Posted by Sappho on October 1st, 2013 filed in Greek News
How does a liberal democracy deal with a party at war with liberal democracy? Within the past few days, Greece has seen a crackdown, unprecedented since the fall of the junta in 1974, on the ne-Nazi party Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos and senior members of his party have been arrested on charges of forming a criminal organization, and a new law proposed to stop state funding of parties facing criminal charges.
This crackdown has been a long time coming.
Panagis Galiatsatos at Kathimerini writes (in an article that has much more Golden Dawn history than the bit that I quote
Golden Dawn was founded in December 1980 as a national socialist magazine, six years after the fall of the Greek military junta, a time that could not be described as auspicious for the far right. Society in general was leaning left….
Unbeknownst to the party, Golden Dawn has benefited from coincidence. The foreign policy pursued by Ahmet Davutoglu in Turkey gave easy access through the neighboring country’s borders for a wave of immigration headed to the European Union, which from 2006 more than quadrupled the number of undocumented migrants that moved into central Athens. Meanwhile, the success of LAOS at the polls of 2007 paved the way for an anti-immigration platform that Golden Dawn went on to adopt with vehemence….
It was, in fact, LAOS, the Popular Orthodox Party, which got the bulk of far right populist vote when Greece’s current economic crisis began, and for several years into the crisis. A populist anti-immigrant party that advocated a nationalist policy toward Turkey, LAOS was on the far right of Greece’s political spectrum, but yet not so far right that New Democracy wouldn’t be willing to cooperate with it, or that it could not be welcomed into the technocratic unity government of Lukas Papademos. It was its place in that unity government that spelled LAOS’ downfall. As PASOK, once Greece’s second largest party, collapsed in the wake of its support for the hated EU memorandum that imposed austerity on Greeks in return for loan tranches from the EU, its supporters fleeing for the left wing party SYRIZA, something similar happened on the far right. LAOS lost support, and Parliament seats, to the new rising star on the right, Golden Dawn, and
Golden Dawn entered the Greek Parliament in June 2012 with 6.9 percent of the vote, gaining 18 seats in the 300-seat House.
That a party that proposes landmines on Greece’s borders and traffics in swastikas and Holocaust denial could gain Parliamentary seats in a country that suffered bitterly under Nazi occupation is scary enough. (My own father lived through Nazi occupation as a child and young teenager, my grandfather died fighting the Axis, my uncle left home at the age of sixteen to fight in the resistance, and I grew up on stories of the days of the occupation.) Scarier still the fact that polls have shown Golden Dawn’s share of the potential vote rising to where if elections were held now it would be in third place. But what’s scarier is what makes Golden Dawn extreme even among far-right parties. Charlemagne at the Economist writes
Yet Golden Dawn is not like other rightwing parties, according to Antonis Ellinas, a political scientist at the university of Cyprus who studies Europe’s far-right parties. According to Mr Ellinas “they’re at the extreme end of the far-right spectrum, but what makes them exceptional is their use of violence.”
(To be continued in a later post.)