translation by This Is Our Job:
In August 2008, Thessaloniki anarchists Vangelis Chrysochoidis and Polykarpos Georgiadis were arrested alongside infamous bank robber—and “the most wanted man in Greece” —Vassilis Palaiocostas. The authorities charged them and others with the kidnapping of powerful industrialist Giorgos Mylonas, which took place that summer and ended with Mylonas’ “release” in exchange for a ransom of 5 million euros. Georgiadis has written a number of open letters (here, here, and here), but Chrysochoidis hasn’t because—like Simos Seisidis, for example—he has no interest in doing so and doesn’t really consider himself a “man of letters.”
The trial for the kidnapping began on February 2, 2010 and ended with sentences of 22 years and 3 months in prison for both Chrysochoidis and Georgiadis, which sentences took into account a number of robberies they were also charged with. A brief summary of the trial can be read (in Spanish) here, while Palaiocostas’ open letter in support of the two comrades is here.
Chrysochoidis statement to the court has already been translated into English here, but Georgiadis’ statement hasn’t yet appeared anywhere in English. More recently, the comrades’ appeal hearing (summaries of which can be read here and here, ran from April 24 to May 16, 2012, and ended with each of their sentences being reduced to 12 years and 10 months.
Georgiadis: Even if you think I’m making an apologia, and while the word “apologia” has a specific connotation, I consider my words to be a kind of defense—not just regarding the legal aspect, but also concerning my political identity and political positions, which I believe are playing a decisive role in my situation. That I now find myself in the dock is a function of my political discourse and political positions of approximately the past 15 years of belonging to this milieu. Therefore, I first want to touch on some things that have already been mentioned here by witnesses, the plaintiff, and you. I’ll also comment on two or three other things beyond the legal aspect of the case.
First, I think it’s a bit ridiculous that here we have a plaintiff—especially Mr. Mylonas, who represents a specific social class, that of the industrialists and the National Bank, which has literally stripped bare all of Greek society, not personally, but as social classes, since they have driven the people to unemployment and bankruptcy, since they have driven the people to suicide over the debts they created through their usurious loans and all their criminal activities, because I certainly consider capitalism a crime—who has come to ask a bunch of working people for even the symbolic sum of 54 euros. Take a look at my assets. “You will get nothing from he who has nothing,” like Lucian said—that “Voltaire of antiquity,” according to comrade Marx.
Apart from that, one of Mylonas’ phrases left an impression on me. He came here and said: “A crime has been committed, and the culprits must be found so they can pay for it.” According to bourgeois rights—and when I say “bourgeois rights” I’m not referring to rights in their legal sense, but rather to the rights imposed by the bourgeois class in order to perpetuate the specific production model of capitalism, to perpetuate what they call “the social peace”—that could in some way be correct. I don’t sanctify crime. There are crimes and there are crimes. To me, crime is nothing sacred, although I don’t agree with the term “crime.” Most criminals, in my humble opinion, commit antisocial “crimes” in the context of a particular kind of civil war. The poor steal from the poor, they snatch purses from old ladies, they rape. Prison is full of people like that. Vassilis Palaiocostas is on a different level. I will return to this subject later on when I talk about how we know each other.
I want to talk about other crimes that have been committed and for which culprits must be found—the culprits, in my opinion, being the entire capitalist class and its servants. The culprits must be found and punished, obviously not through some bourgeois justice, but rather at the hands of social revolution, of which I am a part.
Since Vangelis recited a beautiful poem by Lord Byron, I have remembered a poem by Bertold Brecht. I believe Vangelis already quoted Brecht’s classic aphorism: “Who is the greater criminal: he who robs a bank or he who founds one?” And of course, in my opinion, the act of founding a bank is the much greater antisocial crime. So, Brecht wrote:
The headlong stream is termed violent
But the river bed hemming it in is
Termed violent by no one.
The storm that bends the birch trees
Is held to be violent
But how about the storm
That bends the backs of the roadworkers?
And not just on the roads. In the factories. Everywhere.
