Neo-Nazi Violence in Athens: Propaganda and Reality
The following was originally published in French by La Horde on November 3, 2023, translated and published here with kind permission of the author and La Horde.
On November 2, a group of 40 neo-Nazis ambushed anarchists and refugees in a subway as they were returning from a demonstration, and even attempted to burn them alive. Our comrade Yannis Youlountas reviews the government communications and far-right propaganda, which are far removed from reality.
The Lies of the Greek Government
Power is once again dressing itself up as a white knight: in the media, the government claims to have been neutral in the presence of two extremes that “shared the same violent practices” and to have made the greatest possible effort to protect the people of Athens from these “barbaric hordes”. In reality, as the videos we have published show, the Greek police took a clear position on the side of the fascists. This is no surprise. The neo-Nazis were protected and escorted several times over, to the extent that they had a small demonstration under police protection despite the ban that had been announced a week before.
During the most shocking moment, the attempt to burn people alive in the subway in Monastiraki station, the police let it happen for a long time, then intervened by allowing nearly all of the attackers to leave (in one video, you can even see a police officer help a neo-Nazi recover his helmet before leaving without being questioned). Ultimately, a single neo-Nazi was arrested, despite the extremely serious circumstances, the numerous injuries, and the desire to kill.
By contrast, the police violently suppressed antifascists in other parts of Athens. The worst example is a 16-year-old antifascist who was beaten in the head by the cowboys of the OPKE police unit [“Crime Prevention and Suppression Team”], as confirmed by several witnesses, at the end of an antifascist concert on October 28 with 2,500 people in attendance. She is currently in the hospital in critical condition. Almost all the other victims of police violence were antifascists, but some were also passers-by who had the bad luck to be there at the wrong moment and were also charged and beaten.
Another smokescreen: the government brags that it stopped a group of 21 Italian fascists from arriving at the airport two days before the event. But it could not have done anything else: this squad from CasaPound had publicly announced its trip to Greece as well as its violent intentions. Everybody knew. The alert had gone out. Moreover, these pseudo-commandos were covered in tattoos with fascist symbols, including on their faces, and they had more than just underwear in their bags. Allowing them to come would have led to a repeat of what happened in August, when the Greek police let more than 200 Croatian neo-Nazi Dynamo Zagreb supporters go as far as Athens. We all know what happened next: our comrade Michalis Katsouris, an antifascist activist and supporter of AEK Athens, was stabbed to death and several other people were seriously wounded, including a 13-year-old girl.
All the other foreign fascists entered Greece without any problems and joined their neo-Nazi buddies for the rally. Except that there were far fewer of them than expected. Why? First, there was the ban on the rally (and the counter-rally) that was announced a week prior. Second, there was a strong antifascist mobilization, which was very visible throughout the streets, on the walls, in the independent media, and on the internet. A lot of Greek and international fascists threw in the towel well before November 1. The evidence: ultimately there were not quite 100 fascists at the rally in memory of two neo-Nazis who were killed ten years ago (see the attached photo of the fascist rally, with the Celtic cross on the Greek flag, and compare it with the photos of the much larger antifascist rallies).
The Nazis’ Bogus Comms
As usual, the neo-Nazis have a big pile of bullshit on their side with respect to communications. While they completely failed in their grandiose project of mobilizing “thousands of nationalists from across Europe” and re-forming “assault battalions” in order to prepare “the necessary cleanup in a degenerate Europe”, they tried to isolate two particular things over the past few days in order to avoid talking about the rest of it.
Those two things are the ambush on a few antifascists and migrants in the subway (which the fascists rushed to turn into memes online) and the capture of a small anarchist flag (a flag of the migrant-support collective from the Prosfygika squat, also attached).
Regarding the ambush on the subway, their approach to their victims was cowardly (including in the videos) in that they failed to mention that there were fewer of them than there were neo-Nazis and that they were accompanied by vulnerable people. Our comrades and partners defended themselves quite well, but the element of surprise together with the threat of being burned with several cans of gas and oil (not one can, but three) disrupted their defense amid the chaos and the deafening screams. Some people were injured very quickly, starting in the first seconds, and there was panic among the other passengers.
With respect to taking the flag of the migrant-support collective from the Prosfygika squat (a group of dilapidated squatted buildings north of Exarchaeia, just across Leoforos Alexandras), it’s nothing to be proud of. It’s not a banner or any other group object. It’s just a small flag on a stick that someone lost in a confrontation. Which is to say that the neo-Nazis don’t have much to show for themselves!
What Actually Happened
What we should retain from this eventful week in Athens is, for starters, that the antifascist mobilization was important, supported by some visitors from other European cities (not to mention the solidarity from the squats, many from Western Europe, notably from France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany). Several anarchist groups, including Rouvikonas, sent their antifascist sections.
The same goes for the assemblies of refugee and migrant squats, starting with Notara 26 and Prosfygika. Other revolutionary groups also answered the call, along with several unions and political organizations, not to mention college students, teachers, and parents of schoolchildren. In short, the mobilization was strong. There were about 2,500 people at the antifa concert on October 28 and between 500 and 2,000 people at each demonstration and rally in several neighborhoods in Athens, despite the ban. The walls of the city were clearly antifa that week, as is often the case in Greece. The same goes for the internet. There were no photos.
For their part, the Greek neo-Nazis and their few fascist guests didn’t leave their hiding places except to discretely attack migrants on dark streets with a ten to one advantage (they did this at least three times). They almost never amounted to anything, and when they did, it was under police protection. And above all, they didn’t even get 100 people to show up for a rally they had planned well in advance in memory of two neo-Nazis who were killed ten years ago. It was a complete flop!
Nonetheless, it was a reminder of the seriousness of the Nazi threat: they wanted to burn people alive in a train car and hunt migrants in the night. It was also a reminder that they are zombies and cowards: absolutely nothing in broad daylight, only actions at night, in secret, and always – absolutely always – with superior numbers. (When they attacked me in Piraeus, I remember that their first words were “it’s a good thing he’s alone” before the train happened to arrive and the passengers were able to save me and take me to the hospital. It was the same for most of the people who were attacked.)
Ultimately, as Maud whispered next to me, there were “more women injured than men, both by the Nazis and by the cops, isn’t that just symbolic?” Yes, the blood of several women and adolescents flowed, from Monastiraki to Viktoria. That also shows where their masculinist and patriarchal violence leads.
The government and its police are no defense against fascists. Not in Greece, and not in France. In the first place, it’s because the Greek and French governments are made up of far-right turncoats (former members of the LAOS in the Mitsotakis government, or even Darmanin, a former member of Action Française, in the Borne government). Secondly, because most of the MAT [“riot control” division of the Hellenic Police] officers who beat antifascists are known to vote for the extreme right, and they don’t even hide it (tattoos, logos on their clothes, frequent threats, etc.), just like many of their counterparts in France and elsewhere in the world. And finally, because capitalism and our authoritarian society produce fascism like a thunderstorm produces lightning. And not just fascism in the narrow sense, organized into a party or a group of front-line activists. I mean fascism in general, present in every corner of authoritarian society: in our intimate relationships, education, work, etc.
As long as there are relationships of domination and exploitation in society, there will be fascism, in the sense of exaggerated opinions and actions in that regard, but which are only magnified instances of what this absurd society naturally produces.
As long as competition prevails over cooperation and the words “freedom” and “equality” lack meaning, there will be fascism in all its forms.
Fighting fascism therefore also requires continuing to fight globally against the political and economic system that creates it — an archaic system based on hierarchy, division, and competition between humans.
That’s why we are partisans of a radical antifascism that fights not only fascism’s effects, but also its causes.