Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From the trial of the antifascists to a murder by the fascists

        The trial of Savvas Michael-Matsas, General Secretary of the EEK (Workers Revolutionary Party of Greece), and of Konstantinos Moutzouris, former Rector of the National Technical University of Athens, took place on September 3-4, 2013, after a lawsuit deposed by the Nazi party “Golden Dawn” on May 8, 2009, and promoted in 2013 by the Greek “democratic” State and its judiciary arm, after the entry of the “Golden Dawn” in the Greek parliament in June 2012. The trial had enormous repercussions and produced a huge outrage internationally and nationally.

        As many statements by many organizations noted,  from well known as well as little known personalities from the cultural and political arena, including the mainstream international Press from all parts of the world: it was the first time after the end of the Second World War, and the defeat of Nazism, that two antifascists, including a Jewish communist intellectual and leader of a Trotskyist Party, in the case of Savvas Michael-Matsas, were brought to court by Nazis, with the complicity of the official State institutions in a member nation of the European Union.

        It was this powerful tsunami of protests and solidarity that created a political dynamic permitting the victory of the “accused” in an initially very difficult trial. Parties of the Greek Left, many trade unions, anarcho-syndicalist and anarchist collectives, cultural associations, and dozens of artists and intellectuals issued public statements of solidarity or sent witnesses for the defense of Savvas Michael-Matsas.  About a thousand people gathered in and around the court in the two day trial.  The trial concluded with a unanimous ruling by the court of “not guilty” for both of the accused.

       The three interconnected aims of this outrageous prosecution were, as Savvas Michael pointed out in his final “apology” to the court,

·        to outlaw any antifascist discourse and action in conditions of social polarization and mass upheaval, in a country where the ruling class in a state of emergency uses the fascist gangs as an instrument to re-impose its control;
·     to begin, starting from the Trotskyist party, the process of outlawing the entire Left and the dismantling of  democratic  popular rights in Greece ; 

·         last but not least,  to institutionalize the virulent anti-Semitism that accompanied from the start, the persecution of Savvas Michael-Matsas, an “instrument of the world Jewish conspiracy to impose a Judeo-Bolshevik regime in Greece in crisis”,  according to the Nazi non-stop hate campaign.

       The organizers of this witch hunt failed. For the first time, after its ascent, the Golden dawn lost a trial in Greek courts – a fact which says a lot about the current state of the judiciary in Greece.  An important tactical victory was achieved,  hailed by all throughout the workers movement (particularly in general assemblies where strike action in the public sector was decided)  and among the popular masses identifying this battle with their own struggles against the escalating social disaster and  barbaric repression by the bourgeois State forces and  fascist paramilitary gangs.

       But, as the EEK stressed in its first statement after the trial, a battle was won but the class war continues.  What followed proves the truth of that statement.

         Within minutes after the trial concluded, many youth participating in it in solidarity with the accused were stopped and bullied by the special DELTA police forces, shouting to them “are you coming from the trial of the dirty Jew?”  This is the same DELTA force, which had attacked the EEK in a peaceful demonstration in December 2009 nearly killing comrade Angeliki Koutsoumbou and seriously injuring dozens of comrades. A similar attitude was expressed by the police after the massive workers demonstration in Thessalonica on September 7, where 130 demonstrators were arrested, including many comrades of the EEK who were insulted by the police as “dogs of the dirty Jew Matsas”. The same insult was used the next day against another comrade arrested in an antifascist demonstration in Larissa. Even more sinister was the murderous attack, the day after the trial, on September 5, by a fascist gang in Pyrgos, Peloponnesus, against the 19 year old young son of a well known trade unionist cadre of the EEK, an attack that sent the young man to the hospital with serious injuries.

          The fascist criminal activities escalated the last two weeks after the end of the trial: there was another murderous attack by dozens of Nazi storm troopers – a gang financed and supported by Greek ship-owners- in the Perama shipyards area against a group of members, trade unionists and supporters of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) peacefully campaigning for the Festival of KNE (Communist Youth of Greece). 

        The climax of these activities was the murder, on September 18, of the 34 years old Pavlos Fyssas, a young left wing antifascist activist, musician and metal worker- a cold blood murder organized at the highest level by the Nazi Party and by its protectors in the bourgeois State, and executed by the “Golden Dawn” Nazi Mafia in the working class area of Nikaia, a historic stronghold of the communist movement. The murder produced huge popular uproar and anger, and sharpened the political crisis of the bourgeois regime and the Samaras government. Nevertheless, and despite the hypocritical crocodile tears of the government and the announcement of  the “imposition of the rule of law”,  the mass antifascist demonstrations that followed the murder were savagely repressed by the riot police, sending dozens to the hospital with serious injuries (one demonstrator lost his sight), and arresting hundreds of demonstrators.

