On 17 February left-wingers and radicals in Greece were shocked by video clips of a visit by activists of the Greek neo-Nazi group Xrisi Aygi (Golden Dawn) to the workers at Greek Steel in Athens who have been on strike since 31 October.
The neo-Nazis were given the microphone to declare their “support” for the workers (four months late, and after Xrisi Aygi people in Volos, where Greek Steel’s other factory is located, have actively supported the employer).
The president of the union, Giorgios Sifonios, welcomed the Xrisi Aygi representatives, stating that “All Greece is supporting Greek Steel”! He spoke after Xrisi Aygi, effectively endorsing them by vaguely talking about the corruption of the mainstream political establishment. Xrisi Aygi was allowed to distribute stickers calling Greek workers to “Vote for Xrisi Aygi — to clean the dirt from Greece”.
The Greek Steel strike is a flagship campaign for the diehard-Stalinist Greek Communist Party KKE and its union front, PAME. Sifonios is politically affiliated to KKE-PAME.
Instead of kicking the Xrisi Aygi representatives out of the occupation, he accepted their donation of milk and chocolates and he handed them the microphone.
Over previous months, the union at Greek Steel has refused access to speak to the workers to all the revolutionary left groups that have provided unconditional support to the workers.
Only after a video clip was released on YouTube, and striking Greek Steel workers complained to their union, did the union leadership at Greek Steel issue a statement.
“The trade union of Greek Steel workers denounces the attempt by Xrisi Aygi and other groups to provoke our heroic struggle... After they had taken photos of their speech and of the food they offered, labelled with their despicable Nazi slogans, which we did not see until they left, they started their usual tactics of provoking our struggle…”
The union leadership statement took a swipe at the revolutionary left too: “Greek Steel workers are much bigger then Xrisi Aygi and any other supposedly revolutionary forces. Greek Steel workers are part of the organised workers’ class movement, which is the basic support for their struggle. It is not by chance that all these forces are against PAME”.
Not a word of self-criticism of the Greek Steel union leaders’ “political mistake” (to say the least) in welcoming Xrisi Aygi into the occupation.
The least to be expected from the central KKE leaders was that they make a public apology and a firm political critique of the Xrisi Aygi visit. However, the political and ideological profile of KKE excluded that.
KKE is a Stalinist party and one of the fundamental characteristics of Stalinism is that the leadership never makes mistakes. The KKE paper Rizospastis wrote:
“Xrisi Aygi exploited the opportunity to perform a provocative action against KKE, the class-conscious organized working-class movement, and the strikers of Greek Steel, by visiting the workplace of Greek Steel and faking support for the Greek Steel workers strike”.
But the statement distancing from Xrisi Aygi was followed by an equally hostile tone towards left-wing groups.
“Supposedly self-defined left-wing forces such as Xekinima, Antarsya, Sek, joined Xrisi Aygi in provoking KKE and Greek Steel workers. These supposedly left-wing forces are united in their hatred against KKE and PAME, trying to undermine the organised working-class trade-union movement, offering services to the employers and the capitalist class. The workers’ contempt is waiting for them…”
Instead of KKE/PAME and Rizospastis recognizing their mistake, they imply that left-wing revolutionary organisations play the same role as Xrisi Aygi.
KKE’s stance should be seen in historical continuity with the political and ideological tendency that it represents.
Before Hitler gained power in Germany in 1933, the line handed down by Stalin to the Communist Party of Germany was: do not be afraid of Hitler, let him gain power, the people will then realise that he is a con-man, they will overthrow him, and the Communist party will gain power. The Stalinist party refused to form a united front with the social democratic party, referring to them as “social-fascists”.
The Stalinist leadership replied to the Left Opposition and Trotsky by accusing them of being agents of Hitler!
Back in December, the Xrisi Aygi branch in Volos made its stance on the Greek Steel workers’ strike clear:
“Nobody denies the fact that the Greek Steel bosses pocketed massive profits in recent years due to the Olympic Games and the big construction projects, which we do not condemn, as every investor invests money in order to make profits and not in order to count losses…
“The proposal of the employer of Greek Steel to the workers was a sensible proposal within the difficult economic context. Of course it is unfortunate that the employer had to reduce the workers’ wages. However, the fact that the employer is offering to reduce the working hours is proof that he does not wish to sack the workers...
“Unfortunately the workers of Greek Steel have carried on their strike despite the fact that the employer offered to re-hire the sacked workers; the workers are placing more demands, accusing the employer of trying to dismantle collective bargaining agreements and trying to enforce individual agreements”
“It is of paramount importance to build a nationalistic trade-union movement which will support workers’ right in a responsible way and aim at a reconciliation of the employers and workers”.
The increase in the poll score of Xrisi Aygi is a warning. In some recent polls Xrisi Aygi gets around 3%, threatening to enter parliament and scoring higher than the left alliance Antarsya.
We are living in a period of big industrial struggles, of the resurgence of a combative working-class movement, but the left has underestimated Xrisi Aygi, and failed sufficiently to offer answers to deal with the poverty and social deprivation in areas where Xrisi Aygi has won support.
KKE and Syriza, the coalition formed around the ex-Eurocommunist Synaspismos, have refused to form a united front to confront fascism. A turning point which empowered Xrisi Aygi was May 2011 when the intensification of the fascist violence at the centre of Athens led to the murder of an immigrant worker but remained unanswered by the left.
It is a big mistake when some on the left argue to ignore the fascists so we do not advertise them. The fascists will get advertised anyway by mainstream journalists and media which portray them as respectable politicians and invite them to panels as respectable representatives that have valid opinions (albeit a bit extreme) on “rescuing Greece” from the crisis.
The revolutionary left needs to lead the struggle to organise massive anti-fascist mobilisations. If the fascists get space to silence the majority of the society that opposes them by the force of terrorism, then they appear as all powerful and invincible and they become a pole of attraction for ruined petty bourgeois and marginal sections of society.
But the heroic teams of anarchists who regard it as their personal and ethical responsibility to deal with the fascists of Xrisi Aygi in isolated “military-type” actions, detached from the majority of the Greek society, are ineffective and counterproductive. We can only defeat fascism if we form a robust united front of all working class organisations, of all left parties, of all trade unions and organizations and youth movements independent of their leaderships.
We support the right of immigrants and workers to self-defence against the fascist thugs.
But self-defence can only be effective if it has political back-up and support from the majority of the working class, including those who are influenced or support reformist and social-democratic ideas.
The last words of how to deal with the fascist threat and destroy it from its infancy belongs to the trade union of refugees and immigrant workers of Greece:
“The visits of the neo-Nazi thugs of Xrisi Aygi to Greek Steel is a provocation and a below-the-belt attack for the whole of the working class and the solidarity movement for the industrial struggle against redundancies and the shutting down of factories.
“The neo-Nazis of Xrisi Aygi are dangerous. They are a threat to our freedom. They should not be given any platform or space in our trade unions, our collective organisations, our councils, the parliament. They aim at a brutal dictatorship at concentration camps and the extermination of left-wingers, communists, trade unionists and the immigrants...
“Let’s all join our forces to build the anti-Nazi demo on 17 March! Let’s close every road to the fascists and open the road of the unification of the working class”.