Koukoulofori: stories, lessons, and inspiration from the Greek anarchist movement
(from the introduction)..
Like many US anarchists, my first interactions with the Greek anarchist movement occurred primarily through hastily translated communiqués reporting spectacular attacks on banks and police stations, riots, and student occupations. Increasingly filtered through American insurrectionary discourse, what these reports often lacked in historical background or political context they made up for tenfold with enthusiasm and hilariously bad English. Encountering a movement this way resulted in a mythology; for many of us I think “the Greeks” were more or less a fantastic and strange monster, a terrible force that had found some magical alchemy of anarchy that we Americans could never get right. Though conceptualizing anarchy as an unknowable (“opaque”) monster has its appeal, creating such a mythology out of a foreign anarchist movement has its problems. Implying that there is something “special” about Greece ignores that the greeks’ biggest attribute is probably their self-confidence, not some perfect alignment of social conditions. Some of our biggest obstacles on this side of the Atlantic might be psychological as much as material in nature.
Turning the Greek anarchist movement into a mythology has also meant creating the perfect vehicle for asserting various anarchist sects’ particular platforms: syndicalists, if not dismissing Greece as in “a low stage of struggle,” focus almost solely on “workers’” actions; insurrectionaries present tale after tale of bombings and fire attacks with almost no discussion of the political context or the thousands of hours of boring, “activist” work that goes into making that context; “anarchists without adjectives” praise the ideological and tactical diversity of the Greeks without acknowledging the tremendously divisive and even violent conflicts between anarchist groups, or the substantive quality of these divisions; and so on.
This ‘zine was prompted in large part to get past these stunted narratives, to present at least some of the political background and specific organizational and tactical approaches taken by thousands of active Greek anarchists. It could never be a complete picture, of course, as it is a small publication and primarily based on excerpts from the excellent book We Are An Image from the Future. That book, a set of memoirs, analyses, timelines, and theoretical pieces depicting the revolt in December 2008, is not a “history book” but itself an incomplete text on the constantly growing and changing phenomenon of Greek anarchism. More oriented towards cautious observations and lessons relevant to those on this side of the Atlantic, I’ve included several pieces written by non-Greek authors who seem to have one foot in Greece and one foot in their home country, as I think this position offers a unique level of awareness and perspective on the situation.
I was also prompted to assemble this publication by my recent visit to Greece, and several surrounding countries. Though I was only there for a brief time, and only visited three cities, it was an overwhelming and incredible experience. A week and half before the visit, on May 5th, 2010, three innocent workers were killed by a fire bombing of a bank during one of the country’s largest and most militant general strikes in recent history. To my knowledge this was an unprecedented occurrence, and during my time there, anarchists all over the country were wrestling with the meanings and consequences of this careless action, both internally and with the public at large. A large part of my discussions there centered around these deaths, contextualized by the fact that over the last 10 years the Greek anarchist movement has essentially catalyzed a low-level civil war both dependent upon the anarchists but at the same time far beyond them in scope.
Despite the tragedy, and the differing perspectives thereof, I was impressed with the maturity, sincerity, and care put into the discussions, and the comrades’ refusal to sound any bells of retreat or capitulation with the State. Anarchists knew that the government and the institutionalized Left would exploit these deaths to repress their struggle, and were proactively prepared to deal with that. One of the Greek anarchists’ strengths, and one of their notable differences from the American movement, has always been knowing that the best defense is usually a good offense. It remains to be seen if popular support (which has not necessarily diminished) and internal divisiveness will allow them to preserve this offensive. For the sake of us all, I hope they can.
north carolina piece corps correspondent