Workers Hammer No. 221
Golden Dawn fascists feed on economic crisis
Capitalists bleed Greek working class
Down with the European Union!
For a workers Europe!
The following article is from a leaflet by our comrades of the Trotskyist Group of Greece. It was written as an introduction to “Greek elections: Hollow victory for EU” (see Workers Hammer no 219, Summer 2012). The leaflet was distributed at events marking the anniversary of the 17 November 1973 suppression of the Polytechnic student uprising by the military dictatorship, which fell the following year. It is reprinted from Workers Vanguard no 1013, 23 November 2012.
Coming off last June’s election, the government alliance of New Democracy, PASOK [the bourgeois Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement] and the Democratic Left have worked to deliver a further €13.5 billion [£10.92 billion] in barbarous austerity cuts to the Greek capitalists and the imperialist overlords of the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The latter demand the most savage deprivation of the workers and oppressed as the price for so-called “financial aid”, that is, money to keep the bloodsucking international bankers afloat and rescue the Greek bourgeoisie from a default. Not content with slashing even more billions from healthcare, education, pensions and salaries, the imperialist rulers demand that Greece carry out “labour reform”. This reform is so vicious that even a toady to the capitalists like Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis said it would “demolish what is left of workers’ rights”.
Official unemployment has soared to 25 per cent for the population as a whole, and to over 50 per cent for young people. Almost 60 per cent of the unemployed are women. Another 25,000 jobs are slated to be slashed from the public sector within the next year. Meanwhile, the Greek bourgeoisie has driven down labour costs in Greece nearly twelve per cent in the last year alone while inflation continues to rise. The Troika [the EU, European Central Bank and IMF] demands that the national labour agreement apply only to unionised workers so that the bourgeoisie can starve the most vulnerable workers and further divide and weaken the labour movement.
In addition to the desperate conditions facing the working class, a section of Greece’s large petty bourgeoisie faces ruin, especially small store owners and family businesses. One in four stores around the country have closed in the last year and in Athens 42 per cent have gone out of business. The all-round social crisis is also reflected in a public healthcare system nearing collapse, with regular shortages of medicine and basic supplies. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed people have been left with no healthcare whatsoever. As an Athens cancer doctor quoted in the New York Times (24 October) put it: “In Greece right now, to be unemployed means death.”
In response to the ever worsening conditions of life for workers and their families, there have been many protest strikes in different sectors so far this autumn, along with several one and two-day general strikes called by the GSEE and ADEDY union federations. Large protests during German chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Athens last month made a mockery of the government’s attempt to ban demonstrations. Despite these displays of working-class anger and militancy, the imperialists and their domestic lackeys in the Greek bourgeoisie are determined to use the financial crisis to turn back the clock and destroy the few remaining gains workers have won from their struggles against unbridled exploitation.
Nazi worshippers feed on capitalist reaction
In opposition to a restive working class, the capitalists are willing to enlist not only the repressive forces of the capitalist state — the cops and the courts — but also the shock troops of national chauvinist reaction, such as Golden Dawn. With anger at the governing parties growing every day, the latest polls show increased support for both the [leftist] Syriza coalition and the fascist Golden Dawn, who are ominously coming third. The disintegration of Greek society is fuelling a deep political polarisation. The atmosphere of heightened state repression against immigrants, leftists and workers combined with the lack of a revolutionary leadership to lead the working class out of this impasse is the context for the growth of fascist reaction.
The rapid rise of the Nazi-loving Golden Dawn is not an aberration — the capitalists hold the fascists in reserve because they are a useful weapon against the workers in times of instability. Indeed, the Greek bourgeoisie has a long history of great savagery against the working class, resorting to right-wing terror, bonapartist dictatorships and military rule to smash the workers movement. Golden Dawn is the latest incarnation of this Greek tradition. In a country where hundreds of thousands perished under Nazi occupation during World War II, Golden Dawn occasionally denies its Nazi inspiration and makes a show of handing out food parcels to impoverished Greeks and “protecting” elderly residents from crimes supposedly committed by immigrants. But their Hitler salutes and Nazi-inspired insignia and slogans are unmistakable. Their electoral success in June and growing popularity since have emboldened these racist terrorists, who regularly carry out bloody rampages against immigrants and their defenders.
