Claiming to fight lawlessness and chaos, the Greek state is cracking down on one of the last bulwarks against fascism: the anarchist squats of Athens.
Last week, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, together with Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias (the same man who threatened to sue the Guardian for publishing a report on the torture of 15 anti-fascist activists by the Greek police), ordered the police to raid one of the oldest and most active anarchist squats of Athens: Villa Amalias.
Apart from being one of the oldest squats, what makes Villa Amalias even more special is the fact that it lies in an area of Athens where many immigrants live: an area Golden Dawn has long been targeting with death raids from their Agios Panteleimonas stronghold. Through its social activities, which bring together locals and immigrants — while generally attempting to fight the spread of the ideology of hatred — Villa Amalias is one of the last bulwarks against the spread of Golden Dawn.
For Samaras and his government, the 40+ squats/social centers that are currently operating in several Greek cities, are centers of lawlessness, the places that provide anti-austerity protesters with Molotov cocktails and other weapons during demonstrations. As Public Order Minister Dendias recently said: “A democratic society cannot allow the forces of lawlessness and chaos to block the country’s path to development.”
I don’t know what kind of “development” they have in mind, but what Villa Amalias has been blocking so far is the simply the further spread of Golden Dawn’s actions in the city center and the degradation of the country through EU/IMF-imposed austerity. It also seems that activities like theater groups, foreign language schools, a library, music studio, and concerts that Villa Amalias and other squats are regularly organizing, bring “chaos and lawlessness” to Greek society.
Cutting down on pensions, salaries, welfare provisions, and privatizing state owned enterprises bring “development” according to the same surreal logic. But don’t worry: Samaras knows what’s right for the country.
And so on Thursday, police raided Villa Amalias, dissolved the squat and arrested a number of activists, obviously in a move related to a recent article published by Samaras’ advisor, which states that the voters of Golden Dawn are “our [Nea Dimokratia] people; they are just dissatisfied.” I am not sure how honorable it is for Nea Dimokratia to consider the voters of Golden Dawn as “their people”, but I am quite sure they have now embarked on a campaign to please them.
After Villa Amalias, the police was ordered to raid yet another squat of Athens, Skaramaga, and a couple of days ago, the oldest of those squats, Lelas Karagianni — where the police notoriously failed and had to abandon the raid, since they had neither the prosecutor’s nor the owner’s permission to enter the premises. Furthermore, the police did not find evidence that could identify the squat as a “center of lawlessness”. Unless we follow Samaras’ and Dendias’ logic, and the childrens’ toys found in the squat constitute such evidence.
At the same time, during the early hours of Monday, a weird incident was reported from Nea Dimokratia headquarters: apparently, some unidentified gunmen shot at the building with Kalashnikovs at a time when nobody was there, and one of the bullets was found in the Prime Minister’s office. Of course, the Greek right-wing and the media siding with them tried to attribute this attack — as well as others, such as the firebombing of the homes of several Greek journalists – to “left-wing terrorism”.
But as Greek WWII resistance hero and SYRIZA deputy Manolis Glezos said in his speech in Parliament later that day, the Left had nothing to gain (and everything to lose) from such an attack. He openly wondered whether the fascist para-state that sides with the Greek right had anything to do with it. Glezos’ argument is based on the historical experience of modern Greece, which has often experienced violent para-state action whenever the Left was close to electoral victories. Such seems to be the case now, with SYRIZA heading the polls.
What we can say with some certainty, though, is that the recent raids on the anarchist squats of Athens — most of which have been active for more than 20 years now — served as an “electoral trap” for SYRIZA: to keep with its party line of being aligned with the country’s social movements, it would have to defend the squatters. In that case, the public opinion leaders and spin doctors of Nea Dimokratia would be able to “show” to the public that SYRIZA sides with “lawlessness”, while Nea Dimokratia defends “order”.
Interestingly, the world’s leading political and social scientists strongly disagree with Samaras’ and Dendias’ characterization of the squats as “centers of lawlessness”. For people like John Holloway, Hakim Bey, Hank Johnston and others, the squats are “free spaces”, “temporary autonomous zones”, “cracks in capitalism”, where a different way of life can be practiced and experimented with — a non-capitalistic and non-hierarchical space, in which direct democracy and social solidarity thrive, proving that another world is possible.
We all know by now that the real criminals live in other Villas — not the one of Amalias.