        This on-going confrontation is insolubly tied to the new phase of the class struggle, the eruption of a powerful strike movement of the workers in the entire public sector, in Education, in the Health services, the struggle in three major industries (including the LARKO factory, one of the biggest in the country and in Europe) facing closures under the diktat of the hated troika. The LARKO workers, who have been fiercely resisting the closure of their factory by blocking passage on the Athens-Thessalonica motor way,  have been met with brutal attacks by the hordes of riot police sent by the government.

     The murder of comrade Pavlos Fyssas, the fight with the murderous Nazi gangs, and their protectors, the repressive State apparatus, the sharpening struggle against the social devastation imposed by the troika of the EU/ECB/IMF and the Samaras government deepen the crisis of the regime, and reveal the bankruptcy of bourgeois parliamentary democracy.

       The EEK fights throughout the country to bring together all these struggles into a General Political Strike - with no expiration date - 
to bring down the government, 
to kick out the imperialist troika, 
to smash its catastrophic policies, 
to build a United Front of the workers and popular organizations,
to organize Workers Self  Defense groups and workers militias against the Nazis and State repression, 
to open the road to workers power and a socialist way out of the crisis, 
for a socialist Greece in a United Socialist States of Europe.

Savvas Michael,  9/24/2013

Murdered rapper and anti-fascist activist Pavlos Fyssas

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Battle for the Zócalo

September 15th and 16th is Mexico’s Independence Day when Mexicans celebrate their patriotism and national identity. As part of the celebration the Mexican President steps onto the balcony of the National Palace on the Zócalo, the central square of the capital, rings a bell as Miguel Hidalgo did when announcing the insurrection which began the war of independence 203 years ago and shouts “Viva Mexico” three times. This year was the first year for the newly elected president from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Enrique Peña Nieto, to perform this ceremony.

But for several weeks leading up to Independence Day the Zócalo had been occupied by members of the dissident teachers’ union, the CNTE, who were protesting Peña Nieto’s Education Reform Law, which not only threatens the influence of the powerful teachers’ union but also institutes a Standard Test for all teachers and even liquidates the State Teacher’s schools. The dissident teachers were occupying the square with bed rolls and blankets under plastic tarps in what has been unusually rainy weather. No demonstration in the last few years has managed to disrupt the venue of the important independence ceremony, at least since Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) and his supporters occupied the Zócalo in 2006 to protest the fraudulent presidential elections which deprived AMLO of victory in favor of the candidate from the National Action Party (PAN), Felipe Calderon. The sitting president at that time, Vicente Fox, also of the PAN, was forced to give the ceremonial “ grito” in Guanajuato.

The teachers who oppose the Education Reform had been trying to negotiate their withdrawal from the central square with Peña Nieto before the Independence Day celebration, but the teachers complained that the president was intransigent and was seeking to impose the Education Law upon the teachers without consultation or compromise. On Thursday, September 12th, the teachers’ union deliberated what to do next. On the morning of Friday the 13th, some teachers were already packing up their accoutrements and vacating the Zócalo, but not all of them. Some hold-outs remained. At midday, the Secretary of Interior, Osorio Chung, gave an ultimatum to the remaining teachers to evacuate the square or be removed by force. Still the hold-outs did not move. Elements of the federal riot police began surrounding the square. Helicopters began flying overhead. Then at 14:00 the police moved in. The teachers in the square responded by throwing stones tubing and Molotov cocktails at the advancing ranks. Some set fire to trash and tents. In only five minutes the police had scattered the remaining teachers into the side streets where some protesters, including union leaders were attacked, beaten and arrested. As always there were provocateurs wearing hoods and known as “anarchists” who engaged in the most violent physical confrontations with the police. There were minor injuries on both sides. Over 30 protesters were arrested and later released.

The evicted teachers then regrouped and set up their camp in the plaza of the Revolution Monument, which is several blocks away. On Saturday night, September 15th they held their own Independence Celebration with speeches urging resistance in the face of repression. Nor were the teachers alone. Their treatment at the hands of the government aroused sympathy among citizens, unions and university students who contributed their moral and material support, including money, canned food, blankets, water and plastic tarps. On Sunday, September 16th the teachers in the capital and at least twelve over locations in the country held protest marches.

