Anarchism in Greece

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Anarchism in Greece can trace it roots in ancient Greece but was formed as a political movement during the 19th century. It was in the ancient era that the first libertarian thoughts appeared when philosophers based on rationality questioned the fundamentals of ancient traditions. Modern anarchism in Greece emerged in the 19th century, heavily influenced by the contemporary European classical anarchism. Because of the Bolshevik success in Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of the Communist Party, anarchism faded after the first decades of the 20th century. Following the collapsed of Junta and USSR, the anarchist movement in Greece began gaining pace and as of now various anarchists groups are active in Athens and other cities.

Ancient Greece[edit]

Beliefs, opinions and sentiments that are close to anarchist core values were expressed in Ancient Greece. With the appearance of presocratic thought, rational inquiry during the classical and Hellenistic period, challenged traditional beliefs, religion and authority itself. Socrates scepticism towards the state and its passionate support of the individual's moral freedom were among the first ever libertarian critiques.[1] Cynic's contribution to philosophical anarchism was the distinction between the man-made laws and nature's law, fiercely rejecting the former.[2] Stoics followed the same worldview and Zeno of Citium, the main stoic philosopher, received the admiration of 19th-century anarchist, Piotr Kropotkin who was impressed by Zeno's Republic- a community based on egalitarianism and friendly relations.[3] A powerful play resonating with anarchism was Antigone, by Sofocles, where a young woman defies the orders of the Ruler and acts according to her conscious.[4]

Early modern history[edit]

The newspaper Greek Democracy. The slogan at the top: "Revolution is the law of progress." Greek Democracy was the first anarchist newspaper in Greece.

While the anti-authoritarian tendencies in Greece have their roots in Ottoman empire, the first era of self-conscious anarchism present in Greece started in the mid 19th century and lasted to World War II.[5] Individuals having ties with Italy, and Italian immigrants imported anarchism to the Greek mainland. This explains the phenomenon that the port town of Patras had seen the first organised anarchist group. [6] Various individuals who were inspired by the expansion of European classical Anarchism. The first anarchist publication in Greece appeared on September 1861, in the daily newspaper "Φώς" (Light), issue 334. It's the main article of the paper, titled "Anarchy", part A, by an anonymous writer employing classical anti-authoritarian rhetoric.[7]

The first organised anarchist group was the Democratic Club of Patras(Δημοκρατικος Συλλογος Πατρας) founded in 1876, and soon affiliated itself with the anti-authoritarian Jura Federation which was participating in the First International.[7][5] The group helped to create a network of groups (federation) with analogous groups elsewhere in Greece and published its own newspaper, the first anarchist newspaper in Greece, named "Ελληνική Δημοκρατία" (Greek Democracy).[8]

In the spring of 1919, Greeks in the Mariupol region formed defence units in reaction to the events of the October Revolution, joining the Makhnovshchyna. Indeed, "twenty per cent of the Makhnovist forces were Greek and [...] according to Arshinov some of the best Makhnovist commanders were Greek".[9][10][unreliable source?]

As in rest of Europe by that time, propaganda of the deed was employed by the Boatmen of Thessaloniki, a group of Bulgarian anarchists based in Salonica (then part of Ottoman Empire), while anarchosyndicalist (or just "madman"[11]) Alexandros Schinas assassinated King George I in 1913.[5] In 1916, the anarchosyndicalist Konstantinos Speras was an organizer of the Serifos strike.[5]

The Greek anarchist movement's momentum subsided in the 1920s as, among many factors, the Greek working class turned to Marxist ideology and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), known for its hostility towards anarchists, rose to power.[12] Reflecting Greek desire for a strong state, anarchism was eradicated in the 1930s and 1940s, between the Metaxas Regime, Axis occupation of Greece, and Greek Civil War.[13] In times of changing government, Greeks relied on local government for resistance and security.[14]

During and after the Junta[edit]

