Tuesday, May 18, 2010


The events in Greece continue along with the anarchist response there, a response that I have often characterized on this blog as "inadequate". Perhaps "immature" would be a better word. Despite the great rebelliousness of the Greek population the anarchists there generally have little to offer beyond...more rebellion. this is immensely sad. Looking across the world Greece may be the second country after Spain where anarchism is most popular on a per capita basis. Travelling through downtown Athens you might even get the illusion that anarchism was more popular than in places such as Barcelona. I've been in both. The difference, and it is a great and profound difference, an essential difference, is that in Spain the majoritarian anarchist tradition is anarcho-syndicalist. This means that anarchism has sunk deep roots amongst ordinary people, and that anarchism speaks to their concerns and not to people whose primary identification is with a subculture. This means that anarchism in Spain is inherently less "flashy" but much more profound and practical for its lack of visible "difference".

Not that I don't admire the Greeks. When visiting that country I was privileged to meet with anarchosyndicalists and members of the 'Anti-Authoritarian Movement'. The former, however, are small and marginal amongst Greek anarchists. Hopefully it will not always be so. The latter are gradually struggling towards a class based politics and a program that is detailed enough to appeal beyond a subculture of rebellion. This subculture is, it must be admitted, a considerable cut above that that is so common in the 'anglosphere', especially the USA. There is none of the usual nonsense about how to dress, what to eat, what music to listen to (more or less) nor how to talk (politically correct speech). Still, while it may be admirable in comparison it is still...an incestuous subculture. Many Greek anarchists recognize this, and they also know that what has been offered so far is simply not enough to draw the ordinary person to their side.

The problem in Greece is that this evolution towards a "popular anarchism" is inhibited by a form of anarchism, "autonomism" which actually derives from Maoist roots and is under the great illusion that one can precipitate some sort of libertarian revolution without either organization nor program by simple violent actions. Autonomism is a particularly European example of the decay of Maoism 9and the idea of "peoples' war" applied to urban settings) that has very little echoes today outside of Greece, Italy and Germany. It is in Greece that it is most prominent.

This "deviation" (to use an old commie term) has always inhibited the Greek movement insofar as its addiction to mindless violence has both disgraced anarchism in the view of the average person and also diverted the majority of the movement into something resembling a "competition of militancy" whereby they hope to compete with the firebombers.

Firebombers !!! Arson in an urban setting is pretty well always a very stupid idea. Here in North America the stupidity is compounded by the fact such arsons are pretty well inevitably connected to nothing more than the desire of the perpetrators to prove how committed and "enlightened" they are. Even when there is a "real" issue that doesn't involve arrogance bordering on psychopathology such as "hating porn stores" (Canada) or the people who drive SUVs (USA) arson very rarely (never ???) accomplishes anything. Even if you are making a "class point" against the ruling class - such as firebombing banks- it accomplishes nothing.

It is also very bad propaganda. What it says very plainly is that you don't give a shit about what has euphemistically called "collateral damage" which is always a possibility when fires are started in urban areas. Don't depend on the fire departments to be omnipotent. In Greece this possibility has become a reality as three bank workers were killed by a fire started by protesters in recent demonstrations. There have been all sorts of "excuses" for this. Some "anarchists" have echoed the commies and the vague leftists of the Coalition of the Radical Left by trying to blame the incident on agents provocateurs. This is nonsense. Others have tried to shift the blame to the management of the bank who (literally) locked the workers in. This, at least, has some truth to it, but it avoids the ultimate question. EVERY TIME when you start a fire in an urban area (and often in a rural area) there is the possibility of the death of innocent people. Greece has certainly seen enough of this sort of arson (with deaths) in recent years carried out by people who intend to redevelop land. It's a sad commentary on the "anarchism" of some people that they should imitate the actions of the lowest and most criminal of the business class.

