Anti-fascism, Greece

From Greece to the US: This is how we defeat the fascists

Iannis Delatolas reports on the historic victory against fascists in Greece last month, arguing that it is both necessary and possible to build broad united fronts here in the US against racism and fascism, much like KEERFA did to defeat Golden Dawn in Greece. 

On October 22 the Greek court sent to prison the entire leadership of the fascists of Golden Dawn, including former Members of Parliament and other high ranking officials. The court handed down the maximum sentences of 13 years for most of the leadership and hefty jail sentences to the total 51 defendants of Golden Dawn, for running a mafia-like criminal organization.

In doing so the court rejected the Greek state prosecutor’s proposal for leniency. This proposal by Adamantia Economou  exposed the cozy relationship between the fascists, the Greek state, and the Greek police that goes back decades, during which the fascists received state cover for their crimes. The conservative governing party New Democracy also had ties to Golden Dawn in the past and they have absorbed fascist and far-right elements since Golden Dawn’s collapse. The battle against the racist policies of New Democracy is ongoing as KEERFA (Movement United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat) continues to demand all refugees be released from the concentration camps and be given housing and work and residency papers. 

We must acknowledge this historic victory of the anti-fascist movement and of the anti-fascist lawyers in the court known as Jail Golden Dawn. Despite the Greek state’s long history of giving cover to the far-right and the fascists for their racist crimes and attacks on the left, the movement was able to force the court to consider the massive amounts of evidence brought by Jail Golden Dawn. It is certain that without KEERFA, the antifascist movement in the streets and the Jail Golden Dawn’s Civil Action for the anti-fascist movement, that the trial would not have taken place at all. The Jail Golden Dawn lawyers proved beyond doubt what the antifascist movement had been saying for decades: that Golden Dawn was a criminal organization posing as a political party; it used its offices to stage attacks against immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, anarchists and the left; and that all attacks were ordered by the leadership of Golden Dawn, a party modeled on the Nazis and with a similar organizational structure. 

Only a decade ago immigrants who would report assaults and beatings to the Greek police would end up getting arrested, charged as criminals themselves and in some cases tortured in a notorious police precinct in downtown Athens. Images of the Greek riot police working together with the fascists to attack the left at demonstrations against austerity went viral on social media. Over half of the cops said they voted for Golden Dawn back then. This gives an idea of the work that still needs to be done to truly defeat the fascists, which our comrades in SEK (Socialist Workers Party) are involved with in Greece. At the time of writing, Greek police targeted SEK members at their offices in what appears to be retribution for the Golden Dawn trial. Golden Dawn’s dissolution and the anti-fascist movement’s victory in the court was historic. But the sections of the state that gave cover to the fascists are still occupying powerful positions in the police force and government. The struggle continues.      

International ramifications

The rise of Golden Dawn in Greece sent shockwaves around the globe. Unlike other fascist parties and groupings who attempt to distance themselves from Nazism and present a “respectable” facade, Golden Dawn was openly neo-Nazi. As Golden Dawn entered the Greek parliament in 2012 they became a model for fascists across Europe and internationally.

Here in New York in 2012 a group of diaspora Greeks and leftists along with local anti-fascists started a campaign to stop Golden Dawn from establishing a New York office. The news spread quickly across the city and after the New York Times published an investigative article, we were able to get 200 people packed in a church in Astoria, where Golden Dawn was masquerading as a humanitarian organization claiming to be raising money for those afflicted by the economic crisis of 2008. Exposing them for being neo-Nazis was key. This was the start of the anti-fascist campaign and in solidarity with the Greek antifascist movement that was fighting Golden Dawn in Greece. 

Just as Golden Dawn’s rise inspired racists and fascists internationally, so too will their downfall have a negative effect on them across the globe. But this will not be automatic. It will require the conscious intervention of socialists towards building the broadest possible united front. Nowhere is this more urgently needed than in the US today, as we enter a new political crisis following the presidential election. 

