In Greece, as the state collapses, the neighborhoods organize – An interview with a member of the Athenian assembly movement

syneleysi1 has translated (in December 2014) an interview with a participant the Greek assembly movement first published in 2013, providing details concerning the methods employed by the movement and the obstacles that it has encountered since its rise in 2008. (Here is the original in Spanish, published in the Spanish journal, Argelaga, No. 5, Fall 2014). Originally has been published in French, under the title, “L’etat s’effondre, les quartiers s’organisent”. Retour sur le mouvement des assemblées de quartier. La revue Z, No. 7, 2013. Dossier Grèce: Thessalonique dans la dépression européenne. Bricolages quotidiens et résistances insolvables.

In Greece, as the State Collapses, the Neighborhoods Organize – An Interview with a Member of the Assembly Movement

[Introductory note added by the editors of Argelaga: An interview conducted for issue no. 7 [2013] of the French journal, Z, which perfectly illustrates the process of autonomous organization of the population in the face of the decomposition and collapse of the State apparatus. The example is valid for any other European country; the difference is only one of degree. Let us recapitulate some of the difficulties that stand in the way of autonomy: the inertia of a life subject to the commodity, the habit of appealing to the State for help, egoism, the rise of fascism, police repression, weariness in the face of constant sacrifices, etc. A life of freedom is not an easy road, but a life of slavery is not easy, either.]

Where did the neighborhood assembly movement originate?

I must point out that the movement is quite varied, that it has passed through various stages and for that reason it can be described in a thousand different ways. The idea of neighborhood assemblies spread massively after December 2008. The death of Alexis and the weeks of revolt, confrontations and occupations that followed, as well as the acid attack on the transit worker, Konstantina Kuneva, were the events that really shook society. The broad characteristics of that revolt are, on the one hand, the absence of any demands or petitions for reforms and, on the other hand, the aspect of decentralization in all the neighborhoods of Athens and, immediately thereafter, in the whole country. After December 2008, the dynamic of the actions and confrontations in the city centers reached its limit and then shifted to the neighborhoods. With the assemblies, the idea at first consisted in obtaining places for meetings, without having anything particular in mind, except the will to engage in collective inquiry. It was a way to prolong the relations that had been created during the revolt. Many of the assemblies were formed at that time, but only four of them continued to function continuously. The others reappeared when the social movement broke out again, as is taking place today or as happened in 2011, when there were approximately forty assemblies in Athens.

Can you tell us about the assembly in your neighborhood?

The assembly of Vyronas, Kaisariani, Pangrati (VKP) was formed in neighborhoods that have a long history of popular revolt: one of them was the old red neighborhood during the Resistance, the neighborhood that the Nazis were never able to conquer. This tradition was interrupted with the passage of the years as a result of the bourgeoisification of the population, but also because the State built a barracks there for armed police. Today these three neighborhoods have a heterogeneous population, but in general they are rather well-off districts. There were assemblies in VKP before 2008, created amidst struggles over public space. The first one was formed to oppose the project to construct a theater in the middle of a park. Besides the paving and cement this implied—Athens is one of the cities in Europe with the fewest green spaces—the inhabitants knew that the theater would be rented to private companies that would raise the price of tickets through the roof. Thanks to this mobilization, the project was cancelled and the assembly continued to exist, and even still exists today, organizing activities for children, basketball tournaments and a free café in the park on the first Sunday of each month. It is also very active in participating in the life of the neighborhood, distributing militant propaganda in the schools, organizing open festivals with the immigrants and also engaging in solidarity actions with people who were arrested in the demonstrations during the general strikes. And there was another struggle that attracted a lot of people: the opposition to the tunnel and highway overpass project that was slated to destroy part of the Hymettus mountain, one of the last green spaces in the city, located to the east of the city center. There were many demonstrations in the vicinity of the mountain, blockades of the highway bypasses, and actions at the toll booths, which caused the project to be abandoned. In VKP the people had these experiences as a starting point. Later, during the revolts of December 2008, they occupied a municipal youth center for a few days and rapidly convoked the assembly. After the weekly assemblies in the three neighborhoods, the people decided to rent a place to meet. At this time about thirty persons participate in the assemblies, a figure that has remained more or less stable to this day.

