Weimar on the Med: Greece unwinds, Men in Black and the military poised for a coup d’état
By Richard Cottrell
Contributing writer for End the Lie
The situation in the rapidly dematerializing state of Greece is beginning to bear a chilling resemblance to the engineered breakdown of law and order in the Weimar Republic, which paved the way for the Nazi seizure of power.
What little is left of democracy in the wake of the EU-IMF-ECB smash and grab indicates the country is ripe for a military takeover aided by thuggish elements supporting the far-right Golden Dawn movement, presently riding high in the polls as the third-largest electoral force.
Early last year, Golden Dawn was beyond the fringe, a purely nominal assembly of outsiders, observing the national power play from the outside in.
Thanks to a series of elections rooted in the austerity crisis and the consequent rocky state of the economy, it is now a pivotal force to whom embattled premier Antonis Samaras may well look for support if matters spin seriously out of control. This is now an odds-on certainty.
A police whistleblower reported in the London Guardian claimed ‘strong pockets’ of Golden Dawn supporters have colonized ELAS, the national police force. He reckoned that up to 50 or 60 percent of the national gendarmerie were influenced by the extreme Right wing.
Those few senior officers who demanded a purge of fascist elements in police ranks were ignored by the authorities who preferred to keep them ‘in reserve’ in case of need.
The weak three-party coalition reduced itself to haggling for crumbs from the plunderers’ table whenever they arrive from Brussels to demand more sacrifices from the prostrate Greeks, and the coalition itself is close to breaking up.
It is only a question of which party jumps first: the Left Democrats, whose support is rapidly dwindling, or Pasok, the nominally socialist force close to extinction. Samaras will need more than his wits to keep this jittery shower together.
At the present rate of dissolution, I wouldn’t give Samaras much more than another month, unless he can count on some unorthodox solutions.
As in Weimar, Greece is now witnessing the rise of the vigilantes. Golden Dawn’s Men in Black are busily touring the streets of the main towns and cities handing out food to the needy, taking children to school to ‘protect’ them from preying immigrants and fetching old ladies’ pensions.
They are also responsible, on the bleaker side, for violent racist attacks on anyone identified as lacking Greek racial purity – even an Albanian theatrical director caught mid-performance in his playhouse.
Theodora Oikonomides, a journalist at the alternative radio network Radio Bubble, explains how “Golden Dawn’s most popular themes, such as xenophobia, homophobia and anti-Semitism have now become part of Greek public discourse, whether at the political or at the social level.”
These high profile attacks on the immigrant community have cast the Samaras government in a poor light because it has no effective response, beyond locking immigrants without proper papers in little better than concentration camps, deprived of proper food, fresh water and even medicines.
This is happening today, in an EU state falling off the hinges of civilization. Such is the pressure on the Greeks to conform to the edicts of Brussels while the high and mighty defenders of human rights of the EU are completely silent on the rampant racial persecutions in Greece. (In passing, they are similarly tight-lipped on the virtual extinction of democracy in Hungary by the country’s autocratic leader Viktor Orban.)
Of course from the Greek perspective this is quite a smart exercise in skevoria, the splendid Greek word which means an exercise in elaborate deception. In this case it involves appealing to the voters of the far-right camp while quietly encouraging Golden Dawn to infiltrate the security forces and commit violent acts against immigrants that play well in the public agora.
Golden Dawn is suddenly everywhere. The eight local offices the party had at election time early this year have blossomed to more than sixty, precisely the kind of explosive growth established by the Nazis in their early growth phase.
There are other chilling similarities. Golden Dawn parliamentarians have threatened to ‘drag migrant children from the kindergartens.’ Hyperbole? Not a bit of it. When the leadership requested a list of the kindergartens with high migrant numbers from the Greek education ministry, it was instantly handed over.
One instantly recalls how the Weimar authorities quietly worked with the emerging Nazis to deal with the ‘Jewish Problem.’
Neither Antonis Samaras or his coalition colleagues – especially the leader of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party, the shirt-popping Evangelos Venizelos – derided as ‘three dinners’ in the bawdy anarchist cafes of the downtown Athens suburb of Exarchia, can reasonably distance themselves with any conviction from a policy of persecution rapidly developing into a full-scale pogrom against immigrants.
The Samaras government makes great play of a newly-created special unit inside the gendarmerie which is supposed to monitor any illegal activity by officers. Here is a hollow joke. Under Greek law immigrants who make complaints against the police have few legal rights, no assistance in presenting cases and nor any right to present evidence, while the police have a free hand to defend themselves.
The Racist Violence Recording Network has documented clear evidence of police and Golden Dawn vigilantes jointly participating in attacks on immigrants. When I mentioned Weimar at the start of this piece, I was fully in mind of the parallel between Ernst Rohm’s thugs picking on Jews and Jewish owned businesses. In Greece today police thugs and their blackshirt stormtrooper allies smash up immigrants market stalls and trash their goods, haul their victims to police cells where they are beaten and humiliated and if lucky, thrown back bruised and broken on the streets
As an old Greek hand, so to speak, I am not especially surprised. The police are institutionally corrupt with strong ties to the narcotics rackets operating openly through the port of Piraeus. Fast motor boats sweeping through Greek waters loaded with dope, kidnapped women and illicit weapons are rarely intercepted.
