Spartacist South Africa No. 10
For a Workers United Front to Stop Golden Dawn!
Greece: Mass Outrage over Fascist Attacks
In Athens in mid September, hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas was attacked by black-shirted thugs and fatally stabbed by a reputed supporter of the fascist Golden Dawn, sparking a wave of protests across the country. Notorious for frequent, deadly attacks on immigrants, minorities and leftists, the fascists have recruited and grown bolder as brutal imperialist-imposed austerity measures have inflamed nationalism and driven many Greeks to despair. Notably, the protests against the killing of Pavlos Fyssas overlapped with strikes of public sector workers, underscoring the urgent need to link the struggle against capitalist depredation with the fight against fascist terror.
On October 5 in cities across Greece, supporters of PAME, the trade-union formation of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), rallied in the thousands against government austerity and layoffs and in protest against Fyssas’ killing. What is needed is a program to sweep Golden Dawn off the streets through united working-class mobilizations that draw in the workers movement as a whole, as well as immigrants and other intended victims of the fascists. This is the perspective put forward by our comrades of the Trotskyist Group of Greece in the 1 October leaflet, reprinted below, that they distributed at the demonstration in Athens together with the article “Capitalists Bleed Greek Working Class” (printed in Workers Vanguard No. 1013, 23 November 2012).
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The coldblooded killing of 34-year-old leftist and hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a reputed supporter of Golden Dawn on September 17 in Keratsini laid bare the deadly danger these racist terrorists represent to immigrants, minorities and the entire workers movement. The mass outrage expressed by thousands of protesters in the streets of the working-class district where Fyssas lived and died, and all around Greece, must be channeled into an uncompromising struggle against the fascist menace and the capitalist system that breeds it. It is urgently necessary to stop the fascists through mass, united-front mobilizations centered on the power of the organized proletariat!
The right-wing government of New Democracy and PASOK is currently making a show of cracking down on Golden Dawn, with the September 28 arrests of the party’s leader along with several of its Members of Parliament and party officials on felony charges of belonging to a criminal organization. Workers and the oppressed must not be fooled by this spectacle! Are we to believe that the same state that rounds up and brutalizes immigrants in police cells and overflowing camps has suddenly become concerned about hundreds of cases of racist attacks by fascists? When Pakistani immigrant worker Shehzad Luqman was killed by racists in Athens in January there was no speech on television by the prime minister condemning the “successors of the Nazis.”
The government’s actions against Golden Dawn are both in order to defuse protests and because the escalating attacks by the fascists and the killing of Fyssas are an embarrassment internationally. The attacks and ensuing protests have hurt the government’s attempts to promote the fantasy that Greece is stabilizing and on the road to recovery from its economic crisis. In reality, the lives of millions of Greek working people are being devastated through endless rounds of savage austerity dictated by the imperialist masters of the European Union (EU), centrally German imperialism. The desperation of the proletarian and petty-bourgeois masses thrown into destitution by this crisis is the fertile soil out of which Golden Dawn has grown. In the absence of a revolutionary, working-class leadership pointing the way out through struggle against the capitalist order, the fascists have found a real hearing for their scapegoating of immigrants and the left.
It is because the fascists conveniently deflect the responsibility for the crisis away from the capitalist system that they have also been nourished by the forces of the capitalist state, especially by the police. The extent of Golden Dawn’s support among the police was revealed in the recent wave of resignations and reassignments of highly placed police officials suspected of colluding with these fascists. In fact, the capitalists have given aid and assistance to Golden Dawn because they always seek to keep fascist shock troops in reserve to unleash against any revolutionary struggle by the workers. It is therefore a deadly illusion to believe that the capitalist state can be used to combat the fascists, whether through the cops, courts or Parliament. This should be especially clear in Greece with its long and bloody history of bonapartist dictatorship, military rule and civil war.
Democracy and Fascism
Not surprisingly, Alexis Tsipras, leader of [the left organization] Syriza, responded to the killing of Pavlos Fyssas by stating that “it is time for the state, through its democratic institutions, to deal with this phenomenon decisively” (ekathimerini.com, 23 September). Such suicidal illusions in the capitalist state and bourgeois “democracy” are now being promoted by much of the left. Probably the clearest example is the Socialist Workers Party (SEK), which is in the leadership of the Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat (KEERFA). Its response to the arrests of Golden Dawn leaders was to “celebrate” this development as the first step “to dismantle the murderous neo-Nazi mechanism” and to call to extend this “anti-fascist cleansing” to “include officers of Hellenic Police” (statement by the SEK Central Committee, 28 September).
