The Barbarian n° 4

BCOVER all in one final A

“We were healthy young barbarians,
and that was all.”
-Oscar Wilde


The Streets are Alive
Secularisations (part 1): Theology
Proper is Theft
Through the Capitalist Looking Glass
Secularisations (part 2): Philosophy
Radical Erotica: Revolting Porn
False Perspectives
Recipe for a Pornographical History
Politics of Art

Download or read the whole issue here: The Barbarian 4 PDF

The Barbarian 2/2013


καὶ ταῦτα ἔπραξα βάρβαρος ὢν καὶ ἀπαίδευτος παιδείας τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς
And I did this, though I am a Barbarian and uneducated in Greek culture

– Lucian of Samosata


Read here or download the PDF


Neo-Nazi Frequencies
Contributions Toward the Formation of the Latin Empire
Welcome to Call Centre Athens
The Golden Thumb
Economy of Crisis
Radical Erotica
Fragments on Fascism
Birthplace of Democracy
Negative Theology
Kant and the Housemate


The Barbarian Review is a collection of thoughts written down by various foreign people in Athens: a few persons passing through a brief period of time, in a very special city.

It is no surprise that we have chosen to write in English, to better communicate the experience we have of being in, but not of, the Greek radical milieu, and it is to be hoped that this will be as rewarding for the Greek and non-Greek to read, as it has been for us to collect and write down our views.


Cover: Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak, Book V, Aphorism # 429

Illustrations stolen, given and manipulated from — amongs others — WD, Mapet Political Zoo and Individuals


Contact, feedback and articles



What confirmed our previous analysis was nothing more than the development of world-history itself. So last issue we wrote that new revolts are taking shape for a variety of reasons. Foremost, that the world is becoming philosophical, and philosophically, deaths spark riots, because the fundamental issue at hand is the demand that life and death be restored to meaning, against this system that can only propagate its own nothingness. And that the environment, equally ignored by Marxism and Liberalism, is becoming a new terrain of struggle (and here we can avoid putting our transcendental interpretation on an event, as Occupy Gezi doesn’t cease to concern the trees in the park, which has enough meaning unto itself, in this world of concrete). Also that the economic interpretation of the world, not merely the reigning Liberalism, but also the faded oppositional version contained in Marxism, was happily trashed by the favela youths of Brazil. All these recent riots saw the same uncategorisable social elements uniting in their desire for revolt, so here the famous analysis of Bakunin is once again confirmed. And as for the growing despotism of this dying world, it too is only all the more confirmed by events in Greece and in the growing European far-right. Marxism, because of its economism, misses the importance of liberty, and so the important developments of wikileaks, and recently of Snowden’s revelations about tyrannical US behavior, can only be rescued from today’s aging reformism through Anarchy and its unaltered committment to basic human dignity; just as a new uprising can be the only practical force working for a revolution that simultaneously attacks both fascism and the logic of the neoliberal-parliamentary system with which it is inevitably intertwined.


Nothing made us more pleased than the warm reaction our work received in the Greek movement, with the physical copies all being taken from the various squats around Athens (and around the world). But rather than making us complacent, this has only encouraged us further onwards, to ever more barbarism. In that vein, in this issue we have many more contributors, and yet the initial energy has in no way stopped or been diverted, but simply augmented.


Last issue was written in the heat after the Villa Amalias eviction; this one in the fall when Fyssas was murdered. Barbarism is most certainly arriving, an epoch of history begins to decay: the question is, in what sense? Shall we have a positive barbarism, which we endeavor to elaborate here, a leap upward over the abyss into revolution; or rather, a relapse into a very imaginable barbarism, in the pejorative sense of the term? Our whole bet is staked upon the former, if only because the latter seems so close at hand.

-The Barbarians

mollie illustration



The far right is a hot topic right now and Chrissi Avgi\Golden Dawn (GD) are increasingly making headlines all over Europe, as this recently small neo-Nazi group suddenly stumbles onto the political stage; rabid and unclean compared to many of its European cousins, punching and threatening and speaking of civil war whilst for a long time no one does anything even though migrants and other undesirables are beaten and killed, and the cops are participating actively or at least not preventing it as the government tries its best to do even better in its own bureaucratic way. The murder of the antifascist Pavlos Fyssas by a GD member has created a sharp u-turn that recently saw surprised members of GD marching on their own as cops busted in on them and the state went antifascist. I have chosen the term ‘far-right’ to act as a massive umbrella term under which fascists, Nazis, xenophobic populists and nationalists can be categorised. I know that this is a simplification, but simplification is necessary if one is to talk about a new political climate which is spreading over Europe, a climate which is created by many groups with differing backgrounds and ideologies but which most significantly is characterised by racism and cultural protectionism. When analysing Golden Dawn it is relevant to look at Greek history as well as the ideologies of fascism and national socialism, but the international context is also important. If we look at international connections between GD and other far right groups, we can narrow our definitions, because we find the solidarity coming from a very specific political grouping: the neo-Nazis.

InterNational Solidarity

Neo-Nazis are more complex than one might at first think. Though they do exist in the shape of political parties, these parties are a part or product of a larger movement. I would suggest that part of the ideological and perhaps practical content of GD consists of an ideology which is connected to this movement. The European neo-Nazi scene has its roots in the 1970s but matured in the 1980s and 90s. For many years it has been possible to read about GD on Swedish neo-Nazi websites as they have had contact and even visited GD for a number of years. GD members have in return visited Sweden, and many other European countries such as Germany, to form links with neo-Nazi groups. In fact, much detailed information about the current situation is available on the website of the militant national socialist group (not a political party), the ‘Swedish Resistance Movement’ (SRM), who are in regular phone contact with their ‘comrades’ in Greece. They organised coordinated Scandinavian manifestations against Greek embassies in solidarity with GD, together with their sister organisations in Finland, Denmark and Norway when the GD leadership was arrested. Similarly, the Swedes Party (SP) (formerly National Socialist Front) carried out a solidarity manifestation at the Greek embassy and have eagerly followed the political rise of GD as they have steadily gained popularity and parliamentary success. This is an unlikely path for SP but one that they nevertheless dream of as the most openly national socialist party in Sweden. This party has even hosted members of GD on at least one occasion and receives regular updates.

On the recent 70th anniversary of the Crystal Night, SRM demonstrated through the streets of Stockholm to the Greek Embassy in solidarity with GD and against the assassination of GD members Giorgos Fountoulis and Manolis Kapelonis. The demonstration gathered 93 participants (they counted) and was carried out pretty successfully even though it was met with a sizeable resistance and was protected by police the whole time. Even so, the Nazis did manage to break out of the police lines and carry out some coordinated attacks against counter demonstrators. Considering the lull in neo-Nazi activity in Scandinavia in recent years- since the peak of the annual Salem demonstrations(1) close to Stockholm in the early 2000s that drew neo-Nazis from all over Europe and for some years led to the biggest Nazi demonstrations outside of Germany- it is not surprising to see the current enthusiastic excitement amongst these groups. The Scandinavian Nazis are excited both about what is happening in Greece and the possibility to come out in the streets again where they have not been able to have much presence in recent years due to anti-fascism, state repression and perhaps the fact that other populist right wing groups are currently better at attracting xenophobes. The fact that Nazis in the north of Europe have in the past attacked Greek migrants seems to be a comfortably forgotten memory.

