Golden Dawn Unites NYC Left: Report + Video

by Louis Proyect, Unrepentant Marxist on October 11, 2012

Golden Dawn protest rally from Louis Proyect on Vimeo.
 

On Tuesday evening I went out to Astoria, Queens for a protest rally against Golden Dawn that was trying to establish a foothold in this mostly Greek neighborhood. Held in the Church of the Redeemer, it drew upwards of 150 people, an amazing turnout. I had a feeling that about one third of the audience was local Greeks.

With all proportions being guarded, you felt transported back to 1938 or so for a meeting in solidarity with the Republicans fighting against Franco in Spain. As Alan Akrivos, one of the panelists and a member of Socialist Alternative, put it: “It is going to be like Spain in the 1930s.”

By the time of the meeting, Golden Dawn had already been beaten back as the chairperson of the event would tell us. The Queens Tribune reported:

Golden Dawn Office Sparks Protests
By ROSS BARKAN and MEGAN MONTALVO

It was a message they hoped would be heard in Greece: Golden Dawn, we do not want you here.

Elected officials, religious leaders and concerned residents gathered in front of Athens Park in Astoria on Oct. 5 to condemn Golden Dawn, a far-right Greek political party that now holds 18 seats in the Greek parliament, for planning to open up an office in Queens.

The party was founded in the 1990s but rose to prominence in Greece only recently as economic conditions worsened. Blaming immigrants for Greece’s economic collapse, the xenophobic party has won a small following among the disaffected population.

The exact location of the office, very likely to be in Astoria where there remains a relatively high Greek population, is not currently known.

Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio called last week’s press conference. For de Blasio, it was yet another foray into Queens, where he is looking to build a support base in anticipation of next November’s election.

“Golden Dawn does not belong in New York City,” de Blasio said. “Golden Dawn stands for something that is absolutely foreign to this great city. They stand for intolerance, they stand for division, they stand for a kind of negative attitude toward people who are not like them.”

I have a soft spot in my heart for Bill de Blasio, even though he is a Democrat. Back in the late 1980s he used to drop in on the Nicaragua Network in New York to discuss ways in which his office could be used to fight against Contra funding. I know that he was anxious to burnish his reputation among left-leaning voters that are legion in the city but I always got the idea that he was genuinely opposed to U.S. imperialist intervention there as well.

I got the impression that Socialist Alternative was very involved with organizing the event since one of their members was speaking. I also noticed their literature on the registration table when you walked in, probably something that was not a great idea but understandable given where they have come from.

Socialist Alternative (SA) is the American “section” of Peter Taaffe’s Trotskyist Committee for a Worker’s International whose leading party is in Britain and carried out an “entryist” tactic in the Labour Party for many years until it was expelled. I put the word “section” in quotes because reactionary legislation in the U.S. prevents American parties from being formal members of world organizations even though the International Monetary Fund and the Central Intelligence Agency face no such obstacles.

Although much smaller than the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Socialist Alternative has the ability to recruit young people with similar talents, including Dan DiMaggio who is at New York University now and very involved with building support for the Occupy movement and trade union struggles around the city.

In a lengthy article entitled “Road maps, dead ends and the search for fresh ground — How can we build the socialist movement in the 21st century?”, DiMaggio explained why he was dropping out of Socialist Alternative. Among the very salient points he made was this:

The question today is how to lay the groundwork for the eventual development of a powerful socialist movement in the U.S. Many who are new to the movement often quickly ask why all the existing socialist groups can’t just get together and build a united organization, or at least work more closely together. The usual answers are that the differences between the groups are too great to justify uniting. Even if a number of groups all came together, it would just result in a still small grouping burdened by even worse infighting than exists today. Plus, each group believes it is the embodiment of the true Marxist program and methods, which it must preserve and defend against other groups.

Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but I would like to think that both the ISO and SA are beginning to move slowly but inexorably in the direction that DiMaggio outlined. Not long ago, the ISO decided to stop making “state capitalism” a litmus test for joining, something that most assuredly made it easier for Paul LeBlanc to join. (I myself could have never followed suit, since I strongly believe in the wisdom of Groucho Marx’s words, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member”.)

Meanwhile, the gist of Alan Akrivos’s talk was the need for a SYRIZA-type party in the U.S. In fact, he referred to an initiative that Socialist Alternative is involved with, to build a Left Movement in Queens. These are exactly the kinds of organizations that are on the agenda today all over the world and one hopes that the SA comrades will continue to move in this direction and take the next logical step, which is to become part of a process that will enable all socialists to belong to a common framework focused on the task of opposing capitalism rather than splitting hairs over “the Russian questions” that defined the Trotskyist movement in all its 57 varieties.

