The writer of the article that follows concludes as follows: ” For them [European governments], the important point is to keep the economic system sustainable. They see it as irrelevant what happens politically; whether, that is, there is a representative or dictatorial administration that prevails”. With the ongoing social crises that result from the emergence of (a) new phase(s) of capitalism, we are seeing the remergence of ghosts of Europe’s past, embodied in the various right wing, christian, neo-nazi and fascistic groupings forming a loose network that at times complement or amplify the States’ authoritarian (and often covert) practices. Force, fear, terror have been common ammunition in the capitalist arsenal. The European trading companies of bygone eras (such as the East India Trading Company) relied on private armies, piracies, slaughter, for establishing their “territories” and worked closely with their respective States. Backroom deals were well known practices both for the State and for businesses. As it has been said, (paraphrased and adapted) conspiracy is the method of operating for those in power (which is something very different than saying social processes are the result of conspiracies). The power of the rulers, the power of the bureaucrats, the power of capitalists always organizes itself in secret, in the dark. This was somewhat hidden behind the spectacle of the commodity with its happy and exciting all consuming manifestations. By a sleight of hand, the gun remained invisible or blurred to most enjoying their bright yellow banana. But capitalism once again is changing and the direction seems to be one in which it is relying much less on the consumption patterns of a middle class, something that emerged post-second world war. And with this we may start seeing an explicitly stronger authoritarian State re-emerging together with its various helpers. The State of the post-world war is different in a fundamental way from the ones that lead into the first world war: the merging of bureaucracy, technology and the knowlege requirements for maintaining the new corporate capitalism that emerged at the time.
The following is a reposting from http://blog.occupiedlondon.org/2013/11/03/hello-dr-strangelove-the-neo-nazi-golden-dawn-and-state-apparatuses-in-greece/
Hello, Dr. strangelove: the neo-nazi golden dawn and state apparatuses in greece
by Dimitris Dalakoglou, from the fifth issue of Occupied London:
“No government in the world fights fascism to the death. When the bourgeoisie sees
power slipping from its grasp it has recourse to fascism to maintain itself.”
Interview to Pierre Van Paasen in Madrid, 24 July 1936.
Published in The Toronto Daily Star, 5 August 1936.
“Why are you guys so anti-dictators? Imagine if America was a dictatorship. You could
let 1% of the people have all the nation’s wealth. You could help your rich friends get
richer by cutting their taxes. And bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could
ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education. Your media would appear
free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family. You could wiretap
phones. You could torture foreign prisoners. You could have rigged elections. You could
lie about why you go to war. You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group,
and no one would complain. You could use the media to scare the people into supporting
policies that are against their interests.”
General Aladeen in ‘the Dictator’ (2012)
First, some much needed background: Golden Dawn (GD) is the Greek neo-Nazi party. In the parliamentary elections of 2009, they received 0.29% of the vote (circa 20,000 votes); around three years later, in the elections of 2012, they received about 7% (over 400,000 votes). Within the same period, GD grew from a grouping of a couple of offices and a couple of hundreds of members activists grew into a party of over fifty branches/offices and a few thousand members nationwide. Meanwhile, GD started its now infamous Greeks-only food and clothing distributions, while the rest of its usual activities – beating up, stabbing and threatening migrants, breaking their shops, etc. carried on.
Now, to the breaking news: The leaders of the Golden Dawn were arrested in September 2013. The incident that triggered the arrests was the assassination of the antifascist musician Pavlos Fyssas in Nikaia, Athens. Fyssas was murdered by Roupakias, a local leading GD member, because he wrote and sang anti-GD hip-hop songs, according to the interview of a former GD member in a local newspaper. Police were present at the murder, allowing over twenty neo-Nazis to attack and for one of them to stab the 34-year-old antifascist to death. Police have been present at several other neo-Nazi attacks without intervening. But go one week before the assassination and you will see that when fans PAOK, a local football club, attacked the GD office in Thessaloniki, all 43 of them were arrested on the spot. In September 2012, when the antifascist motorbike patrols started in Athens, DELTA motorbike police (which has excelled in seriously injuring protesters since its foundation in 2009) attacked the antifascists, arresting, beating and later on torturing them. On the following day, police attacked those who had gathered at Athens’ courthouse to express their solidarity to the antifascists, arresting even more of them. This series of arrests brought to a temporary halt an action that was aimed at stopping what were daily racist attacks in those parts of the city. From that time on, lives of several immigrants – and now, that of one local antifascist too – have been claimed by neo-Nazis in the Athenian streets.