What kind of actions are you organizing?

We are involved in two types of action: on the one hand, we are defending ourselves against the attacks of the system and, on the other hand, we are elaborating projects and ways of life that seem desirable to us. For example, in 2010 there was an initial attempt to coordinate with other assemblies and libertarian collectives that participated in the struggles in their neighborhoods against the fare increases in public transport. We arranged for each assembly to simultaneously organize demonstrations in the subway and bus stations. Pamphlets were distributed, the ticket machines were vandalized, and we proposed self-reductions in order to question the discourse of the authorities, which consisted in saying that public transport was just another commodity that had to be profitable. We made an attempt to link up with the workers in public transport, but this was difficult. The people from Golden Dawn—the Greek neo-Nazi party—have a lot of influence among the bus drivers trade union. Later, we participated in all the general strikes since 2010, which were severely repressed. During the course of one of these strikes, the pigs attacked the march of the neighborhood assemblies, sending one person to the hospital in a coma, who almost died, and others were seriously injured. These experiences brought us together and strengthened our determination. We blockaded the supermarkets and shopping centers of the neighborhood in order to turn the strike into a real strike, so that no one would be able to consume. We also attempted to encircle the Greek Parliament when the deputies were voting on the second round of austerity measures. The neighborhood assemblies played an important role in this demonstration. We also tried to maintain a permanent presence in the neighborhood, organizing demonstrations and a collective kitchen and cultivating an occupied garden for the purpose of attaining food self-sufficiency. We also hold a barter market once a month in different squares. We also have a meeting hall with a library that is open to the neighborhood, in which we organize various activities, debates and talks.

All these actions are undertaken for the purpose of breaking with the individualism and the pessimism that have seized Greece with the onset of the crisis, to fight against the social cannibalism that the State is indirectly promoting as a solution to the crisis. By way of these practices, we are attempting to encourage the development of relations based on equality and solidarity. The neighborhood is a very fertile space for this, all the more so insofar as in Athens the city districts are still socially quite mixed, which allows us to establish unexpected relations.

How do you propose to deal with the problem of food?

We had to deal with this problem ever since we opened the collective kitchens. We made contact with the other assemblies that had similar problems and, during that time, a large area in an adjacent neighborhood was occupied: a villa with cultivable land. We decided to convoke a new assembly entirely dedicated to this question. This same assembly is now responsible for cultivating the land for the purpose of supplying the collective kitchens of the four neighborhoods that are cooperating on this project. We are still a long way from being self-sufficient with regard to food, but it is a first step. Having said this, the garden is being threatened with eviction. Expulsions from the occupied spaces, such as, for example, at Villa Amalias and Skaramagas, have multiplied in Athens since the beginning of 2013.

We have heard a lot about the polarization of Greek society. Have you noticed this in your assembly?

Certain people have spoken at the assembly to express their view that there are too many immigrants in the neighborhoods and that something must be done about this. This is a risk we have to take when participating in open movements. Sometimes there are even outbursts of sexism during actions. The only way to fight against this is by talking to people. Usually, they understand, and if not, they go away. Once, however, at a neighborhood assembly convened to oppose the construction of cell phone towers, two fascists showed up without saying that they belonged to Golden Dawn. But we knew about them because in a small neighborhood everyone knows everything. The only thing we could do was to tell them that they were not welcome.

Do you have a lot of run-ins with Golden Dawn?

Since they obtained seats in Parliament, and thanks to the support they have received as a result, Golden Dawn has opened offices throughout Greece. Whenever they open a new office, protests and demonstrations are held that often result in confrontations with the police. Without police protection, the fascists would not be able to maintain a presence in the neighborhoods. Fortunately, at least for now, they only have two really active neighborhood committees in Athens. In some working class neighborhoods such as those in western Athens, near the Piraeus, they have a certain amount of influence. In those districts, however, the neighborhood assemblies openly confront them. In our neighborhood there is neither a fascist presence nor any immigrant hunting, but this is due, in part, to our presence and constant vigilance. In my opinion, the antifascist struggle consists more in building our own structures and the kind of world we want—which is basically antifascist in essence—than in denouncing them with speeches.

