Forty-five years later

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The event was long overdue, even by the lethargic standards of the Greek state. Forty-five years after the first assassination by November 17 urban guerrillas, 18 years after the group’s dismantling and 14 years after Greece established “a day of memory for the victims of terrorism,” the Greek state finally got around to organizing an event to commemorate those who were slain by men who believed that they would change the world by killing people.

Having a reaction to such an event would be strange in any other country. But in the case of Greece, the strange thing was that the criticism of it was largely subdued – with the exception of two comments that were reminiscent of yesteryear.

Former SYRIZA MP Nikos Xydakis said: “We feel that tomorrow’s conference on terrorism at the War Museum, under the auspices of and with the keynote address by the prime minister, in the pompous manner in which it has been presented, is too part of a conservative party strategy: which is to construct an internal enemy, to highlight a certain political crime as the dominant threat to the nation, to imbue society with fear, to unconditionally worship a promise of security and give up freedoms. When? At a time when the society of crisis remains locked in precarity.” (Ethnos 19.1.2020)

On the following day, the prime minister used his speech at the event to say that “the state ought to be ruthless against the new violence which comes from the far right. The murder of Pavlos Fyssas [a reference to the anti-fascist rapper who was fatally stabbed by a self-confessed Golden Dawn supporter] is still an open wound in our society. The same applies to racially motivated attacks. And to the strikes against the press, most recently the beating of a German journalist at Syntagma Square. All that has no place in our country. Terrorism and democracy are two incompatible notions. Because the rule of terror by the few will always be an enemy of the rule of the demos, by the many. Because in a democracy all men are treated equal. Whereas terrorism by definition divides men arbitrarily determining their very existence even.”

The former secretary general for human rights, Kostis Papaioannou, took Xydakis’ thinking a step further, remarking that “constructing an enemy requires ‘benign volunteers.’ For every Indares [a reference to film director Dimitris Indares, who was abused by police officers during a squat evacuation in the Koukaki neighborhood of Athens last month] that you beat and drag on the floor, you need many wise men that converse in your yard, so that your wrinkled power has something to roll on. The event schedule features many wise men. There are intellectuals, scientists, journalists and artists.” (Facebook 19.1.2020)

Papaioannou appeared to be judging others by his own standards as none of the “intellectuals, scientists, journalists and artists” on the panel was ever awarded a state job.

Published in eKathimerini.com 31.1.2019