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The conditions have changed, but the struggle is still the same: Unite against fascism impunity!

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by Marta Rodriguez on November 2012 via: Take The Square

In the summer of 1977, the newly democratic Spanish government passed the Law 46/1977, granting thousands of political prisoners amnesty for the crimes of which they were imprisoned. Whilst this law granted them their freedom to resume their lives under the newly democratic nation of Spain, it did not bring them any closer to justice.

Opposition to Europe’s longest reigning fascist government had been met with an iron fist. Those lucky enough to escape the fate of assassination, disappearance or execution were faced with inhumane prison conditions. Inadequate food, beatings and various forms of torture were a daily reality. Many of those imprisoned were guilty of crimes that were little more than daring to print subversive literature, organizing demonstrations against the execution of political prisoners, or workplace unionizing.

Thirty-seven years later, there has not been a single Spanish investigation to hold those responsible for state crimes to account. The reasoning behind this is a simple one: Due to Law 46-1977 the perpetrators of State crimes were also granted immunity and free to carry on with their duties in this newly democratic state. Some of the same people implicated in cases of murder and torture continued to, and in some cases still to this day, occupy places in the state apparatus. The Police, Military, Prison services and judicial system are all implicated, with later including the Supreme Judiciary Power, whose membership includes those with explicit links to the dictatorship and its subsequent crimes.

This simple law that states has consequently produced a political culture that is both incapable and unwilling to face neither its past nor recognize the present. At the very foundation of this modern democratic nation lies criminality and impunity. No society can survive the ignorance of its own history without inviting the repetition of its past mistakes. This is not to say that various sections of the Spanish society are not trying to rectify the past, however they face an uphill battle. Within the Spanish legal system, attempts to investigate the Francoist Regime for its crimes during both the civil war and its subsequent 36 year reign are unlawful. The most notable recent example saw the Judge Baltasar Garzón, banned from the legal profession for investigating these crimes. However, an old movement is reviving.

With the aim of fighting for the practice of human rights, freedoms and accountability that have not yet recovered from the losses sustained as a result of the fascist dictatorship, a group of former political prisoners “La Comuna Presxs del Franquismo” was created. They are amongst the last victims from this period of history still alive. It is crucial we hold accountability of the perpetrators of these crimes now that still their last victims can give names, places and revive the memories of these atrocities. Abandoned by the Spanish justice system, La Comuna has focused on both direct action and the utilization of international law to question the legitimacy and legality of state and its upholding of Law 46/1977 in order to unmask this veiled period of history to ensure its lessons remain in our collective memory.

Where there should be a clear unity in the will to account for the past, there is a division in opinion when it comes to issues such as the exhumation of mass graves, prosecuting those accountable or the removal of names of public places that refer to Franco. This division in the public sphere and the silencing of pleas for justice from the side of the State, unveils an immense wall of impunity that has been untouchable for more than 30 years of suppose “democracy” in my country.

Whilst the current financial crisis has seen the Spanish government amending the constitution to appease those in positions of financial power, it is still proven inept to amend a single law that would see those responsible for crimes against humanity brought to justice and offer their victims or their families some sense of closure. In the words of a former prisoner who dared to dream of an accountable society: “The conditions have changed, but the struggle is still the same.”

AntifAlice in Monsterland

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’ [1]

Racism, xenophobia and fascist obsessions appeared as trends in Greek society when the first wave of immigrants entered the country in the early 90’s. But given the exploitation of immigrants from almost all parts of Greek society and of any profit the exploiters gained in a time of artificial economic prosperity, these trends were, in a manner, dormant. It makes sense: When they harvest your olives and fruits, when they work in construction and the Olympic Games projects, when they clean your toilets and help your annoying, senile mother-in-law defecate, when they spread their legs in brothels, etc., and they do all this with no complaints, with no insurance, for very little pay and on top of it, they thank you; then you, the successful Greek lower/middle/upper-class bourgeois, can feel like the masters in Uncle Tom’s cabin (smiling masters, who understand and sympathize with the slaves…)

Greek capitalism failed; it was always irrational even from a capitalist perspective, meaning that, apart from brutal and anti-societal, it was and remains both counterproductive (being innately obsessed with hoarding profit, rather than making investments), wry, mafia-like and under intractable state protection to the extent that it constitutes the very definition of political entanglement. It naturally led to the advent of poverty and Greece’s economic shipwreck, these being the precipitating factors of the appearance of the fascist disease that could no longer be kept in a state of incubation.

Already since the era of the «movement of the squares,» an undefined and heterogeneous mob gradually appeared, alongside the people’s assemblies. This crowd consisted of «patriots» with strong nationalist tendencies, fearful or even delusional conspiracy-theorists, new-world-order-phobics, and fascists. After the elections of May 6 and June 17 the nightmare became so real, that no matter how much we pinch ourselves, we cannot wake up from it: 441,000 and 426,000 votes respectively, for the neo-Nazi organization. From the very first moment that the neo-Nazis realized they have a potentially large audience, the atrocities began: Beatings and killings of migrants, bullying in the workplace, constant terror; many people have even spoken of disappearances, rapes and practices that incorporate more than half the crimes of the Criminal Code.

