Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras boasts of finally holding the neo-Fascist Golden Dawn leadership accountable for their street violence, but he is silent about the practical and ideological links between his own New Democracy Party government and Golden Dawn.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is currently visiting the United States. He arrived here in the immediate aftermath of the arrest of the leadership of Golden Dawn (GD), the notorious Greek neo-Nazi party, over the death of a prominent antifascist musician. But what skeletons does Mr. Samaras have in his closet?
Samaras’ speech on October 2 at the Peterson Institute, Washington, DC, gives us a first answer to that question. There, he claimed that his government crushes extremism. He talked about the leadership of the Golden Dawn (GD), which had been, at that time, driven to jail. However, later during a Q&A session, he added that his government was not quite done, that he would also deal with the other “extreme group,” which was talking about leaving the EU and NATO – directly implying the left opposition.
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His statements pose at least three problems. One, Mr. Samaras made clear that his government had accepted the illegal activity of GD previously, or that it did not have the will to deal with it. Two, he implicitly admitted that the government intervenes in the system of justice, which supposedly is independent; three, he promoted once again his plan to crush the left opposition, which disagrees with his government and protests in public.
The incident that triggered the arrests of GD’s most prominent members was the assassination of the antifascist musician Pavlos Fyssas in Nikaia, Athens. Fyssas was the first Greek to be killed allegedly by GD since the group launched its violent campaign against migrants and – to a lesser extent – against antifascists in 2009. Less than 24 hours after Mr Samaras’ speech at the Peterson Institute, the majority of the arrested Golden Dawn members were released after their initial arrests, awaiting trial. As they left the courts, they kicked and abused journalists under the eyes of the police.
The simplistic theory about the “two extremes” has been promoted by the Greek nexus of power since Samaras came to office. On that very same day on September 16, 2012, two of the country’s largest newspapers (the pro-government To Vima and Kathimerini), published two texts by their key editors with very similar titles, making an identical argument. Even if this is a total coincidence, their argument was a dangerous legitimization of the far right. In sum, the articles suggest that the emergence of GD provides an “opportunity” for the state to eliminate the “two extremes” of Greek politics.
According to governmental officers, antifascists comprise that hypothetical other “extreme.” Samaras’ Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, a member of the ruling government, attacked those who stand up to racism and fascism.
In 2012, a political action called antifascist motor-demonstrations started. These were big groups of people on motorbikes riding around the areas of Athens where most attacks against migrants were occurring, aiming to stop them, since police did little to help the victims. In September 2012, DELTA motorbike police attacked the antifascists, arresting, beating and later torturing them. Allegedly, DELTA and the riot police force (MAT) are the two police units with the closest links to Golden Dawn. On the day following the arrests, MAT attacked those who had gathered at an Athens’ courthouse to express their solidarity with 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, by then, daily racist attacks in those parts of the city. From that time on, the lives of several immigrants – and now one local antifascist – have been claimed by neo-Nazis on the streets of the Athens.
A few months later, in December 2012 and January 2013, some of the most prominent social centers in Athens were evicted by police. These had been physical and cognitive cornerstones in the city’s antifascist struggle. Additionally, they were located in the parts of the city center where Golden Dawn and other neo-Nazi groups systematically attack migrants. Soon after these evictions, similar raids occurred in such antifascist centers throughout the country.
Since Samaras became prime minister, Athens has been subjected to the police operation “Xenios Zeus.” Since its inauguration (August 2012), the operation has led to the detention of more than 80,000 migrants, the vast majority having broken no law, according to police press releases. Eventually, most of the innocent migrants have been released, with the exception of about 5,000 who were imprisoned, mostly due to lack of documents, in new detention centers built across the debt-ridden country. However, targeting a substantial proportion of the population of Greek cities simply due to their skin color is the adoption of GD’s agenda by the Samaras’ government. GD claims that migrants are dangerous and Samaras’ New Democracy Party (ND) has followed this logic, detaining innocent migrants in the thousands. In his pre-election campaign, Samaras claimed that illegal migrants have become “the tyrants of the society” and that Greeks subsequently have to “liberate our cities from illegal migrants,” once again repeating GD rhetoric.
Samaras’ party in May 2013 made a gift to Golden Dawn by blocking an antiracist bill that would have criminalized racism and the denial of the Holocaust. GD provided aid to the Samaras government in at least two debatable decisions since June 2012. First, when the government shut down the Public Television station overnight and second, when it applied further tax exceptions to the Greek ship-owning companies.
Just one week before Fyssas’ assassination in Nikaia, Babis Papadimitriou, a renowned pro-ND journalist, suggested that we need to discuss a conservative coalition government with the participation of a “more serious” version of Golden Dawn. Simultaneously, prominent ND members, including Vyron Polydoras and Failos Kranidiotis, have expressed their positive feelings toward the neo-Nazis of GD. This may come as little surprise to those familiar with Greek politics. By this point in time, the Greek government is at its farthest right position since the fall of the military dictatorship, back in 1974. Note, among others, the inclusion of Adonis Georgiadis and Makis Voridis in the current parliamentary team of ND, both of whom are best described as ultraright.
Clearly, the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas and the charges brought against the GD leadership have dramatically altered the political atmosphere in Greece, indefinitely postponing, one would think, such collaboration. Samaras might portray himself as a combatant against the Golden Dawn. But how, then, can he explain the very strong ideological and practical links between his party policies and the Golden Dawn?