In the second of two recent articles by Stamatis Karayannopoulos of the Communist Tendency of SYRIZA and member of the party’s Central Committee, Stamatis comments on the arrest of the leadership of the Golden Dawn (GD) – a neo-fascist organisation in Greece – by the Greek state in response to the assassination by a GD member of Pavlos Fyssas, a well known anti-fascist rapper – an act which has led to mass demonstrations across Greece against the GD.
The arrest of the Golden Dawn (GD) leadership as well as its MPs has naturally caused great satisfaction among labour movement and Left activists. But we must be careful not to allow this to foster illusions in the democratic nature of the bourgeois state.
The images of these Nazi bigots being dragged away in handcuffs and locked up in cells that until recently were reserved for demonstrators, trade-unionists, left-wingers and anarchists, as well as “illegal” immigrants, can only instil feelings of joy among the majority of the working class and youth who have always opposed the Nazi propaganda of this organisation.
These arrests of the Golden Dawn Nazis, although they promote genuine feelings of satisfaction amongst the working people, are also naturally helping to breed illusions in the role of the bourgeois state and the latter day democrats of the ruling class, those same politicians that in government are applying a programme that is pushing the working class and poor layers of society deeper and deeper into poverty, a programme that no longer bears any semblance of “democracy”.
Ever since those arrests, the bourgeois media have been praising the “rule of law” that was apparently applied in punishing the leaders of the GD. The truth, however, is the exact opposite to what they are claiming. It is precisely the total lack of any “rule of law” that has allowed these Nazis to grow, transforming them into an important political factor in the bourgeois camp and society in general. Golden Dawn was founded in the 1980s and ever since then has committed thousands of small scale and large scale crimes against immigrants and left-wing militants, taking advantage of the tolerance as well as coverage provided by the same state. The state with its police, judicial institutions and apparatus, not only did not prevent GD from growing, but trained it, funded it, armed it and used it as an auxiliary in its own operations against the labour movement and the Left.
After the dramatic growth of the GD, caused by the sudden dissolution of the traditional bourgeois political camp, rather than because its ideas and methods, a significant number of state officials provided it with safe channels through which it could rise as a political force. The terminology used by the State itself, such as the “rule of law” and so on, serves as a mask to hide the real corrupt and reactionary nature of the bourgeois state and to help people to forget its own active participation in the transformation of this Nazi gang into a legal parliamentary party, a party which poses no dangers to capitalism but at the same time can channel some of dissatisfaction towards the very same policies they serve.
Hence, according to the rule of law, the state arrested the Nazi leadership, not to provide justice but because this is what the interests of the ruling class dictate at this point. The ruling class and its patrons in the Troika wanted the Nazis to function and operate under their own political and operational control. They wanted, to quote the famous bourgeois apologist Papadimitriou, for the GD to be a “serious” partner in a bourgeois front that would prevent the Left getting to power on a revolutionary programme.
Nonetheless, the Nazis themselves became emboldened by their remarkable rise in recent polls –largely due to the blind indignation against the corrupt bourgeois political system – and above all, because of all the privileges of parliamentary representation, the economic support from a section of the capitalist class and their powerful links to the armed forces, and mainly the police. It therefore became evident in the last few weeks that they were implementing their own plan for an independent challenge for power. The plan was centred on the physical exhaustion and intimidation of Left and labour movement activists.
However, the political assassinations that are part of their programme, as in the case of Pavlos Fyssas or the failed attempts to kill KKE activists, avoided only at the last minute, were creating an atmosphere of revolutionary ferment among the masses and especially among the youth, while at the same time openly exposing the government coalition partners as being responsible for covering up and backing Nazi activities.
At a crucial moment when the Greek ruling class is trying to achieve some sort of parliamentary stability and “social peace”, so as to be able to introduce its new harsh austerity measures and seek help from the Troika to solve the dramatic funding gaps of the state, the risky activities of the Nazis could not be tolerated. Bourgeois reaction could either sacrifice these pampered extremists or give in to their opportunism. However, the latter option would soon lead to revolutionary developments. Therefore, driven by cold political calculation of its key strategists, the government chose the former option, thus abandoning once and for all its plans for some kind of political cooperation with a so-called “responsible Golden Dawn”.
