This week concluded the 2014 European elections, in which a wave of previously fringe, far-right political parties made significant gains in the European Parliament. These parties, all “eurosceptic” — opposed to membership in the European Union — although distinct, are unified in their racist, Islamophobic, and homophobic tendencies. Nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment dominate their plans for a more exclusive Europe.
The European Parliament (EP) is one governing body of the European Union, the only one directly elected by the people. The EP implements EU-wide legislation, so the success of these political parties in this year’s election will have significant impacts on Europe as a whole over the next five years — so long as they can come together and vote as a bloc. Some may have heard of Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party that openly admires Adolf Hitler that has been on the rise in the past few years in Greece, but here’s a guide to six far-right European political parties you might not have heard about.
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SANG TAN
United Kingdom Independence Party, led by charismatic, far-right Nigel Farage, is a reflection of Britain’s increased euroscepticism. Many of its members, spearheaded by Farage, have taken a firm anti-immigration stance following the influx of Bulgarians and Romanians relocating to the UK following their entrance to the European Union in 2007.
Farage, whose wife is German, has been quoted as saying he would feel uncomfortable if a Romanian family moved in next door to him. When asked the difference it would make if the family was German, he replied, “I think you know the difference. We want an immigration policy that is not just based on controlling not just quantity, but quality.”
Farage’s idea of “quality” has translated to overt racism in the UK, which has become so intolerable that the UK’s only Chinese-born parliamentarian, Anna Lo,announced she was quitting politics because of it, and rising-UKIP member Sanya-Jeet Thandi, a British-born Indian, left the party just weeks before the European elections for the same reason.
In January of 2013, the Sunday Mirror posted excerpts from UKIP’s official online forum where some of its top officials compared the gay rights movement to pedophilia. “As for the links between homosexuality and paedophilia, there is so much evidence that even a full-length book could hardly do justice to the subject,” said Dr. Julia Gasper, a former, top-UKIP official who resigned after her comments were made public.
Despite UKIP’s anti-immigration, racist and homophobic views, the party secured 24 seats in this year’s European elections making them the top political party coming out of the UK.
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CLAUDE PARIS
The Front National (FN) took first place in France’s elections, with 25 percent of the electorate, and a whopping 24 seats in the European Parliament. Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the party in 1972, as a coalition of various French nationalist groups. Although the party shares the name of the French Resistance movement, a far-left organization led by members of the French Communist Party that resisted the Nazi occupation, it could hardly be any more different. The far-right contemporary FN has been widely characterized as racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic. Its founder has been accused on numerous occasions of anti-Semitism, and even Holocaust denial. He was convicted in 1987, 1999, and 2009 for “minimising the Holocaust,” describing Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers as “what one calls a detail” of history.
Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie, has devoted herself to doing damage control for the party’s image, ousting many of the parties more notorious members. She has even gone so far as to threaten to sue those who call the party “extreme right,” yet many are not convinced that her attempts are genuine, seeing them not as ideological changes, but mere cosmetic ones, to appeal to less conservative voters. In the London School of Economics and Political Science blog, Aurélien Mondon writes, in spite of its attempts to appear otherwise, “The French Front National is still an extreme right-wing party.”
Mondon explains Le Pen has “made it increasingly clear that her moderate stance [is] little more than a façade.” He details several instances of the party engaging in overt racism, including calling people of color “monkey.” One can find “prevalence and public acceptance of crude racism beyond the elite of the party.”
Their antipathy has been particularly directed at Muslims. Unifying virtually all of the parties in this list is an overt hatred for Muslims—or, more specifically, at those of Muslim cultures. FN’s hatred is particularly intense. In July of last year, Le Pen likened Muslims praying to Nazis, saying “some people are very fond of talking about the Second World War and about the Occupation, so let’s talk about Occupation, because that is what is happening here.
The Netherlands’ Party for Freedom [Partij voor de Vrijheid]
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/PHIL NIJHUIS
The Netherlands’ far-right Party for Freedom did not do as favorably as it has in past elections in following the recent racist remarks of its leader Geert Wilders.
While addressing voters in the Hague, Wilders asked, “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?” When responded with chants of “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!”, Wilders told the crowd, “We’ll take care of that.”
