The fascist threat in Greece is not the bunch of daft wannabe hardmen that you get in Scotland, but a serious threat with parliamentary representation and violent street thuggery. While its elected representatives punch Communist MPs on live television; issue death threats to politicians of other parties, and pull guns on civilians in the street, all without legal consequences from a police force which operates as a quasi-military occupying force, its knuckledragging supporters imitate the police demanding papers from anyone who they believe to be non-Greek, sometimes ripping them up, sometimes taking the details and later coming back to violently harass. Fascism is an infestation and one which cannot be fed.
This evening, the fascist MP, Christos Pappas, was due to give a speech in the Peristeri area of Athens. Now it has to be said, that the speeches given by fascist MPs dont tend to be of the most intellectual persuasion, for example the carefully crafted argument of Ilias Panayiotaros, another Golden Dawn MP, against the staging of a play last week consisted of
You little cunt, wrap it up. Did you get that? Wrap it up you little faggots. You “sticking-it-in-the-ass”, fuckers, actors my ass. Yes, just keep staring at me, you little hooker. Your time is up. Film, go ahead and film. You are fucked by the Pakistanis. You fucking Albanian assholes, yeah, you fucking Albanian assholes.
Not one of the most detailed theatre reviews that I have ever seen, nor one of the most comprehensive statements of political ideology in a time of severe crisis, but there is tangible anger in Greece, and that anger is looking for a channel. The “blame the other” ideology of the Dawn is attracting a layer of angry people who want to find a scapegoat for the suffering that they are facing – and when the IMF, the banks, the government, the EU and the whole capitalist system seems too remote and big to effectively challenge, the scapegoating presented by the Golden Dawn and openly encouraged by mainstream politicians becomes a seductive prospect.
An antifa response was called to challenge Pappas, with posters up all over Athens advertising the event. With my Greek still limited to “Hello, how are you”, finding out the basic information of the event proved a challenge. Eventually getting to the right neighbourhood, lost wandering was getting us nowhere, and we stopped to ask an elderly woman at a busstop. As she didnt speak English, our request was met with a blank stare until we pointed at the poster and a beaming smile was the response as she pointed us in the right direction urging us on.
Arriving at the rally point, we found a soundsystem and several hundred people milling. On talking to another of the demonstrators, it turned out that Pappas had bottled it after the antifa call had been put out – withdrawing from the event. We asked if he thought it likely that he or the Dawn would show up, and he suggested that it was unlikely given our numbers, but that things were unpredictable and sometimes the Dawn would arrange counter demonstrations in response to antifa calls, as with everything in Athens, it was best not to predict the unpredictable.
By the time the march started there were between 500 and 700 people – although most were young, there was a good smattering of older antifa activists. The determination not to allow a platform for fascists was tangible as a noisy and very visible demo ensued. In places people lined the streets to support the demonstration, and people on balconies above watched and cheered as it passed.
There is no question that fascism is a significant threat in Greece, but at the same time, there is also a very active, visible and determined antifa movement which commands significant support from within neighbourhoods which are fear it. Many of those cheering us on, and indeed the woman who enthusiastically pointed us in the direction of the rally point were elderly. Many will remember the Junta, and possibly even the Nazi occupation of Greece. They have seen fascism and never want to see its return. From the young men and women listening to the punk music blasting from loudspeakers at the rally point, to the elderly citizens supporting the activists from balconies there is a recognition that fascism and its poisonous ideology cannot be tolerated.
No members of the Golden Dawn, elected or not, did in fact show up. Probably for the best. As the demonstration chanted “Fascists are scum, we will hang them from the lamposts” (this sounds so much better in Greek, btw), it is unlikely that they would have been received with tea and cake.