Knowledge chooses its project,
each project is new and chooses its moments,
each moment is new, but simultaneously emerges from
the memory of all the moments that existed before
—The Interior of the Absolute
1. The Beginning
The Fire Cells Conspiracy revolutionary organization didn’t begin its activity from out of nowhere. It wasn’t as if a straight line had cut through space and time. It was a future crying out from the past. The Conspiracy comprised a collective synthesis, connecting the backgrounds and viewpoints of all who participated in it and drawing valuable conclusions from past experiences of subversive projects and attacks we took part in.
It represented our desire to take a step further, not to climb some ladder of informal hierarchy that fetishizes violence and its methods, but to simply advance, move forward, and explore new perspectives, making the shift from a “bunch of friends” to an organization, from the sporadic to the consistent, from the spontaneous to the strategic.
Along the way, we assumed a critical stance toward the past, but we never went out of our way to be hostile. We are anarchy’s misfits, born from its potent moments and gaping voids. Additionally, the goal of critique and self-critique is not to put an end to something, but just the opposite: it’s an aspiration to evolve something. The fact that we’re not going to elaborate a corresponding critical review right now doesn’t mean we’re afraid to recognize our mistakes. Rather, it’s because that kind of examination is better served by distance and cool nerves than by impulse.
During no phase of our brief, intense history did we lose our collective memory of the anarchist milieu we come from. We also feel we discovered something we have in common with comrades who began the struggle before us, engaged in their own battles, were arrested and imprisoned, but never lowered their heads. We discovered the unrepentant passion for revolution that connects histories and realities of struggle from different decades in a shared context of individual and collective liberation.
In that context, we forged our own alphabet. Speaking the language of direct action, we openly raised the issue of creating organized infrastructure. As anarchists, we often distance ourselves from the concept of organization because we equate it with hierarchy, roles, specialization, “you must,” and obligations. However, words acquire the meanings given by the people who use them. As the Fire Cells Conspiracy, we stormed into battle over the meaning of revolutionary anarchist organization.
2. The Path from Spark to Flame
From the very beginning, we rejected the idea of a centralist model and chose to start from the basis of individual initiatives that wanted to collectivize. What emerged during organizational meetings were issues of coherence, consistency, individual and collective responsibility, and direct action as a means of transforming our words into deeds. At group meetings, each comrade had the opportunity to propose a plan of attack, thereby opening up a debate on planning, timing, political analysis, and operational problems posed by a given target’s location. During these discussions, there was no guarantee that we would reach agreement. Opposing arguments sometimes developed into a powerful dialectic, especially regarding the strategy and prioritization of timing, and quite often there was more than one proposal, so we then had to choose which we were going to select and which we were going to keep in “storage” to be refined in the future. It was a process that allowed us to open our minds; broaden our horizons; learn from one another’s different experiences; vigorously defend our opinions; figure out how to recognize our mistakes; understand the concept of shaping something together; become conscious of the need for strategy; and — most important of all — create relationships not in the name of some “professional” revolutionary goal, but based on friendship, true comradeship, and real solidarity.
We love what we do because it contains our entire essence. Therefore, the “Conspiracy” isn’t just all of us together, it’s also each one of us apart. Even in cases when there wasn’t collective agreement on a particular action, we didn’t resort to “begging” from the prevailing democratic majority. Instead, the minority of comrades who insisted on carrying out the attack took the autonomous initiative to move forward with their choice. That happened in parallel with the rest of the collective, which supported them at specific times if necessary, naturally playing a part in our overall organization.
That’s why a number of communiqués were signed by groups (Nihilist Faction, Breath of Terror Commando, Terrorist Guerrilla Unit) that arose out of each separate initiative. During the second phase, after reaching agreement, whether as the entire collective or as a separate initiative, we planned the attack. Each one of us contributed our knowledge; information was culled from newspapers, magazines, and the Internet; the area where the action was to take place was reconnoitered and mapped; the approach to and withdrawal from the target was laid out (avoiding cameras and police checkpoints), including alternate routes in case something unexpected happened, and of course keeping in mind the eventuality of a confrontation with the pigs. There were also support groups, “hideouts,” ways of asking for help, etc. (In a future manual, we will analyze and explain our experiences, which are related to how we perceive what is going on while an attack is being carried out.)
