Interview with Aristos Damianou, member of the Political Bureau of AKEL and member of the Legal Team of the World Federation of Trade Unions at the ‘Golden Dawn’ trial
November 2020 edition EDON’s newspaper “Neolea” – “Youth”
On October 7, a Greek court ruled that Golden Dawn is a criminal organization and its leading officials were subsequently convicted. You, together with the World Federation of Trade Unions, participated in the Golden Dawn trial. What was your role in the trial?
AD: Our participation through our class-based trade union movement, the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO), had a dual purpose and mission. On the one hand, it was a symbolic act. With the prestige of WFTU and its affiliated members, we wanted to express our solidarity with the victims of the Golden Dawn neo-fascists and their families. We wanted to demonstrate our solidarity in practice with the struggle of the Greek people for a political and institutional response to neo-fascism in Greece. On the other hand, we were to some extent given the possibility of a physical presence in the Golden Dawn trial and to monitor the process and thus, going into the deeper substance of the cases.
What was your delegation’s contribution to the Golden Dawn court ruling?
AD: We conveyed political messages, we talked to the victims’ lawyers, we gave interviews to the Greek and international media and in general we sent out messages in all directions about the need for condemnation and exemplary punishment to be delivered. Our mission took place during the days when the debate on the role of certain persons of the trial had reached a climax, which raised many questions about the lack of determination in the prosecution of the Golden Dawners. We therefore stressed the need to maintain the integrity and impartiality of the Court authorities and not to show any favor towards the neo-Nazis. For obvious reasons, the highlight moment was our meeting with the mother of Pavlos Fyssas.
The sentencing of Golden Dawn and its leading officials could have been done much earlier. Why do you think we had this delay? What difficulties arose?
AD: I believe that the delay was due to two main factors. Primarily due to the lack of determination to confront the neo-fascists. Secondly, the difficulty in preparing the file of the case, which together with the evidence amounts to thousands of pages of documents. And of course the logical need to apply all the procedural rules and procedures in order not to give an alibi and legal grounds to the Golden Dawn to challenge the content of the court’s decision. They Golden Dawners are already doing so, although I don’t think their appeals will be successful. The evidence against them was overwhelming.
For some years now we have seen a rise in fascism and of the far-right. Do you think that the court ruling on Golden Dawn will reverse this course? Will it affect developments outside Greece too?
AD: Without overestimating the role and impact of court decisions in modern societies, I am convinced that this specific decision is a landmark, both politically as well as legally. The content of the different separate decisions will be studied and analysed, books will be written about the case and – I hope – lessons will be drawn.
Never before has there been such a large-scale trial and condemnation of neo-fascists in a state. We had the Nuremberg trial in which the ideological fathers of Golden Dawn, the Cypriot ELAM and many neo-Nazi/neo-fascist organizations were sentenced – all those who today provocatively define themselves as “the successors of the losers of 1945”.
In one sense it may curb the activity of neo-fascists in Greece, provided that governments will demonstrate zero tolerance towards such phenomena because the Golden Dawn leading officials may have been imprisoned, but neo-fascist and neo-Nazi cells still exist and operate underground.
Where political will and determination to confront neo-fascism must at long last be shown is in Cyprus, that is apart from the struggles the Cypriot Left and AKEL are waging, which from the very first moment stood up to the Cypriot neo-fascists. I regret to point out that ELAM, the Golden Dawn in Cyprus, has repeatedly acted as a pillar of support for the Right and ruling DISY party and as a vehicle for extreme nationalist outbursts and illegal actions.
At an unsuspecting time, the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL handed over data and evidence on ELAM’s activity to the prosecuting authorities. Unfortunately, citing pretexts and legalistic excuses, the procedures didn’t proceed any further. With the court ruling on Golden Dawn in Greece, the way is open again for a reexamination into the activity of ELAM, which by its own admissions is the Golden Dawn in Cyprus.
The Golden Dawn court ruling is a historic anti-fascist victory in modern history. Do you think this is the way to stop fascism through the legal system?
AD: Indeed, this does represent a legal and social victory, a victory of democracy over fascism. The healthy forces of the Greek people through mass mobilizations and other political actions sent out the message that fascism’s inhumane ideological concepts and its offshoots mustn’t be tolerated. The Nazis’ place is in prison and not in seats of Parliament. But as in any assertion, the waging of political and social struggles is the most important duty. The primary task is the daily struggle and combating of neo-fascism at all levels and everywhere – at school, university, in the security forces and especially in the army, at work, in Parliament. The legal tools are there and must be used to strengthen the wider collective effort. But they don’t replace it.
At the same time a different education system is demanded because this is where – as in the family too – consciousness begin to be formed and subsequently in society. We need a human-centered education in Cyprus, an education system that will cultivate a culture rejecting bigoted ideological concepts, such as racism, nationalism, anti-communism, xenophobia, homophobia and others.
AKEL will continue the uncompromising struggle to confront neo-fascism in Cyprus too. Together with the Youth organisation of EDON we shall continue to be that political force which during its almost hundred years of life and struggles was never afraid of fascists. We stood up and fought the fascists – against the “X” organisation in late 1940’s, against the Nazis, against the masked hooded armed men of Grivas during the period 1955-59, against the armed underground EOKA B between 1971-74 and their various descendants. This is so especially today against the Cypriot ultra-right ELAM party, from the moment that the court decision itself stresses that Golden Dawn was a criminal organization “dressed in the cloak of a political party”.
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