The reaction of the masses immediately after the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas, is what forced the bourgeoisie to adopt a policy of curbing the Golden dawn. Thus we saw the unusual harsh language of the government against the GD, the daily attacks in the bourgeois press against it, the drastic changes in the leadership of the Greek police, the orders for an investigation into Nazi cells within the army and the police, the decision to proceed in the prosecutions of those responsible for 32 attacks carried out by this gang and eventually the arrest of most of the GD leaders.
The position of the ruling class against the GD can be summed up in the following words: “We reared you as an auxiliary force to complement the official forces of repression of the state. You responded adequately in terrorising left activists and intimidating immigrants. But, it seems, you want to follow your own plan and agenda. You forgot the fact that you are our dogs. Your crazed arrogance made you difficult to control and, thus, we will have to fence you in and release you only when we feel we fully control you.”
Therefore, the conflict that broke out after Fyssa’s assassination, which culminated in the arrests of the GD leadership, is one between different wings of the Greek bourgeoisie. It is not at all a conflict between “democracy” and fascism. We should not forget that today’s persecutors of the GD, the bourgeois “democrats” of New Democracy and their followers, were until very recently GD’s protectors lining up to form a parliamentary alliance with it. They were the same people that turned the Constitution into a scrap of paper, so as to pass their Memoranda of mass pauperization through parliament within a few hours; the same people that in any mobilisation of the working class, order the police forces to attack ruthlessly and to throw chemicals at thousands of demonstrators. These are the same people who inevitably in the future, when they will be faced with the threat of losing power with the overthrow of their system, will support an openly Bonapartist, totalitarian system of governing.
In the final analysis, the basic political difference that today’s bourgeois “democratic parties” have with the Nazis is not about their “loyalty” or “faith” in democracy, but rather it is a question of when, in what form and to what degree should a totalitarian system be imposed on the country. The Nazis were expecting the unravelling of this perspective to take place within just a few months, in the form of a fascist regime with themselves in the driving seat. Their “democratic” persecutors on the other hand, wish to avoid any “adventures” of premature totalitarianism of uncertain realisation by exhausting all the parliamentary avenues and, when necessary, to rule by decree, suspending specific articles of the Constitution and unhesitatingly using the oppressive apparatus of the state and its auxiliaries to defend their own interests.
Media “laundering” of fascism and the bourgeois state
Behind the campaign about the defence of “democracy” and “rule of law”, the bourgeoisie through their media are carefully trying to clean up the image of their state, as well as that of fascism itself as a political current.
The bourgeois state is not defined by the “rule of law”, but by the fact that it is made up armed bodies for defence of social injustice. Its suffocating control, through the dozens of material and institutional “strings” at the disposal of the ruling class, its monstrous bureaucratic and repressive character are all reflected in a tendency towards greater and greater corruption and arbitrariness as well as its transformation into a privileged breeding ground for fascist cells and structures.
The Left has a responsibility to expose the intrinsic fascist tendencies within the reactionary bourgeois state and cannot afford to simply talk in the abstract about “law” and “democracy”, as do the representatives, not of scientific socialism, but of bourgeois liberalism. An example of this is the statement of the Political Bureau of SYRIZA issued after the arrest of the GD leadership, in which they announced that, “…Today we were shown that democracy and our current judicial system provide us with every possibility for criminals to be decisively put before the Law…”
The indirect cleaning up of image of fascism as an ideology is being used by the state judicial institutions and the bourgeois media, by dealing with the GD as an inherently “criminal organisation”. Thus, what is being projected as a danger to society is not fascism as an ideology, with all its policies and methods, but rather the criminal actions of certain individuals.
This attempt to separate the motives from the actions is not accidental. Today’s bourgeois persecutors of the GD, with the arrest of its leaders, are trying to preserve a space for the fascist and semi-fascist extreme right by replacing it with a different name and image; a force which this time would be under their full control, but would be fulfilling the same political role as the GD has done.
