October 7th marked one year since the historic verdict which sent the leadership and cadres of Nazi Golden Dawn (GD) to jail, and ruled that the entire party is but a criminal organization disguised as a legitimate political party. As written on this webpage, it was “a clear victory for the anti-fascist and anti-racist movement, but the struggle still goes on”. This seems to be correct, as approaching the anniversary it became clear that Greek society is deeply polarized, socially and politically.
The events in Thessaloniki…
Let’s take the facts: September 17th, 8 years after the murder of anti-Nazi rapper Pavlos Fyssas by GD thugs, saw a powerful demonstration in his neighborhood, Keratsini, commemorating Pavlos and all the victims of fascist and racist violence and supporting refugees and immigrants. Anti-racist organizations had already announced various mobilizations to take place between October 7th and 10th in order to celebrate the victory over GD. At the same time, the remnants of the criminal organization, tiny (but armed and dangerous) fractions made an effort to take the streets.
On September 22nd, students leafleting outside the Technical Secondary School in Stavroupoli, a suburb at the west of Thessaloniki ,were brutally attacked by a group of Nazis calling themselves “The Sacred Band”, armed with knives and sticks. An anti-fascist protest called outside the school, one week after this attack, by university associations was met with unprecedented violence by the Nazis, who escalated with Molotov cocktails, sticks and stones. Two students were hurt.
This sparked an anti-fascist outburst across Thessaloniki, as trade unions (including teachers, and food delivery workers), anti-racist organizations and political parties of the left condemned Nazi violence and called for resistance to the menace, both in the schools and in the streets. On the 29th of September, a massive protest was organized at the central square of Stavroupoli, where 4000 protesters denounced the Nazis and defended the students.
This was a critical moment. The Golden Dawn webpage rushed to declare support “to the school students who resist Marxists and communists”. At the same time the Ministry of Education issued a shameful statement, claiming that there is an issue of “extremes” in the schools, which has to be managed and criticizing the teachers as incapable of imposing law and order!
The answer came from the local teachers union (ELME), which denounced the ministry during a press-conference they gave outside the school on October 1st, and announced that the 7th of October would be a day dedicated to anti-Nazi activity in all schools.
The following days saw an effort of the “Sacred Band” to re-locate their focus to the near-by neighborhood of Evosmos, only to find themselves isolated by new anti-fascist demonstrations. Losing the battle of the streets, what they finally did, was to corner a group of Communist Party (KKE) members, who were leafleting in another area (Ilioupoli) the following day and attack them, injuring one of them, before some passers-by noticed and chased them out of the place.
…and in Athens
The same day, Sunday, another tiny group of Nazi thugs, namely “Pro-Patria” attacked KEERFA members (Movement United against Fascism and the Fascist Threat), this time in Athens at the neighborhood of Neo Iraklio, while the latter were preparing a local open meeting on the GD defeat anniversary. The attack was of a military type as well: A gang of fifteen thugs beat 4 KEERFA members, sending 2 of them to hospital, then tried to open a banner with the slogan “Anti-Antifa”(!) and grab the microphone, without success.
Calling for solidarity to the anti-fascists, the neighborhood rushed to show solidarity and stopped them. Police forces showed up 20 minutes later, confessing that they had orders “not to get involved in any fights”. Nevertheless, because of the immediate mobilization, the leader of the gang was arrested a few hours later and brought to court for assault! The meeting finally took place.
Following all these provocations, one can figure that the mobilizations planned on October 7th outside the court and on October 9th in the center of Athens and in several other cities were massive and successful, despite repression by the police. This time it was the riot police who did the dirty work. I was at Saturday’s demo, organized by KEERFA in central Athens and I witnessed unexpected assaults with teargas against activists and refugees who had come with their little children to the demonstration! But they could not stop us from holding the speeches and then marching to Parliament.
Are the Nazis back?
Following the events, it is reasonable to consider that there is a comeback of the Nazis on the Greek political stage. The threat is obvious, as all conditions are still here: Greece is deeply indebted since the austerity (aka stabilization) programs of 2010-15 and, despite payment extensions because of the COVID crisis, it is hard to conceal that the economy is in trouble. Stagflation is here, prices are soaring and the bosses demand more sacrifices.
The government of New Democracy has given everything to the capitalists. For the first time since being elected prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his cabinet, which includes three (not so) redeemed far-right ministers, do not enjoy acceptance in the polls. On the contrary there is open discontent and resistance all over the country; here lies the cause of polarization.
Salaries are stagnating and the unemployment rate is one of the highest in Europe, but Greece is buying “Rafale” airplanes and frigate battleships and playing the racist card against immigrants and refugees. Greek border police, in collaboration with the notorious Frontex, have faced confirmed accusations of kidnapping and pushing refugees back to drown in the Aegean Sea. The government is building new camp-prisons, exclusively for refugees! This is the perfect racist fuel, it has assisted the Nazis in coming out of their isolation and demanding space in the streets and neighborhoods. They want to profit from political crises, nevertheless this is not 2013.
It is vital to see that since the convictions of the leaders of Golden Dawn, and despite the juridical system being soft on them (some have already been out of jail on parole), Nazi groups have been fractured and marginalized. It’s the nationalist and racist policies of the government of New Democracy that help them find supporters in the right wing audience.
Narratives like the “theory of the two extremes” (implying far-right VS far-left) have been engaged by the mainstream media against the anti-fascist movement. So far it has not worked. Trade unions, anti-fascist organizations, left parties, despite their differences have managed to stand in solidarity with each other, defend democracy and stop the menace.
This is no time for complacency, but for intensifying the political struggle against racist politics, prison camps and the policies of the government of New Democracy which pave the way for the Nazis.