Something Somewhat Caused by the Greek Financial Crisis
How’s this for labor relations? On April 17, three Greek foremen on a strawberry farm in the south Peloponnese were jailed for opening fire on a crowd of Bangladeshi workers who were asking for their pay from the last six months. They used shotguns. Nobody died, but 28 were wounded. The Greek foremen were aged 21, 27, and 39. Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said that this attack “does not only violate our laws but any sense of humanity and is foreign to our culture.” This is not an isolated incident. In Nea Manolada, where this took place, violence against migrant workers has been an issue for several years. The regional police said that while none of the incurred injuries were life-threatening, they “are still treating this as a very, very serious incident.” The 27-year-old foreman involved in this current attack was awaiting trial for an attack last year on an Egyptian worker whose head was bashed against a car before being dragged along a country road.
Golden Dawn, a political party that has problems with immigrants in Greece (to put it mildly) condemned the attack, saying:
“Golden Dawn condemns the perpetrators of the incidents at Manolada and the shootings against the foreigners. She also condemns those that employ illegal immigrants, depriving a living from thousands Greek families.
Politicians of the Left and the Right, supposedly “humanists”, share responsibility for both the slave trade and the huge problems foreigners cause against the Greek People. Only Golden Dawn has a clear solution for this: Deportation of all illegal immigrants! A definitive end to the black labor of the immigrants!”
The All-militant Workers’ Front (PAME), closely associated with the Communist Party of Greece, had this to say:
“The immigrant agricultural workers in Manolada are on the receiving end not only of state but also employer intimidation on a daily basis. They work without any protective measures and without social-security cover. They live in terrible conditions and without any measures for their health and medical care. Today they were attacked in a murderous way, when the employers’ thugs opened fire on them. This resulted in 28 of them being taken to [the] hospital.”
About 124 miles away from Nea Manolada (as the crow flies), Golden Dawn had a meeting. The Municipal Theater in Piraeus was the home of a Neo-Nazi demonstration under the helm of Golden Dawn, a right-wing extremist group which has recently been polling around 10 to 12 percent support among voters. Way back in 2005, the leader of the party, Nikos Michaloliakos was quoted as saying “When we are strong, we will show no mercy. It won’t be democratic anymore.” This was written off as right-wing nonsense at the time. Then the Sovereign Debt Crisis happened.
Now Michaloliakos says, “No one can stop us- not the bombs, not all your filth. We will triumph!” Lots of people listening to him (clothed in black hoods) responded “Zito!” which means something like “long-live,” but it’s intended to come out sounding like the chant of the National Socialists in Germany. Michaloliakos has some extreme views: he called the Holocaust an “exaggeration” and thinks that at Auschwitz “there were no gas chambers; that’s a lie.” That’s nonsense.
This group has proven to be extraordinarily nonsensical, conducting themselves in a peculiar form of disciplined brutality which smacks of a certain incivility which has proven itself to be a hallmark of right—wing extremism. On June 9, 2012, Ilias Kasidiaris, Golden Dawn spokesman, threw some water on a debate opponent and then slapped a left-wing candidate on the head three times. Within 24 hours of the incident, a Facebook page which said “blessed be the hand of Ilias Kasidiaris” who “did what the entire Greek people wanted: give a strong slap to the system and its representatives.” This is a sign of the times: Liana Kanelli, the woman who was slapped, is a member of the Communist Party of Greece. How is it that an organization that fought a civil war against the Greek government (which was backed by the British and the United States) could be considered a part of “the system”?
Back in 2011, Bill Frezza, a contributor to Forbes magazine, wrote that Greece “deserves” Communism. To quote Frezza: “What the world needs, lest we forget, is a contemporary example of Communism in action. What better candidate than Greece? They’ve been pining for it for years, exhibiting a level of anti-capitalist vitriol unmatched in any developed country… Just toss them out of the European Union, cut off the flow of free Euros, and hand them back the printing plates for their old drachmas. Then stand back for a generation and watch.”
A couple of years have passed since then, and popular support for the Communists is only about half of what it is for Golden Dawn, at about 5.5%. Regardless, these days in Greece there is a rise in support for parties at the far-ends of the political spectrum. Thus, when observations are made that conditions in Greece are “similar to those of Weimar Germany,” there is at least some kernel of truth.
Urging authorities to take prompt action in response to the violent attack on immigrant workers in Nea Manolada, representatives of the Council of Europe stated that “steep increase in hate crimes in Greece, primarily targeting migrants, is an issue of grave concern.” And it has been for a while: In 2009, a march by Golden Dawn was met with a counter-protest by various left-wing groups. The two sides threw petrol bombs and stones at one another, and then Golden Dawn marchers attacked an abandoned courthouse where immigrants had been living. A Moroccan immigrant who had been living there said this: “We didn’t do anything. Why do they treat us like this? The police did nothing. Here in Greece, human rights don’t exist.” This pattern of violence has gone on long enough, and certainly the conditions brought about by the debt crisis have contributed to these events.