Violent physical confrontations are not uncommon at protest demonstrations in Mexico. The battle for the Zócalo was a test of wills. It was the two sides taking the measure of their opponent. The new president, Peña Nieto, has already shown his readiness to use force to impose his will, in this case the Pact for Mexico, and the Education Reform Law. As of this writing, the teachers are once again deliberating their next move. They are debating whether or not to retake the Zócalo later this week, Wednesday or Thursday. The mayor of the capital, Miguel Angel Mancera, of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party, is saying the teachers will not be allowed to reenter the Zócalo. Another alternative is for the teachers to return en masse to Oaxaca and their respective states. Still another is to leave a contingent behind. Many teachers are worried that if they remain absent from work for too long that they will be fired since, according to the very law they are opposing, teachers can now be dismissed if they are absent from work for more than three days. But as one teacher says, we have to fight for our jobs now or later we will have no job to lose. The last alternative is for all the teachers to stay. If all of the teachers stay out on strike the government would have to fire all 73,000 of them.

September 17, 2013

Ramón Rodriguez
Mexico, D.F.

                                        Photo montage of the battle for the Zócalo

Photos by Eladio Ortiz, Braulio Tenorio and Edgar López

Friday, September 13, 2013


Mr. Obama Takes Sides in a Divided Country

In May of this year Mr. Obama paid a state visit to Mexico to support the domestic reforms being proposed by the country’s newly elected president, Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and gave a short speech to a small, select audience of university and high school students and business leaders at Mexico City’s famous Museum of Anthropology. Obama’s now familiar message of hope and change, though greeted with skepticism from some members of his young audience, was generally received with enthusiasm. His efforts at broken Spanish and his concessions to Mexicans’ national pride and sensibilities were met with repeated cheers and applause.  He praised Mexico for its progress towards democracy, technological and economic development and the growth of a middle class. He noted with satisfaction that Mexico was beginning to take its rightful place among the nations of the world.  He urged greater economic cooperation between the two countries working as equals towards a bright future of mutual respect and prosperity. Obama also urged the young Mexicans in his audience to leave “old mindsets” behind and work towards a new and prosperous Mexico based on “new realities” and a new relationship with the United States, which was no doubt a reference to the difficulties which have plagued the history of Mexican-American relations in the past. He urged the young, technologically savvy students in his audience to use their talents and imagination to create the “next big thing”. 

 Although Obama’s message of hope and change constantly holds immense attraction for his audiences, his words are somehow always belied by the very facts and the reality of the situation in which they are spoken. In fact, the more desperate their situation, the more people are disposed to listen to such messages. In reality the new Mexican President, whose party is returning to power after 12 years in the opposition is presiding over a deeply divided country whose divisions between the haves and the have-nots go back for centuries, divisions which, rather than disappearing or being mitigated by time, have become more accentuated and deeply entrenched in all aspects of Mexico’s modern society, culture, and political institutions. The pro-business, pro free-trade National Action Party (PAN) which held the presidency from 2000 to 2012 only managed to exacerbate these divisions and to disillusion those voters who believed that after 70 years of PRI governance, elections would finally offer solutions to these age-old problems. Now, the PRI is hoping to overcome these divisions by proposing a plan, a “Pact for Mexico”, which represents an agreement between the three major political parties of the country, the PRI, the PAN and the PRD, (the Democratic Revolutionary Party) to wage an aggressive offensive against all those in the country that stand in the way of their neoliberal program of further opening Mexico up to foreign investment and to the vicissitudes of the global economy.  

But there is tremendous resentment and a rapidly growing resistance to the PRI’S “Pact for Mexico”; a resistance which, like Popocatepetl, the dormant volcano that lies just outside of Mexico City and has been spewing inordinate amounts of water vapor, gas and ash into the air lately, threatens to erupt into open class warfare.

