Right wing organisations in Greece organised a large nationalist demonstration in the capital Athens on Sunday.
They were protesting against the right of the Republic of Macedonia, which is to the north of Greece, to use the name Macedonia. It shares the name with a neighbouring region in Greece.
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has been trying to settle the question as a condition for Macedonia joining the European Union (EU) and Nato.
On the face of it the rally was over a ridiculous issue—two countries having a dispute over a name.
But there are two factors to keep in mind. Greece is a member of the EU and Nato.
It is putting conditions for the Republic of Macedonia to join so Greek capitalism can gain influence in the region.
The other factor is internal politics in Greece. The organisers of the rally were figures of the far right, but they had the backing of the Tory New Democracy party.
The Tories have been trying to make a comeback, but they don’t have much chance by focusing on economic issues.
So now New Democracy is using the nationalist card. The right claim that Macedonia wants to use the name to claim part of northern Greece.
This is nonsense. The military balance between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia is overwhelmingly in favour of Greece. So the idea that it might attack Greece is out of the question.
But the rally was partly an attempt to get left-leaning people who are angry with the Syriza government to join the nationalist rally.
That hasn’t worked. The aim was to bring together one million people on the march, but the reality was closer to 140,000. That may seem big, but the rally didn’t draw a broader audience beyond the forces that the right can mobilise.
We say two things in the face of this. One is that Macedonia can choose whatever name it likes.
We are opposed to the EU and Nato, but it’s up to the people of Macedonia to decide that.
Second, the nationalist campaign gives cover to the Nazis. The Nazi Golden Dawn appeared on the rally.
The Tories gave them that opportunity—they couldn’t appear at a mass rally in any other way.
Syriza came to office through the collapse of the traditional parties. So the danger that the far right will use this campaign to grow is real.
But on the other hand the fightback against austerity measures imposed by the EU and implemented by Syriza has come from the left. People have gone on strike against them.
There is a danger that the nationalist campaign will deflect that, but we are confident that we can fight them back.
‘We’ll be demanding the government grants asylum to all the refugees’
Anti-racists and anti-fascists in Greece are mobilising for protests on 17 March—the UN’s international anti-racism day.
There will be demonstrations in Athens and eight other cities—so it’s a national event.
These are now even more important because the nationalist demonstrations have given space to the far right and Nazi Golden Dawn.
Golden Dawn leaders are on trial for murder. They should be in jail, not taking part in mass rallies outside the Greek parliament.
The demonstrations on 17 March will give an opportunity for people to show they won’t leave any room for the Nazis to benefit from the nationalist campaign. The anti-fascist Keerfa coalition organised protests and pickets in the run-up to the nationalist demonstration on Sunday. They have helped to build for 17 March.
For instance, in the run-up to the nationalist rally a fascist group painted a swastika on a memorial for people who fought against the Nazis in the Second World War.
So Keerfa organised a local demo. But we’re not just campaigning against the threat of the far right. Linked to this is the question of the refugees.
This is very important in Greece because there are so many people who are trapped in the Greek islands. So the other aspect of 17 March is opposing the racist agreement between the EU and Turkey that blocks refugees in the Aegean Sea.
We’ll be demanding that the agreement between the EU and Turkey is scrapped and that the refugees who are trapped on the Greek islands are granted asylum.