The protests against Golden Dawn around the world gained much media attention, including the one in Chicago where you were the key note speaker. What happened at this Jan. 19th event?
Well, I was the “MC” for want of a better term. The event was held for, essentially, two reasons: Golden Dawn announced that there were opening a Chicago-area office and a call had come from Greece for an international day of solidarity rejecting fascism and austerity measures and in support of the struggle of the Greek people.
You work with the American Party of Labor (APL). What role did the APL and other left-wing organizations play in organizing the action against Golden Dawn?
I have to give a tremendous shout-out to Chris Geovanis and Stavroula Harissis – if it weren’t for them, this event likely would never have taken place. It was Chris who first reached out to folks and pulled the event together. She is a tireless worker, and her energy and commitment really galvanized everything. For her efforts she’s been targeted by local fascists, who’ve sent her a number of pretty vile and threatening phone calls and email. Stavroula did the leg work to connect with the Greek-American community, and gave a beautiful and moving speech at the event itself. These two comrades were really the heart and soul of the event.
The APL was present from the very first organizing session for the demo; and aided with publicity, communicating with the broad-Left, putting together the list of endorsers, and managing outreach through the event’s Facebook page. The International Socialist Organization (ISO) was also present from the first. The event itself drew people from the APL and ISO, of course; the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO); the Wobblies; the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA); various unions were represented; and, more local groups such as Radicals Against Discrimination. All-in-all it was a respectable turnout considering the short turnaround time, two weeks, we had to bring it all together.
What can you tell us about the situation in Greece?
There has been an escalating level of popular protest and mass struggle in Greece going back to 2010 when the Greek government announced severe cutbacks in social services that were part of an austerity program the government promised the EU and the IMF in return for a 110 billion Euro bailout. Over the past three years, as the world financial crisis deepened and the Greek economy edged near collapse, the protest movement became more militant.
Predictably, this is when Golden Dawn first appeared. It’s an almost textbook example of capitalism turning to its most reactionary and terroristic elements to save its skin in the face of rising working class and popular discontent. During the 2012 protests, it became public knowledge that Golden Dawn had a strong presence within the Greek police and security apparat. Although to what extent it’s managed to penetrate other organs of Greek officialdom is unknown, Golden Dawn did manage to successfully field electoral candidates in May and June of 2012.
What are the implications of this electoral strengthening of fascism in Greece?
The implications are very serious. An openly fascist, Neo-Nazi party now sits in the Greek Parliament. It can influence policy and legislation; and, in future, it can run for a seat in the European Parliament.
Would you describe the political ideology that motivates Golden Dawn’s actions?
Well, Golden Dawn likes to be coy in public. Supposedly, it rejects being labeled as fascist or Nazi, and, instead claims to be inspired by right-wing dictator Ioannis Metaxas. This is just word-play on Golden Dawn’s part. Metaxas was dictator of Greece in the 1930s and his regime was thoroughly fascist, from insisting that Metaxas be styled as the “Archigos” (leader) which is the Greek equivalent of “Duce” or “Fuhrer”, down to corporatist economics, book burnings, and intense anti-communism.
Can you elaborate on fascism? What is it and how do we fight it?
Ah! One could write books on the subject! Essentially fascism is the dictatorship of the most reactionary, most terroristic elements of capitalism. In a sense, fascism is the last resort of capitalism. When capitalism feels true threatened, either by the mass action of the people or by its own failures and contradictions, it pulls out all the stops. It sheds its veneer of liberal democracy. Fascism is the result. Ideologically, fascism combines militarism, corporatism, populist nationalism, and glorification of unlimited counter-revolutionary violence. Now, other right-wing and reactionary movements might have one or another of these features; but, fascism combines them all. Fascism also tries to create – and this is really one of the things that distinguishes fascism – a counter-revolutionary mass movement. This “mass movement,” usually composed of petty-bourgeois and lumpen elements, are the fascist “storm troopers” — the “Blackshirts,” the “Brownshirts.”
We fight fascism by actively and militantly opposing it wherever, whenever, and however it may appear. We fight through education, by raising people’s consciousness and awareness of what fascism is and the menace it poses; and we fight in the streets, through marches, protests, and demonstrations.
What are the recent activities of the Golden Dawn organization? Have they been driven back or are they making advances?
The battle is far from over. I already mentioned Golden Dawn’s recent electoral gains. They have been responsible for numerous acts of racist and anti-immigrant violence in Greece; and there are signs that they are attempting to link up with similar fascist and neo-Nazi groups in Germany, Italy, Spain, and here in the US. The danger is very real. The one thing that can stop them, the one thing that history shows has always been able to stop them, is the organized mass action of working people. Like the thugs and cowards they are, when we say “NO!” they often run and hide.
What are the implications of this anti-fascist movement against Golden Dawn internationally and in the U.S.?
Fascism is on the rise. It’s not just a question of groups like Golden Dawn in Greece, or the KKK and white supremacists here. Rather, reactionary movements like the “Tea Party” in this country and the “National Front” in Britain are a very real danger and a warning of what could happen should fascism remain unopposed.
What does the APL support politically? You are deliberately different from most other activist and protest groups in terms of how you organize, correct?
The APL is a Marxist-Leninist party. As a party we stand for socialism, for a lasting peace, and for a peoples’ democracy; a true democracy; a democracy by and for the working class. Not just one where every few years people get to choose their oppressors. We see ourselves as having no interests apart from those of working class people; and we see our role as that of organizing working people around those interests, and of giving a deeper, scientific, Marxist-Leninist understanding to the various progressive and popular struggles taking place.
What has been the experience of anti-fascist coalitions and organizations organizing in Chicago?
Positive. We were able to mobilize a respectable number of people in a very short time. I think this speaks not only to the skill and energy of the organizers, as I said before, but to the fact the people recognize the importance of the issue. The very real threat fascism poses; not just in Greece, not just here in the US, but worldwide.
What lessons should we draw from this?
That fascism not only can be challenged, but must be challenged! That ordinary people are not powerless; and that the defeatist mantra of “what can I do?” is false. We working people can organize in the defense of our interests; we can stand up for our rights; and we can win!
Where do we go from here?
We keep organizing and we keep fighting. The stronger our response to fascism and fascist measures, the more militant our actions, the more we raise the level of people’s consciousness as to what fascism is and the danger it poses, the more we bring other working people into the struggle.
How can people get involved?
By joining social justice organizations, by organizing in your school or union – by joining the APL!
::Casal smiles broadly::
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