In the past, Wilders has likened the Qur’an to Mein Kampf and claimed “Islam threatens the whole world.” Dutch voters did not take kindly to Wilders’ comments, and the Party for Freedom lost two of its five seats in the Parliament after acquiring just 12.2 percent of the total vote in the Netherlands.
Freedom Party of Austria [Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs]
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RONALD ZAK
Despite its blatant Islamophobia, The Freedom Party ended up doubling its seats in the European Parliament after this year’s elections after its third-place finish in Austria.
Party leader, Heinz-Christian Strache was interviewed by The Telegraph where he defended his party’s stance by saying, “It is not about keeping Austria white, just about protecting its traditional community. We see Europe as a Christian, and we believe it’s at risk of Islamisation.”
He also echoed fears similar to UKIP’s Farage saying, “I have heard that every second name in some schools in Britain will soon be Mohammed, rather than John or Paul. Do you want the residents of Britain to become a minority and to have English as a minority language in a school?”
The party’s success may be attributed to the Hans Peter Martin List, another anti-EU party, not running in this year’s elections. In 2009, the party won more than 17 percent of the vote.
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MTI, JANOS MARJAI
The Jobbik party in Hungary garnered 14.7 percent of votes cast (the same in the 2009 elections), and now boasts three MEPs. It is said the party is linked to Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and the UK’s far-right British National Party.
In a parliamentary debate in 2012, Jobbik deputy Márton Gyöngyösi illustrated the party’s overt anti-Semitism by suggesting the government create a list “to see how many [citizens] are of Jewish origin and present a certain national security risk to Hungary.” The party has also called for the construction of detention camps for what it calls Roma “deviants.”
Danish People’s Party [Dansk Folkeparti]
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/POLFOTO, PETER HOVE OLESEN
The Danish People’s Party (DPP), which previously had only two seats, now occupies four of Denmark’s 13 allocated seats in the European Parliament, with 26.7 percent of the vote. According to The Party Program of the Danish People’s Party, as established October 2002, the party emphasizes a “need for a strong national defence, and secure and safe national borders,” stating it feels “a historic obligation to protect our country, its people and the Danish cultural heritage.”
In spite of the frequency of use of the terms, the program tends to be somewhat ambiguous in regards to how exactly concepts like “Danish independence and freedom” are defined. The program does however explicitly state opposition to the European Union, while insisting Denmark should remain in NATO and the UN. It furthermore maintains that “Denmark’s constitutional monarchy must be preserved” and that the “Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church is the church of the Danish people.”
As is common among right-wing groups, the DPP boasts a “tough on crime” policy, speaks of the family as “the heart” of society, and insists on the importance of preserving and strengthening its national heritage. The party takes this third position to its nationalist extreme, however, insisting that, in its own words, “Denmark is not an immigrant-country and never has been. Thus we will not accept transformation to a multiethnic society.”
The DPP has by no means shied away from engaging in racist stereotypes in its critique of immigration. DPP founder Pia Kjærsgaard told a critic, “If they want to turn Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö into a Scandinavian Beirut, with clan wars, honour killings and gang rapes, let them do it. We can always put a barrier on the Øresund Bridge.”
In an effort to increase its legitimacy, the party has striven to distance itself from the French National Front and attempted to form an alliance with the UK’s Conservative Party, headed by Prime Minister David Cameron. DPP member of the European Parliament Morten Messerschmidt explained “We want as much influence as possible in order to pull Europe in another direction, namely in the British direction.”***
What is responsible for this surge in far-right politics? Most point to the widespread acceptance of austerity measures across the Eurozone, imposed in response to the 2008 economic crisis, that have only proven an absolute disaster, plunging European workers into even worse conditions. The European Commission’s own economist Jan in ’t Veld argued austerity made things significantly worse. Unemployment has increased so greatly it has broken records, social spending has seen drastic cuts, and Eurozone debt hit its all-time high, even while economists like Paul Krugman warned “slashing spending in a depressed economy depresses the economy even more.”
Overall, European voter turnout was estimated at about 43 percent of the population, evincing widespread disillusionment with the contemporary political climate, and, given the prominence of these parties in some of Europe’s largest countries, the fate of the EU looks grim.
