[Marxism] The rise of fascism in Greece

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jun 20 08:21:24 MDT 2012


(For years I have warned about the tendency of some on the left in 
the USA to apply the term fascist promiscuously. If it is to be 
used correctly, it is in cases like this. When the economic crisis 
deepens in the USA, our Golden Dawn will be a thousand times more 
powerful and deadly.)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/19/golden-dawn-fascism-greece

Golden Dawn and the rise of fascism

Fascists didn't suddenly multiply in Greece – their ideas 
gradually permeated public consciousness. They will elsewhere, too

     Spyros Marchetos
     guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 19 June 2012 13.30 EDT

Golden Dawn supporters celebrate
Golden Dawn supporters celebrate after the early election results 
on 17 June 2012. Photograph: Str/EPA

The electoral take-off of Golden Dawn took Greece by surprise. In 
the space of a few months it passed from insignificance to almost 
7% of the national vote, a percentage it maintained at the June 
elections, when the voters had been properly apprised of its 
neo-Nazi character. This party now has a rather even geographical 
spread and sex distribution, slightly higher among men and in 
rightwing areas, and also a definite social basis – mainly small 
proprietors, unemployed, members of the security forces, plus the 
criminal underworld.

Where did Golden Dawn come from? Is it a national phenomenon or 
does it portend a European trend? Could similar parties rise in 
other societies ravaged by the economic crisis? Certainly, it 
cannot be blamed on any "national" characteristics; If anything, 
Greece was, together with Britain, one of the very few countries 
that did not develop any mass fascist movement before the second 
world war.

Fascists did not suddenly multiply in Greece. Rather, extreme 
right ideas and values gradually permeated public consciousness, 
and became mainstream in the last 20 years. Then the troika (of 
the European commission, European Central Bank and the IMF) 
imposed measures of violent pauperisation, and even created 
widespread perceptions of decay and victimisation, and feelings of 
national persecution and humiliation. All these, as the US 
historian Robert Paxton argues in his magisterial Anatomy of 
Fascism, help fascism rise. Finally, when the crisis stole the 
clientelist appeal of the ruling parties, many of their voters 
turned towards those who professed openly what traditional 
politicians only implied.

Golden Dawn appeared on the electoral radar in November 2011, when 
all the other forces of the right participated in the unelected, 
and unloved, government of a banker, Lucas Papademos. It projected 
an anti-systemic image, but actually its objectives and practices 
were in harmony with those of powerful Greek institutions. For 
example, immigrants were first demonised by the state itself. They 
were interned, and their rights were cancelled in practice. 
Bureaucrats failed to enforce protective labour legislation. The 
police and the judiciary do not prosecute fascists under existing 
laws, which are more or less adequate, and don't penalise racial 
attacks, antisemitism and spreading of hate, all trademarks of 
Golden Dawn.

The rise of fascism also owes a lot to mainstream media. 
Effectively unregulated by the state and owned by a few small 
Berlusconis, Greek television channels have for decades been 
cultivating chauvinism, racism, sexism and anti-immigrant hate. 
Now they habitually present Golden Dawn cadres as normal people, 
explore their lighter side and even turn them into lifestyle icons 
or tele-celebrities. They rarely discuss the violent crimes for 
which many of these people have been accused or convicted.

Most worrying is the ease with which conservatives justify fascist 
actions. The recent violent attack by Ilias Kasidiaris, a Golden 
Dawn deputy, on two leftwing women deputies, broadcast live on 
national television, was hailed by many on the right, and proved a 
vote-winner. The chief of New Democracy for northern Greece 
promptly declared that his party and Golden Dawn were "sister 
organisations", without provoking any criticism among his 
colleagues. Privileged strata and traditional politicians 
increasingly see the cultivation of a fascist mass movement as a 
legitimate reply to the advance of the left. In conditions of 
social dislocation and economic freefall, this may have explosive 
consequences.

The left grievously underestimated this threat all these years, 
hoping that it would evaporate by itself. Its leadership still has 
no strategy to counter the spread of fascism. Syriza until 
recently took democratic normality for granted, while the 
Communist party seems determined to repeat all the blunders of the 
German communists that brought Hitler to power.

Both parties refused to mobilise when Golden Dawn, with the 
support of the police, created a fief in a central Athens 
neighbourhood. Years of insouciance, in which thousands of attacks 
against immigrants provoked few reactions, led to deputies being 
beaten in front of the cameras. And even then, they refused to 
call for mass mobilisation against the thugs. The perceived moral 
of the story was that when fascists strike the left leadership, 
the latter shows a most Christian meekness. This instils little 
enthusiasm in the rank-and-file, and even less self-respect.

Hope comes mainly from the reaction of civil society. In recent 
weeks local anti-fascist fronts have sprung up from below in many 
places, with scant support from the official left. Mass anti-Nazi 
rallies, mobilising many thousands of people, shook the principal 
cities of Greece. There is even talk of self-defence groups, 
comprising locals and immigrants, that will fight Golden Dawn in 
the streets and provide to all the security that the state now 
offers to few.

The fascist advance in troika-dominated Greece was predicted by 
analysts. The factors that fuelled it exist in other societies 
too. In eurozone countries falling victim to the debt crisis, 
fascism will return to the fore. It has dynamics weaker than in 
the 1930s, but it is dangerous again. European elites have been 
playing with fire for too long. Germany's chancellor, Angela 
Merkel, succeeded where the Führer himself had failed, in creating 
a Nazi party in Greece. Similar feats will require less effort in 
other countries.

Deflationary economic policies mixed with a state tolerant of 
fascist actions, a sympathetic media, a right that needs allies in 
the streets and a dormant left are a recipe for disaster. Siblings 
of Golden Dawn may patrol Bolzano or Birmingham earlier than we 
imagine.




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