Any act of violence by the neo-Nazis which remains unanswered or is directly or indirectly tolerated, or even desirable, raises for them and their friends, a sense of grandeur, a sense of even greater power. This, in turn, fuels yet another even more fierce wave of hatred and (fascist) intolerance that ultimately creates a constant threat that not only targets migrants and political groups, but also social groups or «minorities»: Homosexuals, the disabled, psychiatric patients, etc. are all on the waiting list of candidate victims. As the self-powered hatred escalates, the moral, spiritual, political and social tumble has no end.

Within this reality, where the fascists organize «patrols» and «legality checks» demanding migrants’ residence and work permits, where they aid evictions of migrant (as well as Greek) workers, because they can not afford the slum house rented to them by the local owners, the need to create an antifascist defense arose as a social reflex. Many people self-identify as or are antifascists, but the burden fell on anarchist/antiauthoritarian organizations (the reasons why will become clear shortly) . The Left-wing parties with parliamentary representation (SY.RIZ.A., KKE) are good with words, but they do not and/or cannot organize their supporters or society, even with the simplest of issues (e.g. refusal of payment of onerous and illegal taxes). Not only are are they unable to organize something like an antifascist force, but they do not even dare hint about it in public. Their incessant need for compliance with the law has eroded them so much, that they now resort to political rhetoric and ridiculous squealing in an attempt to have Golden Dawn ‘declared illegal’. How can they possibly believe that the system that gave birth to this phenomenon, or at the very least tolerated it’s appearance, will do anything to fight it? How can they not see that, even if they managed to «outlaw» Golden Dawn through legal channels, this would set a precedent for ‘outlawing’ the true anti-establishment/anti-capitalist libertarian organizations? Are they truly unaware that they reinforce the rhetoric of the extreme Center, that dishonestly and fraudulently lumps together the «two extremes of the political spectrum»? Have they not realized that 4 out of 5 of those serving in the security forces, and especially in the police’s MAT (riot control), DELTA and DIAS (motorcycle units) teams, are part of the neo-Nazi organization, body and soul?

Do they not know that judges and prosecutors fear enforcing and/or do not want to enforce the laws of «Blind Civil Justice» when it comes to dealing with the fascist mobsters?

For this reason, anarchist collectives, isolated from the rest of the antifascist (with or without quotation marks) spectrum of society, engaged in a continuous anti-fascist struggle. A struggle which they pay for with unjust and irrational criminal prosecutions, with ruthless repression and torture, but also with harsh criticism from every side. Let’s look at the events of the last few days and then try to put things in order:

On the 30th of September, a Sunday evening, the third in a series of antifa motorcycle patrols started from Exarchia [2] (about 80 motorcycles with 150 riders) in the center of Athens: «our intention is that this intervention works as a call for activating anti-fascist reflexes and class self-defense within the broader struggle against the state and capitalism.»

Motorcycles of team DELTA followed either from behind, or from parallel streets. In Fylis St. (between Meletius and Ithaca streets), the motorcycle patrol meets members of a «citizen and shopkeeper committee», known for operating protection rackets in neighbourhoods, their main activity being carrying out attacks against anarchists or leftists, immigrants (beatings and stabbings), as well as on their shops and hangouts. They were members of Golden Dawn smashing immigrants’ shops. A clash between the fascists and the motorcycle demo was followed by an attack from the police forces on the antifascists. They suffered beatings to the arms, legs and head, while the police also used taser guns (immobilizes the victim by diffusing electricity, with hooks that cling to the victims body). «When they attacked us, they beat us up badly, they hit us with their batons all over. When they tasered me, I was completely paralysed. First I thought it was from the adrenaline. My arms and legs were paralysed and I was charged with resisting authority.» A policeman said, «beat them, but don’t leave marks» Arrests of some of the anti-fascists ensued, and their motorcycles were seized.

News reports on TV and other mass stupefaction media (e.g. NET, STAR) mentioned conflicts between residents and «anti-authoritarians from Exarchia.» In the meantime, a fascist site posts the injury of one of their members and numerous articles on the internet insist on presenting the «touching» image of the residents who were attacked by anti-authoritarians. Through social networks, the injured fascist admits to participating in pogroms against immigrants, and makes his intentions clear (and yet he is still walking free in the streets).

The arrestees are transferred to the Athens police heaquarters, where they are subjected to torture: «They started with verbal abuse: «We will bury you as we did in Grammos, in Vitsi», «Now little whores, we will fuck you. You’re chickens. We were only thirty and we fucked you.» They were telling us clearly that they were members of Golden Dawn. ‘Yeah, we are Golden Dawners, forget all you knew up to now.» Then they started slapping us. They were pulling the girls’ hair and making obscene comments. One of us was bleeding from the head all night and when he leaned to sleep they turned lasers and flashlights to his eyes. A Delta chief came after a while. He gave them the green light to keep going and gave instructions for the torture». (Source)

«The ‘democratic’ torture came to an end when one of the women arrested was screaming for too long and the on-duty officer intervened to pull out the tormentors.»

