The Lockdown Resumes
The New Democracy administration continues to exploit the pandemic to take action against immigrants and anarchists, implementing an updated form of strategies that have not been seen since the Junta of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Our movement against the state and capital is more indispensable than ever, as the Greek state rushes to modernize the machinery via which it represses political opponents under the guise of law, order, and anti-virus mandates.
Greece is currently in a full lockdown. This includes no freedom of movement. To maintain such a lockdown without also expanding medical and financial support for those affected is an exercise in sheer authoritarianism.
There are only six recognized justifications for leaving the house: to shop at pharmacies and supermarkets, to exercise (as defined and allowed by police) or walk a dog, to go to work, to attend funerals, to visit a doctor or hospital, or to help a person in need. The latter usually only applies to Greeks helping their grandparents; police have ticketed many people who were trying to give needed supplies to homeless people or people in refugee or Roma camps. You have to text the state to receive permission to go outside and show the SMS confirmation to police if they stop you. These SMS requests to the state provide data and surveillance opportunities to state agencies. Violations can result in a 300 euro fine or other charges. The police most often stop people of color or establish checkpoints in less affluent neighborhoods.
A curfew is also mandated between 9 pm and 5 am, during which the only permitted activities are going to work, walking a dog, or going to the hospital.
Though lockdown is nationally mandated, it is enforced differently in different neighborhoods. Exarchia, for example, is under intense surveillance with almost no one in the street, while wealthy suburbs see little supervision. In the United States, the right condemns safety measures and lockdowns as a liberal conspiracy to sabotage the economy; if they recognized the political opportunities that the pandemic has handed right-wing administrations across Europe, they might change their narrative.
The first lock down in March and April took place when cases were averaging around 150 to 200 per day; today, the numbers fluctuate between 2000 and 2500 per day, with ICU beds filling rapidly. The blame for the infection rates rests on the business elite who demanded open borders for tourism in August, despite the obvious danger. Although there was 90% less tourism than in previous years, these policies permitted a few wealthy tourists to spread the virus throughout the mainland and islands of Greece. The New Democracy regime continues to slash hospital and medical staff budgets, redirecting the funds to decorative urban renewal projects, police and prison staff, and an increased military budget. They prioritize adding fountains and potted plants to neighborhoods over addressing rampant homelessness and drug addiction. They have failed to adjust public transportation to allow for social distancing, so subways and buses remain packed with people, likely spreading the virus. This disproportionately affects those who cannot afford to travel to work by car. While failing to provide funding for protection, the government blames individuals for the alarming infection rates.
As in many other countries, elite scientists propose further lockdowns, taking everything into consideration except the plight of those already living precariously under capitalism. A lockdown without parallel support for the poor only offers protection for the wealthy elite, disregarding poverty as an excusable consequence of the preexisting social order.
With everything closed, furloughed workers are paid even less than what was already too little to survive. “Essential” delivery workers, teachers, and grocery store workers receive no increase in pay or free protective equipment. Some wish their work was deemed “nonessential” so they could be paid a small unemployment salary rather than risking their health for so little money.
Homeless people continue to face fines, arrest, and displacement. The state is using the virus as an excuse to prevent assemblies of any kind. Police recently attacked and beat people inside a social center in Patras for gathering food to distribute to those in need. Mutual aid efforts continue, despite the constant threats, arrests, and fines imposed by police; the simple act of helping those in need outside of the context of the church is now treated the way that much more controversial or confrontational actions were before. Many in Greece, especially the residents of Exarchia who witness the harshest enforcement of the lockdown in an urban environment, refer to the virus as a “Junta holiday.”
Doctors have mobilized to call for more investment in protective equipment and medical solutions to the pandemic, but they are ignored or repressed. Essential workers have faced fines for not having the correct paperwork while outside risking their safety to deliver essential services. People have organized small demonstrations against this sort of political opportunism, but police have responded by kettling them, further endangering the demonstrators with regard to virus transmission as well as police violence.
New Democracy and its European counterparts are implementing a lockdown that is designed to “save Christmas” for New Democracy’s right-wing base. In this strategy, a lockdown will be implemented to the fullest extent until retail stores open for those who have money to spend on Christmas shopping. The plan doesn’t go much further than this; except for this temporary period of consumption, the lockdown is expected to continue after the holiday. Formal announcements about this plan came as the state spent thousands of euros to temporarily project an image of Jesus Christ onto the parliament building for “Armed Forces Day,” an expression of New Democracy’s determination to reinvent Greece as an authoritarian Christian state.