No doubt there are some who are hardened ideologues, once more particularly in the USA, who call themselves "insurrectionist anarchists" who do their damnest to excuse such actions-or at least to argue against how atrocious they are. In Greece this "struggle for the soul of anarchism" has been going on for many years. Those who think that terrorist options are the best way to proceed have not been sparing in also physically attacking attacking other anarchists who disagree with them, and once more arson has been one of their methods.

What should be made plain here and now is that the semi-religious devotion to "a diversity of tactics" here in North America can result in obvious disaster. The demand that there be no criticism of any action no matter how foolish is preliminary to physical attacks on those who dissent. Such attacks have already happened in Canada and the USA.

Quite frankly it hardly matters in the cosmic scheme of things if totalitarians disguised as anarchists want to attack those who disagree with theatrical "mini-riots" involving a few dozen people. Nor if they physically assault somebody who has dissented from the "vegan cult". The world moves on. It does, however, matter when important issues such as those in Greece are in play.

The great point that I want to make here is not to those who are ideologically convinced that one riot after another will lead to a libertarian society (or at least convinced for 5 1/2 years until they either mature or find a way to make money out of the nonsense). I speak here to those who have been convinced by the rhetoric of "diversity of tactics". Such suspension of disbelief may be all well and good when an action will have no visible consequences ie all "anti" protests so favoured by the "travelling anarchist rent-a-riot". It is a totally different matter when the destiny of a nation is being determined. People in Greece are desperately attempting to make anarchism relevant for ordinary people. You have two choices for your "solidarity". You can be in solidarity with the Greek anarchists who want to make anarchism a living and practical reality or you can be in "solidarity" with those who have both frustrated their project in the past and also physically attacked them. The choice is clear.

The following , from the Anarkismo website, is one out of many self criticisms from within the Greek anarchist movement about the events that led to the deaths of the three workers. What is significant here is that the criticism comes from within, and it proposes the question of "who" you are in solidarity with. It's obvious what side I have chosen. To echo Martin Luther..."here I stand, I can do no other".
An anarchist comrade from Athens:
Enough is enough

Let us shout it out loud and if they do not hear it let us show it with our actions: Enough is enough.

On the 5th of May, we lived the chronicle of three pre-destined deaths. Unfortunately, the belief that we had for the longest time that it is only a matter of time before we mourn the first victims of indiscriminate violence, came true. Unfortunately, lives had to be lost in order to hear or read from some of the collectives of the movement, albeit timidly, albeit vaguely, the first allusions of criticism for the nihilistic culture of violence. Unfortunately, some still continue to hide behind their finger, focusing on those that bear the moral instead of the actual responsibility, on the results of the murderous act and not the reasons behind it.

Let's show the courage and the sincerity that (must) characterize a revolutionary/liberating movement and let's talk about the gist of the matter. If the death of the three people was proven to be the result of a targeted action by the far right, would they focus on the - anyway criminal and inhuman - stance of the management of the bank? But even if this was the case, the below are fully in effect.

The tolerance that has been shown for the longest time by a part of the anarchist movement to the proponents of indiscriminate violence is the beginning of any (self-) criticism. All those that, for many years, acted virtually undisturbed, in the same monotonous, dangerous, destructive and provocative ways, next and inside our blocks, should have been isolated, instead of being described on hindsight, generally and vaguely as "agents provocateur" or "gang-members", without any analysis whatsoever on how we ended up in this situation accompanying those characterizations. This can still take place though and work as a kind of catharsis. All these years when anyone tried to distance themselves from phenomena of indiscriminate violence, or from mass - armed or not - violence, was thought as setting themselves apart, was jeered or attacked. So is it not positive that even now, even vaguely, voices against the practice of violence for the sake of violence are being heard? Maybe it is and maybe it isnʼt. Only time will tell.

