The Humanist Mr. K

Mr. K – I will protect his identity, his identity as what makes him unique to everything and everyone else in Greece is of little concern here – was an MP of PASOK for two terms during the 1990s. Mr. K was, above all, a genuine humanist: he would invariably invoke the values of humanism, internationalism and peace, in his public addresses to the parliament. But he would not hide his patriotic sentiments. This combination of values might help explain his fixation with Turkey, which will be explained below.

Mr. K always sought to make a point by drawing on history. During a heated discussion in the parliament on the revision of the controversial article 19 of the citizenship law which gave the authorities the right to deprive certain individuals of their citizenship status and was admittedly an instrument of national purification and homogenization he begun…let’s say, generally:

‘Us, Greeks, as history has shown, have never been racists. By contrast we have always expressed our solidarity and stood by other fighting historical nations. Even when Italian fascists were departing from Athens, Athenians were waving them goodbye from the streets […]’

Commenting on the Greek left and its attitude toward the minority he said that the latter ‘has endorsed the Kemalist version of history’, and he went on:

‘Which ethnic cleansing [are they talking about]? Which fairy tales could possibly constitute the allegations against our country? Our country, at worse out of stupidity, has occasionally been condemned by international institutions. We have never been racists, neither the agents of an inverted racism, that is, tooth for tooth. We are not followers of the Mosaic Law’.

Here, Mr. K was giving lessons of neutrality in tandem with his universalist political agenda: contrary to what the Left does, Mr. K saw fit that ‘you can’t be anti-racist in Thrace and philo-racist in Turkey’. Mr. K. meant that the Left endorses a kind of anti-racism that gives in to the strategic intentions of Turkey. He meant that being an anti-racist in Thrace, that is, standing by the minority in its claims to self-identification, is to serve the turkish imperialist plan:

‘We won’t let [Thrace] to be recolonized by Turkish or Turkified(sic) citizens, who will come to play particular strategic games and a destabilizing role. That’s how the democratic character of the originally turkish minority will be measured. To what degree, that is, it will be for democracy and peace or to what degree it will move within a pre-determined orbit only in order to cause problems in the region’.

Mr. K. not only was he genuinely neutral in his statements but he also had a deep sense of how things are objectively. His neutrality did not prevent him from being certain about Turkey’s, the neighbour’s, plan. To put it bluntly, Mr. K’s antiracism was of a Greek kind. First nationalist and then antiracist. For there is another dogma, articulated way before Mr. K got involved in politics. The dogma that states that one who expresses one’s antinationalist stance by bringing to light the neighbour’s nationalism, is not an antinationalist but one who does foreign policy on behalf of his state. Mr. K, however, to be fair, never said he is an antinationalist. He said he is a patriotic antiracist. Such a person has an intuition about the enemy’s plans. And, if the minority plays this role, if it is nothing other than the enemy’s trojan horse, the enemy has more tricks to pull off…

‘Our country is the only european frontier and mound against the turkish ηρωϊνοποείο και ηρωϊνοπωλείο‘.

These are idiolectic terms, not easily translatable. Mr. K, here, refers to Turkey as ηρωϊνοποιείο, from ηρωΐνη [heroin] and ποιώ [to make]. Also, as ηρωϊνοπωλείο, the suffix being a derivate of πουλάω-ω [to sell]. For Mr. K, Turkey, as a whole presumably, is a place of heroin production and retail. Needless to say where this heroin goes and what its effects are. Indeed, in his theory here Mr. K, resonates the views of another, incidentally, Mr. K of the Greek parliament with much longer presence and work. The latter – I hope I will find this someday buried somewhere – was proposing the death penalty for drug dealers. The rationale, simple: “You sell drugs, you are conducting war against me”. “Every narco-maniac, a lesser possible soldier to defend the country”. Clearly, then, Turkey must have a plan to infiltrate and weaken the neighbour in the guise of deadly powders and herbs.

