Many may remember the mass demonstrations and riots that took place in Athens in early December 2008. These were an expression of the public outcry that followed the murder of 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by an armed police officer in the iconic subversive downtown Athens neighbourhood of Exarcheia. Nikos Romanos – a close friend of the late Grigoropoulos – also just 15 at the time, had to witness his friend’s murder by the forces of repression of the State apparatus. Alexandros died in Nikos’s arms.
Some years later – alongside some of his comrades – Romanos attempted an armed bank robbery for which they were arrested and heavily beaten up while under police custody, as was evident by their bruised and distorted facial features, despite the heavy-handed photoshopping of the mugshots released to the Press. Romanos was convicted for his involvement in the attempted robbery, and was serving his sentence when he sat his higher education entry exams. He excelled in his exams, and he, along with other inmates who had excelled, was awarded a 500 Euro prize along with an invitation to meet with the President of the Republic. Romanos, faithful to his political convictions, turned down both these offers.
Following his enrolment to college, Romanos sought to exercise his right to special educational leave to attend his classes, which he was shamefully denied. On the 10 November 2014 Romanos began his hunger strike in protest to his treatment by the Greek authorities. He also unsuccessfully appealed against this decision. On 24 November 2014 Romanos was admitted to hospital as his health had dramatically deteriorated. Despite this, he has remained on hunger strike ever since. There has since been a forced feeding order issued by the Public Prosecutor that the medical staff refused to implement.
Whether one agrees or not with Nikos Romanos’s political beliefs, tactics, or actions, this should not prevent one from standing in solidarity with Romanos’s principled stance against the increasing arbitrariness of the Greek State and its vindictive denial of his right to education. Romanos is denied even the most basic benefits of the Greek criminal justice system; benefits that, moreover, are fully afforded to – amongst other unsavoury characters – the murderer of his late friend Alexandros Grigiropoulos. All Nikos is asking for is that his right to access to education be respected.
Accordingly, SYRIZA London unreservedly declares its full support and solidarity with Nikos Romanos and his struggle. In addition, we feel we should point out a further dimension in relation to Romanos’s predicament:
In recent years, the Greek State apparatus has progressively come under the absolute helmanship of the most reactionary elements of Greek society. The most reactionary right-wingers have joined the Coalition Government, and, as a consequence, it is essentially these people that set the Greek government’s general tone and direction. Their utter disregard for human dignity – as expressed through their political choices and actions – is but one collorary of their rise to power, and entirely in line with their outright hostile policies towards society and more specifically the labour and youth movements. This is not at all surprising given that at times of such profound crisis, popular resistance comes from precisely these parts of society. Therefore, violence by the authoritarian State security apparatus is inevitable in order for it to decisively suppress any popular resistance to the unrelenting attacks of the ruling class against the living and working conditions of the majority of society.
It is at times of crisis, that the liberal aspects of the capitalist system – including, the bourgeois democratic process, the rule of law, and the respect for human rights and for human dignity – become fetters to the ruling class, and to the State apparatus, which, in the final analysis, is but the ‘body of armed men in defence of private property’. And as fetters, the State apparatus simply brushes these aside, particularly at times when the State apparatus is populated by the most reactionary political servants of the ruling class, thus when the State apparatus comes under its absolute control. In that respect, neither the ruling class nor its State apparatus would ever allow, if they could help it, for the defiant, principled, and selfless act of a young revolutionary to ever be vindicated in the public mind. Moreover, this government of reactionaries hangs from a thread, lacks legitimacy, even by their own standards, and is certainly a government of no constitutional or moral right to take decisions of life or death for Nikos Romanos or for anyone else.
For this reason too, SYRIZA London knows on whose side we firmly stand!
SOLIDARITY WITH NIKOS ROMANOS!