A Nazi MP rises in parliament to call for a military coup, while fascist gangs terrorise migrants in city suburbs. This is the picture in Greece as the fascist Golden Dawn party attempts a resurgence.
For Petros Constantinou—an Athens councillor and coordinator of anti-fascist group Keerfa—the battle against Golden Dawn is “at a crucial point”.
Emboldened by nationalist opposition to the government, the Nazis hope to gain from anger at the failures of the ruling left wing Syriza party.
“They’re trying to put a stop to the radicalisation and turn to the left in Greece by playing the cards of nationalism and racism,” said Petros, pointing to an incendiary speech by Nazi MP Constantinos Barbarousis.
During a debate in parliament Barbarousis called on the military to arrest the leaders of the government over a deal with the government of neighbouring Republic of Macedonia.
Under the deal the Republic will rename itself Northern Macedonia. But the Greek Tory opposition New Democracy has cynically riled up a nationalist campaign against it.
As Panos Garganas—editor of Socialist Worker’s Greek sister newspaper—explained, the Tories hoped to “encourage people to mobilise against the government on a nationalist basis”.
“The main effect it had was to give the far right a chance to come out on the streets.”
Golden Dawn has joined rallies organised by New Democracy against the deal, and Golden Dawn’s fascist squads have stepped up their attacks on migrants and refugees.
Anti-fascists from Keerfa have fought back, with some successes. A mobilisation earlier this month deterred a threatened Nazi attack on a language school for Pakistani children.
Anti-fascists also outnumbered a Golden Dawn march in northern city Thessaloniki—a focus for the nationalist campaign.
A demonstration in September will mark the fifth anniversary of the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas.
It will call for the jailing of key Golden Dawn figures as a long-running trial of 68 of its leading members finally nears an end.
But, said Petros, it’s not enough just to react to the threat of Golden Dawn.
The left also has to challenge the policies against migrants and refugees implemented by Syriza and demanded by the European Union (EU), which are “opening the way for racism”.
As part of a deal with the EU and Turkey, the government has corralled thousands of refugees in overcrowded prison camps to be deported out of Europe.
In a horrifying illustration of the dangerous conditions inside, a small Iraqi child died after falling into a cesspit in a camp near Thebes last week.
Panos said the left also has to challenge the austerity policies implemented by Syriza and demanded by Greece’s EU creditors.
The EU backs the deal because it wants Macedonia to be a new place to imprison migrants, and big business also wants access to Macedonia’s economy. Yet for all the EU’s praise, there’s no end to austerity in sight.
“The attacks continue and people are fighting back,” said Panos. “There have been some important strikes.
“But there is an attempt for all this resistance to austerity to be channelled in a nationalist direction.
“It will be up to the left not to allow this to happen by supporting strikes and arguing at the same time against the nationalist drive.
“It’s not easy, but this is what we have to do.”