You mentioned the first wave of assemblies after December 2008. What other initiatives for common action have taken place in the neighborhoods?

In May 2011, following in the footsteps of the movement of the indignados and the occupation of Syntagma Square, there was a second wave of assemblies in Athens. In our neighborhood, militants from one part of the radical left called for the creation of another assembly in which we also participated. Soon, however, major differences arose among us. If you want to create a space for dialogue with people who act in a paternalistic and condescending way, like leaders, you will necessarily have conflicts. During this period the assemblies were inundated with demands such as a proposal to nationalize the Bank of Greece. People who wanted an open debate soon lost interest and this second wave did not last very long. The assemblies controlled by the leftists could not, or did not want to, propose concrete demands concerning health, education or food security. In short, they did not try to promote another way of life, beyond the capitalist system which is collapsing all around us. Do we need to nationalize the Bank? This is not the correct question, in my view. A third wave of assemblies took place when the State implemented a special extra tax on everyone’s electricity bills: “those who do not pay the tax, will have their electricity cut off”. The tax and the attempts to fight against it have accentuated the differences between the assemblies. Some of them were composed of people who were concerned about having their electricity cut off and simply asked the more politically active participants to solve the problem for them. Some accepted this role, although this implied the abandonment of horizontal organization in favor of the logic of delegation.

Our assembly also issued an appeal to organize around the issue of these special taxes. It is very dynamic and is actually quite radical: our neighborhoods do not have to undergo electricity cut-offs, whether because of non-payment of the tax or for any other reason. For us, electricity is a vital good.

The assembly went to the tax offices and forced the company that was contracted to implement the electricity cut-offs to leave the neighborhood. Later, we went to the local headquarters of the electricity company to cut off its electricity. Today, we have established neighborhood patrols to prevent the technicians from the electric company from cutting off our electricity. At the present time, along with the antifascist struggle, this is the main fight that the assemblies are waging.

Can you tell us about the movements that have influenced you?

The assembly movement owes a great deal to what took place in Argentina. Although there is no direct connection, the influence is real. During the first general strikes, we were inspired by the Argentinian experience, and later also by the Tunisian and Egyptian events. Another important influence was the self-reduction movements in Italy during the seventies: groups organized to not pay rents, electric bills or transport fares. In our assembly, particularly, many people were inspired by the Zapatista struggle in Mexico and its quest for autonomy. We participate in solidarity actions with these struggles in our neighborhood.

One factor that all these different sources of inspiration have in common, which is present in the assemblies, is the will to organize horizontally, without political parties: although there are party militants in the assemblies, they only participate in the assemblies as individuals, without labels. The political foundations of the assemblies are autonomy and the will to create structures outside capitalism, based on sharing and solidarity. In our assembly, there are basic positions that have been arrived at after long discussions. We are always seeking a consensus in order to find a way to move forward together.

In Greece, there is much less belief in institutions, in the idea of the social contract and representation, than in France. It is fertile ground both for anti-authoritarian ideas as well as for hyper-authoritarian ideas. Here, it is much easier than it is in France to associate on common bases with people from diverse political backgrounds. On the other hand, however, the danger of becoming a closed group also exists: finding a way to keep the assemblies open to recent arrivals is a never-ending task.

What is your overall assessment of the four years of existence of your assembly? And what is your assessment of the neighborhood assemblies, generally speaking?

It’s hard to say. After the revolt of 2008-2009 we were continuously trying to keep abreast of what was happening. What the neighborhood assemblies have once again contributed, as a possibility, was precisely not to restrict our demands to things that were taken away from us and instead to move towards the world we want to create. But the obstacles are numerous and the repression suffered by the political militants, the rise of Golden Dawn, the explosion of unemployment and the constant violence against immigrants prevent us from devoting ourselves to a program as if nothing else was happening.

One of the weak points of the movement is the fact that the moments of resurgence have never obtained any concrete results. The general assembly of the neighborhood assemblies was one of those moments. In November 2011 all the existing assemblies convened in one assembly: forty in Athens, with four hundred representatives and a good dynamic. But it quickly ran out of steam. It obtained no concrete victories and this was a source of discouragement, creating a feeling of defeat that is very acute at the present time. This feeling is also in part caused by the fact that the neighborhood assemblies do not appear to be viable solutions for the organization of everyday life.

