Alkis: An anarchist, squatter, publisher, and worker
Continued from Chapter 1, this interview expresses the continuity from before December to afterwards.
...As the events of December showed, those who lost contact with society's most radical and militant expressions were not the anarchists, but those who were flirting with the ideas and structures of authority claiming a role for themselves as representatives of the social subjects and mediators of social conflicts.
Through a long-lasting process of struggle, which I briefly described before, anarchists and anti-authoritarians gained a lot of ground in the consciousness of the people, something that was not evident to everybody until December. Some believe that the State lost a lot of social ground during the days of December. More accurately the State had lost a lot of ground before the events of December, over a long period of time. This was revealed during the revolt, with the participation of crowds of people in actions that were considered, up to that moment, exclusive to small groups of anarchists.
December of 2008 has a profound historical, political, and social background that is connected to the history of struggles over the last thirty years, and to the presence and participation of anarchists inside those struggles. The anarchists’ participation that is characterised by the praxis of social revolt without mediators and without illusions for a change inside the existing system, proposing self-organisation against any kind of hierarchical organisation, proposing counter-violence against State violence, and solidarity against individualisation and the artificial divisions created by power.
Here we could talk about dynamic practices of struggle: the clashes with the police and the occupations of buildings (universities, schools, town halls and many others) - both were appropriated by crowds of people in December. The same happened with self-organisation through open, anti-hierarchical assemblies that were created during the days of December and afterwards. Those practices were avoided and downgraded by the Left and the result is that the events surpassed them.
However, even though December is a result of social and political processes going back many years, and it does have similarities and analogies with previous events, it still surpasses them and expresses new situations, needs and desires, creating new potentials. Unlike past events, this time they weren’t limited or localised in a specific time and space. They were diffused to numerous cities all over the country and took many different forms, more or less violent but always antagonistic to the State, based each time on the inspiration and imagination, the inventiveness of the people who participated.
Furthermore, it is a process that, because of its diffusion and its multiform character, doesn’t seem to have an endpoint; rather it seems to continue and renew itself, taking new forms and bearing the promise of new social explosions in spite of the current decline in violent events. Previously events mainly concerned Greek youth but in December what spread all across the country included people of many other nationalities, including migrants and refugees.
Dynamic methods of struggle and processes of self-organisation were adopted by many people, without representatives and without putting forward demands, December not only continues a culture of political violence, it is also laying down a new tradition of self-organisation as an important social urge, to organise from below These processes of self-organisation don’t respond to murderous police violence as their only objective but to all expressions of Authority: from the way we live, the way we work, produce, consume, to issues of health, the environment, everything. Every aspect of authority is a front of struggle for the people who self-organise and fight from below, not always violently but almost always antagonistically to the State.
The revolt also justified certain positions inside the anti-authoritarian movement and disproved others. For example, the notion that everything is under control, that manipulation and control of people is so strong today that revolts are not I possible, or that society is dead, that it cannot produce anything healthy and that we anarchists are alone against the State, was disproved. December showed that social revolt is possible.
The subjects of the revolt are another important issue surrounding December. There has been a lot of talk about who rebelled and there has been a major effort by the media and representatives of the political system to determine the subjects of the revolt in order to write the history themselves. They allege that it was a revolt of youth, specifically Greek youth, and especially high school students, based on the fact that part of the revolt was mobilisations of high school students, who, on many occasions, went as far as to demonstrate at police stations and assault them. But this is a very limited and falsified presentation of the revolt. The political system and the media want to conceal the wider social, multinational, and class character of the revolt. It was not only the students who were in the streets! And, in any case, most of the youth who came into the streets did not come down as students, but as insurgents against the world of domination, state violence, authority and exploitation. The media and politicians want to hide what was evident to everyone who was in the streets: that in those streets there were the poor, the salaried workers, the unemployed, those we call excluded. And a large number of them were immigrants, those who are the cheapest labour force and main victims of labour exploitation, police violence, and state repression.
Consequently the subject that each analyst presents as playing a central role in the revolt indicates his or her own political purposes and reflects their subjective perception of the revolt, as well as their future objectives. For example, when they talk about Greek youth, especially about high school students, it is in order to separate the "good" rebels, considering them easier to manipulate, from the "bad," uncontrollable rebels. However the majority of the people who were in the streets basically belonged to the latter category they were uncontrollable, oppressed people.
Today we are facing two things. One is the repressive moves by the State through the judicial system and the police-such as arrests, imprisonment, people being held hostage through prosecutions, increased public surveillance, the penalisation of wearing masks and of insulting the police verbally the targeting of squats, of self-managed spaces, and generally of the self-organised structures of the movement. On the other hand we have the ideological attack launched by the State in order to divide the rebels of December into "good" students, aiming to incorporate them into the system, and the"bad ones,"who cannot or do not want to be incorporated and thus must be isolated and attacked and repressed.
We should also point out that while repression is expressed directly by the state mechanisms, the ideological war is being expressed by them and by other auxiliary mechanisms, such as the parties of the institutional Left. While the judiciary and the police repression are immediately visible and understood as something that comes from outside, the ideological war is more insidious and is generated within the movement itself, since it is expressed not only by those who are hostile to the movement but also by people who appear as friends of the movement and who are selectively projecting those characteristics of the revolt which they like, which means those characteristics they think they can absorb and utilise. And at the same time they slander those characteristics and subjects of the revolt that they don’t consider agreeable, naming them non-political, anti-social, or even criminal.
This ideological war aims to incorporate, to terrorise those who are not incorporated, and to isolate those who support the revolt.
