Let’s get done with the system that breeds fascism – An interview with Dimitris Kousouris
Dimitris Kousouris is one of the first political victims of Golden Dawn attacks. On June 16th, 1998, in a café outside the courts of Athens, he was attacked brutally by a group of Golden Dawn members. He had to go through a difficult brain surgery and he barely escaped death. The attackers were identified by Kousouris and his friends. The main perpetrator was back then nr 2 in the leadership of Golden Dawn, Antonis Androutsopoulos. Although the media had reported the possible places where he was hiding, he was only arrested 7 years later. Although the court found him guilty and sentenced him to long imprironment, he only stayed in prison until 2010. Dimitris Kousouris is currently a lecturer of history at the University of Crete.
In this interview, D. Kousouris points out that a general ideological denouncement of fascism is not enough to address the needs of the long-term unemployed and those ones who cannot make ends meet. What he regards as most important is the setting up of solidarity networks in order to counteract the extreme right.
An interview to Georgos Laoutaris for the weekly newspaper PRIN
15 years ago, when the Golden Dawn tried to kill you it was marginal organization, while now it is part of the political establishment. Wouldn’t you expect that its presence in the parliament would push this party to more lawful actions?
By no means. Legitimating political ideas in the broad public never resulted in mitigating its initial features. In Greece after the elections in 2012 there has been a widespread view that people would realize the violent face of the Golden Dawn and would stay away from it. This view was at least naive. As the capitalist crisis continues to affect a huge part of Greek society leading it to pauperization and impoverishment, the conditions on which fascism can grow continue to exist.
Do you believe that the murder of Pavlos Fyssas had a political motive?
It was a political assassination that had been announced by the Golden Dawn in the working-class districts of Piraeus. It was just a matter of time for this to happen. The immediate reaction of the government proves that they knew about it and they were prepared to act accordingly.
Do you believe that the imprisonment of members of Golden Dawn will be a step towards the solution of the problem?
Obviously this would change the rules of the game. However it is an illusion to believe that this would solve the problem. Even if the Golden Dawn was outlawed or if they applied the anti-terrorist law or if they just used the penal code to send some of its members to prison, the problem would be still there. The murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a working-class offspring that was engaged in the cause of social emancipation reveals the size of the damage that has been inflicted the last years. In this transitional period,where the historical defeat of the labour movement (as known till now) seems to be completed, it was inevitable that the dismantled social structure and public space of the poor neighbourhoods where unemployment and poverty dominate the lives of young and old would become the scenery where bouncers, snitches and all kinds of gangs take over. The infringement of parliamentarianism its very representatives, the abrupt narrowing of democratic legitimacy by the abolition of basic social rights, the longstanding deep roots of the extreme right in the state apparatus in combination with the reactionary and racist shift of the government and the media as well as the collapse of the two major parties of the political establishment enabled Golden Dawn to be the one that provides political coverage and ideological identity to these gangs organizing them around the rich and turning them against the remaining cells of organization and struggle of the working people. The political elites are certainly aware of the transitory nature of these political identieties that are formed in the current conditions. It is obvious that after the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas the government is trying to regain control and initiative and send a message to all directions: to the right, to the left, inside and outside the country.
Is the increased influence of the Golden Dawn a coincidental phenomenon or is it here to stay?
This will depend on each one of us and all of us together. The Golden Dawn is one of the many faces of fascism, the most repulsive we have seen after the dictatorship. In any case, in the coming period, there is going to be an attempt of approaching its electorate. The aim is gaining control over the legal or illegal paramilitary branch of the dominant power coalition. Therefore, Golden Down may disappear but not fascism itself as long as the circle of illegitimacy grows within which the domestic and international elites are trying to establish their dominance at the expense of the working people
During the last period books, articles and documentaries have shed light on the Nazi references of Golden Dawn. How do you interpret the fact that this evidence is not convincing?
