J.: A libertarian freethinker and organiser of underground happenings since the late '80s
Let’s say we have three different phases in the anarchist movement. The first phase was in the ’80s, and it was characterised by Eastern philosophies, Western philosophies, psychedelic views, all combined and non-puritan. It was not differentiated. But this all changed in the mid-90s when the movement Italianised, so to speak. It began to copy the Italian model, to differentiate itself and distance itself from its cultural aspects, saying the only way to be effective was to be militant. It adopted a more objective and materialistic view. The major influences during the ’90s were the Italian autonomia, to a lesser extent things like Green Anarchy from the American movement, and very much so the Situationist International and the new formulation of metropolis, the capitalistic centres as metropolis, the places where the spectacle is more actively formulated. The German underground and punk rock also had an influence, and these were not so tolerant of other approaches. In the ’80s it was easier to speak together about Proudhon or the Doors or the psychedelic communes. In the ’90s there were two currents. The prominent one was very materialistic and rational, based on Western anarchist thinkers. The second one, very much a minority had to do with spirituality and seeking utopias. However this second current has larger reflections in the rest of society There are lots of people moving in this alternative way but they move in small groups, they are not creating big congregations or assemblies like the first current.
The third phase - that led to December - is that there are so many people sharing libertarian ideas, with a majority of militant thinking and a minority with a spiritual and cultural focus. When everyone was trying to do the best from their own view and all of this together brought December.
The second current in the ’90s, based in spirituality arose mainly through the neo-hippy culture that came from abroad in rave parties or Rainbow Gatherings. It was connected with Reclaim the Streets from the UK. In the Greek version thereof, there was unity between the two factions, but it didn’t last for long. Not because of the repression of the State but because of the inner contradictions of this union. One side thought that the other side was just lifestyle anarchists losing themselves in spirituality focusing on meditation rather than changing the system. So there was a break, slowly but surely Because of this, a big part of the Greek anarchist movement is very puritan in its attitude. Even though they are anarchists they can easily remind you of the Communists. They’re very strict, not very flexible. But all these contradictions is what makes the movement so strong, somehow. Because in the times of great social unrest all these people came together and acted together before they broke up again into different pieces.
Spirituality is not important for the revolutionary struggle, spirituality is important for changing how you view the world. If you change that it’s very difficult for you to be repressed. If you are a spiritual person and connect with your inner consciousness, it comes naturally that you want to be there for other people.You feel love for them, you want them to be okay you don’t want them to have to live in a society that is repressing them so much. Spirituality also makes you effective in what you are doing. It gives you a clear mind, unaffected by hatred. A mind that is ready to act without being affected by the poisonous surroundings that necessitate the actions. Spirituality allows you to act freely so that you are no longer a slave, neither from the outside nor from your inner complexities. Since you understand that the great game of existence surpasses any higher ideology you are no longer definable, you are someone who changes all the time.
In the first current hate is sovereign, hatred of the structures of the system. For people who develop their spirituality hatred is not valid at all, it’s poisonous. But this doesn’t mean that they’re passive. This means that they act without hate but they are still there when they need to shout or fight. But they have a clear view. They understand that the real enemy is not the Other, but the ignorance that distorts our relationships.
Most of us in this second current are pacifists. But if the last resort is to fight, here the idea is that we fight. But only if it is the last option, if it is to protect yourself or to save the person beside you who is getting beaten. Only then. We are not ideologising violence, and neither are we ideologising pacifism. That's very important. Because you cannot stay peaceful when someone next to you is being attacked.You fight but the important thing is that you are not feeling hatred.
How do you feel about spirituality accommodating a bourgeois lifestyle?
We hate that! We are completely against that idea, we don’t accept it as real spirituality It’s a way of drugging yourself. Spirituality is about developing strong philosophical systems that work slowly; or sometimes more quickly that bring you to a higher consciousness. It has nothing to do with beads and new age shops and all this bullshit coming from the California ideology. We are against this stuff in the same way that we are against the ideologising of hatred in the libertarian movement. That’s a very important difference you can see between Greece and the Anglo-Saxon world. None of us see spirituality as something you can buy. Most of us really are searchers, free- thinkers. We don’t fit into Murray Bookchin’s ideas of lifestyle anarchism. Actually we don’t like his ideas. He was great in the ’70s but after time he just wanted to make the whole movement adhere to his ideas, eventually he became just an old fart. Anything that was outside of his narrow idea of anarchism had to be placed inside a single term and abolished. We are against Bookchin, and new age, and lifestyle. We are not even post-modern. We can take ideas from Baudrillard and the rest but we use them in our own way. Anyway postmodernism is just another Western idea, it’s not a global idea, It’s part of the myth and ideology of the West.