Although all of the above parties are eurosceptic, it should be noted that not all eurosceptic parties are technically right-wing. Some leftist parties criticize the EU for promoting what they see as anti-democratic, top-down, neoliberal policies, creating “free trade” agreements and zones that undermine local economies and facilitate exploitation by large, multinational corporations. Most eurosceptic parties, however, oppose the EU not for these reasons, but because they prefer nationalist, protectionist policies.
Instead of uniting against austerity measures (although anti-austerity popular movements certainly have been active), many citizens have been attracted to this nationalist and protectionist politics, buying right-wing myths about immigrants “stealing” natives’ jobs. The elementary economic fact that, by expelling fellow citizens, demand will decrease, and jobs will ergo be destroyed, appears to elude these parties. Progressives in the European Union do have some bright spots to look toward in the aftermath of this election, but the rise of the far-right remains a worrying trend for the continent.
Shannon Greenwood and Ben Norton are interns at ThinkProgress.
Different fashion styles, same Fascist/Neo-Nazi policies: Golden Dawn ditches boots for suits in European election makeover
The Greek Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn is softening its image and tempering its rhetoric before Sunday’s European elections. Replacing boots with suits, the party has sought to shed its menacing persona, fielding middle-class professionals in an effort to broaden its appeal. Among its 42 candidates are university professors, lawyers, surgeons, business people and a former Nato commander.
"Golden Dawn is in a new phase of development due to Greece's social and economic crisis,” said Giorgos Kyrtsos, a political commentator and European parliament candidate for the ruling centre-right New Democracy. “With the middle class determined to avenge the government for policies that have seen its living standards collapse, the far right has understood strong-arm tactics are no longer necessary.”
The makeover offers an image far removed from the black-shirted assault squads that have come to be associated with a party accused by the authorities of being a criminal organisation.
A number of the movement’s leaders, including its founder, Nikos Michaloliakos, have spent eight months in prison pending trial. Many had thought the crackdown, spurred by the murder of an anti-fascist rapper, would be the demise of a group that five years ago took just 0.2% of the vote. But efforts at cleaning up the party appear to have paid off. As in Hungary, where the neo-fascist Jobbik party increased its share of the vote in parliamentary elections last month by projecting itself as more moderate, the new-look Golden Dawn got its first endorsement in local elections last weekend.
Despite facing government accusations of involvement in murder, extortion and racist violence – and the discovery of portraits of Hitler and Nazi paraphernalia in the homes of Michaloliakos and other MPs – the ultra-nationalists clawed back support with a surprisingly strong performance.
In Athens, the area worst hit by record unemployment and six straight years of recession, Ilias Kasidiaris, Golden Dawn’s mayoral candidate, won 16.1% of the vote – more than double the party’s showing in general elections in June 2012. Although the former commanderarmy commando, whose left shoulder bears a large swastika tattoo, failed to make it into Sunday’s runoff, his success was echoed in working-class suburbs, where the party polled more than 20%.
"Golden Dawn is the only political force in the country that is rising," said Kasidiaris, whose personal ratings soared after he assaulted two leftwing female MPs during a televised debate two years ago. “Greeks recognised that we have become their voice, the voice of truth, in the corrupt parliament.”
But it is the far-right party’s growing appeal to what was once the country’s well-heeled bourgeoisie that has most surprised analysts.
In Kolonaki, an upmarket Athens district of high-end boutiques, where women walk toy dogs and young, designer-clad men spill out of cafes and bars, the extremists attracted 13.7% of the vote. Along its high street, the talk this week was almost exclusively of Golden Dawn – and how it had succeeded in inveigling its way into the homes of local people. Had it found fertile ground only in Greece’s economic crisis, or was its ideology of hate – for immigrants, gay people and Jews – the draw for voters?
Entrepreneur Dimitris Deliyannis, who plans to vote for the group, thought it was a bit of both. The recent arrival in Kolonaki of beggars, homeless people and foreigners selling flowers had eroded people’s sense of security, he said. “It’s a protest vote. We’re not fascists or Nazis, but this is a system that is totally rotten, totally corrupt, that stops you in your tracks and lets immigrants get away with murder,” he said. “And because we know the system hates Golden Dawn and has used everything at its disposal to eradicate Golden Dawn we are going to hit the system with it.”
Yannis Kollides, a legal adviser at a government ministry, agreed. