Standing against the Greek fascists

January 24, 2013

Greek leftists and antiracists are responding to the threat posed by the Greek fascist party Golden Dawn, with an international day action and solidarity taking place on January 19.

Golden Dawn hopes it can capitalize on the despair created by Greece's devastating economic crisis and shift the blame onto immigrants, minorities and the left. Across the world, activists organized pickets and protests against Golden Dawn, with the knowledge that if they go unopposed, the fascists have the potential to grow. Thousands marched in Athens, and thousands in other European cities. In the U.S., where Golden Dawn has announced plans to open offices, anti-fascists organized pickets at Greek consulates in New York City, Chicago and other cities. Here, we reprint a speech by a Chicago activist of Greek descent, Stavroula Harissis, who spoke at the rally there.

IN OCTOBER of 1943, Nazi German soldiers entered my mom's village of Kalomoira in Northern Greece and murdered my great-grandfather, Athanasios Papanikos, just before burning the entire village to the ground.

A few years later, civil war broke out in Greece, as different internal political forces attempted to fill the vacuum of power left behind when the German occupiers were finally expelled from the country. My father's village of Megaro, also in Northern Greece, was part of the Communist resistance during the Civil War.

The resistance fighters, as we know, lost that war, and my grandparents fled their village in 1948. After a few brief stops in Albania and Hungary, they eventually ended up in the USSR, in what is now the country of Uzbekistan, where my father was born in 1950.

My parents never really told me any of this. It was not until the summer of 2011, when I went to Greece by myself for the first time, that I began to learn about my family's history.

I am lucky to still have three of my four grandparents alive and well, and I was able to talk with them about their lives during the Second World War and the Greek Civil War. It completely changed my attitude toward "history" to hear it told from someone who had lived it--from someone responsible for bringing me into the world nonetheless. It made me think of myself differently, too, no longer as an isolated individual, but as a continuation of history itself.

Chicago protesters rally against the Greek fascists of Golden Dawn
Chicago protesters rally against the Greek fascists of Golden Dawn

Just imagine your frail, white-haired 84-year-old grandmother telling you how she stood guard with a rifle in front of barracks demanding a password from any man, woman or child attempting to enter, and cursing away those who gave a wrong answer, firing her gun as needed. That's quite a legacy to live up to!

AT THE same time, though, I was witnessing a new phase of history unfolding in Greece, as the country was in the throes of economic crisis and social upheaval. I didn't know much about the current situation either, but I absorbed whatever information I could, a sort of two-month interactive crash course in economics and modern politics. All in the context, mind you, of a language that I had barely used since I dropped out of Greek school in the 4th grade.

But I didn't have to understand any Greek at all to experience the disruption to daily life of intermittent daylong strikes by public transit workers and taxi drivers. I didn't have to understand any Greek at all to know that I was witnessing history-in-the-making when I stopped by the encampment of protesters at Syntagma Square. I didn't have to understand any Greek at all to feel the tension between ethnic Greeks and the immigrant populations in Athens.

And so when I began to hear about the rise of this fascist neo-Nazi party the Golden Dawn, I was not particularly surprised. Saddened but not surprised. History shows us that the seeds of fascism are planted by capitalism and fed by despair in times of economic crisis.

As access to resources becomes even more restricted and the burden of the "crisis" heaped onto the backs of the working class, the lives of the majority of people become unbearable and they begin to search desperately for answers and solutions.

Racist, ultra-nationalist groups like the Golden Dawn offer a simplistic path by scapegoating immigrants, people of color and their allies. They also blame the government, but only for not being nationalist enough. Blinded by their prejudice and hatred, they fail to see that the crisis is a predictable product of capitalism itself and that the solution can only come from a mass movement of the workers overthrowing this barbaric system.

Thankfully, the same conditions that made room for the rise of the Golden Dawn have also made room for a revival of activity on the revolutionary left. We are standing here today in response to a call from a broad coalition of leftists, anarchists and immigrant groups in Greece who have come together to fight against the Golden Dawn and their fascist ideology.

We also have the left-wing political coalition of SYRIZA, who came just a few percentage points short of winning the last two national elections. However, sectarianism is still rampant on left. The Communist KKE party and other radical left groups have refused to join the SYRIZA coalition. Anarchists and autonomists likewise prefer to act alone.

I understand that there are significant ideological differences between these different groups. But I also understand that until those differences are overcome and a massive coalition of millions of Greeks rises up to confront our common enemy, the capitalists will remain in power.

Looking at the crowd in front of me right now, and having seen the crowds in Greece today, I am hopeful that unity on the left is possible. It is inspiring to see such a diverse crowd of people coming together to fight fascism. But remember, during World War Two, many leftists in Greece also united to fight fascism, only to splinter into self-defeat during the ensuing civil war.

If we are to learn from history and not repeat it, we cannot stop at antifascist unity. In fact, we will never defeat fascism by attacking it alone. We will not defeat fascism until we defeat the system that perpetuates it. That system is capitalism.

And so I leave you with this plea, in the spirit of the Communist Manifesto: Workers of the world, anti-fascists of the world, anti-capitalists of the world, UNITE! El pueblo unido jamás será vencido! [In Greek] The whole earth is our homeland!

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