On the same historical day that the Nazis were on the streets in Sweden, a manifestation took place in London as some of the relatively few british neo-Nazis gathered at the Greek embassy and started a new group imaginatively named ‘New Dawn’. The protest was advertised on the neo-Nazi website Stormfront and though some participants were confronted at another location by anti-fascists the manifestation went by peacefully and gathered little attention. Similarly, solidarity protests have been reported from France, Colombia, Argentina, Serbia, Italy, Spain, Russia, Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic. Those carrying out these protests are neo-Nazis, not some other right wing factions. In fact in France Marine Le Pen has recently complained about her party ‘Front National’ being labelled ‘extreme right’ as that is a term that refers to groups such as GD with whom she does not want to be associated. This takes us to a point of terminology in relation to the far right.

Three Shades of Brown

For the sake of simplification I would categorise the far right in Europe into 3 camps. Firstly, the neo-Nazis, many of whom who are connected to the Blood and Honour, Combat 18, white power music and subculture scene of the 1980s and developments thereof. Though this category contains the stereotypical skinhead Nazi that many people are aware of, ideological developments have created more complex neo-Nazis who organise as parliamentary parties, resistance movements and international networks. Common factors include antisemitism, sexism, homophobia as well as a belief in a connection between blood and land as a geographical cultural identity of a people, and hierarchical divisions between different kinds of people. The original ideology still exists in these groups and some ideas that were around in the early days of national socialism, such as the anti-capitalist and socialist wing known as Strasserism, have played a part in a more complex theoretical foundation. This also creates different characteristics as some reject the legacy of Hitler and others are split between christianity and paganism as religions of choice. Though mostly a subcultural movement with ideological continuations of national socialism, new ideas and a romanticism of the past, national socialism is increasingly sneaking onto the political stage. Whilst in northern Europe this movement is largely young male dominated and subcultural, recent parliamentary success in Hungary and Slovakia suggest a broader appeal.

The neo-Nazi category differs from the second category which is a more reformed version and more likely to win votes as the anti-semitism and Nazi references are swept away and the boots and shaved heads are replaced with suits, since Nazi discourse proved to be a hindrance in many countries. The white power concerts, drunkenness and violent street confrontations that were central to the neo-Nazi movement from the late 1970s to the early 1990s were not only not attracting normal people, increasingly they were being met by strong antifascist resistance and repression from the state. Inspired by political parties like Front National in France, these Nazis put on suits to gain credibility and try to follow the parliamentary path to power. In this transition it has been common for anti-semitism to be replaced by islamophobia and whilst national socialism is, at least officially, abandoned and new members are attracted by a more moderate xenophobia, the old neo-Nazis often criticise the new political party for being too liberal and forgetting their roots (which is exactly what this second category is hoping that everyone else will do). One such political party are the Swedish Democrats who polled as the 4th biggest party in August 2012. In the early nineties they wore Nazi uniforms at meetings, planned attacks and used Nazi symbols; now they wear suits in parliament.

The third category is one which has no apparent historical connection to national socialism and fascism. Born as out of some immaculate conception, there is no parental lineage to speak of and the modern xenophobic populist party neither has to defend their belief in national socialism nor reject any connection to it. Modern populist parties have appeared across Europe with great success in the last 10-15 years and whilst the result of their politics are very similar to the two other categories, they are free from Nazi accusations and can enjoy formulating a kind of innocent unhindered racism. The Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn is perhaps the most obvious character who showed the possibility of a new xenophobic approach. An openly homosexual former marxist, he considered islam as a backward culture and his xenophobia was based on the negative effect that he believed that it and other foreign cultures had on the liberal Dutch society. Though against immigration, he distanced himself from far right parties in Europe and on most matters could not be considered conservative. Though he was assassinated just before the general elections in 2002, he changed Dutch politics and paved the way for the populist right wing “Party for Freedom” headed by the islamophobe Geert Wilders who wants to limit muslim immigration as part of a defence of liberal western culture. The discourse surrounding this defence against islam is directly connected to the ideas that were behind Anders Breivik’s terrorist attacks in Norway which left 77 people dead just over two years ago. More recently, the populist right wing party, ‘The Progress Party’ (a party which Breivik left some years before his attacks because he considered it too liberal), entered parliament as part of a coalition government, led by a female party leader who has proposed that women have some responsibility when it comes to rape. The party are against migration and for traditional hetero-normative family structures, and now hold several important ministerial posts in government. Though groups within this category are without links to fascist or national socialist movements, they nevertheless tend to attract people from these milieus.

The Hydra That Won’t Die

What is needed in Greece right now is a military junta, which would not need public approval and could use tanks against strikers and demonstrators.

— True Finns MP Jussi Halla-aho.

Along come the ‘Finns Party’ (previously called the ‘True Finns’) and challenge my simple categorisation. They have 38 out of 200 seats in parliament and are currently the biggest opposition party. Their xenophobia even extends to the crisis-ridden south of Europe, as Finland has had to participate in the Greek bailout packages. As a recently formed party they should belong in the third category though they lack the sophistication of many of their counterparts and amongst their incredibly crude homophobic and racist remarks one can also find many that question the extent of the holocaust and appear sympathetic towards Nazi Germany. Even though they have no direct organisational link to neo-Nazis, they certainly do not self-censor themselves in a way to exclude Nazi ideas. Maybe this shows that the days of careful political positioning where a closeness to national socialism and fascism seemed incompatible with parliamentary success are over.

There seems to be some attempts of Golden Dawn to take a leap from the first of these categories to the second, as the appreciation of Nazism has some problematic elements for a populist party who might just have progressed a little too quickly to work on its facade. There is no doubt that GD have roots and inspiration from recent Greek history, but if we look at the sources of current solidarity these come from the neo-Nazi groups and parties of Europe and beyond. A source of inspiration, GD give hope to Nazis who have not yet watered down their politics as a tactic for parliamentary rewards, while years of contacts between GD and foreign neo-Nazi groups also places GD in a larger neo-Nazi context. Even though the broad appeal of open national socialist ideas in Greece is problematic historically, maybe the time for the Nazi is here once again, as the political centre is increasingly pulled to the far right. GD will either have to reinvent themselves slightly to become more presentable, or perhaps convincing people that the Greek is the real übermensch will be enough.