During the third phase (which was never far removed from the initial proposal about target selection), we worked on the text of the communiqué. When a topic was suggested (for example, attacking the police), the comrade who made the proposal argued for its content. Then a discussion began, during which each person fleshed out the concept, expressed disagreements, pointed out problems, and offered other ways to approach the topic. As soon as the debate finished, no matter how many meetings were needed to finish it, the collective brought together the central themes of all the meetings and shaped the main axes around which the communiqué would be written. The writing of a communiqué on a specific topic was usually shared out among those who wanted the responsibility, and after it was written, we got together to read it and make corrections, additions, and final touches. If the communiqué was connected to a separate initiative, then the comrades involved in that separate initiative were responsible for writing it.
The same process held for our Thessaloniki comrades, and when we collaborated as the Athens-Thessaloniki Fire Cells Conspiracy, comrades from both cities coordinated those actions based on principles of mutual aid and comradeship.
3. “Everyone Does Everything”
Of course, we’re well aware of the dangers lurking within each collective project that aspires to call itself antiauthoritarian — the appearance of informal hegemony and the reproduction of corrupt behavior, of which we are enemies. We feel that the purpose of power is to divide. To eliminate the possibility of the emergence of any informal hierarchy within our group, we struck directly at the heart of specialization and roles as soon as they surfaced. We said: “Everyone does everything.” Everyone can learn and devise ways to steal cars and motorcycles, fabricate license plates, forge ID cards and official documents, expropriate goods and money, target-shoot, and use firearms and explosives.
Therefore, it was and continues to be important to us that the means and methods we use for our actions be straightforward and relatively simple to obtain and prepare, allowing them to spread and be used by anyone who decides to move toward the new urban guerrilla warfare. These include gasoline, jerry cans, camping gas canisters, and candles that can easily be obtained at a supermarket, but also improvised timing mechanisms that — after the appropriate “research” in technical manuals and guides available on the Internet, plus a little innovative imagination — anyone is capable of fabricating.
We certainly aren’t forgetting that, while “everyone does everything,” each person also has their own separate abilities and personal inclinations, and it would be a mistake to gloss over those differences. With desire and mutual understanding as our guide, each of us undertook to do what we felt most capable of. For example, if someone was a good driver or a skillful thief, or perhaps had a knack for writing, that didn’t mean their creative abilities would be suppressed in the name of some false collective homogeneity. It was up to each comrade to offer their abilities and methodologies to the other comrades without making a “sacrifice” of their own participation, and it was even better if that happened in the broadest possible way, going beyond the narrow context of the collective and facilitating access by the entirety of the antiauthoritarian current — for example, through the publication of practical guides like those released by some German comrades, which contain a number of different ways to make explosive devices.
Additionally, our actions never involved fixed, immutable roles. Without resorting to the cyclical rotation of tasks, which recall compulsory work hours, all the comrades took advantage of a common foundation that allowed them to be able to execute any task at any time during an attack. The process of improving your ability to use materials and techniques is naturally a continual process of self-education. Along those lines, we want to emphasize how crucial it is to simultaneously develop a group’s operational capacity as well as its revolutionary viewpoint. At no point should the level of sterile operational capacity intensify without a corresponding intensification of thought and discourse, and the same obviously holds true for the converse. We had no central committee to designate roles. There were only particular tasks within a specific plan — positions that changed according to the desires of the comrades who took part.
4. Guerrillas for Life
We’ve always felt that an organization doesn’t necessarily have to be exclusive to the comrades who are part of it. Our action neither begins nor ends within the context of the group. The group is the means to revolution, not an end in itself. Because when the means become their own raison d’être, “diseases” begin to appear, like vanguardism, the armed party, and exclusive orthodox truth.
