Kevin Ovenden reports from the trial of Golden Dawn, the most far-reaching trial of fascist criminal activity in Europe since the Nuremberg process following the Second World War.
Day 97: Trade union witness strikes at centre of the case.
A leading figure in the metal workers union of Piraeus Sotiris Poulikogiannis took the stand in the trial of Golden Dawn today and laid bare the entire case against the Nazi criminal organisation.
He and 20 other Communist activists of the PAME inter-union organisation were attacked in September 2013 by 50 Golden Dawn thugs armed with crowbars, sticks and staves studded with nails.
His description of the attack while they were out putting up posters was powerful enough.
What seized the court, and cut through the jeering of the fascists in the dock and their supporters, however, was his cogent and compelling answer to a set of questions that go to the heart of this trial. It is not just a series of criminal cases. It is a trial to show that Golden Dawn itself is a criminal organisation.
So what was the motive for this attack, asked the president of the court.
He said the attack had been instigated from the core leadership of Golden Dawn. It was anti-left, yes. But it had a particular motivation at that time.
It was aimed at the left-led trade union organisation in the Piraeus docks.
In great detail he explained how the big employers in “The Zone” of shipbuilding and repair in Piraeus had sought to weaken or destroy the position of the trade unions. “We are talking about a single job being worth a million euros,” he said, “Destroying trade union influence has economic sense.”
He went on to explain in full how an informant who had fallen out with Golden Dawn revealed the nature of a meeting at which its leader Michaloliakos, deputy Kasidiaris and local MP in the area, Lagos, had received 300,000 or 400,000 euros for the fascist organisation from the big employers of the dry dock and repair zone of Piraeus.
The fascist defendants and their lawyers tried to create an uproar through a combination of disruption of proceedings and of procedural objection. But the testimony continued. As to why he was attacked, Poulikogiannis told the court:
“Golden Dawn is a criminal organisation because they are Nazis.
“Golden Dawn says that it is the continuation of the defeated army of 1945. Who were the losers of 1945? The Nazis.
“Why criminal organisation? It is inherent in the nature of National-Socialism.”
In response to the deputy district attorney asking what could be the “ideological affinities” between the shipyard employers and Golden Dawn, Poulikogiannis said: “The ideology of National-Socialism favours the boss class, not the population as a whole.”
It may seem odd to have such exchanges in a court of law. It’s certainly unusual. But so overwhelming is the mounting evidence that the court is being compelled to explore questions such as these.
Poulikogiannis’s account of the attack that he and his fellow trade unionists suffered fitted entirely with a pattern of previous assaults over which there are settled court judgements, not ongoing proceedings.
So the court has to explore not whether such attacks took place or even the nature and intent of the violence perpetrated.
It has to consider the deeper motivation and organisation of the crime.
And that is what the trial not only of Golden Dawn directly is about; it is also what the wider process pushed by the anti-fascist movement is about to reveal what the pillars of support, the props and the accomplices are in the Greek business class and its state.
Day 98: Fascist disruptions in court cannot hide it – Golden Dawn is losing heavily
Sotiris Poulikogiannis continued his testimony today despite frequent disruptions to proceedings by the fascists and their lawyers at the trial of Golden Dawn.
Indeed, the uproar from the neonazi organisation was a barometer of the effectiveness of the deposition by the left wing trade unionist who was attacked with two dozen other activists in September 2013.
Crucially, his testimony went to the heart of the overall charge against Golden Dawn that it is a criminal organisation masquerading as a political party and that its serious crimes flow from its National-Socialist, Nazi, character.
The court heard of messages sent between leading Golden Dawn members before, during and after the near fatal assault which indicate a chain of command, and of criminal culpability, going well beyond the immediate perpetrators.
Evidence was also presented by lawyers acting for the civil prosecution of Golden Dawn of a conversation between one of its MPs, Yannis Lagos, and a local cadre discussing whether the latter should absent himself from appearing at a police station to identify Roupakias, the fascist who stabbed Pavlos Fyssas to death.
Golden Dawn had previously claimed that Roupakias was merely a fellow traveller of the organisation about whom they had no information.
The military command structure of Golden Dawn was also presented in evidence both by the witness’s deposition and the introduction as evidence of video and other material showing how the fascists operate rigidly to the Fuehrerprinzip of one man rule from the top.
The court heard how the deputy leader of the fascist criminal organisation visited the tomb of Benito Mussolini to pay homage in 2009.
It is because the trade union leader giving evidence had such a deep knowledge of the case and its politics that his testimony introduced large chunks of the bundle of documentary and video evidence pointing beyond the immediate attack he suffered and to the heart of the case against Golden Dawn as a whole.
That evidence will not be tried fully, however, until a later stage in proceedings, probably not starting until next year.
The deep frustration of the fascists at the turn of events was evident from early morning today. They responded to this blow by scuffling with anti-fascists outside the court this morning, assaulting another inside the court premises and brazenly trying to disrupt proceedings inside the courtroom.
No one was seriously hurt. Their strategy now appears to be one of creating chaos and a strategy of tension physically around the court proceedings.
The anti-fascist and radical left forces are faced with an unusual situation. Their militant and collective mobilisations are needed critically in the coming weeks.
Of course that is, as is well understood, to strengthen the anti-fascist and anti-racist pole in society as a whole. But it has a more specific purpose – outside and inside the Court of Appeal building in Athens.
It is through popular mobilisation to ensure that the process of the state’s administration of justice is not derailed by the fascist provocations.
It is an indictment of the Greek state that it cannot ensure this itself. And it opens up the question of whether powerful forces within it are unwilling to see through this prosecution to its conclusion at all.
But it is a reminder of something which is fast becoming the felt reality in Greece – it is to the forces of the radical left and of the working class movement that all who are serious about the rule of law and the defence of liberal freedoms will need to turn, no matter what their political affinities with the left and workers movement.
That is – so long as they wish to remain faithful to the liberal principles they voice.