A Syriza rally in Rethymno, Crete encouraging Greeks to vote NO (ΟΧΙ) to the bailout conditions proposed by the Troika (EU/ECB/IMF). Alex Tsipras’ decision on Saturday 27th June to call a referendum on the (now expired) bailout offered by Greece’s creditors threw the country into turmoil. ATMs were emptied over the weekend by people desperate to get access to their savings, and banks were shuttered as capital controls were imposed the following Monday. The Greek government’s refusal of the bailout offers proposed lead to the country defaulting on an IMF debt repayment at Midnight on Tuesday 30th June, plunging Greece further into crisis. The referendum will take place on Sunday 5th June, with some analysts predicting a ‘No’ vote (as encouraged by the Syriza government) would see Greece exiting the Euro and thus the EU and Eurozone. The Greek government deny this, with Prime Minister Tsipras asserting that he remains committed to keeping Greece in the European Union.
A back street in Rethymno Old Town. The graffiti to the right reads: “Crush the fascists”. The upswing in popularity of the far-right party Golden Dawn in Greece has prompted a powerful opposition movement from left and far-left groups, who have rallied against Golden Dawn’s divisive views on race and the role of immigrants in Greek society.
The murder of the rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013 by a self-confessed Golden Dawn supporter prompted a drive-by shooting reprisal by an anti-establishment group in November 2013 which killed two Golden Dawn members. On the 26th January 2014, Kathimerini reported that Golden Dawn members had returned to the spot where Fyssas was murdered, and “vandalised” the makeshift shrine there.
In the wake of the September murder of Fyssas, and with mounting controversy over Golden Dawn’s links to violent attacks, weaponry and neo-Nazism, numerous Golden Dawn offices were raided, and several of its representatives have been imprisoned over the party’s potentially ‘criminal’ involvement, with the future of the party being called into question.
On the 2 February 2014 Ilias Kassidiaris – a spokesman for Golden Dawn, announced the party would seek to re-brand itself as ‘National Dawn’, if, as predicted by some, the Golden Dawn party is to be banned.
The day before (Saturday 1st January) some 3,000 Golden Dawn supporters gathered in Athens to commemorate the 1996 crisis involving the contested Imia/Kardak islands, which prompted a diplomatic incident between Greece and Turkey. This Golden Dawn commemoration gathering sparked a resurgence of the animosity between Golden Dawn and far-left groups, with the Associated Press reporting “scuffles” between individuals on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
The Occupy Movement’s rallying cry for solidarity and opposition to inequality sits alongside a poster for the Greek Socialist Worker Party (ΣΕΚ) advocating camaraderie between Greek socialists and Instanbul’s ‘Gezi Park’ protestors (further information can be found here).
Greece’s economic malaise has driven some of its citizens towards reactionary political ideologies which seek to divide people on the basis of their nationality or race, as evidenced by the rise in popularity of Golden Dawn, a party linked to violent attacks against migrants living in Greece. Whilst some Greeks have tilted towards the right of the political spectrum though, others have embraced ideological movements which advocate a common cause, struggle, and universal brotherhood – the most famous of these being the global ‘Occupy’ movement, whose goals are to unite the global masses against the inequalities in capitalism which see a mere 1% in possession of the vast majority of capital. The universality of the Occupy message is made all the more crucial in the case of Greece and Turkey, two states whose historical relationship is be characterized by animosity given their colonial pasts (all the more significant on a island like Crete, which was only liberated fully from Ottoman rule in the early 20th century).
The poster on the left of the photo is produced by an Anarchist organization named ‘The Initiative for Total Refusal of Enlistment’. The poster asks for support for Dmitri Nioti, who refused the mandatory conscription required of all Greek men over the age of 19 (university students are able to defer until their mid-20s), and was due for a court martial hearing in May 2013. Anarchist groups massed to protest on his behalf outside the court in the Ioannina in North West Greece, where Nioti was given a 6 month suspended sentence and a 6,000 Euro fine. With the recent political, economic, and social turmoil in Greece, and the rise of more ‘radically’ minded parties and ideologies, opposition has mounted against more traditional institutions such as the Greek Army and Police force, which are perceived to be defenders of the status quo. This poster accuses the Greek Army of not being a ‘protector of the lower classes’, labeling it a ‘Guarantor of state capitalist barbarism’. It also takes aim at the Greek army’s role in Western driven military operations, such as the Afghanistan war, intervention in the Libyan civil war, and involvement in NATO operations in the Mediterranean and Somalia. The Greek army’s naval training exercises with the Israeli military (given Israel’s tempestuous relationship with Palestine and the Arab states), are also criticized. The anarchists also question the role played by the Greek military in policing and controlling protests against the Greek government, arguing that the military plays a part in ‘suppressing’ opposition by classifying them as ‘internal enemies’. Most recently, on the 7th November, the Greek government had riot police storm the TV headquarters of the shuttered state broadcaster ERT (EPT in the Greek alphabet), which had been occupied by a group of journalists since it was controversially closed down by the government in early June, in a bid to cut Greece’s public sector costs. According to the UK Guardian, Greece is the only state in the EU to have ever closed down its public broadcaster.