Broken bones, «used as ashtrays» because they «stank». «We were so thirsty we drank water from the toilets,» said one of those arrested. Some said they were burned on the arms with a cigarette lighter, and they said police officers videoed them on their mobile phones and threatened to post the pictures on the internet and give their home addresses to Golden Dawn, which has a track record of political violence. (source: Guardian)

For 19 consecutive hours the arrestees were not allowed to contact their lawyers or be transferred to the hospital. In the meantime, the «residents» were testifying for the legal brief.

Those in solidarity mobilized immediately and gathered at Evelpidon courts where the arrestees were transferred on Monday evening. A brutal and totally unprovoked attack was carried out by the riot police against those in solidarity and 4 more were arrested. The torture continued: «The cop forbade us from sitting cross-legged, drinking water and smoking. They were constantly saying, ‘whenever you come in here you’ll cough up your own blood. I don’t care if it’s a detention or an arrest. Remember my face, if you want to find me we are big a clan and we know where you live».

«They asked us to take off our pants and show our genitals. Whoever refused to do so, was harshly beaten. At some point the officer said to one of us ‘put your hands up’. When he did, the officer considered it an indecent gesture. He grabbed his neck, hit his head against the wall and kept telling him ‘do this to your mom, not me’. The officer kept slapping him until he finally said ‘I’ll do it to my mother’.» (Source)

«They try to terrorise fighters; to push them into a state of lawlessness or fear (after threatening with home visits), alongside with direct threats of murder and other such absurdity… In the same climate of civil war, the state prosecutors intensify their effort to terrorize by threatening with pre-incarcerations, essentially eliminating their own code of criminal procedure they are supposed to serve and defend,» the arrestees say. (Source)

The media continued their campaign of disinformation regarding these events for a week. Members of Parliament seeked answers to the detainees’ accusations, but the only response was received from the Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection, N. Dendias, through a simple statement that he will do what it takes so that the two ‘extremes’, one of which, he notes, is supported by SY.RIZ.A., will not threaten our democratic regime.

When the Guardian published the article about the torturings, journalists mobilized to cover the issue and N. Dendias’ reaction was to dismiss the newspaper’s accusations as false. Specifically, he stated that there is no evidence that the detainees suffered torture (i.e. burns, electric shocks) and if any evidence is found, legal action will be taken. [3] (Link1) (Link2)

«As anarchists and antifascists we were under no illusion that the struggle against the state, capitalism and its lackeys will be easy. We declare that the determination to continue our struggle cannot be thwarted by state repression. Against the state and parastatal gangs we should assemble anti-fascist forces in every neighborhood and organize social and class counterattack.»(Source)

The antifascists were released on Friday, October 5th, carrying charges that include felonies, such as resistance against authority, breach of peace, the ridiculous aggravation of ‘concealing facial features’ (they wore helmets as they were part of a motorcycle demonstration), grievous bodily harm, the aggravation of causing specific damage, and breach of the Arms Act (refering to the flagpoles they carried in the demo). They are forbidden to leave the country and they are obliged to report to the police station every 15 days. The bail was set to 3.000 € for 14 of the arrestees, with one required to pay 10.000 €. [4]

We are therefore being told that it is wrong to take part in the antifascist struggle; that it is wrong to «give importance to a bunch of fascists»; by doing so, we reproduce their propaganda and advertise them… Arguments that seemingly have some validity, but in practice and given the situation, are plain wrong. Do the media not persistently advertise GD’s positions, turning their grisly exploits into a family spectacle? Could it not be that the constant lies of the neo-Nazis have weaved a web of paranoia in which our entire society is trapped- a society that has fallen victim to the Goebbels-like propaganda supported by mass media and preserved by their governmental arm, the Police? Are the anarchists to blame for the fascist nightmare, once again? It is easy to transfer one’s apathy, cowardice or complicity onto the ‘atheist witches’ in our times of Total Stupefaction. But we are not deterred by such arguments («if you face the fascist with (counter-)violence you’re turning into a fascist yourself»). We are not obliged to respond to all nonsense uttered by all those who are fully and consciously dissociated from every social struggle. We shrug and warn that it is a matter of time before the fascist threat turns against the Greek working class, the underprivileged locals, Greek society itself, with the immigrants left in the dark corners.

We react to the onslaught of fascism. We may not save anyone. We might not «save the revolution, but we’ll save our thoughts and our cohesion.» And our dignity. It is true that we have to create conditions that support the growth of positive actions. We must find new practices, avoiding counter-violence whenever possible (which, no matter how much we try, might lack the results we want as long as it is not inclusive, but instead is considered our «responsibility,» partly forced upon us by other antifascists- e.g. in leftist-dominated local assemblies where we are unwanted, but remembered whenever the question of fascism arises- and partly undertaken by us (as if we are responsible to do the dirty work).