United movements are the solution

In the US in recent months we have seen a giant Black Lives Matter rebellion against racism and racist police violence. Some estimates say as many as 25 million people in the US demonstrated in this movement over the summer. States and towns with no history of protests participated and the rebellion has inspired people across the globe, with Black Lives Matter protests taking place in many countries. Now in Nigeria there are similar protests against police murders. In the US we also saw unions calling for strikes in solidarity with the movement. All this shows the great potential we have to form a nationwide united front against racism and fascism. Trump’s threats to the Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist movements says a lot. He even makes the connections and understands how powerful a united movement can be.

Since Trump’s inauguration in 2017 we saw huge annual Women’s Marches — the largest demonstrations since the anti Vietnam war movement. Getting those people out on the street fed into the successful mobilizations against Trump’s “Muslim Ban.” In what felt like the darkest days of Trumpism we saw the teacher’s strikes spread from one “red state” to another and winning salary increases, increases in education budgets, social justice demands, and more. The opposition to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville helped reverse the rise of the “alt-right” and after the murder of Heather Heyer there there were large anti-fascist demonstrations across the US, with Boston’s demonstrations numbering in the tens of thousands. Unfortunately, a permanant anti-fascist alliance of sufficient size did not emerge from those coalitions. 

The Proud Boys are always opposed by large crowds when they try to mobilize in public. We saw nurses take on the lack of PPE and the shameful government response to Covid-19 with pickets outside hospitals. Teachers shut down schools due to the pandemic, there have been labor actions in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter rebellion. In the midst of the pandemic the SEIU in Chicago won an important strike. 

In other words, the Trump era has been one of extreme polarization and courageous resistance. This is a symptom of the crisis, which is both economic and political, domestic and international. We have seen any attempts to address the critical issues of our time through elections be sabotaged by centrists and the capitalists. In Greece, the broad left party Syriza capitulated to austerity. Corbyn in Britain and Sanders here in the US were not even allowed to have a go at it, even though they had highly popular campaigns that galvanized millions of people with hopes of reform. Sanders proposed limited, but much-needed, reforms to address the climate crisis, growing economic inequality and lack of healthcare for millions of people. 

Throughout the Coronavirus crisis we have seen the criminal negligence of the US government as it abandoned any national strategy of containing the pandemic. While the rich are benefiting hugely from the crisis while millions of workers and poor have been thrown into dire poverty, unemployment, and lack of health insurance. To add insult to injury, the ludicrously small monetary stimulus check that was handed out by the government in April has not been repeated, leaving people in the US to fend for themselves as we are plunged into a crisis with no end in sight.

The Democrats are part of the problem

Both Biden and Harris have bent over backwards to deny that they have any progressive political backbone. They say that they are against the Green New Deal, against Medicare for All  and against defunding the police.  

Regardless of who wins the election, we must keep the recent rebellions against racism in mind.  

This is the political background as we approach election day and the post-election crisis that is likely to follow. Trump has threatened to not step down if Biden wins and say he will challenge the results if he loses the vote. Most concerning is that Trump has once again appealed to the fascists to “stand by,” suggesting there may be far-right violence to contend with following the vote.

We need a broad united front

Under the Trump presidency we have seen the fascists go from a disorganized mess of neo-Nazis and Tea Party racists to the beginnings of what now looks like an organized fascist movement. 

Acting now decisively and with political clarity is urgent. We can learn a lot from the Greek comrades of SEK and the united front they are part of in KEERFA. As this article was going to press, United Against Racism and Fascism, NYC held a successful counter-demonstration against a toxic mix of  “Make America Great Again” and “Back the Blue” Trump supporters with Proud Boys and Long Island patriot militias—re-routing them out of town. This follows the successful mobilizations against the far right in San Francisco and Portland

This is a great step in the right direction. But we need a much broader united front that will bring people outside the far left and traditional Antifa political spectrum into the anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle. We need labor unions, immigrant rights organizations and organizations of all those who the fascists threaten and attack to be part of this struggle.  

Despite the horrors of the Trump era, the movements have been very loud and clear People want to fight back. Let’s organize together and we can end this American horror story and fight for another world—because it is both possible and necessary. 

Iannis Delatolas