A new political Europe is taking shape as political parties of different backgrounds and ideologies, but similar in their nationalist and xenophobic stances, are winning parliamentary victories that would have seemed impossible not long ago. There are hardly any countries in Europe that currently do not have successful anti- immigration parties. Some of these parties are neo-Nazi, some have neo-Nazi roots and some seem free of such a past whilst whipping up strong nationalist feelings as an opposition towards the perceived cultural threat of immigration. It is easy to say that people are drawn to these parties due to a lack of confidence in the mainstream parties, but the inherent racism and hatred towards ‘undesirables’ that goes along with this is harder to explain. Looking at the far right tendencies around Europe might however be an important tool in understanding the appeal of these parties and groups, and discovering effective ways of developing anti-fascist tactics. Even though they are not all friends many are connected and they are growing and making alliances by looking beyond their borders. Antifascism must keep up with these developments in order to confront the fascists in all their forms and wherever they pop up, our internationalism is a weapon.

The one thing with writing stories about the rise of fascism is that if you wait long enough, you’ll almost certainly be proved right. Fascism is like a hydra- you can cut off its head in the Germany of the ‘30s and ‘40s, but it’ll still turn up on your back doorstep in a slightly altered guise.

– Alan Moore

Written by: Coraline


1. Salem is a small city close to Stockholm. In the end of 2000 a young skinhead was killed there by a gang of kids, some of which had foreign backgrounds, which sparked yearly Nazi demonstrations against ‘violence towards ethnic swedes’.


The principal thesis of the lectures on the ‘Philosophy of History’ is that a socio-political upheaval of the sort that resulted in the French Revolution was only possible and necessary in countries where the Reformation had failed to carry the day. Hegel states this proposition quite unequivocally. His starting-point is the fact that the French Revolution triggered off a movement in the Latin countries where Catholicism was the prevailing religion. This movement was not brought to a halt and waves of reaction and further revolution followed in relatively quick succession. The source of all this unrest lay, according to Hegel, in the fact that these nations had remained Catholic.

-Lukacs, The Young Hegel

Revolution is a vast project motivated by sweeping ideas. Thus, the reader will no doubt pardon some grand historical ideas being elaborated in this piece, as this is largely unavoidable in revolutionizing reality and in revolutionizing thought. For example, since this is an anarchist study, we can return to our own history, where we see that the division between Marx and Bakunin fell on many lines: personal, political and various other differences. However, very few make the observation that the split between, not the two individuals themselves, but the followers of Marx and Bakunin, largely ran along the lines of Northern and Southern Europe. This divide is effectively that of the Latin, Catholic, Mediterranean world, against that of the Germanic, Protestant, Baltic North. If we think to ourselves today, what are the countries that suffer from austerity, imposed by this Northern world, we find they are largely the same countries of the South, colloquially called the PIGS: Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, and occasionally, Ireland, another Catholic country, is thrown in as well. Equally, these Southern nations are those that have the most social unrest, and in recent European history have had the most social turbulence. Thus, the issue certainly merits some attention, and among intellectuals freed from the stultifying school of Marxism, Agamben has recently called for a ‘Latin Empire’ to form against austerity, following the lead of the famous Hegelian, Alexandre Kojève.

What did Agamben mean by this call, which was quickly seized on by everyone as a dangerous heresy? Basically, nothing other than the common-sense observation that Mediterranean nations have more in common with one another than with Nordic countries, and so have a more real affinity with one another than with the Protestant North. Even the Mediterranean lifestyle, with its long nights outside, the famous talking in the Stoas or walking around which gave us the name Stoics and Peripatetics, is impossible in the North, with its wind, rain and snow. Any observer who has visited, either lengthily or at least honestly, countries in both South and North can remark on the clearly visible cultural differences in a casual way. Similarly, simple everyday differences manifest themselves politically: for an illuminating example in line with our opening citation, if we think of the Americas, we find a largely peaceful Protestant North and a revolutionary Catholic South. The only countries with histories of repeated social revolutions and turbulence in this Hemisphere are all in the South. Or for our English readers let us reflect that the only part of the (former) U.K. that has had any serious revolutionism was in Catholic Ireland and this souvenir remains in the still-Catholic parts of Northern Ireland, and more examples could be adduced along these lines.

So starting with these self-evident and uncontroversial observations, I would like to have an anarchist investigation of what all this means for revolutionaries today. This must happen because quite unfortunately anarchists often defer to a Marxism which, because of its materialism, has no capacity to explain these very real spiritual divisions in Europe. The watchword for this investigation will be that of Bakunin, who correctly saw the link between possibilities for making a revolution, and its enemies, namely, God and the State (and not some mythical economy). Bakunin’s basic ideas which he took from his formation in the school of Young Hegelianism, where they were quite common, was to regard the religion and the political life of a nation as intertwined. He did this from the perspective of making revolution. So, famously, in his notes on Germandom compared to the Slavic world, Bakunin found the Slavic world had a deformed and weak state, related to its Orthodox Christianity, compared to the Germanic one. This is why Bakunin thought there was more potential for revolution in Eastern Europe. Now there is a lot of outdated rhetoric in Bakunin’s Pan-Slavism, however bizzarely anarchists often disregard the wealth of insight of one of the founders of their school of thought. Because of his insight into a basic facet of reality and revolutionizing this reality, Bakunin famously predicted the Slavic world and Spain would have great revolutions, as against Marx, who predicated his scheme on England and Germany. And, in the 20th century, the entire Slavic world, because of its weak state formation, was revolutionized. But in an irony of history, it was Marxism that made this Pan-Slavic revolution a reality, not the Anarchism of Bakunin and Makhno, for example. To add even more irony, one could say what really was the ideal of Marxism was most fully realized in the Scandinavian Protestant social model, not in the East. All these twists and turns of history in no way detract from the merit of Bakunin.

To continue the observation, why did Bakunin think there was less chance for revolution in the Protestant Germanic North? What is special about Protestantism as opposed to the other forms of Christianity? First, Protestantism internalizes what previously was external. As the saying goes, Luther got rid of monks and priests to make everyone a monk and a priest. This internalization includes the relation to the state, which previously was regarded as of little importance, since Heaven was believed to be more important than Earth. This is why, as Hegel and Bakunin noted, it is Protestantism that makes for a really strong and durable state, since Protestantism has most clearly divinized the State. This was also why Stirner made a connection between the secret police of the State, and the conscience of the individual believer; the police that tries to know every crime, and the God that knows every sin. This is aptly shown in the history of modern Prussia, most famously: this first Protestant country (in this way divinized) united the rest of Germany around itself in a repressive way, defeated the German Catholic powers of Austria and Bavaria, and then fought with England, another Protestant land, over the issue of world dominance, before coming to its well-known end. For Bakunin to focus on Prussia as objectively counter-revolutionary, the global leader of reaction as first witnessed in 1871, and later at Brest-Litovsk and after 1933, seems to us less anti-Prussian than clear-sighted. Because he had grasped an essential feature of the world, Bakunin’s warnings against Prussian reaction became even more true after his era. It is not the economy that determines everything, as in the inept view shared by English Liberalism and Marxism, but rather the spiritual beliefs that manifest themselves in the world that have a large role to play.