When you listen to Akrivos’s powerful speech, you get a feel for what it would be like to have the natural leadership of the working class united into a single organization.

There are thousands of others like him around the country who—if speaking for a common organization—could begin to get the hearing of American workers.

Much to their credit, the Socialist Alternative comrades have begun to push for a strategy that I raised myself a while back, namely to run candidates in the name of the Occupy movement. Any group that has such insights is to be reckoned with. Here’s their statement on that on The North Star, a Web site committed to unifying the American left.

In years past, this might have seemed an impossible task but in the face of a deep-seated and apparently endless economic crisis, the urgency of our tasks might begin to persuade the left to finally get its act together, as we used to put it in the 1960s.

  • David Berger

    I wonder why members of Socialist Alternative in New York are not involved in the Occupy Wall Street Labor Alliance along with members of Socialist Action, ISO, Solidarity and many independent leftists.

  • Manuel Barrera

    A great start, Louis. I also believe like SA that we can intervene in the bourgeois elections and support any candidate of the anti-capitalist/labor/left movement. It is too late and too bad that more of us could not muster a united set of campaigns in 2012. However, 2014 and 2016 are both great points in time to work on it and help to continue the ongoing struggles that will surely emerge once workers and activists get their hearts broken either by an Obama defeat or his victory as he continues his imperialist occupation of the world, the gutting of the Constitution, the mass deportation of immigrant workers, acquiescence to the War on Women, and his austerity in support of Wall Street and the Banks. There are many opportunities to build a united Left and we must take every opportunity. Standing up to Golden Dawn is essential as we seek to unite immigrant and union workers against austerity. We will need much more connections with the united Left organizations like Syriza who can provide a real example of what is possible.

    I hope very soon to connect with SAlt comrades in Minnesota and l hope others will follow suit with all and anyone who wishes to. These are the times that we have hoped would come yet again. Late in our lives perhaps, but welcome nonetheless!
    Syriza! Aganaktismenoi! Oi Ergazómenoi ti̱s Amerikí̱s kai Elláda, Allilengyi!

  • Eleanor Rodgers

    I’m a member of SA, just wanted to partially answer David’s question. We are not involved in the OWS Labor Alliance, but have been involved in a bunch of OWS committees or spin-offs over the last year, including but not limited to Occupy CUNY, Occupy Homes NY, Occupy Astoria/LIC, and Occupy Kensington. Like everyone else on the left we have limited resources and we’ve done our best to engage with Occupy where we feel we can contribute most constructively. For us at the moment the local Occupies seem to offer some of the best chances to begin the sort of on the ground building that a broader movement will need.

    • David Berger

      Translation: You are systematically avoiding those sections of Occupy Wall Street that are involved with the working class. Way to go socialists!

    • David Berger

      I’m reposting a paraphrase of a previous reply because either it didn’t “take,” or it was deleted. I want to note that all the Occupy groups mentioned above by Comrade Rogers are groups that are not engaged with the working class as the working class. This can hardly be an accident: that SA is systematically involved with elements of Occupy Wall Street that avoid direct engagement with the working class itself, organized or unorganized. Community organizing, tenant work, etc., is not being involved with the working class itself.

      Groups in Occupy Wall Street such as the Immigrant Workers for Justice, 99 Pickets and the Labor Outreach Committe are doing exactly what the groups Comrade Rogers mentioned are not doing. (Perhaps I’m wrong here, as I’m not up on everything happening in Occupy Wall Street, but I’d have to see evidence of actual activities engaged in systematically over a period of time.)

  • Aaron Aarons

    If a meeting supported by a ‘united’ NYC left can draw “upwards of 150 people”, which presumably means under 200, I’d hate to see what a ‘disunited’ NYC left could do.

  • Aaron Aarons

    With all proportions being guarded, you felt transported back to 1938 or so for a meeting in solidarity with the Republicans fighting against Franco in Spain. As Alan Akrivos, one of the panelists and a member of Socialist Alternative, put it: “It is going to be like Spain in the 1930s.”

    By 1938, the first phase of the counter-revolution in Spain had been completed with the suppression of the revolutionary working class and peasantry by the bourgeois Republicans under the leadership of the Stalinists. While it was still necessary for revolutionaries to militarily ally with the Republicans in an attempt to prevent Franco’s total victory, that struggle should not be held up as an example to emulate.

