Last Updated: Friday, 24 October 2014, 15:39 GMT

Crisis in Greece: Anarchists in the Birthplace of Democracy

Publisher Jamestown Foundation
Publication Date 16 July 2012
Citation / Document Symbol Terrorism Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 14
Cite as Jamestown Foundation, Crisis in Greece: Anarchists in the Birthplace of Democracy, 16 July 2012, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 14, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5006b9c22.html [accessed 25 October 2014]
Comments George Papadopoulos
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Despite having consigned most members of Greece's most violent anarchist groups to prison since 2010, there are new concerns amongst Greek authorities that the June 27 car-bombing of the Athens headquarters of Microsoft could mark a resurgence in anarchist political violence, a resurgence fuelled by the ongoing Greek economic crisis (Capital.gr, June 28, 2012). In a statement carried on anarchist websites, a new group called "Deviant Behaviors for the Expansion of Revolutionary Terrorism International Revolutionary Front" claimed it had carried out the Microsoft attack in support of imprisoned anarchists in Greece (Ekathimerini.com, June 30). Failure to bring many of the anarchist detainees to trial within the specified 18 month pre-trial detention period means that some detainees are now emerging from prison on conditional release. The disappearance of two leading members of the anarchist Revolutionary Struggle organization earlier this month after the Justice Department failed to bring them to trial in the 18-month period was an ominous development with many other prisoners coming up for release. 

Modern Greek anarchism and terrorism can be directly correlated to major political events and socio-economic conditions that have fomented extremism. Social tensions that gave rise to the anarchist ideology in the 1970's have emerged once again. The European sovereign debt crisis has created another perceived threat for anarchist groups, the neo-liberal order. 

Greek terrorist groups first appeared after the fall of the military junta dictatorship in 1974. Resentment against the junta and the United States for its perceived backing of the regime led to the emergence of the fanatically nationalistic, Marxist-Leninist, and anti-Western 17 November Revolutionary Organization (Epanastatiki Organosi 17 Noemvri), responsible for the assassination of CIA Chief of Station Richard Welch on December 23, 1975 as well as various foreign diplomats and Greek officials. The organization was named for the date that the junta crushed a student rebellion at the Athens Polytechnic in 1973, resulting in the death of 23 people. To this day, the event is still commemorated by an annual march on the U.S. embassy by many of Greece's anarchist groups that claim their legitimacy from that uprising.  

Since the group was dismantled by Greek security services in 2002, three prevalent anarchist terrorist groups have emerged: Revolutionary Struggle, Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, and Sect of Revolutionaries. All three groups have been sanctioned by the U.S. State Department and seem to have utilized the European sovereign debt crisis, the dismantling of 17 November, and the death of a 16-year-old protestor to fuel their political violence.

The economic storm in Europe has resulted in Greece's GDP contracting by 15% since 2008, and a 52.8 percent unemployment rate for young adults between the ages 15-24 (Ekathimerini.com, June 7). Neo-liberal policies and corrupt domestic political parties are regarded by many within Greece as the cause of the current predicament. Anarchist groups have capitalized on the climate of social unrest to renew attacks on financial institutions, businesses, the state and foreign targets (Reuters, May 19, 2010). 

It may be no surprise that Greek youths make up the majority of the anarchist terrorist groups in Greece. According to Mary Bossis, a former government advisor on counterterrorism, unpopular austerity measures have resulted in unprecedented anti-state sentiment and social unrest. "There are plenty of very young people who feel they have no prospect for the future and who see in front of them unemployment and a lot of social, political and economic problems. Recruitment over the past few years is being done within universities targeting young people." (Athens News, November 7, 2010). 

Revolutionary Struggle

Revolutionary Struggle (Epanastatikos Agonas) is seen as a direct offshoot of 17 November. The U.S. State Department designated Revolutionary Struggle as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2009 for various terrorist acts, including a 2007 RPG attack on the U.S. Embassy in Athens. [1] Its members, similar to 17 November, seem to come from the lower socio-economic status of Greek society; their alleged leader, Nikos Maziotis (one of the two suspects who disappeared after his 18 month pre-trial detention period expired), is an unemployed construction worker. [2] Among many other violent crimes against the state, Maziotis tried to bomb the Ministry of Industry in 1998. When caught, he said, "The only thing I regret is that there was a technical error, the bomb did not explode, they found my fingerprints, and I was arrested" (Ekathimerini.com, July 8). Revolutionary Struggle has shot and wounded a riot police officer guarding the Culture Ministry and has used bombs to target foreign companies such as Royal Dutch Shell in 2008 and Citibank branches and the Athens Stock Exchange in 2009 (Reuters, November 3, 2010). What is of grave concern is the timing of the disappearance of Maziotis and fellow Revolutionary Struggle leader Panagiota Roupa  and the fact that they likely still have an extensive and very well organized underground network of supporters. There is a real possibility that the relative calm of the organization in the last two years will cease to exist now that their leaders are again amongst them.

Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei

The Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei (CFN - Synomosía Pyrínon tis Fotiás) transformed in 2006-2007 from gazakides, youth that placed gas bombs under cars, to a "new generation of terrorists" that do not care about the public's opinion of them. [3] From 2008 they became much more sophisticated, and adopted a nihilistic attitude following the shooting death of a 16-year-old boy by a Greek police officer during demonstrations. [4] The event hardened the young group's preexisting rejection of the state's authorities, institutions and symbols.  