Couple this with ‘the low-key invasion […] systematic, trafficking of λαθρομετανάστες [smuggled immigrants] of a racist kind’ and you’ll understand how Turkey has a fully-fledged plan to continue warfare with other means: drugs, illegal migrants, and minorities. The conclusion seems inevitable and shows Mr. K’s witty character: Turkey and Europe (at the expense of Greece, are ‘confounding ειρήνη and ηρωΐνη’. They intentionally confuse peace [e-re-ne] with heroin [e-ro-e-ne]. To get the pun, however, one has to be Greek. I can see bitter laughs on Greek faces hearing this. I can see Mr. K with his constituents, performing such linguistic displacement. Or, even more possible, I can see Mr. K sitting by himself with others, overhearing such a meaningful play of words, and memorizing it, hoping the right moment will come to transfer it to the parliament and impress his opponents.

What I am retaining from this, anyway, is that racism is what the neighbour does to us. All it takes is a little bit of imagination, linguistic skills and a determined national consciousness.

note: the quotes by Mr. K are taken from parliamentary minutes (sessions of 9, June 1997 and 11, June 1998) found online at: http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/

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Continuities

There is this contemporary myth of which Greeks are particularly fond. The myth that Golden Dawn is something new, that it came unexpectedly, its rise being synchronic to the rise of the spreads, in other words, that it is the effect of the ‘crisis’. Of course, everyone knows that this is a myth because Golden Dawn exists as an organization for some three decades now. But that’s not so important. What is rather important is to be able to show the fragility of the assumptions on which such myth is based. Forget about the future and the fantasy that when the crisis dissipates, Golden Dawn will too. For one thing, we don’t know how long this ‘crisis’ will last. It may last for fifty years. After all, we are probably talking about a deep systemic crisis, of global dimensions, something that Greeks autistically tend to forget, and, indeed, it may last for fifty years. It’s capitalism and war after all, it’s not one’s hangover after a bad night on booze.

What would be a more pedagogic exercise would be to destroy the assumption that Golden Dawn is a name that refers to a particular social/political group. I mean…it does, but this particular social group, with a little historical memory and erudition, might turn out to appear less particular and marginal and more dispersed and universal. Big words. All I mean is that Golden Dawn is more than these characters who get horny with ancient Greece, Nazi Germany, death metal and the rest. It is more than those particular individuals or groups who ‘tag’ foreigners with swastikas, beat, stab, kill and so forth. Fine. Golden Dawn maybe gets a decent 10% of the Greek vote and that was not the case at all a few years ago. But how the hek was that made possible? Did they simply fill in a vacuum? Is it just because the ‘left’ doesn’t offer an ‘alternative’? Is it because they promise order where there is disorder?

All of this could be possible routes to take. But let’s take another one. It is said today by senior members of the parliament and by the media that Golden Dawn lowers the quality of the procedures and debate in the parliament. Presumably, they mean not only that Golden Dawn mps’ are aggressive, rude and shout but also that Golden Dawn altered the terms of the debate with the substance of their arguments. There are now, it is said, racist arguments in the parliament. Golden Dawn undermines the quality of parliamentary debate. Not true at all.

The bitter fact is that for at least two decades now, a persistent fabrication takes place. A social argumentative fabrication. It passes through the parliament, starting on the ‘street’, on the bus, the coffee place, the market place, taking a breath at school, at the workplace, continuing till late at night in front of the tv, during the family dinner, the social event. We cannot but undo a double reduction. The Being of Golden Dawn is the Being of a whole lot of political personas across the left-right divide who have populated the parliamentary seats. And these personas, in turn, are nothing else than the representation of other personas scattered throughout the nation. They drive you back home. They make sure that there is order and security in the city. They pass convictions and send people to prison. They want junkies, foreigners, prostitutes and homosexuals out of their sight because they are ‘democratic’. They raise you and give you ‘ammunition’ for life.They teach you the value of being a citizen. They sell you Golden Dawn newspapers, next to porn lifestyle.They make the country proud with their bodily performances, running, jumping, javelling, swimming. They prey and baptize you. They sit next to you at school…When Golden Dawn says we ‘represent the Greek people’, it is hard to decide, impossible, whether they are truthful or lying. They are lying because if they were, things would be really, really tricky. But they are also truthful because it is out of this social fabric that Golden Dawn emerges. They do represent this part of the Greek people who see themselves as and feel like being the ‘Greek people’. When talking about how society ‘is not ready’ for accommodating any kind of minority. When they defend themselves, right before launching their offensives.