The Antarsya coalition, of which the SEK is a part, also promotes the illusion that the forces of the capitalist state can be pressured to cut their ties to the fascists: in a 23 September statement it called for strikes “with the demands that isolate the fascists of Golden Dawn and demand an end to their support in many different ways by their state protectors.” And while the Greek Communist Party may correctly complain that Syriza promotes illusions in bourgeois democracy, its own General Secretary, Dimitris Koutsoumpas, did the same thing in an interview when asked about legal measures to deal with Golden Dawn: “So, one issue is that the existing legal framework has not been put to use, so that we can see from there, of course, if it is necessary to also make some corrective moves or to have some additional measures.... There are procedures inside the Parliament, to examine the law” (Rizospastis, 21 September). All of these statements show a touching faith in the “democratic” credentials of the capitalist state, which are in fact the best disguise for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
While Samaras & Co. were making pious pronouncements against Golden Dawn after the killing of Pavlos Fyssas, the prime minister’s main adviser, Chrysanthos Lazaridis, made a statement on September 18 blaming Syriza as well as Golden Dawn for “political violence”. Lazaridis’ statement is in line with his theory of “the two extremes”, which ludicrously posits that the very tame Syriza opposition is a “non-democratic party” comparable to Golden Dawn. It should be clear from this that any moves the government is making toward suppressing Golden Dawn are aimed at establishing a basis for crushing the left. Allowing actions to speak louder than words, the police have brutally attacked anti-fascist protesters and arrested dozens. We demand that all charges against the anti-fascist protesters be dropped! Meanwhile, the police, of course, amassed a large force to protect Golden Dawn’s headquarters in Athens when anti-fascist protesters tried to march there on the night of September 25.
The government has floated several measures to supposedly weaken Golden Dawn, including the expansion of the legal definition of what constitutes a criminal organization to cover unarmed groups. Make no mistake: any expansion of the repressive powers of the capitalist state to go after political organizations and individuals, including “antiracism” laws, will be used to go after the organizations of the working class and the left and must be opposed by the workers movement.
For a Workers United Front Against Fascism!
If the fascists have been able to grow stronger and bolder since Golden Dawn’s entry into Parliament last year, it is precisely because a sharp struggle has not been waged by the mass organizations of the working class. The trade unions are ultimate targets of the fascists, but they also have the power to stop them by uniting the proletariat in struggle. That power has been completely undermined by the misleaders of the trade unions and the reformist left, all of whom promote illusions in bourgeois “democracy” and Greek nationalism. The economic crisis and the fascist threat facing the workers and the poor cannot be resolved within the framework of capitalism nor, ultimately, within the borders of small, dependent Greece. The fight for international socialist revolution and a Socialist United States of Europe is key to leading not only the Greek but all the workers of the Balkan region and Europe out of the crisis.
The problem is that the Greek left is opposed to such a perspective. First you have the so-called Marxists who are ensconced inside Syriza, a pro-EU formation that has bent over backwards to prove to the imperialists and Greek capitalists that they will be responsible administrators of capitalism. Next you have the so-called Marxists inside Antarsya, who like to pose as the “revolutionary” left and as the alternative to both the KKE and Syriza. In reality, Antarsya simply seeks to pressure Syriza from the left, and its oppositional posture is mere pretense. This was demonstrated by the fact that greetings by Antarsya’s central committee to Syriza’s national conference in July expressed not one word of opposition to the widespread illusion that a capitalist government of the “left” (i.e., Syriza) is the way forward.
It is notable that the KKE, a mass workers party that leads key sectors of the Greek working class, has through its P AME trade-union formation recently mobilized unions such as the metal workers and seamen together with others in Piraeus and nearby areas to stop Golden Dawn from rallying and carrying out a racist, “Greeks-only” food handout. The killing of Pavlos Fyssas was preceded the week before by a brutal attack by supporters of Golden Dawn on the KKE itself in Perama—nine KKE supporters were sent to the hospital as a result. The trade union-led actions called by PAME to stop Golden Dawn are more than overdue. These protests undoubtedly reflect sentiment at the base of the KKE to defend its party and the unions from the fascists. But these sentiments run in contradiction to the KKE leadership’s persistent counseling against forming a “front” against fascism and its promotion of the fatuous illusion that Golden Dawn would be defeated, in the words of former KKE general secretary Aleka Papariga, “by the weapon of the vote” (kke.gr, 7 June 2012).