    I don’t know if there is the possibility of the Greek working class seizing power in large parts of Greece the way the Spanish working class did in the summer of 1936, but it would be tragic if they were to follow the Spanish example of handing that power back to the ‘anti-fascist’ bourgeoisie.

    • RanDomino

      “While it was still necessary for revolutionaries to militarily ally with the Republicans in an attempt to prevent Franco’s total victory”
      Don’t even give them that much credit. The people should have annihilated the Republicans at the same time they put down the Fascists. There were many ways to win the war that were blocked by the Republicans and Stalinists (such as linking Asturias to Aragon, promising independence to Morocco, or keeping the militias intact and carrying out a “People’s War”; large-scale guerrilla warfare modeled on the Peninsula War).

      A fair warning to all Marxists, whatever sect you call yourselves: You are as much enemies of the people as capitalism. We have not forgotten what your forebears did, and as long as you identify with them you carry their sins.

      • Aaron Aarons

        Except for “linking Asturias to Aragon”, the meaning of which I don’t have a clue about, you’re right about your suggestions in parentheses. But your repeated references to the classless “people” are just verbiage. Most of the working class and perhaps most of the peasantry were subjectively revolutionary, but significant segments of “the people” were either Catholic reactionaries or secular fascists, and many more had illusions in bourgeois democracy, so annihilating the Republicans was neither possible nor desirable. Rather, it would have been both possible and desirable for the revolutionaries, where they were able to take power initially, to split the Republican supporters by incorporating the best of them into a genuinely revolutionary government, if only in positions of little real power, and only crushing those who actively opposed the revolution.

        And don’t forget, my anti-Marxist sectarian, that the leading anarchists played a far more counter-revolutionary role by their collaboration with the Stalinist-led Republicans than did the Marxists of the POUM, whose collaboration with the Republican counter-revolution was, although real, much more limited and, at least in part, a consequence of their numerical weakness.

  • Louis Proyect

    If a meeting supported by a ‘united’ NYC left can draw “upwards of 150 people”, which presumably means under 200, I’d hate to see what a ‘disunited’ NYC left could do.

    I guess Aarons knows about as much about NYC geography/demographics as he does about the democratic revolution in the Middle East. I would try to explain to him that there has never been a meeting of the left that large in Astoria, Queens since the 60s but I learned long ago that reason is lost on him.

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  • http://www.amleft.blogspot.com Richard Estes

    Ecstatic to hear about this.

  • Aaron Aarons

    Louis writes:

    I guess Aarons knows about as much about NYC geography/demographics as he does about the democratic revolution in the Middle East. I would try to explain to him that there has never been a meeting of the left that large in Astoria, Queens since the 60s but I learned long ago that reason is lost on him.

    Several of the girls I dated or hung out with when I was in my late teens lived in or very near Astoria, so I certainly know where it was and presumably still is, although the demographics have probably changed in the half century since then. If a large proportion of the 150-plus attendees at the event were local people, especially from Greeks and other ethnic groups that haven’t traditionally been noted for leftist activism, that is an accomplishment. But if getting 100 leftists from Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan to take an under-30-minutes ride on the MTA to one of the old BMT (IIRC) elevated stations in Astoria is something to celebrate, then the New York left is in a bad way.

    And no, Louis, I’m not going to carry the ongoing debate(s) about the so-called “democratic revolution in the Middle East” into this thread.

  • http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5987 Bryan Koulouris

    Hey Louis and all. Like Eleanor, I’m also a member of Socialist Alternative and want to thank you for your kind words about the meeting in Queens we helped pull together and our speaker’s passionate appeal for a new left formation in the US. I would also like to point out that our call for a broad left electoral formation is nothing new. We helped initiate and participate in the Labor Party in the 90s, pushing for it to take a more confrontational approach to the Democrats. We would like to see an alliance broader than our own organization that could run independent working class candidates (like Dan La Botz, Kshama Sawant, left Greens, etc.) as a step towards a mass working class party of many different political trends in which we would put forward Marxist policies.

