Pavlos and Irina: Two anarchists who were in the Polytechnic occupation
I heard about the shooting of Alexis from a friend, over the phone. This was already several hours later, at one in the morning. I went there as soon as I got the call, but the events had already begun. When I got to Exarchia, the streets were full of fires. People had occupied the Polytechnic after having a small assembly there and deciding to take it over. At this time, 1:30, 2:00, the cops tried to surround the campus to prevent people from gathering there. People from Exarchia Square and more people from Patision, from Omonia, were trying to approach the Polytechnic so there were fights between the riot police and the people, in Exarchia and on Patision Avenue.
From the moment of the assassination, people in that area started to take action. There was an announcement for a meeting in the Polytechnic half an hour after the murder. At the same time people were gathering at the spot where the shooting took place. Significantly the struggle did not begin from an organised initiative, but spontaneously as a natural expansion of the event.
Some leftists were gathering on Akademias Avenue, while people were fighting at and around the Polytechnic. Some hours after midnight, a big group of anarchists, 100-200 people, not a specific political group, but an ad hoc gathering, walked to another neighbourhood one or two kilometres away a commercial district, an area with night life, and they attacked many big shops. There were buildings that were completely burned out. This same group also attacked one or two police stations while travelling around the city. This was the first counter-attack, the first initiative of people going on the offensive.
These first reactions were vital in lending a defining character to everything that came afterwards. The first reactions determine what happens next. This is why what happened in Exarchia is so crucial. From the first moment, people gathered. In the first hour a large group of people occupied the Polytechnic. And this initiative, this counter-attack, gave a specific character to all the subsequent reactions.
The cops who were stationed in Exarchia were attacked. It’s something that has happened before as a spontaneous response to police aggressions, or as a planned attack. It has happened frequently In the past loose gatherings of young people would meet and decide, let’s go, tomorrow night, and attack the cops at this location. It was done fluidly not by formal organisation. It’s a field of exercise. This is important.
People already had all this experience. Not only the experience of organisation or political discussion but also the experience of fighting in the streets. This is one of the features that enabled our successes in December.
I don’t remember at what hour but at one point the cops disappeared from around the Polytechnic and all the people could come gather there. And this happened because all night more and more people were coming down into the street to fight with police. The fighting continued all night. That first night provides us a vantage point from which we can look at the rest of the insurrection. First of all I only use the word insurrection to express what period we're talking about, in December. My opinion is that we cannot determine the insurrectional when it happens, according to rules or standards.We cannot measure it. That’s a sociological discussion, to demarcate when the insurrection begins and ends. It didn’t begin on December 6, the insurrection was always here. In every individual or every group of people that reacted against the State and authority. What happened on December 6 in Athens and later in all of Greece and across the world was the meeting of all the insurrections, all the revolts, that could meet at this time. I don’t want to see history from a sociological point of view, "Now we have many people so it is an insurrection, now they are no longer in the streets so it ended." It’s not like this. With such a perspective you cannot see what is under the events, you cannot explain how it came to light and how it continues, if you see history only as numbers.And this explains how in some hours thousands of people gathered in the centre of town fighting with the police. It was because the fire was already lit. The inner motive was already there. It’s like a bomb. A single event that meant something to masses of people was the fuse to ignite a social power that had already been smouldering, invisibly This explains how thousands of people met, gathered in a few hours, and could continue fighting for days, and why this expanded to other places.
December 6 wasn’t the first time that a cop killed a civilian. They do it often. What made the difference, what gave a specific meaning to this event from the first moment, was that it was an attack, a straight attack. The cop car passed the area where young people were hanging out, drinking beers, discussing. And this is a place where young people and anarchists pass their time, a pedestrian street. When the cops drove by, someone insulted them, shouted something. Perhaps they threw a plastic bottle of water, I'm not sure. The cops drove on,they parked the car two blocks away where there was a bus of riot police, which is normally stationed there. They parked the car in a safe place and they came back on foot. They both took out their guns, and one of them aimed it at the group of young people, and shot two or three times. The first important feature of the event is that it was a blatant attack by the police; no one can talk about an accident. Always when they kill someone they call it an accident.
