More Investigation – Less Pontification
Opinion by Nikos Levis
UPDATED October 10th – See Addendum
Greg Palast has done great work as a reporter. So it’s sad to see the best-selling author’s very ill-informed editorial in Truthout today, in which he attacks the Greek left for “cheering” the arrests of the Golden Dawn leadership. Palast begins with a confused version of the news from Greece. The Greek government has not issued a ban on the Golden Dawn party, as he seems to suggest. It’s doubtful most of the left would support a party-wide ban by the state, since they are aware it would set a dangerous precedent.
Here are the details of what has actually happened so far, which Palast’s column mangles:
Leading members of Golden Dawn have been arrested for organizing a racketeering ring alleged to be responsible for 32 criminal cases. These include 10 homicides and attempted murders. In the case of Pavlos Fyssas, the evidence is compelling that he was assassinated on orders from leaders of the party, during an assault on him and six friends by an “attack battalion” of 30-40 men recruited out of the G.D. chapter in Nikaia. The internationally known hip-hop artist was apparently an obsession with the G.D. leadership because of his anti-fascist rhymes.
After the Fyssas murder, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in anti-fascist marches against the already unstable N.D.-led government. The story of the G.D. “attack battalions” and their history of bloody assaults was exposed extensively in the Greek press, and attention has turned to connections between Golden Dawn and the Greek police. Two top police officials alleged to have ties to Golden Dawn abruptly resigned. The government also came under significant international pressure to act. This forced them finally to arrest the G.D. leadership. But until this point, the same New Democracy-PASOK government had tolerated Golden Dawn’s violent activities against immigrants, members of subcultures, anarchists, and the leftist political opposition.
Of course the government is now seeking to exploit the situation for maximum political gain. They are putting on a show of strength. They have been highly authoritarian in executing their policies and it is possible, as Palast says all-too smugly, that they will escalate their already repressive measures against the left. That is something this government appears liable to do in any case. The Golden Dawn arrests are hardly needed as a prelude for a crackdown on the left. Greek governments have a long history of that.
Palast rightly condemns the N.D.-PASOK government and the austerity policies it has imposed in meeting the debt payment conditions demanded by the European Union. But he concludes with the assertion that Golden Dawn is the “only non-fascist” party in Greece because of its stated opposition to the government and big business, as if the parties of the left are not also opposed to the austerity program. This trivializes the allegations of murder and the resulting terror that G.D.’s violence has generated. It also shows an incredible ignorance of what the openly neo-Nazi Golden Dawn actually does – meaning, how they have directed their violence until now to effectively serve the austerity coalition and big business.
A clue as to the real function of Golden Dawn might be found in the Perama attack the week before the Fyssas murder. For years G.D. had been trying to extend their influence among dock workers in Perama, a working-class district with shipyards. The strongest force within the dock workers’ union has been the Greek Communist Party (KKE). In response to demands for higher wages the shippers have threatened layoffs, so there are workers who reject the KKE. G.D. parliamentarians (including a couple who are now detained) met with some of the anti-KKE dock workers and promised to “uproot” and “eliminate” the KKE from Perama. G.D. put a video of this meeting on their main site. A few weeks later 30-40 men, allegedly from the G.D. Nikaia “attack battalion,” showed up in Perama wearing helmets and wielding bats studded with nails. They assaulted 20 KKE members who were distributing leaflets for their annual youth festival, hospitalizing nine victims, including the head of the KKE union group. This is not the action of an anti-austerity party, but of classic union-breaking gangsters.
Greg Palast’s career has shown he should investigate more and pontificate less. He might begin to make up for his terrible column by turning his investigative powers on the subject of who actually backs and finances Golden Dawn, and to what purpose.
UPDATE, OCTOBER 10: Over at Truthout.org today, some commenters are still defending Greg Palast’s apology for the neo-Nazis as a helpful, well-meaning warning that the Greek left should beware state repression.
It’s untrue and insulting to say that the Greek left needs Palast to give it a “warning” about the potentials for state repression. The left and the opposition to austerity in general are familiar with state repression, having been targeted by it for many years. That is in contrast to state treatment of the G.D. organization during the same time. Until now, G.D. members have acted with impunity and with protection from friends in the police. Now this is being documented in public, finally. Palast is not helpful but merely confusing the reality.
Palast and his defenders are missing the point that the violence of the Greek governments and the violence of G.D. (although these come in different form and have different ideological renderings) both serve the same purpose of attacking dissent and “the other.” It should not be surprising that the G.D. leadership started out as informants to the state, or that before the murder of Fyssas many in the ruling New Democracy party were preparing the way rhetorically for an eventual N.D.-G.D. government. Both state violence and G.D. violence serve to distract from the economic crisis manufactured by state and international capital.
Is it again necessary to recall that G.D. is explicitly devoted to the German ideology of National Socialism? They have an announced intent to end parliamentary democracy and put all opposition into exile, or worse. They have chosen a scapegoat for the Greek crisis in the form of the weakest groups in Greece, the immigrants. The G.D. organization, for all its anti-austerity rhetoric and fake charity drives, chose to murder immigrants and a leftist hip-hop artist. Only the overdue popular response against state and fascism in Greece finally helped to force action against these serial killers, after the Fyssas murder.
If the Samaras government now uses this new situation for its own political gain or as a prelude to attacking the left, that will also not come as a surprise. To attack the left, the state does not need to start with a round-up of the Nazi killers who were threatening and who had begun to murder people on the left. With or without the G.D. crackdown, the left and other opposition forces need to be prepared for various attempts at state repression. It may prove easier to defend against state attacks when G.D. cadre are no longer throwing missiles at leftist protesters from behind the safety of police lines. – NL