    This approach reflects the analysis and work of the international we’re in “political solidarity” with (haha). We call for new working class parties around the world and participate in new left formations that could become steps in that direction (SYRIZA in Greece; ULA in Ireland; NPA and “Front de Gauche” in France; TUSC in Britain; etc.). We see ourselves as having “dual tasks” to build broader organizations of workers (including political organization) and to build support for Marxist ideas. I want to bring particular attention to our work in South Africa building (and helping lead) the miners’ movement and raising consciousness about the need for a new, socialist party in South Africa. You can donate to the strike committee here: http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5987

  • AB

    The political point re building a working-class party is well and good and worthy of discussion but there was a sizable contingent of people who were frustrated that the meeting was not what it was advertised to be – namely a forum where we could “freely discuss and decide how we can effectively act against racism, violence and fascism.” (that’s a quote from the flyer that had been circulated). It was not noted in the promotional material that the actual set-up of the event was to be an hour-long series of lectures/speeches followed by a tightly-controlled Q&A, after which those who wanted to break into smaller groups to discuss what to do here and now, in this city, were discouraged from doing so, despite the language of the flyer. It was disappointing to come to what was billed as a planning/action meeting and find that virtually no information was available on the group’s activities in NYC or its strength here.

    • David Berger

      Wthout having been there, this seems like the typical actions of a left-wing sect trying to control the flow.

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  • Louis Proyect

    @Bryan Koulouris: This approach reflects the analysis and work of the international we’re in “political solidarity” with (haha). We call for new working class parties around the world and participate in new left formations that could become steps in that direction (SYRIZA in Greece; ULA in Ireland; NPA and “Front de Gauche” in France; TUSC in Britain; etc.). We see ourselves as having “dual tasks” to build broader organizations of workers (including political organization) and to build support for Marxist ideas.

    Well, nobody could object to building something like SYRIZA in the USA unless you are a Spartacist maniac ultraleftist. However, if it is seen in the same way that Ted Grant viewed the Labour Party, it would be a big mistake. Check Richard Seymour’s response to Alex Callinicos for some insights on how to view a formation like SYRIZA. In my view, there is no need for “vanguard” formations. There is a need for a Marxist current within broad-based left organizations but not for “Leninist” groups that see themselves as the embryo of the revolutionary party of the future. In fact, an objective study of the Russian social democracy would reveal that it was not that different from SYRIZA, namely a broad-based workers organization that was united around the need for democracy, social justice, peace, and eventually socialism. The attempt to extrapolate from the Bolshevik experience a formula for building “Leninist” parties is misguided.

  • Aristeri Kinisi NY

    Successful Meeting Against ‘Golden Dawn’

    A crowd of over 220 people met at the Church of the Redeemer in Astoria, NY to express their opposition to the recent appearance of the neo-Nazi ‘Golden Dawn’ in New York City. The event, which took place in October 9, was organized by Occupy Astoria/LIC, NY Aristeri Kinisi (Left Movement), Strike Debt, Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination and the socialist newspaper ‘Justice’, among others. The meeting opened with presentations by the moderators of the event, Nicholas Levis and Marina Sitrin who explained people’s outrage and the need to organize against fascism.

    A panel of speakers Costas Panayotakis, Neni Panourgia, Despina Lalaki and Alan Akrivos covered a number of issues including the relationship between the Greek economic crisis and the rise of ‘Golden Dawn’, the close ties between ‘Golden Dawn’ and the Greek police, the affinity of Golden Dawn to the Neo-Nazi ideology, the rise of fascism as a byproduct of the crisis of capitalism, the real problem of immigration and social degradation in Greece as a result of the economic crisis, the rising tide of working class resistance in Greece and internationally and the need for a working class alternative to neoliberalism and capitalism. The speakers emphasized the need to organize here in New York in order to prevent ‘Golden Dawn’ from gaining influence in the Greek American community by posing as a philanthropic organization working in support of those most vulnerable to the crisis in Greece.

    After the presentations, a number of people from the audience spoke and raised points about the interconnectedness of the crisis in Greece and in the US and the need to build the movement of the 99% in order to fight against austerity, poverty, war and unemployment.

    Arthur Cheliotes, leader of Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 1180, said that it is a “shame that children of immigrants would be influenced by the kind of ideas peddled by ‘Golden Dawn’ and attack other immigrants.” Mike Filippou, a leader of the heroic Stella D’Oro workers strike in the Bronx, gave a firsthand account of the history of brutal state repression against the Left in Greece. Immigrant organizations of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Latino workers were present or sent messages of support to the meeting. The speakers expressed the need for further events and education against Golden Dawn but also stressed the need to go beyond analysis and into action designed to isolate Golden Dawn and to prevent it from gaining a foothold in Astoria and New York.

    Towards the end of the event, people broke into smaller groups and discussed possible further actions and organization. All in all, it was a very productive first meeting and captured not only the attention of the public but also of the media, American and Greek, which were present and reported on the event. News of the meeting was also reported in all the major Greek newspapers and media.