Secondly it was in a neighbourhood that is in a way liberated from the police. Not totally, but they don’t do what they want in Exarchia, they don’t pass easily And that’s why they first parked the car somewhere out of this zone. Let’s say there was a mental border, a not safe place, a stateless zone, and outside of this border there is state security This mental scheme is understood by everybody It was a social accomplishment in everybody’s minds, even the enemy recognised it. From time to time in the newspapers, in the Sunday editions where they run articles with political analysis, terrorism, or anarchists, there were articles about the avaton of Exarchia. Traditionally this word was only used for the holy mountain of Khalkidiki, which is a mountain where only monks can go. It has boundaries, it’s like another country. Avaton is a place where you cannot step. And the State was using this word for Exarchia. In fact some journalists on the first night or the next day were saying that this assassination provided an opportunity to discuss the problem of the avaton of Exarchia.
They are stupid, they couldn’t understand the meaning of the event and what the consequences would be. They were talking a bunch of hot air because they couldn’t yet understand what would happen. Starting the very next day everybody was selling tears, capitalising on the grief of the assassination. Up to the president. There were some journalists saying this bullshit but the rest of the State understood how serious the situation was and everybody was trying to erase the meaning, to lower the value of the event, pretending to sympathise, because Alexis was young. And the fact that he was a young student was important because from the first moment it concerned all the youth, all the students.
After the first assembly in the Polytechnic some people left and went to start another occupation, at the ASOEE, joined by other people who weren’t at Polytechnic. They did it for a political reason. They did not want to be near a chaotic situation which they couldn’t control. There were also people who believed it would be better to have more occupations than one, more centres, more bases for the struggle, it’s true, and some people went to ASOEE because the police pre- vented them from entering the Polytechnic at that moment so they went to another occupation. The fact that we had more than one occupation functioned as a factor of power, it was more difficult to attack more places. It also allowed a greater diversity of people to participate, since there were different occupations with different ways of doing things.
From the first day we were among the people in the Polytechnic who had the opinion that all the occupations must continue. That we have to keep more buildings, different bases. I’m not sure if it was the same night or the next day when there was also a third occupation at Nomiki, carried out by people of the Left and Alpha Kappa, the Anti-authoritarian Current. They have good relations with the leftists and bad relations with most of the rest of the anarchist movement. During the first night everybody was mixed, but after some hours people began to separate and clarify their political character. Some people left the Polytechnic because they did not want to be together with an uncontrolled crowd. They preferred to be in an area where they could subject all actions to a general discussion. It’s not that they didn’t want direct action or a violent fight, but they wanted to do it in the way they were already familiar with.
So I know that my criticism is a little hard, but I think it’s true. The occupation of ASOEE had more of a Party character, not in an institutional way but symbolically, and in its ideological purity But also I use the word Party because this strategy divided them from the uncontrolled crowds that were fighting, destroying anything in the streets. The ASOEE group participated in the marches, in many events, they also did actions by themselves, I don’t say that it was a bureaucratic group, and as I said before my opinion was that all the occupations must continue, they all were important. So in the ASOEE occupation there were many discussions but among people who already knew one another, like a big family you could say discussing different subjects. And of course the cohesion that they had between them was an advantage for many actions. They intervened in the lighting in the streets, they made attacks in the metro.
On the other hand, those of us who stayed in the Polytechnic, from the first moment, were there not because we dropped in accidentally but because we believed that we had to stay there, to keep this occupation, for many reasons. Some of these reasons are related to the beginning of the insurrection. The Polytechnic as a place was an important factor in the insurrection. For example the people who attacked the commercial district, they started from the Polytechnic. Many of them didn’t participate later in the Polytechnic, some of them went to ASOEE, it doesn’t matter. They started from the Polytechnic because the Polytechnic has a historical value. Not like a monument, but a living meaning. It’s still the base, the centre, of serious struggles, and a place of organisational processes, like assemblies. This meaning comes from the insurrection of ’73 before the end of the dictatorship.
Because of this living historical value, the living meaning of Polytecnio, we had to be there, we had to keep this place. The Polytechnic is a point on the map of social consciousness that is related with insurrection. That’s why not only the first night but all the first week and the days after thousands of people passed through there to fight. Many more than the number of people who stayed in the occupation. We were only a few dozen staying there, keeping the occupation running, just a few people next to the huge masses who participated in the events. In the assemblies there were some hundreds of people who didn’t sleep there, didn’t stay in the buildings, and during the nights, in the fighting outside the Polytechnic, there were thousands of people. And of course not only anarchists.