The will to create structures based on self-organization and autonomy poses numerous questions: how can they be built while simultaneously going beyond the logic of charity and philanthropy? How can we create our own autonomy in an environment in which everything has been stolen, where we cannot produce anything for ourselves, especially in the urban setting? What do we have to do to get people to really participate? When we organize collective kitchens or barter markets, we have to constantly explain that they are not ordinary distribution services. I do not think there is a really convincing answer to these problems, we have to be patient. The way I see it, in the very large assemblies people are inclined to delegate tasks to others and to accept the representation of a small group, whereas when there are more personal relations and more contacts, there is correspondingly greater equality in participation. It is a question of relations. There are not many people who think that we can live without anyone’s help, without a basis of consensus and dialogue, and that we can reclaim our lives on an individual basis.

I get the impression, however, that, as the State and the economic system decline and fall, more “grey zones” will arise and other modes of organization and relations will become possible. The role of the assemblies will be crucial in this. Not only do we have to keep the home fires burning, but we also have to make the fire last longer. New structures appear in Greece with each passing month. From this perspective, the movement is on the right path.



Student protests and clashes in Greece

By Markos Vogiatzoglou, via: Dinamo

In Greece schools are occupied since one week, and today the rector of Athens University locked the university with riot police that attacked the students demostration.

It’s been sometime since we last heard from the Greek movement. But, thanks to the Greek government and its riot police, today became a day of large student demonstrations, clashes with the cops, injuries and rising tension. First, let’s see what happened. Early in the morning, the Athens Law School students arrived at their University in order to apply their Assembly decision, which included a symbolic occupation of their University until the 17th of November, commemoration day of the 1973 student revolt against the military dictatorship.

The problem was that the school was already occupied by the riot police. The Athenian Universities’ rectors had decided to apply a peculiar “lock out” of the students and employees, supposedly for “security reasons”. The government gave a helping hand by sending hundreds of cops, in riot gear, to apply the decision. The cops assaulted the students, seriously injuring a couple of them and dispersing the rest. The news circulated, public outrage was expressed for the police blockades and violence, hundreds of students demonstrated in the center of Athens during lunchtime, and another protest, involving thousands, is now going around the Universities, confronting a total police blockade of the city center.

A question I guess the Italian reader would put is why this mess, and why now? November is the traditional month of student mobilization in Greece. Yet, in the last years, seldom –if ever- did the protests go beyond the symbolic level, as the movement was too preoccupied with the country’s current problems to seriously devote itself in commemorations.This school year (anno scolastico) though, started with incredible problems for both schools and universities, due to underfunding and lack of teaching and administrative personnel. Hundreds of schools were occupied in the previous weeks and soon enough the universities joined the struggle.

The mobilization, if we want to be sincere, seemed quite weak until now. In a collapsed country, where everyone is waiting for the government to collapse as well and for the elections that will bring the left-wing SYRIZA to power, some hundreds of occupied schools do not make a real difference. It is also noteworthy that the student population of Greece, which was traditionally at the avant-garde of the movements and had led all major mobilizations since the 1990s and up to 2008, was largely absent from the large anti-austerity protests of 2010-2012.

But, as it seems, our surrealist government is doing its best to reverse the situation. As I am concluding these lines, the student protest arrived at the Polytechnic University of Athens in Exarchia (where it all started back in 1973), the students forced open the doors and entered with the purpose of making yet another Assembly. The police immediately attacked. Eye-witnesses report several injuries among protesters; hundreds are barricaded inside the Polytechnic. The burning smell of tear gas is spreading, once again, in Athens.

Laissez faire, security, and liberalism: revisiting December 2008


By Akis Gavriilidis, Via: Nomadic University
(This text was initially written to serve as an introductory presentation to a conference to take place in Athens, May 2014, and was first published at the organisers’ site Crisis-Scape)

In December 2008, Athens became world news for the first time in recent years, for a reason that was soon overshadowed by the financial and debt crisis that came immediately after. I think it would be useful to revisit this event now, when it is not so loaded any more in terms of public attention and affect.

