Violence is a river; society is an ocean

The Philly radical paper The Defenestrator has put up one of the best anarchist articles I’ve ever seen: Violence is a Small River: To be with Society is an Ocean. It is an interview with three greek anarchists about their situation, and their ideas for helping anarchism grow, what it would take to have a revolution. It gets at the ideas that we don’t need pacifism but that violence isn’t really such a major thing as we often assume:

Most anarchists believe we know the truth and the people don’t, so the people must follow us. For example, there was a park called the Self-Organized Park of Cyprus and Paticion. The people occupied the park and self-organized. Anarchists went there and said, “this isn’t anarchist enough. We can’t sell beer. We can’t have this concert because the singer isn’t anarchist.” So in two month’s time, the only people who went there were anarchists. Many times we prefer pure anarchy than to have a relationship with society. This is a mistake. Like Marxism and Stalinism, if you believe completely in it and don’t allow criticism, we are no better than them. We go straight to one closed system.


Greek anarchists must overcome ideology, to learn to be with society and live within it, not outside it. That’s what we’ve tried to do here in Exarhia. After December 2008, people, not only anarchists, occupied public spaces and tried to manage these places using direct democracy. Also, here there are many anarchists who are open minded and try to build structures, and there are others who are not. I can’t speak of anarchists as a unified thing.

Note that the latter quote is not, from what I gather, suggesting that we all get mainstream jobs and basically let ourselves be eaten into society: they’re mostly defending the self-organized spaces that they’ve been building in the anarchist neighborhoods in Athens. Also of note though, is you can’t actually speak for greek anarchism as an individual: it’s certainly made up of disparate parts. That’s probably part of its strength. But anyhow, this article may or may not be an accurate reflection of the situation there. Even if it’s a bit of a myth though, it’s a useful one.

One thought on “Violence is a river; society is an ocean”

  1. Kind of interesting that a statement like this focuses on traditional anarchism, when the U.S. considers places like Greece to be so “foreign” and “inaccessbile”, to just quote an average joe. Most people I know would never consider something coming from Greece to make this much sense.

Leave a Reply