The Left must not make any concessions to this way of dealing with the GD, treating it as merely a criminal organisation, separated from its political aims and ideas. Unfortunately, the above quoted statement of the Political Bureau of SYRIZA and the public statements of leading members of the party have been clearly influenced by this dangerous myth of the GD being merely a “criminal organisation”.
We, the Communists of SYRIZA, fully participate in the joy and satisfaction of the millions of progressive elements of the working class in witnessing the arrest of the Nazi leaders. However, we must stress the point that there should be no illusions in the “democratic” intentions of the ruling class and the government, no illusions in the – inherently fascist leaning – bourgeois state and its role, including not only the armed forces but also its judicial institutions, that are connected with a thousand strings to the interests and privileges of the capitalist class.
Fascist reaction will attempt to re-emerge, possibly with a different name and image. GD over the past year and a half has created its own powerful political tradition and influence that will continue to be present within the state apparatus. Its arms, its sources of finance and its properties will simply switch hands. Their army of lumpen thugs, temporarily reduced because of their low morale at present, will pass on to new leaders.
The electoral influence of openly fascist reaction, under the name of GD or any other name, will be reduced for some time, but it will not be completely eliminated. A wing of the ruling class will carry on funding and preserving the fascist milieu. On the basis of the deep capitalist crisis, there will still be a confused audience for nationalist, racist demagogy.
May the comrades of the Political Bureau of SYRIZA forgive us, but we are duty bound to highlight the fact that we would not be telling the truth to the working people if we support – as they do in the statement that they published – the idea that the “decisive blow against the fascist threat” is “democracy, justice and workers’ power” as well as the “democratic overturn of the barbarism of the memoranda” in the abstract. A decisive blow against fascism can only be achieved through the overthrow of capitalism and the smashing of the state that serves its interests. Unfortunately, this idea is not shared as the first and foremost duty of the leadership by either of the two leading tendencies in the party. It is only the Communist Tendency of SYRIZA that fights for this idea.
Our call to the comrades of the Political Bureau at this moment is not focused on the need to accept a Marxist programme, since we have seen their rigid opposition to this during the summer conference. What we urgently call on them to do is to stop beautifying the bourgeois state, abstractly talking of “Justice”, the “Law” and “Democracy”. We call on them to make it clear that SYRIZA will not cooperate with any bourgeois parties to form a “united constitutional front”, that SYRIZA will not cooperate with parties that are, by the nature of their class interests, direct relatives of the GD. We also call on them to reject boldly the theory of the so-called “two extremes”, making it clear that SYRIZA, by its nature and principles, constitutes the opposite pole to fascism in particular and of bourgeois reaction in general, standing for genuine workers’’ democracy and socialism.
Furthermore, they should stop calling for a passive stance against the fascist attacks, under the name of a supposedly “ethical, political and ideological isolation of fascism”. The alarm signals that came from the fascist attack against the communists of Perama and the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas, should not be ignored. Hundreds of confused Nazis will carry on their activities underground. The lives of labour movement and Left activists are still in danger, as the desperation of the Golden Dawn members will escalate after the “betrayal” they have suffered at the hands of their friends and their promising parliamentary partners. The creation of a united antifascist front by the political organisations and trade unions of the working class, together with the formation of Groups of Antifascist Defence in every workplace and neighbourhood, as well as the establishment of a Central Antifascist Militia, is still an urgent political and class duty.
(September 29, 2013)
[Note: Since this article was published in Greek, the arrested GD leaders have been released on bail. Furthermore, during his testimony that lasted six hours, Ilias Kasidiaris, one of the GD MPs had allegedly said he knew who the “protected witness” was. Greek media have indicated that the name, address and phone number of the ‘protected key witness’ who had testified against Golden Dawn were included in the charges copies given to the defendants’ lawyers “by mistake”… This reveals further connivance between the state apparatus and the GD leaders! More on this soon…]