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(en) Kate Sharpley Library new historical pamphlet: Social radicalism in Greece by P. Pomonis

Date Sat, 01 Oct 2005 10:00:50 +0200


(end of the 19th - begining of the 20th century) Social radicalism,
which grew in Europe during the 19th century, marking future history
with movements, revolts and revolutions, had an important influence
in Greece. According to M. Demetriou: «....The ideas of social
radicalism were introduced in Greece from Europe, with its ideological
radiance and revolutionary traditions, in the 1870’s. In Europe,
that period was marked by the 70 days of popular revolutionary power
of the Paris Commune (1871)... At the same time, important social
processes and changes, hitherto unbeknown to Greek society, took
place. Socialist groups and labour unions were created... debates over
socialism emerged and the first references to Karl Marx as the leader
of the First International were made...»

In Europe, 19th century was marked by the rise and eventual
dominance of the bourgeoisie; the rapid development of the productive
forces; the development of the countryside; the big urban centers; the
development of the proletariat and the emergence of socialist ideas.
On the political level, absolutism fell and bourgeois democracy or
constitutional monarchy were established. Of course, the victory of the
bourgeois class had not been easy, but only came about as the result
of hard fought struggles. In 1848 Europe was shaken by bourgeois
democratic movements, social struggles and workers’ revolts. The
supremacy of the bourgeoisie was consolidated, but at the same time
the social radicalism of the working class and its allies was affirmed.

Subsequently the bourgeois liberal regimes further entrenched their
power, and the working class increased in numbers. However, its
revolutionary ardour was dampened, as a result of the improvement of
living conditions. Skilled workers found themselves in an
advantageous position and among them sprung a syndicalist
bureaucracy as well as social democratic tendencies and views. Still,
the labour movement organized, assertive and imbued with class and
intemationalistic consciousness increasingly acted in solidarity with
the national aspirations of the workers of other countries. The
conjunction of class and internationalist consciousness, led the labour
movement to various forms of international solidarity which
culminated in the formation of the Ist International, whose fast demise
was brought about by violent internal strife. In the following years
capitalism further developed, while noteworthy events were the Paris
Commune, the foundation of the Second International and the growth
of anarchosyndicalism.

Contrarily to what went on in Europe, economic development in
Greece proceeded at a very slow pace. In the second half of the 19th
century, Greece witnessed a massive influx of the population into the
big urban centers. This led to the hypertrophy of the services sector
and the petit bourgeois strata, but it was not followed by a respective
industrial growth: There were very few artisans and workers and too
many professional small traders and brokers. In the countryside, there
were small land owners, oppressed by the international division of
agricultural production (single crop monoculture of raisin), as well as
propertyless peasants brutally exploited by large estate owners, as was
the case in Thessaly. However, the exodus of the rural population did
not lead to widespread proletarisation, but remained motivated by petit
bourgeois aspirations of employment in the small trade and in the
services. Consequently, Greece lacked the clear cut class contrasts,
which developed concurrently in Western Europe. However, the
antagonisms between exploiters and exploited, intensified by periodic
crises resulted in the deterioration of the condition of the lower strata.

During that period, and more precisely from 1870 onwards, socialist
theories appeared in Greece, and as stated above, socialist groups and
labour unions were created. Strikes seeking shorter working hours and
better wages broke out. Several turned to armed clashes with the
forces of the state and on many occasions they ended victorious.
According to Kordatos’ «History of the Labour Movement»:
«...Heeding to their class instinct, the workers undertook strike
actions, which often brought success to the nascent labour
movement». Such were the cases of the tobacco workers’ strike
in Volos on 23/2/1901, the steamship sailors’ strike in Piraeus in
1910, the tobacco workers’ strike in Piraeus, the rail workers’
strike in Piraeus in 1910, the big strike in Lavrio in 1910, the tram
drivers’ strike of January 1911 etc. These strikes were
characterized by violent clashes with the forces of state and in some
cases from machinery breaking and destruction of workplace
installations. In the same period, peasant movements emerged and
armed revolts broke out, especially in Thessaly (the Kileler uprising)
and in the Peloponnesos. Socialist theories met with favourable
response from workers and peasants.

Socialist theories and organizations varied. Accordingly, their methods
and activities varied as well. Some were reformist, usually mere groups
of intellectuals who did nothing but discuss between themselves about
the abolition of poverty and injustice. Their activity was not
subversive; they declared that by peaceful means the people should
seek the improvement of its condition. Most important among them
were the «visionary leaders», and their main representatives,
Platon Drakoulis and Stavros Kallergis.