Contrary to the hypocritical pronouncements by the government against Golden Dawn, these fascist marauders are taking their cue directly from the Greek capitalist state, which has rounded up over 16,000 immigrants just since August. The government is completing a fence along the Turkish border to keep out immigrants, many of them desperate refugees from the hells created by the imperialists in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya. Golden Dawn goes one further by proposing to plant land mines along the border. The capitalists and their Golden Dawn minions try to deflect the blame onto immigrants for the crisis that the capitalists themselves have brought upon the masses. In opposition to this, the workers movement must fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants! No deportations!
It is no surprise that an estimated 50 to 60 per cent of police sympathise politically with Golden Dawn given that repressing leftists and terrorising immigrants are an essential part of police work. A vivid example of this was the police torture of 40 anti-fascist activists arrested on 30 September and 1 October, as publicised by the Guardian. The first 15 of these activists were arrested after courageously defending immigrants against Golden Dawn scum in the streets of Athens, while the other 25 were arrested for protesting in their comrades’ defence. One of the activists interviewed by the Guardian explained: “They spat on me and said we would die like our grandfathers in the civil war.” We, the Trotskyist Group of Greece, demand that all charges against the anti-fascist activists be dropped immediately! The Minister of Public Order threatened to sue the Guardian, and two television reporters, Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi, were summarily suspended because they had the courage to hint that the minister could not pursue his threat because the reports of police torture were credible.
Among the defenders of immigrant rights in the sights of Golden Dawn is lawyer Yianna Kourtovik, whom Golden Dawn attacked with eggs and beat up on 25 September outside the Agios Panteleimon police station as the police, not surprisingly, looked on. Well known for her defence of leftists and immigrants, Kourtovik has been taunted on the street by policemen chanting “Blood! Honour! Golden Dawn!” It is hardly a secret that the cops and the courts collude with the fascists — the press reports that residents complaining to the police about immigrants in their neighbourhood are directed to Golden Dawn to take care of matters.
KKE: touching faith in the capitalist state
The TGG stands against the deadly illusion, spread by the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and other groups on the left, in the capitalist state and its police forces. In a 7 September article in Rizospastis, the KKE reports as positive its participation in a demonstration by the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Police Employees, quoting the statement of KKE leading cadre Spiros Halvatzis to the cops:
“We believe that the working people of the security forces should not allow themselves to be used as the long arm of the bourgeois state to smash the working-class, trade-union movement. What is needed is unity, rallying, common action with the rest of the workers.”
This grotesque appeal for unity with the police is the polar opposite of a Marxist understanding of the state. As Bolshevik leader VI Lenin explained in his key work, The State and Revolution, the capitalist state is “the ‘special coercive force’ for the suppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie”. Lenin explained that this state power “consists of special bodies of armed men having prisons, etc, at their command”. In other words, the security forces of the state exist for the very purpose of smashing the working class and the unions when they pose a threat to the capitalist class. Appealing to the cops to stop being the guard dogs of capital is nothing more nor less than pleading for the peaceful and democratic reform of the dictatorship of capital. In doing so, the KKE tops foster the lie that the capitalist state can be made to serve the interests of the working class.
At the same demonstration, a KKE trade unionist, Ilias Stamelos, said: “PAME [KKE trade-union formation], with its presence, wishes to express its solidarity with the just demands of those in uniform, the majority of whom live on poverty wages.” Far from shedding any tears over the “poverty” of those whose job it is to attack workers and the oppressed, the TGG calls for: All cops, prison and security guards out of the unions! As Leon Trotsky wrote: “The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker” (What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat, 27 January 1932). While the KKE leadership has no problem standing in solidarity with the fascist-infested Greek police in their demands for better pay, it outrageously smears anarchist protesters as allies of the fascists: “Let’s not forget that these kinds of fascist forces acted jointly with para-state, hooded anarcho-autonomes” (Rizospastis, 16 October).