For example, the modern conception of the economy, which we call capitalism, comes from Protestantism, as pointed out quite some time ago by Max Weber, and accepted, in a greater or lesser fashion, by everyone except purist Marxists and neo- classical economists. It has not been so noticed, but Bakunin also says the same thing in an offhand way, as this was a quite obvious connection for prior generations. So in God and the State, he notes, “[Protestantism] is the bourgeois religion par excellence. It accords just as much liberty as is necessary to the bourgeois, and finds a way of reconciling celestial aspirations with the respect which terrestrial conditions demand. Consequently, it is especially in Protestant countries that commerce and industry have been developed.” This being said, I would opt here for the lesser fashion of taking this connection, because my point is to introduce a greater refinement and variety of factors in evaluating the world, in opposition to outdated 19th century economistic crudity, and also there are many fine distinctions which are beyond my capacity to touch on: for example Weber noted that Calvinism defended the cause of the Reformation in wars with comparatively much more zeal than Lutheranism, just as the Calvinist states of Holland and partially the U.K. became the centres of capitalism; equally should we lend more focus to spiritual relations, material finance or technological industrialization as defining capitalism, etc. With this in mind, I admit that there is little of interest in the positive and purely academic definition of the exact recipe for the making of capitalism out of Protestantism. As I stated previously I am more interested in the negative definition of what structures produce a brittle state, and for focusing on the political, not the economic realm. Along these lines, where politics has blurred into enforcing economics, it is not very surprising that the countries today who are enforcing austerity, not with ‘market forces’ but with state repression, are the Protestant U.S.-U.K. and Germany. They have made the game, so naturally they enforce their self-made rules. But because of this belief in the economy, itself a secularized Protestantism, the Protestant lands have in no way escaped typical Christian conceptions and behaviour. Just as was remarked by the Young Hegelians, the secularized state with a still-devout populace is in one sense the perfect completion of Protestantism (notably in the USA). Elsewhere, the guiding hand of God became the invisible hand of economics, which is fitting as Smith was, quite literally, a Protestant moralist before the creation of his Protestant moralistic economic theory.

In this way I claim that the North Protestant lands are more religiously Christian than the South. They appear to have less acknowledged Christian believers, numerous Catholics or Muslims, and the Protestant believers are more divided into sects. But this only comes from an incorrect way of seeing the essence of the religion. Christianity in no way concerned something formal, but rather was concerned almost exclusively with essence. This was emphasized most significantly in Protestantism, in its emphasis on faith, as the inner core, not the outer shell of devotion. Protestantism got rid of the millenia of practices and history associated with Christianity, but the bitter essence remained. Yet this focus on the inner is in fact the essential essence of Christianity, which is essence, not form. After all, Christianity simply stole the Pagan holidays, so we find Jesus’ birthday, which is nowhere mentioned in the Bible, comes to be the day of the Pagan celebration of the winter solstice and the rebirth of the sun, and there is the same astrological connection with his supposed Passion. This becomes even more marked in the minor days of various saints, etc. We have another good example of this inattention to form in various architectural examples, such as the famous Roman temple to Minerva that became Maria-sopra-Minerva, or the Maison Carrée in Nîmes. These were all Classical buildings converted to Christian worship, as there is little attention to form, but the essence put inside the form.

maria sopra

In the South we have all the faded forms of Christianity which no one takes so seriously, and which can be hit as they are externalized (e.g. unused Church land or concessions will be taken away- or Mt. Athos will have its designation reversed, renamed as a quarantine zone for the spiritually diseased, which is how it effectively functions). With the Church in the South there is the clear correlate that this Church functions in the modern world as basically a business enterprise. There is a clearer genealogy from the Church to the modern business world, since the Church now functions as a curiously antiquated corporation. But if it functions this way, then clearly this makes it more mundane and less believable as a spiritual expression, and moreover it is more materialized as being a significant force on the side of the reaction. So the enemy is quite visibly God and the State. But the Church alliance with State and economic life means that if things begin to happen to the State and economic life is disrupted, the Church will be taken in by the general wreck. For revolutionaries this would be a positive outcome. While in the North there is not even one formal Church, but the essence of Christianity, this joylessness, this unhappiness, as Nietzsche says, this great “No” to life, is in fact everywhere, and worst of all, is hidden away in the entire tissue of the society. It is even in many radicals, where you find in the North a strong vegan or straightedge scene unlike the South, and I would hope not to have to belabor the connection of these practices with puritanism.

It is much the same with non-violent civil disobedience, a Christian concept stemming from negation of an always-violent life. Moreover with the expansive, typically Protestant way of thinking which is concerned with a unity in thought overriding the real world (as otherworldly ideas of purity override actual life), radicals from Protestant lands with non-existent or feebly- existing radical movements occasionally critique the radical reality in the South on the basis of their abstract concepts that have no correspondence to the real world, the ‘heaven’ of their ideas against the sinful ‘earth’ of an actual movement, with its shortcomings and setbacks.

So there are many things one could, with justice, abstractly critique in Greek Anarchy, or even abstractly critique the entirety of the movement itself, but the point to note is the abstraction, since there is not elsewhere in Europe any comparable Anarchist movement, except in Spain, which is also in the South. In our world things change slowly in an historical sense, and changes are always based, not on abandoning a real movement for a contentless abstraction, but in a certain sense in taking the movement more seriously, and wrestling with the implicit spiritual content of our ideals. In this vein although we are for equality regardless of nations, this is rooted in the problematic pointed out by Aristotle, where we are all equal in potential, but not in actuality, or where the one is a negative criteria, the other must be a positive criteria. Potentially, every country should have a powerful and dynamic Anarchist movement, however, actually, in contemporary reality; only a few do. That they do, is only to be comprehended by thought dealing with reality, not, for example, thought negating reality, saying there should be no national oppression, as a normative claim, and going from here in one bound to the unsupported empirical claim that different nations don’t exist today, because we are all Protestants, workers, or humans. As an example of this type of thinking, famously the Comintern failed in all its attempts to transpose 1917, with a notable case being China in 1927, where they insisted on repeating the Russian model of seizing cities to spread revolution. This was a disaster, and Mao prevailed upon the remaining cadres to take account of Chinese conditions (which in practice, again, meant dishonestly using Bakunin’s program of peasant uprisings and pretending the ideas were Marxist). Rosa Luxemburg, in the midst of the turbulence following the 1918 November Revolution, also wrote an article shortly before her murder, claiming ‘How German is this revolution!’ This is quite strange because it reveals problems with one of the intellectually sharpest of the Marxists, as evidently a revolution in Germany would be forced to have some German characteristics, unless we had the strange a priori notion that all nations must make the same characterless revolution. At any rate, real thought would say that actual differences do exist, and, in order to destroy states, one has to take into account various very real cultural differences, which was the method of Bakunin and hence can be said to belong to anarchism.