Platon Drakoulis published the magazine «Ardin», through which
he propagated socialism, arguing for its superiority in respect to the
other social systems. His actions were not subversive and he was
characterized by his propaganda in favour of the historical necessity of
a socialist paradise of social harmony. «...A radical theorist and not
an activist, he didn’t elaborate on the dynamics of social
antagonisms, he did not set objectives. He borrowed freely from
various sources, from the gospels and Kropotkin, from Chartism and
Plato’s Polity, in order to demonstrate the moral superiority of his
vision -its historical necessity» wrote about him Michalis Demetriou.
On 14-9-1885, Drakoulis wrote in «Ardin»: «It must be made
clear that our aim is not subversive, as some fear and as many
imagine. We seek a gradual and not a violent change in the state of
things. We are enemies of unruliness, of paralysis, of subversions. On
the other hand we are enemies of injustice and tyranny. Everybody
says that the existing social order is bad and anomalous. That it is
unjust that so many should suffer and so few should prosper.Down
with privileges is the eternal cry of humankind and it will never be
silenced as long as the inequality of rights between one man and the
next is not eradicated».

Another personality among the reformist socialists, a leader as well,
was Stavros Kallergis. Kallergis, the founder of a socialist club in
Athens, published the newspaper «Socialistis». In 1891 he
published «The worker’s encolpion”, in which he stated the
necessary means for the establishment of the socialist polity, which we
cite herebelow: «1) Creating clubs, aiming at the promotion and
support of socialist ideas in various cities, townships and villages or
neighborhoods 2) Publishing books, periodicals and newspapers with
the same aim 3) Organising excursions to the countryside 4) Setting
up halls aiming at the development of socialist ideals as well as
socialist libraries 5) Supporting parliamentary delegates and mayors
from the people, so that eventually the socialists shall gain the
majority in parliament thus bringing the social question to its
resolution 6) Organising of peaceful demonstrations and submitting
memoranda to the parliament 7) Calling strikes aiming at the
satisfaction of the demands of injured workers».

However, apart from the reformists, there were other socialists whose
discourse and action was endowed with a subversive character. Their
objectives were the abolition of private property, of the state and of
every authority. It is the case of libertarian socialists or anarchists. In
Athens and Piraeus their actions mainly revolved around syndicalism,
while elsewhere (particularly in the Peloponnesos) they participated in
peasant movements, revolts, armed demonstrations which ended in
bloody clashes with the forces of the state. Moreover, there were
anarchists, who followed the path of individual terrorism. Finally,
there were Christian anarchists, who preached about the approaching
end of times. As stated by M. Demetriou: «....These were not
marginal phenomena, but ones that had a wider importance. They
often represented the outlet of sociopolitical currents of the era, which
remained impulsive and lacked guidance».

Anarchist ideas became known in Greece either from Greeks who had
spent time abroad and had espoused revolutionary ideas, or by Italian
anarchist refugees, many of whom became active in Greece, especially
in the Peloponnesos. From 1870 onwards, the ideas of Bakunin, of
Reclus, of Cafiero, of Kropotkin, of Emile Henry became familiar
among many Greeks. As stated above, the Greek anarchists
represented four tendencies: anarehosyndicalism, peasant anarchism,
individual terrorism, and Christian anarchism.

Therefore we deem it necessary to deal with each tendency separately
and thus refer to the individuals and the groups that were active at the
time:

1) ANARCHOSYNDICALISM

2) In the end of the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th,
anarchosyndicalism exploded in several countries of Western Europe,
Latin America and the United States. The defeat of its pinnacle, the
Spanish Revolution, signaled its subsequent decline. Its main features
were the belief in the merit of union struggles and the spontaneous
proletarian revolution; the post revolutionary syndicalist structuring of
society; atheism; decentralization; organizational autonomy; the
objective of society run by unions, workers councils. In the past the
majority of anarchists espoused anarehosyndicalism.

