The New York Fight Against Golden Dawn and Fascism: Where Vertical and Horizontal Come Together
Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party that captured a sizable parliamentary presence in Greece, while terrorizing and beating immigrants, radicals, gay/lesbian/trans people and others, announced some weeks ago it was opening an office in Queens. The intention was to build support among the borough’s sizable diaspora community. With this came the launch of www.xanyc.com -- a site devoted to Golden Dawn's operations in New York. Soon thereafter the Ku Klux Klan issued a statement welcoming the party's US arrival, and white supremacist sites across the country have been aflutter with praise for the group's internationalization. Similar reports of attempts to set up offices in Melbourne and Montreal have also occurred. By all indications, the eastward transatlantic migration of emergent European fascism is both a possible harbinger and gruesome vignette most had resigned to the rear view. Within hours of the Golden Dawn announcing plans to open an office in New York, hundreds began organizing to prevent it. So far, these mobilizations have been successful. This article will delve into some of the organizing that has been taking place in New York, locate this in the recent political movements of the past year and point to some of the challenges that have emerged between new political practices and more traditional forms of organization.
Over the past weeks an eclectic spectrum of New Yorkers have been gathering in each of the boroughs, from Manhattan cafes and the lounges at the City University of New York, to Brooklyn apartments, as well as parks and church basements in Queens. Often as relative strangers, people are coming together to discuss strategy and plan action. Turnaround has been swift. Flyers went up denouncing the organization and warning residents of its presence. Hackers allegedly affiliated with Anonymous disabled the fascists’ website and phones. And local politicians staged a press conference denouncing Golden Dawn's presence in Queens. Through conversations with the community center that first agreed to host Golden Dawn in Astoria, local residents and allied organizers were easily able to convince the center not to allow them to use their space. (The community center made clear that they did not understand who the group was since they entered under the pretext of fundraising for Greece, and did not reveal their political agenda.)
With less than a week for outreach, over 200 people gathered in a local Astoria church for the first collectively called public meeting against Golden Dawn. This first meeting was organized by some people in the local Greek community, a recently-formed Greek Left alliance known as Aristeri Kinisi, Occupy Astoria-Long Island City, and other Occupy groups. A panel of speakers provided reports from the ground in Greece as well as an update on the groups status in New York. After some tense debate over more traditional top-down organizing templates, attendees began breaking out into working groups to sift out details of Golden Dawn's local activity, establish points of intervention, and propose counter-activity. This coming together in the church marked the beginning of a coalition, or network, of the various groupings, which now includes, among others, gay/lesbian/bi/trans groups, individuals in the labor movement, university professors, religious leaders, students, an anti-fascist group, Occupy individuals as well as Occupy Astoria, and of course, anarchist collectives and socialist groups.
Queens is an auspicious terrain for such a narrative. According to recent census data, forty-one percent of its population is foreign-born and it ranks as the most ethnically and culturally diverse landscape on the planet. Irony and contradiction abound in the fact that the borough's unrivaled immigrant character is home to the massive Greek expatriate community in which a rapidly anti-immigrant party is now operating. Simultaneously, outrage against Golden Dawn's appearance in Astoria can be mapped across an array of affinities and communities that differ considerably in language, politics, practices, and culture.
These gatherings are not uncomplicated, and have yielded predictable dissonance, at times. Greek immigrants stroll into organizing meetings toting hard-hats, and visibly strain to make out a young anarchist's words as he speaks, somewhat inexplicably and secretively through a bandanna. Socialists insist on tying resistance to Golden Dawn to a rejection of global austerity and demand an action at the Greek Consulate. Others are apprehensive about unwittingly providing the group with more of a profile than it warrants. Some at Queens College plan to have regular flyering and teach-ins about the history of fascism. And still many others want to begin doing outreach in the neighborhoods, flyering and speaking to people to let them know exactly who the Golden Dawn is – attempting to create an atmosphere of social condemnation. Likely, most or all of these things will happen.
The debate in the first large meeting about whether to break into groups and organize more horizontally, or have the panelists answer the questions raised and end the meeting points to some of the organizational tensions and what the authors of this article see as a shift in forms of organization in New York. The financial crisis, and what many see as a crisis with the politics of representation and liberal democracy, rendered horizontal forms of organization, tied to direct action, a politics of necessity, and a diverse array of actors have made this approach very much their own. While there may not be physical encampments and seemingly daily marches, a cursory survey of continued foreclosure resistance, community-based rent strikes, wildcat labor actions, neighborhood assemblies, and anti-police brutality organizing suggests that, far from being dead, Occupy is changing forms and locations. Rather than waxing eulogistic, it may be more useful to think about forms of practice and ideas, and how they continue to emerge in different places, though for similar reasons.
For example, when a few of the panelists insisted on closing the meeting, people participating called for a vote, and while the vast majority voted to organize in groups, a few panelists still tried to grab the microphone and close the meeting. At the same time the panelists were grabbing the mic, people by the dozens, stood up and began to organize in groups. There was a little shouting, but people self organized. This convergence, or clashing of the more traditional panel model, with the more horizontal form, evidenced what we believe is the only way we will organize to defeat fascism. If we learn anything from the history of fighting fascism, and even the current struggles in Greece, horizontal and traditional must continue to come together, even with clashes in the convergences, not to necessarily make one organization, but at least to coordinate and communicate, both centralized and decentralized. We are inspired to report that thus far this is what is taking place.
For more information on upcoming meetings and working group projects go to the facebook page: Stop Golden Dawn