A more sinister explanation has emerged for the antics of the Greek footballer recently banned for giving a Nazi salute during a match (see March 26 blog). Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party: its fastest growing political force with 21 seats in Parliament, links with British neo-Nazis and offices in Germany, Australia, Canada and the USA.
Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi) has a logo resembling a swastika. Its members like to give Nazi salutes and it is rumoured to have powerful financial backers. Fortunately, Golden Dawn’s campaigning has been met with disgust and derision by many prominent members of the Greek Diaspora in both the northern and southern hemispheres. But there is no smoke without fire.
Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, is not shy of issuing threats. After its election success, and flanked by menacing shaven-headed young men, he warned rivals and reformers, “The time for fear has come for those who betrayed their homeland.” Michaloliakos also said his party would fight against “world usurers” (a euphemism for Jews) and the “slavery” of an EU-IMF loan agreement which he likened to a “dictatorship”.
Golden Dawn has flourished on the back of Greece’s deep economic crisis – the country has been bailed out twice, has an unemployment rate of 20 percent and pockets of deep poverty. Golden Dawn has portrayed immigrants as stealing Greeks’ jobs and as responsible for a wave of crime as the country is the first point of entry for many illegal migrants into the European Union.
Like-minded groups in Europe and Russia have given the party ideological and financial support to print books and magazines. Now, after years of importing Nazism, Golden Dawn wants to export it by infiltrating communities abroad both to shore up its credibility but also to find extra funds and perhaps even potential votes.
Golden Dawn is believed to have set up a cell in the southern German city of Nürnberg with the aim of recruiting young Greeks who have flocked to the country in search of work. Greek community leaders in Germany have condemned the arrival of the group and called on the authorities to clamp down.
In late 2012 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) issued a statement expressing its “deep concern” about the rise of Golden Dawn, which is represented in the Hellenic Parliament. While recognising the right to associate freely in political parties, ECRI declares that “prohibition or enforced dissolution may be justified” in the case of parties which advocate the use of violence. ECRI called on the Greek authorities to “take firm and effective action to ensure that the activities of Golden Dawn do not violate the free and democratic political order or the rights of any individuals.”
Despite growing recognition by mainstream European political forces that right-wing extremism can no longer be shrugged off as a fringe manifestation, it still needs to be seen as a challenge for the entire political system as well as society at large, since it strikes at the foundations of democracy. A successful strategy must make use of long-term, preventative measures in the educational system on the one hand, and must strengthen overall democratic values on the other.
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is a play by the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht. Written in 1941, it chronicles the rise of a fictional 1930s Chicago mobster, Arturo Ui, and his attempts to control the city’s cauliflower racket by ruthlessly disposing of the opposition. The play is a satire on Adolf Hitler, but it also portrays the people around Ui – their apathy, their greed, and how easy it is to turn a prejudiced blind eye.
With right-wing extremism on the rise in so many countries in Europe, Brecht’s warning never rang more true. Turning a blind eye is no solution.