Greece: Operation Xenios Zeus – racist state attack

On 6 August Nikos Dendias, the Public Order minister of the pro-austerity governing coalition of Greece, spoke of ‘an invasion of immigrants’ and declared that ‘the immigration problem is maybe even bigger than the financial one’. His speech was an attempt to justify Operation Xenios Zeus, a massive state racist attack on immigrants which had been launched days before, in which over 7,000 people were rounded up in a sweep operation in a single weekend in Athens alone. Thousands are to be deported – to where, no one knows, as Greece shares no border with any other EU state, so ex-army bases are being turned into mass detention camps. MICHAEL MACGREGOR reports.

The launch of Operation Xenios Zeus coincided with the arrival in Greece of representatives of the Troika – the IMF, EU and the European Central Bank. The books had to be checked to make sure that €11.5bn cuts were in place for 2014 and that Greece was able to hand over €3.2bn to redeem a bond on 20 August before being lent another slice of its bailout. Agreement on the cuts had to be in place by 14 September for further support to be made available. As part of a €50bn privatisation programme, the state-owned Agricultural Bank of Greece has been sold to private banks. The retirement age has been raised to 66 years with reduced pensions. There are cuts to social welfare payments for working families with children as well as wider exclusions of people from entitlement to unemployment benefit and further cuts in the rate itself. Labour conditions are under attack with six-day weeks planned and less protection from dismissal for those fortunate enough to have work. Youth unemployment stands at over 50%. The Athens News described this as ‘sweeping away the social state’.

Xenios Zeus has given official sanction to escalating racist violence in Greece which both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International have condemned. The Migrant Workers Association stated that there had been over 500 racially motivated attacks in the last six months.

The notorious Greek police are leading the way in a campaign of racist terror, intimidation and humiliation. Athens News reports for instance that they stopped Pakistani men from the Athens suburb of Nikaia, workers at Hellenic Petroleum, and demanded their papers. The men were hit and taken to Egaleo No2 police station where they were assaulted repeatedly. One policeman, described as an open fascist, used pliers to crush the little finger of one of the men, saying that he 'would tell them about the law' in answer to the men’s terrified protestations.

Another immigrant, Ahmed Hasan, was attacked in his own home by police after calling them to report a racist attack. Wielding a broken bottle a cop told him: ‘I will slaughter you, I will do whatever I want with you! Leave this country, filth’. It is estimated that over 50% of the Greek police force voted for the fascist Golden Dawn party which seeks to target immigrants as the cause of the current economic crisis. Police ranks are rotten with fascists, particularly the infamous MAT riot squads, and the fascist party is itself made up of ex-cops, ex-soldiers and violent criminals. Police tolerance of fascist violence is naked. The Golden Dawn MP who assaulted women members of Syriza and the Greek Communist Party on live TV in June was allowed to leave the studio without arrest, despite being sought for another crime, a violent stabbing. He remains ‘in hiding’, the police strangely unable to find him. Another Golden Dawn MP, who obstructed work to open up a detention camp on the grounds that immigrants should be expelled, not detained, can be seen online, threatening and pushing cops around – he was not arrested.

Way ahead of the fascists in terms of popular support at present is the Coalition of the Left, Syriza, which has been building the broadest possible unity against the Troika’s savage austerity demands. Since gaining 27% of the vote and 71 MPs in the June general election, Syriza has been building its organisation, calling popular assemblies in communities all over Greece to debate the way forward. Syriza has condemned Xenios Zeus and has involved itself in the fight against the fascist threat. For example, a week after the June elections, fascists went round all the Pakistani shops in Piraeus, Athens, threatening them that they had a week to get out. Syriza, which had got 38% of the vote in the area, organised a march of 3,000 to defend the shopkeepers and workers.

Now voices of serious concern and calls for immediate action are emerging from youth and political organisations inside and outside Syriza and from those directly under attack themselves. On 24 August central Athens saw a large and militant demonstration of mainly Asian men call for action against those who attacked mosques. An anarchist anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstration the following Saturday, 1 September, had banners which said ‘Let’s smash the fascists and police pogroms. May locals and refugees fight together.’ Organised to confront the cops and fascists with their own protective headgear and staves, these anti-fascist fighters have mass support among the youth. They have ridiculed those sections of the Syriza leadership who have called for the police to protect people and to submit to training courses in anti-racism. A voice from an anarchist website makes the point: ‘the time of festivals and concerts in solidarity with migrants is over a long time ago. The time of organising with them and to start kicking the living daylights out of all these scumbags – racists, Nazis, police – has been a long time coming!’

Syriza has stated that it does not expect the coalition government to last six months. It has to seize the time to organise and build on the resistance that is about re-ignite thanks to the Troika’s austerity. It is critical that all organisation and resistance has at its core not just the defence and militant promotion of the broad working class interests but serious and immediate anti-racist and anti-fascist defence. An injury to one is an injury to all!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012