Although the KKE has the objective capacity through its influence over militant sectors of the working class to take the lead in mobilizing contingents of workers based on the trade unions to sweep the fascists off the streets, the KKE does not have the program to do this. Instead of a workers united front against fascism, the KKE today talks of a “people’s alliance” against the fascists. This serves to hide the fact that Greece is a class-divided society in which the “people” encompasses both the exploited and the oppressed and their exploiters and oppressors. This is consistent with the KKE’s call for “workers’-people’s power”.
In the early 1930s, Leon Trotsky, co-leader of the 1917 October Revolution alongside V.I. Lenin, fought urgently to change the German Communist Party (KPD) leadership’s suicidal policy of refusing to engage in struggle against the Nazis jointly with the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), which still had the allegiance of a large section of the working class. The Trotskyists, who considered themselves an expelled faction of the Communist International at the time, warned that the KPD leaders were undermining the struggle against the rise of the Nazis by adopting the call for a “people’s revolution” instead of a proletarian revolution. Trotsky wrote:
“In order that the nation should indeed be able to reconstruct itself around a new class core, it must be reconstructed ideologically and this can be achieved only if the proletariat does not dissolve itself into the ‘people,’ into the ‘nation,’ but on the contrary develops a program of its proletarian revolution and compels the petty bourgeoisie to choose between two regimes.... Under present conditions in Germany, the slogan of a ‘people’s revolution’ wipes away the ideological demarcation between Marxism and fascism and reconciles part of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie to the ideology of fascism, allowing them to think that they are not compelled to make a choice, because in both camps it is all a matter of a people’s revolution.”
—“Thälmann and the ‘People’s Revolution”’, 14 April 1931
In response to the rise of the Nazis and the fact that many workers were still politically tied to the reformist SPD, Trotsky urged the KPD to make use of the tactic of the working-class united front as understood by the early Communist International: “the united struggle of Communists and of all other workers, either belonging to other parties and groups, or belonging to no party whatever, for the defense of the elementary and vital interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie” (Executive Committee of the Communist International [ECCI], “Theses on the United Front”, 1922). The Trotskyists understood that it was only through the broadest unity in struggle by the workers, who have the social power to shut down the capitalist profit system, that the working-class organizations could defend themselves and the oppressed against the Nazis. But the united front was not a political non-aggression pact with the reformists—it was premised on both freedom of criticism and the political independence of the Communists, so that revolutionaries could seek to win over workers by exposing the reformist misleaders.
People’s Front: Policy of Class Betrayal
That the Nazis were able to march to power in 1933 without even token resistance was a world-historic defeat and a betrayal by the Stalinist and Social-Democratic misleaders. After not a single section of the Communist International protested this betrayal, it was apparent to the Trotskyists that a new International and new revolutionary parties needed to be built. In a panic over the defeat, the Stalinists flip-flopped from their earlier policy of refusing to carry out united-front actions jointly with other working-class organizations to a policy of forming alliances with “progressive” bourgeois forces under the formula of a people’s front against fascism. This was the opposite of a workers united front—it was a political bloc based on a bourgeois program. This people’s front formula, which was upheld in the lead-up to and throughout World War II, led to the betrayal of revolutionary opportunities internationally, from France to Italy to Greece. These defeats permitted the re-stabilization of the capitalist order in West Europe after World War II and, after a bloody civil war, in Greece.
In revolutionary situations, the popular front has led to nothing but a long string of bloody defeats for the working class: Spain and France in the ’30s, Indonesia in the ’60s and Chile in the ’70s. This is because the popular front is a bloc of organizations and parties representing various classes on the basis of a common program—the defense of bourgeois democracy. By definition, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties cannot agree to fight for a revolutionary, working-class program. Thus the popular front forces the working class to give up the aims that are in its class interests and to accept the aims of other class forces—defending capitalism. A people’s front always means abandoning the program of proletarian revolution and subordinating the workers to the bourgeoisie. This is the recipe for working-class defeat that the KKE leadership has upheld for more than 70 years.
