I have been writing and posting all over the place, broadcasting, at times apocalyptically, about the rise and rise of the extreme right in the West, and specifically in Greece in the light of developments over the recent period of intensification in the travails of this country, and this continent of Europe in general.
I see that there are legions of people out there, if the responses I have had are anything to go by, that are also feeling the unease of our circumstances.
I think by now most people have heard a little something about the rise of the Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi) in Greece. This party which a very short time ago was dismissed more or less by all as a tiny gang of bigots, with no hope of getting anywhere with their xenophobic and racist politics, suddenly achieved an almost stellar rise in popularity to glean enough votes to take 18 out of 300 seats in the democratic parliament of Greece in the last, rather luke warm elections in the country. Taking half a million votes they seemed to come from nowhere. One of the most horrific statistics being that an alleged 50% of the members of the police forces in Greece voted for them.
Golden Dawn claim, almost comically, that they are not Neo-Nazis, that they are simply Greek patriots out to mobilise the country to defend itself against the never-ending invasion of foreign influence and illegal immigrants, on which they squarely place the blame for all of the country’s ills.
Meanwhile an unholy coalition of the two top parties of the country and one of the new splinter popular left parties have taken the reins of government in an uncomfortable triumvirate. This coalition is at best shaky in popular support and came about more through a lack of better alternatives than any testimony to their abilities as administrators and political saviours. It is mostly composed of the very characters who through their deep corruption and mismanagement sank the country into crisis to begin with.
Europe in turn has been showering the nation with a never-ending tirade of abuse, from accusing the entire populace of widespread corruption, to calling Greeks lazy, good for nothing wasters and parasites; generally presenting a picture of Greece as a blood thirsty, cynical leech sucking the blood out of the European Union and siphoning off the financial benefits into the pockets of the rich and the corrupt. Basically taking the attitude of a stern but tolerant parent at last putting their foot down on the tantrums of a spoilt, out of control infant, and doing the equivalent of grounding the whole country for the foreseeable future. Phrases of ever more patronising timbre have been thrown at the country, to the point that they have alienated even the pro-European Greeks and made the country as a whole feel deeply insulted and humiliated.
A Little History
I’m gonna take a slight detour and point out how equivalent the situation here and now is to that which lead Germany into the clutches of the National Socialist Party in the Thirties. Then, as now, we had a world just reeling from the massive crash of 1928 and looking forward to a seemingly ever worsening and never ending hopeless financial crisis. Once prosperous and progressive countries staring at a bleak future drowning deeper and deeper in poverty. While a once proud and confident Germany, was still smarting under the defeat of 1918, and the shameful and vicious treatment at the hands of the victors, the Allies which had taken over the task of overseer and judge to its future. Forcing Germany to sign treaties that left it to all intents and purposes for ever shackled to the whims of the victors. I don’t want this to become a historical essay on Germany so I’ll not go into too much detail about it. (The information on this very pivotal phase of European history is available abundantly).
At the same time the whole world was flailing around for a practical solution to the vertiginous downward spiral of global economy. I suppose you could say it was the first real test of post industrial capitalism, and it seemed to be failing miserably.
Into this atmosphere of hopeless desperation and depredation, and in the absence of real political vision from the traditional and creakingly old aristocratic rulers of the country, stepped the youngish, dynamic entity that was the National Socialist Party. Cutting a direct line to the heart of the problem they seemed to offer clear, undiluted solutions for saving Germany. They alone seemed to know what was needed to save Germany and who was to blame for the sickness of the nation. They came as the miracle doctor who had all the antidotes that would cure the sick heart of a beleaguered nation. Leaving the old guard of European politics in their dust they rose from nothing to a massively powerful political force, out to save the nation and take it back to the glory days of its mythical national image. They conjured powerful visions of the symbolic and biological superiority of the Teutonic race, harking back to the days of power and empire and promising in effect the imminent return of those glory days, if only the German Volk were willing to take that leap and have faith in their own greatness and superiority over all other nations of the world.