On November 17, 1973, the Greek junta murdered dozens of students engaged in an uprising at the Polytechnic in Exarchia; Greek anarchists demonstrate against the state on each anniversary. Last November 17, police surrounded an anarchist bloc and created a perimeter around the neighborhood of Exarchia in Athens; this year, we anticipated intense repression even before the pandemic offered the state additional opportunities to suppress protest.
A few days before this year’s November 17 anniversary, in the midst of the national lockdown, anarchists courageously coordinated occupations at various universities in Greece, notably the Polytechnic universities in Exarchia and Zografou in Athens. These courageous occupations occurred at a time of unprecedented repression, when the government had just implemented new policies; those who engaged in them chose to take action in spite of the intimidation of the state. They held on to the universities through a full night, concluding with a police raid on the universities and the arrests of all the occupiers. The police attacked nearby support demonstrations and imposed heavy fines on arrestees, with the fines totaling 23,000 euros at the Exarchia Polytechnic alone. In the face of repression, the occupations demonstrated the persistent will and passion that form the foundation of our movements. Though the authoritarian left seek to claim ownership of the November 17 anniversary in Greece, they sat by meekly, pleading for permits while failing to express solidarity with those occupying the universities.
You can view video footage from the occupation of the Polytechnic in Exarchia on November 17, 2020 here.
After these occupations, the Greek state banned all gatherings of more than four people, even for purpose of exercise, until November 18. At the same time, the prime minister had the audacity to go to the Polytechnic to “pay his respects” to the students who died. At that time, the university was surrounded on every side by police prepared to stamp out any demonstration of dissent.
Perhaps the most vivid exemplar of the day occurred when an older woman passed the Polytechnic while the prime minister was making his appearance there. While out on a permitted exercise walk, she placed a flower outside the gates—a longstanding practice mourning the memories of the students lost. She was detained and fined while the prime minister enjoyed his photo op.
The KKE, the authoritarian left Communist Party of Greece, did attempt an unpermitted demonstration after the state denied multiple requests for a permit. When the KKE first took the streets, one subset of the group was able to march in a socially-distanced fashion to the US embassy. However, a subsequent KKE attempt to gather was met with significant repression. While the KKE did face an army of police and flurry of tear gas and violence, they were still treated with some reserve, as they hold seats in parliament—a reserve that is never extended to anarchists.
Anarchists in Athens attempted to assemble on November 17, but the police responded with extreme violence. Small gatherings did happen in the Athenian neighborhoods of Peristeri, Vyronas, Pangrati, Kipseli, Kaisariani, Petralona, and more, but police overwhelmed the city center. Graffiti and banners for the day appeared across the city, however. People attempted to gather in Patras, Ionannina, Volos, Kavala, Karditsa, Larissa, Corfu, Thessaloniki and likely many other places across the country. Police responded with arrests, fines, and in almost every case, intense violence.
Greek police believe they are fighting a war, and they behave accordingly. They take pride in defending the ruling order by means of violence, without fear of consequences from the state. They represent the culture of the Junta that they wish to implement again. November 17 is just as important to them as it is to leftists and anarchists, but for the opposite reason. They would love to spill the blood of more students if they get the chance; while no one was murdered this year, quite a bit of blood was spilled.
Corporate media reported likely revenge attacks that went formally unclaimed on the night of the 17th. Molotov cocktails were thrown at a police checkpoint in the Athens neighborhood of Petralona. A group of ten people also attacked a police station in Thessaloniki with Molotov cocktails.
The anarchist group Masovka attacked a municipal building on the 17th. An excerpt from their communiqué reads as follows:
…as it circulates very well in the last days: “MAT everywhere, ICU nowhere.”
It is clear that at the moment, New Democracy is experimenting and trying to bring the milieu of struggle to its knees on the pretext of the pandemic… They renounce state responsibility by putting the blame on young people and individuals, showing sheer hypocrisy in their repressive behavior and violence in the streets. Defying the ridiculous ban on rallies, comrades attempted to take the streets all over Greece with the sole purpose of showing that their mockery must end. People are waking up more and more and the anger is growing. Anger at our rulers and the murderers of our dreams. Time for them to stop deciding our future.
Therefore, we decided to attack the town hall of Ilio, a minimal but symbolic attack in response to the senseless violence we experienced as a movement on November 17, reminding the worms of the state that our resistance does not die. This action is a sign of solidarity with our comrade Costas Gournas (who they are trying so hard to place baseless accusations against, such as finding flags, masks, and some everyday tools in his possession), with those arrested on November 17, and with everyone around the world engaged in the struggle for a better tomorrow without rulers and oppression.
No matter how much you drown us in chemicals, no matter how much you beat us, no matter how many court cases you put in our files, we will be there every time we can, with new ways of resistance and struggle.
Solidarity to Costas Gournas and all those arrested on November 17.