Comrade Vangelis mentioned some Europe-wide statistical data. I researched and found some other statistics to see which is the greater crime. In my opinion, “workplace accidents” and “workplace disasters” don’t exist. What exists are murdered workers. At this very moment, a world war is taking place throughout the planet, yet the prevailing ideology doesn’t recognize it as such. It is a class war with many dead, many injured and maimed. I’m going to cite some statistics: globally, each year there are 2.2 million deaths, 250 million injuries and maimings, and 160 million illnesses—the so-called “occupational diseases”—that are all workplace-related. In the 19th century, when a very potent workers’ movement developed in the U.S. and often asserted itself quite violently, all the capitalists of the era met—like Morgan, Rockefeller, etc.—and formed the so-called Iron Alliance. It was the era of the “railroad miracle,” and most workplace murders occurred in that sector. So at the time, the Iron Alliance expressed the opinion that workplace accidents were the will of God, that God himself caused them. It wasn’t the miserable conditions that killed so many people, nor the fact that in order to increase the accumulation of their wealth the bosses didn’t take adequate safety measures. Rather, it was simply the will of God!
Very little has changed since then. The “will of God” concept invented by Morgan and Rockefeller was adopted by unionists. Imagine it: unionists! The reason for this war is specific, as specific as the reason for so many deaths: the hyperaccumulation of wealth. The hyperaccumulation of wealth means a hyperintensification of poverty. The capitalist class hasn’t just declared war on workers, it has declared war on all humanity. I’m going to cite a few more statistics. To me, the statistical data constitutes an arithmetic of capitalist terror. One billion people die of hunger and malnutrition, and 5 million children under five years old die from acute malnutrition. A certain sociologist by the name of Ziegler says: “Each child who dies of hunger dies murdered. Hunger is a crime against humanity.” Who are the criminals? Within bourgeois rights there is obviously no provision to punish these criminals. When I say “punish” I don’t mean “kill.” For me, the most correct punishment would be social revolution—the expropriation of wealth and its equitable distribution in such a way that wealth becomes a social asset. In other words, communism. I certainly belong to the antiauthoritarian milieu, but there are different currents. I in particular am an anarchist-communist. I believe in the equitable distribution of social wealth and the collectivization of the means of production.
Presiding Judge: A very specific charge is being dealt with here. Fine, you’ve said what you’ve said. Now you must connect it to the acts you are charged with.
Georgiadis: To me, bringing this affair to a close is a political matter. In addition, Marcuse—mentioned earlier by the civil plaintiff—was a Marxist, not an anarchist. This war waged by capitalism against all humanity sometimes takes the form of intense clashes, like the war in Iraq, the bombardment of Yugoslavia, and the situation in Gaza—where comrade Vangelis P. himself has also been as part of the Free Gaza organization, one of whose missions was attacked with gunfire by the Israelis.
It also takes the form of a cold war with a specific purpose—like I said, the hyperaccumulation of wealth. And at this very moment, all these deaths from hunger and all these dead children are caused by a single factor: the cruel exploitation and plundering of natural resources from the third world. Capitalism commits this crime and there are definitely physical perpetrators. And the most just punishment for this crime is obviously not murder. It is communism.
In my opinion, this is about a conflict between two worlds. Though the matter of solidarity has often been mentioned here, the world we live in right now—the world of capital—is a world of swine. When a capitalist or some servant of this system talks about solidarity, they have a corpse in their mouth. They don’t have anything in mind like, let’s say, a “Social Solidarity Ministry.” But another world does also exist: the world of solidarity. That’s the society we are trying to build, a society of mutual aid and solidarity. It’s true that, in itself, the form that solidarity can take expresses itself in many different ways. But when we say that word, we certainly believe in it.
Now I will begin to detail a brief résumé. I linked up with the antiauthoritarian milieu during the early years of my adolescence after a short period—though to say it better it was a “flirtation” and not a period, because I was never a member of the KNE,* but there was indeed a “flirtation”—with the communist youth. I distanced myself from them in 1995 because of the disgusting position taken at the time by the KKE against the Polytechnic occupation, which happened at the same time as the prison riots.
In my opinion, the Communist Party position against the radical milieu was repulsive. I therefore got closer to the antiauthoritarian milieu. I clearly remember when, on November 14 of that same year, a march in Thessaloniki was attacked by the police and occupied the Theology Department. That was my first contact with the antiauthoritarian milieu. I was there with others from my school, and we stayed for a few hours.
