The Ex-Worker #65: Greek Anarchists Fight Back in Exarchia

From Crimethinc.


On August 26th, riot police under orders from the newly elected right-wing government stormed and evicted four squatted social centers in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens, Greece, in a serious attack on both precarious migrants and the anarchist and anti-authoritarian movements. In response, Greek anarchists have organized assemblies and demonstrations, while solidarity efforts have poured out from across the world. Both shaken and inspired by these events, the Ex-Worker podcast has emerged from hibernation to ask anarchists in Exarchia what’s going on and what needs to be done. This episode explores the situation in Exarchia through three interviews with anarchist residents of the renowned radical neighborhood. The first is an audio version of “The New War on Immigrants and Anarchists in Greece,” published on the CrimethInc. blog on August 28th, which gives an in-depth analysis of the evictions with historical context and insight into the dynamics of the Greek anarchist movement, supplemented by an excerpt from the 2015 piece “Syriza Can’t Save Greece.” The second is a long discussion with a squatter from the Lelas Karagianni 37 squat in Exarchia, the oldest squat in Greece and a central hub for assemblies and anarchist organizing in Athens; it touches on the role of the media and the previous Syriza regime in paving the way to this wave of attacks; the anarchist movement’s strategy for regaining the initiative from the state; and the significance of international solidarity. The third and shortest interview with the Void Network reports back on the September 14th anti-repression demonstration in Athens and reflects on the prospects for ongoing resistance. Tune in to learn more about this critical struggle to defend freedom and autonomy in an inspiring enclave of radical experimentation.

Notes and Links

There are 24 Comments

It seems all of the mainstream anarchist thingies, crimethinc, IGD, and unicorn riot (although they are less representative of anarchism) have all been doing their coverage in connection to some of the most notorious and conservative elements of the movement in Athens. Lelas Karagianni are basically leftists who helped suppress the youth riots on December 6th and who have actively interfered with and abandoned other elements of the movement which are more committed to combative action. I don't know why this is the case with the anarchist movement, but, a big part of what we do is fighting directly against the state and capital and not always with 'non-violent direct action', I don't know when we started caring about optics so much, and in such a pathetic and not even attractive (which is the whole point) way. Being conservative isn't attractive, not even to conservatives. It's funny and ironic too, because greek anarchism basically gained attention in the US by being so spectacularly combative and so unaligned with liberalism.

They also been keeping Islamic groups outside of their typology for fascism or at least conservatism, actively taking part in the muzzling of anarchist critics towards any authoritarian tendencies within Muslim-based cultures, so what the most retrograde Islamic tendencies can enjoy full institutional AND anarcho-left support in Western countries, no matter how they are contradicting what is usually held as their core progressive values (queer-ness, deep questioning of traditional social institutions like marriage, family and religion, individual freedoms up against the dominant herd culture, etc).

What you are talking about was my direct experience in Exarchia. It has to be understood for its context as well, a lot of structures like the traditional patriarchal family, were the main modes of survival across a lot of refugee's harrowing journey in search of a 'safer' future and people who have been through such uncertain conditions for so long often grasp at any semblance of cultural normalcy as a way of keeping sane. The opposite often happens as well. The truth that a lot of refugees discover and what makes them more radical after arriving is that they are still targets and no amount of conformity will save them from the sights of the state.

It is understandable that most people cling to normalcy (a.k.a. normativity, or better named as "conformity") due to their social insecurity towards a situation of uncertainty and precarity. This is the example of the punk subculture for street kids, even tho in some Western places their street presence amounts to be waiting in line for a place in apartments.

Imo, besides the tacit support to refugees like kitchens and on-camp support, my experience also tells me that taking them into squats or starting squats with them without applying the same principles or critique that is applied to other squatters is a huge, central problem.

I have known anarchists from a major squat in Switzerland that has nearly collapsed because they applied those same Left principles of giving a moral waiver to migrants on the basis of them being either Muslims or foreigners. The result of this overlooking after several months was that some abusive sexual gimmicks were taking place in there and the migrant occupiers started to find other entrances in the place so they could bring their buddies unchecked and the place turned into one of those stereotypes thrown at squats by anti-squatting normies (i.e. a rape house or junkie house). So they went through the terrible work of showing everyone the exit door, including several of those who opened the squat with them.