    Aristeri Kinisi, NY will discuss further steps for more events and actions in order to continue building our presence both in the Greek American community and beyond as there is a broad feeling that “We are all Greeks.”

    Aristeri Kinisi New York
    (Left Movement NY)
    October 11, 2012
    [email protected]

    • RanDomino

      Sounds legit!

  • Manuel Barrera

    I would also recommend Simon Hardy’s recent post in ISR (http://links.org.au/node/3054). I would say that this discussion is getting somewhere, so, it might be best if we not presume any ulterior intentions, but help each other to overcome too well-ingrained behaviors.

    Or, as some in L.A. might say, “now we’re talkin’ Chicho!”

  • http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5987 Bryan Koulouris

    Louis: Is it OK if we cross-post this video on SocialistAlternative.Org? It will prob appear with the Aristeri Kinisi statement above.

    • Louis Proyect

      Sure. I am totally open source and my permission is not really needed, just a head’s up that it is being used.

    • admin

      Please credit The North Star and Proyect as the source.

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  • http://www.appeal-to-reason.info/ Andrew Ray Gorman

    This would be a great time to discuss bringing the left together – if for nothing more than discussion at the moment. But this is a necessary step if we are to even dream of forming something like Syriza in the long run.

    The time has come for our forces to come together, such as how Syriza has in Greece. I just used a bland name for the Umbrella organization, and jotted done organization abbreviations off the top of my head. The notes below these are things I think would be beneficial to such an organization.

    There would be a very great advantage – less resources wasted on multiple tickets, and increased media for a united socialist presidential candidate.

    I don’t care if an existing organization would agree to be the umbrella organization. I just figure creating something from scratch would have people being less hostile to the idea.

    People died just for the right to vote, and now people don’t bother because of a lack of choice. It is time we show them there is a choice – the people’s choice. We just need to build it.

    For starters, we should at least be brought together in brotherhood to discuss today’s political climate. I mean hell, daily chats on google hangout or skype would be a great start.

  • Joe

    You guys aren’t much better than golden dawn. Anything extreme Left and Right is bad IMO. The Center is where it’s at!

    • Aaron Aarons

      The ‘extreme Right’ are those who support the continuation of capitalism. The ‘extreme Left’ are those who think we can abolish markets, wages, commodities and all private property the morning after the revolution. I’m in the ‘Center’, Joe! Are you?

      • David Berger

        AARON AARONS: The ‘extreme Right’ are those who support the continuation of capitalism.

        DAVID BERGER: What “extreme Right” are you talking about? Are you talking about the Right in society or the social democratic trends on the Left?

        AARON AARONS: The ‘extreme Left’ are those who think we can abolish markets, wages, commodities and all private property the morning after the revolution.

        DAVID BERGER: This is rhetoric. What groups or tendencies, specifically, are you talking about.

        AARON AARONS: I’m in the ‘Center’, Joe! Are you?

        DAVID BERGER: I would be very careful about using the word “center” in left-wing discussions. It has a fairly specific meaning, which may not be the meaning you intend.

        • Aaron Aarons

          In case you didn’t notice, David, I was just having a bit of fun with Joe‘s silly concepts of “extreme Left and Right” and “Center”. You might say that I was jerking Joe‘s chain.

          Along these lines, I often respond to those who advocate being ‘moderate’ that I’m a ‘moderate’ since I don’t want to kill all capitalists. Und so weiter.

          • David Berger

            Danke schon. I’m a bit thick sometimes.

  • David Berger

    There will be no left unity in the US that is not based on participation in the class struggle in the US. Support for struggles in Greece, Syria, etc., is no subtitute for participating in working class fights here.

    David Berger

    • Aaron Aarons

      Given that the main victims of U.S. capitalism are outside the U.S., or would be if they hadn’t been forced to migrate into the U.S. by what the U.S. ruling class is doing to their home countries, there will be no left unity in the US that is not based on opposition to U.S. imperialism. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for England, and probably for Canada, Germany, France and a few other countries.

      • David Berger

        With all due respect, this is some dumb shit. No one is denying the necessity for fighting imperialism. However, to claim that workers out side the US are the “main” victims, is to play with words or try to be “more leftist than thou.”

        I notice all kinds of types jumping on the events in Greece and Syria who are avoiding class struggle in the US. Wake up! Without an anti-imperialist movement based in the working class, you ain’t got much to work with.

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  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

    I’d like to thank Proyect for recording this event and writing this post. It was unexpectedly hyperlinked by the New York Times (see third to last paragraph).

    Not bad for an operation that’s been up and running for under a year.

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