Just one week before the assassination of Fyssas, Babis Papadimitriou, a government-friendly journalist, declared live on a local TV station that the right-wing New Democracy party should enter into a government coalition with the GD. Prominent ND members like Byron Polydoras or Failos Kranidiotis have made similar statements in the past. Notorious neo-fascists like Adonis Georgiadis or Makis Vorides hold offices or are MPs in the current government. Obviously, the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas by GD and the arrest of GD leaders ruined all the joyous atmosphere inside the Right in the country, maybe postponing such collaboration.
The truth is that the extreme-Right parastate in Greece is explicitly embedded within wider activities and campaigns of the official state authorities and it was rarely an autonomous political force. Acknowledging that kind of relationship is precisely the reason that in Greek, the term parakratos (parastate) is used in order to talk about the extreme-Right.
Historically, since the 1920s, the far-Right parastate has functioned as the long arm of the State’s violent apparatus, targeting people with Left-wing affiliations (see Kostopoulos 2005; Mazower 2006, 353–4; Mouzelis and Pagoulatos 2002, 88–9; Panourgia 2009). Unsurprisingly, GD comprises a political and physical continuation of that tradition: in 1984, the leader of the colonel’s dictatorship (1967–1974) Papadopoulos founded the organization EPEN from his prison cell, where he had been sentenced for the coup. The founding and current leader of GD, Michaloliakos, was the first president of EPEN Youth Sector.
The colonels’ dictatorship is notorious for its close links with the extreme-Right para-state apparatuses, both prior to and following the coup. For example, during the dictatorship, laws honouring and providing benefits to the members of the Security Battalions (Tagmata Asfaleias) for their role during World War II came into force. The Security Battalions were the Greek units of collaborators with the German Nazi occupiers during World War II. Security Battalions, to a great extent, comprised the formalization of the pre-war fascist para-state and its transformation into formal organized units. The further formalization continued after World War II by the postwar state apparatus, peaking during the dictatorship (see Kostopoulos 2005). Allegedly, Papadopoulos was a member of the Patras Security Battalion during the Nazi occupation (Kloby 2004: 249). Certainly, as army officer of the post-war state, Papadopoulos served in the State Intelligence Service (SIS), in the department of internal security. The major task of this department was to tackle the “communist threat” within Greece, defining and targeting the state’s enemy within (Keeley 2010). In 1981, after the electoral victory of the social-democratic PASOK, the SIS was reformed and renamed into Greek Intelligence Service. In a payroll slip leaked from the SIS during this reform, the name of Michaloliakos appears as that of a paid employee of the intelligence service. Meanwhile, Michaloliakos was notorious for his participation in bomb attacks in cinemas that were screening Soviet movies. This was the reason he was imprisoned in the late 1970s. Eventually, Michaloliakos left EPEN and founded GD; in EPEN he was replaced by M. Vorides. Nowadays, the latter is an MP of the conservative party “New Democracy,” which leads the governmental coalition. Vorides was the minister of infrastructure in the government of technocrats ran by the unelected banker Loukas Papademos in 2011-2012.
Despite the long extreme-Right tradition and the involvement of leading GD figures into the activities of the parastate, GD as such had very few members up until 2010. One of the reasons for its small size was that many neo-Nazi, neo-fascist and junta-phile elements were absorbed by the parliamentary system and dispersed across other Right-wing parties. In spite of its size, GD was often the cherry on the top of the patriotic cake, baked by various governments in crucial moments of Greek post-dictatorial history. For example: the moment when the conservative government of Mitsotakis (1990-1993) was implementing the first concrete legal adjustment towards an explicitly neoliberal system, it was also the same moment when his government decided that the Republic of Macedonia should not be allowed to carry its name. That decision came with some 45 year delay, since the Socialist Republic of Macedonia (predecessor to the Republic) was founded as part of the Federal Yugoslavia in 1944. Apropos, the current PM, Samaras as Minister of Foreign Affairs was a key figure behind the nationalist explosion of the early 1990s. During the large rallies —organised by the government, the church and other institutions— the neo-Nazis of GD made their public appearance as a perfectly respectable part of the ‘Macedonia is Greek’ campaign. During the largest of those rallies in Omonoia Square, GD attacked migrants and some new squatted anarchist social centres (see Psaras 2012). The same social centres that were attacked and eventually evicted by the police in the winter of 2012-2013.