Also an older horror story (from around 2010 I think) of a Bruxelles suburban squat that's been progressively taken over by males of some Islamic group, to a point where the former anarchist squatters were kicked out on the orders of the local Imam... Not joking. It did happen and was told to me by very active autonomous squatters who aren't islamophobic in any sort of way. Some people don't get that religious or political groups have interests that are THEIR OWN... and when there is conflict of interests they're very likely to not be sticking to a neutral common ground with you.

Western progressives are completely nuts for giving away this full cultural/moral waiver to any migrant on the sole basis of being a migrant. Human freedoms are not institutional and cultural freedoms. I'm gonna help anyone regardless of their ethnic/cultural background, but their institutions and cultural baggage? This stuff deserves some measure of criticism.

Sectarian gimmicks are strong and deeply-rooted in the human mind; and they are the most dangerous pattern. States are another example.

just another problem of identity, add it to the giant pile. turns out being marginalized has almost nothing to do with whether or not you're a shitty person! imagine that...

The vast majority of the Greek anarchist movement understood this from day 1. The internationals and more liberal types are those who have made the mistakes over the years regarding these silly identity games.

Well this could be true, given most of the liberal Left types falling in the "Muslims are the oppressed of the world" bullshit in Athens were Westerners.

Yep, and then it drew in your sort of hipster art crowd that typically doesn't mingle with any sort of movement other than potentially Syriza feminist type groups. Pretty much their main base of on the ground support.

Can we use Exarchia as an example of anarchy in practice? Could we use the neighborhood as an example of a mass of people without police to keep order?

Dunno if you've ever been there, but Exarkhia is not an anarchist community. It's a poor neighborhood of downtown Athens with a huge concentration of anarchists, but also some anti-anarchist Leftists, and small capitalist interests. Aside from the ZAD I'm not seeing any recent example for an anarchy in practice that is beyond a building occupation or a land project. But you may also wanna look into a forest or nature in general, where anarchy is put into practice everywhere... Not by ideological imperative, but as a necessity for a living within non-institutionalized forms of life.

seems unlikely that an urban environment could ever be considered an "anarchist community" on any scale beyond a few connected buildings.

There used to be a squatter complex around ABC No Rio in NYC, and it collapsed prior to the '00s. The phenomena known as "gentrification" is a drug, and Leftoids can't clearly see it through, as they're getting their fit of it, too. This is all lost, me thinks. Money and the spectacle of social status it reinforces in people's minds makes it impossible for an anarchist milieu to last in a more or less specific urban environment.

At the bottom line, paradigms like social justice or whatev end up just being PR for capitalist art businesses, like the Casa Del Popolo liberal semi-activist complex in Mtl. Which social equity they support? Donations and benefits for a few nonprofits, at best. Still casting a shadow on the city's homeless and drug addiction, with their support to a hyper-consumerist hipster subculture. But during the antiglobalization days they were among the most rad places in town.

Methinks anarchos need a sustainable economic plan, that's not going to collapse a given milieu in 5-10 years. In Exarkhia the only thing you get is the beer markets, and a few cafés/restaurants. All very gentrification-conductive activities. So I ain't sure anyone has found such a plan.

I think even if you had a larger focus on sustainable economics the state could still attack you and destroy that infrastructure when they wanted to. What I would say is that in some ways there has been a slow adaptation here, many of the shops around Exarcheia and even other areas are owned by anarchists or the hard left.

Not that they aren't gentrification conducive, I suppose it all depends on a willingness to fight.

I have been involved in community initiatives that are anarchistic in character and also voiding the reliance on money at least from a "user" perspective. The Hare Krishna and the Sikh have been doing that for quite a while even if based on their sectarian culture, which at least in their case is no-brainer obvious. This shit works. Having some milieu hangouts that also provide something for the well-being of people around is something capitalism will always have trouble competing with, as like the food banks, it always falls in a bureaucratic logic of control and exclusion where managerial corruption is rampant. No one understands free better than anarchos, even if some others get it at least as much. This taps on an old way to relate to others (some call it "the commons") that the dominant system fails to thwart. People either fizzle out under the weight of circumstances, or they keep it rolling and pass it on from a generation to the next. This is the "invisible anarchy" that is the most worthy of supporting.

