On November 1st in Athens, the antifascist movement achieved a very important victory, probably the most important since the historic conviction of Golden Dawn at the High Court three years ago. Having to deal with the government, the police, the fascists and the mainstream media, the antifascist movement succeeded in cancelling the pan-European fiesta that all Greek neo-Nazi groups had been preparing for since last June.
A sad gathering of 30 Greek neo-Nazis that took place one day before the one they originally planned, was the fascists’ account.
Golden Dawn was forced to recall its public call for the neo-Nazi rally two days earlier, sensing that it would be a disaster for them. The Propatria group (another Nazi grouping) was forced out of Neo Heraklion (the area where their gathering was meant to happen) and set up a thuggish ambush (with the riot police present, turning a blind eye) in Monastiraki metro station.
Their mobilisation form other European countries was, also, a total failure. Only 21 Italian neo-Nazis (from Casa Pound) tried to enter Greece, but were blocked by the police in the airport and were deported back to Italy.
Since the blow to their plans, there is a huge squabble between fascists on social media, indicative of the atmosphere of failure. All this has happened at a time when the far right is polling in double digits in 15 of the EU’s 27 countries, and in the last Greek general election three far-right parties won over 14% of the vote.
None of this would have happened if the anti-fascist movement had not taken action. Every activist who took part in this struggle should feel proud of the role he or she played.
The police knew
What follows is an account of the facts that led to this victory against the fascists.
According to revelations by journalists in establishment media (e.g. Yannis Souliotis in Kathimerini), the Greek police knew about the neo-nazi plan to hold a pan-European rally since last June, but refused to act on it.
The public announcement for it on domestic neo-Nazi websites was made on August 13.
On September 6, the Anti-Fascist Coordination of Athens and Piraeus called a meeting on the issue. The Coordination was the first to start a campaign and was basically the locomotive behind the whole anti-fascist mobilisation. The meeting was very well attended, with the participation of dozens of representatives of left wing and anti-authoritarian collectives.
The proposals of the Coordination were the following
- An antifascist rally to be held on the date and at the time and place where the fascist call was made, with the aim to cancel their gathering
- A broad appeal to the wider movement and the unions, particularly in the municipality of Neo Heraklion with the aim of a mass, unitary campaign
- To hold a meeting in Neo Heraklion with local collectives in order to organise the campaign
- To hold an anti-fascist concert in N. Heraklion on Saturday, October 28
- To issue an international call for solidarity
- To issue press statements, posters and a leaflets for mass distribution
The overwhelming majority of the collectives and non-aligned people present at the meeting agreed with and added to the above initial proposals.
The campaign was launched and the Workers’ Union of the Municipality of N. Heraklion and the Teachers Union of Eastern Attica responded very positively. Other unions also issued statements of support. The first local meeting of collectives and individual activists was very well attended (with about 100 people present) despite the fact that the Mayor of N. Herakion refused to provide a space to hold the meeting.
Soon afterwards, however, as a result of the pressure of the campaign, the N. Heraklion Municipal Council adopted a unanimous motion asking the government to ban the fascist gathering.
At the same time, the response to the international solidarity call of the Anti-Fascist Coordination was significant. Collectives from a number of countries sent solidarity messages and protest letters. Just to name a few, five People Before Profit TD’S sent a protest letter to the Greek ambassador in Ireland and 3 councillors from Umea, Sweden, also sent a protest letter to the Greek government. Also, international organisations/currents like WIN (Workers’ International network); the ISL (International Socialist League); organisations linked to the CWI (Committee for a Workers’ International); and the Milan Meeting coordinating committee, send protest letters to the government and of support to the Antifascist Coordination’s mobilization.
In Cyprus, left collectives and social movements organised a symbolic solidarity protest in front of the Greek embassy. Finally, members of Die Linke and SOL from Germany travelled to Greece and took part in the demo in Neo Heraklion.
The antifascist concert on October 28 was a great success. 2,000 people attended it and the mood was militant and vibrant, with antifascist slogans between the music groups that appeared.
Magda Fyssa, the mother of the musician Pavlos Fyssas that was murdered by the neo-nazis of Golden Dawn in 2013, was the main speaker at the concert.
Earlier, the fascists tried to intimidate the activists who were setting up the concert. Twelve motorbikes with fascists drove thought the square shouting slogans and throwing leaflets. The stewards in charge of protecting the concert chased them away.
Later that night, the police attacked some anarchists and seriously injured a 16-year-old girl, who was hospitalised and went thought brain surgery after being beaten by police batons and slammed on the street. The police was constantly harassing antifascists while doing nothing to check the fascists and their activities.
After the ban
The pressure from the antifascist campaign was mounting and this forced the government to ban the neo-nazi meeting. But instead of doing just that, it tried to play the card of the “two extremes theory”, banning all rallies, thus aiming to equate the fascist with the antifascist movement.
The Coordination decided to go ahead and call for the antifascist rally, albeit at a different location so the police could not easily arrest people coming to it. There were two distinct antifascist rallies held that day, one with 300 people on it at N. Herakion metro station, and another with 800 which was created spontaneously as people coming to the rally were stopped by the police outside a nearby metro station (the N. Heraklion metro station was closed by the police so as to undermine the call for the antifascist rally). A number of people coming to the rallies was arrested, including Xekinima and DiEM25 members. They were released later, after a protest was called in front of the police HQ.
The numbers above do not include the Communist Party rally, which was held a long distance away from N. Herakion essentially accepting the government’s ban of its rally. The CP played a negative role in this campaign, undermining the united action of the antifascist movement, though it was positive that initially it called for an antifascist mobilization, something which is very contrary to its tradition. After the police ban, they changed the character of their rally into one of support for Palestine. The Antifascist Coordination rallies combined the antifascist slogans with slogan in support of the Palestinian people.
The overall balance sheet is that the fascists had suffered a big defeat.
They only thing they could do was to organise and ambush, in the evening, after the end of the antifascist rallies, at Monastiraki metro station, waiting for antifascists who were returning from the rallies in Neo Heraklion. About 40 members of the Propatria group attacked antifascists and threw petrol at them, shouting “burn them”. All this happened in one of the most policed metro stations in the whole of Greece, with security cameras everywhere. It is clear that this operation had police cover of some sort.
When the police decided to intervene, they mostly arrested antifascists! Only after the huge outcry for the video with the attempted murder it was forced to arrest some fascists. The police and the government once again showed that the “two extremes theory” is just a cover for them, and that, essentially, they lean towards the far-right with which they have strong bonds.
Importance of the victory
The anti-fascist movement has achieved an important victory that strengthens its morale and confidence. The cancellation of the pan-European neo-nazi fiesta in Neo Heraklion shortly after Ilias Kasidiaris’ (one of the main neo-nazi leaders) decline in votes in the recent local elections (October 2023) are very good news for the movement.
The Antifascist Coordination’s campaign showed once again the importance of the united front approach inside the movement.
But we should not feel at ease. The fascists are trying to regroup. They feel socially and politically strengthened by their successes in the recent general elections of last June. The poly-crisis of the capitalist system, the political vacuum and the fragmentation of the Left allows them to grow.
In the coming period, we are likely to see an increase in fascist attacks. The necessity for an anti-fascist struggle, build around independent structures, but with appeals to the wider working class and mass movements, must go hand in hand with the understanding that we need to build an alternative political force, a mass anticapitalist/socialist party of and for workers and youth, that is determined to put an end to the social problems that breed fascism and its political representatives, not only in Greece but internationally.