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An ethnography of militancy, emotions and violence

The Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement has been reinvigorated in recent years. Its public protests and battles against the Greek state, police and other capitalist institutions are prolific and highly visible, replete with rioting, barricades and Molotov cocktails. This book is concerned not so much with anarchist theory, as with examining the forces that give the Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement its specific shape. The author draws on Alberto Melucci's (1995a) work on collective identity, while offering a first-hand, ethnographic account of Athenian anarchists and anti-authoritarians in action, based on his time there in 2011 and 2013, living, squatting and protesting within this milieu. In the course of the chapters of the book, the author argues that varying shades of anarchic tendencies, and ensuing ideological and practical disagreements, are overcome for the most part in (often violent) street-protests. Athenian anarchists and antiauthoritarians are a pertinent area of research because of both their politics and their geographical location. There is the whole 'rise of anarchism throughout the activist world' phenomenon, visible from Seattle to Genoa, Quebec City to São Paulo. Anarchist and anti-authoritarian social movements are prominent actors in resistance to the current phase of capitalism in multiple, global locations. Throughout Europe, North and Latin America, Asia and the Antipodes, radical resistance to neo-liberalism often has an anarchist and/ or anti-authoritarian cast.

‘Fuck May 68, Fight Now!’
Nicholas Apoifis

Much like Helena's call to 'Fuck May 68', contemporary activists feel no obligation to emulate historical repertoires. This chapter bursts with examples of anarchists and anti-authoritarians frequently producing novel forms of direct action. It presents two prevailing themes stemming from the author's oral history discussions on more recent anarchist and anti-authoritarian history. Athenian activists are well aware of contemporary Greek anarchist and anti-authoritarian history, unlike the more limited knowledge of early anarchist history. As much as a plethora of political actions and events inform these contemporary historical reflections, militant, often-violent direct actions dominate the narrative presented in the chapter. The author suggests that Athenian anarchists and anti-authoritarians are not restricted or limited by historical examples of praxis. While there is a clear pattern of violent direct actions, protests, riots and property damage, anarchist and anti-authoritarian practices are simultaneously refreshed with diverse and novel forms of direct actions.

in Anarchy in Athens
Tensions and tendencies
Nicholas Apoifis

There are flickers of antagonism that often precede that combustive moment when a protest march turns into a violent street-protest. This chapter explores some of the more prominent tensions within the anarchist and anti-authoritarian space. It discusses tensions around gender and sexuality politics; tendencies and currents; tactics and media engagement, as well as violence and solidarity. The Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian space is rife with tensions and frictions that constitute the practical consequences of this freedom. Significant conflicts are apparent on issues of gender and sexual politics, and on suitable tactics and appropriate forms of direct action. There is no one Athenian anarchism or anti-authoritarian current that can be defined as the Athens's way. In the face of all these tensions, disagreements and catalysts for conflict, it is remarkable that the space is still such a prominent and prolific radical force.

in Anarchy in Athens
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Nicholas Apoifis

This book is centrally concerned with anti-authoritarian movement and its contemporary form, dynamics and internal constitution. When the Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement confronts neoliberalism, fascism, hierarchical rule and the state's police in public protests and demonstrations, difference and conflict within the movement gives way to group cohesion and solidarity. In this context, the book is concerned with examining the forces that give the Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement its specific shape. The primary aim of this book is to illuminate the complexities of the Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian milieu. In the course of the chapters, the author argues that varying shades of anarchic tendencies, and ensuing ideological and practical disagreements, are overcome for the most part in (often violent) street-protests.

in Anarchy in Athens
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Nicholas Apoifis

Greece is in the midst of a profound economic, social and political crisis. Hardly Greece's issue alone, it is a crisis shaped by a prevailing neo-liberal economic doctrine in Europe and elsewhere. From a parliamentary perspective, the January 2015 election of the left-wing SYRIZA marked a paradigm shift in Greek politics. Racist attitudes and actions had credence now that they were represented so openly in the Hellenic Parliament. The politics of anarchism and anti-authoritarianism is as concerned with producing such autonomous spaces as it is about individual and group behaviour. This has given rise to theoretical discussions that give similar importance to different ideas around autonomous spaces. In addition to confrontations with the state over the control of space, anarchism is also about the rational planning of spaces 'based around the possibilities of cooperative and communal ways of life'.