Yet leading officers have the temerity to claim that immigrants are behind the massive industrialized contraband industry worth as much 10-12% of Greek GNP, if it were on the books. Much of central Athens is occupied by Greek and Albanian criminal gangs. One can turn off the streets close to Syntagma (Constitution) square and find oneself in a world of open prostitution and drug dealing. Business being business, the police look the other way, save for a few token raids.
Antonis Samaras himself is behind the proposal to pepper Greece with detention centers. Yet he knows that ostracized immigrants are often driven by economic pressures into pimping and down-market drug dealing in order to stay alive. There is no government clamp-down on organized crime because it is a convenient political distraction. Skevoria, again. Moreover, the black-clad Dawn vigilantes have their own strong ties to the underworld. For the shaky authorities running Greece today it matters more that the Men in Black are potentially essential props of the regime if – or more probably, when – things really do fall apart.
History points to the country’s military stepping in to supply the smack of strong rule. In 1967 an obscure group of middle ranking officers – the infamous Colonels – staged a putsch with the aid of a secret NATO plan to forestall a communist insurrection. They ruled for the next seven years. The Colonels ran a despicable and sadistic dungeon regime, routinely imprisoning and torturing opponents. These unfortunates were told they should not bother to complain, because NATO was fully behind the military rulers.
The Colonels stepped in because an earlier Troika – the US, western intelligence and NATO – feared an approaching general election might return a neutralist-minded, anti-NATO government.
It cannot be stated too often that fascism – the enemy of the wartime allies – was again nurtured on European soil for political convenience, even as the plague was dissipating in Spain and Portugal. Something remarkably similar is happening today.
Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the ‘general secretary’ of Golden Dawn, is an informing study which highlights the long standing nature of Greek fascism. Michaloliakos is associated with every far-right initiative since the military dictatorship under the ‘senior colonel’, the late Giorgios Papadopoulos, who remains the shining beacon of the far-right. A document presently making the rounds – he claims a forgery – purports to show he was on the payroll of KYP (Greek state secret services) and later when that was reformed as an agent for National Intelligence Service, EYP. Assuming the document is genuine, he was doing well for those times in the early 80’s on a monthly salary of 120,000 drachmas.
As I pointed out in my 1987 book on the murder of the BBC freelance reporter Ann Chapman (Blood on their Hands), anyone finding themselves confined in the dungeons of KYP (widely regarded as the local branch of the CIA) would be lucky to emerge alive. Ann, whose connections I have now traced to British secret services, did not.
What concerns many Greeks who are opposed to the persecutions is the increasingly blurred line which separates the vigilantes and the police.
The same officer who spoke anonymously with a Guardian reporter in Athens accused the government of looking the other way as Golden Dawn supporters steadily infiltrated the police. ‘Police’ is a blanket term which covers security forces in general. Greeks have learnt to keep an especially wary distance from the MAT public order squads, the EKAM riot suppression units and particularly the DIS motorcycle teams known for rough tactics such as running down peaceful demonstrators, especially pregnant women. It is not disputed that the special forces are in loyal sympathy with Golden Dawn and its vigilante patrols. Every journalist in Athens knows that.
Weimar witnessed violent clashes between Ernst Rohm’s Storm Battalions and rival gangs of street fighters drawn from the Left. So far, Greeks have been spared the exact replica since the trouble is stirred entirely from the Far Right and the government. The hooded figures which the corporate media depict as anarchists and Leftist trouble makers throwing rocks and firebombs are actually largely Golden Dawn people in disguise, alongside out-of-uniform security forces.
So far there has been no shooting on the streets. I fear this is set to change, history being our guide. Greece was wracked for 30 years by rival gangs swarming around the streets taking aim at the standard monuments of western capitalism, totem figures of the United States, and anyone accused of complicity in the Colonels’ Putsch.
But it was never quite as simple as that. Greek terrorism was a rather individual case of clan warfare between rival political forces overlaid with a stack of complications left over from the Civil War laced with militant anti-Americanism. It was ruthlessly manipulated by the former socialist premier Andreas Papandreou’s people (the ‘Green Men’), and his despised opponents, the parallel pseudo-conservative Karamanlis family kleptocracy. Plus, of course, western intelligence and NATO, thrown in for good measure.
The rocket-like ascendency of Golden Dawn Golden reminds me very strongly of November 17, an assembly of many different parts but nearly all of them traceable to Greek and foreign secret services and the Greek authorities themselves.
A self-ordained anarcho-Marxist band of guerrillas named for the terrible massacre of student protestors during the Junta were always blamed as the main instruments of terror. In reality November 17 was a guns-for-hire rent-a-crowd, frequently working to the orders of Greek and Western intelligence.