From that moment, I began to be active in the antiauthoritarian movement, which has many modes of expression, even though everyone only associates it with Molotovs and camping gas bombs. I don’t deny it. I’m telling you the truth: I don’t reject those forms of action. The antiauthoritarian movement simply has many forms. It holds talks, demonstrations, and marches; releases books and pamphlets; participates in labor struggles despite the vileness of the management of GSEE, ADEPY, etc. It is present and it takes part. It confronts fascists, and that is a large part of its activity. I certainly remember the seven stitches I received after a fight we had with Golden Dawn in Aristotelous Square. And I’m not sorry about it.
Presiding Judge: You gave it to them as well?
Georgiadis: As much as we could. Yes, we left them with something. Of course we wound up with a draw, more or less.
I didn’t come here to portray myself as a nonviolent person. You must simply understand that revolutionary antiviolence extends up to a very specific point. There is a revolutionary ethic, a code of values.
Presiding Judge: This is about a specific crime. I think you’ve already said enough.
Georgiadis: It’s never enough.
Presiding Judge: Alright sir, this is not the place for jokes. We have specific things to talk about.
Georgiadis: In 2004 they arrested me on charges of attempted arson of a private security vehicle. I’m not going to mention which company it was, as I don’t want to give them the publicity. So, I entered preventive detention at Korydallos, and there I met Vassilis Palaiocostas. Anyway, Vassilis walked up to me one time and told me: “Come to my cell.” I was initially impressed by his library. When I entered his cell I saw that library, with Nietzsche, with many things. I say this because you had asked me before about my literary knowledge. Vassilis Palaiocostas is someone who only finished primary school, but he educated himself. From then on, we were in constant discussion. I remember him talking about Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche. He adored Nietzsche. On an “ideological” level, Vassilis was part of what Hobsbawm called “primitive rebellion” and “social banditry.” Vangelis P. mentioned some books on the subject. I can mention Rebel Tradition and Popular Culture. There is a tradition in society, in those we call “traditionally rural” or “agrarian.” The thieves of 1821 were also bank robbers. The first action of the Greek Revolution of 1821 didn’t happen on March 25 but on March 15, when the thieves robbed the tax collection houses. So in any case, Vassilis forms part of that tradition. He himself has a few books on the subject and we had many discussions. He is someone who Aravantinos would have called “a born antiauthoritarian.” Not politically. He is an antiauthoritarian in the social sense of the definition and not in a narrowly political sense.
I somehow became linked to Vassilis. In prison we took part in shared struggles. There was an abstention from prison food at that time. In any event, a different kind of relationship developed, a relationship of friendship that continued even after I got out. In February 2005, I stood trial in Serres and they decided to release me. I returned to Korydallos and left him my cell phone, and we stayed in touch. I sent him books and any money I could. I kept working the same job I had prior to my arrest.
Presiding Judge: Where?
Georgiadis: At a store. More accurately, two clothing stores. Regardless, they belong to the same person and are both on Tsimiski Street. I don’t want to give them any publicity.
Presiding Judge: As a salesperson?
Georgiadis: At any rate, Vassilis would call me on the phone and that’s how we maintained our friendship. He wouldn’t call me often, just once a month. In 2006, I no longer remember which month, I heard on the news that there was a spectacular—so they said—escape by helicopter involving Rizai. Obviously, we celebrated accordingly. Some friends and I went out and we were celebrating together with everyone, because Vassilis Palaiocostas enjoys social acceptance. Yes, that “criminal” character enjoys social acceptance as a descendant of social banditry, which of course is rooted in this very society. All those legendary dimensions didn’t arise purely by chance. I remember that day we went out to paint slogans and had some undercovers on our tail, as usual, because after my adventure I almost always had undercovers in front of my house. I naturally had no contact with Vassilis during this period until, I believe in early 2007, he called me and said we should meet. We met somewhere, I don’t think it’s of any use to say where, and he said: “Polis, if you would be able to help me, I’m thinking about settling in Thessaloniki, as there aren’t many police there.” Well, at that time there weren’t many. He asked me to rent him a house. I told him: “You could come to my house, but there are undercovers in front all the time.” He said: “I’m going to get you a fake ID that you’ll be able to use to rent something without getting into any trouble yourself.” That’s how it went. It took me a little while to find something because he gave me certain characteristics that the house should have, and I finally rented one in Peraia.