Another example of Golden Dawn becoming the extra ingredient of the patriotic/nationalist soup came in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, the country was transformed overnight into a superpower in sports with its top moment being the success of the Greek football team making it in the European Championships of 2004. That was a period when the Greek flags and the national anthem was heard more and more in stadiums across the world and from there, via TV sets, to everyone’s home. That was also the period when some of the champions were accompanied in parade from the airport to the centre of the city for the big party downtown, organised by state authorities to honour their success. Back then, Olympic champions were treated more or less as national heroes and indeed from that point on, they could automatically acquire an officer’s post in the Greek army.
All these phenomena were embedded within a peculiar new type of nationalism. This nationalism was promoted by the third-way social-democrat government of Simitis (1997-2004) but also by the conservative government of Karamanlis (2004-2009). Both these governments worked hard to promote a number of adjustments towards a neoliberal form of governance, but also to portray the small Greek state as the newly emerging superpower in the Balkans: Greece was the only EU and euro-zone country in the region, expanding (business-wise) to the newly opened markets of its neighbouring post-socialist countries. All that patriotism was boosted even further when Greece became the host for the Olympic Games (2004). Fitting with the prominent governmental slogans of ‘Powerful Greece’, ‘Growth’, ‘Modernisation’, and the ‘European Greece’ of European Integration and so on, all these “successes” were presented by corporate media and governments as a national success.
It was within that climate that the ‘Light-blue Army’ (Galazia Stratia) appeared. This is an outright neo-Nazi fan club of the Greek national football team, controlled by GD. It started in 2000 and it was empowered during the 2004 successes of the Greek national team. The leader of the club was Panagiotaros, the current MP of Golden Dawn who acquired international fame when he declared during his interview to the BBC that GD is preparing for a civil war against the anarchists and migrants. But indeed the ‘Light-Blue Army’ was treated by the mass media and governmental factors either with a guilty silence, or as a respectful fan club of the team, following and supporting “our kids” to their battles around the world. Indeed, every Greek was supposed to have a share in these successes and everyone was supposed to be proud of the team and its supporters. Meanwhile Galazia Stratia was recruiting hooligans in football fields, while orchestrating organized attacks on migrants every time a success of the national team was celebrated downtown. Their nationalist slogans (“You Albanians will never become Greeks”) were chanted by thousands in these moments of national pride.
Nazis as counter-insurrection
This extreme – Right political column was re-formed anew as part of the post-December 2008 counter-insurrection. In spring 2009, extreme – Right groups declared the Athenian Square of Ayios Panteleimonas a no-go zone for migrants. Patrols of neo-Nazis affiliated with GD started attacking migrants in this particular area. That violence escalated further, but after the International Monetary Fund/European Union/European Central Bank (IMF/EU/ECB) loan of May 2010, this extreme-Right tendency started taking more concrete shape and coming together more firmly, multiplying and escalating more racist attacks within and outside the particular neighbourhood (see HRW 2012; Kandylis and Kavoulakos 2011).
GD, until recently, was attacking mainly Left-wing activists and anti-fascists rather than migrants. Despite the readjustment of the Nazis’ target, that part of the para-state apparatus never forgot its old target. For example, in a previous article (Dalakoglou & Vradis 2011), it was argued that although the new rule over Ayios Panteleimonas targets mostly migrants, it was in fact initially shaped as a spatial-political response by the extreme Right to the December revolt’s spatial-political legacies. Neo-Nazis aimed to control an open-air public space, and to promote their racist and anti-Left agenda in oppositional reference to open-air spaces, which hosted the spontaneous political offspring of the December revolt.