The Electoral Parties

Before the 2000 elections, the PRI had held a monopoly on political power in Mexico for 70 years and was returned to power in the 2012 elections after 12 years in the opposition, during which time the PAN held the presidency. The main alternative to these two bourgeois political parties, and the great hope of many leftists in the country, that was once offered by the newly formed populist left PRD and the candidacies of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) for president in 2006 and 2012 has been at least temporarily derailed since the election of Peña Nieto. During the 2006 campaign, AMLO and his populist views were successfully stigmatized by his pro-business free-market opponents and the corporate media as a “danger for Mexico”. The hostility to AMLO among these same sectors only intensified after AMLO protested the largely fraudulent election results of 2006, which gave the victory to PAN’s Felipe Calderon, by calling on his followers to occupy the center of the capital, a protest which eventually lasted for 47 days, causing hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the area to suffer economic losses. Now the middle class views AMLO with the same contempt with which they view Mexico’s president from 1976 to 1982, José Lopez Portillo, who is vilified for nationalizing the banks at the end of his term, and the contempt with which they once viewed Venezuela’s late president, Hugo Chavez, a figure with whom AMLO’s opponents often compare him. These electoral defeats of the PRD have led to demoralization, dissension and opportunism in the party’s ranks and a faction of the party has signed on, along with the PAN, to Peña Nieto’s “Pact for Mexico”. The PRI now not only holds the presidency but a good share of the national congress and a majority of the state legislatures. Finding the presidency denied to his political movement, AMLO has now left the PRD and created an independent opposition movement called the Movimiento de Renacimiento, (MORENA)

The Teachers’ Union and the Education Reform Law

In February of this year, Peña Nieto caused consternation and turmoil within the powerful teachers’ union, the SNTE (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Educación) and the dissenting, smaller and more militant splinter group, the CNTE (Congreso Nacional de Trabajadores de Educación), when he arrested the corrupt leader of the teachers’ union, Elba Esther Gordillo. He further aggravated the union with his proposed Education Reform Law, which seeks to undermine the power of the teachers’ unions in education and proposes to implement standardized testing for teacher evaluation. Resistance to the reform law is particularly strong in the underdeveloped, rural areas of the country.
       The teachers’ struggles in the PRI-controlled state of Oaxaca, it will be remembered, assumed historic proportions and erupted into violent confrontations in 2006 when a militant section of the teachers’ union, CNTE Section XXII, went on strike and occupied the center of the state capital for several months. Out of this movement grew a citizens’ political organization, APPO (Asemblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca), which helped fuel the protest and vent popular discontent. Confrontations reached a climax when an American reporter for Indymedia, Brad Will, was shot and killed by unknown pro-government forces of the PRI Governor at the time, Hector Ulises Ruiz.  As always, the public, taking its cue from the government and the corporate media, roundly criticized these tactics of the teachers’ union, which received little or no outside support, at least according to this same media.
We now see this history being repeated as CNTE and thousands of public school teachers from rural communities in the less developed areas of the country are going on strike, mostly in the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas.  Thousands of teachers, again mostly from Oaxaca, have been converging on the nation’s capital, where they have organized large marches and demonstrations. Confrontations with riot police have taken place in front of the National Congress, where a general version of the new law was being discussed and was passed. There is talk of provocateurs having infiltrated the teachers’ ranks. These same teachers are now occupying the Zócalo (Constitution Square) of the capital in front of the presidential palace where they are living in tent cities and where they pledge to remain until September 15, Mexico’s Independence Day. Meanwhile, the patience of the capitalinos is wearing thin because of the almost daily traffic snarls that the teachers’ demonstrations in different parts of the city are causing; AMLO is calling for public understanding and indulgence towards the protests; the capital’s municipal PRD government, which is relatively liberal, is pledging not to repress or dislodge the protestors; and the rightwing PAN is asking for the protesters to be removed by force. There is a form of limited dialogue between the government and the teachers’ union taking place but Peña Nieto has pledged that an Education Reform Law will be passed in any case.1

 Tent city in Mexico City's Zocalo:  from Omar López/EL UNIVERSAL


Union Banner in Zocalo tent city opposing the labor "reforms" (Alex Steiner)

Union banner in Zocalo tent city (Alex Steiner)

The Labor Reform Law, the Electrical Workers’ Union, and PEMEX

      There is also a growing discontent and resistance to the “Pact for Mexico” among the union rank and file who have vehemently opposed the anti-worker, anti-union Labor Reform Law which was passed earlier this year, and there is still the smoldering resentment among electrical workers over Felipe Calderon’s dissolution of the Electrical Workers Union (the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas) in October of 2009 which put over 44,000 unionized workers out of a job by dissolving the state run electrical power company, busting the union and replacing the workers with non-unionized employees of the Comisión Federal de Electricidad
      Furthermore, the issue of the fate of PEMEX and the exploitation of Mexico’s oil reserves, which were once proudly proclaimed to be the patrimony of all Mexicans by the PRI’s Lazaro Cardenas in 1938, is still another bone of contention that threatens to erupt into open political confrontation once again as the major political parties submit their several proposals to the congress  to “modernize” the oil industry by opening it up to foreign investment, a move which, in turn, could well require the National Congress to modify several articles of the Mexican constitution. Emotions run high over the question and while the PAN and the PRI have submitted their own plans, they have promised to make common cause in their effort. The PRD is offering its own plan to “modernize” the oil industry and threatening not to vote for the law, thereby breaking with the PRI’s “Pact for Mexico”.  Once again, AMLO has captured the public spotlight by staking out a position of his own as the head of an independent political movement, MORENA, which promises to oppose any effort by the government to privatize PEMEX.