This reason was a totally unpredicted, contingent event: the pointless murder of a youngster by a policeman, which sparked a wave of massive and angry protests for several days in Athens –including in neighbourhoods where no demonstrations had ever taken place in living memory- as well as in all major Greek cities, and several minor ones. These consisted in mass rallies, mainly by equally young people with no previous experience in social protest, occupation of public buildings, “sieges” of police stations, but also considerable damage on private property and some looting of shops by the demonstrators and/ or others. The difficulty to tell a demonstrator from an “other” was precisely an important part of the whole picture, as no political or other body or organisation had made any official call for these protests. But this does not mean they were “spontaneous” in the usually pejorative sense that this term has in the left-wing tradition; many of these actions displayed a high degree of efficiency, accurate coordination, and organisational skills. But they were prepared, and performed, by a subject-non subject; a subject that did not pre-exist, it came to being through this very action, only to dissipate and vanish afterwards. This dissipation was not the mark of a lack or a failure, but rather formed a constitutive part of the mobilisations from their inception. This punctual and circumstantial existence was their only possible form of existence.

What I would like to focus on, though, is a specific aspect concerning the response –or lack of it- by the Greek state to these events.

In the beginning, the state-controlled (or -affiliated) mass media tried to conceal, or misrepresent/ downplay, the event. Soon, as this became impossible due to the circulation of the news through the social media, government officials, including the Public Order minister and then the Prime Minister Karamanlis, tried to appease protests by showing their “understanding” and promising that the perpetrators would be arrested and justice would be administered. (Which, incidentally, was indeed the case eventually: the killer was condemned to life imprisonment, two years later). Almost most importantly, the Chairman of the Pireaus Chamber of Commerce, when asked by a journalist what he was thinking about the lootings and whether these would have a catastrophic impact on the market, replied that “human life is more important than commercial goods”.

Of course, what contributed to such magnanimous stance was possibly the tactics that the Karamanlis government opted for: they instructed the police not to use excessive force or try to totally clampdown the protests, or even prevent lootings, and they subsequently compensated shop holders with state budget funds for all the damages they had suffered.

This is a typical liberal tactics. Possibly, it is a liberal-Western “reading” of a typical Eastern and, more particularly, Chinese idea. It is useful to remember here that François Quesnay, the leading figure of the Physiocrats, was also called “the Confucius of Europe” in his time.

“Laissez-faire” [Let people do], in the first place, was not specifically a motto in favour of free market or private entrepreneurship as opposed to the state’s economic activity, but concerned in general the way the state should react to crises in order to ensure security.

In this respect, we could refer to some remarks on this notion by Giorgio Agamben (who explicitly invokes Foucault’s analyses on the birth of liberalism).

if we take the concept of security, which is so much talked about today and which is almost the slogan of Western governments, this is a term derived from the concept of state of exception: security is “public salvation”. But here, Michel Foucault showed very nicely which is the origin of this concept: he showed in his lectures that security as a technique of governance was introduced by the physiocrats on the eve of the French Revolution. What was the problem of the time?It was famines; how to avoid the occurrence of famine. Until then, people had never thought in this way; they collected cereal beforehand, etc. The physiocrats had this perhaps ingenious idea: we will no longer seek to avoid famines. We will let them happen, but then we will be ready to govern them, to orient, to ensure they go towards a right direction.

The basic idea [of Western governments] is rather “we will let disasters, riots, happen, or even we will help them happen, because this will allow us to intervene and govern them towards the right direction”. For example, American politics for twenty years is clearly this: it never prevents the appearance of disorder, destruction, instead it helps to produce them, but afterwards tries to benefit from them in order to direct them towards “security”.

We need to bear this in mind: governments today do not aim at maintaining order, but at managing disorder. (Giorgio Agamben, interview –in French- to the Greek TV channel ET3; my translation)

In this sense, the Greek state reacted to this contingent and unpredictable crisis by first letting people do, and subsequently trying to turn their doing in its favour, to capitalise on the movement and the exodus of people.

