Numerous commentators have observed the similarity between our own times and the Weimar Republic during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Lewd and hedonistic public entertainment, the popular preoccupation with panem et circenses, a financial bubble followed by a crash, mass unemployment, mob violence in the streets — the list goes on and on.
The entire West is circling the drain of the behavioral sink, but Greece is seems to be the first nation to spiral into the final vortex. Under these circumstances, is it surprising that a seemingly fascist political party is on the rise in Greece?
I say “seemingly”, because I’m too distant from the Greek political scene to have an informed opinion. I have no Greek correspondents who can provide a local context. But I know how widespread the Screaming Nazi Heeber-Jeebers are, even among supposed conservatives, so I regard all these five-alarm “fascist” crises with a measure of skepticism.
JLH has translated a German-language article about the rise of the Chrysi Avgi party in Greece. He includes this introductory note:
Here is an ominous — or panicked, depending on your view — report on the coming Greek elections.
There is a flavor here of Weimar Germany. But how much of that is in the eye of the beholder? For instance, these sentences in the Presse article:
“Since then, there is talk of goon squads which have formed a kind of right-radical militia. And again and again Chrysi Avgi is connected to the violence-prone groups.”
Is any of this verifiable? If so, why is it in terms of “John told Mary that Harry said…”
Is this a sign of things to come elsewhere in Europe, and if so, how bad is it really?
The translated article from SOS-Österreich:
Greece: Right Extremists on Verge of Entry Into Parliament
May 2, 2012
by der patriot
A state with extremely strong immigration, an extremely indebted budget and an extremely corrupt political establishment is responsible for the fact that, in the pending elections, an extreme party will enter parliament. We do not ordinarily tend to overuse the term “right extremist” as our mainstream media do, but in the case of “Golden Dawn” it is apt.
Die Presse reports:
Across the whole expanse of 10-lane highway at toll station Elefsina, Greek banners waved, laughing and happy campaign workers with colorful visored caps descended on them [the mass of waiting motorists] and passed out their party’s materials: brochures of the right extremist Chrysi Avgi — “Golden Dawn.” A precipitous rise: from right-radical goon squads in Athens Center to family-values rightist party for the whole country.
The last official poll before the May 6 parliamentary election gave the “People’s Organization — Golden Dawn” ca. 4.0%. That would assure a place in parliament for the party which managed just 0.3% in the previous election of 2009.
Center as Alien Ghetto
The party leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, was once head of the youth organization of the rightist party EPEN, whose characteristic was an ideological closeness to the military dictatorship of 1967-1973. So “Golden Dawn” is inimical to democracy insofar as it stands in the way of the “nation.” It describes itself as nationalistic. Previously, it gained attention with its motto, “foreigners out.” There were violent confrontations with leftist groups.
The growth of the party came with the decline of Athens Center in the area of Omonoia Square. In the past decade, it has become more and more an immigrant ghetto, supplemented by a street-walkers’ zone and a drug scene. With illegals — mostly Turks on the way to the golden west — stranded in Athens Center, and with the bordello scene and the drug addicts, criminality increased. The state had no means of fighting the ghettoization of the center. The residents of a once middle-class quarter felt left in the lurch and turned in part to more radical solutions.
The turning point for the party was a spectacular murder: A young father on his way to the birthing station was murdered by a group of foreigners. In the following days, there were pogrom-like foreigner hunts. (As SOS reported) Dozens of people were injured. Since then, there is talk of goon squads which have formed a kind of right-radical militia. And again and again Chrysi Avgi is connected to the violence-prone groups.
In some areas, the party has openly assumed command. This “active” policy in the grassroots was successful: In the general elections of Fall, 2010, Michaloliakos was elected to the Athens city council with 10,000 votes.
The economic crisis is responsible for the rise of the party to a national level. According to polls, they have gained in popularity among very young voters with their consistent rejection of credit treaties and austerity measures. The hierarchy of campaign slogans has changed noticeably. Xenophobia is no longer in first place; rather, the battle against scandals, special taxes, credit treaties, politicians’ lies and “betrayal.” This last one is aimed at the great competition, the rightist populist “Orthodox People’s Assembly” (LAOS). That party — reaching 5.6% in the 2009 election — initially took part in the coalition of Lukas Papademos, which implemented the second austerity package and the debt cut. For Chrysi Avgi, that made them traitors to the Greek cause — and cost LAOS many rightist protest votes.