Through the Fire Cells Conspiracy, we say what we believe in, who we are, and what tendency we represent, but in no way do we say that someone has to precisely follow some so-called correct line or participate in our group in order to be recognized as a comrade.
Thus, we ourselves have also taken part in processes apart from the Conspiracy, like joining coordinated action networks, attending assemblies, participating in marches and demonstrations, supporting attacks and acts of sabotage, putting up posters, and painting slogans. But we never thought one thing was superior to another. That’s because the polymorphism of revolutionary war consists of an open and permanent commitment that has nothing to do with fetishized spectacle (embracing armed struggle as the only thing that matters) or accusatory fixations (insisting on the quantitative characteristic of “massiveness” as the criterion for revolutionary authenticity). On the contrary, we position ourselves as enemies directly against the “polymorphism” of café gossip, speeches in university auditoriums, leadership roles, followers, and all those conservative fossils of dogmatism and habit that act as parasites within the anarchist milieu, wanting only to control young comrades, sabotage them, and prevent them from creating their own autonomous evolutionary path through the revolutionary process.
We believe that the concept of the anarchist urban guerrilla isn’t a separate identity one assumes only while engaging in armed attack. Rather, we feel it’s a matter of merging each person’s private and public life in the context of total liberation. We aren’t anarchists only when we throw a Molotov at a riot police van, carry out expropriations, or plant an explosive device. We’re also anarchists when we talk to our friends, take care of our comrades, have fun, and fall in love.
We aren’t enlisted soldiers whose duty is revolution. We are guerrillas of pleasure who view the connection between rebellion and life as a prerequisite for taking action. We don’t believe in any “correct line” to follow. During the past two years, for example, new urban guerrilla groups frequently posed the issue of robberies and expropriations from the banking machinery as yet another attack on the system. Their communiqués and claims of responsibility are powerful propaganda for the rejection of work via holdups and robberies directed at the belly of the capitalist beast — the banks — with the goal being individual liberation from the eight-hour blackmail of wage-slavery on the one hand, and collective appropriation of and direct access to money for infrastructural needs and revolutionary projects on the other.
We are exiting the scene of urban guerrilla warfare’s past ethical fixations, which rarely took a public position on the issue of revolutionary bank robbery. We feel that there is now plenty of new urban guerrilla discourse and practice that opposes — in a clearly attacking way — the bosses’ work ethic as well as the predatory banking machinery, proposing armed expropriation as a liberatory act, and obviously not as a way to get rich.
Nevertheless, we don’t consider the expropriation of banks to be a prerequisite for someone’s participation in the new guerrilla war. There is one revolution, but there are thousands of ways in which one can take revolutionary action. Other comrades might choose to carry out collective expropriations from the temples of consumerism (supermarkets, shopping malls) in order to individually recover what’s been “stolen” and use those things to meet each person’s material needs, thereby avoiding having to say “good morning” to a boss or take orders from some superior. Still others might participate in grassroots unions, keeping their conscience honed — like a sharp knife — for the war that finally abolishes every form of work that enriches the bosses while impoverishing our dignity.