I think it would be useful to ask oneself whether this is a general pattern of the action of states during the last decades, and even earlier, and, if this is the case, to what extent this leads us to reconsider the relationship between the political and the economic.

According to a conventional view, shared or used even by some of its proponents, neoliberalism consists in “less state” (it being usually understood mainly as “less state intervention in the economy”). This, in turn, gave rise to a whole series of criticisms that try to reveal the hypocrisy of neoliberalism, in so far as it limits itself to the “economy” and does not extend this “reduction” of the state to the police and the repressive apparatuses as well.

The example of the Greek December 2008 does not seem to confirm this simplistic dichotomy.

The tactics of the Greek state as regards shop lootings, described above, does not exactly consist in “less state”. The state is not a substance, whose presence can be increased or decreased at will. It is a relationship, an action upon actions. Which means it can occasionally consist in a withdrawal, and/ or a redeployment of these forces; a de-territorialisation and reterritorialisation. But, in this example, both the “political” and the “economic” are present in each of the two spaces (the one from which state forces withdrew from, and the one they moved to). Karamanlis did not abandon an “economic” space in order to move to a “repressive” one (or vice versa); he undertook certain actions in view of a specific assemblage, a situation combining elements of both “politics” and “economy” –and, of course, language, communication, and affect, which are elements crucial for both of these domains. He did not only make a decision settling a private debt, but also a gesture admitting the existence of a public one. By compensating merchants for damages that it did not (directly/ visibly) induced, the Greek state was making an oblique statement that it recognized its responsibility for the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos, giving a “coded message” to appease protesters, and, at the same time, with the same move, was trying to use the force and the action of the protesters, and the fear it could create to the “forces of the market”, in order to “re-launch the economy”, to reassure the small-and-medium enterprise holders that it cares about them and won’t let them down.

In addition to the above, it would be also useful to reflect on the action –or lack of it- from the part of the people themselves on the basis of this example.

In the leftwing-antiauthoritarian tradition, (and in Greece even more so), the fact that power is able to manage the people’s affect, communication, movement, and exodus, was always a source of embarrassment, deep concern, even despair; and then, at a second level, a source of mutual accusations and contests between radical political groups on who is the most radical. Any capture of a popular mobilisation by capital and state is universally read as evidence that this mobilisation was “not the real thing”; it was insufficient, not well prepared, with a low level of revolutionary theory or organisation, its leaders were petty-bourgeois, if not outright traitors who sold off, so we have to draw our lessons and next time try to do better.

This is the horror of “co-optation”, for which in Greek anti-establishment parlance we use the much abhorred term “ενσωμάτωση”, (literally “incorporation”), which marks the irrevocable defeat and extinction of any contestation and any anti-systemicity, using the metaphor of recipients where bodies are enclosed successfully in their totality without any traces, without rests.

Such accusations were indeed voiced by certain groups from the left, but even from conservative mainstream journalists and commentators, against the December protests, and were repeated even more strongly for the case of the “Aganaktismenoi” [The Indignant Ones] protesting at Syndagma square a couple of years later, and also for the Occupy movement, the Arab springs, etc. Either with disappointment or with malignant irony, modernists were very eloquent in enumerating the lacks of such primitive, naïve and irrational manifestations of the multitude which had no clear political goals and no hierarchy of priorities or set of concrete demands.

The point I want to suggest is that this apparently anecdotal, fragmentary, non-strategic character of the movements of the multitude is not an accidental lack or an imperfection that could or should be “corrected”. It is here to stay; it probably was always here. There will always be something lacking, and there will never be a perfectly organised, comprehensive action of the masses that will take hold of the state and definitely redress all its wrongdoings.

Approaching the movement of people as de-territorialisation could be a useful antidote to the paralysing despair and low self-esteem caused by the fear of “ensomàtosi”. Precisely this perceived lack is at the same time the reason why “incorporation” is never perfect: in the same way, there is always something left out of the recipient, something exceeding, or missing, or both; and this discrepancy is what makes new actions possible.