Incidentally, I would like to continue a bit along with the idea that Protestantism relates more to thought than other forms of Christianity, and so these countries privilege abstract thought, just as these lands generally produced the big-picture thinkers we deal with today: Hegel, Stirner, Bakunin (at least he was a student in Berlin), Nietszsche, Heidegger, and for the Marxists, Marx, Engels, Lukacs and the Frankfurt School, etc. So, on the other hand, why are there Thatcher and Merkel, multiculturism, meritocratic ideals of the bureaucracy, and government-sponsored recycling in the North? Because the point is not the more classic one of who, specifically, holds power, but that the idea of power is itself being realized, just as this state tries to encompass everything inside its divinized reality: the refugee from Somalia, the post-industrial worker and internet capitalist, the leftist on welfare, the problems of global warming. . . “we are all in this together”, etc. I don’t say that these countries really succeed with these claims in reality, because hypocrisy is a well-known trait of Christians attested to from Antiquity. But that’s not the point — the point is to know that these are the ideas these countries have about themselves. They have idealistic ideas about how their world should work, which comes from their formation in extremely idealistic Christianity. For Northern radicals this leads to the bewildering profusion of, and importance given to, so-called critical theory, nowadays predominantly French or Anglo-American sub-Marxism, which one does not find so much in the South, which has more of a taste for the older classics, so to speak. I would also say here that this is a good thing for the South, since the majority of what is produced today as theory is effectively only a more confused version of things already said long ago. If the perspective of today lies in realizing thought, then perhaps separated thought has reached its zero-point for now, and hence the intellectual productions (e.g. Žižek and Harvey criticizing, or Badiou ignoring, the riots in Athens) are basically of zero value, a proposition I strongly believe many have secretly arrived at, but have been too afraid to say, since Anarchism is supposed to be intellectually inferior to Marxism and its latter-day epigones. But most today would no doubt suspect that this Marxist theory of production that “produced” mainly the disasters which were openly predicted by Stirner and Bakunin, would in truth be the less intellectually valuable of the two sides.

Anyway, to return to our guiding thread, basically we seem to have liberal, rationalized, secular, multicultural, progressive, ‘green’, Northern Europe (with its female Chancellor) confronting backwards, barbaric, traditional Southern Europe. Even reading the newspapers from Protestant countries, and the establishment ones from the South like Kathemerini, this is largely how the Greeks and other Southern peoples are portrayed, in half-colonial terms, as lazy and work-shy, irrational, irresponsible, and so on. Whereas in truth we have a radicalized Christianity in the North being opposed by the memory of past revolutionary struggles, and a chance and the desire to break out of Christianity in the South, because here, Christianity is stuck in its little box, where it slowly fades away into basically irreligious traditional folk festivals, especially when combined with the overtly anti-Christian revolutionism of the past few centuries. Regarding Christian holidays, as noted before, none are really authentically Christian, but random local celebrations or pagan astrological remembrances preserved in the strange and moving forgetful memory of the masses, so they are not really so bad if imbued with a spirit of happiness, since this is the true anti-Christianity. Furthermore the South has already rejected the prior Northern attempt of enforcing joyless, secularized Protestantism in its significant Resistance movements. And in passing, I would like to note that the Resistance famously retreated to the rural regions for guerrilla war, something against Marxist orthodoxy, which focuses on urban workers. The German party, famously, took this urban dictum the most seriously, and never could resist fascism. Whereas the more rural parties from the more rural regions were capable of resisting the technological onslaught that came from the North. Equally, Christianity was largely an urban religion, whereas the rural regions remained true to their traditional faith, well after the advent of the Christian empire. This is where the term comes from, pagan, by association rural dwellers, which eventually became a term of contempt. In going back to its roots Protestantism again established itself most strongly in cities, in Geneva, Amsterdam and London. So austerity today can profitably be conceived of, in large terms, as the ‘city’ of the North lamenting the backwardness of the ‘countryside’ of the South and East. But I think we, as previously with Bakunin, have to question whether this apparently retrograde countryside might not become a great force if linked with revolution?

At any rate, revolution has already proved itself to be, as Hegel saw, a sort of substitute Reformation for the world of external Christian religion. Northern Europe could not make, because it did not need, another of these upheavals, and very quickly, most famously in Scandinavia, Marxism became another sort of Protestant reformism, just as the U.S.-U.K. did not even need Marxism as a real force to make their reforms. The state could be reformed peacefully in Northern Europe, because the Reform obviously established the principle of reform in its political bodies. This is not to say there was no violence in the history of these nations; famously the U.S. was shamefully violent against its labour movement, which is why we celebrate May 1st. Yet it is also true that in Protestant lands, Protestantism established the priority of self-control, and of abstract thought in the religious life. So, the workers and bourgeoisie control themselves to limit excesses, and both sides are capable of thinking about their respective positions, and of reaching this prosaic compromise we call the welfare-state, in a gradual and yet real way: the reality of this reformism was in the ‘labour aristocracy’ of England, for example. The North had violence but few social revolutions, and the few revolutions there were, were all quite confused and relatively feeble, most famously in Germany’s 1918. I would also mention England’s half-revolution of 1640 and 1688, which is the paradigmatic half-way Protestant revolution, provoked only by an unreasoning authority and ending in the compromise of the newly-forged Liberalism. In a loose metaphoric sense, the Protestant state could be thought of as a willow, supple and able to bend in the wind, whereas the external Christian state is more like a rotten oak that perhaps takes too much wind in a storm, and so can break. But as I said before, it is not an abstract and meaningless question of preference in the positive sense, as in which tree does one like, but rather, the negative sense, as one plans to axe a certain type of tree as a destructive wood-cutter.

So the point is that revolution can also go farther, and become not merely a substitute Reformation that has to secularize the state and modernize economic life (the task accomplished by the Marxist bourgeoisie in their countries, basically), but as a movement that finally leaves the terrain of this horrific religion altogether. We are at the period of reversing the Wars of Religion, in a sense. This would make real the call of Agamben for a Mediterranean cultural unit, and it would show that an analysis rooted in thought could comprehend the actual terrain of struggle today, as opposed to an analysis rooted in self-denying, thoughtless thought, Liberalism-Marxism. Then, in the 16th century, it was the poor, underdeveloped North that fought against Charles V and his world monarchy, that had some kind of new and real faith confronting a decadent world. Now it is the Protestant world that is afflicted with an all-too visible decadence, as in the American Way of Life.

