The image of Greece that many people have – of whitewashed villas with blue trim, looking out onto onto an endless expanse of sea, of little tavernas, olive groves and elderly Greek grandmothers informed by a million holiday brochures and postcards, has been taken over of late with images of protests and high level government meetings. In a country where a bare stick planted in the ground will bear fruit, people are increasingly going hungry.
The situation created by the enforced austerity to pay back bankloans, that the people of the country saw no benefit from, as bailout after bailout with more and more stringent terms locks the country into ever increasing debt, is crippling the Greek people. Unsurprisingly the people of Greece are massively unhappy about this. The New Democracy/PASOK coalition is hugely unpopular and people turn to the parties which seek to default on the debt: Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left i now running top in the polls with 52% and Golden Dawn, the fascists, now running 3rd in the polls with 22%.
There is more and more infiltration of the fascists and their policies into Greek civil society while in the meantime the repression of radical dissent is escalating at a frightening rate.
Last week there was an assassination attempt on a Syriza MP, Dimitris Stratoulis. Three men, who identified themselves as Golden Dawn, told him they would kill him then beat him outside the Olympic Stadium. Statoulis required hospital treatment. The attack was denied by the Golden Dawn, who threatened to sue the MP for defamation. Yet in a recording made by the BBC at a meeting of Golden Dawn supporters, the speaker stated,
First of all, I want to express my displeasure about some of the newer members of Golden Dawn, πουare all about shouting and being provocative. Three of them were beating up that poor fellow for half an hour and didn’t even succeed in leaving a lump on his head. That’s shameful.
The audience laughed and cheered.
On Friday, the Villa Amelias squat, a social and residential centre in central Athens was raided by police. One of the oldest and best established squats in Athens, in 1990, after decades of decline the former school was occupied. In the 22 intervening years, Villa Amelias has been repaired through the efforts and donations of thousands of people, hosting gigs, organising meetings, collective kitchens, creches and providing an important role to the community of the Victoria area. On the pretext of “lawlessness”, police stormed the building and arrested the eight occupants who are still being held in detention on charges of explosives making, based on a small number of beer bottles and some petrol next to a heater. The police had no authorisation for this raid. The building is formally owned by the Mayor of Athens, who has not issued any form of eviction notice, however apparently the raid was directly ordered by Samaras, the President of Greece. The following day, another squat suffered an arson attack in which its kitchen was destroyed – only luck limiting the damage. No-one was hurt.
The squats have proven a substantial resource, first in organising against austerity, and secondly in combatting the rise of the far right. At a demonstration on Saturday, against fascism and in solidarity with Villa Amalias, the police were out in force, armed and clothed in full riot gear they lined up to protect Agios Pantelimonos, the square most associated with fascism in Greece, where migrants are attacked if they enter.
The collusion of the police and the fascists is well documented, but what seems to be missing in the Western press is that the police are not acting rogue here when they attack demonstrations, torture arrestees, raid buildings without appropriate authorisation, fit up charges or protect fascist areas, they are acting under orders. It is not simply the police who are failing to investigate attacks of left MPs, where there is clear evidence – including attacks being broadcast live on television, they are acting under orders.
Whats a little hunger and fascism when there is money to be made?