Presiding Judge: And the undercovers in front of your house never found out about any of this? You rented the houses so easily?
Georgiadis: Four months prior, a comrade from around there caught someone from the intelligence service in front of his house and handed him over to the police. I warned Vassilis that I was having problems with the undercovers.
Vangelis was needed to buy things. I asked him to help me, and he expressed his willingness. I told him the whole truth because I trusted him. I met Vangelis in 2001. We were part of the same milieu, in the same political circles, and I had confidence in him. At some point Vangelis told me: “I want to meet your friend.” Because there was also a need to socialize.
I went to the video store only once to rent some tapes.
Presiding Judge: The police say you were a member there.
Georgiadis: There was a membership card, you can verify that. I went there only once, but of course it’s quite telling that the video store employee never testified here. Instead, a police officer said the employee recognized me without a shred of doubt. Taking into account the hundreds of customers that employee saw each day, she saw me just once. I believe that this matter of recognizing me “without a shred of doubt” owes itself to the coaxing of the police, as well as to many other factors. Since we’re now mentioning that statement, let’s also mention the statement by the employee at the Masoutis supermarket, where the attempted armored car robbery took place. The supermarket employee said: “I didn’t notice the make of the car.” But later they got him to mention a Toyota RAV4. He also said: “I didn’t say those things. Perhaps other witnesses said them and the police attributed them to me.” We were all here. This shows the manner in which the police operate, a manner very different to what society believes. All of that happened here, right in front of our eyes, and I don’t think anyone questions it. We overlooked what the man said—“I didn’t say those things”—without attributing any importance to it.
Presiding Judge: How did we overlook it? Wasn’t everything transcribed? Every detail is taken into consideration.
Georgiadis: You overlooked it by failing to say: “Come now, sir. Who took down your statement? How could there be things in your statement that you didn’t say?”
Presiding Judge: Were there weapons at the house in Peraia?
Georgiadis: Look, I didn’t see any weapons or explosives. Also, according to what the police revealed, the weapons were carefully hidden. I didn’t see weapons at the house in Peraia or at the house in Aghia Paraskevi. Of course, I clearly knew that Vassilis was doing illegal things, right? I certainly took into consideration that there were weapons. Let’s not discuss if the houses were “clean” or not right now. I kept it in mind, but I didn’t ask. The fact is that I was aware, and all my history with Palaiocostas indicates that I was conscious of the dangers. Solidarity means all of that.
So in this case here, we have to psychologically interpret certain things. In other words, we have to interpret the psychological process behind how certain choices came to be made. In his initial statement, Mr. Mylonas said: “The one who grabbed me, the young one, was sitting next to me in the jeep like I told you. He was a very kind boy, thin, about 1.85–1.90 meters in height. He spoke Greek very well. He had to have been less than 25 years old.” All this subjective evidence described by Mr. Mylonas—apart from the bit about being “kind,” which is relative—has no validity. Nor does any of the objective evidence. Look, I’m 1.70, let’s say 1.76 with shoes on. “About 1.85–1.90” is way off. Someone 1.85 or 1.90 is someone very tall. I’m of medium height. That’s a big difference, and of course Mylonas mentioned that the perpetrator sitting next to him in the jeep had a relaxed grip on him. Alright, nor will I comment on that “young man who was less than 25 years old” remark, as I was 30 at the time. “Thin.” There are photos from when they arrested me, there are photos in the cameras they seized from us, photos of the entire media spectacle staged by the police, as well as my physical details from Ioannina Prison. I weighed about 80 kilograms then. 1.75 meters tall and a weight of 80 kilograms. No one would call that “thin.” Therefore, such a thing cannot be deduced from all that “evidentiary proof.”