In Greece, anarchosyndicalism did not take roots. However, its
contribution in the first major strike actions and in the creation of the
first working unions was very significant. It should be noted that at the
time, there were few industrial centers and the numbers of
permanently employed industrial workers were limited to a few
thousands. Still, those few industrial centers repeatedly became the
battlefields of social clashes. The most important were Lavrio,
Hermoupolis and Piraeus. The living standards of the workers were
particularly low. The working day lasted 9-12 hours and even 15
hours, while the wages ranged from 75 to 240 golden drachma, which
dropped by 30-40% in provincial cities. Anarchosyndicalism first
manifested itself in Syros, in the wake of the monetary crisis triggered
by the devaluation of the Russian rouble, which at the time was used
for the payment of wages. In February 1879 strikes with protectionist
demands were called in the tanneries and the snipping yards. The
magistrate of Syros labeled this first strike activity as «the initial
manifestation in «Greece of the clash between labour and capital».
Owing to the scab activity of both the employers and the prefecture,
the strike in the tanneries was accompanied by violent clashes with the
militia, which left one policeman dead and many workers injured.
Anarchosyndicalist ideas were propagated by Italian and French
workers. The revolutionary traditions of their home countries and their
political awareness made them suitable to act as catalysts. During the
strike they created a «Workers’ League». Three years later the
organization of anarchist workers of Syros issued the «People’s
Gazette», which lasted briefly, from July to November of 1880.

Other important anarchosyndicalist organizations were the
«Cosmos» League, constituted mainly by former Kalergite youths
as well as the League of Anarchist Workers of Athens. The Anarchist
League «Cosmos» spoke about the abolition of competition
between human beings, the abolition of capital and the passing of
private property and of all resources under common ownership. The
culmination of its activity was the big strike in the Lavrio mines (a
milestone in the history of the Greek Labour Movement). The strike,
which sought higher wages, measures of social welfare, the
establishment of Sunday as a day of rest as well as the implementation
of security measures to curb the number of accidents in the mines
lasted for 20 days and acquired an insurrectionary outlook. It was
accompanied by damages to buildings, explosions, clashes, beatings
of representatives of the bosses and it was bloodily suppressed by the
army and the police.

As for the League of Anarchist Workers of Athens, we do not know
the date of its creation. We are aware of the views of its members from
a memorandum they sent to the International Congress of Paris in
1900. Here follow two brief excerpts:

«...The Anarchist Worker’s League of Athens rejects any form
of parliamentary and legal action, and acknowledges as the only route
of subversion, that of direct and antiparliamentary action. Deeming
that any representation and legislation is nothing but the negation of
the absolute freedom of the individual. Deeming moreover, that
authority corrupts even the best among men, we conclude that we
have nothing to look forward to either from parliamentary socialist
democracy or from the parliamentary delegates of the revolutionary
groups....»

«The League of Anarchist Workers of Athens does not acknowledge
within its ranks any form of Administration or Commission, anything
that could be construed as a government, as authority».

This was the last manifestation of anarchosyndicalism in Greece and
after 1910 it petered away.



PEASANT ANARCHISM

In the last decade of the 19th century anarchist ideas met with
favourable response in various rural regions of Greece, especially in
the Peloponnesos and in Thessaly. Their propagation in rural centers
was followed by spontaneous peasant mobilization, which in certain
cases had an insurrectionary outlook. 1896 was a landmark year, as in
Achaia and in Ilia, numerous acts of defiance against the laws of the
state broke out and many violent attacks against authority took place.
In 1895, 1896, 1898 as well as in the period 1903 - 1905, armed
demonstrations of farmer workers were very common. Peasants took
over villages or junctions, thus forcibly preventing the tax collectors
and the armed forces of the state from entering the villages. On several
occasions, bloody clashes broke out, which caused death or injury to
many gendarmes. The situation in the countryside of the
Peloponnnesos during that period can be summed up thus: There
were no big estates, while landless peasants were employed for a few
months a year in the cultivation and the harvest. Small land owners,
dependent on the international division of agricultural production
(single crop fanning of raisin), had fallen under the yoke of the big
export houses and the usurers .On the other they were oppressed by
the state through unbearable taxes. The state, ever so exigent, sent its
tax collectors, bailiffs and gendarmes to the villages. The peasant,
witnessing in the one hand his income dwindle away and on the other
the agents of the state invade his home to impose fines or to arrest him
for debts, rose against the state. There lies the reason behind the
radicalization and the dynamism of the peasant movement. K.
Vergopoulos, in his book «The Agrarian Issue in Greece. Social
integration of agriculture» states that the agrarian issue had not so
much to do with the question of land but resulted from social and
impersonal conditions. Referring to the socialist groups of the
Peloponnesos he wrote: «Similarly, the libertarian socialist groups of
the Peloponnesos did not target the rich fanners, but almost
exclusively the raisin merchants, the usurers and the anti-peasant
state policies.

The peasant uprising of Pyrgos in 1898 channeled its violence against
the whole system, represented locally by the state tax collectors».
Elsewhere in his book Vergopoulos states: «In brief, it became
increasingly obvious that the radical dynamism of the peasants could
be expressed directly in an anti-bourgeois and and state direction,
without having previously undergone an anti employer phase».