Curious recruits included an icon painter and a honey farmer eking a living on EU subsidies, the pack led by a lover of the good life (and young women), Franco-Greek academic Alexandros Giotopoulos, whose father was aide-de-comp to Leon Trotsky. When they were all banged up for life, Giotopoulos left the dock shouting that he and his merry band had been betrayed by Western secret services.
During all this mayhem in one small country, not a single collar was felt for 30 years, until the entire gang was suddenly rounded up early this century after a bungled bombing in the port of Piraeus. Quite some protection racket.
I recall those times because we can be expect to see a good deal more elaborate skevoria in the weeks ahead.
Earlier this year, Ilias Kasidiaris, Golden Dawn’s chief spokesman, got himself into an extraordinary scene during a live television discussion on reserves of oil believed to lie in Greek waters. Before the astonished viewers he first threw a glass of water at Left wing Syriza MP Rena Douro and then landed three punches on Liana Kanelli, a widely respected Communist MP. He was formerly accused of assault, went underground for a while, then resurfaced as though nothing had happened.
It is vital to understand that this was not a sudden inflamed loss of temper. Kasidiaris was demonstrating Golden Dawn’s contempt for the forces of the Left – and indeed any semblance of detestable democracy.
Rohm would have gasped with admiration, but of course there was no television around in his day. These images of the fascist renaissance in Greece flashed around the world. The rumpus offered the perfect propaganda lantern show. There is still some lingering justice. The Vouli, the Greek parliament, lifted the immunity of three Golden Dawn MP’s accused of racial attacks. Whether they will ever see the inside of a court room is quite another matter altogether.
Yet the affronted Kanelli is responsible for this revealing comment on the perfect skevoria behind the curtains. She declared: “Golden Dawn is an ideological and political pimp serving a mission that the system assigned to it.” In short, exactly like the November 17 gangs who are now penned up in the grim Kolydoros prison just outside Athens.
The Samaras coalition has run out of convincing negotiating tactics. The recent six-hour visit of Mother Angelika on an away-a-day from Berlin, typified a regime hiding behind the battlements of hostility, with Greece reduced to the edicts of foreign consuls. That is a graven image in many Greek minds. But to the Left of the political scene, this is an end game they intend to win. The Syriza coalition led by the casual young tieless leader Alexis Tsipras would almost certainly triumph in yet another crisis election, which is theoretically the only alternative if the coalition falls.
Tsipris is committed to junk the iron grip of austerity while pledging that as premier – on the surface at least – he will stay in the euro, and beyond that, the EU itself. Although I believe Tsipras has no wish for an isolationist Greece, no one in the citadels of Troika power in Brussels, Frankfurt or Washington, is convinced. We are fast approaching a new 1967 moment in Greek politics.
Syriza cannot be allowed to prove the whole austerity crisis is nothing but a bogus scam to reflate Wall Street banks at the expense of the Greek people. Still less, Greece cannot be allowed to default Icelandic-style on the public debt and remain in the euro unscathed, or revert to the drachma, and yet remain in the EU.
He would effectively brand the EU, the ECB and the IMF as liars and deceivers. The impact on other European countries currently stretched on the austerity rack – Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium (seat of the EU) – scarcely needs imagining. No wonder the doomsayers of the corporate media – and particularly Mother Angelika’s lackey Spiegel – describe Tsipras as the ‘most dangerous man in Europe.’
In 1967 NATO and the US brushed off Greek democracy like dandruff and installed the Junta. If Samaras falls, there will be no new elections, except on the spurious grounds that Syriza would be forbidden to participate.
A suitable outbreak of uproar on the streets, stirred by underground police saboteurs and Golden Dawn’s Men in Black would provide the requisite excuse to suspend parliamentary government ‘for the duration of the emergency.’ Its place would be taken by a ‘guided regime’ supported by the powerful Greek military and the thugs of the far-right. Here we find the flesh on the prediction of the assaulted MP Liana Kanellis that Golden Dawn is working on “a mission assigned by the system.”
Last year the EU suspended democracy in both Greece and Italy. The Greeks were lumbered with the techno-premier Lukas Papademos, who as governor of the Bank of Greece back in 2000 cooked the books along with the carrion of Wall Street in order to lever the country into the euro. Papademos proved to be a chump and made a hopeless task of his mission, so the country was grudgingly handed back to the politicians.
After the usual tiresome squabbling – and refusal to accept the decisions of the electorate – Greece has another premier, Samaras, who has no political substance or support. Further adventures on that road are unlikely.
Tsipras, who is busily welding Syriza into a tightly concentrated political force, has to be stopped. He won’t be stopped at the ballot box. But he could be stopped on the streets.
Richard Cottrell is a writer, journalist and former European MP (Conservative). His new book Gladio: NATO’s Dagger At The Heart Of Europe is now available from Progressive Press. You may order it using the link below (or by clicking here – Gladio, NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe: The Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia Terror Axis):
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Edited by End the Lie