People outside the movement are very affected by the connection of spirituality and libertarian ideas. Especially the young people are experimenting with new ways of living. Some move out of the cities, some go travelling, some of them find ways to travel inside their own neighbourhoods and societies. This is not centralised, and it doesn’t follow the approach of the main current in the anarchist movement. These people are much more loose and cool. But for example in December all of them were in the streets. They were in the councils, in the streets, in the riots, everywhere. Somehow December surpassed the classical anarchist groups in Greece.
The raves and free spaces form a part of the network where the new collective consciousness is coming together. People are making friendships, using music to express themselves, using psychedelics, or not. Many people don’t use any psychedelics at all, but it’s just one way to get an ecstatic view of the world. The rave culture brought many people back in touch with nature, with free love and free thinking. Of course there were some people inside this subculture who were there for business but that was a minority. Most people were there for the sacred atmosphere that was being developed inside these parties. Two generations came together and they were ready to destroy the apathy. Most of the people at these parties were pacifists, though there was always a strong minority that were into rioting, which is why many of these rave parties ended in riots. People at the parties wanted to keep the cops out, so they would attack them, and you would get riots lasting all night. In Greece the police don't attack the parties of the underground so much because they are afraid of the counter-attack. They prefer to attack the parties of the pacifists. There were many attacks against them and no one fought back. This is how they destroyed the outdoor rave scene in the ’90s. People were organising raves in the forests and the mountains, but they kept getting attacked. This didn’t happen to the parties in the metropolis or the parties organised by anarchists, because these people were ready to fight. And after the riots the parties didn’t stop, they continued the whole time. The party was the source of the riot and something for it to melt back into.
Also in the indie rock scene, there have been massive riots at concerts. It’s very important to note that in the places where these festivals took place there was no asylum, like there is in the universities. The concerts were not held in the universities, but usually in Pedion Areos Park in the centre of Athens. In the last eighteen years in Athens at least eight major riots started from concerts there, and even though they had no asylum, police were only able to break up the concerts three of those times.
In Thessaloniki in 2003 there were seven days of parties organised by Void Network, leading up until the night of the big riots against the European Union summit. There were two different squats inside the campus, one led by the Black Bloc and the other by an anti-authoritarian coalition. The parties took place between these two occupations, and they kept going constantly These were great moments. I think they prepared people for the big demonstrations and the major riots that took place. It was a very unique space for new connections and new ideas. For me this was much more important than the demonstration itself. It was a great union between the neo-hippies and the people who are all about barricades. There were many differences, and much arguing, but in the end they all came together.
There was a party in September 2006 at the Polytechnic. It turned into a massive riot with 7,000 people. There were artists from all over Europe there, playing for free. The riots started around two in the morning and kept going until seven or eight. The police would shoot tear gas and people would scatter but then come back together. This whole time the party never stopped. People would fight the police around the campus and go back to the party. There was one DJ from Germany who said it was a great moment for the rave scene. He put his T-shirt around his face and went back on stage to keep spinning.
In late 2001 there was a major party in Propilea, in front of the University Rectorate in the centre of Athens. Void Network occupied the place for twenty-four hours. All the tribes came together, there were 5,000 people, 6,000 people, blocking the streets, dancing. The riot police surrounded us but they couldn’t do anything, because that plaza is protected by the asylum. This was a very significant event, all these people occupying part of the city, dancing together, writing slogans on the wall. In the morning we had taken over the area of a major metro station, Panepistimio. Workers and other people were coming by and seeing this scene and they couldn't understand how it could happen, it was too far outside their reality. And this is the most important thing, creating holes in reality to show people that we can create anything we desire, surpassing these blocks in the general consciousness of society It was really good. For me this party summarises the whole idea of the multidimensional movement.