Their strategy was simple. Use the innate national pride of the people to rally them. Identify a common enemy, a common problem, and then ask them for carte blanche to deal with these enemies, with those ‘problems’.
They found the solution that all would be tyrants have found throughout history. Unite the majority by identifying the minority as less than human, as filth, as disease. Tell them in all kind of ways how their society is sick because it is being insidiously infected by a foreign, alien disease. That the disease is being fed by their enemies from over the border. So much easier to swallow that pill than look in the mirror and look for what or how it could be at least partially a disease of your own making?
Anyway I stray too far but I think my point is kind of made as far as making a historical parallel with the situation of Greece and indeed most of the rest of Europe’s states today goes.
The Here & Now
The extreme Right in Greece pounced on this phase of the country’s downward slide to bring the same strategy, after all a time tested one, to their fellow countrymen. The thirsty, embattled Greek populace to a large proportion, and to varying degrees saw the logic of this simple thread of reasoning.
Added to that while the politicians of the traditional parties jockeyed and jostled one another to prove they were more innocent and more honourable than the others, the Nazis took to the streets and showed themselves to the people. Using the prepared ground of racism and prejudice as their launch site, they added more and more fuel to the fire, often with bold and vicious lies they fanned the flame of fear in the hearts of their people, turning up the heat to fever pitch. And then prepared for the meltdown. Their strategy followed the well trodden grooves of all fascist groups. They sent their street soldiers out to make themselves useful to the old, to the poor, to the desperate and frightened on the one hand, while furiously propagandising the disenfranchised and apparently future-less youth to swell their ranks. They helped old ladies to get their shopping and collect their pension from the bank taking them under guard against those abhorrent ‘filthy foreign immigrants’ who were waiting behind every bush and in the shadows of every nook and cranny to beat the poor old ladies over the head and steal their meagre wealth. They organised a surprisingly well developed dissemination of fabricated and ever more fantastic reports of outlandish brutality and cowardly banditry by foreigners, escalating to a hysterical pitch of panic until even previously decent people began to think that they were under massive attack in their own country by these gruesome aliens. The police being mostly hand in glove with the Nazis, simply turned a blind eye to their crimes and lies, or worse still aided and abetted them in their plans.
Meanwhile a cowardly, divided and frightened leadership from within the coalition simply ignored the situation and refused to take a strong hand to stamp the activities of these thugs out once and for all. They actually went one step further. These honourable men licked their lips and did their best slippery politician act of appeasing and even supporting what these liars and thugs were saying. It was good for the old guard anyway, the situation simply helps them further distract the public from their own criminal incompetence and corruption, and their past and present failures.
Being short sighted as all politicians seem to be, they opted for protecting what little power and prestige was left to them by throwing in their towel with what they came to see as the trend of public opinion. It never seemed to occur to them that people mostly went with the Nazis because there seemed to be no other entity in force that offered some kind of real palpable solution to their daily hurt. Politicians being what they are, self serving, cowardly and pusillanimous took the path of least resistance and jumped on the bandwagon of the Nazis.
Even the media on the whole did not come out and commit to a genuine naming of the parts of the unfolding events. To their credit many many journalists and critics and thinkers and even some politicians and ordinary citizens have tried their best to stand against this ugly tide. But for now it looks like, to me at any rate that the tide is winning.
Meanwhile the real price is being paid by the poor immigrants, attacked, beaten, bloodied; their meagre livelihood destroyed, their lives torn apart, hated, blamed and maltreated by the police and growingly by the public too.
The citizens for their part are paying dearly with their ever growing poverty, unbelievable pressure from the rising cost of basic goods, soaring taxes and the psychological pressure of deep uncertainty and insecurity, becoming more and more desperate.
The country itself is paying with its very soul for this rollicking, unstoppable tragedy.