The new phase of the Greek anarchist movement started during the dictatorship of the Greek military junta of 1967-1974. Students returning from Paris, where they had taken part in the events of May 1968, getting in touch with leftist and anarchist ideas, started spreading these ideas among the radical youth of the time. In 1972, Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle was published in Athens, along with other Situationist texts. Mikhail Bakunin's God and the State and Peter Kropotkin's Law and Authority followed. "Black Rose" bookshop carried these publications of "Diethnis Vivliothiki" ("International Library").[15] Interest in anarchism swelled with the anti-junta movement, and the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising in 1973 was a flashpoint for the junta's opposition.[16] The group that initiated the Polytechnic uprising included a minority of anarchists and leftists, who sought the fall of capitalism in addition to the group's common aim: the reinstatement of democracy.[17] Anarchists were branded as provocateurs by KNE as they were expressing slogans not directly related to the student's demands (i.e. they were calling for sexual freedom, social revolution and abolishment of the State). The resonance with the French 1968 movement was clear. [18] Some demonstrators used also slogans with anarchist overtones, such as "Down with Authority" and "People Revolt".[16] The uprising became an emboldening symbol for the anarchists and leftists' unfulfilled vision, as if the occupation never ended.[19] The uprising is commemorated annually with a multi-day march. Anarchists use the occasion to denounce the political regime. The marches traditionally end with skirmishes between anarchists and police in Exarchia.[17] The annual protests promote a subculture that sees resistance of authority as one's duty.[20]

After the fall of Junta, anarchism was more like a small sub-cultural rather than a solid movement. After the riots of 1981, it started to grow. [21] The university occupation movement of 1979–1981 was largely instigated by Anarchist and leftist groups. Near the Polytechnic, the student neighbourhood of Exarchia became a "free zone", where leftists, Anarchists, hippies, and others were in charge.[22] A big moment for the anarchist movement that helped attest self-confidence was the anarchist demonstration on the hotel "Caravel" hosting a far-right conference (among the participants was Jean-Marie Le Pen).[23][24] Between 1985–1986, almost daily demos and clashes between anarchists and the police took place in Athens.[25] Α 15-year-old youth, Michalis Kaltezas was shot dead by the police during this period and his killing caused huge riots in Athens and Thessaloníki. The government's reaction to the occupation of the Chemistry Department of Athens University made the oppression against anarchists almost unbearable, but the anarchist movement survived, and managed to stage demonstrations with thousands of participants in Athens.[23] Anarchist's proposal was a in contrast to the legalistic approach of The Greek Communist Party (KKE), which was enjoying by then parliamentary participation.[26][24] Exarcheia zone was increasingly becoming a no go zone for police as clashes occurred merely with the sight of officers.[27]

Alternative media and punk subcultures proliferated anarchist thought among Greek youth in the 1980s and 1990s. This collectively owned media spread messages against neoliberalism, reactionary populism, liberal democracy, and the state.[28] By the late 1980s, anarchism had turned towards a broader spectrum of issues: gender inequalities, patriarchy, racism towards immigrants, and ethnic minority repression (Slavic and Turkish). Anarchist squats emerged in this era, among which Villa Amalia and Villa Lela Karagianni were the most prominent.[29]

Since the 1990s[edit]

The self-collapse of USSR had a profound impact not only in anarchism but in Greece as well. The government's agenda included an attempt to enforce capitalist and neoliberal policies. The 1990s was the era that the anti-authoritarian movement became more prominent and had active participation among student riots against government plans for the privatization of education sector.[30] The most circulated publications were The Void Network and The Children of the Gallery.[31]

In the new century, with capital and neoliberalism advancing victoriously through the world, Greek anarchist participated in the anti-globalization movement.[32] New collectives, such as the Nosotros in Exarcheia and its associated newspaper, Babylonia, became popular among rebellious youth.[33] Athens Indymedia and Antieksousiastiki kinisi were formed in 2001 and 2003 respectively.[34]

December 2008 saw massive protests after the lethal shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a policeman in the libertarian stronghold of Exarchia, Athens. Within an hour, anarchists, leftists, and sympathizers rioted and attacked banks, police vehicles and government offices in the area. The government's attempts for a cover-up and refusal to apologize brought thousands to the streets for daily clashes and demonstrations, that were disseminated to other cities as well. The parliament building was besieged for weeks by angry crowds. Major violence erupted during one of the marches, with rioters attacking and setting fire to many public buildings, banks, and shops. Thousands of young people staged angry protests across Greece for a week, attacking police stations in every town.[35][36] In almost every neighbourhood of Athens and Piraeus, police stations, banks, and big businesses were firebombed.[37] An anarchist form of illegalism re-emerged during the insurrection when anarchist expropriated food from stores to distribute to people in need.[38] Anarchist groups organized and participated in protests against the measures implemented by the government to resolve 2010 Greek economic crisis that was precipitated by the 2010 Greek sovereign debt crisis Certain anarchist groups and networks, in conjunction with activists affiliated to anarchist and libertarian ideas, during the beginning of the crisis, differentiated themselves from violence, becoming engaged in self-organization activities[39] Spontaneous networks of students and other radicals were formed that followed an anarchistic approach on how they function. The influence of traditional Marxism was minimal.[40] What also was illustrated by the December 2008 riots is the inability of insurgency tactics to gain popular support.[41]

