Thessaloniki, Greece — The self-managed Vio.Me. factory in Greece’s second largest city celebrated ten years of worker occupation at the end of last month. The factory was buzzing with life on April 28, 29, and 30, from the afternoon hours until late at night with thousands of people and many popular musicians coming out to support the workers’ struggle. These festivities come as the factory is under renewed threats with the land where the factory sits being quietly sold in a recent online auction.
“The entire working class must take power into their own hands and create. All this is not an alternative, it is the need to find new solutions and start building new things. But these will be made by the youth, not by us. We just provided the spark, you are the gasoline that will set the universe on fire! Be well!”Makis Anagnostou during Vio.Me.’s 10-year celebration
During a speech, Makis Anagnostou, who has worked at the factory since before the worker occupation took over production, said that the average age of worker at Vio.Me. is 50 but that they’ve only been “breathing” for the last ten years. He said before that, “there was no oxygen, the oxygen is you – who give us the power to breathe and to exist!”
In 2011, management at Greece’s first ceramic tile factory in Thessaloniki stopped paying its workers after the parent company filed for bankruptcy. Workers from the more radical, anarcho-syndicalist unions then helped to build a supportive Solidarity Initiative with local and international community members and in 2013, they decided to occupy a small portion of the factory and seize the means of production.
Since self-managing the factory without bosses, they’ve been producing eco-friendly cleaning products. Several years ago, Unicorn Riot visited the factory and took a tour — see our videos [1, 2, 3] at the bottom of the article.
Squatting the factory has not been an easy task over the last decade, however. The workers have dealt with ongoing threats, state attacks, having their electricity cut off mid-pandemic, and an ongoing auction process whereby the land of the factory has been up for sale. It was this auction process that produced the most recent and viable threat to the workers’ run factory yet — the sale of the property.
Three months ago, the land where the factory sits was sold to Acsion Limited, a South Africa-based company owned by Greek expatriate Kiriakos Anastasiadis. The workers immediately stated they would not leave the factory and have since continued their call for solidarity and support.
On February 11, 2023, a few days after Vio.Me. workers’ announcement of the auction sale, a large solidarity march took place through the center of Thessaloniki.
After the weekend of celebration for the ten years of occupation, the Solidarity Initiative posted via Facebook, a public invitation to participate in the initiative. They call for attendance in their open meetings on Wednesday’s in Thessaloniki and to support Vio.Me. by buying their products. Read the full text, translated from Greek to English, below.
Call for participation in the Solidarity Initiative for VIOME.
“Reconstructing the past does not mean recognizing it ‘the way it really was.’ It means grabbing a memory as it flashes in a moment of danger.” Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” VI
This year marked the tenth full year of occupation and self-management of the VIOME factory by the workers and employees. In the midst of a great moment of danger. And if we have sought to reconstruct this past in recent months, what really shined in the moment of danger was the great participation of people in all the processes: From the Open Solidarity Initiative to the big concert and celebration that sank the plant, the alarm bell for VIOME was answered by society positively and readily. But let’s take things from the beginning…
WHAT IS VIOME? Since the dissolution of Filkeram (parent company of VIOME SA) and the layoffs, the VIOME workers’ union decided not to leave their fate in the hands of the bosses. They took over the factory, started a new production of cleaning products and managed to secure the jobs in the factory. In the conditions of economic crisis and fierce attacks by the state and para-state apparatus the, as we say, recovered, VIOME factory is still here, alive and strong. Despite the land being sold to a speculative for profit fund, having their electricity cut off, being sent to court bailiffs, being threatened and ridiculed by trade union bureaucratic leaderships, having been interpellated in Parliament, VIOME workers and the solidarity movement are still here – to disturb and harass the dominant narrative that says there is NO ALTERNATIVE, and yet there is…
What VIOME IS NOT VIOME is not a company, it has no shareholders, it does not distribute profits. VIOME has not received a single euro of state or European grants. VIOME has no employees, nor does it have any bosses. VIOME is not in debt; both the state and the bosses are in debt to VIOME. VIOME does not have leaderships, hierarchies and fake democracies, it has direct and horizontal democracy. VIOME has no exclusions. It has had and has in its ranks people of all races, gender and religion. It has no fascists or bosses and we believe we can live better without them.
WHAT VIOME WANTS In its own way, it is a lasting and permanent example of a different life. A production that is self-managed by the producers themselves. Where the product and the producers have a direct relationship for this product is natural and ecological. That is why it is also affordable for the social majority. VIOME wants to endure. In spite of the times, VIOME wants to grow, in workers and in solidarity, VIOME wants to multiply – to find the courage and strength to make every workplace a new VIOME. To no longer accept to work in modern labor galleys for the profits of the employers. To fight against them with grassroots unions and unyielding class struggle. With as much stubbornness as the workers at VIOME have had for ten years.
CAN YOU HELP VIOME We want you and we need you by our side. In every way: Either by participating by buying VIOME’s products, or, even more, by supporting and participating through the processes of the OPEN SOLIDARITY INITIATIVE in VIOME’s struggle, which is a horizontal and non-democratic structure. Our processes are parallel and mutually supportive with the Cooperative of the Workers of VIOME and every voice will be heard. Our assemblies take place weekly, every Wednesday, either at the factory or in a free social space in the center of Thessaloniki.
In an era of continuous social war, state murders from the borders to the highways, the labor middle age, racism and fascism, VIOME is our defense and our castle. It is one of the sides of the social struggle that we must defend. It is also a side that we must develop if we and our children are to live in a society without bosses, without exploitation and without fear. We are fighting for the generalization of workers’ and social self-management everywhere. And as an old slogan has said since we started:
VIOME ALONE CANNOT CHANGE EVERYTHING. BUT NOTHING CAN CHANGE IF VIOME REMAINS ALONE.Solidarity Initiative of VIOME
For more from Greece, see our archives.