A member of Golden Dawn protests in Peraia, east of Thessaloniki, on 26 April, 2012.

Far right reaps benefits from crisis

Greek legislative elections scheduled for May 6, the first since the start of the financial crisis, could become a protest vote against austerity policies and the political parties that implement them. If so, this could benefit the far right, which, little by little, is gaining legitimacy.

Published on 1 May 2012 at 12:07
A member of Golden Dawn protests in Peraia, east of Thessaloniki, on 26 April, 2012.

Perhaps a few things need to be brought to mind, now that the countdown to the legislative elections has begun – beginning with the book by American historian, Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism. For nearly half a century, the historian has studied fascism, with, as reference point, the French Vichy Government. I met with him in 2010. Already at that time, the rise of extremes in Greece, (but not only) was a sensitive, hotly-debated issue. "In times of economic crisis, democracy is threatened," Robert Paxton said at the time. For him, "the new fascist groups are violent, but, at the same time, too weak to influence political life".

The French example

The veracity of that remark can be posed today regarding Greece. What more can the far right hope for but the entry of a violent group into the Parliament? This is not a question concerning a socio-political hypothetical debate, it is a reality. About two years ago, the far right-wing Chryssi Avgi [Golden Dawn] which has no seats in Parliament, loudly accused the ultra-conservative LAOS [Peoples' Orthodox Rally] which entered Parliament in 2007, of making compromises and of having "sold out" its patriotic values. Today, it is on the eve of also making an entry into Parliament. "When the far-right parties gain recognition, they sway the political debate in their direction," Paxton also said. Again, he pointed to France as an example. In the summer of 2010, French President Nicolas Sarkozy adopted the far right's ideas by attacking the Roma people. Two years later, one can but note the return of the [far-right] National Front (FN) in the political limelight, as confirmed by its showing in the first round of the French presidential election [18%]. And the FN will continue to be talked about since the legislative elections are scheduled for June, soon after the runoff for the presidency.

In Athens, the situation is just as worrisome but not for the same reasons. The centre-right New Democracy Party (ND) has already welcomed within its ranks the recently expelled from LAOS, hardline-conservative transport minister Makis Voridis and is counting on his precious support. Of course, Makis Voridis' popularity is not derived only from the positions he has taken as transport minister but is also due to certain personality traits to which we are sensitive. He charms with his rhetoric, his manners, and his style which make us forget the notion of a public figure. Here we are today discussing the probable entry of neo-Nazis into the Parliament.

To conclude, a word regarding the Greek left, which also bears its share of responsibilities in the rise of extremism. The far left has also taken violent action, that is sure, but what must really be noted is the left's naïve stance on immigrants while residents of ghetto neighbourhoods abandoned by the State are demonised. All of this is grist to the neo-Nazi mill.

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