The trial of Greece's Nazi Golden Dawn party began in Athens on April 20, but was adjourned for at least two weeks because the specially built courtroom inside Korydallos prison was too small. A total of 69 fascists, including 18 members of the previous parliament representing Golden Dawn, are defendants in a case charging them with running a criminal organization responsible for violent attacks on immigrants, LGBT people and left-wing activists. Most of the members of parliament, including founder Nikos Michaloliakos, refused to show up for the trial. The court is reportedly considering alternative venues for the trial.
Meanwhile, thousands of anti-fascist protesters mobilized for demonstrations outside the prison, confronting a much smaller number of Golden Dawn supporters. However, the Nazis reportedly managed to physically attack five witnesses outside the prison, injuring one seriously enough to require hospitalization.
Writing ahead of the April 20 trial date, Thanasis Kourkoulas explains what's at stake in this trial for Greece and for the radical left, in an article published in Workers' Left, the newspaper of the Greek socialist group Internationalist Workers Left.
WITH THE start of the trial of Golden Dawn, the lies will come to an end. The neo-Nazis will be judged in the courtroom and the political arena, as will the anti-fascist movement and the left.
The fascists will attempt to convince the people of Greece that the dozens of violent attacks, resulting in injuries and deaths--to be described by more than 100 witnesses called to testify at the trial--are not the work of a criminal organization, but the unconnected actions of some leaders and members of a legitimate political party that otherwise renounces violence and condemns its own members who commit violence.
On the other hand, the unshakable belief of the vast majority of people that the murderous gangs of Golden Dawn are identical to the neo-Nazi group itself and are directed by the party's leadership remains to be proven indisputably in court. But this is not enough by itself.
Because the trial is not about some of the crimes committed by its thugs, but the entire criminal apparatus of Golden Dawn, including its leadership, the case will take on a critical political character in Greece and internationally. The outcome of the case, along with the general social and political climate tied to the course of the Tsipras government, will determine to a great extent whether the Greek neo-Nazis will suffer a serious blow in their ability to recruit young people into their ranks and to pose as a respectable party within the political establishment.
In the end, Greek fascism--which draws its strength from its penetration of the state apparatus and the help it receives from sections of the capital--will either be weakened by the outcome of this trial, or the stage will be set for its murderous activities to increase.
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WHETHER THE leadership of the neo-Nazis is condemned in court--rather than a few low-ranking cutthroats like Giorgos Roupakias, Giorgos Patelis and Themis Skordeli convicted--depends not only on the details of the prosecution, but the political climate in society as a whole.
History teaches us that no court will make such a serious decision without regard to that climate, no matter how much the political establishment talks about the "the independence of the judiciary." If the social and political outrage evident 40 years ago against the instigators of the April military junta is directed today toward Michaloliakos and the Nazi leadership clan, they will be condemned by the court. But if an attitude of indifference toward the outcome or of leaving matters to the court, the outcome won't be certain at all.
The anti-fascist movement should build on its record of massive mobilizations in the days that followed the murder of Pavlos Fyssas [the anti-racist hip-hop artist killed by a Golden Dawn member in 2013]. This upsurge forced Nikos Dendias, the former Minister of Public Order under the New Democracy government, and state prosecutors to dig out of their desk drawers 32 cases against Golden Dawn members and charge 70 people with running a criminal organizations.
The protests at the start of the trial on April 20 were called by trade unions (ADEDY, EINAP, the metalworkers' union, etc.); antifascist movements (Anti-Fascist Coordination Athens-Piraeus, antiracist organizations, etc.), local councils and community organizations (representing Nikaias-Renti, Korydallos, Keratsini-Drapetsona, etc.) and political organizations (including youth and local chapters of SYRIZA, the Greek Communist Party and ANTARSYA).
This is a good start. Going forward, there should be a continuous presence of anti-fascists in court, along with local and central events in cities and neighborhoods that speak out against any preferential treatment for the fascists. The movement should demand that the trial be transferred to a central area of Athens to ensure an open and public process as soon as possible, without accepting any postponement.
Initiatives such as the observers who will analyze and publish the daily record of what takes place inside the courtroom are critically important to make sure updates from the trial are widely accessible, and information is not monopolized by the major media to interpret through its own prejudices.
Just as important, if not more so, is the position of left parties toward what is at stake in this trial and how it will effect the strength of the left in society as a whole.
It could prove damaging if the idea prevails that the left must moderate its attitude or keep its distance from demonstrations so as not to be accused of trying to exploit the proceedings. The left needs to declare loud and clear that it wants justice for the victims of fascism and the condemnation of Golden Dawn cutthroats, street gangs and their leaders.
There is also a mistaken tendency to underestimate the importance of the outcome of the trial, based on the perception that the case is really for international consumption and the courtroom is a rigged game, in which the visiting team should abstain. But when a team forfeits a match, they lose without a fight. In the case of the Golden Dawn trial, this would leave the team unprepared for its responsibilities outside the arena in the days that followed.