.anarchy.gr:80/]