Ego Te Provoco: Four members of a counter-information group in Athens.
After December there wasn’t any time for reflection or self-evaluation because there was so much urgency there was so much to do. But December didn't just end one day other things kept turning up, like the Kuneva case, so around New Year’s Eve there were occupations and violent protest marches for Kuneva. December has still not ended. There are also the prisoners of December, the occupied parks... It’s a continuing process. The revolution did not freeze. And several collectives that were created in December are continuing their discourse and their actions. Even this building [where the interview is taking place], the Patision squat, is an outgrowth from the occupation of ASOEE and the relationships that formed there.
All this has been an opportunity to test out a new way of living. From my point of view, I’ve seen a lot of interest in reclaiming public life. People want to leave behind the private life, the dominant privatisation of lives. They resist it and try to express themselves publicly and this has been a place where we could hear opinions we hadn’t heard before, from people we hadn’t known, and do things with them and help them build the new structures. The ASOEE occupation was a real revelation. A week before no one could have guessed that we would be able to work together in such a harmonious way. These were mostly people who knew each other for many years. Still, I didn’t believe that we could do anything with them, plus a lot of people you had never seen in your life. But together we managed to organise the building, cook and clean, print, discuss, and plan external actions - sabotage, coordinating attacks between one hundred people. Then one or two hours later executing those attacks with minimal mistakes. This was unprecedented.
Even though the majority of revolutionary means used by the movement are quite old or established - like squatting, or blogs, or the attacks - through December they have proved quite useful. There has been a transvaluation of the old methods, and they have received a tremendous new impetus, and many more people are using them. A year ago squatting was not thought of as an offensive action, but now they are offensive, they are a form of attacking, and this is because of the relationships that they are developing internally.
And the same goes for the attacks, the violent attacks. The violent means that we used during the uprising were very popularised. The children were attacking police stations. Supermarkets were being looted, and people who had never used these methods before were able to try them out. The atmosphere was not so dangerous, so a lot of people could take part. If you count the battle hours of people who are now eighteen or nineteen years old, their accumulated battle hours are probably more than I tallied up from 16 to 28, because we’d always have to wait for November 17 and the leftist protest march, and that was it. That’s the practical side. The theoretical side is that during the general assemblies, in amphitheatres full of 500 people we were talking openly about violent attacks, which had never happened before. This prepared people for the notion that it might get dangerous, so people started thinking about it more. And there was no hierarchy that declared some people were good enough to cook and clean and make leaflets and some invisible group was capable of making the attacks. No: everyone cooked and everyone cleaned and everyone made attacks.
It was amazing to see people involved in these violent attacks in a way that was previously unimaginable. There was an acceleration. Being involved in the planning and execution of an attack became a normal thing, whereas before it was a closed issue.
There has been an increase in individuals’ discourse and actions while the loose periphery is coming more to the centre and getting involved in the central procedures of the movement. Many more people are getting involved in critical discourse and counter-information, and also violent attacks and sabotage. People are taking things more seriously in general.
Before December it was up to a few groups to carry out counter-information so each group was very significant and unique, but now it’s so diffuse, coming from so many corners of society it’s important to retain the images of December to hold on to the courage and also to retain the memory because the State wants to erase this. So we use the imagery of December to help keep the violence generalised. Personally I am dead set against creative forms of counter-information. I think this is playing the game of the spectacle. The situation is so serious and everyone recognises it, there is no need to use tricks. We’re not an advertising company, we’re a revolutionary movement and we’ll say it straight. And people are ready for it. Before, if people didn’t take a leaflet from us it was not because it wasn’t shiny but because before December there was no perspective, they couldn’t see an end to the tunnel and the tunnel wasn’t so intolerable to them. But now it is intolerable and they see a way out. Something has to be done and something can be done, in their eyes, so we don’t need marketing tricks to communicate with them.
The goal of counter-information is to remind people of the reasons why one should attack. If one is convinced of this he or she will find the ways. Secondly reminding people that this happened across the country and they did not manage to kick us off the streets; it was not repression that ended the uprising. And third to make it obvious that it is possible, it is easy to attack. And this is obvious from the fact that actions happen all the time.
While the regime is militarising itself, we should on the one hand keep attacking it to show that it is vulnerable and it’s not achieving the state of security that it claims, and on the other hand to produce a discourse against the state of security as such, to challenge its reasons for coming into existence. Greek society is allergic to military solutions, and the government is making a big mistake. You have a big uprising sparked by a police killing and what’s their solution? More cops. Very smart. Alexis was killed by a cop from the special branch, and all the rhetoric repeated the idea of insufficient training. Now they’re putting these special cops in their new Delta Force, to deal with an even higher level of violence, and they’re just getting one week of extra training. They’re shooting themselves in the foot.
Security is not the main value of this society although since the ’90s they’ve been trying to make it so, talking about immigrant criminality to provoke fear. Then there were the Olympic Games and the security that went with it, then the new police corps and the cameras. The Greek state is mimicking the Western metropolitan areas. But Greece is a different society, so it’s completely idiotic. They have no idea of what a society is; they’re completely mechanistic, they say it worked in New York so it can work here. To them there are only individuals, there is no society; they’re Thatcherites. Greeks have a hundred different reasons to oppose cameras that people in London may not have. People here are breaking a hundred laws every day, running red lights, not paying for the metro. So this kind of security might be a nice word in the coffee shop but when the cop comes to make you pay the traffic ticket you’re going to become very angry. In London they would say this is good because I did something wrong, so I should pay the ticket.
From the view of the antagonistic social movement there are two interlinking ways of dealing with this. One has to do with countering the anti-terrorist discourse of post-9-11, asymmetrical threats, and the immigrants. The other part has to do with countering the demand of security in everyday life. So on the one hand the demand for security is in itself a strategy of counterinsurgency. In this sense it prevents insurgency it engineers a pacification of society each one in his little house, don’t mind public affairs, just mind your own business. And on the other hand it prepares the State in terms of its ideological artillery and its material artillery and preparation on the street to be ready to counter any kind of challenge to it.
One way of countering this phenomenon is to demonstrate that this is an enterprise of war, a strategy of war by the State against society. But it’s a very different situation here because in the UK or the US the man in the street is convinced that there might be some rotten elements but the State in itself is good, that it’s there for your own good. In Greece no one believes that. There is a complete and utter mistrust, all politicians are lying bastards, all they do is steal the budget money but the people tolerate it because they can’t do anything else. There is no civil society in Greece. No social contract. There is a long relationship of imposition, and it is experienced as such, even though in reality it’s a relationship of complicity that is experienced as one of imposition. So resistance is a great value and compliance and conformity are utterly disgraceful in public discourse. They stink of the junta. The imaginative construction of Greek society draws from values of resistance. Of course complicity is still a part of the social reality here. But in Britain the real society is complicit and their ideal society is a complicit one as well.
Traditionally we are against using the media to communicate with the public. It is an issue that has been resolved for many years in the anarchist scene. There used to be collaboration with the media, until the early ’90s, but no more. Theoretically the argument is that you cannot fight alienation with alienated means. You cannot claim that journalists are the scum of the earth and snitches, and at the same time be using them. And on a higher level it’s the question of the spectacle, of whether you could actually use the media. Even if there is an article of yours in the newspaper, it will be next to another article so yours becomes just a piece of information, it supports this whole idea of democratic pluralism. Cooperation with the institutions is always an obstacle to the development of autonomous structures. Our relation to communication is based on face to face relation in the street. Often we also challenge the use of Indymedia, which creates this fiction of sharing things, this imaginative community but materially there is no sharing or community. Many people consider Indymedia to be a part of the spectacle.