Escape from Exarchia

In Athens, Greece on 12 June 2012 at 14:36

Comrade Cansino / Kourasmenos

Athens, June 12

Dear people,

It has been a month, and only now the last of the marchers are leaving Exarchia in small groups. The road that took us here has been long, and for many of us the road out of here has been hard to find. Some of us went a couple of days to the islands on holiday. Me too, I went to Paros with a comrade from the indignados in Paris. We did ‘Occupy Paros’, and the ‘March to Naussa’, eight kilometres. In Naussa we came across two Greeks who live in Scotland. Last year they participated in ‘Occupy Dundee’.

Cat on Paros
Having experienced live abroad, they were pretty hard on their fellow Greeks. For once I didn’t hear the usual story of the evil IMF trying to enslave the poor Greek people through a fictitious debt. Instead they gave the simple example of a normal Greek family who goes to the beach and leaves the place littered with trash. “They don’t care. And as long as they don’t care, things are not going to get any better around here.”

We also met an entrepreneur who has been living in Greece for years. He complained a lot about Greek mentality, in particular the buraucracy and the corruption. Nothing special for a businessman to complain about, I know. But this man wasn’t from England or Holland or Germany or even France. He was from the Dominican Republic. And if I’m not mistaken, the Dominican Republic is one of those countries who regularly top the charts when it comes to corruption and bureaucracy.

Goat on Paros



Back in Exarchia things were the same as before. Only some people had managed to escape. I don’t know if they ever made it out of Greece.

It has been an interesting experience living in the anarchist quarter. It’s a very peculiar place. On the inside you won’t find any police. The cops are around. You’re in a ghetto that is under siege twenty-four hours a day. Usually you find four officers in riot gear guarding each of the exits, with a bus full of backup on standby.

Within their own neighbourhood, it’s the anarchists themselves who uphold law and order. Fortunately they don’t have any clear ideas on either subject, so they usually won’t bother you. But if they do, you better watch out. Standard anarchist armament consists of clubs and helmets. Supposedly it’s the only thing that Greeks use their helmets for: to smash them on other people’s heads.

I’m sorry, I’m getting cynical. But that’s not my fault. It’s the result of three months of living in Greece. Still there’s no need to worry, I’m working on an exit strategy.

So, Exarchia is a fascinating place. If I had taken university seriously and had a couple of years to spare I could have written a monumental sociological study about this neighbourhood. And it would have been worth it, because the organisation of anarchist society in Exarchia is absolutely striking.

I’ll try to give you the short version.

Comrade Sabina, heroine of the revolution.

First, there are the upperclass anarchists. They gather in their own exclusive societies where you can only enter if you have reached at least Political Awareness Level 7. You also have to be able to quote fifty pages of Bakunin by heart. Not for us mortals. You need Political Awareness Level 4 just to talk them on the street.

Second, there are the bourgeois anarchists. These people don’t lock themselves up in exclusive clubs, because they want to be seen. They drink their expensive Nescafe frappe from cocktail glasses on the terraces of luxury bars named ‘Revolt’, or ‘Che Guevara’, or something similar.

Comrade Leonidas

Third, there are the middle class anarchists. They take their frappe ‘to go’ in large American-style plastic cups, and they drink it out on the square. In the evening, they switch their instant coffee for various international brands of beer.

Fourth, there are proletarian anarchists. They roam the square and the streets all night to collect the empty bottles of beer. If they bring back seven empty bottles to the store, they get a full one in exchange.

Fifth, there must be some anarchist anarchists here as well. They probably have their own block on the neighbourhood somewhere.

One thing that all the anarchists have in common, maybe the only thing, is that they think they are cool. They are cool in ways that we normal people will never understand. As a matter of fact, they don’t even consider us, normal people. They only consider themselves (‘cool’), the communists (‘losers’), and the fascists (‘assholes’). All other political or social denominations are rigourously snobbed.

Outside the house

In case of conflict, the anarchists take their clubs and helmets and form their own ‘anti-fascist’ militia. These are very hard to distinguish from the fascists themselves. Both have a preference for the same dark colours and for the same primitive type of violence. The difference lies in the fact that the fascists go out to beat up immigrants, and the anti-fascists go out to beat up fascists.

I’m sorry, am I being cynical again?

I don’t think so. Take a look in the mirror.

Another striking aspect of life in a decaying city like Athens is recycling. There is only one impelling incentive that makes people really care about recycling.


As a result, you see people loading up their shopping carts at the dumpsters. Most of them are immigrants. If they find metal, paper or other potentially useful things, they sell them. If they find food, they eat it.

The sight of these backdoor shoppers is nothing special in a city where entire districts are shrouded in the chilly air of bankruptcy. For now, there is still enough production being stashed through the throat of the system for people to live on all the things that get crapped out without having been digested.

A Duck, a Renault 4 and a Beetle.

But if the input decreases, the competition at the dumpsters will grow. And then people will start to behave like chickens. The weakest ones will be picked on, so they don’t get to eat valuable food which could nurture the strong. This phase has already started.

At the moment, the weakest creatures in this henhouse called Greece are the immigrants. They get picked on, because they have no protection from the law. Only from the anarchists.

Thank God for the anarchists.

It all doesn’t make the situation any better. I’m breathing a creepy 1930s atmosphere. I see apathy turning into despair. I feel the spectre of violence.

For me it’s enough. I can’t stand all the petty ideological divisions. This is not why I joined our movement. Quite the opposite, I joined because our movement is aimed at tearing down all the artificial barriers that divide us, so that we can start to reason together as free individuals.

“We are workers, unemployed, retirees, youth, who have come to Syntagma Square to fight and give a struggle for our lives and our future. We are here because we know that the solutions to our problems can only be provided by us. We call all residents of Athens, workers, unemployed and youth, to come to Syntagma Square, and all of society to fill the public squares and to take their lives into their own hands. In these public squares we will shape our claims and our demands together.”

That was last year, the ‘Declaration of the People’s Assembly of Syntagma Square’, adopted on May 27. I was moved to tears when I read it in the tent of the Communications commission on Puerta del Sol. I had wanted to there.

Now I am there, here, in Athens. And I want to get out. I want to find some hope somewhere, before I get too cynical to care anymore. I must go now. Only a handful of people from the march are left, and they are ready to go.

Tonight, under the cover of darkness, we will make an attempt to escape from Athens. Destination unknown.

If we’ll make it, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Take care,

P.S. Today our two comrades got judged for carrying bottles and weed and for resisting arrest. Comrade Bernard got acquited. Comrade Elisa got sentenced to 6 months conditional. It’s an outrage. The judgment has been appealed. Elisa’s equipment has surfaced and was resistuted, minus the memory cards.

Cats on Paros


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