Regardless of the meaning of the place and the historical value of the Polytechnic, and because of that meaning, it was the gathering point for many different people, many who had never worked together or met until that moment, and they met there for a common reason: insurrection. To fight against the State. The campus and the streets around it were also the specific place designated for fighting, for violence against the police and the State. The common idea was that this was our place. The place where we do what we want. You could see so many different people in the occupation and in the lights in the surrounding streets. You could see immigrants from any race or country blacks, Eastern Europeans, anybody. You could see high school students, lumpen proletariat - people who live on the streets, junkies, hooligans, gypsies. And all ages were there.You could see all ages from the first night, the first hours, all the generations of anarchists, all the generations that had lived through struggles in the past and now gathered in the streets.You could see people who had left the struggle years ago. But they came out again this night. And the place of this mixture was the Polytechnic.
What other anarchists didn’t like was the melting pot, the mixing with people from other cultures that are not very familiar or welcoming to us.And they didn’t like the blurring of actions, including many actions that they didn’t accept or that didn’t fit their view of insurrection. This fact was one of the reasons that we wanted to be there. Because we don’t understand the insurrection as an expression of the process of our ideas or a clear manifestation of anarchist organisations in society, but as a social explosion, as the expression of the needs of people who are repressed, exploited, tortured. And our work until this moment was and should be to provoke this moment, to provoke this meeting, this melting. We keep our thinking, we keep our way of organising, our characteristics, our way to organise our own fight, but we have to be there and to mix with all the others. This is our role, to support this, to push this. So we can say that the occupation of the Polytechnic was the most proletarian of all the occupations. It wasn’t restricted to anarchists but the way of doing things and the general strategy the way of thinking in the assemblies, was anarchist.
And that’s why in the pamphlets from the Polytechnic occupation and in the poster we made you could find the clearest reference to class struggle, to a counter-attack by the lower class. lt was not an exclusively anarchist view of the event, on what is the State, what is the insurrection, but our discourse was very clear in announcing that the counter-attack of our class begins now. From the first paper we printed, we were talking about all the people assassinated in the past, naming them, remembering them, referring also to the armed guerrillas that were killed in fights, because we are not into victimisation. We said that these days of struggle were for all of them as well as for Alexis. We will take revenge for all of them. And for all of us.
On the first night, many shops on Stournari Street were smashed open. Some were looted, others were burned. Stournari is the street that goes from Exarchia Square, past the Polytechnic, to Patision. Cops were on the corner of Patision and Stournari, and higher up on Stournari, to keep people from convening in the Polytechnic. They were also behind the campus, where there is always a police bus guarding the Ministry of Culture. Normally the police attack Polytechnic from Kanigos Square and this night they did so again to try to cut off Stournari. But the cops were defeated in the street, and the shops were destroyed - all the big shops and some smaller ones, but most of the little shops were not touched. The biggest computer shop in this street and one of the biggest in all Greece was smashed open and burned completely. Many floors, a tall building, all burned. And it was burning slowly so the arson was well done. I think it is not usable now I think they will have to demolish it. This particular building was burned on purpose because this company was part of a consortium that wanted to build a technological park, like Silicon Valley on a mountain near Athens, in a place where there is forest now.
The next morning Stournari and all the smaller side streets were a surrealistic place, a magical and unimaginable scene.You couldn’t picture it if you hadn’t seen it. The whole street covered with stones, pieces of metal, anything that could be thrown. Burnt cars. Cars flipped over. Smoke. It was like a moonscape. Very quiet, that morning. Only a few people passing by to see the scene or take photos. But you didn’t see anyone going to work, no one went to open their shops. It was like time stopped there. The feeling was great. Tranquillity. It was like this the first morning, and all the mornings of the first week. People were passing by going into the occupation or coming out. Like it was our place, it was free. A specific political and military situation, a balance of power, in which one neighbourhood, one street, was liberated. It was ours. For days. It was a place of no control. It’s not like the police came to write up the damages. For one week, there was no State there. In the rest of the city the police were on the streets, but only in big groups, in defensive formation, or they were hiding. But here it was ours. And just one and a half blocks away there was a bus of riot police guarding a ministry building. They never left their post. They were attacked many times, with a variety of methods, but they didn’t budge. Very surreal.
