In May 2005, four neofascist European groups (NPD from Germany, Forza Nueva from Italy, Falanx from Spain and Chrisi Avgi from Greece) announced that they would organize their first European Youth Camp on the 16 – 18 September in Greece, without specifying the exact location.
This would be the first time an event of this character would be taking place. The central slogan of their camp would be “Turkey out of the EU”. According to their timetable, there was going to be a music festival named “Hatewave” with white power groups from Italy, UK, Germany and Greece, a conference type event on the 17th, and a visit to pay tribute to the victims of Meligalas – an area where Greek supporters of Nazism were massively defeated by the Greek resistance towards the end of Second World War. They claimed that they were expecting about 1,000 people.
The Greek section of the CWI, Xekinima, and the Youth Against Racism in Greece (YRE – closely linked to Xekinima) took immediate action, starting a campaign which aimed to stop the neo-nazi camp taking place. The first point to be explained was that the Nazis in general but also these specific organizations in particular are not “political groups” but criminal gangs as we can easily see if we take a look at their actions.
The Greek organisation Chrisi Avgi has been responsible for more than 100 attacks (beatings, knife attacks, arson) against immigrants and left wing activists in the last few years in Greece. Some of its members have been arrested and sent to prison, including their leader who planted bombs in cinemas showing left wing films, or their treasurer who was arrested for armed robbery, but the majority have never been investigated by the police.
During the campaign a lot of work that had to be done to answer liberal conceptions about “freedom of expression” to the fascists, often seen in the daily press.
The issue was gradually taken up by progressive journalists in various newspapers. A question was even raised in parliament by a left MP!
The Greek government played dead for four months, either pretending not to know anything about the Camp or even talking about freedom of speech and political meetings.
But in the meantime local people began to organise against these plans of the fascists, to start with in the Peloponese where the camp was initially to be organized according to the information antifascists were able to gather.
As a result, local councils began to discuss the issue and take positions against the fascists coming to their areas. Broader meetings of trade unions, student unions, the Greek Social Forum, political organizations, antiracists, etc also began to take place. Xekinima and the YRE took part in all these meetings in various cities, all over Greece and proposed among other things:
- To call for 5 days of action by the mass organizations in all the areas that are likely to “host” the Camp and to organize such actions as to mobilize the mass of the population and stop the camp.
- To have daily events like rallies and antifascist festivals and concerts.
- To have city-wide general strikes of 3 hour duration called by the local Workers’ Centres (unions on city or town basis).
- To have antifascist lessons and lectures organized by the teachers’ unions in all primary and secondary schools and universities.
- To block the roads leading to the area of the Camp or occupy the area in advance so the fascists won’t be able to get there.
The majority of other left organizations, unions etc, in these meetings had different views. Some of them had no ideas at all, some wanted to do “what the ‘locals’ would decide” and the big majority wanted to do something but no strikes and no blockades.
A meeting in Kalamata, in the southern Peloponese, decided on 4 days of action, starting from the 12 September culminating in a big rally and concert on the 15 September – one day before the fascists’ arrival. It was decided to have a massive propaganda campaign to go to every household, about the role of these organizations and of fascism in history. And there was agreement by the teachers’ unions in the area to have a three hour strike on the 15 September and to have antifascist lessons in all schools on that day.
As a result of this pressure the fascists attempted to find alternative places to hold their camp. We discovered that they were negotiating with camping sites in central and northern Greece. As a result, during the course of last week meetings have been taking place in other cities, discussing what should be done.
After all this pressure the government was finally forced to react. So on September 6, a spokesperson announced that the Camp would be banned.
This represents an initial victory. However pressure has to be maintained until the end. There can be no confidence that the government will take serious measures to stop the camp or that the fascists won’t find ways to evade the “ban”. So Xekinima and the YRE are continuing the campaign, in order to make sure that all antifascist initiatives are not cancelled just because the government “remembered” (with a bit of a delay) to take an antifascist stand. Up to now, the response has been very positive, as no antifascist initiative or meeting to plan action has been cancelled just because the government said “don’t worry”.