Indeed, it is imperative that we adopt new methods, such as the ones the Spaniards have been trying to implement for years, working tirelessly towards this direction: It is necessary to create an inclusive movement through which we will be able to pass on as many libertarian principles as possible, to as many people as possible. The Spaniards have been organizing for months, without being dependent on major unions. They create dozens of frameworks, groups, movements. Smaller and bigger ones. They experiment with different types of (self)- organization and communication, creating networks everywhere. They avoid premising ideological characteristics and differences, while at the same time emphasizing partial demands and needs (e.g. corruption, evictions and housing problems, unemployment, etc.). Importance is placed not to assign the solution to «someone else», and so they try to get everyone involved at all the stages of the assemblies, actions, etc. It is essential that noone is represented by anyone else, with any kind of cooperation achieved on the basis that individual disagreements and nuances can exist, and nonetheless everyone is able to participate. Moreover one must be able to find ways to participate, even if they are elderly, disabled, etc. Noone needs to get permission and approval from anyone, but everyone should be clear that it is the collective strategy that is most important.

The basic components are: Horizontality, Collective intelligence, Non-violence Inclusivity. The pervasiveness of our propaganda in society can, and should be achieved by any means likely to produce results that have thus far failed with current practices. Support on activities and actions which aim to improve small or less small areas of everyday life, can be quite crucial for us, especially considering that, through our participation (and our dynamic influence) in them, we may succeed where untill today we systematically fail.

We think that our effective participation in activities which in principle do not seem conflictual, could possibly result in some of the following (which we should, in advance, have set as goals): to leave room for participation in demonstrations for the people who do not want/cannot engage in conflict yet. To set aside the media’s rhetoric and the dominant ideology which refers to «dangerous/extreme elements». To create representations and narratives that will help us gain more in the communication war, considering that in this age of the spectacle, we can reach out to the world more effectively than our opponents. Ultimately, to give birth to that feeling of participation that will mobilize people who are not ready to function so much through political choices, but are rather driven by emotion.

The simultaneous adoption of such practices should not be seen as a step backwards. «While preaching against every kind of government, and demanding complete freedom, we must support all struggles for partial freedom, because we are convinced that one learns through struggle, and that once one begins to enjoy a little freedom one ends by wanting it all. We must always be with the people, and when we do not succeed in getting them to demand a lot we must still seek to get them to want something; and we must make every effort to get them to understand that however much or little they may demand should be obtained by their own efforts and that they should despise and detest whoever is part of, or aspires to, government,» said Malatesta [5] and it seems that this strategy is now more necessary than ever. We can therefore create new practices to complement our current ones, and selecting one or the other, or a combination thereof, will depend on the established circumstances and the specific objectives that we have set.

The question is who will eventually be master. Until now masters managed to remain masters by making words (democracy, freedom, equality, justice) mean so many different things in order to cause confusion so that they can govern in a way that serves their interests. Today an increasing number of people are unfulfilled from this rhetorical/pretextual narrative, and while the elites, their political staff and their repressive mechanisms abandon every pretext in a panic, the words have lost their meaning. The only thing left to consider is whether we will continue to have masters or if we can be emancipated. The dilemma is simple: It’s either the (para)State or us. Getting to the coveted «we» is a matter of organization, will and strategy. Or, at the very least: It is a matter of dignity.

1 Lewis Carroll, «Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There,» 1871. With the same excerpt begins the chapter «The active reality of capitalistic economy» from «The «rationality» of capitalism», by Cornelius Castoriadis.

2 Exarchia is a district in Athens, known as a place where anarchists, leftists and all those against state repression, would find themselves at home. Media tends to characterize it a very dangerous place, though it is not.

3 It should be noted that even in the cases where evidence of brutality is found, the perpetrators are never punished.

4 There is a need to raise the amount of 45.000 € for legal costs and bails.

For all those that want to contribute in collecting these amounts, there is a box at the K*VOX squat, in Exarchia Square in Athens. Since it is not possible for many people to go there, we have set up a separate PayPal account under the email address SupportAntifa@OmniaTV.com. The whole amount collected there will be handed over to K*VOX.

5 Errico Malatesta, «An anarchist program.»

Ian Delta, Sen, Tinaletina

The article in greek


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The Greek antifascist volunteers in the Spanish Civil War

On July 17 1936 a group of fascist officers in Spanish Morocco, led by Colonel Seguin, rebelled and overthrew the legitimate democratic authorities which had been elected in February of the same year. This was the beginning of the fascist coup, which spread like lightning in the country, and caused the massacre of the Spanish people for nearly three years.

The fascist coup was not the result of a shoddy plot. It was a very well thought out and organized coup, guided by a group of experienced generals known for their sympathies to the Hitler regime, and for their fascist beliefs, among whom was Francisco Franco, who became their leader. He was firmly supported by the bourgeoisie of the country, the landowners, and by (who else?) the clergy. Fascist organizations such like Falange, the Carlists and others, acted almost legitimately consisting the para-state, and eroding the entire state apparatus. Franco even had the support of foreign fascist regimes, and inflicted an open and well-organized attack against Republican Spain, which for the first time in history, was governed by all, without exception, the democratic parties; an attack that could be characterised as a rehearsal for World War II.