Next day Sunday was the first march. It started near Polytecnio and went towards the police headquarters, at Leoforos Alexandras, not too far, but away from the centre. This march contained many people, and much energy It was an unstoppable attack, from the first moment. l\/[any people started destroying all the symbols of capitalism. They were burning corporate offices, supermarkets, banks, car dealerships, for example Ford was burned totally. And the cops were not there at first, they were waiting near their headquarters. As soon as the people saw the cops on Leoforos Alexandras guarding the headquarters, they attacked. But the cops managed to break the march and push it back, and there was continuous conflict. The people didn’t scatter, but they were steadily pushed back. At this point the police were trying to disperse people, not to make arrests. They used incredible amounts of tear gas. Sunday’s march was the first mass outlet of destruction in the city. Some leftists and Left parties called the Sunday march, I think also with Alpha Kappa. But everybody went there. People from all the occupations, anarchists generally. The people from the political parties were not in control, they did very little.
Sunday night, after the protest march, thousands more came to the Polytechnic to fight with police, thousands of people. This happened from Saturday to Wednesday but Sunday night was the night of the rage outside the Polytechnic. The people were uncontrollable. You cannot describe it with words, the rage that was expressed there. Against the cops and against anything that symbolised authority It was pure rage. When I went out from the university into the street on Sunday night, I saw a large group of people in front of one of the computer shops throwing anything they could find, along with dozens, maybe hundreds of molotovs, into the same shop. For a long time. It didn’t follow any plan, it was just uncontrolled rage. And then they went to find the police at Kanigos Square. In Kanigos there is also a ministry building so you could always be sure to find cops there. These nights we went out from the occupation to go fight, but we didn’t have to do anything because everything was done, it was done by others. Fighting and rioting was not the exclusive specialty of the anarchists.
Many people, anarchists and others, were coming from other countries to experience the insurrection. There was a hooligan from Poland who heard the news and on the second day he took a plane to Athens, came to the Polytechnic, and he stayed there until the last clay of the occupation. It wasn’t only a political familiarity that attracted the people, it was the mind of the insurrection, the common potential of every exploited person. On Monday there were events in the whole country. Even in the little islands far to the east, near Turkey the students made attacks on the police stations. And also in an area in the northwest of Athens where many gypsies live, on the second day they participated in the insurrection. They didn’t come down to the centre but gathered in their own area and burned a bank, looted a big store, and attacked the local police station. They set fire to a stolen truck, jammed down the gas pedal, and drove it into the front door. Then they shot the building up with hunting rifles. It’s a hard place, there are bad relations between the cops and the gypsies. They also have lost people to police assassinations in the past.
Next day Monday the minister of education decided to close the schools and universities so that the students could not gather. They had estimated that they would have a problem with the students mobilising, and they thought they could stop them like this. But on Monday morning the students swarmed around their closed schools and started carrying out actions spontaneously everywhere. Everywhere in Athens and throughout the entire country. You could hear about students who were blocking streets, making protest marches, others who were attacking police stations with stones. And we’re talking about people who didn’t have any contact with us and who hadn't been in the centre of Athens the previous two nights. These were random people all over the country who gathered and did things. It seemed like the entire student body of some schools were coming down to the Polytechnic. On Monday morning I went to Patision Avenue with some other friends, some comrades, to distribute pamphlets. It was the first pamphlet that was written in the Polytechnic occupation. Students were arriving in groups thinking that the Polytechnic was the place to gather and find out how to get involved. They asked us what we would do and when, and where.
I will add a personal experience to illustrate the atmosphere there. At one point a march arrives, with a large mass of students. They had come from many kilometres away not a very poor neighbourhood either, but middle class and upper middle class. And when they arrived at Patision outside the historical door of the Polytechnic, where the tanks attacked in ’73, they blocked the avenue without asking us what to do. And they started shouting the common slogan, "Batsi, gourounya, dolofoni!" Cops, pigs, killers! Watching this scene, I became ecstatic. And I understood at this moment that the thing now has departed. It has gone beyond us. I don’t say it surpassed us. Many people use this word, but I don’t believe this. Maybe it surpassed them because they didn’t believe this could happen, but the insurrection surpassed this way of thinking. I am one of those people who was sure that insurrections will happen, and soon. And I am one of the people who believe that revolution also will happen.
