(Author: Irini Gaitanou, Analyze Greece, 20/4/2015. This text was translated by Mary Zambetaki).
Monday 20 April is a historic day despite the fact that there is an atmosphere of apprehension, or even silence, in the air. The Golden Dawn trial is in itself a historical trial, one of the few of its kind ever, anywhere. Even so, there is not much of a public debate currently in Greece. Following a very long delay that led to their release from the 18-month pre-trial detention, 69 accused Golden Dawn members will face charges on Monday according to a 1.109-page long case file which documents the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, incidents of physical assault and beatings, illegal possession of arms and activities relating to a criminal organization.
This trial is not just a Greek issue. It is a seminal political issue of our times and this is how we should address it. The anti-fascist movement should set the appropriate tone by providing information, raising publicity, taking action and highlighting the real issues around the trial.
The actual conditions of the trial and the venue itself do not sound promising.
The hearings will take place afar from downtown Athens, in the premises of a prison , in a very small room with just 153 seats for the audience and 128 seats for the legal teams, while journalists will follow the proceedings from another room. This is a deliberate choice, in order to downgrade the trial and strip it from any social and political content.
The inherent danger is that the trial coverage will be reduced on the judicial and institutional aspects.
This in turn poses the even greater risk, of presenting the trial as a mere formality and the fascist phenomenon as a technical issue rather than a political one.
There are two extremely worrying signs as to what to expect. The SYRIZA-ANEL government’s approach aims to downgrading the issue. What is more the extremely controversial tactic by the President of the Greek Parliament, Zoi Constantopoulou, who practically encouraged Golden Dawn’s political legitimisation in parliament. Given that the pre-trial investigation was tenuous, rather lenient and full of gaps, it is likely that the trial proceedings will reduce the case to perpetrating rather than instigating a criminal organization. Obviously whether Golden Dawn defendants are found guilty or not, is extremely important. Equally, their possible acquittal will send an extremely dangerous message. At the end of day their possible acquittal will reflect a political choice which would also require the political blackmail of the antifascist movement.
This is the real reason why the antifascist movement’s “Jail Golden Dawn” initiative claiming for civil action, is so important.
The initiative is supported by a team of legal experts some of whom have worked on specific cases that are now included in Golden Dawn’s case file. What really happens though is that the antifascist movement itself assumes the role of civil action placing the case within a political background. Jail Golden Dawn blog has put together relevant material, information and media reporting on the case; this is an important contribution to publicising the trial and providing independent access to both the casefile and the judicial proceedings. Such initiatives, on their own or coordinated, are pivotal, if not crucial.
The second risk related to the political sterilisation of the trial is the conceptualization of a “democratic front” by the representatives of bourgeois political powers and the complete disassociation of the fascist phenomenon from the bourgeois political system and capitalism. Such an endeavour would imply to trust bourgeois Justice. According to the civil action’s legal experts “we know that prosecution is really a minefield due to prolonged State’s tolerance for neonazi activity, due to certain provisions of the penal code about which there has been strong reaction by the progressive legal community, due to the corrosion of State mechanisms by the gang members.” Golden Dawn is now using institutional means too, but this cannot cover its real role or the links between the fascist phenomenon and the system; on the contrary, it highlights a further duty: to demonstrate the strong systemic character of Golden Dawn.
The third risk is the degrading of court proceedings. It should be clear that in terms of tactics the trial is an important opportunity to attack Golden Dawn – and this is an opportunity not to be missed. The antifascist movement can highlight the enemy’s contradictions ahead of a huge battle. Besides, the legal and judicial process has actually come about under the very pressure exerted by the antifascist movement over all these years, before and after Pavlos Fyssas’ murder.
And this is how the proceedings should continue, i.e. under the constant vigilance of the antifascist movement . The movement should not underestimate the institutional level bearing two things in mind though: first, understanding that nothing ends with the trial, that the trial is just a tactical opportunity but not the field of the final battle. The formation of an effective antifascist movement, individual structures of antifascist struggle, united antifascist grass-root committees and of course their coordination far from “constitutional axis” way of thinking, remains the primary duty. Secondly and most importantly, we ought to contribute to the politicisation of the trial, to bring again in the spotlight Golden Dawn’s action and crimes at a time that Golden Dawn is trying to keep a low profile. We should stage protests strong enough to be felt in the court room and throughout Athens. We have some sort of bad record: i.e. our inefficiency to take action around the attack against Dimitris Koussouris and the recent acquittal of Golden Dawn MP Kassidiaris charged with beating Greek Communist Party MP Liana Kaneli; the antifascist movement was simply absent from these battles.
The Left has got a significant share of responsibility as regards these cases. We still have a long way to go in responding to the fascist phenomenon in Greek society, on all levels; the trial however can be an important milestone on this road. We simply do not have the luxury to let this chance go.