For more than a month now political prisoners in Greece have been on hunger strike demanding the removal of various repressive and anti-terror structures. The hunger strike and its solidarity campaign have so far been the first major political opposition to the coalition government led by Syriza.
Since 2nd March there has been a continuous hunger strike carried out by members of the Network of Imprisoned Fighters(DAK) which has taken aim at the legal structures of the anti-terror state. The hunger strike in the prison is being supported by a wide ranging and dynamic solidarity campaign beyond the prison walls. While there has so far been some concessions from the Syriza led government the strike and solidarity campaign continues.
DAK began their hunger strike back in March with a number of political demands:
1. Abolition of articles 187 and 187A of the penal code
2. Abolition of analysis of mixed DNA samples, abolition of the law of forcible taking of DNA samples, and enabling the presence of an expert witness on behalf of defendants in DNA evidence analysis
3. Abolition of the hoodie law
4. Abolition of type C prisons
5. Release of patient Savvas Xiros from prison
The Type C high security prisons were created last year by the previous government to house prisoners deemed especially dangerous, including many political prisoners. These demands are not limited to the situation in the Greek state however. By demanding the repel of articles 187, 187A and the 'hoodie law' the political prisoners aim at the dismantling of the legal framework of the anti-terror state which has grown since 2001 not just in Greece but everywhere the 'War on Terror' spread. The demands are also a test of the sincerity of the Syriza led government as when the Leftist party was in opposition they claimed to oppose the implementation of many of these laws.
At the same time as the DAK strike other hunger strikes began. Following the arrest of several friends and family members of suspected members of guerilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire(CCF), imprisoned guerillas went on hunger strike demanding the release of their relations. Though uncoordinated the two groups of imprisoned hunger strikers supported each others' demands. In the end this action was successful as the detained relations were released but not before one participant in the CCF strike came close to death following a number of heart failures. In addition to the actions of the political prisoners a hunger strike is still ongoing amongst the migrants held in the Paranesti detention camp demanding freedom for the detained and closer of the camp.
With the hunger strikes developing within the prisons, on the outside a large solidarity campaign has been unfolding. For weeks there has been an escalating series of occupations, protests, riots, sabotage and counter-information actions in support of the political prisoners. Back in November/December last year we saw a similar situation during the hunger strike of Nikos Romanos. This type of campaign is being referred to as the polymorphous struggle, so named because it involves a variety of tactics and allows different groups to carry out the type of action they think is suitable on their own initiative. This avoids disputes over methods and tactics and helps generate a sense of momentum as actions follow one after another. The recent polymorphous struggles have put the anarchist movement back on the offensive, the position it works best from.
Examples of actions include the symbolic occupation of Syriza's headquarters in Athens and the continued occupation of other party offices. Also a central building of the University of Athens has been under continuous occupation for the last two weeks. At the time of writing this occupation is in a critical situation with the media and opposition using the occupation to put pressure on the government and police forces taking up position around the building.
Another significant action was the recent 'invasion' of parliament. On 1st April a number of people entered the courtyard of the parliament in Athens and held a banner in solidarity with the hunger strikers. The fact that a group of anarchists managed to enter the grounds of the Greek parliament, a building resembling a fortress equipped with its own police garrison, infuriated and unnerved a number of MPs. Occupations and interventions at TV and radio stations have also helped spread the demands of the political prisoners with two new occupations having just begun in the city of Thessaloniki.
Frequent protest marches, either in the city centres or toward the prisons/hospitals where the hunger strikers are held, have been a key feature of the struggle. On a number of occasions these marches have led to clashes with the police particularly in central Athens. The marches and occupations have been supplemented by more militant direct actions. For example, dozens of banks and ATMs have been attacked or sabotaged throughout the Greek territories. One morning groups set up barricades on a main road in Athens, briefly blocking traffic along one of the capitals main roads in an effort to disrupt the normal flow of the city. This campaign has not been limited to the Greek territories either as a number of solidarity actions have been reported from a variety of countries.
As the political prisoners themselves have stated this campaign is the first organised political action against the Syriza led government. As such through this campaign we have been able to witness several steps of Syriza's transformation from a popular 'humanitarian' opposition to a governing party of 'honest compromises' and defenders of the nation. It does seem that a number of the demands of the hunger strikers will be meet with a prison bill currently going through parliament. The bill would scrap the Type C prisons and allow for the release of severely ill or disabled prisoners- such as Savvas Xiros. Progress has however been slow and each day puts the lives of the political prisoners at further risk. One member of CCF came perilously close to fatal injuries during the hunger strike and may yet have suffered lasting health damage. As perhaps expected, little will be done to remove the anti-terror laws.
The hunger strike and solidarity campaign have caused a considerable amount of confusion in Syriza. On the one hand they don't wish to appear like previous governments and have tried to keep the police away from occupations and protests. But as the solidarity campaign escalated Citizens Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis warning that a Leftist government does not mean an unprotected country clearly shows that Syriza only wishes to see symbolic protests and nothing more. More and more Syriza are insisting law and order will be maintained, hence the reason why we see the police surrounding the occupation in central Athens.
At the time of writing several members of DAK are continuing their hunger strike with a number having been hospitalised. The prison bill going through parliament should grant a number of key demands but every day that the Syriza led coalition delays puts lives at risk and further shifts the Leftist's position to the side of law and order as its humanitarian mask begins to slip.