The Regional Self-Defense Brigades

      In addition, there is a growing socio-political movement in the states among poor rural communities in reaction and opposition to the rise of corruption and organized crime and to the drug lords who are infiltrating and taking over entire municipal governments all over the country. No longer content to depend on the corrupt institutions of the military and the police for protection, armed popular defense forces are being organized in rural communities all over the country in order to take justice into their own hands. The state of Michoacán has seen the most recent example of this movement in which self-defense brigades are successfully organizing and arming themselves in order to forcibly expel the drug cartels from their streets and their communities.2 The federal and state governments are anxiously trying to negotiate a peace with these vigilante groups and is promising to take matters into its own hands to solve the problem by using Calderon’s old, failed tactics of increasing police and military presence in the region. Confrontations between the government and these groups have already begun.

Student Discontent

      No less important is the lingering discontent among students. A student movement opposing the election of Peña Nieto took shape during the last elections and led to demonstrations, marches and confrontations with government forces on the very day of the president’s inauguration, December 1, 2012. It also led to a period of several weeks during which the Rectory of the National University (UNAM) was occupied by student sit-ins or “plantones”. There has always been the long standing problem of the lack of access to a university education for broad masses of young people in Mexico who can neither find a place in the public university system nor are able to pay tuition to gain entrance into one of the more expensive private institutions.

Peña Nieto’s Record of Repression

Peña Nieto, like Mexico and the PRI itself, has a record of violent repression and the question is whether, under certain circumstances, he might not resort to brutal repression of the kind for which he was responsible in 2012 against the students and in 2006 against rural peasants when he served as governor of the State of Mexico.  At that time, Peña Nieto was responsible for ordering the vicious attack by Federal and State Police on peasant merchants and organized flower sellers in the town of Atenco over their right to set up their popular markets in the town square.  In this confrontation homes were broken into, peasants, some of them armed with machetes, were beaten, detained and raped, and at least two young men, one of them only 14 years old, were killed. The governor had an additional score to settle with this community because it was their organized resistance that had earlier prevented the government from authorizing the construction of a second international airport in the same area some four years before.

Mexico: At a Crossroads or an Impasse?

Surely, the country is at some sort of threshold or crossroads. Obama’s now familiar siren song and message of hope and change is very seductive to Mexico’s bourgeoning young middle class, who are composed of young professionals who have gotten college degrees usually in those areas of business, finance or high technology which are most in demand on today’s market. The only alternative to the rosy picture which Obama paints, it would seem, is despair. But instead of Mexico entering upon a new era of prosperity and taking its rightful place among the nations of the world, the country, contradictorily, seems to be entering upon a period of uncertainty, instability and turmoil. There is even talk of it becoming a “failed state”. The question is why?