The May 2010 firebombing of an Athenian Marfin Bank during an anti-austerity protest killed three employees and eroded interest in both anti-austerity protests and the Greek anarchist movement.[42][43]

The first years of the new decade saw the rise of Golden Dawn, a fascist party that was targeting immigrants and managed to control a neighbourhood in Athens centre. Anarchist confronted the fascists in various ways despite having to face the governmental hostility and police brutality. Police were often utilized against anarchist movement and associated squats.[44]

List of groups and places[edit]

Choros, meaning "scene" in Greek, is the body of loosely associated anarchist groups in Greece.[45]

Anti-authoritarian Current in 2003
Squats and other places
  • Exarcheia.
  • K-Vox, former cinema sited in the Exarcheia square.
  • Lela Karagianni.
  • Nosotros (Athens) Anarchist social place, the home of Antieksousiastiki kinisi
  • Villa Amalia, now evicted (after a police raid)
  • Diadromi Eleftherias
  • Babylonia, newspaper affiliated to Anti-authoritarian Current
  • Rocinante, anarchosyndicalist publication


  1. ^ Marshall 1993, p. 67.
  2. ^ Marshall 1993, p. 68-69.
  3. ^ Marshall 1993, p. 69-70.
  4. ^ Marshall 1993, p. 66.
  5. ^ a b c d Vradis & Dalakoglou 2009, p. 1.
  6. ^ Apoifis 2014, p. 87-89.
  7. ^ a b Apoifis 2014, p. 87.
  8. ^ Apoifis 2014, p. 88.
  9. ^ Heath 2009.
  10. ^ Chop 2008.
  11. ^ A Concise History of Greece By Richard Clogg "he was assasinated by a madman".
  12. ^ Alexandrakis 2010, p. 76.
  13. ^ Alexandrakis 2010, pp. 76–77.
  14. ^ Alexandrakis 2010, p. 77.
  15. ^ Apoifis 2014, p. 110.
  16. ^ a b Vradis & Dalakoglou 2009.
  17. ^ a b Kotea 2013, p. 21.
  18. ^ Kornetis 2013, pp. 260.
  19. ^ Kotea 2013, pp. 21–22.
  20. ^ Andronikidou & Kovras 2012, p. 713. "The memory of the Polytechnic has made two overlapping contributions to the cultivation of a culture of resistance. First, the protesting youth acquired independent agency. Only the student movement overtly resisted the dictatorship. Second, the memory of the Polytechnic has institutionalised the individual’s 'duty to resist authority'"
  21. ^ van der Steen 2014, pp. 71-72.
  22. ^ Apoifis 2014, p. 113.
  23. ^ a b Apoifis 2014, p. 113-15.
  24. ^ a b van der Steen 2014, pp. 72.
  25. ^ van der Steen 2014, pp. 75.
  26. ^ Apoifis 2014, p. 112-13.
  27. ^ van der Steen 2014, pp. 73.
  28. ^ Siapera & Theodosiadis 2017, p. 508.
  29. ^ van der Steen 2014, pp. 76.
  30. ^ Vradis & Dalakoglou 2009, p. 2.
  31. ^ Apoifis 2014, pp. 117-18.
  32. ^ Apoifis 2014, pp. 120-23.
  33. ^ Apoifis 2014, p. 126.
  34. ^ van der Steen 2014, pp. 80.
  35. ^ Schwarz, Sagris & Void Network 2010.
  36. ^ Hadjimichalis 2013, p. 123.
  37. ^ Moran & Waddington 2016, p. 96.
  38. ^ Williams 2018, p. 9.
  39. ^ Siapera & Theodosiadis 2017.
  40. ^ van der Steen 2014, pp. 81-82.
  41. ^ van der Steen 2014, p. 86.
  42. ^ Vasilaki 2017, p. 159.
  43. ^ Roos & Oikonomakis 2014, p. 127.
  44. ^ van der Steen 2014, pp. 89-91.
  45. ^ Kitis 2015, p. 2.


Further reading[edit]

  • Revolt and Crisis in Greece. AK Press & Occupied London (2011).
  • Early Days of Greek Anarchism: The Democratic Club of Patras & Social Radicalism in Greece Edited and translated by Paul Pomonis. ISBN 1-873605-68-4
  • Iliopoulos, Christos (2014). Nietzsche & anarchism: an elective affinity, and a Nietzschean reading of the December 08 revolt in Athens (Ph.D.). Loughborough University. hdl:2134/16254.

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