An Anarchist-Communist Worker’s Letter from Athens

The letter which follows was sent to the Bureau by an anarchist-communist who has been in contact with us for many years. Although the correspondence was intended to be private we felt that it gave important information and raised important issues for the workers’ movement. We asked his permission to publish it which he granted, on condition that we would make a number of things absolutely clear. First, he is not a pacifist and was not opposed to the necessary resistance of the real movement (throwing missiles at the police to protect the demonstration or entering a radio station to get their texts read on air). What his text objects to is the mindless violence of some 200-300 persons who call themselves anarchists between Monday evening, 8 December 2008, and the following Tuesday morning. His charge made in the letter below is that this violence actually weakened the ability of the movement to generalise to the wider population. It is a criticism we endorse. The second point he wants us to make clear is that not all of the Greek anarchist movement are like the elitist and mindless types criticised here. This is why he asks us, in the letter below, to study the statements various anarchists in Greece have put out carefully, in order to distinguish the serious revolutionaries from the mindless advocates of violence.

We should, of course add that we, as an internationalist Marxist organisation have our differences with the writer who seems to believe that the consciousness to make a revolution will arise spontaneously from the struggle. The consciousness to make an insurrection certainly can, and will, but under capitalist conditions (i.e. before any revolution) unless we organise ourselves politically to put forward a class programme in that struggle then some capitalist programme or other will be imposed upon it. The task of a communist organisation is not to “give” people liberty or anything else but to lead the fight for the overthrow of capitalism. Once that is achieved the communists don’t set themselves up as something apart from the class which spawned them. Nor do they form a government as such. They fight within the class wide organisations so that they as a whole develop in the direction of the overthrow not just of the capitalist political apparatus but of all the social panoply that makes up capitalism - wage labour, national frontiers, money and standing armies etc. This task has to be led by those who already can see what a new society involves but it cannot be finished except by the committed activity of the mass of the working class. It will not be a process which can be accomplished in days or even months, but will take years. Episodes like the Greek workers response to the brutality of the state apparatus in December 2008 will be help to furnish the understanding which will lead to the consciousness to start that process. The central contribution of this letter is that it underlines the need for any movement which breaks out, for whatever reason, to extend itself to the wider working class. Otherwise it is doomed to introspection and futility.

IBRP January 2008

Letter from Social Harmony

Dear Comrades

... I don’t have to go to work until Monday so I am in a position to say a few things about the majority of the Greek anarchists.

This majority supports a vague kind of anarchism; for these persons the very big differences between Proudhon, Bakunin, Malatesta, Cafiero, Kropotkin, Camillo Berneri, Bookchin and so on, are simply details. Why so? Because after reading a few anarchist pamphlets they think that there is no need to read any more and examine more carefully the thinking of each of the above-mentioned theoreticians. Moreover they think they “know” - after reading only a few pamphlets! And who are those that don’t know? The entire Greek population (minus these two hundred people)!!

These anarchists think that we need no theories - we need violent actions to radicalise any social upheaval. For them, the only activity which has any importance is violent action - the only true action!!

What do we really have? Uneducated anarchists (they don’t think before acting, they don’t think after acting and they don’t think of the consequences of their actions), they are the supporters of an anarchism which has never existed (they are not individualists, not syndicalists, nor communists - they are simply “anarchists”) believers in the one and only solution for all the “problems” (violence) and they are elitist (they “know”, and all the others don’t “know”).

In fact given the mindless action of these anarchists the Greek state has no need of provocateurs. Their participation in a demonstration always leads to their direct confrontation with the police and dispersal of the demonstrators. Of course they don’t give a damn about the purpose(s) of the demonstrations.

Maybe what I say sounds strange to your ears but it is true. Besides its only 10% of the whole “story”. If I tell you all the story ...

Concerning the social upheaval of the last few days I am glad because, after many years, I have the opportunity to speak about a real social upheaval. Straight after the murder of young Alexandros, in a few hours, demonstrations organised all over Greece, through the SMS of mobile phones, with the participation of old and young alike, students and workers, parents with their children, Greeks and non-Greeks, teaches and pupils (boys and girls of 12 years old), soldiers and civilians, and so on. In a few hours all the barriers that keep the working class divided disappeared!! The confrontations with the police this time (I’m talking about the violent confrontations that took place on Saturday, Sunday and Monday at noon) were necessarily violent in order to keep each demonstration going on - the minimum violence to achieve the specific purpose. Right after the murder, the demonstrators appealed continually to the “general public” to come and unite with them in an act of solidarity, self-respect, anger and resistance to the vicious situation created by the two ruling class parties. Many of the demonstrators occupied television and radio stations to make their appeal(s). The first day after in the schools all the students appeared wearing black clothes. In only two and a half days a movement had been created!

In order to divide this movement the ruling class decided to withdraw the police forces from the streets, on Monday evening in very city and every town all over Greece - in the hope that the usual action (the mindless violence) of the usual two hundred anarchists would generate fear among the demonstrators, fear in the “general public” about their shops, their cars, fear of parents about the participation of their children in the demonstrations, and disagreements in the movement about the “amount” of necessary violence and so on.

Happily the movement went forward without even a pause as Monday night’s burnings showed, and on the next day (Tuesday) schools, colleges and polytechnics were occupied thus preserving the social character of the movement intact.

Unfortunately then came the Christmas holidays and no-one knows what will happen on 1 January when the schools again open their doors.

Please read the statements of the Greek anarchists carefully. Most of them are revolutionaries in word only in order to justify their mindless violent actions.

Which way forward for the movement? It depends (as always) on the movement itself - in the ability of its participants to think further about what they have achieved already, what more they want to achieve and the ways and means by which their struggle can be conducted. Happily they continue to make appeals to other parts of the working class to take part in the movement and to dynamically expand its goals.

So it also depends (as always) on the willingness of those parts of the working class to “transfer” the struggle into their workplaces and into their communities. Otherwise without this and other dynamic expansions of the movement it will, sooner or later become “sterile”, just one more student movement and will die out. All this isn’t theory. We have seen it happen many times before...

Comradely yours

Social Harmony - PO Box 76148 - TK 17110
Nea Smyrni - Athens - Greece