The timing is nothing if not ironic. On the day the EU has been awarded the Nobel peace prize, we watch as Europe sits idly by and lets fascism brew once again – this time in Greece. If a sharp turn towards religious fundamentalism and fascism is to be avoided, Europe needs to act now.
On Thursday night the Athens premiere of Terrence McNally’s play, Corpus Christi, was cancelled following protests by members of the far-right party Golden Dawn (including some MPs) and religious groups.
The protest had a clearly homophobic agenda. Manolis V, a journalist, was attacked by protesters while the police apparently did nothing: “The police is next to us. I shout ‘They’re beating me, aren’t you going to do something?’,” he wrote on Twitter. “I move away so I can look on from distance. A well-known Golden Dawn MP follows me. He punches me twice in the face and knocks me to the ground. While on the ground, I lose my glasses. The Golden Dawn MP kicks me. The police are just two steps away but turn their back.”
The spectacle of fascists physically attacking people whose moral agenda they disapprove of has become routine in today’s Greece. What should come as more of a shock is the tacit approval of the police.
When four protesters were arrested, the Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas boarded the police bus in which they were held, and released one of the prisoners. From the video depicting the incident, we can see that no officer tried to stop him.
Golden Dawn know that the police are on their side, and so do those they attack. Manolis says he is afraid to go to the police and file a lawsuit, because he doesn’t want them to have his name and address on record.
The police were not so slow to react two weeks ago when they arrested for blasphemy the man behind the satirical Facebook page of Geron Pastitsios after a question submitted in parliament by a Golden Dawn MP. Nor were they slow to react when anti-fascists clashed with Golden Dawn supporters in Amerikis square and 15 were arrested, and allegedly tortured, last week. To add insult to injury, after announcing that they are conducting an investigation into a “Golden Dawn MP”, the police refused to name him, despite having no problem naming teenagers who were preemptively arrested before a demonstration three weeks ago.
The Greek Orthodox church, its huge wealth unscathed by the crisis, is in no rush to condemn its clerics for siding, condoning, instigating and participating in acts of violence and disrespect against immigrants, homosexuals and people who challenge their view of what being Greek and Orthodox entails.
Greece is being held hostage by a police force that increasingly appears beyond state control, and which has long forsaken its role of protecting citizens from the thugs they now side with, and by a government which relishes the distraction the Golden Dawn provides from the cuts and tax hikes. The government’s unwillingness to revoke parliamentary privileges from those Golden Dawn MPs who participate in or condone violent acts, and to speed up processes to have them prosecuted and condemned, demonstrates this.
Not only have the Golden Dawn refused to apologise for their actions outside Corpus Christi, but the Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris – famous for physically assaulting a leftwing politician on live TV – didn’t miss the chance to hand out warnings: “In any case where the religious sentiment of Greeks is insulted, the Golden Dawn will react dynamically,” he said. “If someone tries to stage a play making fun of Muhammad in a Muslim country, he will lose his head. They won’t react peacefully as Greeks do.”
Judging by Sunday’s protest, which Kasidiaris did not attend, “peace” equals abuse, censorship, violence and a complete disregard for the laws Golden Dawn supposedly venerate. Apparently we should just be thankful for not having our heads chopped off.
It is once again time for the Greek people to ask themselves, is the Golden Dawn a legitimate political party? And, as Paul Mason asked a few days ago on Newsnight: is this even a democracy any more?