Vaggelis and Polys are two comrades sentenced in 23 years each, accused for offering shelter to the escapee bank robber Vassilis Palaiokostas, and participating in the kidnapping of the northern Greece industrialists’ president, G. Mylonas, for ransom. More on this case: General information. Vassilis’ letter to the media. An update of the comrades’ trial. Some flyers and posters from Vaggelis’ friends.
To begin with, I deny all accusations against me. I have nothing to do with any of them: abduction, extortion, criminal association, attempted murder, robberies. I will refer to my acquaintance with Vassilis Palaiokostas, if you let me say a few things.
So at last, it’s time to state who I really am and what I have done. Surely everyone is influenced by the media scum, denigrating my personality and offensing my family. I was labeled as a notorious thief, with a passion for money, a wealthy client of casinos and bouzoukia, while I have never laid my foot in such places. All that is known about me, is nothing I have ever said or done. Speculation dysanalogous to both reality and my ethos.
Of course, noone would speak of my real and unpleasant years of labour, working in a furniture factory since I was 14, having 2500 work-stamps), nor about the brutal every day life of such a life of work, not as a hobby of course, but only because I had no other way to make some money to buy even the very necessary things to be “socially approved”. Noone works for fun, even you I imagine, do not come here every morning to make prisoners out of people, but to make some money! Work though, comes with an issue of being the boss, the worker, the state official etc, to enjoy a more comfortable and relaxed everyday life. When it comes to me, being a worker, I’m obliged to sell my energy day by day to the boss, to be able to buy the basics and maybe a couple of beers, to keep me going to work every other day… to sell again, and buy again, from production to consumption, and there it goes… Our whole everyday life, all our life revolves around work: Since we can remember ourselves, going to school, to become good students to go after a rewarding carrier (nevermind the years lost in school-studies-homework-private preparative classes), to being a pensioneer, guaranteed by a pay-check, merely waiting to die with a full stomach. From 6am I wake up to go to work, to the afternoon I’ll go off to see my friends to try to find how the 8 hours passed, to the evening I ‘ll be back home to sleep early, in order to be able to wake up again for work the next day…
So, speaking with the friends, what I see is that not all workers care for a more dignified daily life, and may not even take some time to think on that, resting back on a robotic life: Leaving work, checking their kids school grades, washing the car, watching a move, and again from square one. Mold for that and so exhausted by work, they start to lack even the slightest amount of time for a few thoughts. Me for instance, it took me 8 years to move to another job, while I was aware of the risks, I had lost one tip of my finger, having suffered a dual disc herniation, rendering me unable to bend my waist for 6 months, being on medical treatment, that’s the same time some of the activities you accuse me of, happened. And after I saw my collegue, Spyros, with his brains spilled on the floor! I fell on my knees, I couldn’t stand it anymore… Now, most of the employees didn’t care if they were paid less than the basic salary, they don’t even have the courage to stand up for it. They don’t say no to working overtime, saying their no to unemployment, while in that same time they have just covered the work an unemployed worker could do, while they’re all leaving under the threat of being fired. So, they won’t even ask for some days off, insurance, safety measures!
I have seen all these, I have lived them and fought individually -unfortunatelly- against them, after my collegues indifference. When, for example, I suggested not to do any overtime work, until our boss gives us a raise, they regarded it as irrational, unproductive, something that will turn against us. But when I got my salary raised, with this tactic, they, instead of doing the same thing, confronted me with dislike, for not asking a raise for them too! This is part of a typical petit-bourgeois logic: let the others fight for me, I have a family to raise… The only time they actually congratulated me, was when I spoke about the lack of safety measures after our collegue’s death! And then again, trade-union leaders, former presidents of the wood industry syndicate, would take the bosses side, declaring that it was a “bad luck”!!! An accident waiting to happen: to die on work. Working to live… These last years we were aware that the syndicalists consider it’s necessary for us to sell our lives in exchange of survival, and having them to bargain on the price. We were aware that they use the trade unions as means to enter the main politics scene, and in the same time to infuse the party hierarchies among the workers. We were aware that the syndicalists never confront the capital and the bosses, so as not to give the “working class” some time to rest(?), since that might endanger their whole reason d’etre, and their livelihood. We were n’t aware though, that they consider it as merely bad luck to die on work! 14-25 tousands of deaths per year, 2 millions of handicapped, and 20-25 millions of injured, either from falls or explosions in the capitalist temples they construct, or slowly rotting of diseases, caused by the long exposure to harmful substances. Without counting all those ending up as alcoholics or suiciding after an economic collapse… All these are nothing but fatalities, bad luck, according to our syndicalists…
We can see here that work is not connected to a social good, but its pure aim solely the money. The only relation a worker can have with his work, is his salary, while the only relation a boss has with the same work, is the profit such a business brings. For me life is simply up to money, for other the “liberation” of business, for others laziness. The thing is that every boss puts normally “profits over people”, giving all priority to the production and leaving aside any workers rights. If some supposedly humain feelings would call them upon keeping some pretexts, they would give a basic salary of 1200 euros, as it is in the EU. They could even hire every willing man, to drop unemployment to 0, under a 4-5 hour working day… But when their workers are willing to strive for 10-12 hours a day, they have no reason to hire new stuff, because something like that is simply not in their interest, because they don;t care if you can handle it or if you ‘re exhausted to death. They ‘ll give you 650 a month, and they don’t care how you deal with it, if its enough for rent, food, or if you want to go on a trip to relax. From the moment money is unevenly split, it signifies dominion, power. As long as there is money, there is never going to be enough for all. And for some to gather enough to satisfy them, they have to exploit even the last moment of our strength. By the bell we start work, by the bell we have our break, by the bell we start again, by the bell we leave work. Time is money, and if we ‘re a little late, it’s the red card for us! They have historically replaced worker’s hands with a machine, because it’s cheaper, better, most of all faster. You can carry them to distant countries, with nearly free labor, since unemployment is flourishing. I ‘m not depressed when I’m unemployed, I have all the time in the world to enjoy my days, it saddens me that I have no money. When I work I got money but not time… That’s how the capitalist system works: you ‘re thrown in the mould, exhausted, murdered, while the rich get richer and the poor poorer! 8-10 hours a day, 40 hours a week, 300 days a year, 10.500 work-stamps, 65 years of age for minimum retirement limit, 650 euros per month… it can be mathematically defined as terrorism!