However, the fascist plans did not fully succeed, thanks to the sacrifices of the Spanish people, and above all of the Spanish working class. From the first moment of the fascist attack a giant popular mobilization embraced the country. Massive demonstrations took place in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and in other cities with the cry «We want arms». The regular army of the Republic was almost dissolved because over 80% of the officers joined the fascists. But another army was being formed by the working classes in the cities and the countryside. It was the new army of the Spanish Republic, which heroically confronted the fascist hordes for more than 32 months. Thus, the forecast of Franco and his clique that all would end within a few days was proved wrong. After the first successes of the fascists and after the democratic people began to re-organise and counter-attack, the situation for the coup became critical. The areas they had occupied in metropolitan Spain were in danger. The fascists were saved thanks to two factors:

a) the immediate help of the fascist regimes of Germany and Italy. The two dictators gave Franco’s fascists 1,650 airplanes, 1,150 tanks and armoured vehicles, 2,630 cannons, 8,800 heavy and light machine guns, 1,430 mortars, more than half a million rifles, huge quantities of ammunition, and 250,000 soldiers, officers and technical consultants.

b) to the «neutral» stance of urban democracies of Europe and America. The governments of America, France, and England, followed the hypocritical policy of «non-interference», which in essence meant recognition and enhancement of the Francoist regime.

Solidarity of the peoples

But if the Spanish people were abandoned in the most tragic moments in history by the rulers of the «free» world, they were not abandoned by the democratic people of the earth. Paris, London, New York and many other cities around the world began to form committees of solidarity with the people of the Spanish Republic. Money was collected from fundraising to purchase and send food, medicine, and weapons. All over the world, all the people with the ideals of freedom, justice and human dignity burning inside them, turned their eyes with understanding, and offered their solidarity to the struggling Spaniards.

Thousands of citizens from the Soviet Union, the USA, Canada, Cuba, Argentina, the Balkans, Central Europe, England, France and many other countries responded to the call for voluntary support to the armed struggle of the Spanish people. Industrial workers, teachers, farmers, sailors, miners, doctors, engineers, journalists, students, men and women, ordinary people voluntarily enlisted on the side of the Spanish fighters. Anarchists, socialists, communists and democrats, in total 53,000 people from 53 nationalities took up arms and fought in Spain, a great proportion of them being French (8,000). The units formed by the volunteers were named «International Brigades».

In early November 1936, the first coherent brigade, the 11th (which consisted of the battalions a) «Edgar Andre», b) «Paris Commune and c)» Dobrofsky «) arrived at the Madrid Front and was installed at the most dangerous spot. «People of Spain,» said a call of the volunteers, «we came to help and defend your capital as if it was the capital of each of us. Your honour is our honour. Your fight is our fight.» And they kept their word. The army of the fascists failed to get anywhere near the Madrid Front.

The course of the International Brigades during the war is the same as the course of the Spanish Republican Army. Not only in Madrid, but in all fronts, Guadalajara, Zaragoza, Brunete, Ebro etc, they contributed significantly to the struggles of the Spanish people, writing with their blood some of the brightest pages of the world revolutionary movement.

Volunteers from Greece

In Greece, under the conditions created by the Metaxas dictatorship, the difficulties and obstacles were many and great. In the short time between Franco’s coup and the dictatorship of Metaxas (17 July – 4 August), things where relatively easy, therefore more than 2000 volunteered. However, after August 4 things changed. Legitimate roads closed, passports were not permitted to leftists many of whom were arrested. There remained only illegal routes abroad, but they were extremely dangerous. However, despite the risks, there were people who found their way out of the border, and took the road to Spain. The destination of the volunteers was initially Marseilles, where they would supposedly work as labourers in factories. Once arrived there, they came in contact with the Greek organization of Marseille – mainly sailors – and were brought on to Spain.

The volunteer fighter Stefanos Tsermegas writes:

«On New Year’s Eve 1937, we disembark at the port of Havre, France, from where we would proceed to Spain. It was 10am. We went to customs to have our luggage checked. The scene that followed is unforgettable. When the French customs officials opened our suitcases, and saw that they were filled with military supplies, uniforms, bandoliers, flasks, and other military items, they all erupted into a frenzy of excitement. They lifted up their fists and hailed us with the usual at the time Spanish antifascist salute «NO PASARAN».

And P. Aivatzis, who were among the first volunteers:

«… The first group of Greek volunteers started with a few hundred anti-fascists from other countries, in October 1936, from France to Spain»

Also, many Greeks of the diaspora, mostly from France and the USA participated in the International Brigades. In a book written about the 15th International Brigade, and published in Madrid in 1937, an entire chapter is devoted to Greek Volunteers of America. It emphasises the dual importance of their contribution: «Their struggle was not only a struggle for Republican Spain, but also for the restoration of democracy in their own country.» In Cyprus, although the English banned the fundraising for Spain, the Cypriots managed to collect a good deal of money; the first instalment of more than 4,000 pounds was sent in 1937. More than 60 Cypriots from England and America went to Spain to fight.