We feel the same way about voluntarily “disappearing” to go underground. The fetishization of illegalism doesn’t inspire us. We want everyone to act in accordance with their needs and desires. Each choice naturally has its own qualities and virtues as well as its disadvantages. It’s true that when a group voluntarily chooses to go underground (“disappearance” from the environment of family and friends, false papers, etc.), that certainly shields them from the eyes of the enemy. But at the same time, their social connection to the wider radical milieu is cut, and to a certain point they lose a sense of interaction. Of course, the same doesn’t apply when there are objective reasons for going underground (arrest warrants, a price on one’s head), in which case clandestinity is the attacking refuge of those caught in the crosshairs of the law. This creates a parallel need for the existence of support infrastructure, both among guerrilla groups themselves as well as within the wider antiauthoritarian milieu, that will “cover” the tracks of wanted comrades. Prerequisites would be a certain complicity and discretion, which concepts are frequently seen as “outdated” but in our opinion should once again be launched piercingly into battle. If comrades from a guerrilla group engage in regular above-ground interaction — participating in movement meetings and processes, taking part in debates, and creating projects with others that address shared concerns — then the hermetic nature of the guerrilla group should clearly be protected from open ears and big mouths. Therefore, it’s general attitude also must be one of discretion in order to circumvent the deafening exaggerations that can turn it into a “magnet” for bastards from antiterrorist squads and the police. Taking a page from our own self-critique, we must mention the fact that many of us behaved completely opposite to the above, which — along with the viciousness of certain conduct originating within the anarchist milieu — “guided” a number of police operations right to us. In any case, self-critique lays down solid ground from which to develop oneself and offer explanations, but the current text isn’t appropriate for that. We’ll return to it in the future.
5. The First Phase of the Conspiracy and the Proposal for the “New Conspiracy”
The guerrilla has finally escaped the pages of books dealing with decades past and taken to the streets with ferocity. Because the urban guerrilla doesn’t offer utopian freedom. She allows access to immediate freedom. Accordingly, each person begins to define herself and liberate herself from society’s passivity.
There is now noise everywhere — the marvelous noise of widespread destruction — as well as the requisite revolutionary discourse to follow bombings against targets that serve domination. A determined armada of anarchist groups is setting fire to tranquility in the middle of the night, groups with names that reflect the “menu” they offer the system (in Athens: Deviant Behavior for the Spread of Revolutionary Terrorism, Warriors from the Abyss/Terrorist Complicity, Revolutionary Conscience Combatants, Lambros Fountas Guerrilla Formation; in Thessaloniki: Chaos Warriors, Attacking Solidarity Cell, Arson Attack Cell, Schemers for Nighttime Disorder, Fire to the Borders Cell, Combative Conscience Cell, Revolutionary Solidarity Cell, etc.). Many of these groups are also experimenting with a new international liberatory project as accomplices in the alliance known as the International Revolutionary Front/Informal Anarchist Federation.
Those of us who have taken responsibility as members of the Fire Cells Conspiracy are not intimidated by the dozens of years in prison the courts have in store for us. To begin with, we are creating an active collective inside prison.
We know that, for us, the opening phase of the struggle has been completed. However, we also know that nothing is over. The Conspiracy will not remain disarmed. It will continue to be a valid commitment in prison, as well as an open proposal to the antagonistic sector of the metropolis.
The Fire Cells Conspiracy proved itself as a network of cells, just like its name suggests. Right now, we’re not attempting to go over its operational record. We simply want to clarify its political perspective.
We feel that committing to a new Conspiracy most closely approaches the essence of the word, so we are opening up that possibility by making a proposal for a new Conspiracy comprising a diffuse, invisible network of cells that have no reason to meet in person, yet through their actions and discourse recognize one another as comrades in the same political crime: the subversion of Law and Order. This Conspiracy would consist of individuals and cells that take action, whether autonomous or coordinated (through call-outs and communiqués), without needing to agree on every single position and specific reference point (e.g., nihilism, individualism). Instead, they would connect on the basis of mutual aid focused on three key points.
The first point we are proposing in this informal debate is agreement on the choice of direct action using any means capable of damaging enemy infrastructure. Without any hierarchization of methods of violence, comrades can choose from rocks to Kalashnikovs. However, direct action on its own is just another entry on the police blotter, so it should be accompanied by a corresponding communiqué from the given cell or individual claiming responsibility and explaining the reasons behind the attack, thus spreading revolutionary discourse. The pen and the pistol are made from the same metal. Here, let’s note that the Conspiracy of the period that is now over never dismissed any incendiary method in its arsenal. It would be disingenuous of us if some young comrade thought that using the name of a new “Conspiracy” was conditioned by the use of supposedly superior methods (e.g., explosives). The new urban guerrilla warfare depends much less on operational methods than it does on our decision to attack power.
