Greece: Court prosecution of anti-Golden Dawn activists fails

State continues to prepare for intensification of repression as social upheavals loom

On 3 September, the General Secretary of EEK (Workers Revolutionary Party) Savvas Michael and the ex-head of the National Metsovio Polytechnic School (or National Technological University of Athens) Constantinos Mountzouris, were brought to court after a lawsuit was filed against them by members of the far right Golden Dawn party. They were accused of “libel”, “arousal to violence and mutual discord” and of making a “breach of peace”.

In 2009, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn filed a lawsuit against sections of the Greek Left and individuals. This followed violent street attacks by Golden Dawn supporters against immigrants and the Left on 9 May 2009, when Golden Dawn supporters organised a rally in Omonoia Square, central Athens, in the name of the “Votanikos residents’ committee”. In reality, it was a Golden Dawn rally, which aimed to move against immigrants who, at that time, had taken refuge in the Old Court of Appeals building on Socrates Street. In support of the immigrants, a rally was organised outside the Old Court of Appeals. Different organisations of the Left organised solidarity rallies in Kotzia Square and Kaniggos Square, which would then march to the Old Court of Appeals.

The police attitude was revealing. They forcibly ended, with the use of spray chemicals, a rally of anarchists in Kaniggos Square, closed the road to prevent the rally in Kotzia Square, and let Golden Dawn members attack immigrants living in the Old Court of Appeals building, armed with sticks, flares and stones, threatening lives. Another group that was supposed to be contained by the MAT (riot police) attacked, from another street, immigrants and those who were there in solidarity with the immigrants. No Golden Dawn supporters were arrested for these violent assaults.

Instead of moving against the neo-Nazis, the ‘neutral’ justice system acted against the Left, trade union organisations and the anti-racist movement.

Attempted intimidation of anti-fascists and workers’ movement

The initial lawsuit was against the Athens Party Organisation of the Greek Communist Party, a SYRIZA local committee, ANTARSYA, OLME (secondary teachers’ trade union), Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE), the Committee against the EU’s Pact of Immigration and Asylum, “Sunday School” (a weekly school teaching Greek to immigrant), the Movement against Racism and people from the Pakistani and Afghan community.

In essence the initial lawsuit was against the whole Left, the trade unions and the anti-racist movement. The “choice” of who to prosecute from all of the above was made by a department of the state apparatus involving police intelligence and the courts.

In November 2012, state prosecution accepted the complaints of Golden Dawn and in June 2013 they decided to try Savvas Michael and the former Dean of National Metsovio Polytechnic, Conastantinos Moutzouris – perhaps selecting what they considered as the “weakest” links on the Left, avoiding attacking the more sizeable and mass parties of the Left.

In reality, this was the targeting and attempted intimidation of anti-fascist and workers’ movement activists. The lawsuit was filed in response to the EEK’s slogan at an anti-fascist demonstration, “PEOPLE DON’T FORGET; PEOPLE HANG THE FASCISTS” – a very popular, long-standing and standard anti-fascist slogan, in the traditions of the Greek movement. The ex-Dean was co-accused because the Indymedia website is digitally-based in the grounds of the Polytechnic.

The CWI in Greece (Xekinima) called from the very beginning for a massive mobilisation of the anti-fascist and workers’ movement, to not underestimate the dangers behind this attempted attack, and joined forces with many other Left forces to stop the threat and to isolate the fascists in every neighbourhood and workplace. In fact, basically the whole of the Left joined forces to fight against this threat with the exception, sadly, of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece).

Savvas Michael and Costas Moutzouris acquitted

The two day trial of Savvas Michael and Costas Moutzouris ended with their unanimous acquittal.

The decision naturally led to joy not only amongst the comrades of EEK but across the whole Left and anti-fascist movement.

For the first time, the Left achieved a victory in the law courts against the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. This is also significant given this is a period of deep economic crisis and hugely unpopular austerity in Greece, and when state repression and judicial coups [the banning of strikes by teachers, metro workers, dockers and others] have intensified against all those who fight against the New Democracy-led government, the memorandums (austerity packages) and the Troika.

Golden Dawn were largely absent from the court trial. Only on the first day were two of the accusers present, a lawyer, I. Andriopoulos, and a “member of a residents committee from Votanikos”.

The rest of the accusers did not appear at the trial. Apart from one, all are Golden Dawn MPs or parliamentary candidates, although they had initially attempted to hide that fact by presenting themselves as members of Votanikos residents’ committee.

Golden Dawn’s approach

Golden Dawn did not officially run a campaign calling for prosecutions and trials, even though its members filed the lawsuit. The party did not write a single article about the case on their website. This can be explained by the fact that in 2009 Golden Dawn was only polling 0.2% and cared much less about wider public opinion about their activities. Today they are the third party in the polls, aim to take part in a future government and therefore want to appear as ‘responsible’. According to Golden Dawn leader, Michaloliakos, in an article on Golden Dawn’s site, they were wrongly labelled fascists by the Left.

Part of this make-over entails “solidarity actions” by Golden Dawn members, such as cleaning beaches, putting out summer forest fires, trying to avoid violent confrontations, in some instances, and expelling those members that do not follow this new line. At the same time, Golden Dawn has internal problems and small organised forces that do not match their electoral support (and which does not allow Golden Dawn to openly provoke the mass anti-cuts movement and the Left).

The new pressures felt by the leaders of Golden Dawn saw the party to retreat on issues, and often in a disorganised, chaotic fashion. For example, this summer the party accepted, without any complaint, prohibitions by the Athens Mayor on food distribution directed solely to Greeks that Golden Dawn organised in Syntagma Square and Attiki Square; the prohibition by the local authorities of a festival they were planning in Kalamata for 3-4 August after a massa campaign by the Left and Antiracist movement; and similarly a rally they were preparing for, in Patra, at Olga Square, on 3 September. On the island of Thasos, the Golden Dawn party even closed their local offices (most likely temporarily) just two days before an anti-Nazi YRE camp began (after a campaign started by Xekinima). This followed the collapse of a campaign to slander the YRE on the island, launched by Golden Dawn.

Role of the state

It was actually a section of the Greek state apparatus that decided to examine Left organisations’ leaflets and to use one published by EEK to file a lawsuit. The prosecutor claimed that the EEK slogan, “THE PEOPLE DON’T FORGET; THE PEOPLE HANG THE FASCISTS”, arouses passions and leads to violence and therefore is criminal.

If the courts had found Savvas Michael and C. Moutzouris guilty, anyone else who wrote or shouted the same or similar slogans in the future would be dealt in a similar fashion.

It is revealing that no prosecutor was found willing to persecute for all the appalling things Golden Dawn has said against anyone that disagrees with them. This is not due to the lack of anti-racist legislation which the government has been supposedly preparing (besides, there already exist anti-racist laws and sections of the Criminal Code that could be invoked but they have never been used against Golden Dawn).

The state prosecution of Savvas Michael and C. Moutzouris revealed that the state apparatus continues to prepare the ground for the intensification of repression to try to prevent and subvert the struggles and social upheavals that are to come.

In this sense, Savvas Michael’s and C. Moutzouris’s acquittal is one small victory in an ongoing (class) war. It is more than certain that further prosecutions and court cases will follow, for which the Left and workers’ movement must be prepared and respond to in a united manner.

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September 2013