ASTORIA, QUEENS, NEW YORK, October 9 — Over 200 people rallied in a church this evening to discuss preventing the Greek neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn from opening an office in this largely Greek neighborhood. A number of people from Greece were there, including one of the former leaders of the Stella D’Oro strike in the Bronx, as well as teachers, students and labor activists.
The meeting began with a panel of six speakers, who provided a history of Golden Dawn — a group that uses Nazi symbols, celebrates Hitler’s birthday and has a record of attacking and beating immigrants and leftists. Fortunately, the latter have often defended themselves and “shown the fascists the pavement.” This is the only response thugs like the Golden Dawn respect.
Speakers also reasoned that Golden Dawn has gained some support in Greece, 7% of the electoral vote this year, because of the capitalist crisis that is also driving millions of workers there into poverty.
Golden Dawn, with origiins in Greece, pretends to be against the fascist austerity programs demanded by the Athens government and the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund. However, when workers fight back with a general strike or surround Parliament in protest, Golden Dawn is nowhere to be found!
Capitalism has left the Greek economy in terrible condition: one-quarter of the population is unemployed, and half of all young workers are jobless. Real wages are plummeting, poverty is rising and the recession is growing worse. The Greek government owes European and U.S. banks tens of billions in loans, so the bailout money it receives from the European Union goes directly back to those banks. As one speaker astutely pointed out, “This is a bailout of the big banks, not the people of Greece, who are suffering!” If the government fell, the banks would lose a source of stolen profits. It is in this painful crisis that Golden Dawn is helping the Greek and international ruling classes by winning workers to blame immigrants, Jews and leftists for the problems caused by the wealthy business interests. Appealing to nationalism, Golden Dawn frames the issue as one of “defending Greek sovereignty” rather than the working class fighting to defend its interests.
Older workers remember what fascism meant to them. In World War II, the German and Italian occupation of Greece killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, some by torture and execution, others by starvation. The communist-led Resistance movement heroically fought and defeated the occupiers and their Greek collaborators. They were later supressed by the British Army. In 1947 U.S. forces, under the global anti-communist Truman Doctrine, replaced the British military. From 1967 to 1974, a right-wing military junta brutally suppressed the working class, abolishing their unions and their political parties, forbidding demonstrations and subjecting tens of thousands to torture and/or prison. In 1974 the junta was overthrown and the new government tried and imprisoned the junta leaders.
During the 1980’s, the eventual leader of Golden Dawn, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, became friendly with some of the imprisoned former colonels from this junta and was encouraged to form a new fascist party. Today, the Greek police actively support Golden Dawn — 50% of them cast their vote for the neo-Nazis. The cops stand idly by while the racist goons attack immigrants and leftist rallies.
One of the speakers at the meeting pointed out that Hitler wrote in his book, Mein Kampf, that the left had the opportunity to crush the Nazis in Germany in the 1920s when they were small. By 1933 it was too late, and the fascists proceeded to put leftists — especially leaders of the working class — into concentration camps. We can’t make the same mistake.
Progressive Labor Party members and friends plan to be active in the committees that were formed to continue organizing against Golden Dawn. We will emphasize two things:
• Multi-racial unity: The meeting was mostly white. We need to broaden our base of support, by participating in anti-racist and pro working class struggles throughout the city. Although no one mentioned it at the meeting, NYC cops recently murdered Noel Polanco, a 22-year-old young man who worked in Astoria. Mr. Polanco was stopped in his car and unarmed when a policeman shot him without any justification. We will join community protests, spreading the idea that we need working-class solidarity to win.
• Communism: While anti-fascist protests are great, we need to remember that capitalism has always — and will always — produce fascist groups to do its bidding. In the midst of the worst economic crisis in eighty years, not to mention the billions who are always facing grinding poverty, we need to build a revolutionary communist answer to capitalism while we organize against the fascist thugs that it gives life to.