The difference is that neo-Nazis often operate openly in collaboration with formal state apparatuses. For example, the government vice minister, Markoyiannakis, who was responsible for the police (in an unprecedented act) personally visited one of the anti-migratory rallies of Ayios Panteleimonas in July 2009 to chat with the “enraged local residents.” After that meeting, neo-Nazis left Ayios Panteleimonas Square and attacked one of the oldest anarchist social centres in the city: Villa Amalias. As it was mentioned above, Nazis these days can concentrate on the rest of their activities since the police replaced them in the attacks against Villa Amalias.
When migrants started to be targeted so often by gang-style neo-Nazi attacks, police stations systemically refused to record or examine racist attacks, in fact providing mute protection to these attacks (see HRW 2012). But things often go well beyond mute protection. As mentioned above, in late September 2012 during an antifascist motorcycle rally in central Athens close to Ayios Panteleimonas, there were clashes with neo-Nazis, and the police immediately intervened, arresting fifteen antifascists and torturing them in the police HQ. Back in 2009, a father who dared to challenge the neo-Nazi rule over the square of Ayios Panteleiomonas was detained by the police (Dalakoglou 2012).
Certainly, within the picture, one has to mention that Ayios Panteleiomonas was already notorious since 2004 for racist attacks by police officers serving in the local station (Lebesopoulou 2010). Indeed, the close links between police and GD are not a local problem of Ayios Panteleimonas. This became apparent in the elections of May and June 2012, when approximately half the police officers on duty in the headquarters of Athens police voted for GD. In spite of these explicit and conspicuous links between the formal state apparatus and GD, historically and currently there is a desperate effort for para-state actions to be presented as spontaneous. Such effort goes back a long time and can be seen in the historical use of the term “indignant citizens” (aganaktismenoi polites), which was used by the police and government-friendly mass media in order to label the para-state aid against protests. For example, that was the label employed in November 1995 in order to name the group of neo-Nazis who joined the police forces who were surrounding the occupied, by Anarchists, Athens Polytechnic. Eventually, the political life of the term “indignant” in Greek changed since the Syntagma movement of the summer 2011. In Syntagma, the demonstrators directly translated the word indignados from Spanish. So today, the respective Greek word, aganaktismenoi, stands for the people who occupied Syntagma Piazza to protest against austerity, the political establishment of the country and IMF.
The extreme-Right groups escalated their activity in May 2011, just a few days before the Syntagma movement. On Ipirou Street, at the centre of Athens, an armed robbery—the victim of which was a Greek man who was stabbed to death by robbers of foreign origin—triggered a series of organized group attacks against migrants and anti-fascists. This lasted for several days, and saw the beating of migrants and stabbings, along with attacks against some of Athens’ anarchist squats (Dalakoglou 2011; HRW 2012). Some of the participants in the rally on the ground where the assassination had taken place were suggesting that this is “our December.” So the implication was that since December 2008 was a spontaneous revolt triggered by the assassination of Alexis Grigoropoulos by the police, the murder of Manolis Kantaris in Ipirou Street was expected by the far-Right to be the event triggering a massive xenophobic semi-pogrom, attracting neo-Nazis from other cities who came to Athens for the big day. The masses did not come, but still, the attacks happened (HRW 2012).
A few days after these incidents, the Syntagma Piazza movement started. In Syntagma, members of GD tried to get involved, but were attacked by anti-fascists on several occasions. Some of the most characteristic examples were clashes between anti-fascists and Nazis during the general strikes of June 15 and 28–29, 2011. Despite their efforts to appear as part of the mass spontaneous collective action, on June 28, neo-Nazis were videotaped fleeing behind the riot police lines when they were chased by anti-fascist demonstrators. A video showing prominent members of the far-Right chatting with officers and passing behind the police cordon toward the police-protected zone of the house of parliament caused a scandal. A potential attempt by demonstrators to go close to the police officers during that day would be unimaginable. The unprecedented police brutality during the forty-eight-hour general strike of June 28 and 29 resulted to several hundreds of demonstrators ending up in the hospital. The minister of development at the time, Skandalidis, was forced to admit publicly that there is an old relationship between the extreme Right and the police that needs to be examined (Eleutherotypia 30/06/2011). A few years ago, another similar scandal broke out when on February 2, 2008, during an antifascist demonstration in Athens, members of GD and riot police operated together against the antifascist demonstrators, being again recorded on camera. One day after the assassination of Fyssas in September 2013 again members of Golden Dawn were filmed operating together with riot police against the antifascist demonstrators in Nikaia, where the musician was killed.