Subordinating the proletariat to the “people” goes hand in hand with the promotion of nationalism-the idea that there is a common interest among all Greeks regardless of their class. While the masthead of the KKE’s newspaper may read “Proletarians of the World Unite”, the party’s response to the proposed closure of three state defense companies was pure Greek nationalism:
“This situation develops at the same time that the rivalries in the area are increasing, sovereignty rights of the country are in question and the existence as well as the functioning of the war industry is more and more necessary in order not to weaken the defense capacity of the country.”
—Statement in Parliament by KKE MP Thanasis Pafilis, kke.gr, 12 September
The working class has no interest in maintaining capitalist Greece’s defense capacity or the capitalist army. As V.I. Lenin said: “‘Not a penny, not a man’, not only for a standing army, but even for a bourgeois militia” (“The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution”, September 1916). The purpose of the capitalist army is to defend the interests of the Greek capitalists by sending Greek workers to kill and be killed by their Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian or Turkish working-class brothers, when the capitalists deem this necessary. It is therefore not surprising that the bourgeois press is now circulating stories that members of special forces units in the military have helped train Golden Dawn supporters.
The working class cannot successfully fight to win the discontented and dispossessed masses to its side away from forces like Golden Dawn by competing to be the best defenders of the “nation” and its borders, as the KKE does. In Greece, nationalism means the brutal oppression of immigrants, Roma and national minorities such as the Macedonians, Vlachs, Pomaks, Turks and Albanians. It is no accident that Golden Dawn first made its mark in the early 1990s in chauvinist protests against the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia including “Macedonia” in its name. Golden Dawn MPs now get up in Parliament and spout racist abuse against Muslim MPs from Thrace, while claiming Istanbul as the rightful capital of Greece. In opposition to such vile nationalism it is necessary for the workers movement to take up the fight for full democratic rights for the national minorities of Greece, for the right of self determination for the Macedonian minority in Greece and for a socialist federation of the Balkans as the only way to resolve the myriad national questions in the region.
For New October Revolutions!
There appear to be no bounds to the attempts of the Troika [International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank] and the Greek capitalists to decimate the working class. The public health care system, which was already nearing collapse, is now faced with further cuts in staff and funding. The government has even talked of entirely dismantling the main state health care provider, while you cannot even be seen in a “public” hospital without paying a fee and as of 2014 will not be hospitalized without paying 25 euros. The education system is also under attack—thousands of schoolteachers are facing layoffs. Major universities around Greece have announced that they are suspending all operations due to massive cuts in administrative staff demanded by the government. Official unemployment has swelled to almost 30 percent, while for youth it is around 60 percent. The bloodsucking banks are now demanding that the Greek government lift the ban on bank repossessions of the homes of those unable to make their loan repayments. The imperialist rulers and their domestic henchmen are not only trying to drive Greek wages and living conditions down to the level of neighboring Balkan countries but are also using Greece as a guinea pig for what they would like to do to the working class and poor throughout West Europe.
For all the protests and strikes called by the pro-capitalist bureaucracy of the ADEDY and GSEE trade-union federations since the beginning of the crisis in 2008, not a single austerity measure has been defeated. The increasingly desperate situation of Greek working people requires a leadership that through transitional demands links the daily struggles against austerity to the need to overthrow the capitalist order. For example, in response to mass unemployment and plummeting wages, such a leadership would fight for jobs for all with no loss in pay and the indexing of wages to inflation. But the trade-union bureaucracy, of which KKE representatives are a significant part, are not about to mobilize the full power of the working class in opposition to capitalist attacks because this would represent a challenge to the whole capitalist order. What is needed is a struggle for a new, revolutionary leadership of the trade unions, one that fights to keep the unions completely independent of the capitalist state to which they are currently tied by a thousand strings.
Unlike the rest of the left, the goal of the Trotskyist Group of Greece is not to build a movement that takes control of the existing state in the form of a “left” capitalist government. Our goal is to build a revolutionary, internationalist workers party like the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky, one that fights for the overthrow of the capitalist state, as part of the struggle for socialist revolutions internationally.