The number of Greek volunteers cannot be determined with certainty, as the conditions prevailing in the country did not allow proper registration. Approximately, P. Aivazis (see «Avgi» 10/12/75) estimates them at 300. John Kampitis (volunteer) claims they were 290. The historian Karanikolas («Radical 5.10.75) estimates 400. The same number gives the Cypriot newspaper «Haravgi» (see 11.2.75). The vast majority of the Greek volunteers were labourers, and almost half of them sailors. Politically, most of the Greek volunteers belonged to the Communist Party, and there was a group of Greek anarchists who acted basically in the area of Barcelona, where the Spanish anarchists gathered most of their power. It was never known whether among the Greeks there were women volunteers either as fighters or other auxiliary services, like women from other countries.

Action of the Greek volunteers in Spain

The majority of the Greek volunteers fought from the beginning of 1937 in the lines of the 15th International Brigade, and especially in the Balkan battalion «G. Dimitrof.» But they were also scattered in all batallions. As time passed, in mid-1937, a Greek company was established, whose commander was Yiannis Pantelias, carpenter, under the pseudonym Yiannis Margaritis, deputy commander was Anagnostis Deliyannis, tobacco worker, under the pseudonym Yiannis Siganos, and political commissioner was Kyriakos Stefopoulos, railway worker, nicknamed Dimitris Perros. The company was named «Rigas Fereos», that is the name of the great visionary of the Balkan Federation. For a time the company was called «Zachariades.» However, many Greeks remained in the units where they fought, and did not join the Greek company.

The Greek company, part of the 15th International Brigade, participated in the battle of Brunete where they acted as force of conflict and occupied the small town Villanueva de la Cañada, after three weeks of fighting. The loss of the brigade was huge, as nearly half of the fighters were lost. The losses of the Greeks have not been determined, but if we consider the losses of the brigade in general, they must have been quite a lot. Among those killed is the 35-year-old Cypriot Achilleas Kanaris, and Dimitris Rapitis from Chios, who according to his comrade Kostas Makrinos fell fighting on his machinegun, covering the retreat of the fighters of his unit.

Another battle of the Greek company was in Belchite, where the objective was the capture of Saragossa, held by the fascists. The attack began on August 24 with first target Belchite, a small but well-fortified city. In one of the counterattacks of the fascists, the Dimitrov Battalion and particularly the Greek company suffered great losses. In this battle the commander of the battalion Pantelias was killed, as well as the political commissioner Stefopoulos, who left their lives on the machineguns, surrounded by soldiers of Franco. Deputy Deligiannis became commander and together with the remaining fighters, continued the battles with selfless heroism «defending not only democracy in Spain, but with the belief that fighting they defended democracy around the world, and their homeland.» After fierce battles, Belchite was finally occupied on September 8.

The Greek company also participated in the occupation of Teruel in December 1937. Indeed, one of the first who entered the city of Teruel was the Greek officer Minas Thomaidis, from the Black Sea. In early March 1938, the fascists after a fierce air bombardment (provided by the Nazis to the fascists), attacked the front of Aragon. The democratic troops, fatigued by the constant battles and without war material, began to retreat. The 15th International Brigade was the last antifascist unit which abandoned the ruined city, with great, however, losses. At least 11 Cypriots were killed, and two Greek fighters were captured and executed on the spot because, according to those who escaped, refused to shout «long live General Franco.» In the vicinity of Cadesa more than 20 Greeks were killed, and dozens were injured.

In honour of the Greek fighters of the International Brigades, there was an event in Barcelona, where along with the Greek anti-fascists, most of them wounded, took part several sailors who had come to port with supplies for Republican Spain. The Spaniard in charge of the event said in his speech: «… In your face we see the live democratic antifascist Greece struggling against our common enemy, fascism, for democracy, independence, and prosperity of our people …»

The retreat

«… the farewell to the heroes of the International Brigades, despite the festive atmosphere, was chill and melancholy. The heart filled with bitterness watching those heroes pass on the big «aveniada» of Barcelona where the popular farewell had been organised. We were thinking of our fate and the fate of these people, many of whom could not return to their countries, because fascism prevailed there. They were heroes marked by their participation in the war in Spain, put under suspicion by the diplomacy of non-intervention, like lepers; they would be persecuted, handed over to the police insanity, put in camps, finally surrendered to Hitler and Mussolini». (see Memoirs of Pasionaria, Avgi, 25.5.63).

Indeed, those who had nowhere to go were many; among them the surviving Greeks, with the exception of the Greeks of America and England who returned there. The rest stayed in Spain until the end, and passed to France after the collapse, after they gave the last battles in Catalonia together with the Spanish antifascists, thus enabling hundreds of thousands of women, children, and wounded to cross the border.

According to the available data, the known names of the Greeks who were killed in the Spanish civil war are 53, of which 2 were missing. However, they are believed to be more than 100. The dead Greek antifascists are pioneers in the hundreds of thousands of fighters who were killed in mountains, cities, and by squads, battling the local and international fascism.

Source: Μ. Paleologou, Greek antifascist volunteers in the Spanish civil war, Athens, 1979.

More photos of Greek antifascist volunteers here.