Two systems – one
The difference between fascism and parliamentary democracy is only in the form of governance. The economic infrastructure remains the same: capitalism. Fascism/Nazism is dictatorial, militarised capitalism, while parliamentary democracy is capitalism with representation – or at least a hypocritical superficial version of it on the top of capitalist economic inequalities. This does not imply that the two regimes are identical. Economic infrastructure, on the other hand remains near-identical and each of the two systems encapsulates the potentiality to exchange elements with its sibling. For example, Nazi parties participate in elections and get voted in parliament, while liberal democracy makes exceptions when the so-called ‘public order’ is at risk, declaring curfews and other fascist-inspired states of exception.
This relationship is well-documented in e.g. the intimate relationships between big capital and the extreme-Right parties in interwar Germany and Italy (see Guérin 1936; Wiesen 2002). Ford, Bayer, Chase Bank, BMW and General Electric are just a few among the companies which did business with the rising Nazis of the 1930s. Such links, can be attributed partly to the opportunistic and ontological immorality of the capitalist market. They would not, however, be possible if the economic infrastructure was not the same.
Another similar intimacy has been recorded historically: the one between State authorities of representative democracy and extreme-Right mechanisms. For example, during the interwar period, almost every single State authority of the Weimar Republic saw the far-Right freikorps and the SA as the solution to the rise of the insurrectionists of the Left and collaborated eagerly with the first in order to suppress the second (Fritzsche 1998; Fischer 1995). Only a few years down the line, after fulfilling their political and social role, these gangs were massacred so that the Nazis could acquire a formal and serious party profile. Then people voted democratically for them. Within a decade they were able to establish a full fascist regime, and started a war which was very profitable for various big capital enterprises.
Still, it would be naive to believe that Nazism was eliminated at the end of Second World War: the majority of Nazi functionaries were adopted by post-war capitalist States. It was not only a matter of physical persons that would set the foundations of the post-war world. In many ways inspired by the dreams of Hitler, the post-war state apparatuses created collectively the infrastructure capable of causing many smaller or bigger holocausts – including weapons of mass destruction and modern armies capable of mass extermination.
The kinship between extreme-Right and capitalism was always visible in the post-war world. Today, from the Norwegian neo-Nazi terrorist Breivik, Golden Dawn or EDL, to the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, or to the British Home Officer Theresa May, many governments and far-Right groups see migrants as a danger to European countries. The part of that rhetoric which is closer to the political centre is shaped with respect to public order, criminality, public health, the de-regularization of the job market or in terms of capacities of the economy. The more extreme version employs ideas about a supposed ‘pollution’ of an imagined European racial and cultural whiteness or talks about an unknown Islamic or even Jewish plan to colonize ‘Christian Europe’. Indeed, as the example of Greece or the example of post-electoral Norway in 2013 manifests, there is no problem for centre-Right parties to collaborate with the far-Right parties at the parliamentary level in order to prevent any deviance of Europe towards slightly more anti-neoliberal or anti-racist pathways.
In terms of everyday life, when the establishment wanted to scare radicals or just the progressive middle classes, it would always bring up the fascism monster. Fascism in its pure form (as neo-Nazism), or fascism as form of “democratic” governance – interchanging, if necessary, between the two. Today, in these times of crisis and austerity, when the States are not prepared to provide any social provisions (breaking the culture of intimacy between citizens and the State mechanisms), security, policing, borders, nationalism and even racism – if necessary – quickly become the last sources for consent that European governments can offer only to the most reactionary of their citizenry. But this situation has a very clear result: it makes European governments to increasingly identify with the agendas of neo-Nazi groups and vice versa. For them, the important point is to keep the economic system sustainable. They see it as irrelevant what happens politically; whether, that is, there is a representative or dictatorial administration that prevails.
1 Many thanks to Idris Robinson, to Smokey, to Antonis Vradis and to Klara Jaya Brekke for their comments and corrections to previous versions of this article.
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