We share below a translation of a journalistic report by Ines Morales Bernardos and published in Periodico Diagonal on the creation of collective, self-managed autonomies in greece, in the wake of the December 2008 popular uprisings.
A warm winter food autonomy in Greece
Just seven years ago, the murder of the young anarchist Alexis Grigoropoulos by a policeman in Athens gave rise to an insurrection in the city, an episode that also led to the emergence of various processes of autonomy that have multiplied until today.
In the month of December of 2008, the insurrection in Athens, which was centered in the “autonomous” Exarchia district, a center of political and intellectual life in Athens, but that would extend and multiply to other neighborhoods and cities, lead subsequently to a movement of great resistance and creativity. The assassination on December 6 of Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police officer in this neighborhood, and the serious deterioration of living conditions generated by the intensification of the neoliberalisation of the city, with events like the 2004 Olympics and the financial crisis 2008, awakened a feeling of anger and rejection of the state.
This sentiment led to the creative explosion of various processes of autonomy that would endeavour to create radical practices of reconstruction and recreation of day to day life at the margins of the State, of a neoliberal system that denied them their space of existence. These were processes in which, as Katerina, a participant in the revolts, comments, “a space and a time that was completely different to what we had experienced previously were created. We felt and could intervene in reality more directly. We could solve the problems of the city. ”
A movement of resistance and radicalization, in which there were no demands, was created. “We wanted everything now and we have no limits on our action,” said Katerina. Open spaces were born, which defined themselves by the on-going recreation of principles and practices such as self-management, direct democracy, the rejection of hierarchies and non-sexist practices. “Ordinary people approached the more direct practices of the anarchist ,” says this activist, and these spaces continued to multiply.
According Giorgos, member of the assembly of the Park-Community Garden Navarinou in Exarchia, “the occupation of what was formerly a parking lot and its transformation into an open space was made possible by the movement that arose in December. People were busy, active and very creative, with great enthusiasm. In the first assemblies there were more than 200 people. It was extremely chaotic and spontaneously it was decided to transform the space into a park. ” Its occupation on March 7, 2009, was the last of the events that followed the December revolt, but the first of radical practices, which along with the creation of the collective kitchen in the Steki Autonomous Social Centre, also in Exarchia, initiated a process of recovery and creation of new spaces from which to collectively create “futures in the present” and from which was begun a process of creating food autonomy in Athens would.
Community gardens, collective kitchens and the creation of seed networks multiplied throughout the city as spontaneous practices for the construction of local autonomy. The influence of collectives that existed before December 2008, such as social centers with anarchist or libertarian bases, helped to inspire their organizational and relational pillars; and other groups such as Sporos, a collective promoting fair trade and solidarity with autonomous movements in Latin America; the Peliti network for the conservation of traditional seeds, the ecological movement, helped to radicalise and multiply these practices, bringing with them demands for the respect for nature and solidarity with other cultures and ways of life in the countryside.
The worsening of the crisis from 2010 on, with the implementation of austerity measures, increased the contradictions in this city, increasing unemployment and exclusion from access to basic needs such as food. In this context, these spaces became places of re-learning, so as to be able to produce one’s very own existence and to respond to the impending food emergency.
The kitchens were transformed into spaces of collective work to provide meals at fair prices. In urban gardens, “we learned to cultivate. We needed to resume contact with the earth,” says Elli, of the Navarinou Park. They became “seed libraries”, from which to produce and distribute seeds and seedlings, to transform the terraces of the city in urban gardens. “We could not give food to the people, but we gave them the opportunity to have food,” adds Basilis, of Peliti.
Food autonomy processes were strengthened with the convergance of the crisis of the city with the farm crisis, and movements of solidarity were created that approached and resolved conflicts between the two realities and spaces. The difficulty of access to markets for greek farmers after the global crisis caused by speculation in commodities in 2008, along with rising unemployment in the city and the difficulty of access to food, caused the emergence of three movements: the potato movement, which facilitated the creation of networks of direct sales between farmers and consumers; the movement of back to the land, by which young people, mainly from the city of Athens, went to the country side to take up farming activity, many of them through collective projects and management practices such as organic farming, and the movement for a social solidarity based economy, which led to the establishment of new workers’ cooperatives and that through radical practices, facilitated access to food in Athens.
Markets without intermediaries (Laikis tis Platias), networks and cooperatives (Agronaftes, Perivoli Korinthos, Rizari), consumer cooperatives (Svoura, Synzo, Sesoula), fair trade cooperatives and food coopeeratives (Syn Allois, Lacandon) or self managed food banks (Trofo Seleptes) are some of the new radical practices that formed during these seven years the geography of food autonomy in Athens.
The current widespread feeling of “depression” will not engender uprisings, but, as Giannis, of the community garden of the Nikeas neighborhood, created in September, a month after the acceptance of third memorandum of the troika by the Syriza government of Syriza, states: “Now is the perfect time for people to come together to do things together. Through the preservation of traditional seeds and food production we get autonomy and self-sufficiency. ” It seems that new processes are activated in the warm winter that will recreate a new geography of food autonomy through radical practices in Athens.
Documentary “Another World” about the grassroots initiatives in Greece that form another world right here right now, away from the crisis and capitalism (Greek narration, English subtitles in captions).