Direct Action Cells: Greece’s Fourth Generation of Post-Junta Urban Guerrillas
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 20 Issue: 2
On May 15, 2021, a new anarchist organization, that four months earlier had been calling itself the Direct Action Cells (DAC), released a claim taking responsibility for multiple arson attacks across Athens and Thessaloniki. Of the twenty attacks included in the claim, all but four targeted active or retired high-ranking Hellenic police officials, government property, or in one case Hellenic Armed Forces residences adjacent to a NATO base at the Greek border with North Macedonia. The claim further proposed the establishment of a leaderless, “network of revolutionary violence,” comprised of anarchist militants throughout Greece with international aspirations of forming a broader network of individuals and cells of urban guerrillas. 
The DAC’s attacks have involved Molotov cocktails and a unique improvised incendiary device (IID) constructed from butane gas canisters (The WannabeWonk Newsletter, November 11, 2021). Their stated aim is to destabilize and ultimately overthrow the existing capitalist order. However, their more immediate goal, and the original reason for forming the DAC, is to increase the organized anarchist military capability relative to that of previous urban guerrilla organizations versus the post-1974 Junta Greek state. They also stated that they want to make the anarchist movement in Greece once again, “politically dangerous,” for the established order. 
A New Network of Urban Guerrillas Emerges on Greece’s Streets
Since the fall of Greece’s military dictatorship in 1974, there has been a sustained lineage of urban guerrilla groups operating in the country. The first generation of these guerrillas was ideologically Marxist-Leninist, and possessed impressive military and clandestine capabilities (CIA profile on Richard S. Welch, Publication Date Unknown). Consecutive generations have been influenced by various forms of anarchism, with the third generation breaking from leftism altogether and embracing an anti-civilizational, post-left “anarcho-nihilist” worldview.
The current fourth generation, to which the DAC belongs, leans back towards left-libertarianism, apparently in an attempt to unite a broader network of anarchist and hard-left militants. Their Public Proposal to establish a, “network of revolutionary violence,” describes the concept of the DAC as an, “anti-capitalist-anarchist movement” (The WannabeWonk Newsletter, May 20, 2021).  The DAC’s formation coincided with the 2021 hunger strike of the imprisoned point-man of the Revolutionary Organization “17 November” (17N), Dimitris Koufodinas. 17N was the infamous terrorist group for which the first generation of post-Junta urban guerrillas remains well-known.
The DAC’s first claim of responsibility in May 2021 cited the Koufodinas hunger strike as the motivation for its initial cluster of incendiary attacks, which targeted a tax office, an economic think-tank, the home of a government official, and a police patrol vehicle.  The DAC’s subsequent communiques continued to locate Koufodinas’ hunger strike at the center of their own struggle with the ruling New Democracy (ND) party. Implementation of the ND’s policy to crack down on anarchists in Greece included an aggressive campaign of squat evictions across the country, a new law on the possession of Molotov cocktails leading to prison sentences, and the reintroduction of police to Greek university campuses for the first time since the 1973 Polytechnic Uprising (Ekathimerini, November 11, 2021; Greek Reporter, November 17, 2021). The DAC’s attacks and accompanying communiques have cited these policies as motivation.
Network, Targets and Methods
The DAC’s sixth and most important communique is the Public Proposal, in which they claim twenty attacks across Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as consolidate smaller anarchist cells that existed prior to its publication (The WannabeWonk Newsletter, May 20, 2021). Though they have yet to achieve their international aspirations of broadening their network, DAC cells in Greece have been active in the mainland cities of Athens, Thessaloniki, and Volos. The Thessaloniki cell, the Organization of Anarchist Action (OAA), was particularly active throughout 2021, but it began claiming attacks as early as April 2018.  After aligning itself with the DAC, the OAA began stepping up attacks against former and active high-ranking members of the Hellenic Police, releasing the names and addresses of 21 police officers last summer and declaring a war on the police in December 2021 (The WannabeWonk Newsletter, July 17, 2021; The WannabeWonk Newsletter, December 6, 2021). The OAA briefly diverted from this campaign to attack the home of an alleged drug dealer, who lived close to the childhood home of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which is now the Turkish consulate and in a neighborhood with a heavy 24-hour police presence. 