The next posts will inaugurate a difficult translation. They will concentrate on showing that there is more continuity between what was in the Greek parliament and Golden Dawn than usually thought. Slowly and hopefully we will get to establish the broader significance of such continuity. Not because we want to ‘enlighten’ anyone with facts, but because this is the right thing to do.

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Doctors with Borders

Golden Dawn’s local organization in Mytilene, Lesvos decision to distribute in and around the hospital a pamphlet on the immigrant threat to health provision and hygiene caused some controversy last week. Not least because they had the idea of declaring the foundation of…’Doctors with Frontiers’. In case it escapes anyone, there is this long established international organization that goes by the name ‘Doctors without Borders’. To cut it short, the pamphlet, which I can’t get hold of is decorated with childrens’ pictures, suggesting how they are stealing Greek children’s beds in the hospital. It speaks of exotic diseases and the like. Now, the local doctors’ came out with a statement engaging all the arguments of the racist pamphlet. They enlighten the public that Hepatitis, Aids, Gonorrhea are transmitted only with sexual contact, malaria only by the mosquito and so on. In other words, it is not the migrants who are responsible.
The incident is worth mentioning for another reason as well. This whole pamphlet thing seems to boil down (at least) to a doctor working at the hospital, who is leading the local branch of Golden Dawn. Dr. Giorgos Diakoronas, a gynecologist himself has a problem with syphilis-striken illegal migrant women who come to give birth at his hospital.
Check out also the response of the Athens Medical Association:

Athens’s Medical Association promptly condemns Golden Dawn’s ‘Doctors with… borders’.

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Boredom, bread and the art of injuring

When I am ready to write something about everyday racist violence in Greece, I am always inhibited. I am doubting the very point of doing so. And so?, what if I write about what happened today or yesterday? What about what happened the week before, and before and before? Racist violence is no event in Greece in a double sense: It is no event because this type of violence is integral to the workings of Greek society, it is rather normal. That’s its normal, on the other hand, doesn’t make it known, understood or worthy of attention. Quite the contrary: it is what escapes attention. Even when this type of violence is reported, it somehow remains unreported. That goes some way to explaining the nature of reporting itself: what gets reported,next to what and so on. Don’t mistake these comments for an attempt to sophisticate the issue: the point is that under the weight of the violence the “foreigners” do to the nation, it is nearly impossible for the violence the nation does to the foreigner to become visible, meaningful or, indeed representable: violence is meaningful but there is only violences and never violence as such. The violence we inflict on foreigners is always immediately comparable, to the violence the foreigners inflict on “us”, the violence someone else inflicts on someone else and so on. With violence and racism, there is something like an “economy of attention” so to speak. But it’s managed, it seems, in such way that the nation will stand on top: Threatened but never threatening. Maybe the economy is no longer national, but the national space is organizing its own economy of accounting for its loss. Thus, before assuming that events, such as the ones described below,are immediately given to any good humanitarian attention, one should be wary of these complex mediations.If there is a point in bringing into attention racist violence, this is to show the obstacles to understanding their actual social meaning.

