(Author: Kevin Ovenden, 20/4/2016)
Today marks one year since the start of the trial of Golden Dawn. The process will last at least to the end of 2016. The stakes are extremely high. The latest figures on racially motivated murders and assaults (and, for the first time, similar figures for homophobic hate crime are now collated) show a continued fall compared with two, three and four years ago.
That is despite the increase in the number of immigrants in Greece, the economic hardship and political bitterness wrought by the Syriza-ANEL government implementing the Third Memorandum, and the EU-Greek anti-refugee measures, which have provided a material base for any anti-migrant sentiment.
There is no correlation in Greece between either the numbers of immigrants or level of unemployment and the number of violent racist attacks.
In the vast majority of cases, violent racist attacks are planned. People have to do the planning. There is an active political agency between the social and economic statistics of, on the one hand, numbers of migrants and unemployed, and on the other, the number of immigrants or anti-racists murdered or hospitalised.
That mediation provides the rationale for the construction of a militant and mass anti-fascist force which can break the murderous fascist agency. It is also why it is wholly wrong and fatalistic to hear what is now a mainstream journalistic commonplace that the crisis creates the far right or that the only alternative to the EU and its governments is coming from the right.
This is also the prediction offered by Yanis Varoufakis and co-thinkers. He said the same last year. He and other ministers of the Syriza government told EU leaders and officials that if there were no leeway granted the government then the beneficiaries of the resultant crisis would be Golden Dawn. As Varoufakis put it in an interview in August 2015:
I don’t believe that the time of depression is a revolutionary time. The only people who benefit are the Nazis, the racists, the bigots, the misanthropes.”
There was no compromise by the Troika. Syriza capitulated. But at the subsequent election – and in the six months since – Golden Dawn has not been able to capitalise. It is not true that the “only people who benefit are the Nazis” from the crisis of governments and institutions of the centre.
No one is complacent, least of all the anti-fascist movement in Greece. But we should be very wary of predications coming now from the same quarters who got it so very wrong a year ago.
One reason why they were so wrong is that they wrote out of any analysis the subjectivity of both the fascist and the anti-fascist forces, and also the impact of the movement on disrupting the key support mechanism for the far right within parts of the state apparatus.
The state and the far right
Two weeks ago the MAT riot police in Piraeus provided a fresh illustration of the relationship between the repressive state and the fascists of Golden Dawn. They coordinated with a fascist squad – led by Lagos, one of the MPs and defendants in the ongoing trial – to attack an anti-fascist rally at the port. The anti-racist movement defended itself from the attack and has defied police bans on further protests in the area.
The lawyers of the Jail Golden Dawn initiative, who have looked through many thousands of pages of evidence of scores of fascist crimes, were able to link some of the fascists to previous attacks, and also to demonstrate police indifference or possible collusion on the day.
A second case has at the same time helped to throw renewed light on the state/fascist nexus. Five years ago there was nothing short of a pogrom in the centre of Athens. For a couple of days in May 2011 there was open violence on the run-down streets just south of Omonoia Square.
Anyone who “looked foreign” risked being beaten. Golden Dawn leaders – including Kasidiaris – and cadres were at the centre of the organised attacks. But the state prosecutor never pressed charges against the perpetrators with the danger that they would run out of time.
In a further case, a week ago, it became clear that the authorities had somehow “lost the file” of evidence of a Golden Dawn attack on a social centre called “Synergio”. Anti-fascist lawyers were able to locate copies of the missing file (from the archived bundle of the overall trial of Golden Dawn as a criminal conspiracy) and resubmit them, forcing the judicial authorities to press ahead with the next stage of the long delayed prosecution.
As the lawyers point out, while this file (and others) have “gone missing” the state has never managed to lose a single one of the files of the vexatious cases ranging from defamation to false allegations of assault brought by the fascists against the left and the anti-racist movement. Not one.
The Piraeus attack and the near collapse due to statute of limitation of the prosecution arising from 2011 underscore a key truth: the collusion between parts of the Greek state and Golden Dawn did not end with the fall of the Samaras government or with the beginnings of the prosecution of the fascists in September 2013.
The ongoing collusion settles any outstanding confusion about what brought about the shift by the Samaras government in the wake of the murder of Pavlos Fyssas from backchannel political collaboration with the fascists to – after a delay of over a week (in which vital evidence might have been collected) – authorising their prosecution.
The three cases this month demonstrate that what happened in September 2013 was not some metamorphosis of the Greek state into an anti-fascist force. Instead, the enormous eruption of the anti-fascist movement in 2013 threatened to destroy an already enfeebled government. In the atmosphere of acute political crisis, it was forced to turn to prosecuting the fascists.
There were dozens of dusty files which the state had been sitting on for years. The movement forced the prosecution.
But the moment the sense of crisis has lessened, then arms of the state have again obfuscated, delayed and returned to the practice of tolerance for the fascists. The trial of Golden Dawn has been in abeyance for three months due to the lawyers’ strike. In that hiatus not only have the fascists sought to regain initiative, so have elements of the state also sought to bury the prosecution of the 2011 attacks.
A huge amount is at stake in the trial and in the anti-fascist mobilisations over the coming months, which will provide the critical backdrop for the three judges’ deliberations. The outcome will determine the immediate evolution of the fascist threat in Greece and of the state’s relationship to it.
That evolution is not foreordained. It will depend on the outcome of the struggle. And the primary struggle is not between the centre and the far right, between the state and the fascists. It is of the working class and the left not only against the fascists, but against the state and the government also.