- The Anti-Authoritarian ChórosA Space for Youth Socialization and Radicalization in Greece (1974–2010)
anti-authoritarian, anarchist, chóros, youth subcultures, social movements, extra-parliamentary left, communities of practice, Modern Greek history, Metapolitefsi
The Balkan historian Mark Mazower, highlighting that there is a conundrum posed by anarchist groups in Greece, observed: “We have, to my knowledge, no serious study of this subject, nor of the ways labels, such as αναρχικοí (anarchists) and αντɩɛξουσιαστές (anti-authoritarians) have been deployed sometimes by people in their own name and others by their opponents.”1 The purpose of this article is to address this question and give a preliminary genealogy of the anarchist phenomenon in Greece since 1974. The history of Greece since World War II includes a civil war (1946–49), which unofficially started before the liberation of the country from the Axis powers, and a military dictatorship (1967–74). These watershed events occurred in the backdrop of a vicious rift between rightists and leftists that permeated the whole of Greek society for the rest of the Cold War.
The article sets out to examine the origins (and the makings) of a particular type of disaffection that developed among youth during the period of the Metapolitefsi. The Metapolitefsi, which is the time frame for this article, was the historical period after the fall of the military dictatorship in Greece (1974) that was marked by liberalization or democratization and greater integration into Europe. It is important to note that the fall of the dictatorship was precipitated by the Polytechnic [End Page 1] uprising (1973), a mass student protest against the military regime that was staged at the National Technical University of Athens. Scholars have argued that the end of Metapolitefsi came with the onset of the debt crisis and the bailout of the country by the European Union, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund in 2010.2 During the period of Metapolitefsi, a set of narratives, places, and tactics crystallized into an “anarchist” or “anti-authoritarian” chóros.
The anarchist or anti-authoritarian chóros (Greek: χώρος) is essentially a loose affiliation of groups and collectives. Although “chóros” translates as “space,” the most accurate interpretation is “scene” or “milieu.” This qualifying term, which is also used by activists, replaces the notion of a specific social movement or subculture with one of a more fluid assortment of people and ideas, including one that is not even constant in nature and time. In this perspective, we can maintain that the anti-authoritarian chóros resembles a scaled-down version of what Jürgen Habermas called the public sphere.3 The public sphere is often used interchangeably with civil society to denote the nongovernmental sector of society, which checks the power of government. However, the public sphere is a discursive space where individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of common concern and, when possible, reach common judgment. Therefore, it stands more for the processes by which political participation is enacted and public opinion is formed, rather than demarcating specific nongovernmental entities, such as labor unions, the press, civic clubs, corporations, churches, interest groups, and so forth. Similarly, the anti-authoritarian chóros can be seen as an attempt to form a libertarian or “anarchist” space, where individuals can freely come together and engage in dialogue and protest. Inexorably, this process occurs to revive the so-called bourgeois public sphere, which has been criticized as a space of hegemonic domination and exclusion of alternative publics (immigrants, youth, homeless, drug addicts, queer groups, disabled, etc.), and their concerns.
The scale of the “anarchist” phenomenon is reflected in Mazower’s point on the total paucity of relevant research, but, perhaps, it attracted most attention around the world during the December 2008 riots in Greece, which erupted after the shooting of a 15-year-old by two policemen. Thousands of youths took part in the riots and [End Page 2] protests that followed, raising questions as to the identity and intentions of participants.4 This question had been posed repeatedly throughout the Metapolitefsi in the aftermath of disorder that often broke out in universities or during the annual celebrations for the Polytechnic uprising.5 The...