Building an ideology based on the political struggle is an aspect of bourgeois politics which is rather convenient for the journalists of the so called “constitutional range” but has also created many illusions within the Left. How can someone thatonly uses a general ideological denouncement, address the needs of the unemployed, the ones who are hungry and eat at the common meals of the church, the ones who sleep in the cold and the dark, and the young people who do not have any hopes for their future? The denouncement of Nazism is essential. However, as demonstrated in the last years, it is an illusion to be considered adequate. It is also known that applying the same methods over and over again and expect different results is an indicationof insanity or stupidity. Reading through history, fascism was born as a mass counterrevolutionary movement bred by the defeat of the labour movement in the inter-war period and was reborn as the “dark side” of neoliberalism after the retreat of the labour movement that followed the crisis of the 1970s.Two decades after the triumph of neo-liberal parliamentarism, the crisis has dramatically narrowed the possibilities for preserving and managing the status quo with purely parliamentary means in Europe, the U.S., China or Egypt. Fascism as a power optionbounces back in its European cradle: Greece, Hungary, Norway, France and elsewhere. The goal of fascism is again the defeat and finally the elimination of the labour movement. Therefore the crucial factor for the character of the fight and the outcome of the struggle – now as then – is the status and the level of organization of the working class. The historical bet of our time is who will prevail: the long-lasting darkness of the authoritarian domination of global capital or the rebirth and strengthening of the labour movement that will stand against fascism but also against the forces of capitalism which breed and sustain it.
How do you think the Left should react?
The different forces of the Left chose very often a defensive attitude by trying to preserve the limited political space that is available to them or the traditional good-old avoidance of action by referring to some abstract plan of labour emancipation that stands far away from the actual movement of the social subjects of the same plan. But if we really want to discuss how to eliminate fascism, it is high time we organize solidarity and resistance of the vast majority of the working people and the unemployed.
Who fits in the antifascist front?
If we agree that fascism is an extreme and authoritarian version of capitalism as well as an alliance between the capitalists and the middle class aiming at the preservation of the dominant ownership relationships, then we can first clarify the class characteristics of the anti-fascist front. Many fit to this antifascist front as the majority of the working people fit to the front. Based on that, the organization of the antifascist struggle is the responsibility of all those who think and act against capitalist barbarism. It is the responsibility of grass-root local initiatives and assemblies, the numerous online or printed alternative media, several initiatives of popular self-organization and collaborative economy, students’ unions in high schools and higher education institutions, trade unions and political clubs that are either politically independent or related to SYRIZA, the Communist Party, or ANTARSYA or anarcho-syndicalism. On the other hand, fascism is both the nazi storm troopers and the emergency regime where the governments rules beyond and popular control and the repression forces act uncontrolled against the people’s movement and abolish at will any constitutional freedom Therefore, the anti-fascist front excludes by definition that consent, support or manage this reality.
If the source of the crisis is government policy, do you think a left government would be the solution?
Using fear as domination method, the political establishment attempts to stabilize the political system by forcing the left and the right extreme to restrain themselves within the parties of the so-called ‘constitutional range’. The polarization and tension strategy that is followed by the elite aims at convincing the public opinion that a left government would be an improvement compared to the repressive Samaras-government to the extent that it will try to confront the fascist elements in the state, the police and the army and to renegotiate the country’s position in the EU and the Eurozone. This assumption is flawed since the dominance of the pro-austerity forces of the old political system makes it extremely doubtful for the Left to achieve a majority in the Parliament. Even if the Left manages to form such a majority, it would be almost impossible to control a state apparatus that is deeply penetrated by the ‘praetorians’ of the ‘old’ regime. Finally, as repeatedly proven throughout modern Greek history, whenever the Left failed to take advantage of the cracking of elite’s power and abandoned the prospect of toppling capitalism and proceeding with a plan for social emancipation in favor of achieving democratic legitimacy (such as in 19441, 19652 and 19743), it was driven to political and literal extermination, entrapment within the political system and marginalization.
1 In December 1944, the resistance forces of the Communist Party (ELAS) signed the Varkiza-agreement with the British and handed over their weapons. The result was a wave of repression against the left including murders, arrests and exiles for thousands of people.
2 In July 1965, the elected Papandreou government was toppled by a Royal Coup (known also as Iouliana). The people took the streets but the left missed the chance.
3 This refers to the movement that followed the fall of the junta in July 1974.
Translated by ReINFORM