So when the insurrection came here, it wasn’t a surprise. The moment changes you, every experience in this situation becomes a new part of you. But it’s not unexpected. It’s what you expected but you’ve just never seen it before and now here it is in front of you, all around you. And in this moment, in front of this scene, I was ecstatic, thinking that these are our people. It’s not only our small circle of comrades. Now that which is hidden in everybody every single person, will be expressed. It was in this moment that I understood that now the event goes forward. It’s free to advance, it can’t be stopped now.
Monday afternoon was the first march in the centre of town. Everyone was there. It was the biggest march of the week. And it was this afternoon that the centre of Athens was burned.
From the first moment, people started attacking. Burning buildings, central banks, state buildings, big shops, chain stores, department stores.And looting. Below Omonia Square, let’s say Omonia is the border between the high city and the low city where normal society meets the underclasses. Immigrants, junkies, homeless people, they always gather below Omonia. When the destruction began, it spread through Omonia Square, and many people who weren’t in the march started to destroy and to loot. Many of the people arrested this day a big percentage of the total arrests, were immigrants from this situation. When the riot police came there, they found dozens of people inside the shops. They were hanging out, choosing things, not just breaking, burning, and running,
like we were.
The attacks of the Monday protest spread beyond the march, destroying the bordering areas. One friend went to Kolonaki Square after the march, and he saw a group of young people, ten people hooded and masked, in the richest square of town, smashing shops. My friends continued to Skoufa Street, that goes from Kolonaki Square to Exarchia, and here they found another group, students, coming up towards Kolonaki, and these two groups joined and started to smash all the shops on the street. This also shows how the insurrection works. Many people, including anarchists, have a mechanical way of understanding how things work. They cannot understand how the State cannot control certain situations, why the State cannot repress Greek anarchists, why they cannot stop violence in the marches. Many anarchists understand the State as something that can only increase its power. The insurrection of December demonstrates how this mechanical understanding is not real, it’s not valid. It’s only the projection of the State’s own mentality. A mentality concentrated on control, the idea that everything can be controlled. It’s a reality that many of us accept. Me too. I opposed this way of thinking, yet I also had a view of a strategy planned in advance, a prepared way to begin the insurrection.
But in the insurrection of December I saw how a plural subject can be more clever than any individual subject. When we are in a situation that involves many minds working together, in the midst of action, the group is more intelligent, more fluid. The insurrection of December is evidence of the intelligence of anarchy. On Monday afternoon in particular we did not have any plan or single strategy but precisely because of this the State and the cops could not control us. The situation was too chaotic for them. They cannot stop an enemy that is everywhere or anywhere. They cannot stop an enemy that doesn’t have a single objective. When they attack in one area, they lose another area.
In the fights outside the Polytechnic, I saw how a thousand people or fifty people could attack the riot police, working as a single body We could fight without having an organisation, a structure, prepared before the action, because all of the participants could understand the fight and the moment from a holistic point of view a point of view centred in the group. The group existed not because before we had an assembly but because everyone at that moment understood himself as a part of a group. And it is more effective than their model because in our model everyone simultaneously has a vision of the entire situation and everyone feels the responsibility to take any initiative he can take to support the common objective.
On the third night, Monday night, thousands of people, mostly students, came to the Polytechnic after the march. You could see people as young as 12 years old, breaking, destroying, throwing stones. All the generations were there. This night at the university saw the greatest participation in the riots and the character of the conflict was visibly a little bit different than the nights before. Sunday night was the rage, but on Monday night... you could see a spirit of collectivity. There were many students but also immigrants and anarchists and junkies and others, all of us thinking collectively There were groups coming into the Polytechnic to rest, others going out to fight, a continuous chain.A large group of people, many of them girls, were inside the Polytechnic breaking the masonry to make stones, collecting things to throw. They were working like a factory but nobody told them what to do. They were like the ants of revolution. We didn’t have to do anything, our group that was keeping the occupation running. We were at the doors just checking that nobody got caught, nobody got left alone. Or we would throw the gas canisters back at the police.