The other parties hope that voters will deny the new protest party entry into parliament because of its right-radical past — a hope that will not be fulfilled, if we may believe the Eurobarometer, which regularly groups the Greeks among the most xenophobic Europeans.
According to the most recent polls,the extreme left can also count on strong gains. The Communist Party is openly advocating departure from the EU and could gain many disappointed Socialist voters. This coming Sunday, parliamentary elections take place in Greece. Brussels is looking toward Athens with concern.
The Standard also reports on the “Golden Dawn” today:
With their propaganda, the right extremists have also had an effect on the established parties. Thus, shortly before voting, the election favorite, Conservative Antonis Samaras, inveighed against the “invasion” of illegal immigrants, and also said that it would be best if immigrants already in the country left voluntarily. Besides the “Golden Dawn,” the nationalistic party LAOS could also be represented in the parliament. LAOS was already sounding a xenophobic tone in past years, but at times supported the government in pushing through its austerity package during the crisis, and because of that lost support among its voters. Finally, the Socialists added their voice to the chorus of sharp-tongued immigration rhetoric. They demanded establishment of holding areas, to limit asylum seekers’ freedom of movement. The first such camp was already opened.
This Greek alarm bell should cause all our responsible politicians to reflect
Here’s another report about Chrysi Avgi, this one already in English:
Greece: Elections: The Black Shadow of ‘Golden Dawn’
Far-right party soars in the polls driven by fear and crisis
(ANSAmed) — ROME — A black shadow is rising over the Greek elections: the extreme-right party of Chrysi Avgi, literally “Golden Dawn”, a name which bears a luminous symbol but whose ideas originate instead from a rather dark past. This is a faction which goes proud of presenting itself with thinly-veiled neo-nazi symbols and whose programme, due to the growing crisis, immigration and general fear, many Greeks seem to find attractive: that is, the hard-line against crime, expulsion of illegal immigrants, all in the name of a “clean” Greece.
Militants of Chrysi Avgi are dressed in black, have their heads shaven and boast an all too familiar logo (the Greek “meander” of which Chrysi Avgi’s version resembles a swastika) and are tireless in bringing forth their message of a secure and clean society with thousands of flyers sent round those areas of Athens where crime is on the rise and residents are exasperated.
They distribute food, clothes and shoes to the poor. Their proposals are very precise, such as putting landmines on Greece’s borders in order to stop immigrants from entering (90% of illegal immigration towards the EU passes through Greece).
They oppose themselves to traditional parties and believe that “the people responsible for the crisis must remain in jail”. The result is that polls appear to favour them: Chrysi Avgi , after 20 years at the margins of Greek politics, should probably gain 5% of the votes in the May 6 elections, compared to the 0.23% of 2009. In order to enter parliament all a party needs is 3%.
Golden Dawn are presenting 220 candidates in these elections.
The groups for the defence of migrants are accusing the members of Chrysi Avgi to have beat up several foreigners, also UNHCR in Greece reports an increase in racist aggressions, although every question on the use of violence is handily avoided: “ We do nothing more than protect Greeks” said one of the party’s candidates Epaminondas Anyfantis in a recent interview. “Now, if in protecting Greeks a foreigner gets a slap or a kick, I believe it’s all part of the plan for protection… simply because Greeks by now have to turn to Golden Dawn for protection. We’re not politicians, we’re soldiers who are fighting for a cause.” If accused of simply being masqueraded neo-nazis, the militants of Chrysi Avgi reply saying that they are simply “nationalist Greeks” and that many of their fathers took part in the resistance against the Nazis. Their leader Nikolas Mihaloliakos, who in 2010 won a seat in the Athens council, shocked the public by making a fascist salute at his first appearance in the committee. Later, he was quoted with statements such as “Hitler is one of the great personalities of history”, whereas in a video in support of his electoral campaign, he affirmed his intention to reintroduce the death penalty for drug dealers and to ban trade unions. Extremist messages which, in this extreme situation for many Greeks, could gather an unexpected popular support.
Hat tip for the ANSAmed article: Insubria.