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What the murder of Pavlos Fyssas means for Greece

Fire in Athens

Could Greece be heading for a civil war? Eric Vernier under a Creative Commons Licence

When the police arrived in Keratsini, Athens, towards midnight on 18 September, they found ‘two people engaged in fighting’. One of them would later be identified as Pavlos Fyssas, the latest victim of the ‘new’ Greek fascists. Newspapers reported that when the police arrived there were over 20 neo-Nazis at the scene, so well-armed with sticks and clubs that the police felt they couldn’t intervene. One young policewoman, however, produced her gun and arrested Yiorgos Roupakias, the man who butchered Pavlos Fyssas.

The people who committed this crime are not random hooligans. They roam the streets in motorcades, carrying clubs, sticks, knives and butterfly machetes. They sport black uniforms, designed to show rank, complete with black helmets and gloves and insignia. Many of them wear bulletproof vests (the same make as those worn by police officers, since a prominent member of the group [1] also supplies the police). They are members of Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi group that has an increasing stranglehold on Greece, and particularly Athens.

That the thugs were in Keratsini is no accident. Keratsini, along with Perama, Drapetsona, Amfiali, Nikea and Aghios Paneteleimonas , is a so-called ‘red borough’, the heartland of dockers and shipyard workers; they always voted Communist. The fascists have methodically established themselves in those neighbourhoods. Members of the militia were brought in from all corners of Greece, organizing food hand-outs, ‘policing’ the streets on motorbikes, attacking the dispossessed, immigrants and the desitute . Sadly, they managed to get 10 per cent of the vote in these deprived areas before they felt secure enough to show what they were really up to. On 12 June 2012 they savaged six Egyptian fishers, smashing the jaw and nose of one of them; in an attack soon after they took out a man’s eye. The attacks follow the same pattern, perpetrated by motorized groups who, if not tolerated by the police, at least seem to operate beyond their control. The fact that in certain areas of Athens and other metropolitan centres one in two members of the police force is a supporter of the group does nothing to calm fears.

Following Fyssas’ assassination, a doctor from Nikea’s general hospital said on TV that ‘[for] three years we [have been] shouting about the increasing number of racist attack victims we have to deal with’. According to some, however, Golden Dawn’s activities aren’t purely ideological but also quite practical, perhaps aimed at taking control of Keratsini’s wharf.

Pavlos Fyssas’ father is a member of the Metal Workers Union. Pavlos himself did various jobs but was mainly an MC (a rapper), going by the name of Killah P. Many of his songs spoke against the fascists. He was known in the area for being a ‘Red’ and someone who stood up against the Golden Dawn bullies.

That the assassin was also a local who worked at the same fishing wharf is the ironic part of the tragedy. According to a close friend, Yiorgos Roupakias worked, as a sideline, as a caterer in the Golden Dawn offices – as did his wife and daughter – for what they call ‘pocket money’ in Greece (‘zero hours contracts’ in Britain). He was active in food hand-outs to ‘ethnic Greeks’ and also took part in other ‘activities’ for the organization, the nature of which we can only guess at.

Roupakias claims that he is only casually connected to Golden Dawn and that the attack was in self-defence. This photo from his own Facebook page [2] says otherwise (the Zorba-looking guy is a top ‘official’ in Golden Dawn).

Keratsini, Perama and Drapetsona are a microcosm that the battered Athenian middle class don’t want to know anything about. People who live in these districts are trapped – they have no electricity, no heating, no health services and no jobs, and the scared, silent majority want nothing to do with them.

The ruling class carries on as if nothing is happening. Theodore Pagalos, the Sorbonne graduate grandson of a ruthless Greek dictator and constant cabinet member of the ‘socialist party’, had the audacity to say that Greeks are ‘all in it together’. Stavros Psycharis, the proprietor of the largest Greek media conglomerate, said a couple of weeks ago that the electorate of the leftwing Syriza, the second-largest party in Greece, and the Nazis, are one: they are two sides of the same extremist coin. For the élite, diminishing in number but expanding in wealth, it is important to force down our throats that not following them means that we are fomenting our own demise.

The nature of the game is that everyone who opposes the austerity measures, for whatever reason, is considered an extremist. In this situation, people who oppose the violence and killing and the gradual breakdown of society are marginalized. The (literally) silent majority are sleep-walking towards disaster: it could be civil war if the marginalized Left takes the bait and starts carrying guns.

[1] Elias Panagyotaros the intimidating 20-stone gorilla of an MP runs a shop called Phalanx, adorned until recently with images of the imprisoned former dictator Papadopoulos. The shop supplies military weapons and combat equipment and he counts the police among his clients.

[2] The page was up until 19 September; sadly someone has since disabled it.

A longer version of this article first appeared on Petros Diveris’s blog.

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