The trial of Savvas Michael-Matsas, one of the few Jewish public intellectuals in Greece, is a cheap sop to neo-Nazis
The Guardian, Sunday 1 September 2013 19.45 BST
“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…
(Read the full story on The Guardian’s website: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/01/absurd-golden-dawn-hound-friend-court)