N.B. On 17th November, an anti-establishment group named The Militant People’s Revolutionary Forces (previously unknown) claimed responsibility for the drive-by shootings that killed two young Golden Dawn members in Athens. The group claimed the shooting was in retaliation for the death of left-wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was killed by a self-proclaimed Golden Dawn supporter.
Seen here are posters for the Socialist Worker Party (ΣΕΚ), Ε.ΠΑ.Μ ‘Democracy Now’, and the All-Workers Militant Front Trade Union (Πανεργατικό Αγωνιστικό Μέτωπο, Π.Α.ΜΕ/PAME).
The ΠΑΜΕ Trade Union has campaigned against cuts in wages and pensions and tax increases implemented by the Greek government in accordance with the conditions of the EU sponsored bailout which seeks to balance Greece’s deficit.
More information on the Socialist Worker Party (ΣΕΚ) and Ε.ΠΑ.Μ ‘Democracy Now’ can be found in the previous blog post here.
The Π.Α.ΜΕ Trade Union, Socialist Worker Party (ΣΕΚ) and Ε.ΠΑ.Μ ‘Democracy Now’ have all been involved in campaigning against the far right Golden Dawn party, whose involvement in violence against immigrants and the recent murder of Pavlos Fyssas has led to mass protests across Greece and her islands.
The poster on the right is about the Greek Socialist Worker Party (ΣΕΚ), which calls for solidarity with the Uprising in Turkey. This refers to the protests which found their genesis in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in late May 2013, initially as opposition on ecological grounds to the destruction of the park to make way for a shopping centre. This protest snowballed into an Occupy-style movement challenging the perceived authoritarianism of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, conservative and traditionalist attempts to restrict public behaviour (most notably restrictions on alcohol, and kissing in public), and wider opposition to governments and the Capitalist financial system.
This poster calls for solidarity between Istanbul and Athens, and for protesters to unite in a ‘Common Battle’ (n.b. this is not a call to violence). Featured on the poster are details for a talk by the Greek activist and writer Nikos Lountos, held by a Cultural Student Group of the University of Crete, Rethymno.
Also visible on this photo is a fragment of a poster for the Ε.ΠΑ.Μ ‘Democracy Now’ group, a grassroots movement which campaigns for widespread democratic and institutional reforms in Greece. It opposes the conditions of the ‘Troika’ (EU, IMF, ECB) sanctioned bailouts imposed on the Greek people, and calls for Greece to abandon both the EU and the Euro, and reinstate a national currency.
The increased prominence and rising popularity of groups and parties such as ΣΕΚ and Ε.ΠΑ.Μ comes as a direct response to the harsh conditions faced by the Greek people as their Government imposes cuts to the public sector and services, as well as large tax increases, in an attempt to balance Greece’s deficit. Both ΣΕΚ and Ε.ΠΑ.Μ, and other parties of similiar political affiliation have been extremely vocal in their opposition to the the far-right Golden Dawn group, whose links to violence and the recent murder of Pavlos Fyssas have led to the recent arrest of its leader Nikos Michaloliakos and other central members of the party on 28th September.
(Apologies to any Greek speakers for the quality of my translations, any corrections are welcomed)
The graffiti translates as “Fire in the house of Golden Dawn”.
This photo was featured on the cover of the Fall 2013 edition of the Michigan Quarterly Review.
The recent global financial crisis and a mismanagement of state revenue has left Greece saddled with a huge deficit, rendered even worse by the knock-on effects of the Eurozone predicament affecting the Southern European member states. The strict austerity measures imposed on Greece as a condition of the EU and IMF sponsored bailouts have taken their toll on the people of Greece, increasing support for parties at the more extreme ends of the political spectrum. The most dramatic example of this is the far-right group Golden Dawn (χρυσή αυγή), whose popularity has swelled to make it Greece’s third largest political party, holding 18 seats in Greece’s 300 strong parliament. Golden Dawn’s hugely divisive anti-immigrant stance and its links to violence and neo-Nazism have led to powerful opposition against the party and its ideology by vast swathes of the Greek population, particularly members of communist, socialist and solidarity groups. On the 18th September the fatal stabbing of the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas (stage name Killah P) in Athens by a Golden Dawn sympathiser lead to mass demonstrations against the party both on the Greek mainland and in Chania (where Golden Dawn has an office) and Rethymno. The Greek government has responded by raiding several Golden Dawn offices and implementing legislation that could see the party banned.
The wonderful winding streets of Rethymno in Crete provide a fantastic opportunity to sample the unique charms of this historic town. The graffiti trend which has become increasingly widespread over the last 5 years would have conservationists up in arms, as the canvases utilised are often Venetian and Ottoman buildings, but it is just another artistic expression of the town’s rich and vibrant youth culture. As Greece’s young people face an uncertain future, while the nation struggles under its mountain of deficit, graffiti provides an outlet for self-expression, solidarity, and even opposition against reactionary far right groups like Golden Dawn.