What is happening in Exarchia should not be seen as something in isolation that is happening in a small district in Athens. It must be seen in the context of the continuous move to ever increasing authoritarianism that is gripping Europe and elsewhere in today's world. Far right groups and governments are gaining traction from the complete disillusionment of the people for the existing system. The people are looking for change and the mainstream media is channeling that desire in the direction that suits the power mongers and the corporate world. Exarchia is just one savage attack on the right of people to chose to live their lives in mutual aid, co-operation, self help, and a helping hand to all those in need, away from the shackles of the authoritarian state. The struggle is universal, it is our struggle, and we will in time feel the same savagery as Exarchia if we stray far enough away from the dictates of the system. To govern you need power and control, and they will do what is necessary to achieve these weapons.
The New War on Immigrants and Anarchists in Greece
An Interview with an Anarchist in Exarchia
This from Crimethinc:
Filled with squatted social centers and characterized by a combative anti-authoritarian spirit, the neighborhood of Exarchia in Athens, Greece has long been an important reference point for autonomous movements around the world. The new right-wing government that has come to power in Greece has pledged to crush this experiment in inclusivity and self-determination. On August 26, massive police raids evicted four occupations, including some hosting refugee families, many of whom have been sent to concentration camps; at this moment, riot police surround Exarchia, preparing their next attacks. In response, demonstrations have been called for August 31 and September 14. We interviewed a resident of Exarchia about the context of this new chapter of struggle and the prospects ahead for those who seek a world without capitalism or state oppression.
In January 2015, as the global wave of right-wing electoral victories was picking up momentum, the new left party Syriza won the Greek elections. At the time, this inspired a lot of enthusiasm from leftists and socialists in Greece and elsewhere around the world; yet we argued that Syriza would draw movements out of the streets, re-legitimize the institutions of the state without changing their essentially repressive character, and ultimately fail to address the consequences of capitalism, polarizing Greek voters to the right. As we anticipated, Syriza did not follow through on their promises to defend Greece from the austerity measures demanded by the European Union. Instead, they imposed austerity measures themselves, further polarizing Greece and confirming that there is no viable electoral solution to the crises imposed by capitalism.
Consequently, in July 2019, the longstanding right-wing party New Democracy won the national elections by a clear majority. Some corporate media journalists celebrated the victory of New Democracy as a return to business as usual, a rejection of the supposed “extremism” of both Syriza and the fascist Golden Dawn party. But the victory of New Democracy is also a victory for the far right, who have seen their racist, nationalist agenda become mainstream. They took office with the intention of scapegoating immigrants and anarchists for the failures of neoliberal capitalism and the betrayals of left politicians. Taking advantage of the summer holidays to strike, they have already begun violently evicting anarchist social centers and self-organized refugee housing in Athens, openly declaring war on all who stand in the way of their oppressive vision of order.
We conducted the following interview with an anonymous black flag anarchist resident of Exarchia three blocks from Exarchia Square following a small riot in the early hours of August 28.
New Democracy began by declaring war on anarchists, specifically on the neighborhood of Exarchia in Athens. We have seen a series of poorly-written articles from the yellow press spreading fear about “anarchist violence” and promising major government crackdowns. Why have they prioritized focusing on anarchists and specifically Exarchia as the chief enemy of the state? How much of the population do you think agrees with this characterization of anarchists?
New Democracy has shown a sort of delusional obsession with Exarchia. They refer to it as if it were the basis of the crisis here, as if it were the foundation of all of Greece’s problems. As a resident of Exarchia and an active anarchist, I can confirm that the language they use to describe my neighborhood is ridiculously overstated.
Sure, there are some issues with drug dealing and predatory mafia practices in Exarchia. The mafia recruits refugees, taking advantage of their desperate need for employment, hoping that anarchists who oppose opportunistic attempts to establish a drug market in the police-free zone of Exarchia will hesitate before hitting a refugee. This situation is the result of the poverty refugees face as they wait to receive asylum or struggle to make their home in Athens, trying to avoid harassment from police or fascists.
This is tragic, but it is nothing compared to a typical ghetto in the United States; it’s the inevitable result of the combination of the economic crisis and the so-called refugee crisis. The image of a refugee dealing drugs in Exarchia is an easy scapegoat for the right, and New Democracy has used this over and over in a cowardly manner to rally reactionary support.
Most people outside of Greece don’t understand that Exarchia is a very large neighborhood. It is only a five-minute walk from the most expensive part of the city center, Colonaki, a middle-to-upper-class neighborhood comparable to Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The anarchist movement emerged in the early 1970s out of student resistance to the Junta, which was concentrated at the nearby Polytechnio, the architectural university of Athens. Until then, Exarchia was a sort of extension of Colonaki. Since the 1970s, the neighborhood has become a gathering place for anarchists and squatters, but also for the theater community, leftists, intellectuals, artists, and the clients of an array of alternative bars. It is known locally as a nightlife destination on the weekends for students and partygoers as much as it is known for riots and squats.
While all of these elements coexist in a sort of chaotic equilibrium, the old inhabitants of Exarchia still complain. Unless you are one of the lucky few who have found an apartment here owned by an old person unaware of its Airbnb potential and the erupting real estate market in central Athens, or you are living in a squat or in a home owned by family, it is unlikely that a typical working-class Greek person could afford to live here. The wealthy residents of Exarchia complain to the municipal authorities. They have been doing so for years. New Democracy is responding in a way that may go beyond their whining.
For example, there is famous hill called Streffi where youth and anarchist-friendly folks go to chill with their friends and comrades. It is also a beautiful park that used to house parties and gatherings to celebrate and benefit the punk and hip-hop counter-cultures and anarchist and anti-fascist movements. Because it has a view of the Acropolis and some of the most expensive houses in Exarchia, a brutal initiative began in the summer 2018 to crush the cop-free-zone culture of Streffi. Riot police surrounded the hill before any announced event, and completely demolished the only squat in the area shortly after it declared solidarity with those trying to reclaim Streffi.
In short, Exarchia is not a beautiful utopia in which anarchists live in harmony together and with other locals. There are snitches and “good citizens” here who applaud the police.
New Democracy has been in power before; they are not something new. But after five years in exile under Syriza, they are declaring revenge on the left. Unlike Syriza, which has a realistic understanding of Exarchia, New Democracy members have a childish image of it. They mystify it as the enemy of all Greek civility and as the epicenter of all things left or anarchist. - - - - -
Continue reading the full article HERE
For perspectives in English from other anarchists organizing in Athens right now, you could begin with these starting places:
No Pasaran! poster
Exarchia: Solidarity to Squats and All Spaces of Struggle—Assembly Announcement
Statement of the Anarchist Political Organization against the Repressive Campaign of the State