A message for unity and friendship: nothing to divide us anymore…

Exarcheia, Athens: the photo of Berkin Elvan in the hot-spot where Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead by police fire-arms

The article in Greek (link) in Turkish (link)

The news of the death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan after after 269 days in a coma due to head injury in the demonstrations for park Gezi last June in Istanbul, came not as a surprise to us. This undeniably remind us of the murder of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Athens five years ago, which led to the December uprising. Today his image appears on placards next to that of Berkin.

Just as Greece, Spain, Portugal and the rest of Europe, Turkey is similarly experiencing the consequences of state brutality accompanied with large scale attacks on democratic freedoms. It is evident that the state and all the mechanisms of repression are gradually becoming more authoritarian across the globe as political power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a minority, resulting at the same time in the dramatic expansion of brutality, exclusion, inequality and injustice. The arbitrariness of the oligarchic governments against our fundamental rights is not anymore an illusion or a fantasy but an obvious reality. Peaceful demonstrations are constantly attacked by heavily armed police forces; Greece and Turkey are only two examples, as we have witnessed brutal repression in Spain, Britain, Brazil. Almost all across the world where people are fighting aiming to maintain their hard-earned freedoms, the current institutions that exercise arbitrary power respond with force and coercion. At the same time, the world of media remains largely indifferent, dismissive or one-sided. Therefore:

  • the moment where we have to understand that the situation is solely in our hands and that the grassroots struggle of ordinary citizens must emerge, has arrived. How nonetheless can we keep organizing towards a meaningful and vital political change? How can we genuinely transform the political landscape? No substantial transformation could take place without acknowledging the positive impacts of international solidarity in such critical moments, without overcoming national barriers and spread the message of friendship and brotherhood.
  • Today a great percentage of Greeks who suffer a similar attack feel overwhelmingly compelled to express their compassion, calling at the same time for the unconditional end of all historical and cultural cleavages. Whilst the barricades in Taksim and in the major cities of Turkey are emerging again, whilst hundreds of thousands of young men and women are filling the streets expressing their indignation, the vast majority of democratic Greek citizens are morally indebted to send the message of unity. The powerful images of Berkin and Grigoropoulos placed close to one another remind us this oppression and suffering are not caused by national differences. On the contrary it derives from the current institutionalized power-relations, designed to perpetuate privilege, bribery, elitism and all kinds of injustices, elements we can achieve to eliminate only through unity of struggle.

It is undeniable that hysterical nationalistic populism and geopolitical rivalry between us has fed hatred and tensions for centuries. We know that speculative arms dealers motivated by self-interest will continue to cultivate and breed hatred between the two peoples (Turks and Greeks) that have so much in common. We acknowledge that demagogues, hate preachers, historians of parody and propagandists have for years attempted to convince us we are nothing but enemies, having nothing in common except the sword. That we should be always available to give our lives in the “upcoming war against our bad neighbours” looking for the revival of past glories. Our judgement is not driven anymore by friendliness but by ignorance. Hatred against each other has conquered our minds. It is time, nonetheless, for all democratic citizens of both countries who reject every form of hubristic nationalism or religious isolationism to combat these challenges. All of us who aim to eliminate the use of structural violence and instead create autonomous and democratic societies need to go down on the offensive and thoroughly expose the vulgarity of national populistic ideologies in such a critical moment where the ordinary citizen – either Turkish or Greek – experiences the same intimidation, impoverishment and humiliation.

In order to counter this bleak situation we must engage in collective action, through a joint internationalist revolutionary network. It’s time to hold decisive actions together. In the squares and streets real democracy, human creation, and communication may be reborn.

Solidarity brochure about the persecuted anarchists of the Velvento case


A chronological presentation of the case

On Friday February 1, 2013, a double robbery took place at the local branch of the Agricultural Bank of Greece and the Hellenic Post office in Velvento, Kozani, Greece. Following a mass police mobilization in the whole area, one person was detained in the surroundings of Ptolemaida, and three more were arrested later on during a police chase operation.

From the outset of their arrest the four detainees – G. Mihailidis, D. Politis, N. Romanos and A.D Βourzoukos – declared themselves to be anarchists. The comrades were forced to stop a passing vehicle in their attempt to escape during the police chase. They avoided armed confrontation with their pursuers so as not to jeopardise the driver’s life.