What follows below is a critique of greek anarchy from a greek anarchist friend, following the bank fire deaths in Athens on May 5th, during a mass demonstration.

The text referred to at the opening is this, from Occupied London. Their list of translated statements from anarchist groups is also relevant.


Come On Comrades, Let’s Stop Kidding:


Not an “isolated incident” – this is the most important implication of the Voices from Occupied London text, and needs some following up[1].

Wednesday’s murder was neither an accident nor a one-off, but the culminating event of a trajectory athenian Anarchy has been on for some time now. While some of its main trends (e.g. hatred towards the middle classes; the “I told you so” attitude towards dispossessed groups; the ‘critique’ of ‘democracy’, etc) have appeared at different moments in the past, they have, since the December 2008 uprising, combined and crystallised in form. By now, they effectively describe what greek Anarchy is about: a fetishisation of the ‘revolutionary’ identity, precisely at the moment when Anarchy ceases to be a revolutionary force.

Something strange happened in greece during December 2008: Anarchy de facto found itself at the leadership of an entire (well, sort of) society! Most of the practices employed by the uprising[2]; its organisational forms[3]; its demands[4]; its discourse – etc: these were all practiced by Anarchy for decades, and they suddenly become the property of wide parts of the population, while viewed with aspiration, awe, and/or empathy even by people who were not heavily involved in the uprising. A marginalised, persecuted, and defamed political force had an historical opportunity to open up to society: to explain, propose, mobilise, organise, discuss, understand, convince, change and be changed, thus helping to widen and deepen the fronts of resistance, and prepare the real (i.e. the social) conditions for a revolutionary counterattack.

How did Anarchy react to such an opportunity? But, of course, by severing all actual, tentative, and possible ties with everything that was not already Anarchy.

The accounts of the uprising by virtually all anarchist publications (the only exceptions were AK and Eutopia), including the most advanced ones (Τα Παιδιά της Γαλαρίας; Blaumadchen) were dominated by a radical distinction among the people who participated in the uprising, between ‘insurgents’ and ‘non-insurgents’ (read ‘revolutionaries’ vs. ‘reformists’), with the latter category including leftists, democrats, slackers, syndicalists, etc. It contained, in other words, everyone who was not anarchist, plus some anarchosyndicalists who were found to be workerist reformists. To be fair, in many instances where the course of action had to be determined, these differences were both pronounced and important. To also be fair, in most instances (and in most accounts) these differences were a prefabricated pattern for self-indulgence and ego-tripping. But what matters here is this: first, these differences were raised to the status of ontological categories; second, the power to make such categorisation was exclusively reserved for the ‘insurgents’; and, third, the employment of ‘revolutionary violence’ became, with time and grace, the sole criterion informing the categorisation.

At the crucial moment when an historical opening is within grasp, Anarchy closes itself down to fortify its purity.

From there on we have experienced a robust fetishisation of the ‘insurgent’ (i.e. ourselves) whose actions are seen as justified, whatever they might be: from producing total racket at 4 in the morning, when tenants from surrounding flats have repeatedly pleaded for quiet, explaining they have to work the next day (the conformist losers!); to pissing on people’s doorsteps; to beating them brutally when they ask us to stop. All this is justified by our self-categorisation as ‘insurgents’ –which prioritises us over and above all other people. To be sure, the category is premised on the capacity to use ‘revolutionary violence’; in fact, it seems that it is in based on the will to use violence, full stop. And, as ‘more violent’ equals ‘more revolutionary’, the fetishisation of our political identity reaches paroxysm when it comes to armed guerrilla. This is hardly surprising since the hard coin for the distinction between ‘revolutionary’ and ‘reformist’ is the employment of ‘confrontational’ practices, rendering an observable and tangible character to the distinction. Observable and tangible also mean measurable: the ‘more’ confrontational the practices, the ‘more’ revolutionary the subject that adopts them. There is thus an implicit hierarchy of status within the people and entities that comprise the ‘revolutionary’ camp. In this context, Anarchy not only expressed full and unconditional solidarity to comrades effectuating ‘armed struggle’ –despite the fact that large portion of comrades are against such practice; but also, in its desire to approach the hefty heights of revolutionarity scaled by the armed comrades, it expressed this solidarity in historically unprecedented forms. In all previous cases of comrades accused of ‘armed violence’, Anarchy responded that said comrades were targeted because of their prolific activity in social struggles, and that they were being morally/ideologically defamed and physically exterminated on the pretext of accusations that were false, because the comrades were innocent. This time (April 2010), solidarity was expressed on the basis that the comrades are guilty of armed struggle, and so are all of us.

While in such terms the solidaritous comrade manages to approximate the pinnacle of revolutionarity, the rest of society –those that are not ‘revolutionaries’, and share no desire to scale these lofty summits- becomes something external and indifferent –at best. On the one hand, Anarchy’s reply to the existential agony of the middle classes under the regime imposed by the global/continental/national governance mechanisms was “it serves you right (because you were buying cars in the 90s)”. On the other hand, in the case of an armed comrade murdered by the police, we see Anarchy declaring in all tones the supremacy of the ‘revolutionary’, culminating in the conviction that everyone else “might as well have not existed”. There is, then, no reason to wonder when the ‘revolutionaries’ send to hospital someone that asked them not to piss on her door; nor that they murdered people engaged in forced labour, inside their gulag. These people might as well have not existed. Cue indymedia comments of ‘collateral damage’.