The crisis of the system, which is a crisis of its social legitimation, radically limits the possibilities of incorporation for a large portion of the people who react and resist. To clarify this means that more and more people lose their trust in the institutions or the proponents of the system. This is why, even if they manage to incorporate some, they can’t really confine and intercept the influence of the radical ideas.
The ones that we have to be wary of, because of their erosive and undermining presence, are exactly the ones who have one foot in the old world and the other foot with us, talking about a new world. These double-faced enemies of the revolt are the worst, worse than police and judges.
We have to make clear that we’re referring specifically to those who play a certain role, not even always an important one, inside the institutions, and not generally to people - workers, neighbours, youth - with whom we meet. As for the latter, people who are being acculturated and educated by the system to have faith in the institutions, it was much easier to communicate with them in the first days of the revolt, because the material conditions and the tension of the events was such that everyone was moving from their old positions to new ones.
Today as time goes by our political and personal ability to keep these contacts is being tested. And so is our patience when acting together with people different from us, recognising that we have a lot more to learn about how to keep contact with all these people whom we met in the streets in December. And the most important way that we meet face-to-face, beyond the usual propaganda material, the texts and flyers, is in the self-organised assemblies. From our side, we encourage the creation of such assemblies, we participate and intervene in them. And it is there also that we’re faced with the ideological war I talked about before. But apart from that, there are the prejudices; both the prejudice of other people regarding us, and our prejudice towards people who do not have a clear rejection of the existing system, either out of naivete, out of fear or just because they are accustomed to it.
But we are on the right path. The relations that have been developed between anarchists, anti-authoritarians, and other parts of society constitute a whirlwind and the outcome is unpredictable. For sure it is something positive, as we don’t allow normality and alienation to re-establish themselves. Because in contradiction to the swirl of the revolt where everything is possible and we can hope for the best, normality is a situation where almost everything is predictable and most of the time the result is negative.
Things are unpredictable, not only concerning the relation between anarchists and anti-authoritarians with other people, but within the movement as well. And, mostly things are unpredictable in terms of the relation between the anarchists, society and the State. The anarchist/anti-authoritarian social movement produces many initiatives and acts of resistance against the State, some more dynamic and others less so, some more social and others less so. That is to say that there is not any central organ or single nucleus, but a variety of larger and smaller initiatives of struggle from below, some of which are coordinated while others are not. In every case, what should be avoided, in my opinion, is to be socially isolated, to be isolated among us, in the movement, and to be left alone to carry out a confrontation with the State.
We understand that a number of things that are done in Greece, were they done in the US or in Italy for example, some of us would be dead and many more would be in prison for a lot of years. This balance of power that exists today - the fact that there is such activity and that we can talk about these things - has been thirty years in the making. But our lives and our freedom are always imperilled and targeted by the state mechanisms.After December the State wants to change this balance of power, and it could reverse it. Just as when Alexis Grigoropoulos was murdered and the desire for revolt came from within the people, there could be another moment where, based on a different event, an explosion of state repression could occur; and anarchists, as well as other fighters, could be exposed to tremendous dangers.
The history of the movement in the US, in Europe, and in the world teaches us both what we can do and what we can be faced with. Having a deeper knowledge of what we are and what we want to do, but also of what the State is and what it wants to do with us - to make us disappear - what we should make sure of is not to isolate ourselves from society but also not to be divided within the movement, so that as a whole we won't be left alone against the State, nor that every individual comrade will be left alone against the State. But it is also important not to restrain our impetus or compromise our inner desires, to act and make things happen, to use our courage and even our craziness.
We haven't said anything so far about the role of spontaneity in the events of December. Spontaneity has always played a role in the anarchist initiatives and did again in December. But there was also the spontaneity of the social groups that participated in the revolt, the spontaneity of the masses. According to Castoriadis, "Spontaneity is the excess of the “result" over the "causes."" There were spontaneous forces that were expressed in December, forces that were hidden inside the masses of the people and that were not predictable before. And these forces still inherent in society, much more in a society that is on its knees, much more in a society divided into classes, suffocating by the violence of the system, by poverty despair, fear. For people living in such a society two possibilities remain: either the passive acceptance of the existing reality which the State wants to present as the only option; or insurrection, which even when it is not visible as a possibility or choice doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist and that it won’t burst forth.
And there is one more point: in today's conditions of domination by the State and capitalism in the West, the explosion of revolts is not so rare, including metropolitan riots, mostly by groups of youth and usually triggered by incidents of police violence. We have the events in the French suburbs, or the black revolt in L.A. in ’92. And as a different case, we could also mention the Albanian revolt in ’97, even though it has many distinct characteristics. But what happened here in December, in comparison with other big insurrectionary events, was that political and social subjects met and interacted.Anarchists met with social subjects ready to revolt.
In this context, revolt becomes much more dangerous for authority; when it is not just an outburst of social rage by a specific oppressed social group, but the fertile meeting of the dynamics of various social groups who direct together their violence against the source of all the exploitation and oppression.
Revolts happen and cannot be avoided. Authority knows that, so, it prefers to suppress each one social group alone and not let revolts take on clear political characteristics, not let them have a total criticism against the existing order. The presence and participation of the anarchists in December gave such wider political characteristics; and to a large extent a subversive criticism of the system as a whole was developed.
And that was right, and it is right for every comrade or group of comrades, wherever they are in the world, to attempt and to realise the meeting with social groups that suffer from the tyranny of the State and capitalism and have the desire to fight back, so that the unavoidable revolts become more widespread and not restricted.
If only we imagine what could happen with the meeting between political subjects who are consciously intending the subversion of the existing order, with all those social subjects who suffocate from the State and capitalism and have reasons to revolt. Only imagining this is enough to understand. And this is what happened to a large degree in Greece in December.