Then Mr. Mylonas mentioned something in his statement, and right there is where the psychological process of “selection by convenience” enters. On seeing how his statement was being taken apart, Mylonas tried to cover the gaps in order to substantiate it. He said that, three or four times, this perpetrator entered the tent where they were keeping him and asked: “What’s going on Georgi, are you alright? Do you want me to bring you anything?” And so on. In his first statement—I imagine you’ve read it—nowhere does it appear that this tall young man entered the tent. He mentioned two other people who certainly did enter: Vassilis Palaiocostas and Asimakis Lazaridis, the latter of whom testified regarding this matter. In his second statement he also said that he recognized Asimakis. And he did so because that way of asking “What’s going on Georgi?” is very characteristic. I don’t think everyone asked him “What’s going on Georgi?” He attributed it to Palaiocostas and suddenly he came to the courtroom here to say that I said it. When the evidence about my height fell apart, suddenly he remembered that “the perpetrator wore sneakers.” Now that’s something: sneakers with a 15 centimeter sole! That really clears things up for us. First class. And when did he say it? Eighteen months after his statement about my height was shown to be invalid right here in this courthouse, he accepted the help offered by the police—that little push—and he said: “Alright boys, during the course of the entire incident, in all the confusion, there could have been some mistake.”
And therefore we are facing a psychological phenomenon here, one of collective autosuggestion. Because we also have one other statement: that of Mrs. Mylonas. And her second statement, taken we don’t know when. Because Mrs. Mylonas gave her statement—this much I do know—one day after the kidnapping, while her husband gave his after they released him. Thus, we have two very similar statements that refer to a young man 1.85 or 1.90 meters in height, two statements consequently related to each other. So this is either a case of collective autosuggestion, or they were actually telling the truth in their initial statements. Additionally, Mrs. Mylonas didn’t appear here in person. She was represented and she refused to recognize us. On the other hand, I think Mr. Mylonas . . .
Presiding Judge: There is a difference between “she refused to recognize us” and “she didn’t recognize us.”
Georgiadis: She didn’t recognize us and I’m guessing that Mr. Mylonas was coaxed into recognizing us when we were at the police station. And according to what he told the police, “in all the confusion, there could have been some mistake.” Which features did Mylonas recognize? Height and voice. Why was there a mistake in his testimony regarding height and not voice? Especially when recognizing someone by their voice is more common? I’m asking myself this. There the coaxing of the police wasn’t so successful. Also, Mr. Mylonas stated that I drove the BMW during the trip to release him. The lawyers have submitted documentation to you corroborating that I do not drive. I’ve only commuted by bicycle, and that was when I was in school. Never in my life have I driven a car. Apart from that, there is another little thing Mr. Mylonas said. In his statement he made frequent reference to an Albanian, someone who was speaking Albanian, so be careful here, because this wasn’t about someone who simply had an Albanian accent. Nevertheless, Mr. Mylonas stated that he was sure it was an Albanian, and he also said: “Given my line of work, I have often spoken with Albanians.” He stated that he was sure. I am going to demonstrate one more point that is also very revealing, just one more point. He said: “At some point, we stopped and the one who was speaking Albanian got out. One of the perpetrators who spoke poor Greek asked him: ‘Have you brought the bag?’” This is a very revealing point, and it makes an impression on me. I also think that right here Mr. Mylonas has shown that he knows how to speak Greek very well. And you know, just like I know, that “speaking Albanian”—I’ll repeat it again—has a very clear meaning. It doesn’t mean that someone has an Albanian accent. “Speaking Albanian” means that this person was speaking in Albanian. Therefore, during the first few days, Mr. Mylonas was sure that there was an Albanian around. And I’m also going to add the testimony of the police officer who saw two men dressed as police officers when the ransom money was handed over. In his statement he said he saw license plates registered in Korçë—so, from Albania. He then came here and said he saw no such thing. . . . Here, in this courtroom, statements made during the preliminary hearing are suddenly being changed. You should consider that.
So, apart from these two psychological phenomena I’ve mentioned, I will point out one more. When the representative of an industrialist or a banker shows up and shouts “thieves! thieves!,” that is called “counterbalancing syndrome” in psychology. The professional thieves come and accuse others of being crooks. This is a process of psychological self-defense.
