Golden Dusk (2)?

by Andrew Stuttaford

Writing in the Daily Telegraph Dan Hannan takes a look at the crackdown on Greece’s Golden Dawn:

Economic collapse, mass joblessness, uniformed paramilitaries, street violence, political assassinations and, now, a round-up of opposition MPs. Euro-wracked Greece is beginning to feel eerily like Weimar Germany.

The beleaguered Athens government has arrested five deputies and 15 other activists from the fascist party Golden Dawn, including the leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos. The Greek constitution prohibits the outright banning of political parties, but the authorities have got around that by classing Golden Dawn as a criminal organisation and linking it to the murder 11 days ago of a Leftist musician.

We use the word “fascist” so loosely these days that it has almost lost its meaning. If you oppose immigration, you’re called a fascist. If you criticise the EU, you’re called a fascist. If you’re winning an argument with a Leftie online then, sooner or later, you’re called a fascist. The tendency is not a new one, though it has perhaps been accelerated by the internet. George Orwell, writing at a time when there were actual fascist regimes in power, observed that “the word Fascism now has no meaning except in so far as it signifies ’something not desirable’ ”.

In consequence, we struggle to find adequate vocabulary to describe an unapologetic, bona fide neo-Nazi party such as Golden Dawn, the Greek political movement that took seven per cent of the vote in the two general elections last year. Golden Dawn is a textbook fascist party, in its structure, its ideology and its behaviour. It is anti-democratic, favouring an authoritarian state led by a strong man. It looks back fondly at the Thirties dictatorship of General Metaxas, who banned political parties, outlawed strikes and censored the press. It blames Greece’s poverty on immigration – somewhat eccentrically, since the country is now a major net exporter of people. Several of its supporters engage in crude anti-Semitism: one of its MPs, wanted by the police after assaulting a female parliamentarian, defended himself by quoting from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and alleging that he was the victim of a Jewish conspiracy.

Like all properly fascist parties, Golden Dawn loathes free markets and private enterprise. It flirted with paganism, dismissing Christianity as a debased and Judaic belief-system before switching tack and embracing the Orthodox Church belligerently. Its members have been involved in numerous acts of political violence and, like the Nazis in the Twenties, it seems to have established links with elements of the police and the armed forces. The party’s emblem looks suspiciously like a swastika. Golden Dawn insists that the device is a “meander”: one of those geometric motifs that you see around the border of classical mosaics and friezes. But ordinary party members are not so careful, frequently waving actual swastikas and Iron Crosses and making straight-arm salutes.

For more than 30 years, Golden Dawn crawled along as one of Europe’s negligible Nazi movements, supported by a few hundred shaven-headed losers in their mothers’ basements. It barely registered in elections, typically winning around 0.1 per cent of the popular vote. Then, in 2012, under the uncompromising slogan “We can rid this land of filth!”, it secured nearly half a million ballots and became the third€‘largest party. What happened? In short, the euro. For once, the metaphor of a Greek tragedy is precisely apt. Hellenes went through the hubris of easy credit years, when the markets treated Greek and German debt as interchangeable. Now they are suffering the nemesis: GDP down by an almost unbelievable 23 per cent from its peak; 28 per cent unemployment; middle-class Athenians rummaging in bins for food; farmers bringing supplies to urban cousins.

At the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman wonders where all this is going:

A great deal turns on whether the Greek government can press home the accusation that the leaders of Golden Dawn were linked to the murder of the rapper Pavlos Fyssas. If it can be proved that Golden Dawn genuinely is a criminal and conspiratorial organisation, linked to murder, then the arrests look legitimate. But if the accusations of conspiracy cannot be made to stick, then it just looks like an effort to roll up an ugly political movement – one that, nonetheless, enjoys genuine popular support. That would not just be an anti-democratic way of fighting an anti-democratic movement. It would also feed the anti-establishment rage that Golden Dawn has already successfully capitalised on.


Meanwhile over at Macropolis, Nick Malkzoutis offers up a highly critical analysis of how the political space in which Golden Dawn operates has been created (for some added, and necessary, context check out Colin Freeman in the Daily Telegraph on the immigration issue), but the last sentence caught my eye:

Responsibility does not lie solely with the prime minister and New Democracy though. Golden Dawn walked a well-trodden path when it dragged parliamentary debate into the gutter. Greece’s other parties had already contributed to the democratic arena becoming a bear pit of insults and platitudes. The acceptance of violence as part of the country’s political discourse also stems from the nonchalance displayed by the parties represented in Parliament. SYRIZA did not want to damage its links to the street, and  [center-right] New Democracy and [center-left] PASOK could not muster the political will to draw a line.

And the SYRIZA that did not want to damage its links to the street? Oh, that is the far-left party headed by an admirer of the late Hugo Chávez. In recent years it has risen to become the principal opposition and the second largest party in the Greek parliament.

I seem to remember something about the EU winning a peace prize. Odd, that.

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