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Don LaCoss: On Blasphemy and Imagination: Arab Surrealism Against Islam

«God can do anything except suicide»
– Malcolm de Chazal

In 1973, a small network of Arab students living in Paris, London, and Vienna founded the Arab Surrealist Movement in Exile. At the group’s core was Abdul Kader el-Janabi, Farid Lariby, Mohammed Awadh, and Maroine Dib; they re-oriented surrealist elements against the intense misery they saw rampant in the Middle East: despotic police-state politics, nationalism (particularly Ba’athism in Syria and Iraq), militarism, patriarchal oppression, neo-colonial European interference, grueling poverty, and suppressed imaginations.

They integrated surrealism with ideas culled from Situationists, radical feminists, the rebel student and autonomist worker movements of the late 1960s, and the revolutionary struggles in what was then called “the Third World” (including the ghettoes and reservations in the US).

Most of their publications (most notably ar-Raghba al-ibahiyya [Libertarian Desire]) were outlawed in every Arab-speaking nation in the Middle East and North Africa for their seditious, blasphemous, and outrageously scabrous content.

Drawing from the work of important radical liberation theorists of the time such as Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and Germaine Greer, the Arab Surrealist Movement in Exile formulated a sharp analysis of the ways in which political oppression, sexual repression, and Islam mutually reinforced one another in so many regimes in the Arab world (and, after 1979, in Iran).

It is difficult to find images or texts by the surrealists that attack the tyrannies of Islam without also encountering references to other authoritarian efforts to control, re-direct, or distort desire and sexual expression; frequently, the surrealists argued that State terrorism in the Middle East was at least partially rooted in traditional patriarchal Muslim violence against women and gay men, much in the same way that fascism has been understood by writers like Wilhelm Reich, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Klaus Theweleit, and George Mosse.

This excerpt from the Exile Movement’s founding manifesto sums up many of their concerns: “Our surrealism destroys the so-called ‘Arab fatherland.’ We call upon individuals and the masses to unleash their instincts against all forms of repression, including the repressive ‘reason’ of the bourgeois order. We explode the mosques and the streets with the scandal of sex returning to its body, bursting into flames at each encounter. We poison the intellectual atmosphere with the elixir of the imagination, so that the poet’s self will be realized in realizing the historical transformation of poetry. We liberate language from the prisons and stock markets of capitalist confusion.”

What follows is a combination of the definitions of “blasphemy” and “imagination” from a glossary of sorts that was supposed to be a regular column in ar-Raghba al-ibahiyya.

It was published in 1974; this is the first time it has been reprinted or translated. Readers interested in more information can check out the relevant chapters in Sibylla Krainick’s Arabischer Surrealismus im Exil. Der irakische Dichter und Publizist Abd al Quadir al-Ganabi (Reichert, 2001).

On Blasphemy and Imagination

If you toss the detestable banalities of religion into the lap of humiliation, then leave them where you threw them and ignore them for good. But don’t let that prevent you from practicing blasphemy. Some critics ask what would be the value of insulting Allah after we have established with certainty that He does not exist, but blasphemy does not validate religion or make that it more truthful. Pronouncing blasphemy’s rough and outrageous words is significant and necessary if for no other reason that they become a delightful pleasure to utter. Moreover, blasphemy lends a hand to the imagination.

Imagination is a force whose existence is dismissed by journalists, economists, and anyone else generally concerned with obstructing the restless vitality of free thinking and sexual feelings. The reason for this is because the visions that are awakened by this force are so beyond our control that it has the potential ability to control us.

Imagination reveals to us the scope of human potential and nourishes desire by giving us the hope needed to fulfill these potentials. All dimensions of human happiness lie in the imagination. No one can be fully satisfied until all fantasies of this imagination have been achieved.

Via The Anarchist Library

Modern Greek nation: another moment of the founding myth’s collapse

EU-Greece-Acropolis

If the nation is primarily constituted around a spiritual principle as Renan argues, then Greece today finds itself in a quandary. If the nation bares a common past and ascribes in it a temporal consent that has to be indeterminately reproduced, if a nation’s existence is ‘a daily plebiscite’ then today Greece as a nation tries to renegotiate its past through the making of the future, the field of potentiality is widely open. It is just the second time in modern history of Greece that such a process is taking place. This was not usually the case since modern Greece was trying to fix its cultural temporality so as to depict an immemorial past that will be forever reproduced. As a result, the future should always come as no surprise, the living monument of modernity. The first time, since the emergence of modern Greece, that an attempt to make history from below took place led to a remorseless civil war with grave consequences for the country. The result was more than thirty years of authoritarianism and fierce repression of all sorts for democratically minded people. The Communist Greek Party (KKE) was only to be legalized in 1974 after the 21st of April dictatorship relinquished power to C. Karamanlis. Constant molecular repression of everyday life coupled by the coup of 1967 held in check the big transformative forces within society that were under way since the end of WW II and reemerged in the beginning of the sixties. A post-dictatorial contract was to seal the new consent around which things were about to evolve. The system found the point of equilibrium that so much was needed for its survival taming the will of the people. But this social contract with the bankruptcy and the coming of the troika, that is the IMF- EU-ECB, has been irredeemably breached. The needs and desires of Greeks, their wills, all the more are contradicting those of the state, the social realm every day moves further apart from the state apparatus.