So it is the South that can throw down the gauntlet to the current masters of the world, the Northern Protestants, and represent a new spiritual movement developing out of its past revolutions. Only anarchism can provide this impetus for a new struggle, and in the South, as an addition, revolutions have never been exclusively Marxist: 1789, 1848, and 1871, for instance, as well as Spain’s heroic Anarchist tradition. Camus, unobserved, at the end of The Rebel called for the decentralizing, Mediterranean tradition of the Commune of 1871, for Anarchy, just as did Breton as he aged. Similarly, Bakunin’s last attempts at insurrection were in Lyon and Bologna. From this, and numerous other examples, it follows that there is a real tradition, and a real chance, for Anarchy in the South to form a spiritual response to austerity, and to completely leave behind the Christian era. If we return to the beginning of the article, and think of a union of the southern European regions, some claim that Agamben is always reluctant to elaborate practical applications of his ideas, which presumably comes from his formation under the detached older Heidegger. However, Agamben recently said in the closing remarks of his lecture here in Athens, we must begin to think real anarchy. Clearly, the idea of a cultural unit can really only fit as an anarchist, non-state alliance of revolutionary regions, or else it is doomed to be another boring bureaucratic reshuffling of red tape. And finally revolution cannot really be content with being a few tiny states in the South: rather, revolution here would be the most universal of revolutions, belonging to everyone, to humanity, since it would defeat the hitherto most universal civilization, which we have taken to calling ‘capitalism’.

In a practical sense, what can this focus bring us today? In Europe we find three regions: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. The Protestant lands are all industrialized, serious economies, and supposedly secular, liberalized welfare states. The Catholic and Orthodox lands are less developed, more overtly religious, and their states are more mired in corruption and malfunctioning. As the economists have said, Greece and Portugal, for example, are simply too rural to support modernity. Geographically we think of them as being at the far ends of Europe. This is the South. While, sadly, the East has had the idea of revolution so tarnished by the Marxist debacle that we find a very bleak picture there: Poland and Hungary recently have had deeply conservative governments, harking back nostalgically to the fascist era. In the Protestant North there is too much non-violent pacifism, political reformism, and too much easy wealth to have serious revolutionism. Only in the South do we find the history of revolution still alive in the people, coupled with this externality of government and economy. This is why one can hope for a Southern alliance of Anarchist revolution, an heroic axis of liberty, of the Mediterranean as opposed to the American way of life.

In brief, the only options for the future are barbarism or barbarism. The first is the so-called barbarism of the South, the inattention to debts, money, work, and petty regulations, the laughter and singing of the village celebration, the love of liberty and memory of popular revolutions, the Ψυχή βαθιά (deep soul) of ever-renewed rebellion, this great heart of the proletariat. This is one sense in which we are for barbarism. The second, perhaps a passive or more real barbarism, is the dull Protestantism of the rainy, all-too regulated North, this pettiness, the unhappiness engraved on every face you see passing on the street, the surveillance cameras, the silent cafes with everyone plugged into their own little computerized world. And furthermore, I don’t doubt that the North will condemn revolutionists as criminal barbarians, anarchists, etc. But not so very long ago the South had the culture of the Renaissance, of Velasquez and Cervantes, while these now very respectable Protestant states, Germany, Holland, England, U.S.A, were quite well-known as the lands of fanaticism, piracy, plunder, and criminality. Perhaps this is what these governments still have remained, and it would be better to think of austerity in this regard. If we are forced to choose between these competing spiritual values, then the advantage clearly lies with the South. Even the great figures from the North knew this, in some way. Byron came to fight for Greece, Orwell fought and made his Homage to Catalonia, Anacharsis Cloots and Georg Forster joined 1789, while the admiration of Hegel, Hölderlin, Goethe, Nietzsche and many others for Antiquity and the French Revolution is well known. This, we from Protestant lands can proudly call our own revolutionary- touristic heritage, which remains with us at The Barbarian today in Greece.

In closing, this article is really just an argument for a better analysis that can leave the completely failed model of economics explaining everything, which, as everyone knows, comes only from English economists and later Marxists; anarchism already possesses richer intellectual models in the work of Stirner and Bakunin. As Agamben said very reasonably in a later interview concerning his article on the Latin Empire, “For more than two hundred years, human energies have been focused on economics. Many things indicate that the moment has perhaps arrived for homo sapiens to organize human action afresh, beyond this single dimension.” Certainly, we are arriving at this moment. Of course, a minor danger would be to say economic factors don’t exist at all, which is simply the other side of the mistake made by Smith and Marx, saying economics is the only real thing. Plato and Aristotle, and even Hegel, treat of economic issues, but in their proper place, as rather low on the scale of intellectual and spiritual importance. Thus the point would not be so much the economics of austerity, facts and figures, from which one can prove austerity has been counterproductive and inefficient from an economistic view (incidentally proving that the question of neo-liberalism is in no way one of scientific reason classically considered, but of something like religious belief); more importance lies in the spiritual values and political forms of the North imposing themselves on the South. Then the disconnect between North and South would reveal a gap in which something might happen. We can treat the real totality of life, instead of a minor part of life spuriously called the totality, as with the economy. With this method, one can go from greater degrees of abstraction to lesser to situate ourselves in reality. So, with Greece we find we are in Europe, in an Orthodox country but in the Mediterranean South, in a maritime state, broken up into islands and regions and historically never able to unify itself, and this same modern state was deformed by its cobbled-together character with its various imperial patrons (England, France, Bavaria, Russia, later the U.S.A. etc.), and we have a society that just left Fascist dictatorship in the prior generation, a trait it shares in Europe only with Portugal and Spain. I also think it deserves mention, how curious that supposed materialists never pay attention to real material conditions, since before Marx, with Montesquieu for example, it was quite common to speak of the climate and the geographical surroundings as bearing an influence on societies, just as De Tocqueville ironically remarked that the people needed good weather in order to fight. Surely such conditions, influencing the formation of societies, have an influence on the possibilities of changing societies. After all, it was almost entirely the Kronstadt sailors who decided the revolution in St. Petersburg that began the revolution in Russia, and sailors later mutinied in Germany at the port of Kiel to end WW1. For revolution, that Athens is at heart a maritime city, along with Barcelona, has a not insignificant meaning, related to the emancipating character of the sea that flattens all distinctions. These material conditions, while also not being economic, do have some real role to play in analysing a situation.

Essentially, we should not look for hope from an unreflective economic analysis, where we say that revolution must come from the poorest, or it must come from the richest, which is a contradiction in Marxist thought that reveals some of its numerous intellectual defects (e.g. Marx claimed revolution must come from England, the richest country, but it will be the increasing poverty of English workers that will make the revolution-neither of which happened). Rather we should, with Bakunin, look for contradictions and deformities in the State, informed by religious life, against which we see the political chances, formed by political history. From a quick view, we see that Greece is riddled with these contradictions, and this helps us to explain, not only why Greece has the radical movement that it does, but why it has had the turbulent prior history that contributed to forming today’s movement. In other words: when we begin to follow Agamben’s call, and really think Anarchy, we see that only Anarchism has the intellectual capacity to explain its own presence in the South, just as Anarchism is the only political actor that has the potential force to accomplish an historically unprecedented revolution in the South.