It can be unreservedly said that the peasant mobilization, which took
place in the 1890’s, was anything but the jerky reaction of the
down trodden, as argued by Marxist historians. On the contrary, it
seems that the peasants were clearly conscious of their class enemies.
Which explains the favourable response to anarchosocialist ideas in
the Peloponnesos.

Anarchist ideas first spread in Patras by Italian anarchist refugees. At
the time, 15% of the population of the city were members of the Italian
colony, within the ranks of which various radical ideas clashed. In the
1870s, anarchosocialists founded the Democratic Club of Patras. The
Club maintained very good relations with the anarchists of Bologna
and Milan and it addressed the Conference of the Bakunist IWMA,
held in Beme on the 26th October of 1876. In December of the same
year it adhered to the resolutions of the International. In May 1877 it
published the newspaper «Hellenic Democracy». From its very
first issue, «Greek Democracy» was persecuted, accused of
conspiring to overthrow the existing order, of inciting rebellion and
plunder as well as offending the King. In the Charter of the
Democratic Club of Patras they stated that they strove for the
establishment of the Democratic Regime under the following
conditions:

A. Total decentralisation and perfect self-administration of the
Municipalities, i.e. every Municipality to be totally independent and
self ruled

B. Total freedom of the human being

C. Every authority to be submitted directly to the rule of the people

The Democratic Club of Patras had a brief existence. However, from
then on, anarchist activity never ceased in Patras.

In 1896, a group of anarchosocialists took over the newspaper «Epi
ta Proso» and turned it into an anarchosocialist organ. The main
contributors of the newspaper were the journalist and printer loannis
Manganaras, the printer Dimitris Karampilias, the poet Panagiotis
Tsekouras, the lawyer Vasilios Kalliontzis and others. The newspaper
attacked the merchant class, described the misery of the popular strata
and criticized politicians. It propagated the ideas of European
Anarchists (Kropotkin, Reclus, Malatesta Ravachol etc). When
important events occurred (e.g. the Lavrio strike) it put out small
extraordinary editions. Moreover, the group translated and published
in pamphlet theoretical texts, which constituted the small sociological
series of the newspaper. However, the group did not restrict its
activities to the publishing of the newspaper and the pamphlets.
Manganaras and Karabilas organized lectures and public debates in
Patras and the surrounding villages to propagate their ideas. When the
raisin crisis broke out, causing many raisin workers to lose their
employment and leading to the foreclosure of many small farms,
successive marches and armed demonstrations broke out, while black
flags of protest were unfurled. The newspaper «Epi ta Proso»
spotlighted the mobilization, explaining the situation to the weak of
heart and rousing the bold to action, while its members took active
part in the demonstrations. Manganaras found himself leading the big
demonstration organized by the peasants of Achaia and Ilia. His public
speech calling for direct action, led to his arrest and condemnation by
a Criminal Court, while the police prosecuted the newspaper on
numerous occasions during the big strike of raisin workers and small
farmers.

In order to demonstrate the views of the group we are citing some
excerpts from «Epi Ta Proso»: «...Yes, our ideas are high and
noble. We have already said so and we will keep repeating it, because
we want man to become what he is destined to be on earth. We want
him to be totally free. Free and not a slave. Free in his will. Free in his
thought. Free in respect to his peers. Free in learning. Free in love.
Free from prejudice. Free from every vice, passion, habit and malice;
free from plunder, theft, cruelty, lie, envy, brutality, hatred etc We
want him free from and not slave to money. We want him equal with
all his peers. We want him equal when facing the strong. We want
women to be equal to men. That is how we want man and that is what
we are striving for».

«...By saying Anarchy we mean, that humankind following the
natural law of the endless march towards perfection, will develop up to
that point of Progress, whereby all human beings on Earth, liberated
from biological needs, free from prejudice and cognizant that natural
freedom is voluntary solidarity between social beings, will not need
personal authority or power in order to desist from evil..»