So far so good –if you are a ‘revolutionary’. The trouble is that the thinly veiled animosity; and the proudly paraded contempt for society, cause some unexpected problems regarding the ‘revolutionary’ identity. Namely, if ‘revolutionaries’ face the rest of the population with indifference, scorn, and animosity, then with whom do they hope to make the revolution? For whom do they hope to make the revolution? What kind of revolution will that be, with the entire society excluded and marginalised from the get go? We are not dealing with an attempt to ‘vanguard’ here: society is not seen as masses to be led by the enlightened; we are dealing with a narcissist identity whose main intention is to entrench and fortify itself in order to adore it. We are dealing with socio-political wank.

Furthermore, Anarchy has abandoned ‘democracy’ not only as an objective, but also as a form of social and internal organisation. During the December 2008 uprising, the ‘insurgents’ lost a couple of general assemblies, given that their open character meant that all sorts of riffraff from society came in and had a say. In these ‘contaminated’ assemblies, the identity of the ‘insurgent/revolutionary’ was forged in opposition that of the ‘democrat’. The ‘anti-democratisation’ process is certainly much older (and of Autonomist origin). ‘Democracy’ was understood as the ideological veil covering capital’s rule – and quite rightly opposed. While the sanity of leaving the concept of ‘democracy’ to the exclusive use of the bourgeoisie without contestation is certainly questionable, what happened post-December is the abandonment of direct democracy. Leaving aside that the highly original concept of the anarchist as anti-democrat was created for the first time in history in Athens 2009, this new-fund dichotomy causes another round of problems for the ‘revolutionary’ identity. Namely, by getting rid of democracy, Anarchy has no organisational model to propose to society –before, during, and/or after the revolution. The idea that any social process can continue for any length of time organised solely on conspiratorial principles and free initiative is laughable –but it is the only model Anarchy has got left. So, the ‘revolutionaries’ have no answer regarding not only the “by whom” and “for whom” of the revolution, but also regarding the “what” and “how” of it.

The long and the short of it is that, in constructing a ‘revolutionary’ socio-political identity exclusive to itself; in attaching superiority to it, and claiming all kinds of permission on its basis, greek Anarchy has effectively excluded itself from any kind of revolutionary process, voiding thus the very identity it had so lovingly constructed.

The virtual disappearance of Anarchy from the frontline of social antagonism after Wednesday’s event, clearly shows that there is a stock of social conscience –and shame- among the bulk of our comrades. But it also points out the utter bankruptcy of the ‘revolutionary’ identity and its assorted ‘militant’ tactics. In any case, this is too little, too stupid; the end result is that, precisely at the moment that society needed its Anarchy more than ever, the latter has no choice but to recede and engage in a long, bruising, and uncertain struggle against itself in order to redefine it.

Finally, it is not coincidental that most meaningful self-critique (including the VFOL text) comes from greek comrades living abroad. In Athens, there is, it seems, a deeply established, automatic consensus that all actions committed by ‘revolutionaries’ de facto enjoy the unconditional support and solidarity of the totality of Anarchy. Voices critical of certain actions and practices carried out by comrades have been increasingly marginalised, in some cases outright repressed (even by threat of physical violence). It is, of course, understandable that a movement that has faced the most brutal repression from left, right and centre, and has only the bonds of solidarity to count upon, would be reluctant to leave anyone from its ranks on their own. But it has also become plain that internal dialogue and critique in Anarchy is heavily policed. This suspension of open dialogue was crucial for the hatching of the mentalities and practices that found their full expression on Wednesday. It is also likely that it will prove the key factor prohibiting a meaningful process of self-critique and redefinition from now on. Which is a shame because, in the absence of such a process, it will prove impossible for Anarchy to re-establish itself as a social and political force –rather than an ever-shrinking, universally detested, and socially irrelevant fiefdom ruled by the passion and courage of its ‘revolutionary’ warlords.


[1] This text was triggered by the self-critique attempted by the VFOL comrades; but soon expanded into an account of the state of greek Anarchy tout court, under the focus of Wednesday’s events. By ‘Wednesday’s events’ we mean the torching of a bank by anarchists in Athens, in full knowledge that there were people in it, which led to the death of three workers. The unprecedented even took place on Wednesday, 5 May 2010. By ‘Anarchy’ we try to describe the general line of force of the tremendously multifaceted athenian anarchist/antiauthoritarian/autonomous movement.

[2] From ‘free public transport’ to occupations of buildings, to savage clashes with the cops; to high voltage ‘happenings’.

[3] General assemblies in neighbourhoods and occupied buildings.

[4] No demands, no negotiation.

~ by Wit on June 15, 2010.


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