Deadly threat to immigrants, gays, workers
Golden Dawn has lately joined forces with reactionaries of the Greek Orthodox church, a central pillar of the capitalist order in Greece which fuels all-sided social reaction and national chauvinism, in particular against Turkey and Muslims, in order to tie the exploited to the Greek bourgeoisie. In Athens on 11 October, Golden Dawn members and a religious rabble wielding icons and crucifixes terrorised patrons and performers of a play depicting Jesus and the apostles as gay men. A journalist was brutally assaulted by Golden Dawn members shouting antigay and racist epithets in full view of the police. Lately, there have been a number of attacks on gay men. It is in the interests of the working class to defend gay people against this poisonous reaction, as we wrote in “The Founding of the Trotskyist Group of Greece” (November 2004):
“A Trotskyist group must be a Leninist ‘tribune of the people.’ And for Greece, where the ultra-reactionary Orthodox church has enormous influence, the oppression of women is extreme. The Greek ‘holy trinity’ of ‘homeland-religion-family’ which the capitalist state promotes is strongly connected with the national and the woman questions. A central issue for Trotskyists must be the fight for the liberation of women through socialist revolution and opposition to women’s oppression. We fight for full democratic rights for homosexuals, in opposition to the male-chauvinist, homophobic Greek society and the Greek left. We are for the separation of church and state.”
Our call for the separation of church and state is underscored by the recent arrest of a man from the island of Evia on charges of blasphemy. Due to a protest in parliament by a Golden Dawn MP, this man faces charges that can result in up to two years in prison for the “crime” of satirising a famous monk as Elder Pastitsios [a pun on a popular pasta dish] on Facebook!
For workers united-front mobilisations against the fascists!
While Golden Dawn currently aim their attacks primarily against immigrants, gays and leftists, their ultimate purpose is to crush the organisations of the working class in order to save the capitalists, as Mussolini’s forces did in Italy in the 1920s and Hitler’s in Germany in the 1930s. Having led the October Revolution alongside Lenin in 1917, Leon Trotsky sought to bring the lessons of that struggle to the German proletariat in the early 1930s as they faced the rise of the Nazis. In What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat, Trotsky explained the social roots of fascism:
“Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie, and bands of the declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat; all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy....
“The gist of fascism and its task consist in a complete suppression of all workers’ organizations and the prevention of their revival. In a developed capitalist society this goal cannot be achieved by police methods alone. There is only one method for it, and that is directly opposing the pressure of the proletariat — the moment it weakens — by the pressure of the desperate masses of the petty bourgeoisie.”
Trotsky consistently warned that the reformist misleaders of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and of the Stalinist Communist Party (KPD) downplayed the danger represented by the fascist menace and urged the KPD to initiate mass united-front actions jointly with SPD workers to defend the workers and the oppressed against the Nazi stormtroopers and to destroy them while they were still small.
Central to the fight against fascism then and today is an understanding of the centrality of the working class. As Trotsky pointed out in 1931:
“The main army of fascism still consists of the petty bourgeoisie and the new middle class.... On the scales of election statistics, a thousand fascist votes weigh as much as a thousand Communist votes. But on the scales of the revolutionary struggle, a thousand workers in one big factory represent a force a hundred times greater than a thousand petty officials, clerks, their wives, and their mothers-in-law.”
— “Germany, the Key to the International Situation”
The recent brutal abuse of anti-fascist protesters by the Athens police underscores that the strategy of small groups of leftists mobilising to defend immigrants against fascists, while courageous, is not an effective means of destroying the Golden Dawn menace.
