[a text on the rise of nationalism in greece, our experiences and our political practices against it, written on February 2013, for the Ums Ganze! magazine in germany]
In greek and international media there has been a debate on the rise of nationalism in the geographical space called greece. Admittedly, there has been a rise of nationalism in this geographical part of the southern Balkans, but it worries us that the analysts and all of those who take part in the relevant debates … started refering to the phenomenon just a few months ago. Nevertheless, we locate the phenomenon of the rise of nationalism in greece, somewhere between the 1820s and the 1830s. Exaggeration is a bad advisor, so in order to earn some prestige for this position of ours, we should remind you that the greek national anthem is a poem which praises the first mass slaughter of foreigns (30,000 Mulisms and Jews of Turkish origin in the conquest of the city of Tripolis) in the greek geographical space, during the years of ‘liberation’ from the Turks. We could refer to many more incidents, where the so-called ‘greeks’ were killing in the name of their brand-new nation-state in order to expand their frontiers, or/and just for the fun of it. But we ‘ll limit ourselves to some crucial elements of greek nationalism in relation to others, in order to provide you with a more concret picture.
a) self-victimization of the greek people: a recent example from the ’00s is that the greeks in most polls consider themselves as ‘bearers of hospitality’, because f i l o x e n i a, that is hospitality, is after all another nationaly myth they would love to believe in. Filoxenia, literally, means to love foreigners. At the same time, in the very same polls, the greeks argue that all foreigners should abandon greece, because foreigners – that is, mostly immigrants – take advantage of ‘greek hospitality’ and, then, try to victimize greeks in their own home(land). Of course, self-victimization is a much more crucial element in the greek nationalism and shares a historical continuity in a way. Greece becomes more aggressive when constructs the idea that it’s being attacked, either by states with much less powers (e.g. Macedonia, or Albania), or by states that play the role of the ‘eternal enemy’ (e.g. Turkey, or Bulgaria), or even by super-powers (e.g. mostly the U.S.A.). This way, conspiracy theories along with nationalist narratives can be found in daily routine of national rhetorics.
b) insisting on homogeneity: greece is supposedly consisted of 97% christian orthodox and one of the biggest anxieties of the state is to preserve its national-religious integrity and homogeneity. Greek jews, apparently, but also the few greek catholics or muslims are not considered ‘100% greeks’ or, by some, not even greeks at all. Another example is that even if hundrends of thousands of immigrants live nowadays in greece, and in Athens too, the state along with the orthodox church have delayed as much as possible the creation of a … mosque in Athens. Another example can be shown through the national narratives over the ‘population problem’ of greece, ‘d i m o g r a f i k o‘, that is frequently represented in parliament and the mainstream media. What kind of ‘problem’ is that? The ‘problem’ that greeks have a much lower birth rate than … immigrants in greece or the Turks!
c) the three-thousand-years continuity of greek civilization: greeks believe – this is the official state-national narrative – that 1821 onwards, that is during the early years of the greek state, is nothing more than the … Third period of presence of the historical greek people and their state. The first period can supposedly be traced back to the … ancient Athens, while the second period can be found in the … Byzantine civilization, that is the continue of the Roman Empire. Apparently, this is the reason why a great anxiety of the greeks is to prove that Alex the Great had been born from greek (and not slavic!) sperm. This is the reason why people in greece find this issue as so important: they can tell their own origin through … a dead man, 2.000 years ago.
We believe, we have already unveiled a certain mode of the way we try to see things politically, that is, to engage history in our political estimations, analyses and activities. We put emphasis on that, because it is not common in the geographical space where we live. A certain loss of memory or, otherwise, selective amnesia is a necessary national characteristic in this country whether you want to deal with mainstream politics, or alternative/subversive.
This is the main reason why someone can speak nowadays about the rise of nationalism in greece. He or she that ‘discovers’ this topic of discussion today, must have forgotten or chosen to forget that nationalism (and fascism and racism) and greece have a long and adventurous affair for ages… Of course, the tension and the quality differs from time to time. And for our part, in that long and adventurous history, we should focus on the last twenty years of happily lived greek existence in order to give you a more specific pictures of how greeks enjoy their national community. Our focus on the last twenty years is related to major shifts in greek society, one of which is the mass influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe during the early ’90s. During that time and almost until recently, the main motto in the greek public discourse were “greeks are not racists” and a similar version, “greeks were not racists,till the foreigners came!”. Hence, if there was someone to blame for the rise in racist violence, it was the migrants themselves. In fact, greece is a country where ethnic and religious minorities were either violently “hellen-ized”, suppressed, expelled when possible or in the case of jews exterminated (86 % of the greek jews died in the Holocaust). So, when albanians, bulgarians and others came to greece, greeks had already a long experience when it came to dealing with “Others” as they proved in the anti-albanian pogrom which took place all over Greece in 2004 (one dead and 300 injured albanians during the night of the 4th of September, in many greek cities). So, once again, racism and greece have lived up to now their long relationship.
