Dimitris Troaditis. “Anarchosyndicalist ideas and action in Constantinople”
On 25 July 1910 a revolutionary labor’s bi-monthly newspaper by the name Ergatis (The Worker) was released, having as a front page banner and motto “Turkish workers unite!” in Constantinople (Istanbul) in Turkey. In the editorial group -founded a year before (1909)- Stefanos Papadopoulos, Zacharias Vezestenis, Nikos Yiannios and V. Kountouris were participating. A group consisted my mostly Greeks (2/3 of the participants), while Turks, Armenians and others were not excluded. During September of the same year the newspaper became the vehicle of expression of a broader organisation with the name Socialist Centre of Turkey in which a union of printers led by Z. Vezestenis as well as a teachers’ union (including Ch. Theodoridi, S. Yannakakis, Iordanidis, Iosif Raftopoulos, Afroditi Ikentzoglu and Ipatya Adamantidou) was participating.
However, during December of 1910, the Young Turks power, with the pretext of an article criticising them and against the Ottoman government written by N. Yiannios and published in Ergatis, members of the editorial group were arrested, while the newspaper and Socialist Centre were banned. Members of the editorial group such as V. Kountouris were imprisoned, while N. Yiannios deported to Greece (according to some historians, he escaped when the prosecution process was initiated).
Despite the continuous prosecutions against him, Zacharias Vezestenis kept his political activities ongoing, renaming Socialist Centre of Turkey to Group of Social Studies. Later on he contributed in the formation of the Diethnis Panergatiki Enosi (International All-Workers’ Union), in which Greek and Jewish citizens mainly took part.
Diethnis Panergatiki Enosi was a pure syndicalist organisation, while the majority of its members were adherent to anarchosyndicalist or revolutionary syndicalist ideas and way of organising. From the very start, the organisation made fraternal bonds with the Industrial World Workers (IWW) in USA, obtaining printed propaganda material and information which were translated and issued in the newspaper of the organisation Eleftheros Anthropos (Free Man) on behalf of Z. Vezestenis. Furthermore, Vezestenis was keeping contact and sending reports to French anarchist and working class newspapers such as Le Temps Nouveaux (New Times) and Bataille Syndicaliste (Syndicalist Battle). Vezestenis also wrote and a booklet entitled “I.W.W- Labor. Targets, Organization and Program” published in Constantinople in 1920.
As Kostas Sklavos mentions in Nasos Bratsos’s book “Labor Stories”, Diethnis Panergatiki Enosi was an anarchosyndicalist organisation very well-organised, with internal function, meetings and debates in between its members etc. He himself was a member of it in the year 1920, before moved to Greece and play a role in Greece’s trotskyist organisations.
However, is still unknown to us today when, how and why this organisation was dismantled. According to some information, significant figures of Greek leftist movement towards end of 1910, such as Serafim Maximos, had a short membership of this organisation. But it is known that prominent Greek anarchist of the period, Stavros Kouhtsoglous, has collaboratio with this organisation.
Anarchist ideas were widespread as well into the circles of the Armenian community of Constantinople. The Armenian community was counting approximately 100.000 citizens in Constantinople, while in Salonica we notice that their numbers were only a few hundred. The anarchists in their majority were parts of the leftist wing of Social-democratic Armenian Party (Hinjak), which was founded in 1885 in Geneva, issuing a newspaper with the same name. We have to note here that during the period 1893-1894 the aforementioned newspaper was issued in Athens.
*Based on an article translated in English and posted by efes_dark in https://istanbulizein.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/αναρχοσυνδικαλιστικές-ιδέες-και-δρά/
**Primary source: http://ngnm.vrahokipos.net/apend04.html?start=5