The violent racist attacks on immigrants and others by mobs of Golden Dawn fascists pose the urgent need to mobilise contingents of workers, based on the trade unions, to defend immigrants and sweep the fascist vermin off the streets. What is necessary is to fight to remove the political obstacles to mobilising the power of the trade unions against Golden Dawn. The KKE has the social weight in the trade unions to take the lead in doing this, but its promotion of illusions in bourgeois democracy and its nationalist populism are barriers. The reformist organisations that compose groups such as Antarsya also reinforce the political obstacles, in particular by tailing the pro-EU Syriza coalition, which promises to provide immigrants more “humane” conditions of imprisonment and to put more cops on the streets to fight “crime”. While groups in Antarsya may claim to be against the EU (or for Greece to get out of the EU), their preference for a “left” capitalist government headed by Syriza and aspirations to pressure such a government show how hollow their anti-EU posture is. In an interview with International Viewpoint (June 2012), Dimitris Hilaris of the OKDE-Spartakos (part of the Antarsya coalition) stated: “Syriza has been able to provide a credible solution to the situation, through the slogan of a left government” (“Toward a Government that Will Break with the Troika?”). Given that the EU is responsible for driving down the conditions of life in Greece and fuelling the growth of the fascists, you can’t lead a struggle against fascism without trenchant opposition to the capitalist EU.
The leadership of the KKE has lately argued that a front against fascism is not needed and that Golden Dawn merely needs to be “exposed”. In a speech to the European Communist Meeting in Brussels on 1-2 October, KKE general secretary Aleka Papariga acknowledged that Golden Dawn is developing along the lines of the “hit squads of the Hitler period” and that cells of the security forces of the capitalist state work with them. However:
“It cannot be dealt with on the basis of an anti-fascist front or a front against violence in general whatever its source, because such a stance will lead to an attack on the movement itself. Golden Dawn must be dealt with by the organised movement itself, in the workplaces, the sectors, in the popular organisations, by exposing its role as a supporter of the system, and dealing with the criminal offences they commit with their murderous attacks which they name as taking the law into their own hands.”
What the KKE means by “dealing with the criminal offences they commit with their murderous attacks” is to rely on the capitalist state to prosecute them. An example was the demand by PAME leaders on the Minister of Public Order, Nikos Dendias: “We call on you to take measures for stricter control for the safety and protection of all citizens, Greek and immigrant” (Rizospastis, 18 July 2012). In fact, the biggest danger of “an attack on the movement itself ” comes from believing in the democratic pretensions of the capitalist state, which is exactly what the KKE misleaders do when they beg the minister to send forces of repression to “defend” immigrants. Mass proletarian united-front mobilisations against the fascists are the only way to ensure that the fascists cannot continue to grow and attack the organised workers movement.
Because it is capitalism that gives birth to the scourge of fascism, the struggle against forces like Golden Dawn must be linked to the fight for the overthrow of capitalist rule in Greece and internationally. Indeed, the working class can only win the ruined petty bourgeoisie to its side and away from the fascists by fighting for a socialist solution to the capitalist crisis. It must fight to combat mass unemployment by demanding the sharing of available work, with no loss of pay, and a massive programme of public works. To stop the decline in living conditions, workers must demand that wages be indexed to inflation. To unmask the exploitation, robbery and fraud of the industrialists and bankers, workers should demand that the capitalists open their (real) books. The proletariat must fight for the expropriation of the productive property of the capitalist class as a whole and the establishment of a planned economy under workers rule, where production would be based on social need, not profit. This struggle must extend from the countries most severely ravaged by the crisis in Europe so far like Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain and from the superexploited proletarian masses of neocolonial countries like South Africa and India, to the imperialist powers like the US, Germany and Japan, where workers are also under the gun.
The capitalist European Union serves to pit workers of different countries against each other. In opposition to the national chauvinism whipped up by this capitalist crisis, we understand that the fight for international socialist revolution and a Socialist United States of Europe is key to leading the Greek working class out of its desperate situation. As Trotsky noted in 1930, “the slogan of the proletarian unification of Europe is...a very important weapon in the struggle against the abomination of fascist chauvinism” (The Turn in the Communist International and the Situation in Germany, 26 September 1930).