Much of the responses above are honestly quite bizarre. It shows the experience of the typical international coming to Exarcheia and not the people who connect with the actual Greek anarchist movement (that had 7000 people on the street a few weeks ago.)

Basically the criticisms being leveled above are solely the responsibility of internationals and some of the more liberal folks around. Many of the loudest having lived abroad for most of their lives.

Essentially, liberals from other countries come to Exarcheia and do silly shit. I mean wherever they go I suppose. The big problem is internationals who show up here and don't really understand the scale of the movement. Like they see Exarcheia and don't really understand there's anything outside of it.

The stuff about lelas above is literally myth from 11 years ago. Like you know the person who wrote that comment heard that from someone somewhere and repeats it as truth. Which anyone familiar with Greek culture would shake their head at.

And you sound like some crypto-nationalist xenophobe shit, dude. But maybe not so crypto, given the Fra Right trolls often visiting this site.

There is no "Greek anarchism" without an international anarchism, for fuck's sake. Where the Greek anarchos took their anarcho from... Ouzo and Gyros? While there's some significant inspiration in rembetiko, you know where the tendency came from.

Malatesta, Novatore, Stirner, Bakunin, Goldman, the Spanish Civil War anarchists and the many others of diverse perspectives were not Greeks, duh. Get a brain. Your nationalization of anarchism is just going to the shithole offered to it by nationalism.

It's not foreign anarchists who have to live there for 20 years and learn Greek, it's more like so-called Greeks anarchos who need to fucking open themselves to the universality, and adopt the most universally used language of the moment, damit. When China becomes the global superstate, we'll just keep improving at mandarin. And it ain't that complicated, jsyk. Quite less than Greek, actually.

Seriously where are the collections of translated books in Athens? All I've seen is a few small shelves in the most well-known @library.

The only book that should be written in english is an anthology of the crazy, funny(unintentionally), and sad shit ngo visitors have done in athens over the past 4 years.

I think people would get a good kick out of that.

The NGO clowns are an issue all over the planet. There's also internationals who came on their own trying to do the best they could with the absence of that 20 years of Greek living background, that obviously you can't expect any anarchist coming here of having. Just imagine if Greece would have such migration policy for visitors... wouldn't that be with Golden Dawn in charge or something?

And if there's a story of Greek anarchism the "internationals" should learn about, how come it is not being translated to foreign languages in the first place? These books, if there are, could be on sites like so that the travellers can get better informed picture of what they're getting into.

And why? Because you need us. More than you think, with that *cultural chauvinism*.

Not Greek but I'd rather deal with cultural chauvinism than western liberals masquerading as anarchists any day of the week.

The anarchist movement in Greece is unique. It is unique in it's scale, staying power and ability to make gains. The ideals are not unique but certainly different than the dominant strains within the West. It doesn't surprise me that it bothers liberals when they visit.

Again, you didnt encounter these criticisms from westerners until they came here with ngos to save the refugees. For the most part you had actual anarchists who had their own critiques, but not parroting random myths. Or calling people fascists like a bunch of college kids encountering a right wing president for the first time.

And one other thing, there are tons of non Greek people around that international visitors never encounter. They absolutely bring good things. The ex NGO crowd is a bizarre world in itself. If that's your experience that actually does sucks and it's too bad.

...and believe me, I have complete hate for NGO shills and these other Erasmus liberal types. In other poorer countries they won't just do this tokenizing shit, but also trade in child trafficking and abuse. And also some other filthy lesser extreme practices.

Greek Anarchists scare the statists into "passive submission"(should be a inside term like Post-anarchist geography) I believe (in nothing) that on YT there is a video of Greek statists calling them the biggest anarchist threat globally.

You don't need to know the language to understand what is happening in Athens. But it is hard for me to imagine someone living here under six months and spreading rumors/making decisions that impact large amounts of people.

It feels crazy that we have people doing this. Really shows a level serious entitlement and situational obliviousness. There was an article published in English that actually shamed Greek people for going on vacation this summer. To give one example of how confused some visitors seem to be.

Add new comment