In these events, there was a generation who educated themselves, who passed through a rite of passage. This is a generation that will be in the streets for the next ten, twenty years. I believe that. It’s a very powerful experience for a young person, if this was your first experience in the streets. It’s not so easy afterwards to go back to normality Once again we see the importance of the occupation of the Polytechnic. It was an opportunity for all these people to gather and fight in the streets.
One of the occupations, that of the central building of the General Confederation of Greek Workers, happened during the second week. It was started by some comrades who were already organising base unions. They weren’t explicitly anarchist unions, but anti-authoritarian workers unions. Some of these comrades had also been in the occupation of the Polytechnic. Their approach was to emphasise a class analysis, but not as a formulation of economic demands or a discourse focused strictly on work. They were representing themselves as workers in revolt, talking about the insurrection, the prisoners. They wanted to mobilise working people but inside the insurrection. Not in a divided program, in a limited struggle for solely economic demands. The truth is that this effort didn’t achieve the mobilisation of many workers, or the creation of mass events, but they provided a basis for some struggles that are beginning now, directed at problems of work but seizing the spirit of the insurrection. Konstantina Kuneva participated in the assemblies of this occupation, before she was attacked. When she went with her union to ask for solidarity from the General Confederation and to spread their text about the brutality of their bosses, the General Confederation asked them to denounce the occupation. And of course Kuneva and her union refused.
Afterwards they occupied the central offices of the railway which contracts the private companies that employ the cleaners represented by Kuneva's union. And her union refused to cooperate with the Communist Party union or any other party. They were protesting with us, with the people who supported the insurrection, anarchists and the base unions. Another Left party offered Kuneva a spot on the list of candidates for the European Parliament and she refused that too. And in the workers’ marches there were also violent conflicts, attacks on banks, fights with the police. The insurrection provided a basis for bringing anarchists, anti-authoritarians, and autonomists, closer together with working people who are ready to fight.
As the days passed, violent events continued, but they were not as massive as before. In Exarchia and the Polytechnic, people continued to carry out violent struggle. One week after the assassination there was a meeting right on the spot where he was killed. All the anarchists went there, and we started fighting the cops. There was an attack on a police bus and the police station of Exarchia, and then the fighting went on all night around the Polytechnic. Some anarchists in the university occupation, we believed that we should take the initiative to call for a major march. Until then none of the marches had been called by the anarchist occupations. And we believed that we should call a central march, as the occupation of the Polytechnic, to send a political message against the State but also to society, of what we are and what we want. That the insurrection is not only anger, but also a political objective.We did not want to represent the insurrection but to give a clear political stance of one major group that was participating in the insurrection and that supported its goals and proposals. But we encountered resistance from many comrades in the occupation and outside of it. There were not enough of us in favour of this proposal. It’s not a matter of numbers, but a matter of synthesis. We felt we couldn’t take the initiative, being such a small part of the anarchist movement. If we had gone into the streets thousands of people would have come but we did not want to monopolise that role, even though we believed it should be done. And it didn’t happen.
In the discussion inside the Polytechnic our proposal was absorbed by another one calling for a day of global resistance against state violence, and the assemblies of the Polytechnic and ASOEE adopted this call-out, for the second Saturday after the assassination of Alexis. On December 20 protests and actions took place in more than forty countries, and over 100 cities. It wasn’t the first day that there were events outside of Greece. From the very first days of the insurrection things started happening in other countries, like occupations of embassies, marches, in Germany London, France. The ASOEE occupation called for a march that morning, and the Polytechnic occupation called for a gathering to take place at night at the spot of the assassination.
So on the 20th we started a violent fight that spread once again to the Polytechnic. On this night we didn’t have the thousands we had two weeks before, but all the anarchists were there and they were prepared. I mention it because it was the first time that we took the initiative, the decision to call for an offensive action well in advance. We didn’t hold a march somewhere, or go off in a spontaneous group to riot. This time we decided to do this, to converge as a movement in order to go on the offensive. And this night was the first time the State started talking about suspending the asylum and invading the Polytechnic. It was the last day of mass violent struggles. They could accept spontaneous fighting but theydid not want to accept something on that scale planned in advance. It was a publicly announced attack, and they didn’t want to tolerate that. So they started a lot of discussion and propaganda about invading the Polytechnic and taking away the asylum. But they didn’t do it, because they weren’t ready to manage it politically, and I don’t know if they are ready now or if they will ever be ready Also because they were afraid of the fight; they cou1dn’t invade without spilling blood.