Whether it is MAT or DIAS, Kalashnikov blasts on security forces.
-Masovka Anarchist Collectivity
After November 17, soccer hooligans in Athens demonstrated against police brutality, highlighting the disgust so many people feel in response to the behavior of the police.
While funding has been directed towards prisons at the expense of hospitals, very little has gone to protecting prisoners from COVID-19, but rather almost entirely to expanding staff and improving their pay. Two prisoners in Greece are officially known to have died from the virus. More may have died—but, due to the policies of the prison administration in Greece, the true number will likely remain unknown even as cases surge inside prisons. As in the case of refugee camps, state administrators have acted as if prisons are not spaces where people must be kept safe. Some prisoners have gone on strike in the agricultural fields where they are forced to labor while others have collectively refused to cooperate with prison guards until basic social distancing and hygiene policies are introduced.
In addition, some prisoners organized a strike to demand better protection at the Diavata prison in Greece, where there has been a known virus outbreak and death. Their demands were made public; these help to shine a light on the situation prisoners face across Greece at this time:
Diavata Prisoner Initiative
- Social distancing in response to prison congestion.
- Releasing prisoners with six months sentence remaining.
- Early release due to suspension of sentences for elderly people and also for elderly people with pre-existing issues.
- Immediate release of those guilty of minor crimes.
- Reduction of suspension limits to 2/5 of the penalty payment with beneficial wages for imprisonment or 1/3 actual detention time as in previous congestion provisions and 1/5 of the sentence with beneficial wages for imprisonment throughout the health crisis.
- Staff must arrive one hour ahead of time to be subjected to a regular rapid test before each shift.
- Releasing prisoners serving pre-trial detention when their trial has been postponed for more then six months.
- No detention for slight offenses, including those imposed on drug addicts.
- Providing sufficient health protection (antiseptic, masks, rubber gloves) for all prisoners.
- Meticulous checks and quarantine measures for any forced detention.
- Meticulous disinfection of all materials entering prisons.
Unless all of the above measures are carried out, if the conditions of our detention do not change, we Diavatian prisoners will strike.
Anarchist prisoner Kostas Sakkas began a hunger and thirst strike in mid-November, demanding to be able to continue his studies and simply to be treated as a human being. He exemplifies strength and courage in the face of constant prison staff harassment; they have moved him from prison to prison in their attempts to break his will and damage his psychological well-being.
While the state has done little to improve the hygiene of Greek prisons amid the pandemic, reports from the Prisoner Solidarity Network suggest that in some prisons, such as the Larissa prison, they are now banning most books from entering the prison on the pretext that they could contain the virus. This is a flagrant and ridiculous attack on prisoners’ educational opportunities and quality of life.
A new website has been created to collect donations for the legal support of four individuals facing felony charges under the Greek anti-terror law 187A. The individuals are charged for 54 separate actions; the authorities are claiming that all of these actions are connected, on the flimsy ground that the alleged communiqués claiming the actions all happened to use the term “comrades.” You can read information on their case and how to support them here.
An appeals hearing continued on November 11 in the case against Revolutionary Struggle member Pola Roupa, who allegedly coordinated an escape via helicopter from the Korydallos prison in Athens. The initial decision by the court mandated that Pola Roupa serve 120 years in prison and Nikos Maziotis (another member of Revolutionary Struggle) serve 37 years.
Police evicted the anarchist squat Zaimi in Exarchia this month. Fortunately, there was no one inside, so no arrests took place during the eviction. But the loss of this beautiful building is another assault on our infrastructure, as it served as an important center for anarchist organizing over the past several years.
As reported in recent updates, apps such as Wolt and Efood are taking over the delivery sector of Greece. These apps follow in the example set by Uber and Airbnb, functioning as the sort of invisible nonhuman bosses that will likely become more widespread in an increasingly automated and dystopian future. Meanwhile, lockdown measures have drastically increased delivery demand. We include an anonymous excerpt describing the labor conditions these companies impose:
As the pandemic suddenly highlights the true value of the lower class, and what was once “unskilled labor” is now “essential” to the functioning of this society, we want to expose one company that is reaping the profits while relentlessly exploiting their workers. WOLT, the Finnish start-up delivery app has taken Greece by storm. This company, which is like Uber for food, is now everywhere in Athens, profiting off of the workers putting themselves at risk, and generally benefitting from the additional need for delivery during the lockdown. If you choose to use this application, we want to mention a few elements of the company.
