Saturday saw tens of thousands march against fascism in Athens. An array of progressive, anti-fascist and immigrant groups across Europe expressed support
In Syntagma Square, Athens, over 24 organisations came together in their tens of thousands to demonstrate against the Golden Dawn. Adding an additional impetus to their protest was the racially motivated murder in Athens two days ago of a 27 year old migrant worker from Pakistan, for which one Golden Dawn activist has been arrested. Protesters had also come out to condemn the wilful blindness of Athens’ police force to the frightening rise in racist attacks.
This neo-Nazi party, having spent over two decades as a static and marginalised organisation, has grown considerably in the last couple of years. The party won 7% of the popular vote in Greece’s last elections, and they’ve gone from having one office to having forty-eight.
The developing fascist-voting constituency in Greece is a warning to all in Europe that mobilisation against the far-right, like today’s spectacular show of resistance in Athens, is never more crucial than during economic crises. It is no coincidence that the growth of the Golden Dawn corresponds with the dogmatic and inhumane austerity measures visited on the Greek people, with salaries shrinking and some public sector workers taking a 40% pay cut while the post-war welfare state they fought for is being pulled out from under them.
Golden Dawn has used poverty to curry popular support. When fascists blame economic crisis on immigration, they legitimise the austerity that actually prolongs it. They encourage people to attack one another instead of the corrupt governments whose rotten system exploits us all alike.
In London, over 300 demonstrators assembled with an air of confident defiance outside the Greek embassy to express solidarity with the movement in Greece. With hands in pockets and coats zipped up against the snow, the crowd heard from a diverse line up of speakers including Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Andrew Burgin from the Greek Solidarity Campaign. Although modest in size, the protest was an important message to people protesting in Greece that they have international support in combating the threat from Golden Dawn.
Speakers emphasised that the cause of the economic problems in Greece is the same as the cause of the economic problems all over Europe - unbridled greed and free market economics – and that blaming the poor for their poverty is part of the austerity offensive everywhere.
The crowd was surging towards police lines long before most even saw the bedraggled band of at most 15 fascist demonstrators appear. Their union jacks hung limply in the cold air as they stood wordlessly for about twenty minutes before traipsing off to a buoyant chorus of “Nazi scum, off our streets!”
While showing solidarity with the anti-fascist struggle in Europe and elsewhere is a critical part of defeating it, we are also aware that it is necessary to combat the far right here. Determined, broad-based opposition has caused enormous damage to the BNP, turning the party into little more than a rump, while the EDL is largely unable to mobilise the numbers if could a couple of years ago. The feeling among demonstrators was that we must continue to oppose fascists when they try to organise, but also oppose the uses of scaremongering and scapegoating by the political mainstream. A united and combative anti-cuts movement is essential for marginalising racist arguments and isolating the far right.
Where they are in their hundreds we must be in our thousands. Where they are in their thousands we must be in our millions. Clearly, we cannot rely on the government or the police to defend democratic values or stand with the marginalised and oppressed. That remains our responsibility.
Marienna is a socialist writer and campaigner who studied Politics & International Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She is a member of Counterfire and a leading organiser of the Student Assembly Against Austerity. She currently works as a filmmaker for the Islam Channel.
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