Nonetheless, there has been a change since 2008, but this change should not be described as a ‘rise of nationalism’, since that term would imply that nationalism was asleep during the previous years. So, the years after the December riots, can be described as a pro-longed “counter-insurgency”. Right wing professors associated with the Kathimerini newspaper tried to explain away the December riots as the last expression of a dominant culture of “anomie” and violence which was attributed to the (nonexistent) hegemony of the left or in more extreme cases of dementia to the Ottoman-Oriental nature of Greek society and its refusal to “modernise”. The New Democracy party (conservatives) itself had internal elections where Antonis Samaras, a far-right politician managed to mobilize an unprecedented number of ND members to vote for him based on an anti-left and anti-immigrant agenda. This very agenda would prove convincing enough to make him a Prime Minister just a few years later. Also, at the same time the neo-nazis gained a new political visibility both with the election of their Fuhrer at the Athens Council as well as their presence at the so-called “citizens’ committees” in various parts of Athens.
Immediately after the “scandal” of the December riots, where high-school students were rioting along with sans-papier immigrants and soccer hooligans, a second series of protests and riots followed by muslim immigrants for the tearing up of a Quran by a greek cop. The right-wing agenda was hence enriched with anti-Islamic rhetoric, which of course has its own deep roots in Greek society.
Against this whole poisonous atmosphere , in March 2011, 300 immigrants from the Maghreb went on hunger strike demanding legalization not just for them but for all immigrants. Not long after the end of the hunger strike, the greeks made a show of force by enacting a violent pogrom in the center of Athens against immigrants in May 2011 (one dead, many hundrends of injured). During the days of May 2011, the fascists started recruiting more and more people from the racist mob that lives in the centre of Athens. The pogrom was once again principally directed against muslim and, then, african immigrants. The greek police was assisting the mob and fascist attacks by putting more pressure on these categories of immigrants, by increasing stop-and-search checks at the centre of the city, based on the color of the immigrants’ skin. It must be mentioned that these violent attacks, dozens of which were actual stabbings, took place exactly at the same time with the “glorious movement” of the indignados in Syntagma square, one kilometer away from the range of the attacks, without the one obstructing the other….
With the ‘indignados’ movement, greek politics in general moved one step closer to golden dawn. Not in the sense that golden dawn represents a certain extreme political faction that influenced some people, a majority, etc. We mean that populism, conspiracy, transference of the individual thought and responsibility to the ‘gurus’ (e.g. economists) of the movement, the resentments for the greek crisis directed to the ‘foreigners’ (IMF, europeans, germans, etc.), the general exclusive attitude towards the immigrants, the position that the crisis should be defined and was conceived nationally, the defensive attitude toward the defense of any privilege, petit-bourgeois or not, existed before the appearence of the crisis, and so on, are elements that already stinked ‘greek fascism’, in social and molecular level. Populism is a sea of meanings where fascists swim easier. And this game was played in that very dirty water, not in official programmes by this or that party or organization. Party programmes, as party themselves, were out of fashion in ‘indignados’. Politics in its formal form was ‘rejected’, at least until the next elections. Anarchists, well at least the most miserable anarchists, the so-called ‘social anarchists’ fell for this … ‘direct democracy’ form of social fascism, by adding some red-black colour in the Syntagma ‘laundry’. So, it would be difficult at that era to trace something literally racist in the programme of anyone taking part in the … movement. The indignados themselves had no overall programme. Of course, a year later, when the elections were to come, local stars of Syntagma square, like the much appreciated and shown Dimitris Kazakis, another economist-guru of the movement, took part in the elections, they made everything more concrete: namely, Mr Kazakis, along a right-wing politician co-operated for the elections and suggested in their pre-election pamphlet that the Jews of greece should be finally taxed (!) so that greece can avoid the IMF memorandum. Of course, the greek jews are already being taxed, but you must already know that no antisemite can be fought with rational arguments, especially when he finds himself being applauded by thousands. In the elections, Mr Kazakis and his party took 60.000 votes, not so many votes after all, but this is also a result of the multi-division of the right-wing vote in the specific elections [the other alliances were of independent greeks: 670.000 votes, neonazis: 440.000 votes, people’s orthodox alarm: 90.000 votes, while a big part of the right-wing greeks voted traditionally for the conservatives Nea Dimokratia party (1.800.000 votes) which finally took the leadership of the present government].