Peña Nieto’s new plan for the modernization of Mexico is really nothing new and consists of a continuation of the old neoliberal policies of opening Mexico up to even more private investment in order to make the country more “competitive” on the world market. But as the world and the domestic economy continue to deteriorate, resistance to the old neoliberal policies grows. The PRI’s program is really that of the pro-business, free-market oriented PAN but by pushing through its new package of reforms, the PRI (much like the Democratic Party in the U.S.) is using its populist credentials to do what the PAN, in its few years in the presidency, could not do. The PRI has simply co-opted the right wing’s program. The reason that they have been able to do so and might even be able to implement it successfully is that in the early XX century after the 1910 revolution, the PRI built a reputation based on a sort of populist, nationalist-progressivism which at least claimed to be all inclusive. The famous paintings of the Mexican muralist movement of the 30’s eloquently expressed these progressive-nationalist aspirations. And Mexicans are still fiercely nationalistic-- something that is exploited by the country’s ruling classes. But the fact is that Peña Nieto and the PRI long ago abandoned the roots of its own nationalist-progressive traditions and during its 70 years in power proved itself to be hopelessly oppressive and corrupt.  Another reason for the PRI’s success is that it has used its traditional peasant base and a party machine based on compadrazgo, cronyism and patronage to assemble a kind of coalition of the three major political parties which only serves the interests of a ruling class elite whose loyalties are not to the nation or its citizens but to international banks and financial institutions, multi-national corporations and their stockholders and investors, all of whom stand to gain from the so-called reforms.  As Frantz Fanon pointed out in writing about the Algerian revolution, the loyalties of the nationalist bourgeoisie, despite what they avow, are always to the colonialist, imperialist powers. And what we are seeing in the world today is a resurgence of imperialism and the rebirth of colonialism.
The anti-reform forces, on the other hand, composed of the more politically and socially conscious sectors of Mexico’s poor and lower class working people and their traditional working class institutions and organizations see themselves as the sacrificial lambs of this promised prosperity of the future. Yet, at the same time the anti-reform forces appear unable, at least so far, to muster substantial support among the broad population against the reforms. In the eyes of the Mexican middle class and what Marx calls the petty bourgeoisie, this is because these forces cannot or do not offer any feasible alternative; they are simply the cause of the problem-- the fly in the ointment. Their lack of widespread, popular support, the middle class maintains, is only proof of this. Indeed the mobilization against the proposed reforms organized by the teachers, the unions and AMLO’s popular movement, MORENA, only manage to inspire rancor and hostility among the vast majority of middle-class, tax-paying Mexicans, who, whether rightly or wrongly, condemn the unions for their corruption, inefficiency and anti-free market principles and place all the blame for the low quality of education in the public school system squarely on the striking teachers.  It would appear that the forces opposing Peña Nieto’s reforms and his plans to modernize Mexico are simply regressive and backward spoilers who instinctively hate any kind of progress, hope and change.  
For the moment, therefore, it seems that Mexico rather than being at a crossroads or a threshold is actually at an impasse or a stalemate between two forces: the middle class, who sees Peña Nieto’s opponents as the obstacle to Mexico’s progress, on the one hand, and Mexico’s poor and lower class working people and their respective organizations, on the other, who find that they have no alternative left in the political arena but to resort to drastic extra-electoralist measures for the sake of their own survival but have not yet found the broad popular support that they need to seriously challenge or even change the status quo. The stalemate itself shows that the social divide between the haves and the have-nots has become almost total and complete, as if the two classes lived on different planets. But if the popular opposition movement to the elected government ever does find the support it needs among the general population, a fierce class confrontation of historic proportions is very likely.
Mexico’s future, however, does not rest with Mexico alone. Rather it is inextricably entwined with the future of its northern neighbor and with the fate of the world capitalist system as a whole, both of which are now confronting an enormous economic, political crisis and indeed seem to be on the eve of yet another war. If, therefore, there is an abrupt change in Mexico’s fortunes induced by a worsening of the international economic crisis, which seems very likely, the political, social relationship of forces inside the country could very quickly and drastically change in favor of those who are, at least for now, only a vociferous and vilified minority. If such proves to be the case, then the popular movement against the domination of capitalist imperialism that is now growing in Mexico will have been vindicated.
September 2, 2013

Ramón Rodriquez
Mexico, D.F.


1    As of August 31 the National Congress in a much disputed vote approved the Education Reform Law with 390 in favor and 69 against.
2    See the youtube video El pueblo que venció al crimen organizado. Testimonio de un policía comunitaria

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Charges against Savas Michael Matsas thrown out by judge in Athens

Applause following court victory over fascists

Savas victory salute outside the court

A well deserved moment  

Supporters greeting Savas after his victory in court

The trial of Savas Michael Matsas ended abruptly on Sept. 4,
just one day after it began, when the judge threw out all three charges against him in the lawsuit filed by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. Charges against the other defendant in the trial, Constantinos Moutzouris, a former rector of Athens' Polytechnic University, were also dismissed.  [For background on the lawsuit see the press release we published on August 6, Defend Savas Michael Matsas against the Golden Dawn fascists!.]  The trial attracted hundreds of demonstrators inside and outside the court house expressing their solidarity with Savas Michael and the struggle against fascism in Greece.

(Some of the posters outside the court house, reflecting the diverse political groups expressing their solidarity.)

"The state and Golden Dawn work together. For a United Front and a workers militia. EEK"

"Fascists step back, comrades forward! Solidarity to Savas Michael"

"You cannot criminalize discourse. Students’ anti-authoritarian front."

"Against political persecutions and the fascist turn. KKE (M-L)."

"Neonazis Out. Workers United will Never be Defeated. KEERFA."

