There were many people who felt we had an unfinished revolution

Panagiotis Kalamaras: Publisher of Libertarian Culture editions

One thing that is certain, during the dictatorship and afterward, there were lots of people who liked rock and roll. We didn’t have ’68, but lots of Greeks travelled, they lived in France and Italy they saw how it was to live with girls and take long walks in the city and listen to rock and roll.

One of the first anarchist books ever published in Greek was by George Garbis (publisher of Eleftheros Typos - Free Press Publications) who lived in London, and the other anarchist publication was by people who spoke other languages and could make translations. You see the cultural influence from other countries was very important.

After the collapse of the junta there were many people who had the feeling that we had an unfinished revolution. Many people felt that the Communist Party sold out and joined the authority. So we have these two elements, that we wanted another way of life and that on the political level it was clear that the people of the far Left didn’t really believe in revolution.

In my opinion, the first anarchist uses of violence in demonstrations, was a way to let everyone know that the anarchists were absolutely different. They used violence so other people could see that they didn't compromise with the State like all the leftists did. And especially for that reason the Communists attacked the anarchists very severely because the anarchists made the criticism that they were supporting the State.

The Communist Party is in a very strong position in Greece. They fought a civil war. Whole families were in the Communist Party. Thirty years ago if you said you were not with the Communists or the Maoists or the Trotskyists, you were in a difficult position. And our position from the beginning was to make no compromise with the authorities.

The occupations organised by the student movement in 1979, were our first organised battles to prove that we were something different. We mostly called ourselves autonomists then, not anarchists, because we were influenced by the Italians. But we weren’t Marxist-Leninists. There were anarchists, but they didn’t start calling themselves anarchists until ’81, '82. And then it wasn’t just to name themselves and identify themselves, but to be provocative. After the Socialists came to power in 1981, we said we were anarchists to be provocative. Because then this word didn’t have a political meaning, connected to a political movement like in the United States. It meant that we do what we want. It had a bad meaning socially; it was a bad word. But we said we were anarchists to show that we had no connection with the State, with the elections. And we identified ourselves through violence.

But it was also an existentialist question, not only a political choice but a reflection that we wanted a different everyday life. So from the ’80s the anarchists started squatting and communal living, things like this. Because we don’t want to wait until after the revolution to live how we want to live. And for this reason we had big debates in the '90s about merchandise, do we sell beer or give it away in the punk shows do we charge entrance or not?

The first appearance of anarchists on the streets was the May Day protest in 1976. It arose in the midst of the existing movements, and during this time there were demonstrations every day. But the anarchists came out of this and differentiated themselves from it through violence and a new kind of protest. Also at this time there were many wildcat strikes. The anarchists had a soil to grow in. If you do not have soil you cannot have flowers.

With the student movement in '79, the anarchists did not have a strong presence, there were very few of us, but we had the mentality that we organised ourselves without Parties, and that we made parties in the streets, not just a typical solemn demonstration. And after this student movement lots of left organisations completely collapsed and lots of the people became anarchists, at least in their mentality. The anarchist mentality how we organised, was very influential in ’79. There were some university occupations that were done in a lawful way but then other people self-organised the occupations with an open assembly and this was much more successful and empowering.

Legally in the eyes of the authorities, we do not have the right of self-defence. With the Left, or with workers, they don’t believe in fighting back if the police beat them, they don’t believe in self-defence. The anarchists have the absolute opposite mentality We don’t wait for the police to attack us, we attack first. The Left only debate self-defence. In their view they are the ones being beaten. They have a victim mentality. They play the victim so that society will sympathise with these poor people beaten by the cops.

In Greece there was a civil war and the Left lost. They not only lost, they were tortured and murdered and wiped out, and they internalised this defeat. The anarchists are different. In Greece we have not been defeated. In fact we now have the upper hand.

The first anarchist demonstration that was completely anarchist was in 1984, with the visit of the French fascist Le Pen. It was his first visit to Greece. We had a big demo, a lot of people. What's important is not the number of people but the fact that we were very heavily armed, well equipped, and not in a spontaneous way either. We were prepared. Many people went down the street to burn down the hotel where Le Pen was staying and to fight face to face with the police. For me this was the birth of the present anarchist movement. It was a rupture.

In Greece there is no influence of traditional anarchism because with us it started in the ’70s. Here many people who say they are anarchist have never read Bakunin or Kropotkin. We had a big movement in the classical sense until the First World War. But because of the big influence of the Communist Party all this disappeared. It didn’t come back until the ’70s.

Is there a tradition of anarchist bandits and bank robbers in Greece?

No, this is a misconception. In Greece we don’t have anarchists who rob banks to fund the movement. We don’t have the tradition of expropriations for buying weapons or anything else for the movement, like Brigati Rossi or Durruti. Sure there are individuals who are personally anarchists who rob banks for themselves, because they oppose work. But there are also nationalists or fascists or leftists or apolitical people who rob banks. We don’t have the phenomenon of anarchist bank robbers in Greece. I don’t like these stories, like this British historian, people on the outside who have this preconceived idea in their head of political expropriations. It’s absolutely not true. Groups like the 17th of November never talked about how they acquired their money; and they denied making robberies. Yes a lot of people in the movement support bank robbers and they have sympathy for this activity but this is different from being an organised movement activity If there are people in the anarchist movement involved in this, they would never say it because they would be outlawed. It's not safe. We are not living in the '30s, we are living in the 21st century, we must be careful.