In terms of target-selection, most of the DAC’s attacks have focused on the police, corporate property, government property, and those politically connected to ND. Attacks targeting the homes and property of police have commonly included those of Brigadiers and Lieutenants Generals. More recently, the DAC carried out a Molotov raid against a police substation in Zografou, Athens (The WannabeWonk Newsletter, November 11, 2021).
However, none of the DAC’s attacks have been lethal, and most have been either in word alone or true motivation reaction to ongoing government policies, as with the decision to deny Dimitris Koufodinas a prison transfer. Other attacks have drawn upon older grievances, such as the August 2021 ΑΓΕΤ power plant attack in Volos (Twitter.com/@Potempkinbrain, August 30, 2021). A group of anarchists calling themselves the, “Vassilis Mangos Cell,” detonated an IID constructed from four jerry cans full of gasoline on an exterior structure of the power plant. The attack was in solidarity with a young environmental activist who died a month after being beaten and detained by police in 2020 while protesting a rubbish-burning scheme at the plant (YouTube.com/Perseus999, July 13, 2020).
All DAC attacks have either employed the use of Molotov cocktails or the placement of one or multiple IIDs. These are most-often constructed from butane gas canisters, which when properly detonated result in significant structural damage to buildings and property, and lead to secondary-fires. Such attacks have expanded in target selection to include corporate property, as well as the Athens home of a well-known Greek journalist and TV personality (The WannabeWonk Newsletter, July 12, 2021; The WannabeWonk Newsletter, July 28, 2021).
It is worth mentioning that the DAC’s frequency of attacks appears to be outpacing those of the predecessor generation, such as the Conspiracy Cells of Fire (CCF). However, the DAC has until now revealed a downgraded military capability, which has not expanded beyond the use of their late-night IID attacks. CCF, for example, quickly graduated from such attacks to a parcel bombing campaign that targeted heads of European states, as well as armed robbery and the use of sophisticated bombings from 2009 until 2020, if one includes the escapades of CCF member and multiple escapee, Yannis Michailidis (alias “The Syntagma Archer”) (Proto Thema, January 30, 2021). Also unlike CCF, the DAC seems to have successfully built the substrate of its revolutionary network—at least at home. Attacks from affiliated groups are claimed monthly, often in batches, and many of the cells claiming the attacks are enduring.
The DAC are inheriting a withered but nonetheless strong tradition of anti-authoritarian militancy in Greece. An ongoing string of high-profile arrests and counter-terror operations leading to large seizures of small arms and explosive materials are indicators of the eroding landscape, which has until recently been remarkably permissible for guerrilla activity (The WannabeWonk Newsletter, August 9, 2021; ekathimerini, March 19, 2021; ekathimerini, September 13, 2020; Twitter.com/@war_noir, September 25, 2020).
Nevertheless, the grievances between the government and the extra-parliamentary left in Greece are mounting. Key points of brewing conflict include the reintroduction of police to university campuses, the evictions of squatters, heavy-handed policing, and the construction of a metro station in the center of the Exarcheia neighborhood, which has long been an anti-authoritarian enclave in Athens (The WannabeWonk Newsletter, November 11, 2021; The National herald, February 19, 2021).
Greece’s enduring vulnerability to another exogenous shock, such as it experienced in 2009 when global financial markets tumbled into chaos, opens it up to another period of possible mass-mobilization on the streets. When normal life in Greece is again upended, there will be no shortage of militant and organized discontent. Having thus far suffered no losses to arrests or otherwise, the DAC is positioned to remain at the forefront of these militants.
 “Direct Action Cells: Report and Public Proposal for the Establishment of a Network of Revolutionary Violence—Report on the first cycle of incendiary propaganda and call for mobilization in the Direct Action Cells” [Greek], Direct Action Cells, May 2021.
 “Incendiary Barrage in Solidarity with the Hunger Striker Dimitris Koufodinas,” Direct Action Cells, February 2021.
 “Thessaloniki-Arsons at the Homes of Special Investigator Ant. Varela and the Former President of the Court of Appeals Th. Stavropoulos,” Organization of Anarchist Action, April 2018.
 “Organization Anarchist Action: Either with the Narco-Culture or with the Resistance-There is No Middle Ground,” Organization of Anarchist Action, October 2021.