Next to the Patras anarchists, there were the anarchists of Pyrgos,
who published the newspaper «Neon Fos» in 1899. In the 1890s
the Pyrgos anarchists participated in the peasant revolts, distributed
leaflets, and organized public debates in the villages. The Pyrgos
anarchists, who according to M. Demetriou were «supporters of
direct revolution to overthrow the established order» did not believe
in reformist struggle. They adhered to the view that the workers were
not interested in alternations between bourgeois regimes, lest of all in
attempts at modernization within the frame of the established political
system. They rejected the so-called political struggle aiming at
choosing between parties or regimes, such as monarchy and
parliamentary democracy. Still, they published at the «Neo Fos»,
some letters by readers under pseudonym, who were opposed to such
views and who supported that the workers and the peasants should be
interested in a better political selection than the existing one. In the
elections of 7-2-1899, «Neon Phos» wrote: «No, we do not vote.
Parliament is not for us. Neither are the laws, nor the gendarmerie,
nothing that is part of the established tyrannical regime; they belong to
those who steal,.... who oppress, ..... who poison us daily». The main
watchwords of «Neon Phos» were Liberty, Solidarity. We are citing
a few excerpts from ?exts edited by P. Noutsos:

«ASSOCIATIONS WITH MUTUAL AID, FREEDOM AND
HAPPINESS» When the peasant and the worker hears about
socialism, he feels that he will be working as a brother with other
human beings in the fields or in the factories with no one there above
his head, without being grumpy or caring whether one works two
hours or two hours and a half. He does not tolerate being lectured
about state or authority which will supervise and direct him; he
understands that when he will feel hunger he shall eat without having
to ask for anybody’s permission; when he will feel like working he
shall go out and work without having anybody above him. He grasps
very well that the world will consist of associations, big unions with
mutual help and freedom and happiness; he understands that the
merchants are parasites, flaneurs and that they will ot exist in the
future society».

In another issue they wrote: «...Under the influence of our ideas,
certain peasant demonstrations against the usurers took place in our
town; they demanded among other things the abolition of taxes. The
gendarmes and the bailiffs who had been sent to the villages to collect
the taxes were chased away by men and women, holding arms, stones
and clubs...»

This concludes our reference to peasant anarchism. It should be added
that attempts were made to spread anarchist ideas in the rural centers
of Thessaly. However, these attempts were not met with success.
Reformist ideas and practices prevailed and anarchists were absorbed
by them. The most important political endeavour, which gathered
around it the local socialists, was the Labour Center of Volos, which
issued the newspaper «Worker». A little later, the newspaper was
renamed «Worker-Peasant» and a presentative of the Center took
part in the elections for the 1st Revisory Parliament (August 1910).
The dominance of the reformists can be observed in the agitation of
the landless peasants, whose demand was to acquire land.

Another form of action we come across is anarchoterrorism.

3) INDIVIDUAL TERRORISM

We come across manifestations of this phenomenon mainly in the
Peloponnesos. On the one hand the socioeconomic situation already
described and on the other the persecutions of socialists, as well as a
strong belief in direct action, led some I individual terrorism. On
3-11-1896, the cordwainer Dimitris Matsalis attacked two
«respectable citizens» killing one and seriously wounding the
other. In court Matsalis declared he was an anarchist and that he had
acted on his own. He committed suicide by biting off the percussion
cap of a stick of dynamite. On the 1st of May of 1898, A. Theodorids
attempted to kill two Patras usurers, but only succeeded in injuring
them.

4) CHRISTIAN ANARCHISM

It appears that the term is a misnomer. What we are dealing with were
supporters Christian socialist theories, professing the abolition of the
privileges of the kings and the wealthy, promoting a fair society, which
would protect the workers under just and wide rulers. Extremely
dogmatist, their objective was not to transform the world but to retire
from the worldly affairs. The most important examples were the
Brotherhood of Patras and the Armageddon Movement, who
supported that the world was inescapably condemned to be destroyed.

Another Christian Socialist was Marinos Antypas, whose propaganda
played an important role in the Kileler uprising.

Several Christian Socialists became active in the forming of labour
unions.

* The two chapters of the “Early Days of Greek Anarchism”
are: 1) “The Democratic Club of Patras” which written by
Libertarian Historical Archive and published in Greece in 2002 by
Libertarian Historical Archive and the anarchist mafazine
“Contact” (published by members of OADE – now OAE).
Translated in English by Paul Pomonis. 2) “Social Radicalism in
Greece” which written by Paul Pomonis. Tne pamphlet published
by Kate Sharpley Library in 2004.

** Contacts: 1) Libertarian Historical Archive, P.O. BOX 6027, 84401
Naoussa Paros, Cylades, Greece, email linos@par.forthnet,gr 2)
“Contact” magazine, P.O. BOX 93, 30100 Agrinio, Greece,
email Contact_agr@pathfinder.gr 3) Federation of Anarchists of
Greece (OAE), P.O. BOX 1333, 26001 Patras (Central Post Ofiice),
Greece, email outetheos@yahoo.com.au


part of the pamphlet “The early days of Greek Anarchism” published by KSL

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