But after this night they revoked the university’s asylum and said they could invade at any time; if there were any more attacks they would invade. It was a psychological tactic. Previously we had decided to hold a concert the following Tuesday and despite this government pressure we decided to continue with our plans and also to transform the concert into a response to the government’s threats. We did it, although some comrades disagreed with us because there were so many people who were physically exhausted and people who couldn’t understand that our power was not our numbers inside the occupation but the social meaning of the occupation. There were people who thought that we had to announce a definite date for ending the occupation. And there were many comrades who didn’t want to hold a central march because they were afraid of the repression. They couldn't understand that it wasn’t just some anarchists against the State but that what we were doing was embraced by many people. We wouldn’t have been alone.
So we held the concert, and two days later, one day before we had scheduled an end to the occupation, some professors came to the assembly and told us that the cops were ready to invade and they would come in one hour. This had also happened the Sunday after the attack, the 21st. We ignored the warning. It was repeated the next day and this second time they were really trying to pressure us - the leftists, the professors, the syndicate of lawyers, everyone was pressuring us and waiting for the police to invade the Polytechnic. We said that it was a psychological game, They knew we didn’t want to leave and that we had an internal conflict over this question, so they wanted to exploit the event politically They wanted to be able to say that they pressured us and we came out, so they won. In response to this pressure we decided to stay longer. The same night, during the assembly; we made a pamphlet and published it, just a few words saying that they will not pass, we will not let them take the Polytechnic, we don’t give in. Just ten minutes after we published the pamphlet on Indymedia and had it read over the anarchist radio, the professors came again and said, "Okay guys, excuse us, the information was wrong, the minister had been pleading with us to stop the occupation," and we responded, "Okay, when the prime minister calls us up to beg, maybe we’ll discuss it."
An important characteristic of the occupations, besides the violence, was how they were following an anarchist model. No organ could make decisions for the occupation besides the general assembly. This wasn't an assembly of students but of all the people participating in the occupation and the lights. For example the occupation of the architectural school in the Polytechnic, they had their own assembly and they supported the general occupation, but they didn’t have any authority over the occupation as a whole. The different schools weren’t separated, it was a unified occupation. Some leftist students tried to separate the different schools, and in the first week we tried to work with them and give them space to do their own activities but they kept trying to bypass the general assembly and occupy areas of the Polytechnic just for themselves, to cut it up like a cake, in a very underhanded way. And of course they were thrown out.
After the first days of the insurrection we said that the occupation must take on another role, to be a centre of speech, of discussion, of the distribution of ideas. We made some pamphlets and some posters but we didn’t have the time and the energy to do so many things because we were tired. A few people were keeping the occupation going, day and night, and we had to do many things. But all things considered we published a lot, as did other anarchists throughout the city At the end of the first week, we opened the dining hall of the university a very luxurious establishment because it was new We opened it and started cooking every day for everybody We used it to feed the struggle, every day. There was a group of people who were working there. We had cooks and other people who went there to clean. I for example didn’t cook but I cleaned. And every day we had food for everybody notonly people living in the occupation. Poor people were coming there only to eat. To keep the restaurant stocked, groups of about thirty people formed up every day to go to supermarkets, fill up shopping carts, and take the food. And other things were expropriated as well, like fire extinguishers and the sound systems.
It was important because having this tool, this ability to feed ourselves, affected our living conditions. But it was also like a womb of the world that we want to create inside the insurrection. But also there were people coming to steal food from the occupation. I don't want to give a bad impression, but it’s okay to admit this because it was our decision to mix with everyone in the insurrection, and out of all these people who came together there were many who carried within them the culture of the enemy So there were people who came to steal mobile phones and computers to sell for money. I don't have a problem with this but when it happens in an insurrection it doesn’t advance the struggle. So that's why we put an end to this phenomenon after the second or third day, because some people were coming only to steal things. After that, any time somebody wanted to enter the gates of the campus with looted items - there were people carrying boxes of stolen goods, computers and other things - we didn't allow them in unless they gave us the objects to throw in the fire. We told them, "You have to choose: you or your computer."
