October 27, 2012

METRIC MINUTEMEN:

Fear and loathing in Athens: the rise of Golden Dawn and the far right : In austerity-ravaged Greece, neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn is on the rise. Their MPs give fascist salutes, while on the streets black-shirted vigilantes beat up immigrants. And some of their most enthusiastic supporters are in the police (Maria Margaronis, 10/26/12, The Guardian)

Standing among the citizens of Megara as Michaloliakos addresses them, I feel as if I've slipped into a parallel universe. As a Greek, I've known these people all my life: middle-aged women with coiffed hair and well-upholstered bosoms, men in clean white shirts and neatly belted trousers. They're the people who run the cafes and corner shops; who work hard every day, often at two or three jobs; who pinch children's cheeks and won't let you pay for your coffee; who were always cynical about politicians' promises. I never thought they could fall prey to fascist oratory. Yet here they are, applauding Michaloliakos as he barks and roars, floodlit against a low white building next to the petrol station. We could almost be back in the 1940s, between the Axis occupation and the civil war, when former collaborators whipped up hatred of the left resistance.

Michaloliakos has his populism down pat. His message is pride, and purity, and power. He lambasts the other parties for selling out the country, for their lies and corruption, with special attention to the left party, Syriza. Golden Dawn, he says, are the only patriots, the only ones who haven't dipped their hands in the honeypot. He praises Megara, which used to supply all of Greece, "before we started eating Egyptian potatoes, Indian onions and Chilean apples". Then he turns to "the two million illegal immigrants who are the scourge of this country", who sell heroin and weapons with impunity. "Voting for us is not enough," he says. "We want you to join the struggle for Greece. Don't rent your house to foreigners, don't employ them... We want all illegal foreigners out of our country, we want the usurers of the troika and the IMF out of our country for ever."

After the fireworks and the flares and the national anthem, Efthimia Pipili, 67, gives me her reaction. "Foreigners have come twice to my house to rob me in the night," she says. "If I didn't have my rottweiler, I'd be dead by now. I used to vote for Pasok [the Panhellenic Socialist Movement]. Last time I voted for Tsipras [the leader of Syriza] because I thought he was different. But Tsipras wants to protect the foreigners. I have €100 to last for the next three weeks. I owe €400 to the electricity company; they're going to cut me off. Why shouldn't I be for Golden Dawn, my love?"

Golden Dawn is many things: a party, a movement, a subculture; a vigilante force; a network inside the police and the judiciary. Vasilis Mastrogiannis of the Democratic Left, a former senior police officer turned politician, describes it frankly as "a criminal organisation". New Democracy MP Dimitrios Kyriazidis, who founded the Greek police union, calls it a "political excrescence". "Because of my past in the police, I know very well where these people come from," Kyriazidis says. "Most declare their profession as 'businessman'. But one has to pause at that."

The party's founder and leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, served time in the late 1970s for assault and illegal possession of guns and explosives. While inside, he met members of the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, but his political views, as expressed in Golden Dawn, the magazine he started when he was released, were well to the right of theirs. Breaking the boundaries of "acceptable" rightwing nationalism, Michaloliakos published paeans to Adolf Hitler, arguing that Greece should have been at the side of the Axis in the second world war. The magazine, its covers periodically adorned with portraits of the Führer and his acolytes, served up a weird amalgam of Nazi propaganda, antisemitism, traditional nationalism and pagan fantasy. The party that now courts and counts on the Orthodox church once advocated a return to "the faith of the Aryans" - the Olympian gods - claiming that Christianity had "grafted Jewish obscurantism on to the trunk of European civilisation". In the one interview I was allowed with a Golden Dawn official, MP Panagiotis Iliopoulos told me that, as a young man, the magazine expressed his ideas completely. Have the party's views changed since then? "Not at all," he said. "There are no neo-Nazi articles in the magazine. Only historical ones."

Speaking of which, I found a nice trade paperback copy of Eric Hoffer's True Believer at a book sale the other day--if anyone's not read it I'd be happy to pass it on.  I also found a more battered edition of Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind if anyone wants it.  

Posted by at October 27, 2012 8:51 AM
  

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