Only three supporters of the Golden Dawn fascists dared to show their face and none of them appeared at the trial to testify.  According to an eyewitness account from the court house, when Savas Michael finished giving his speech he received such a huge round of applause that the judge began to scream in a desperate attempt to restore the "dignity" of the court.  No one should doubt that this is a huge victory.  The trial of Savas Michael marked the first time in decades that anyone was called upon to defend themselves in a European court against charges brought on by fascists. The trial would never have gone forward without the backing of the right wing coalition government led by Antonis Samaras,  the same government that administers the inhuman austerity measures imposed on the Greek working class and middle class dictated by the European troika.

Undoubtedly the publicity the trial began to receive on the international stage, all of it supportive of Savas Michael, proved embarrassing to the Greek government, exposing its corrupt judiciary system and the hollow shell that stands in for democracy in Greece.  A notable example of press coverage that forced the government to change course is the remarkable account that appeared a couple of days before the trial in the Guardian.  We are republishing that piece below.

We are also republishing an account of the conclusion of the trial from the French news agency, AFP.

While the dismissal of the charges against Savas Michael Matsas and Constantinos Moutzouris are undoubtedly a big setback for the Golden Dawn fascists, no one should think that the struggle against fascism in Greece can be restricted to the judicial arena.  That would be a huge mistake. Rather the lessons of the trial and its aftermath should be employed as an educational tool as part of the political struggle against fascism. And that political struggle is in turn intimately tied to the struggle for a socialist alternative to the austerity measures that are crippling Greece.  

Alex Steiner, Sept 5, 2013


From the Guardian:

It's absurd that Golden Dawn is being allowed to hound my friend into court

The trial of Savvas Michael-Matsas, one of the few Jewish public intellectuals in Greece, is a cheap sop to neo-Nazis

Members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party stand around a stage during a gathering in Athens. Photograph: YORGOS KARAHALIS/© YORGOS KARAHALIS/Reuters/Corbis
"I'm the embodiment of every fascist's fantasy. I'm a Jew, a communist – and a heretical communist, a Trotskyist, at that. I don't fit anywhere. The only thing I happen not to be is homosexual."
My old friend Savvas Michael-Matsas – activist, internationally respected writer on philosophy and literature, general secretary of the Greek Revolutionary Workers' party (EEK), utopian thinker, fiery speaker and wild white-haired survivor of 17 courses of chemotherapy ("No compromise with death") – is on trial in Athens on Tuesday, 3 September, for "libelous defamation," "incitement to violence and civil discord", and "disturbing the public peace".
The suit against him has been brought by members and supporters of the neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn; the background is a call to an anti-fascist protest issued by EEK in May 2009, which ended with the slogan: "The people don't forget, they hang fascists" (it's catchier in Greek). As Anny Paparousou, Savvas's lawyer, explained to me, this is effectively a prosecution of political speech – the first prosecution of an anti-fascist slogan in Europe. It's as if the National Front had sued the SWP for shouting "Smash fascism" – and been taken seriously. But with 18 seats in parliament, 13% in the polls and muscle-bound thugs on the streets, Golden Dawn makes the old NF look harmless and almost sweet.
Though Golden Dawn's suit was filed against a long list of individuals and organisations, only Savvas and Constantinos Moutzouris, former chancellor of the National Technical University of Athens, have so far been called to trial. Moutzouris's alleged offence is that he allowed the radical website Athens Indymedia to use the university's server; his prosecution may be seen as part of the government's campaign to shut down the "alternative space" in which leftists, anarchists and anti-austerity activists have thrived for many years. Savvas's trial fits that category, too: EEK is a meeting place for Marxist and anarchist currents, advocating, in Savvas's words, "not exit from the euro, which is a Talmudic discussion, but exit from the system". There's also a darker side: it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Savvas has been selected not only as a radical but as a Jew.
The progress of the trial thus far raises questions about whether, and if so to what extent, the authorities are colluding with the neo-Nazis. Several of Golden Dawn's members have serious charges pending but never seem to see the inside of a courtroom. Themis Skordeli, a signatory to this suit, was charged with stabbing an Afghan man in September 2011; her trial has been postponed eight times. The MP Ilias Panagiotaros, another of the complainants, owns a shop called Phalanga that sells street-fighting paraphernalia; he told the BBC last year that Greece is heading for civil war.
But picking out the Jew to be the first to walk the plank is sleazy beyond belief, a cheap sop to the fascist gallery. As one of the few Jewish public intellectuals in Greece, Savvas has long been targeted by neo-Nazi websites, with slogans like "Crush the Jewish worm" and claims that he can be found lurking under every stone, fomenting civil war among pure-blooded Greeks in order to establish a Judeo-Bolshevik state. He has also been accused of being both an agent of Iran and a fully paid-up member of the international Zionist conspiracy (in fact he's a fierce anti-Zionist), as well as having long hair (he does, despite the chemo and the rabbinical hat he bought in case he lost his locks).
The absurdity of all this doesn't make it less dangerous. "There is nothing reassuring about the repetition of a historical tragedy as farce," writes Savvas in his recent book, The Horror of a Parody: Three Talks About Golden Dawn. Article 192 of the Greek penal code, under which Savvas is charged, has been used twice against minority groups in the last 25 years; both times there were convictions. The rise of the far right in crisis-ridden Greece has both fed on and fuelled a blood-and-belonging nationalism and hatred of the other for which antisemitism is the original historical pattern. "Kill the Jew you carry inside you and is your negative self, incapable of giving your life meaning through a higher ideal," counselled Golden Dawn's first declaration of ideological principles. "Then, fight the Jew around you."
The Greek government has made common cause with these people in its desperate effort to drive home the neoliberal agenda of its creditors and protect Greece's own corrupt elites. The admittedly violent rhetoric of parts of the Greek left is equated with the widespread physical violence of the extreme right, which is cosseted and supported in its crusade against immigrants, leftists, homosexuals, misfits of all kinds. There is to be no room in the new order for anything counter, original, spare, strange.
I first met Savvas years ago at a conference celebrating the centenary of the Greek surrealist poet and visionary Andreas Embeirikos. We spoke about the writer's relationship to the work of Herman Melville, especially Moby-Dick, and Savvas still puts me in mind of the white whale: a force of nature sounding to great depths, bent on a single quixotic quest, not for revenge but for liberation – no less vital for being always out of reach. The black-shirted skinheads of Golden Dawn, driven by fear and hate, are the Ahabs of this world. They must not be allowed to win.