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A migrant from Sudan was attacked, as he shows in the video, two months ago. his story was reported this week. A group of Greeks, holding Greek flags, knocked him out unconscious. When he did wake up, he was full of blood, stabbed in his throat and his back. This was not, it seems, an attack with intention to kill. Quite the contrary, the intention was that the victim will remember and be sure of who is controlling the streets of Athens. The initials X.A [G(olden) D(awn)] were engraved on his back. He asked the police for help and the response was that he is “illegally in the country”

Now, something about what has become a hobby for some of Greece’s brightest. On the 23rd of November, four youths, riding a car, parked near the house of two Pakistanis in Spata, near Athens. They used a sledgehammer to break the windows, and they threw gasoline all over the scooter parked by the house. They didn’t manage to put it on fire and unluckily for them, some of the neighbours took note of the car plates. When they were arrested they admitted that they “did it spontaneously, because of boredom and pleasantry”. Their lawyer said it was “frivolous behaviour, without further ramifications”. The parents – retired commercial aviation staff, municipality police officer and a baker – expressed their astonishment.

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Ah, and since one of the parents is a baker and I just can’t focus and I keep sliding, check out what happened in Salamina, near Athens, on the 4th of November.

I don’t want to be a racist against the bakers who after all make the people’s bread, but there is a connection here: An Egyptian guy was found chained on a tree, molested, and badly bruised. Those who found him called the ambulance, and then a special crew in order to cut the chains. I won’t even go into details, except that, according to his testimony, the perpetrators were his employer (a baker) and his son (also a baker) and tortured him for hours. The latter said, when arrested, that they suspected him of stealing money.

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Reflections on an antifascist demonstration

Here’s what I think is a typical sample of how antifascist struggle is conceived by the absolute majority of antiracists in Greece, anarchists and leftists alike. The words belong to Mr. Giannopoulos who wrote an account of the anti-fascist demonstration on the 20th of October 2012. The demonstration was called in Amerikis Square, in response to the assault against the offices of the Tanzanian community. I stole them from athens.indymedia (https://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_id=1432061):

“The most important element in the antifascist demonstration on Saturday, October 20th in America square, was what happened after it was actually over.”

It is explained further that the Senegalese asked Greek “residents in the neighbourhood, who had initially participated in the pogroms against the immigrants” to come around and discuss. Three residents responded to the call. “Two of them in particular participated in the assault against the the Tanzanian community in Lemesos st., on 25/9, while another one had been assaulted by members of the antifascist patrol in the area, having been mistaken for a Golden Dawn member.”

He goes on then to say: “Other local residents described to us how Golden Dawn individuals staying in Ag. Panteleimon, were coming on a daily basis in the area attempting to push local residents to revolt against migrants by shouting and lying”

and the – admittedly – moving part: “They all came with apologetic attitude and said they understood their mistake. They’ve rid of Golden Dawn and acknowledged that problems are not solved with violence but with debate.”

…and the cliché part: “They also said that they have nothing against their migrant neighbours, that they are not racists or nazis and that they agree with the proposals made by the Senegalese […]”

The local Greek citizens were clearly manipulated by those Golden Dawn thugs who came from other neighbourhoods. When reason prevailed, the options were summarized in the following:

“transformation of the local area into a battleground or dialogue and common struggle for the problems […] besides the particular problems that Greek residents were raising are not insurmountable since they have to do with not respecting breach of night time peace, immigrants’ brawling at 3-4 in the morning”. The Senegalese, allegedly, pointed out that “not only immigrants but also Greeks fight at this time”.

At this point the controversy was, obviously, settled. Immigrants, Greeks, and the Left, seemed to come to an agreement-prerequisite for common struggles.

The author of this ‘report’ is member of YRE (Youth Against Racism in Europe) and member of the SYRIZA coalition. Parenthetically, SYRIZA MPs Panagoulis and Athanasiou seem to blur the frontier between the wide antifascist front and Golden Dawn that… so carefully is built-up in the neighbourhoods: They did say in an oral question addressed to the Ministries of Education- Protection of the Citizen and Public Health (, that the humanitarian crisis in Greece:

“endangers the presence of the Greek Race in the World scene” (not my capitals).