I think that people were ready to go until their own personal limits. The intentions of the insurgents were not so limited; they wanted the destruction of the State, or at least the destruction of the police. If they had the means to attack further, they would have done it, many of them. But they fought until they were physically exhausted. The police didn’t stop us. We stopped. But the external limits were numerous. One of them is that we haven't constructed our world. And I don’t believe any more that in one night we will change the world. I’m not a pacifist but now I believe that as we were saying in the assemblies of the Polytechnic, if the revolution doesn’t come now, if we don’t push this insurrection to a real revolution, it will not be because we don't have the power but because we don’t have our world. And that’s what we’re building now. The truth is that already in the first week we were discussing revolution. It may seem very romantic, very fictional, very fantastic, but seeing the potential of the struggle, we knew that revolution was an open prospect, a possible future. We were ready for everything. And I’m not sure if they could have stopped us, even with the military.
I think it would have been a serious problem for the State to deploy the military I read somewhere, I’m not sure if it’s true, that the generals told the government that the army at that moment was not ready to take on such a responsibility that if we engage the army we will lose the army It's a problem for a democracy to pass to an open war. It may be efficient in the immediate moment, in a military way of seeing the conflict, but it would destroy the entire basis of State domination of society, all the links. The internal links, let’s say between society and democratic domination, Particularly in Greece. For example in Italy they have a tradition with fascism, with the domestic use of the military that is not wholly rejected by Italian society. We also have a tradition with dictatorship, we have a nationalist movement, but the dictatorship was not popular and in general the intervention of the army in social and political life is not legitimate for Greek society.
There are many factors that gave birth to the insurrection, factors that go far into the past. Why it happened in Greece, for example, Why in Greece anarchists have so much liberty to act, now as well as before the insurrection, Why it’s so easy for people here to use violence. Greek history plays an important role, In the past century after World War II, we had a guerrilla movement that never surrendered. The civil war didn’t end in negotiations, with a peace agreement between communists and nationalists as in Italy. Here we had a civil war that continued, and even when it ended its spirit continued by other means. The spirit of civil war never ended in Greece. And in this period, violent struggle was always legitimate. There were always people struggling, not only anarchist militants, not only revolutionaries, but a large part of Greek society Here, struggle is legitimate. This is one factor.A living tradition, that goes from one generation to the next, expressed in new ways.
Another factor is that the anarchist movement in Greece is very young. There were anarchists in Greece at the beginning of the 20th century but they were all repressed by the Communists and they disappeared. The movement we have now began after the ’70s. This movement from its beginnings linked up with society It wasn’t just an ideological, a closed thing. It was not just philosophical or alternative. It carried the tradition of the struggle and the violence, the tradition of Greek society the traditions of the anarchists, of direct action, and also the concentration on expanding throughout society the revolt and direct action and self-organisation. And year by year it created this potential. That means much work was done years before, with a variety of methods, working in neighbourhoods, violent struggle against the State, everything. That made this unity this synthesis.
In the ’80s, the first years of an organised anarchist movement in Greece, the anarchists were calling demonstrations and violent marches but as people who were fighting in the ’80s dropped out at the end of the decade, due to repression and other factors, there was a big change. And in the ’90s anarchists weren’t very numerous, they generally didn’t organise many marches and many of them participated in the protests of the leftists. But at the end of the ’90s, as more people joined the anarchist movement, this new generation began to stay in the movement. The first generations were lost, they left, but those of us who started to fight in the ’90s are still in the streets. The movement started to construct a history. The cause of this shift, I think, was a clearer political vision.
From the beginning of December’s insurrection, from Monday night, the State took exceptional measures to protectthe members of the government. The ministers were all assigned armed escorts and were sent into hiding. They put some military units on readiness, to come down to the city if need be. They had the soldiers equipped with plastic bullets. The cops in Athens were already shooting plastic bullets, but this wasn't new. A year earlier I was shot with a plastic bullet in a fight near Exarchia. We know that in some military units the officers were making propaganda, psychologically preparing the soldiers to deploy against the insurrection. There were rumours that if the street fighting had continued for three more days they would have sent in the military. But those of us fighting in the streets, we weren’t afraid, we weren’t discussing it as a possible end to the revolt. Of course the insurgents weren’t ready to fight against an armed force, but nobody came into the street with the belief that there was a point we could not pass, that there were limits. We just fought, and we were ready for anything. And this is the spirit of revolt.