The troika of interior that is the new coalition government (ND-PASOK-DIMAR), with its highly authoritarian political rhetoric and a fierce neoliberal economic policy tries to instil sentiments of common endeavour and common suffering to the nation in order to impose duties and a required common effort to ‘rationally minded’ citizens. Nevertheless, the appeal is always made in the name of an abstract nation and is directed towards all of the Greek citizens who are to support ‘the colossal effort’ of the government. The rest must become ‘the silent majority’(Rajoy used this term in order to constitute all those who make use of their right of demonstrating illegitimate before society as a whole. This term has been used by Nixon in the past in order to contrast ‘a silent majority’ who had no problem with the war on Vietnam to a noisy minority that used to take all the media attention). If not, they will be confronted as the internal enemy.

We do have to acknowledge the fact that, a lot of times, in a nation’s history collective memory is to be organized around griefs and regrets. Such bad moments in the history of a nation work as the point of reorganization of national memories and demand a common effort and sacrifices for the future. The constant appeal to the nation as ‘the sacred cow’ that must be preserved untouched no matter what, refers to that imaginaned modern Greece persistently constructed since the emergence of the nation-state. Even more so the version of Greekness in which we are called upon to submit is under the ND led coalition government a new version in the neoliberal era of the Hellas of the Helleno-Christianity. The arrest of ‘Geron Pastitsios’, a facebook user, due to a law against blasphemy who used his page to satire Orthodox Christianity. And, what is more, the security forces’ humiliating treatment and the torturing of the 15 arrested antifascists in contradistinction with the mild treatment and in some cases even complicit attitude towards racist crimes and fascists coupled by the ‘Xenios Dias’ operation all over Greece to imprison indefinitely undocumented immigrants and ‘the silent majority’ argument (in Greece could be interpreted as noikokoiraioi) sketches the picture of the 21st century nationally-minded citizen.

Eurocentric purposes have legitimized the plundering of Greece’s past and now a new version of the same narrative tries to legitimize the actual plundering of the country. Remaining in Europe, this narrative goes, ensures the country’s Hellenic primordial unity and keeps Greece within the imaginative space of the ‘west’ ,while, at the same time gives hope for the preservation of the political apparatus. In fact, this particular political apparatus would have been impossible without western support and dependency. That is what Mr. Dendias, Minister of Public Order, explicitly states when he exclaims that ‘we will either be all saved or none of us’, this is obviously his own ‘existential anxiety’ and of his fellow politicians rather than that of the Greeks in general. What he is really afraid of is his certain political elimination with the ‘supposed’ withdrawal of the country from European Union since his existence is absolutely dependent upon the support of the E.U and U.S.A. After reminding us once more that the boat is ready to sink with us on board he never forgets to blame those who bear responsibility, in this case the shipyard workers, who according to ‘our’ minister are extremists who disrupt the effort done. These are the noisy masses, the lazy ones’ who want no change in their lives, the old usual internal enemy, the left in general because he then goes on to declare his regret for the leftist and communist members of parliament who went to support the workers struggle.

Somebody should remind to those historically ignorant that metaphysical or messianic abstractions do not convince unemployed and hungry. The first messianic irredentist discourse, the ‘Great Idea’, was deployed by Greece in the 19th century and ended up with the forced migration of about a million and a half Minor Asian Greek speaking orthodox populations. While, the second narrative, came as the promise of progress and development that would make us worthy of our history in Europe. Since the nineties, this discourse has been highly influenced by the neoliberal agenda and organized as Hamilakis (2007) has suggested in the pursuit of the other modern ‘Greek Idea’, the 2004 Olympic Athens. But after the current bankruptcy and the troika agreement no one would deliberately make sacrifices based on this modern ‘Great Idea’. The sterile vision of Hellas devoid of any cultural temporality cannot any longer be the base for the country’s reorganization. Symbolic gestures such as the ‘invasion’ of the shipyard workers in the courtyard of the Ministry of Defence, two days ago, in order to demonstrate their repugnance for their pauperization. And, the disruption of the march in Thessaloniki, in 2011, during the celebrations for the IIWW depicts the degree to which these unitary national narratives are not capable of controlling the masses. The vision, if there is any, that the government offers to the people of Greece cannot become the basis for a desire to continue a common life as a nation. That is why Mr. Dendias sounds irrational when he talks as if no crisis exists. When the state has no authority whatsoever, surrendered to international organizations, then it sounds quite nonsensical to expect people to save you while saving themselves –the most probable is that they will prefer not to be saved just to have the pleasure destroying you all the while.

1) Renan, Ernest (1993) What is a nation? in Nation and Narration eds Hommi K. Bhabba Routledge, London and New York
2) Hamilakis, Yannis (2007) The Nation and Its Ruins: Antiquity, Archeology and National Imagination in Greece, Oxford University Press, New York

Ioulia Giovani
Phd Candidate at the Centre for Cultural Studies
Goldsmiths College
University of London