They hire workers as freelancers, or some creative name for independent contractors, meaning that they are not responsible for the safety or well-being of those who ride for them. Additionally, when you begin working for them, they make you work for free for the first 100 euros worth of labor without being paid, in order to pay for the uniform and equipment that you are required to wear. Essentially, they are selling you products by force. And despite them forcing workers to buy their own uniforms and equipment, no new virus protocols have been implemented. You must wear a mask when picking up or dropping off deliveries, but sanitizer and masks are not provided to workers, nor is any increase in pay provided due to the extraordinary circumstances. Couriers who make very little money to begin with must also pay for credit to call customers if the customers do not provide full information. This is a frequent issue, as the typically affluent customers rarely understand the service experience.
On top of all this, it is likely that WOLT is over-hiring during the pandemic to meet the temporary increase in demand. What this means in the long run is that when the lockdown measures ease, many workers will be laid off—or the company’s algorithm will have more workers than deliveries, forcing couriers to quit on their own when there is no work for them. Since workers are independent contractors, or “partners” in their corporate language, they have no safety net or reliable expectation of income.
The state continues to weaponize the lockdown and the virus against immigrants. The refugee camp of Moria has been replaced with an even more dangerous and unsafe encampment. Though they would never admit it for fear of losing EU funding, the Greek government is deliberately using the lockdown, the winter, and the virus to permit the suffering and deaths of asylum seekers. This is part of a broader xenophobic strategy. Even Vice doesn’t mince words when describing the situation.
Refugees continue to organize desperate demonstrations; some of these go unreported as the Greek state continues to employ strategies of containment and isolation. You can view a map of refugee camps across Greece here.
In late November, Spain, Malta, Italy, and Greece proposed new migration policies to EU parliament leaders. They claim that these proposals are intended to spread the “burden” of asylum seekers, but the true intention is to curtail or eliminate the asylum process in order to implement xenophobic immigration policies across the continent. Most of these countries are already suppressing asylum seeking via informal measures; now they are pressuring the European Union to drop any pretense of humanitarian policies.
The war continues on the universities, following the New Democracy regime’s decision to cancel the asylum policy on school campuses. A new campus environment more in line with the “law and order” vision of New Democracy awaits the country after the lockdown.
Anonymous individuals attacked the offices of the dean of the Economics School, who collaborated with police to evict the squat Vancouver and a social center located in the university. They forced him to wear a sign saying “freedom for the squats” around his neck. While this man has leveraged police brutality to pursue vendettas against the anarchist movement, Greek politicians were shocked to see a frightened white man in a suit humiliated by anarchists. Even as the economic depression intensifies, the state has offered a reward of fully 100,000 euros for information on those who conducted this action, fearing that other privileged people might also experience grassroots revenge.
Two communiqués appeared claiming the action. One reads, in part,
This practice of presenting the human face of power frightened and depressed, detached from the usual glamour and prestige of his office, was aimed not only at intimidating him, but also at his peers. This action follows the logic that “to strike fear into one is to hit a hundred.” That is because it shows that the threat of resistance from below, the threat of revolutionary justice, is not something vague and abstract, but something that takes on flesh and blood and can be personified in the face of a panicked man from the powerful class. In addition, it demonstrates to the people of our class, those who suffer and are tormented by the oppression and exploitation inflicted by the powerful, that those who hold power are also ordinary people. They may look fearless and arrogant costumed in their uniforms, in their expensive motorcades accompanied by thugs and cops, in their offices where they put signatures that validate the suffering, humiliation, and pain of the people from the social base, but they still remain people. And they can be made afraid.
November 26 General Strike
A general strike of all transportation workers took place across the country on November 26. Various work forces and individuals also engaged in independent strikes. Small courageous gatherings took place despite the lockdown measures; some people were able to march in Athens despite the police bringing in anti-riot vehicles the night before. Police intervention was minimal compared to recent events in Athens; likely, the state was trying to keep tensions from boiling over as a consequence of the atrocities police had committed in public view on November 17. While the main march took place in Athens without incident, police attacked and arrested participants in a motorcycle parade organized by an autonomous delivery worker union. Likewise, in other cities such as Ioaninna, police attacked and arrested people marching to assert the general strike.
All the acts that manifested the general strike took place in defiance of draconian circumstances. Every march, however big or small, every person striking and potentially losing a day’s pay at a time of serious precarity, every banner hung, every spray-painted slogan—all of these deserve respect.
It is hard to write this report this month. What is certain is our collective rage. Even if riots did not take place in Exarchia on the night of the 17th, we are living in a new era of repression, and it is important to stress that the actions and occupations that took place despite these circumstances demonstrate a revolutionary courage that persists in spite of efforts to crush our spirits.
Though people are living in increasing fear of further economic hardship, state violence, and the pandemic itself, the government won’t be able exploit the virus to implement political repression indefinitely. And what we lack in equipment and funding, we make up for in passion and solidarity.