Security, nutrition, healthcare and education are fundamentals of a functioning society. As Greece struggles on with the troika imposed austerity, with little end in sight, all of the above are breaking down. Society is become more violent and lawless, hospitals struggle on without access to basic medical supplies, schools have no books and hunger is becoming more and more prevalent. The Greek people are dismayed at the destruction of very fabric of their society, and where there is dismay, there are those who would capitalise on it.
As is widely reported, the Golden Dawn enjoys high support from within the police force. Beatings and stabbings of immigrants in central Athens and across the country are becoming commonplace, while there is little chance of justice from a force where over 50% of the members support the fascist party, and where of the units are entirely fascist infected, and where police officers participate in Dawn led harassment of immigrant market vendors. Routine policing, particularly in areas with high ethic populations is now being outsourced to the Dawn, while they run protection rackets for Greek owned businesses. Other services are also available – if you are a little old Greek lady worried about being robbed on the way back from the bank, a Dawn member can accompany you ; if you are landlord worried about a tenant falling behind on rent, there is the Golden Dawn rent collection service to rely on. As society becomes more violent; as people fear for the future, siding with those with muscle becomes attractive.
In July, the Dawn started operating a market to provide free food packages to those with “Greek Blood”. In August, in Syntagma Square, right in front of the Greek parliament which is gradually starving the Greek people, the Golden Dawn distributed free food – but only to Greeks showing their national identity card. In September, the Dawn distributed food at Agios Pantelemonos, a fascist controlled square in Central Athens, collecting the names and telephone numbers of those showing their Greek ID cards in exchange for basic staples, while non-Greeks were chased away. Exporting its hate, the Golden Dawn have now established food drives in Canada, to be distributed only to Greek Christians.
In July, the Golden Dawn announced a proposal to set up a blood bank which would serve only Greeks, later announcing that blood for Greek citizen use only could be donated at Sotiria Hospital, although the hospital denies that there is any such policy of segregated blood donation. Mobile blood donation centres have also been established in connection with Dawn food distribution programmes, where the blood collected will only be available to Greek citizens. Although medical organisations have been critical of these segregated blood donations, police protection is made available for their delivery.
Prior to the election which saw the party obtain 18 parliamentary seats, it threatened to carry out raids on hospitals and throw immigrants out onto the streets so that Greeks could take their place in a heath system which is creaking under the strain of austerity, as non-emergency hospital treatment in Greece for non-EU nationals now requires police authorisation, this policy is effectively in place. Earlier this month, the Golden Dawn established “Doctors with Borders” , putting out a call for medical professionals to join their programme which would provide healthcare only to Greek citizens.
Education is also becoming a key battleground of the fascists and their poisonous ideology – from nurseries to universities they are making their presence felt. At the same time as they threatened to throw immigrants out of hospitals they also threatened to throw their children out of nurseries, starting to make good their threat by collecting data on non-Greek children registered in schools, supplied by the Ministry of Education.
In Nidri Lefkada, a teacher who allowed Albanian children to draw their own national flag to be hung beside the Greek flags on 28th October, the day on which Greece celebrates the end of Nazi occupation was the subject of a complaint by a parent to the Golden Dawn who took up the case, claiming that the teacher was undermining Greek values. The teacher was transferred to another school. In a separate incident on the same day, an Albanian student who came top of his year was denied the opportunity to carry the Greek flag in the celebratory procession as is traditional. Golden Dawn backed protests of parents was organised stating that “”This flag is stained with the blood of our national heroes who fought to liberate Greece and must not be raised by the hands of a foreigner.” which encouraged a sit in by other students. A compromise deal saw him briefly hold the flag before passing it quickly on to the next-best performing (Greek) student.
As well as a site of conflict, schools are also proving fertile recruitment grounds for the fascists - teens, particularly those from poor families are being identified and recruited, with one teacher noting that they are being offered training in fascist ideology and paramilitary tactics. However they are also being used as a bogeyman, in Neapoli – an area of Athens with a high level of immigration, a headteacher threatened their students with calling in the Golden Dawn to impose discipline if they did not behave appropriately.
These are really worrying developments. In just 6 months, the Golden Dawn has gone from a fringe party which can be dismissed as an irrelevance to become a serious threat to and within civil society. With 18 MPs, and a support base registering at 22% of the electorate, its creep into the very fabric of state institutions is terrifying. Moreover it is also openly and frequently calling for civil war, pre-empting the situation in October it announcing that “Greece is already in a state of civil war“.
Civil war is not unfamiliar to Greece – from the Metaxa occupation in the 30s, the Nazi occupation in the 40s and the Junta of the late 60s and early 70s, totalitarian regimes and resistance to them are an integral part of Greek history. The Junta in particular, is within living memory – a brutal regime which saw 10,000 people – mainly leftists – arrested and 3,500 held in torture centres where they were subject to extensive brutality. The regime was only finally brought to an end in the aftermath of the Polytechnic Uprising, in which twenty-four people were killed, yet in the Greek equivalent of holocaust denial, the Dawn denies that there were any deaths. Forming a mutual appreciation society the last living Colonel of the era, Pattakos, last month chillingly announced that the Golden Dawn were the only people who could do something about the situation in Greece, while the very next week Christos Pappas raised the flag of the Junta’s regime on Crete to applause from party supporters.
In addition to the paramilitary fascist gangs which attack immigrants, gays, and radicals, MPs are openly brandishing weapons and threatening anti-fascist protesters. The rate of gun ownership within Greek population is 0.03%. Among fascist MPs that rises to 45% – with 8 of the 18 holding firearms. In Volos, Panagiotis Illiopoulos – a fascist MP who sports a tattoo bearing the phrase “Seig Heil” - pulled his gun, pointing it at anti-fascist demonstrators, while in Crete another of the party’s MPs instructed the police to move anti-fascist demonstrators away from a venue where a fascist rally was taking place, threatening that if they did not do so, “…you will have dead people by tonight“, while in the venue itself, another of its MPs boasted of their ability to carry guns and of their parliamentary immunity, stating that “We can now carry guns legally and will not be arrested on the spot if there is an incident. This makes us a bit more relaxed“. Last week, two fascist MPs were turned away from the parliament, after they were found to be carrying arms, yet stunningly, in an astonishing turnaround they have now been allowed to bring their guns into Parliament. There are – right now – armed fascists sitting in the Hellenic Parliament.
With further austerity on the way, and the prospect of a cold winter ahead as people struggle to keep their homes let alone heat them, the threat of fascism rising up through its cracks in the social fabric of Greece has never been greater.