Thus, aware of all mentioned above, as a worker with consciousness and the desire to live before I die, I left this hard work and the struggles I gave in it and its salary, that was much larger than what I made as a graphic designer -my second job, without the risk of physical damage or fatal accidents, a more relaxed lifestyle, without having to use my car to go to work and lose my patience every 10 metres, with a better stamina in sex, with the hands not that damaged from all the scrapping and the cold, with cleaner clothes, and at last, without the need to wake up every morning brutally on 6 o’ clock. What’s important for me is time, time for recreation, for healing of my back… And these only after sacrificing the largest salary I earned at the factory. But we said: people over profits… Naturally, this job also has its negative side, as every one of them: increased myopia because of the computer for instance. Work and jow do not come together. If there was any joy in work, then we wouldn’t long for the time we get off. If there was any joy in work, the bosses would keep it for themselves.
Generally, it would by nice if there was no work, wage slavery, since as long as there is work, there will be some kind of slaves (like in the ancient Greece for example). On the one hand, speaking of the abolition of work is a long way to making it real, on the other though, speaking of a negation of work and sticking in solidarity to persons that strive for it, feels like a duty to me. Since I have some understanding of the everyday routine of work, it seems unimaginable not to negate it, or not to struggle to change it! Vassilis Palaiokostas has negated work ever since he tasted its goods, and he makes it through by robbing banks, always opposed to any form of exploitation, with dignity and respect to the human life, with a true passion for freedom. I hope it’s not necessary to get into the role of banks as lawful usury etc, to inquire who is the one using criminaly violence… the one who robes it, or the one who opens it? I don’t fetishize Vassilis Palaiokostas underground life in illegality, since for me it is a very limited kind of freedom, though the fact that the public opinion is scandalously in favor of him, is something to consider. It is worth mentioning that even a cop would prefer him than any kiosk robber, willing to kill for 200 euros, than any mugger, any drug dealer, or any crook… Under this context they told me in the police station that they hoped Palaiokostas was behind mr. Mylonas’ kidnapping, because thay did quite a few stupid things, that they hoped it was him, since he is a man that knows what he wants, and will have it without any casualties. That’s exactly what they said! And inspite of all these, they use criminalization as a means to isolate individuals they consider as a threat. An isolation that one way or another dominates on any sector of social life, rendering the struggle against isolation and for solidarity one of my basic aims! (we really need weapons and solidarity is a powerful weapon!) Moreover, I am an too emotional a person to ignore a human with such a freedom loving character. To my consciousness, not being in solidarity with him, I would erase myself both socially and as an individual. I wouldn’t be true to myself.
Even now, incarcerated for my choise, I understand that even what I did was not “right”, it was definitely human. Because, keeping people living in prisons, is nothing but human. The threats, the humiliations and the torture in prison, the unsanitary health conditions (toilets, cold baths, sleeping on the floor with 2 square meters per person, lack of heat, food that even the cats wont eat), all these under the pretext of “correction”! Furthermore, our punishment is not merely the deprival of freedom.. Besides, their inability to preserve the same penal code they impose is typical: drug dealing controlled by the prison authorities (since drug prices being 1000% than Omonoia square prices render it a very profitable enterprise). Also, lack of rehabilitation programs, of doctors and medication, all these constitute only some of the causes for our 377 prisoners found dead, during the last decade. Not to mention the deprival of intercourse with our partner -a biological need- which is the last blow of our isolation, after the dissolution of our families. So, I used to be joy, but now I’m sadness, I used to be logic but now I’m mad, I used to be a human, but now I’m a monster… this transformation is the last point of this isolation! 4 out of 5 ex-cons return to prison, with heaviest yet charges, before even their parole is over. Why? Because the bars have enslaved our minds and our thoughts, our hearts, our feelings. This is how it goes… from the reign of sadness to embrace death.
And now, trying to survive in this modern hell, with exercise, reading, some correspondance and work, what I try not to perish is my spontaneous character, my smile. A smile they made a big deal during my arrestation, something that didn’t fit into the persona manifactured by the mass media devoted enemies of truth, talking of cruel and maniac criminals… And since this collapsed, they turned to a rhetory of insensitiveness, as if we’re animals and don’t feel what’s going on around us… But, what could we do? All we tried was to give a bit of courage to parents and friends, a smile that doesn’t cost a thing, a smile that is wealth to whoever receives it, without making any other poorer. It lasts only for a moment, but its memory for ever. It’s something you can’t sell or buy, you can’t demand or steal, you can only give it as a present. And if someone is to tired to give one away, then I give them mine.
And one last thing, I would like to read a poem:
I have not loved the world, nor the world me;
I have not flattered its rank breath, nor bowed
To its idolatries a patient knee, –
Nor coined my cheek to smiles, nor cried aloud
In worship of an echo; in the crowd
They could not deem me one of such; I stood
Among them, but not of them; in a shroud
Of thoughts which were not their thoughts, and still could,
Had I not filed my mind, which thus itself subdued.
(Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron, CXIII)