in Anarchy in Athens
Nicholas Apoifis

In The Logic of Collective Action, Olson uses micro-economic analysis and rational choice theory to conclude that, in the right circumstances, an individual's participation in collective action could be rational. Olson's work was such an immense challenge to collective behaviour models that it shook the field of social movement theory. Extending Olson's application of rational choice theory, John McCarthy and Mayer Zald concentrated their attention on social movement organisation. Melucci uses the 'notoriously abstract concept' of collective identity as a tool to untangle the 'interactive and shared definition produced by several individuals (or groups at a more complex level) and concerned with the orientations of actions and the field of opportunities and constraints in which the action take place'. To sum up, Melucci's understanding of collective identity as an ongoing and reflexive process is a critical contribution to the study of social movements.

in Anarchy in Athens
Nicholas Apoifis

This chapter discusses the benefits of using militant ethnographic methods to capture the stories, experiences and emotions of the participants in these collective actions. Jeffrey Juris's (2007) concept of militant ethnography is a combination of politically engaged participant observation and ethnography, premised on intense reflexive collaboration between ethnographers and activists, in which researchers assume the role of active political practitioners. Importantly, it aims to produce politically applicable knowledge from within movements. The author disseminated fieldwork insights in numerous anti-fascist, anarchist and anti-authoritarian forums in Australia. The chapter details some of the strengths, functional issues and nuances associated with the author's preferred qualitative research approach. Finally, the chapter looks at some of the consequences of militant ethnography and researching militants, including issues of ethics, illegalities, anonymities and violence. In a research furnace fraught with tensions and complexities, a militant ethnography facilitated the author's fieldwork.

in Anarchy in Athens
‘It just doesn’t mean anything to me’
Nicholas Apoifis

Greece's fertile anarchist and anti-authoritarian history shares constant contention and metamorphosis in its own evolution, albeit while spurning the clamour for state power. Greece's anarchism has shifted between currents since surfacing as a social movement in the 1860s. This chapter focuses on the period between the 1860s and World War II, which was dominated by social anarchist currents including anarcho-collectivism, anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism. It relies on the works of ethnohistorians to empower the voices of the author's interviewees. The author begins the chapter with some background on Greece's transition into statehood. This is followed by a history of early Greek anarchism that is largely informed by Tina, Yianni and Vasili, the author's three respondents with extensive knowledge of this period, and is primarily supported with clarifying evidence from Paul Pomonis' The Early Days of Greek Anarchism.

in Anarchy in Athens
A temporary unity
Nicholas Apoifis

While myriad tensions exist in the Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian space, temporary solidarity reigns during street-protests. This chapter unravels some of the complexities within Athenian street-protests. It begins by looking at the characteristics of street-protests, performative violence and the role of Black Bloc tactics. The chapter proposes that militant street-protests are acts of political communication and examples of anarchist and anti-authoritarian prefigurative politics. It explores some of the nuances of violence within street-protests and suggests that when it comes time to protest in the street, there is nothing at all pacifist about the space. Finally, the chapter looks at a range of emotions that are expressed, fermented and developed through acts of performative violence. It shows how experiences and elements of street-protest are shared and negotiated amongst actors, contributing to the ongoing construction of Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian collective identity.

in Anarchy in Athens
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Imagining and fighting for alternative realities
Nicholas Apoifis

As for the anarchists and the anti-authoritarians, the focus of direct action has momentarily shifted. Assistance to refugee communities and local victims of austerity measures is a continual concern for the Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian space. Such manifestations of human misery, combined with Greece's history of radical politics and regime change, has inspired both resistance and a belief in the real possibility of alternative political realities. The Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement has been at the forefront in imagining and fighting for these alternative realities. This chapter revisits and summarises what the author had learnt about the movement, its internal constitution, dynamics and identity. Historically, a show of force and a unified front against external forces renews and rejuvenates the strength of the anarchist and anti-authoritarian space against hostilities. There is immense personal satisfaction and motivation that is gained from this collective action, forging bonds of solidarity, unity and affinity.

in Anarchy in Athens