The second key point of agreement is to wage war against the state while simultaneously engaging in a pointed critique of society. Since we are revolutionary anarchists, we don’t just talk about the misfortune caused by power and the ruling oligarchy. We also exercise a more comprehensive critique of the way in which the oppressed accept and propagate the promises of happiness and consumerism offered by their bosses.
The fact that we engage in struggle against the state doesn’t mean we blind ourselves to the diffuse complex of power that administers contemporary interpersonal relationships. Antiauthoritarian discourse frequently alters and generalizes a concept like the state, relieving the rest of the people who constitute society of their responsibility. In doing so, it creates a sterilized viewpoint that treats entire social sectors as revolutionary subjects, whether called proletariat or oppressed, without revealing the individual responsibility each one of us assumes in the enslavement of our lives.
The state is not a fortress. You won’t find any door that leads you to some kind of machine or engine that can be turned off by throwing a switch. The state is not a monster you can kill with a stake through the heart. It’s something quite different. We could compare it to a system: a network comprising thousands of machines and switches. This network doesn’t impose itself on society from above. It spreads throughout society from within. It even extends to the sphere of private life, reaching into and touching our emotions at a cellular level. It molds conscience and is molded by it. It connects and unites society, which in turn nourishes and sanctifies it in a continuous exchange of values and standards. In this game, there are no spectators. Each one of us plays an active role. — Costas Pappas, No Going Back
The enemy can be found in every mouth that speaks the language of domination. It is not exclusive to one or another race or social class. It doesn’t just consist of rulers and the whole potbellied suit-and-tie dictatorship. It is also the proletarian who aspires to be a boss, the oppressed whose mouth spits nationalist poison, the immigrant who glorifies life in western civilization but behaves like a little dictator among his own people, the prisoner who rats out others to the guards, every mentality that welcomes power, and every conscience that tolerates it.
We don’t believe in an ideology of victimization in which the state takes all the blame. The great empires weren’t just built on oppression. They were also built on the consent of the applauding masses in the timeless Roman arenas of every dictator. To us, the revolutionary subject is each one who liberates herself from the obligations of the present, questions the dominant order of things, and takes part in the criminal quest for freedom.
As the first phase of the Conspiracy, we have no interest in representing anyone, and we don’t take action in the name of any class or as defenders of “oppressed society.” The subject is us, because each rebel is a revolutionary subject in a revolution that always speaks in the first person to ultimately build a genuine collective “we.”
The third key point of agreement in our proposal regarding the formation of a new Conspiracy is international revolutionary solidarity. In truth, our desire to apply all of ourselves to creating moments of attack on the world order may cost some of us our lives, with many of us winding up in prison. “We” doesn’t refer to the Conspiracy or any other organization. It refers to every insurgent, whether they are part of a guerrilla group or taking action individually on their path to freedom. As the first phase of the Conspiracy, our desire and our proposal to every new cell is that the full force of revolutionary solidarity be expressed — a solidarity that cries out through texts, armed actions, attacks, and sabotage to reach the ears of persecuted and imprisoned comrades, no matter how far away they may be.
The solidarity we’re talking about doesn’t require those showing solidarity to express absolute political identification with the accused. It is simply a shared acknowledgment that we are on the same side of the barricades and that we recognize one another in the struggle, like another knife stuck in power’s gut. We therefore also propose support for the Informal Anarchist Federation/International Revolutionary Front, so that it can function — as demonstrated by the Italian FAI comrades — as an engine of propulsion.
From this point on, any comrade who agrees (obviously without having to identify herself) with these three key points of the informal agreement we are proposing can — if she wants — use the name Fire Cells Conspiracy in connection with the autonomous cell she is part of. Just like the Dutch comrades who, without us knowing one another personally but within the framework of consistency between discourse and practice, attacked the infrastructure of domination (arson and cyber attacks against Rabobank) and claimed responsibility as the Fire Cells Conspiracy (Dutch Cell).