The U.S. Department of State implemented a terrorist designation and sanctions on the CFN on October 13, 2011. [5] Targets of the group have included banks, government institutions, and foreign leaders. After a 2010 attack on Athens' main prison, the group noted that the strike was meant to weaken the Greek government as it attempted to implement new austerity measures (Reuters, May 19, 2010).  In 2010 two of the group's members, Alexandros Mitrousias, and Gerasimos Tsakalos, mailed a series of parcel bombs to foreign leaders and embassies within Greece. [6] After their arrest the suspects proclaimed "We are rebels with a cause, we will continue our struggle, and the abuse that the system has given us has motivated us. Do not see us as small children, but as patriotic rebels, we have a war going on, and we will make sure that we will continue to fight" [7] 

In February, 2011, the group sent a letter bomb to the office of Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis to show "solidarity" with its imprisoned members (Athens News, February 3, 2011). A new group, the "Zero Tolerance Organization," emerged in December, 2011 in solidarity with the CFN by carrying out firebomb attacks on the offices of three prominent Greek politicians. The new group argued that Greeks should "do away with the system" because "the economic and political crisis and the occupation of the country by the troika – the ECB, the EU and the IMF – were proof of its failure" (Ekathimerini.com, December 22, 2011). As of late 2011, the group had conducted about 200 attacks using artisan bombs that were always accompanied by nihilistic and anarchist proclamations. [8] 

The trial of Greek anarchist Theofilos Mavropoulos and several members of the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei on charges of "inciting criminal acts" began on June 27. The accused are charged with issuing an October, 2011 statement that included the slogan "Not 1 Millimetre Back; 9mms in Cops' Heads."  [9] Mavropoulos is facing other charges after being wounded and arrested in a gunfight with Greek police in 2011, an incident which he clothed in revolutionary rhetoric: He and a comrade did not stop at a police control point "because we had made the conscious choice of revolutionary illegality… wanting to get us out of this situation I made the choice, the political choice of armed conflict… The condition of illegality involves a life on the edge of the razor, where the choices get tougher since the risk goes sky high." [10]

Sect of Revolutionaries

The Sect of Revolutionaries emerged in February 2009 a few weeks after the police shooting of a 16-year-old boy. The group attacked an Athens police station with grenades. While there were no causalities in that incident, in June 2009 the group killed Nektarios Savvas, a counter-terrorism officer. [11] More recently, in July 2010, they assassinated Socrates Giolios, a prominent Greek journalist who had covered the group (Tovima.gr, July 19, 2010). In a statement claiming responsibility for the murder, the group promised to turn Greece into a "war zone," declaring:   

We in the Sect of Revolutionaries believe that only through the complete destruction of the state and the current structures will a new perspective of life be able to dawn. A life of new human relationships, without authority, without borders, without religion, without divisions. A life that money does not govern; neither will property rule. A life away from false idols, compulsions and conventions.  [12]   

On February 24, 2011, the U.S. Secretary of State designated the Sect of Revolutionaries as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Organization, citing the group's "indiscriminate terrorist activities" that "threaten the national security of the United States." [13]  

Conclusion

While these anarchist groups have little popular support, the evidence seems to suggest that there has been a gradual modification of the values of these terrorist organizations from the nationalism and anti-Americanism of 17 November to the anti-establishment and anti-capitalist ideology of Revolutionary Struggle and the Sect of Revolutionaries and the total nihilism of the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei. 

With a shrinking economy, rising unemployment and social tensions, the rise of anarchy in Greece may continue for the long-term. The key question is whether the Microsoft attack signifies the beginning of yet another spike in domestic terrorist activity in Greece. It may be no coincidence that the Microsoft attack in Athens occurred after the recent disappearance of the leaders of Revolutionary Struggle.

George Papadopoulos is currently a research intern at the Hudson Institute Center for Political-Military Analysis.

Notes 

1. See www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2009/05/123590.htm.

2. "Terrorists, ‘Old' and ‘New,'" Research Institute for European and American Studies, April 18, 2010, www.rieas.gr/research-areas/editorial/1196-terrorists-qoldq-and-qnewq.html.

3. See  http://folders.skai.gr/main/theme?id=123&locale=el

4. Mary Bossis,"The Dimensions of the ‘New' Greek Terrorism: The Spill-over Effect," Journal of Counter Terrorism & Homeland Security International. 17(3), Fall 2011.

5. See www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/10/175362.htm. 

6. Tassos Symeonides, "Another Spike in Domestic Terrorism?" Research Institute for European and American Studies, July 1, 2012, www.rieas.gr/research-areas/editorial/1798-another-spike-in-domestic-terrorism.html

7. Alpha News Channel, 2010, www.youtube.com/watch.

8. Bossis, op cit.

9. "Letter from CCF and T. Mavropoulos in Solidarity to Anarchit Steki Nadir in Thessaloniki-Greece," October 11, 2011, actforfreedomnow.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/letter-from-c-c-f-and-t-mavropoulos-in-solidarity-to-anarchit-steki-nadir-in-thessaloniki-greece/. 

10. Letter of anarchist political prisoner Theofilos Mavropoulos who is imprisoned in Koridall, July 18 2011, actforfreedomnow.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/letter-of-anarchist-political-prisoner-theofilos-mavropoulos-who-is-imprisoned-in-koridallos-prisons/ 

11. NET News Channel, 2010, www.youtube.com/watch .

12. Sect of Revolutionaries, Announcement no.4, July 28, 2010, actforfreedomnow.blogspot.com/2010/08/sect-of-revolutionaries-claims.html.

13. See athens.usembassy.gov/pr-2011-7.html.

Copyright notice: © 2010 The Jamestown Foundation

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