We must also see a number of metaphysical phenomena here, with an Albanian ghost mentioned in 20 testimonies by all kinds of people. Mr. Mylonas mentioned him, the police, those who took the witness stand. And suddenly the guy disappears! Where has he gone? Vangelis was made to take his place. That’s simply the way it looks, since “the medium’s” spectacles have made it the latest thing. The Albanian suddenly disappears and Vangelis appears in his place, then the “the tall guy” disappears and I appear. Abruptly, just like that. Suddenly, after 18 months, Mr. Mylonas remembers that at the time “oh, yes, the guy wore thick-soled sneakers.” And nothing happens. And I get the impression that loads of witnesses haven’t made an appearance here, and in their place came a bunch of police officers to say what they told those witnesses to say. Let’s call it a matter of secondhand or thirdhand information. No witnesses appeared who were able to confirm certain things, like the video store employee who—I say—could have said: “Yes, I know him, he came there.” In her place a police officer shows up and says: “The witness has told us that she often saw him.” You have the video store membership card in the preliminary hearing file, you have it at your disposal and can thus see that the tapes were rented just once, on the same day of the arrest or one day before.
Police officers came here to state rumors and their reflections and associations of ideas. That’s not a solution. They came to say what their conclusions are. Just like what happened with the summons they issued to those who took part in the robberies—in other words, “we haven’t found anything, so come on, let’s charge five or six people.” They found four people and they want to judge all of them. “Who could it be?” Vangelis. And it doesn’t matter, for example, that Vangelis was doing his job at the workshop that day. “How many more are we missing?” Two. Let’s get Vangelis and Polykarpos. Oh, they’re missing three? Let’s also get Lazaridis. But based on what evidence? None of the witnesses, not a single one, recognized any of us. In the end, what is this objective evidence connecting us to these acts? Because if this is all a function of the rumors and conclusions going around here, I can tell you that in prison I have also heard many rumors and associations of ideas about businessmen and many others.
Prosecutor: Considering the fury you’re nourishing . . .
Georgiadis: It’s not fury, it’s my political position and worldview.
Prosecutor: Nevertheless, you are calling them professional thieves. If that isn’t indicative of fury, I don’t know what else it could be.
Georgiadis: No, that’s not it for me. What it indicates is my political position.
Prosecutor: Given that “political position” in quotes, as well as the “fury” that I will also put in quotes; given these descriptions, perhaps you can tell me: “Is there anything that would prevent you from taking part in the organized abduction of a man like this, a person like him, with the aim of demanding a ransom? In other words, “kidnapping him,” like you said.
Georgiadis: I mentioned at the beginning of my apologia that, for the political milieu I belong to, it’s not a question of expropriating or stealing from a specific person—a capitalist—but rather expropriating the bourgeois class in its totality and arriving at communism. That’s what I want to say. Individual expropriation also forms part of a code of values within the antiauthoritarian milieu. Apart from that, there is a big difference between expropriation, theft, and murder, like the witness K. mentioned. There is definitely an enormous difference. A kidnapping can contain within itself the eventuality of murder. The anarchist movement and the communist movement are movements that emerged politically in the 19th century. They have very specific roots. And the roots of both these movements, which were once united, are deeply human. In each case their origins were deeply human. We can find in them roots that emerge from ancient Greek philosophy, from the Cynic and Epicurean philosophers. I am more with the Epicureans, despite the fact that most anarchists are much more sympathetic to the Cynics. The roots of the antiauthoritarian movement emerged from the Illumination and from the Christian sects that embraced mysticism and resisted the Catholic Church in the 15th and 16th centuries. And they are deeply human. To me, it’s a question of social revolution.
Prosecutor: How can that take place?
Georgiadis: You want to know how social revolution can happen?
Presiding Judge: Well, Mr. Prosecutor, are you having a dialogue?
Prosecutor: What do you think, through what actions can social revolution be brought about?
Georgiadis: It’s not possible individually. Creating a radical . . . (the prosecutor as well as the presiding judge continually interrupt him) . . . this happens above all through social processes. In short, there is a political concept called voluntarism. Voluntarism means that social revolution can come about through individual actions. However, that’s not enough. Social revolution requires very specific social processes.
*Greek Communist Youth, the youth wing of the KKE (Greek Communist Party).