(Reuters) – Not far from the Athenian ruins where democracy was born more than 2,500 years ago, young anarchists intent on toppling Greece’s political system run a cafe where the beer is cheap and the artwork features police cars set on fire.
At first glance K*Vox, started a year ago by anarchists who occupied a shuttered building, looks like any other cafe in the bohemian Athens neighborhood of Exarchia. But inside posters show gun-toting guerrilla fighters and the symbol of anarchy – a circle with an A.
On a recent summer day, as the cafe was abuzz with chatter about two anarchists detained by police, a man barged in shouting that help was needed at a store attacked by far-right activists. Such extremists have been regularly blamed for the rise in street attacks during Greece’s economic crisis, though they deny perpetrating such acts.
“Isn’t it time for a revolution?” a 34-year-old anarchist watching the cafe scene said as he rolled a cigarette. “It’s now or never. If we don’t do something now, nothing will ever change.”
Most media coverage of political radicals in Greece has focused on the far-right Golden Dawn party, which has risen to as much as 14 percent in voting polls after winning support with free food handouts for Greeks and fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric. But the country’s economic crisis is also driving extremism on the left.
As Greece’s economy has declined, anarchist groups that aim to topple the political system, saying it serves the interests only of the rich, have attracted growing public support.
“In the past it used to be more of a youth movement,” said the cafe customer who, like other anarchists interviewed, declined to give his name. “Now you see anarchists who are 40, 50 or even 60 years old – not just 20-year olds like it was a few decades ago.”
Many self-proclaimed anarchists – the word stems from the Greek “anarchia” or absence of authority – say they are pacifist, but certain groups have few qualms about using violence. Six years of recession have fuelled a new wave of left-wing militancy, according to officials, anarchists and court testimony.
Many “see it as an alternative political voice,” said Mary Bossis, a University of Piraeus professor and one of Greece’s foremost experts on left-wing militancy. “They are not marginal anymore.”