After this statement, due to its ‘situational’ significance, the mood changed amongst the far-right: they saw with less suspicion those who probably are, after all, Greeks and then antiracists/antifascists. Those who, despite their internationalist leanings, will eventually be worthy representatives of the Greek national body. If only they make sure that immigrants won’t mess with the Greeks enjoying their sleep. The ‘background noise’ of broken immigrants shops, properties and lives, is caused not by ‘natives’, anyway, but by…others…so, no worries, after all.

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Citizens against the Tanzanian Community, Athens, 25/09/12

 

This is a first entry regarding the events of the night of the 26th of September. A story about what kind of things happen a few miles from the square of resistance, Syntagma Square. It is said, and we tend to agree, that the whole celebration of resistance overlooks, to say the least, the violence taking place in less glorious locales. It is also said that the periodical mobilization detracts from the energies of anarchists and leftists so much that they cannot spare some active solidarity to their brothers and sisters – the migrants. Is it because the latter avoid taking the “class” oath? is it because the former don’t give a flying f*ck? anyway, we’ll return soon with more obscenity and more systematic disclosure of a reality below public visibility.

Press Release of the Community of Tanzania in Greece for the fascist attack on the offices of the community

The entire letter of Tanzanian Community in Greece:

Dear friends,
We denounce to our befriended Greek people the unprovoked and murderous attack on Tuesday, September 25, against 10 members of our community and our offices in 1, Limassol street, America Square.
People who introduced themselves to us as the residents’ committee, first asked us the relevant documents to our offices, although they had no right as they were not the police.
We as a sign of goodwill we showed them and they did left. But returned the next day with 60-70 people who insulted us and threatened us. When police removed us from our offices for security reasons, this group invaded them and destroyed them completely.
When the president of our community Frances Williams went to the police station of St. Panteleimon to testify about the events, he was attacked and threatened by a group of people who were outside the department and obviously had followed him. Similar treatment faced our lawyer, G. Kourtovik.
We believe that these facts do not fit the attacks in a country that invokes democracy and Xenios Zeus.
Our community includes many people who live in Greece for years and our children consider it their homeland. Since its official inception in 2002 and in our offices in Limassol street that are over 3 years old, the community of Tanzania organizes creative activities, eg library, creative toys and arts and cultural events for youthm while it works to strengthen ties with the local community.
We too have the same concerns and problems with our fellow Greeks. We suffer equally from the poverty, unemployment, crime and degradation of our neighborhood.
Instead of racial divisions between Greeks and foreigners, promoted by neo-Nazi groups and parties like the Golden Dawn, we suggest the harmonious coexistence and common struggles for common problems.
We call on the Greek people together with immigrant communities to fight to make our lives better. Do not allow fascism to transform America square and other neighborhoods into a jungle and gang war. As a community we count to take immediate initiatives in this direction.
To those who attack us we say clearly that we are not frightened and that they will not throw us out of our homes.
We urge them to think – if they can – even for a moment what the fault of the books and games for our children was, because it is these that they destroyed, and this hurts us much more than any windows or furniture.

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a little introduction to the basics

This blog here was created with a glimpse of hope that something of the obscenity of the Greek socio-political scene will be revealed, gradually, to those who can tolerate less than idealizing perspectives on struggles, to those who would like to get an idea of what is actually happening “on the ground” or on the margins of “resistance” in Greece. Ideally, one could read the entries of this blog as attempts to disclose some of the violence done in the name of the sacred nation,  some of the distorting effects of symbols of struggle, some of the self-congratulating and consensual tactics employed by the Left and anarchists in Greece, some of the continuities between the Greek far-right and neo-nazis and the rest of the social body, and some local stories that will never become history. Like the racist attack on the offices of the Tanzanian Community in central Athens, the story with which this blog is going to begin its elucidating of the near past and present of the crisis of racism in Greece

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