We finally understood that many people supported us

Andreas: A squatter from Thessaloniki

In Thessaloniki things started calming down around the 15th of December. There were still really big demos but less violence. We started organising a solidarity movement for the prisoners of the uprising. We didn’t start the solidarity movement and the protests for the prisoners until the situation had relaxed, because we didn’t want to signal the end of the uprising, and we wanted to use it as a new rallying point so all the groups could gather and stay involved even though the fighting had stopped. We had about thirty people arrested in Thessaloniki, not so much. But it was very hard to find out who was arrested, because so many of the people who participated had no connection with the anarchists, they had never participated in the movement before. And we couldn’t just call up the jails to find out who was arrested because they only give this information to the lawyer of the prisoner. And lots of arrests were random. Immigrants walking down the street with a new mobile phone could be arrested on suspicion of looting and nobody would know. There were thousands of mobiles stolen during the uprising, so they made these kind of arrests frequently. We learned that they had an order to arrest people whom it would be hard to find out about, people without connections, because this would terrorise the movement. So it was hard work finding out the names of everyone who was arrested.

The situation after December has not really changed. It’s like it was before. To say that the many people who adopted our practices had some sort of a social awakening is to have a negative view of the people who weren't active. I believe that before December many of them maybe listened to us and agreed with us. What happened in December is that finally we understood that many people supported us but just didn’t have a way to enter, to join in.

In Greece there is no historical tradition of neighbourhood assemblies but now it is starting everywhere. The assembly provided a neutral place for people to come and shape the decisions from the beginning. A place like Delta [a squatted hotel in Thessaloniki], it’s not so open because from the beginning we already had a specific project, a specific politics in mind. But these assemblies and these new occupations provide ways for other people to join in.

December helped us see another weakness in our movement. We weren’t thinking about the future, about what the world might be like three or four months later. We were just doing the things we were already used to doing from all the years of struggle that had come before: burning banks and attacking the police. But you can only burn the same bank so many times before you have to stop. I tell you, all the banks were burned. In December we were not mature enough for planning. We were in a situation in which any plan was possible - we could have destroyed the TV transmitters and abolished television, we could have taken down the cell phone infrastructure, we could have squatted Parliament, but we did not make those plans and we did not realise how important it would have been for the future.

We saw our weaknesses. Rioting for five days showed us that violence alone doesn’t get us anything unless it has content. There was an organisational gap. December provided us with a new theoretical experience. We can see our structural gaps. Squat radio stations are being set up throughout the city. We’re going to set up a print shop. We’re creating the structures we need.

The most important thing about December is it made the movement understand the people, and not vice versa. It made us understand that they need a place to stand, a way to participate.You can see anarchists who used to be antisocial talking about social acceptance. And you see the non-violent groups talking about rioting and attacking the police. A coalition, an atypical coalition is being created here in Thessaloniki.