Dr. Pericles S. Vallianos
Professor of Political Philosophy, University of Athens
Fresh from his “triumph” against the Turks (how fake this “triumph” was and how detrimental to the interests of the Greek people we cannot analyze here) His Excellency the foreign minister returned to his beloved Fatherland determined to apply the methods of the new Sultan Tayip Erdogan for the solution of our pressing domestic problems, such as the Press that refuses to be the craven bootlicker of the government.
The trial of Cumhurriet began in Turkey a few days ago causing the indignation of democratic public opinion internationally. But the persecution of the Athens Review of Books by Mr. Kotzias has been going on for more than five years. It was definitively adjudicated recently with a Supreme Court decision that let stand an appellate court ruling which violates every elementary sense of justice as well as plain common sense. It is disheartening that Maria and Manolis Vasilakis, the editors of the ARB, had to endure this persecution with the minimum of political and journalistic support, in a case which is not at all personal, but affects the very core of rights that define a liberal constitutional democracy.
Mr. Kotzias protested that he was being “slandered” when an ARB reader wrote a letter to the editor expressing the opinion that the Minister was the chief exponent of Stalinism in Greece during the 70’s and 80’s. Anyone possessing a rudimentary acquaintance with Greek political life, as well as a modicum of sense and decency (as the judges ought to do who decide about public matters), knows that this is a self-evident fact, as solid as 2+2=4. It is public knowledge that His Excellency was at that time the chief ideologist of the Greek Communist Party (KKE). The ideology of the KKE was and is unashamedly Stalinist, and no member of the Party would consider it “slanderous” if one pinned such a label on them—to the contrary they would accept it as a badge of honor.
Mr. Kotzias wrote books fervently defending the Jaruzelski regime, a military dictatorship within a party dictatorship, in Poland. In collaboration with prominent ideological representatives of the Honecker regime in East Germany (who also happened to be Stasi agents) Mr. Kotzias penned ponderous diatribes anathematizing “bourgeois democracy”. His Excellency admitted these facts in an interview in Der Spiegel. If all this is not a defense of Stalinism, what on earth is? He may have changed his views since, as is his right. But at that time he was what he was, namely a thoroughbred and militant Stalinist. And he cannot today, using classic Stalinist methodology, expunge the real facts about his past, as they used to scratch away Trotsky’s figure from old photographs in earlier times.
Ignoring all these hard and undeniable facts, admitted by the minister himself, the courts concluded that Mr. Kotzias was “indeed one of the founders of the KKE”, but this does not prove that he was a supporter of the Stalinist regimes which his own party was an enthusiastic cheerleader of! This just boggles the mind: the KKE, for one, was founded in 1918!!! This legal monstrosity violates our basic sense of reality, the feeling of justice and common sense. Its argumentation was so baseless that the rapporteur of the case before the Supreme Court proposed its annulment. However, when time came to vote she magically voted against her own proposal…
Mr. Kotzias was also offended because the writer of the letter called him “the Gauleiter of Stalinism”, putting forward the outrageous sophism that in this way the ARB had called him a …Nazi. The term “Gauleiter” (as again every casual user of the language knows) has been naturalized in everyday political discussion as meaning a chief, a prime exponent. Mr. Kotzias himself used it profusely to characterize his political opponents. When someone uses it against him, though, it becomes …slander. The courts again justified this distortion of everyday speech. This constitutes a dangerous threat against free democratic debate.
Armed with these legal obscenities Mr. Kotzias proceeds now to seize the assets of the ARB with the intention (which he had from the very beginning) of strangling an independent voice with international recognition, simply because it does not genuflect before his immense political genius. If public opinion, the political class and the intellectuals of our country allow this crime, then they will be complicit in the isolation of Greece at the margins of the civilized world.
In any case, the judgment of the Greek courts is going to be reversed in the European Court of Human Rights, as has already been the case twice with similar judgments against Mr. Vasilakis. But the decision there is going to be against Greece, which will thus take its place beside other countries currently accused of subverting the freedom of the press and the independence of the courts. And the compensation to the ARB for the unjust persecution it has suffered will be paid by the Greek taxpayers, and not by those responsible for it.
It is shocking indeed that (at a time when the judiciary as an institution is being subjected to a fierce attack by the proponents of a populist authoritarianism) some of its own functionaries contribute to the erosion of its authority from within.
© TO VIMA, Sunday 30 July 2017