With a bit of luck, by the time this issue of Black Flag hits the streets Greece will be in mourning for Prime Minister Papandreou, his wife will have fled into exile, the journalists will have left their tent outside his hospital and the infighting over his successor will be in full swing. His obituaries will say things about what a great socialist leader he was and how he brought Greece out of the shadow of the Colonels. The Greek Anarchist movement won't be mourning him.
Papandreou's PASOK (socialist party) always rode on the backs of the resistance to the dictatorship. Unlike other socialist parties many of its members early on were involved in (sometimes armed) resistance. PASOK's rhetoric has always been as leftist and anti-imperialist as it has been nationalist. When in opposition its members would enthusiastically march on the demonstrations to commemorate the Polytechnic uprising of November 17th 1973 and even join in the fighting. In opposition, PASOK unions would call and support strikes. In power 11 of the 22 years since the fall of the dictatorship, the story was very different. In 1985 a 15 year old anarchist, Michaelis Kaltezas, was shot dead by police after the November 17th demonstration. Since PASOK's return to power in 1993 repression of the anarchist movement and any radical opposition has increased.
Everyday policing in Exarheia, part of central Athens notorious for anarchists, drugdealing cops, and interesting bars, looks like a military occupation with riot cops toting machine guns and gas a regular sight. Fortunately, they have been no more successful in controlling the actions of small groups such as the Wolves of Exarheia or the Wild Geese of the City than any anarchist federation or newspaper.
1995 saw many arrests in both Athens and Thessaloniki. Four Anarchists are in prison in Athens accused of three separate armed robberies. Marinos, a well known militant, went on hunger strike. His last appeal was turned down on Jan 3rd 1996 after 61 days. By then he was in a coma. Anarchists occupied the Athens offices of Amnesty International and the Athens Lawyers Association in protest at the refusal of his appeal. He was released shortly before the end of January. Two others including Spiros Dapergolas publisher of the new national anarchist paper "alpha" were arrested in an armed robbery in July. A fourth comrade, Kostas Kalameras was arrested on evidence extracted under heavy interrogation from one Angelidou. Kalameras is a well known figure in the anarchist movement and the police have used the arrests of other anarchists to frame him. He went on hungerstrike in protest in October and was finally bailed on December 21st.
The Greek anarchist movement takes solidarity seriously and a march in support of political prisoners, specifically Kalameras, took place in Thessaloniki with 150 people. The Police attacked the march and arrested four, the rest of the demonstrators occupied the theology faculty of the university. Pirate stations called for support and demonstrators gathered outside with a PA and handed out leaflets. The police attacked again until they were driven off with molotovs. Since 1974 the police have been banned from school and university premises, hence the regular occupations often against the wishes of the student leaders. The "asylum" has been broken several times. In 1991 the police set fire to the polytechnic in Athens and stormed it. After occupations in January 94 PASOK attempted unsuccessfully to remove the asylum status.
The occupation ended on 16th of November as occupiers joined a student demonstration. The police had threatened the students if they marched with the anarchists and the left-wing leaders marched 100 metres behind the anarchists. Over 1000 anarchists marched in Thessaloniki on the November 17th commemoration march and despite provocation they chose not to respond violently on this occasion.
The court case of the arrested anarchists was a farce. The president of the court was the wife of a police chief. Ilias Hatzliradis and Panos Sofos were sentenced to three and a half years and Yannis Anagnostu got two and a half years. The fourth, Sofia Kiritsi, who was brought to court from hospital is awaiting sentencing. The charges were swearing at authority, resistance to authority, standing against authority by co-ordinated action. Fighting broke out at the court when the cops tried unsuccessfully to arrest one of the supporters.
1500 people marched on the 23rd of November against repression and for the release of prisoners. This time the police did not attack the march.
Meanwhile in Athens the commemoration of the polytechnic uprising was taking place. In 1994 TV cameras had been attacked when they tried to film demonstrators. The media are a regular target and their vans and journalists' cars are often firebombed or trashed. This year they had heavy police protection. The cops used gas, a fairly regular tactic, and 1700 people occupied the polytechnic (!) The cops laid siege to the buildings refusing to let medics in or anyone out. PASOK and communist party members were assisting the police to restore order. At 8am they stormed it and arrested 504 people, divided them into three groups, students, minors and workers, and held 136. 38 minors (12-15) were among those arrested. A 14 year old boy was beaten by 50 riot police outside the polytechnic. 23 people who had been taken to hospital suffering from gas or other injuries were taken to the police HQ with no medical support. Women were strip searched in front of male police officers. Several houses were raided including the Anarchist Archive, which was taken away. 1000 people marched in protest. After several more solidarity actions and demonstrations the 136 were released pending their court hearings. A number of people have been convicted already of charges such as flag-burning, damage to public property, disturbing the socio-economic life of the city. Most of them, around 65 remain free pending a further hearing, the courts are bowing to pressure to appear milder. Four comrades were ordered to be jailed immediately for 3 years and 4 months but they were tried in absentia and have not been arrested yet.
This was similar to events around the commemoration the year before when squats were raided before the demonstration and anarchists were arrested outside the polytechnic. Then the polytechnic was occupied again until the prisoners were released. On that occasion there was a lot of argument whether attacks on the cops should stop as the prisoners were being released or continue to keep up the pressure and ...hell, they're cops anyway.
The demonstrations around the November 17th commemorations have always ended in confrontations with the police. The repression which follows is getting more serious as the police tactics improve. The motivation seems to be a determination to crush the anarchist movement and in particular it's relationship with the militant high schools movement.
The strength of the anarchist movement is its diversity and breadth but there is also little unity. Militant actions against cops, drug pushers, media and business scum are regular. The anarchists have considerable notoriety but not much influence except in the high schools movement. Greece has only a small industrial working class and only rarely any autonomous workers movement. Unions and many social movements are controlled by the political parties and they are as happy to use the anarchists' militancy when it suits them as to try to destroy the anarchist movement when it is no use to them.
The anarchists are determined to face up to state terrorism and neo-liberalism and call on comrades internationally to take action against Greek embassies and businesses in solidarity.
Contacts: ABC Athens
8 Aristidou 10559 Athens
A-News: PO Box 30557
Note: This first appeared in Black Flag #207, in 1995. It was originally headlined "NEWS FROM GREECE"
Radio Utopia (fax) 031 207043
Radio Kirotos (fax) 031 245962
(Thessaloniki pirate stations)