[Marxism] Mark Mazower on Golden Dawn

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 15 06:24:29 MST 2013


Mazower on the rise of Greece’s political extremes

The far left cannot be blamed for the ascendance of Golden Dawn, British 
historian tells Kathimerini

That such manifest and public violence should increase Golden Dawn's 
popularity is deeply disturbing to anyone who believed that the combined 
memories of living through a bitter civil war and then through 
dictatorship had led Greeks more than most to prize stability and 
democracy, the British historian says.

By Elias Maglinis

British historian Mark Mazower has gained worldwide repute both as an 
author of very important books on the modern history of Europe, 
particularly the Balkan peninsula, and as a director of the Center for 
International History and the Heyman Center for the Humanities, both at 

He comments on current affairs for the Financial Times and the Guardian 
while being a contributor to The Times Literary Supplement, the London 
Review of Books and The Nation.

In Greece he has gained prominence thanks to his historical studies on 
Greece in the 1940s and Thessaloniki in the early 20th century, 
publishing works such as “Inside Hitler’s Greece,” “Dark Continent,” and 
“Salonica, City of Ghosts.”

Mazower is in Athens this week for a lecture on the rise of political 
extremes in crisis-hit Greece, at Deree College [you can watch the event 
live here on Tuesday, starting at 7 p.m.]. In an interview with Sunday's 
Kathimerini, Mazower talks about the delegitimation of Greece’s 
political class, the rise of Golden Dawn and comparisons between 
violence committed by the far right and the far left.

Q: Is the debate about the “rise of the extremes” here in Greece a 
discussion about the rise of the far right or both the far right and the 
far left? Describing the far left as a political extreme would irk many 

A: The new and highly disturbing feature of the scene in Greece is 
obviously the rise of the far right. Its emergence forces us to confront 
the problem of violence because violence is its calling card, its modus 
operandi and – I am thinking, for instance of the Kasidiaris incident on 
Antenna last year [when the Golden Dawn spokesman assaulted two female 
politicians on live TV] – has been instrumental in its growth. That such 
manifest and public violence should increase a movement’s popularity is 
deeply disturbing to anyone who believed that the combined memories of 
living through a bitter civil war and then through dictatorship had led 
Greeks more than most to prize stability and democracy and see the value 
of some kind of civility in their public life.

I do not think that the rise of Golden Dawn has anything to do with the 
far left. The causes lie elsewhere, above all in the extreme 
delegitimation of the entire political class through the crisis and the 
consequent discrediting of the achievements of the post-junta regime 
change. We could have a long discussion about whether this political 
class could have done more, despite the crisis, to restore its 
reputation in the popular estimation: I personally think they could have 
done more, and can still. But precisely because we are in a new and more 
violent phase of public life, I think it is hard to treat the throwing 
of Molotov cocktails at the police, still less armed attacks on people’s 
homes or offices or shops, with the kind of almost benign toleration 
that was common in the past. The same applies to political rhetoric as 
well. For the left there is a serious question or two to be faced. When 
you use a rhetoric of violence – of overthrowing the state, of a new 
insurgence, of striking at collaborators – that is drawn from an earlier 
epoch, a time of real revolutions and real wars – do you mean what you 
say? Do you want war? And, if so, are you sure you can win? If not, then 
– and here we come to the crux of things – how do you talk and think 
more productively about the possibilities for a real and radical 
transformation of capitalism that the current crisis of institutions and 
ideas calls out for? In my view, dreaming of playing some heroic role in 
a new, and this time victorious 1917, or 1944, is not the answer and we 
have to consign those dates to history and not continue to use them as 
guides to action.

Q: This debate is associated with a broader and more international 
debate concerning whether fascism and communism are in fact similar – 
two sides of the same coin. Most people in Greece find this very hard to 
accept. What is your opinion?

A: The theory of totalitarianism developed in the West during the Cold 
War and rested upon an equation of Nazism and Stalinism. In my view, it 
was and is an ideological construct which hides more than it reveals. 
The Third Reich and the USSR had some similarities but many differences, 
more profound I think than the similarities. To come to the present 
situation in Greece, one cannot enter into this particular topic without 
being aware that the current government’s recent stress on law and order 
seeks emphatically to assert this kind of commonality. There is an 
electoral strategy here of course: New Democracy obviously needs 
something to boost its appeal at a time when it is implementing the 
austerity program, and it needs something in particular that will allow 
it to gain at the expense of other right-wing parties and will put the 
left opposition at a disadvantage. Two things get neglected in such a 
strategy: the real problem of police violence, especially in major urban 
centers, and the fact that many on the so-called “anarchist” left are 
simply occupying empty buildings – which may be a crime against property 
but is not an act of violence in my book – or engaging in legitimate 
protest. I say all this while insisting at the same time on the left’s 
own responsibility for having tolerated a certain discourse that 
legitimates lawlessness.

Q: The extremes are closely associated with the use of violence. In 
Greece there has been a heated debate on this issue: On one hand there 
are those who claim that violence is the same evil no matter where it 
comes from, right or left, and, on the other, there are those who hold 
that there are types of justified violence, at least in some cases – 
i.e. the killings by the November 17 terrorism organization – that are 
not the same as the killing of an immigrant by neo-Nazis. To what extent 
is this valid?

A: My answer is in two parts: First, murder is murder, and, secondly, I 
prize the struggle for social justice and regard racism in any form as 
deplorable. To fight for social justice and against racism is the 
challenge right now.


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