You can blame the greeks for many things, but not for not being generous with their idols and their avant-gardes… and that’s why, we believe, we see now the neonazis of golden dawn being rewarded (for their participation in the pogrom) with 7% in the national elections of May-June 2012 and a stable place in the national parliament. So, the idea is that golden dawn just capitalizes its … activist potential and its deeds during the past 5 years. However, still one can not understand racism and nationalism in accordance with golden dawn, since only one small part of the racists of the greek society follow the swastika (only 7%!). All the rest still remain faith and find affection in the warm nationalist hug of the so-called traditional parties. Let us not forget, of course, that except for the half million greeks that voted for the neonazis, in the May-June elections of 2012 another openly right-wing party appeared (for first time!) and took half a million votes too! It was the “Independent Greeks” party which promotes issues of national independence and security (that one includes the anti-immigrant agenda).
As one may understand from what we ‘ve written above, the greek experience is a unique one. So, if anyone wants to take the daily tour to hell, she must avoid Exarcheia when visiting greece and just approach the large area of the centre between Liosion street and Patision street and then from Omonoia Square to Ano Patisia area. There, a visitor can frequently see in this large area, where many immigrants live, innumerable police patrols (in Acharnon street we had observed in the Spring of 2011 that a police vehicle appears every few seconds) and thousands of immigrants forced to live in the most humiliating conditions and in a state of vast fear of the cops and sometimes the greek mob. This ‘war situation’ will also affect the visitor from abroad if he/she knows some greek and enters a bus in the centre. There, someone can observe a modern apartheid condition in greek buses, where the ‘non-greeks’ instictively usually occupy the rear part of the bus. We would say that it is impossible to use any means of public transportation, especially the so called “buses of hatred”, without listening to conversations between greeks about the necessity of “sending ‘them’ (the immigrants) back where they came from”. Sometimes, of course, even in Exarcheia the visitor will have the opportunity to experience some hunting of foreigners, sometimes of African origin, or most usually Albanians (in order to have their hunting comply with the anarchist criteria, the anarchists usually call “Albanians” as “drug-mafia” – in conversations between greek anarchists, they will also appear in the discussion as “albanian mafia”). This permanent revolution of the greek mob affects us not only on a emotional level, but on a very concrete everyday level as well. Those of us, who are second generation immigrants have to face the grim reality that greek citizenship is even harder to get now and are led to a status of illegality again.
As a remedy to these poisonous experiences our gatherings and our little practical responses to the greek violence must and can appear . Of course, in such an environment, where the radical scene is also compatible with racist stereotypes or even attacks to foreigners, our political alliances are getting more and more restricted, not because we have changed our standards but because even self-professed anti-fascists are discovering reasons to feel pity for the poor greeks who can’t buy a second drink at the bar or a second car, and so go on and … vote for the nazis or attack immigrants. You know, it’s not easy to ally with someone that feels sympathy for the social strata that recruite the voters of the neonazis, and, then come to stab you. One can do such alliances only if he/she is greek and does not feel any anxiety of survival in greece. Or ‘german in solidarity with greeks’, as we have already said, commenting on the M31 demonstrations, and the consequent attempt of a folklor idealization of a mob with patriotic molotovs and antisemitic ideas, that is, the greek indignados and their anti-authoritarian friends. So, what space remains for political action in these disheartening circumstances? Taking into account our increasing political solitude there are not many opportunities for political intervention. On our part, we have focused on consciousness raising on racism and antisemitism. For this reason we have done a series of four public presentations on these topics, from last year till now, we have put some thousands of posters in the centre of the city and other neighborhoods and we try to address our antifascism mostly to second generation immigrants because we feel that we have more to share with them, and we know that their ‘antifascism’ is more true because it comes out of necessity, and not out of political antagonism with the greek fascists, whatever that latter could possibly mean. In our political agenda, we also try to promote feminist and anti-homophobic politics, especially when such issues can relate to the present antifascism and antinationalism, for example we encourage a feminist perspective as opposed to a dominant “macho antifa” attitude, either by publishing texts on the issue or by enhancing political projects that provide a more concrete articulation of issues of gender and nation. As you might have already guessed, we have long since stopped wasting our time with “changing the hearts and minds” of those who feel greeks, either in the scene or outside, that’s why you can find next to our groups’ logo one of our latest slogans “strictly for non-greeks!”.
Antifa Negative, February 2013, https://antifa-ngt.espivblogs.net/