The more our critique of the phenomenon remains hazy and without supporting evidence, the less persuasive it becomes. The effortless characterization of "agents provocateur" is insufficient mainly because it is too general. With this general condemnation you do not expose the crux of the matter. You only avoid to answer questions such as those that follow, ones that we need to answer with clarity and also look into the results of a sterile "insurrectional" oratory and the even more sterile and dangerous practices that originate from this oratory. As agents provocateur can act not only a sad gang of ego-centric malcontents, but a state-sponsored gang on designated duty as well, if we judge the acts only in relation to their results. But is such a judgment suitable for us to adopt? No, because the revolutionary expression is rational, clear, acute and examines the causes of each phenomena. No, because at this point we need to be direct and act accordingly. No, because such a critique characterizes Authority and the crutches that prop it up. They are the ones who are used to give a fuzzy explanation and leave it at that. But if you are indeed seeking to prick the boil of violence, your discourse against blind violence needs to be concise and consistent at all times. Your actions, even more so. Otherwise, any abstract verbal distance one may try to keep from those gangs and their actions will not be believable. And moreover, they do not help in the spreading of the anti-authoritarian word. Even if one is not diachronically consistent, the change of attitude and course - if it is sincere - has to be followed with arguments and self-criticism, to avoid becoming opportunism. The questions we talked about earlier are many. If they were a state-sponsored gang, why did we not break them up during the rally? Were we caught with our pants around our ankles? Obviously not, since they act the same way for years on end. But then the question becomes why we have not done so all those years. Our reflexes against state gangs and secret policemen have not been blunted that much, so our inactivity is not justified. Perhaps the reflexes of some of us have been blunted towards gangs that hijack anarchist and anti-authoritarian ideology to play their little games to our detriment.

Let's dispense with the jokes, the convenient excuses and reasoning. We watch the same play for years on end. A part of the movement was accepting for many years the brainless partisans of violence for violence's sake, the proponents of window-smashing, providing them with an ideological basis for their actions. The rest either reacted spasmodically, or put up with them, or awaited a fateful event in order to react. Let it be understood that their murderous stupidity has cost human lives. We are not talking anymore about immaturity and ideological fixations; we are talking about a crime. They are the perpetrators. The anarchist and the social movement in general has paid dearly the fad and the autism of a few cowards and those that supported their actions with their so-called 'insurrectionist' oratory, believing that the social struggle against the State and Power is undertaken by a few insurrectionary types in society's absence and is limited to broken glass or whatever mobilizes the police for a stone-throwing war. With them and their practices, anarchy has nothing in common. Enough discredit, enough backward steps. The conflict will be multi-level and massed. Targeted and conscious.

The very moment that an entire square demanded furiously "Burn this brothel, the parliament", the very moment that hundreds of thousands were on the streets to clash with totalitarianism, the very moment that life is taken away from us, this moment the anti-violence to the violence of Power must at all costs shed this weight. This though, from now on, even belatedly we need to prove that it is a fact. For starters, we can do what people are talking among themselves: organize immediately a rally and protest march against indiscriminate violence. This will act as a rallying beacon for the movement, will make known our position towards society and maybe become the starting point of setting the score straight with the aforementioned autism.

Let us shout it out loud and if they do not hear it let us show it with our actions: Enough is enough.


Anonymous said...

Greece is in the mess it is in for two reasons:

1) It never should have shed its sovereignty and ability to set monetary policy by joining the European (monetary) Union.

2) Greece has long been about the closest example of "anarchy" in action one could ever find, and as a result, there is insufficient revenue to pay for all the niceties and services its own citizens expect to receive.

If millions of Greeks fail to pay their fare share of taxes, ultimately the shortfall becomes unbearable the the country defaults.

mollymew said...

Well, I'll agree with you in a purely economic sense. You have to realize, however, that, as an anarchist I have a vision beyond the simple economics that Greece is trapped in. A vision of locally controlled enterprise. Is this immediately realizable ? No ! It is, however, the way that both the Greek anarchist movement and Greek society in general should look towards.

Larry Gambone said...

Good article - glad to see this criticism coming from within the movement. Time to grow up chappies!