Iulia: A participant in the queer and anarchist movements
There’s a saying that sums up the gender dynamics on the Left: Do you join the party to fuck or do you fuck to join the party? It’s better with the anarchists but there are still problems. I flirt with the anarchists, I feel much closer to them, but I don’t want to label myself. Mostly I participate in local things, projects that are happening in my immediate area. I do a lot of art.
Generally you could say that in Greece there is quite a conservative logic. The feminist movement in Greece in the ’80s had visibility they had some successes, but then they disappeared or became part of the mainstream political scene, merging with the Socialist Party or others, So I don’t think there is a tradition for gender politics.I think in revolutionary terms it was always quite closed, never open to other issues. The anarchist idea of freedom is very big, very open, and it doesn’t have room for tendencies within it that have a limited focus.
I prefer to say that I’m an anarchist than to say that I’m a feminist. The problem is very philosophical, between the partial and the total. If I protest for my partial freedom, as a woman, I would focus on being able to get a good job, receiving welfare from the State when I have a baby That would be my partial freedom, and it would be completely compatible with capitalism. But I’m against identity politics because it carries a greater danger of entering into mainstream politics. I don’t think that you should rely on the State for partial freedom. This is vain, at the end of the day because you don’t change the social relations.You just say you want a better position within the existing framework.
But when you strive for total freedom, you need to have the whole picture in your head, and then you can’t rely on the State or coexist with capitalism in order to win just a part of that freedom, because by doing so you would negate your total freedom. However, you also have to leave room for all the individual parts within your conception of freedom. Otherwise you become apathetic to women, to workers, you just say I’m an anarchist and that’s that.You have to synthesise and analyse how it would work, understand all the different kinds of oppression so you can understand the totality of freedom. You have to understand how it works. You can’t just have a god of freedom, you can’t believe in freedom generally or abstractly.
I don’t want to generalise and say that the leftists or the anarchists are misogynistic, but I want to say there is a tendency that overshadows the politics of gays and lesbians and their struggles don’t become visible. That’s why I think it’s quite closed. You have this ideology of revolution and freedom, you go out and smash things out of anger, but you don’t actually look for ways to get there.
Lots of anarchists don’t question what is considered to be normal. We have romantic couples that control each other with jealousy or maybe I take on the role of the girlfriend and have very mainstream ideas of how I should behave. Together we fight for revolution but within each of us we sustain norms that are bourgeois. If I go out to participate in the struggle but then I come back and on my couch I’m doing the same things as everyone else, there is no revolution. People carry these norms with them subconsciously and if they don’t work on changing themselves internally they’ll sabotage whatever revolution they make. But if we work on our relationships then we can go beyond simple opposition to the State.
The anarchist movement in Greece is a revolutionary subject group. But this umbrella of the anarchist movement, which is a powerful thing, creates the trap of making people suspicious of anyone who doesn’t wear the label of anarchist. So it’s not easy to get access, and also not easy to introduce new lines of politics. So the subject group can become a bit sexist. And the anarchist movement here excludes aesthetic matters, cultural matters, spiritual matters. There is a very straightforward political identity they want to carry and okay theoretically it’s very libertarian, but practically their personal relations are the same, they’re mainstream and bourgeois. In terms of gender dynamics, in my experience it's common to create relationships that don’t go beyond normality. You don’t risk making it revolutionary, you don’t create any openness. But when you risk it you find out you had been living in a relationship with the same old jealousies and forms of control, without a spirit of friendship or solidarity. I’m not saying the anarchists should be blamed, they just sustain an unconscious function. It’s normality.
But it’s difficult if we don't have anything concrete to propose. It starts on a very small scale, dealing with the relations between us. That’s why I advocate having an inward focus.
I had a friend who wanted to do a belly dance performance at Villa Amalias [an anarcho-punk squat], and they rejected the idea as misogynist. But for her it was an art form, it was spiritual, and it’s strange how they can turn it around and tell you that you can’t do certain things with your body Taking things out of context, that’s queer to me. But the belly dancing wasn’t allowed to be put in a new context.
You can see that the flows are a bit blocked. At the assemblies they’ll talk for three hours about the ideas and the theory and then when it comes to the organisation, everybody splits in groups, and this makes me really angry; because the important thing is the organisation. If everybody is in small groups specialising in what we are going to organise, then what are we doing at the general assemblies, just discussing the idea of freedom? And to me that’s where you see some of these macho dynamics, macho in the sense of having leaders.
If we talk about desire - I’m reading Deleuze now - with desire what’s necessary is that it functions not that it is analysed. So if you go to an assembly and don't discuss how it’s going to function, that’s problematic for me. For three hours everybody says the same thing. In Greece we don’t have a pragmatic culture and for me that reflects the gender relations. You have the same structure, the abstract specialists, after a while it’s like a revolutionary bureaucracy. And yet everything still happened in December so I don't want to dismiss it, but there’s also a problem because everything is being carried out by groups that are quite closed.
The other thing that becomes obvious, because they are not open to spiritual, cultural, or aesthetic matters, the idea of violence is a holy thing for the anarchists. You have to be violent in a way and that excludes a lot of things. I think that's very uncultivated, sometimes it’s not very strategic and leads to people doing stupid things without taking precautions just to prove that they can do it.
If we suppose that the anarchists in Greece are sexist I would say that it has to do with their relationship to violence in a way that excludes other activities that are more feminine in quotation marks. They have to be heroic and if they’re not they’re not important in the movement. It’s this structure of small factions each with their own leader or face, a persona, and I don’t like that. It’s a patriarchal structure. Greek society is quite patriarchal and we carry these structures into our own groups as well.
As for valuing masculine labour over feminine labour, we lack the organisation in which the importance of feminine labour becomes obvious. The heroic acts are more important; that's the Only narrative we have, and so the feminine labour is not valued. I think that's why we don't have may squats in Greece, because it requires organisation. But we're getting more and more squats.
The heroic aspect is consumed in the solidarity as well. I don't like to say this because you have to support the people when they go to prison, but everything else seems to stop after a while. In the years before December, all the focus was going to supporting the heroes and not to the other aspects of the struggle.