We feel that a network of such cells, devoid of centralized structure, will be capable of far exceeding the limits of individual plans while exploring the real possibilities of revolutionary coordination among autonomous minority structures. These structures — without knowing one another personally — will in turn be able to organize arson and bombing campaigns throughout Greece, but also on an international level, communicating through their claims of responsibility.
Since we live in suspicious times, we should clarify something. Actions claimed using the Fire Cells Conspiracy name that aren’t consistent with any of the points we’ve laid out and don’t take the necessary precautions to prevent “damage” to anything other than the target of the sabotage will definitely arouse our suspicion, given the likelihood that they will have been hatched by the state.
Returning to our proposal, “anonymity” with regard to personal contact will reinforce the closed nature of the autonomous cells, making it more difficult for the police to “compromise” them. Even the arrest of one entire cell that forms part of the new Conspiracy wouldn’t lead the persecuting authorities to the other cells, thereby avoiding the well-known domino effects that took place in our time.
In the past, the fact that that we first-phase comrades may not have been involved in certain incidents never stopped us from publicly expressing our support or our critique, and the same applies to the present if new comrades choose to use the organization’s name. Without needing to know one another, through the communiqués that accompany attacks we can begin an open debate on reflections and problems that, even if viewed through different lenses, are certainly focused on the same direction: revolution.
Consequently, we first-phase comrades are now assuming responsibility for the discourse we generate inside prison by signing as the Fire Cells Conspiracy, followed by our names.
The new “Conspiracy” will maintain and safeguard its customary independence, writing its own history of struggle. This significant continuation will surely connect the dots on the map of rebellion, sweeping them toward the final destination of revolution.
6. The Epilogue Has Yet to Be Written
Through our actions, we are propagating a revolution that touches us directly, while also contributing to the destruction of this bourgeois society. The goal is not just to tear down the idols of power, but to completely overturn current ideas about material pleasure and the hopes behind it.
We know our quest connects us to many other people around the world, and via this pamphlet we want to send them our warmest regards: the Fire Cells Conspiracy in the Netherlands; the FAI in Italy; the Práxedis G. Guerrero Autonomous Cells for Immediate Revolution and the ELF/ALF in Mexico; the ELF in Russia; the anarchists in Bristol, Argentina, and Turkey; the Autonome Gruppen in Germany; the September 8 Vengeance Commando in Chile; the comrades in Switzerland, Poland, Spain, and London; and everyone we’ve left out, wherever the rejection of this world is in bloom.
This text has no epilogue, because praxis will always continue to nourish and transform itself. We’re just making a quick stop, concluding with a few words someone once said:
It’s an astonishing moment when the attack on the world order is set in motion. Even at the very beginning — which was almost imperceptible — we already knew that very soon, no matter what happened, nothing would be the same as before. It’s a charge that starts slowly, quickens its pace, passes the point of no return, and irrevocably detonates what once seemed impregnable — so solid and protected, yet nevertheless destined to fall, demolished by strife and disorder... On this path of ours, many were killed or arrested, and some are still in enemy hands. Others strayed from the battle or were wounded, never to appear again. Still others lacked courage and retreated. But I must say that our group never wavered, even when it had to face the very heart of destruction.
— Fire Cells Conspiracy: Gerasimos Tsakalos, Olga Economidou, Haris Hatzimichelakis, Christos Tsakalos, Giorgos Nikolopoulos, Michalis Nikolopoulos, Damiano Bolano, Panayiotis Argyrou, Giorgos Polydoras
Translators’ Note: Costas Pappas was a beloved anarchist comrade who died in a traffic accident four years ago. A selection of his writings was released posthumously as a pamphlet entitled “No Going Back”.
Conspiracy of Cells of Fire. The Sun Still Rises. 2011. Retrieved from The Anarchist Library.