From Agence France-Presse:

Greek judge throws out neo-Nazi party's anti-racism suit

A judge in Greece threw out Wednesday a pivotal anti-racism case brought by neo-Nazi party the Golden Dawn against individuals it accused of inciting violence against it.

The party filed the lawsuit against multiple leftist groups including prominent far-left intellectual Savvas Michail whom it accused of calling on the public to protest against "criminal organisation" the Golden Dawn in 2009.

Conservative academic Konstantinos Moutzouris, a former rector of Athens' Polytechnic University who ran with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy party elections last year, was accused of allowing an anti-fascist website to broadcast from the university.

The subsequent suit signed by party members and at least one elected deputy accused the two of "inciting violence" against the Golden Dawn and "disrupting public order".

Michail, the only person actually prosecuted in a trial which opened Tuesday and lasted one day, hailed the dismissal of the case, which judges dropped in line with recommendations from prosecutors.

"This is a victory against the neo-Nazi threat that until now has wanted to impose its own law. All of their arguments collapsed," he said.

For the Greek left and human rights groups, the case has symbolised a landmark moment in the fight against the rise of the far-right party, which first entered parliament in 2012.

A number of leftists and rights activists protested at the trial opening on Tuesday but the Golden Dawn itself kept a low profile, with only three supporters who denied any political affiliation to the party turning up.

The case focused on Michail's 2009 proclamation which ended with the statement "People don't forget, they hang fascists", a cry frequently heard in anti-racism demonstrations in Greece.

Golden Dawn claimed this was a direct threat, while the defence insisted it was only a metaphor and a frequently-used call against fascism since the fall of the 1967-1974 military junta in Greece.

"This trial is a scandal in itself, it should never have taken place," said radical left party Syriza deputy Thodoris Dritsas, who was a witness for the defence.

"It is the first time since the fall of the junta that a person has stood trial for making anti-fascist statements," Michail told AFP.

"They want to create a legal precedent in order to outlaw the anti-fascist movement," he added.

Opponents of the Golden Dawn have viewed the case as ironic for a party known for its anti-Semitic and xenophobic discourse whose members have been implicated in violent assaults against immigrants.

"The Golden Dawn can implement their violent political programme unpunished... with incredible hatred... directly leading to violence," warned the Greek League of Human Rights before the trial.

"The Nazis publish my photograph and call on people to crush the "Jewish parasite," but nobody goes after them," said Michail, who is of Jewish descent.

Golden Dawn party leader Nikos Michaloliakos has publicly denied the Holocaust ever took place but has never been brought to justice for his statements.

Benefiting from a rise in social tensions in heavily indebted Greece, Golden Dawn was first elected to parliament last year, winning nearly seven percent of the vote and 18 seats out of an overall 300.