The old work ethic has disappeared along with the massive obsolete structures of capital which required a permanent army of producers, yet work still has far more implications than mere survival. Millions of people still compete for the privilege of turning up day after day, year after year, to surrender body and soul in exchange for a wage.

– Jean Wier’s Introduction to ‘Let’s destroy Work, let’s destroy the Economy’ by Alfredo Bonanno.

— Where are you from?
— What are you doing here?
— You move to Greece now?

These were the continuous questions that I met when moving to Athens a few years ago. At the kiosk, in the post office, in the taxi. Why would anyone be foolish enough to move to Greece of all places and during these times? People talked about the impossibility of survival as if we all want a full time job and a straight normal life of work, consumption, death. Eventually I found myself blessed with the most unusual opportunity, employment in Greece, in crisis, now.

Many people have found their way to this call centre which is located in Kallithea and handles the customer services for many big national and international corporations. The conditions are considered very good and after stumbling through some tests and an interview I found myself in a 3 week paid training programme. Every week ended with an exam which was necessary to pass in order to progress to the next weeks’ training. Only one person failed and had to leave, as the test could be taken with notes and access to the internet and training materials and retaken on the Monday of the following week if not passed initially. Towards the end of the training we were taking calls under the supervision of other employees and then we were released into customer support for one of the biggest computer companies in the world.

Even though I have no fondness towards the corporate office environment I must admit that the beginning was not as bad as I had expected. A regular salary is something that I had not had for 10 years and we weren’t treated badly. What is interesting is how conditions that would seem obvious in relation to regular corporate work had already eroded in Greece. Some of the excellent conditions of my new job, in comparison with the general reality were; salary paid on time, salary paid in full, and overtime paid. On top of that were the added bonuses based on performance and general bonuses, paid in untaxed supermarket and restaurant vouchers. My new managers and coworkers were a mix of Greeks and internationals, often overeducated but with a wide range of previous experience, and current realities. Some were young, some old, some were students and some had families, loans and huge financial burdens. Whilst initially many were grateful to have a job, increasingly continuous discussions about our conditions and hatred towards this job were formulated during lunch breaks and the few moments that allowed us to talk to each other.

The way that the call centre workplace is organised creates little space for anything other than work. The employee is hooked up to a computer and ideally functions as a human addition to a computerised network. At the exact time your shift starts you should already have checked your emails and be logged on as available. The calls then start arriving and you answer with a friendly voice and start logging the information about the customer and their issue as you receive the information. When you are done, you have one minute to finish your notes, log the case in the system, send any relevant emails to the customer and be available again. A few seconds pass and you are on your next call. If you work full time you get a short 15 minute break and a longer 30 minute lunch break. In both instances you change your status on the computer. If you wish to go to the bathroom or anything like that you also have to change your status to ‘break’ so you’re already then using up your 45 minutes. Half an hour is officially set aside for training but only if there isn’t a long line of calls waiting to be received. Sometimes a supervisor will ask you to change your status as they have negative or positive feedback to provide. To extend these discussions for as long as possible is one of the only possibilities for minimising the time you spend on calls. The only other break from work happens if there are more calls answered than there are calls coming in but you are still sitting with your headphones on waiting for that sound that indicates a call coming in. Officially you are not allowed to play games or surf the internet during this time and sometimes there were crackdowns on this from time to time and people would be sent home for the remainder of the day without pay like naughty schoolchildren.

The good conditions came packaged with precarious ones. Contracts were short, ranging from 1 to 5 months with a total of 10 holiday days a year and zero public holidays. The 10 holiday days were in relation to your contract so if you have a 2 month contract you still have the right to less than 2 paid holiday days during that time. Unpaid leave was possible but not guaranteed so there is almost no freedom from work and on top of that, schedules were released on a weekly basis and you would not get next week’s schedule before the Thursday of the preceding week. The schedules consisted of 8 hour shifts for the full-time staff but the shifts could start anytime from 10:00 to 14:00 resulting in no possibility to schedule in any kind of regularity in one’s normal life as you never know when you are going to work in one or two weeks’ time. We also worked on Saturdays, with Sundays as the only guaranteed free day of the week. The whole time that I worked there I had no paid sick days as IKA (state health insurance) currently takes forever to come into effect even though a nice sum is taken from the monthly pay-check. On top of this, people would suddenly disappear very suddenly, people were fired on the spot without warning and a whisper would go around pointing out the empty desk as a technician would come to take the computer away and wipe it clean for the next human interface to be attached to it.

The customers range from old people with simple issues and perhaps a need to talk to someone, to the rich assholes who are angry because they can’t use their computer or just want to vent their life’s frustrations by putting someone down. Racist and other oppressive behaviour does not have to be tolerated but someone calling you stupid and incompetent is ok. It takes a lot of patience and kindness and at the end of the day one does not have much left of that for normal life when leaving work which leads to a miserable feeling during free time. All customers receive a survey after the call so they can evaluate you. One needs to have something like 90% positive feedback on these surveys. On top of that, the system measures your ‘average handling time’ which should ideally be about 13 minutes, your ‘after work time’ which should be no more than 1 minute, your percentage of calls forwarded to the senior department, your sales and a whole bunch of other things that are hard to keep up with. Also, your calls are randomly listened to by a Quality Analysis Department who check your notes and the call and send you a review where you pass or fail. On a regular basis your supervisor or manager will go though these numbers with you because they are never all the way they should be because it is impossible to meet all the criteria so you are always struggling on some detail of your work.

All these aspects combine to create a feeling of never being good enough, never knowing what the outcome of any part of your day will be like, no possibility to plan your free time and the double feeling of hating your job and fearing losing it at any moment. In a time of economic and political crisis, this feeling of uncertainty becomes amplified for the worker whilst the precarious nature demanded by the call centres meets less resistance and critique. It is no wonder that many call centres now are based in the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) countries and as the workforce that they can choose from is bigger and more qualified than ever and more desperate and more willing to put up with low salaries and unfavourable work conditions as well. However, the call centre has long been a work place with similar conditions to those mentioned so far.

Call Centres were and are an attack on the refusal of many office workers to accept a deterioration of their conditions (in banks, insurances, the post office, telecom and other offices). For many workers call centres mean longer working hours, forced shift work, constant control and intensification of work.” [Hotlines no.1, October 2000] (1)

There are a lot of writings about call centres and at some point several of us started reading online versions of these between calls, most notably the German “Hotlines- call centre | inquiry | communism” by Kolinko (a German libertarian communist group), and found that though call centres might thrive in the current conditions in Greece our conditions were not new but rather central to the way that call centres are organised globally. Kolinko’s study of call centres shows that the conditions that characterise call centre work here in Greece were common practice across Europe and beyond even in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Common aspects include the managerial structures where supervisors and managers who used to be employees look over the production floor whilst the bigger bosses pressure them to provide high results in relation to customer satisfaction and all the other measurements of effective call handling. Short term contracts, high turnover of staff, uncertainty, performance targets and evaluations, ever changing schedules and constantly changing procedures that combine to induce a stressful work environment and also have negative impacts beyond that resulting in both psychological and physical complaints were well documented by several interviewees as well as the authors who found employment in call centres as part of their study.

