Greece: Fight against fascism and austerity

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

Large protests at the brutal murder of anti-fascist hip hop musician Pavlos Fyssas in Athens on 18 September by a member of the fascist Golden Dawn party has forced the Greek state to take action against the organisation. Its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, an MP, has been arrested on charges of forming a criminal organisation. Five more Golden Dawn MPs, a party leader in an Athens suburb and 12 other people have also been arrested.

There have been widespread revelations about collusion between Golden Dawn and the police: one of those arrested was a policeman who was acting as a bodyguard for the fascists. Five heads of police divisions covering special forces, internal security, organised crime, firearms and explosives, and rapid response have been suspended. Regional police commanders in central and southern Greece have resigned following disclosure of their forces’ failure to arrest Golden Dawn members involved in attacks on immigrants and protesters. Army special forces have been involved in training Golden Dawn hit squads. Others who have left the organisation have spoken about its military structures and police co-operation.

A week before Fyssas’s murder, Golden Dawn supporters had attacked and hospitalised members of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), including the local head of the Metalworkers Union, Sotiris Poulikoyiannis. This violence was pre-planned and publicly threatened by Golden Dawn MPs during a visit to a ship repair yard in Perama, in the Athens port of Piraeus, in August. ‘The abscess that exists here is causing all the problems ... PAME will come to an end’. PAME is the KKE’s union federation. That fascists could threaten union members without opposition in a working class area which has for decades been the stronghold of the KKE demonstrated their confidence in the days before Fyssas’s death.

Fascism feeds off capitalist crisis

Golden Dawn has made significant progress in the area. While the KKE’s vote fell from 12.5% in municipal elections in 2009 to 6.57% in the general election of June 2012, Golden Dawn’s vote rose from 0.54% to 11.49% over the same period. The fascists have profited from the social fear and despair that the capitalist crisis has created. Perama ship repair yard no longer employs 3,000 workers, instead 500 workers compete for casual day work. ‘We are with the shipowners. We depend on them’, the fascists declared when they invaded the shipyard. Golden Dawn is indeed with the shipowners. It is these millionaires who provide the cash for the fascist gangs.

It has been the sharp dislocation of security and living standards created by the economic crisis that has enabled Golden Dawn to expand. Perama’s fate is a direct product of the ruthless privatisation programme of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – the Troika. In 2012, the terms of Greece’s second bailout included a demand that ?19bn be raised through the privatisation of national assets by 2015. This target is not on course to be met. The Troika loan due at the end of September was under threat as EU officials detected a weakness in winding up state support for failing national firms. Emails directed the Greek government to ‘insist on liquidating the enterprises and dismissing the employees without compensation’. A new law was passed to allow redundancies to be made by ministerial decree, bypassing any parliamentary scrutiny. This despite the fact that redundancies are energetically supervised by Public Administration Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a financial ghoul brought in from the international asset strippers McKinsey Consultants.

Still, targets have to be met and now the European Stability Mechanism has come up with the ultimate bank robbery short of actually occupying and looting the country. Luxembourg is proposed as the administrative and financial base for transacting the sale of Greek national assets to private investors. Ports, railways, mines, state-owned buildings and land are all under the hammer. Prime Minister Samaras’s recent visit to the US included a closed meeting with money men desperate to take advantage of cheap fixed capital and workers who have in some cases seen wages slashed by 60%. The callous brutality of capitalism was expressed by Stelios Stavridis: ‘It’s the free market competition?someone wins, someone loses’. Stavridis was until recently in charge of the whole privatisation programme – until he was caught accepting hospitality on board the private jet of millionaire shipping magnate and oil tycoon Dimitris Melissanidis.

Golden Dawn attacks immigrant communities

Just before this recent wave of fascist violence, the trial began in an Athens court of anti-fascists who had called for militant mobilisation after Golden Dawn attacked immigrant communities in May 2009. Savas Michael-Matsas of the Revolutionary Workers Party faced charges of defamation and incitement to violence – charges brought by Golden Dawn itself. This was facilitated by the fascists’ many supporters amongst the police and in the judicial system.

From the onset of the economic crisis the fascists targeted the poorest, most vulnerable sections of the working class. Organised racist violence erupted on Greek streets with vicious beatings and murders of immigrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers. The police stood by, or joined in, then rounded up thousands of people in state-sponsored operations such as Operation Xenios Zeus and dumped them in disgusting detention camps. It was the immigrants themselves and anarchists and youth outside traditional organisations who attempted to counter the terror and build anti-fascist resistance rather than the organised left and trade unions.

For anti-fascist organisation now – an injury to one is an injury to all!

The demand to organise against fascism has even more urgency and significance now. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the radical opposition party Syriza, called for Golden Dawn to be confronted ‘within the law, not outside it’: this would leave the working class disarmed and defenceless given the degree of state collaboration with fascist hit squads. FRFI has argued that the failure of the left and the unions up until now to seriously take up the defence of immigrant workers meant that the fascists would be emboldened and able to attack wider sections of the working class. As a commentator stated after the Perama attacks, ‘They are no longer only targeting immigrants in the middle of the night.’

It was while Greek workers demonstrated and took strike action against redundancies and austerity that they learned of the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. Shouting ‘Fight the Golden Dawn killers!’ they marched spontaneously on the fascists’ offices across many cities. Across Greece tens of thousands have marched in dozens of cities and towns. This must be the starting point of solid opposition to fascism and austerity.

Michael MacGregor


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