Call centres, as they are now, boomed in the 1990s and Kolinko reported that even though the business recorded growth in the early 2000s, there were also a lot of closures and outsourcings. Many call centres are now located in India and some other Asian countries but when looking at the closures back then it can be assumed that call centres also moved or were outsourced south within Europe and that those call centres received more clients. The inquiry found that the workers at call centres could be generalised as young, well educated, carrying out unskilled work- hence low salaries, majority female, “relatively high [salaries] when compared to other jobs in the ‘service sector’”, stressed, not union organised and high turnover of staff is common.

An interesting development is the increased use of computers for both work efficiency and control of workers. In fact the introduction of the computerised control of everything that the worker does is documented as being followed by the implementation of bonus schemes based on several aspects of worker’s behaviours including their break times. So the computerised aspect of the job not only increases efficiency but also controls the worker to an even greater extent by providing comparative data that can be both rewarded and punished. As stated in 2001 by a German worker:

At first we didn’t give a shit about the ACD [computerised Automatic Call Distribution] data. We can control our break times on the phone but we didn’t take it that seriously. But then the call centre management came up with a bonus scheme…So once a month we get a letter saying if we got the bonus or if we didn’t. Our data must be below a certain average. They also list the different items: how long you were logged on, how many calls you had, how many entries you made into the program, how long your average time was, how much time you took for post-processing, and of course the breaks…At first this really changed the mood, suddenly everyone paid attention not to be late, how long their breaks were, and always making entries into the program. Everyone started comparing their data.” [Medion, Muelheim, 2001]

The introduction of advanced computer systems works to squeeze as much work as possible out of every worker whilst contributing to a competitive work environment which leads to increased pressure and possible lack of solidarity between workers. Workers’ struggles in call centres are virtually impossible, as the whole concept is very much built with this in mind. The possibility for some kind of union or workers’ organisation of any kind quickly seemed impossible here in Athens. In fact, one of the questions during the interview was about that and I managed to play stupid and not really answer it. During times of general strikes in Athens, the company even organised several private bus lines that picked up workers from all over Athens while security guards were on high alert at the company doors. Some kind of big scale sabotage quickly seemed to be the only possibility of resistance, but how to do so was beyond us and anyway it would only provide a temporary relief. Learning how to mess with the status on the computer system so as to be able to have a few extra minutes of freedom each day made little difference. Going over the prescribed break time was possible and safe for a while and with the added bonus that a supervisor would have a pep talk with you about being a team and you could stretch that out as it’s better than taking calls. The only little act of sabotage that was easily practiced was to create free support by claiming that the phone line was bad and calling customers back which meant that the calls would not be listened to, then providing free support that the customer is not entitled to whilst robbing the company of that potential income, writing in the notes that the customer figured it out themselves and then you get a good customer survey also. Little tricks like this seem like nothing, but whilst the company is made sterile and hostile towards anything else, little tricks and acts of vengeance are all you have to feel any power at all. Getting drunk with coworkers, sharing tricks and bitching about everything also creates a feeling of solidarity and works as good therapy.

It must be said that even though many of the conditions that we find in the Kolinko study were similar to our experiences we also came across drastically worse scenarios such as “a place like Atesia in Italy, where the workers are formally ‘self-employed’ and have to ‘hire’ their work-equipment and the ‘wage’ barely provides them with a living, to Quelle (warehouse company) in Germany, where the workers on the phone have to receive orders literally without any breaks.” Other scenarios included single day contracts in Berlin (where you sign your contract for the day at the beginning of the day), unpaid internships, 100% commission based salaries, shift-based work where workers might finish one shift at 22:00 and start their next one at 07:00 the next day, forced overtime, unpaid trial work, forced scripts for answering the phone, strict dress codes. In more recent reports one can read about workers who might all have shifts one week but not necessarily the next, whilst continually being available for work

(what now has been called ‘zero hour’ contracts in the United Kingdom)(2). When coming across these kinds of examples, many of us were shocked and surprised at the fact that before the current economic crisis had hit properly, several rich countries in Europe had worse call centre conditions than those that we were under at the present time. This goes to show that the call centre already prefers exactly the kind of environment that the economic crisis delivers; a workforce that is precarious, desperate for work, well qualified and likely to shut up and work instead of organising and resisting.

More than 10 years ago the conditions of the call centre work environment stood out as surprisingly precarious and seemingly abusive towards the workforce. In relation, the working conditions in this specific call centre in Athens are not only better than many of the examples brought forth by such projects as Kolinko, but also much better than the conditions that meet those lucky few who do still find employment in Greece in these times of crisis including doctors and civil engineers. If the call centre was the nightmare scenario of the neoliberal onslaught of the 1990s, the crisis is the time when all those neoliberal desires get to run wild and unhindered capitalism triumphs as people in their desperation have to shut up and work their asses off for nothing, knowing that they are easily replaceable. In crisis all work starts to resemble the call centre, the new factory of our times, precarious in nature and fed by an eager workforce who still have much to lose and have no other choice than to compete for the privilege of wasting their time making money for others. There’s an uncomfortable contradiction between the supposed luck of landing a nice office job and the reality of being plugged into a machine in a cubicle like some kind of factory-farmed livestock.

Let us not be blinded by either work ethic or financial desperation, we all know that work is shit and must be abandoned along with the excessive consumerism that goes along with it. No one is lucky to do a shit job where they sell their time, their kindness, their patience, whilst the free time out of work is ripped apart by anxiety and frustrations and littered with tasks like cleaning and paying bills. Whilst the destruction of work is an obvious desire, the road there is not clear as we are unfortunately stuck in this capitalist machine, but we can still carry this desire with us in everything we do and try to steal as many moments of freedom as possible. We should not be fooled by capitalist promises of future prosperity somewhere down the line but enjoy leisure, joy and solidarity as we try to break free and live our lives in the present.

I finish this text with these wise words from a Hollywood film:

We don’t have a lot of time on this earth! We weren’t meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements.

— Office Space, 1999

if you liked school

Written by: Coraline


End notes:

1. Quoted in “Hotlines: call centre-inquiry-communism” which along with related material can be found here: engl/e_index.htm
2. See ”A “zero-hours” contract… for thousands and thousands of hours” at contract%E2%80%A6-thousands-thousands-hours
In fact LibCom has an extensive section about call centres which is worth checking out for anyone who is interested in the subject.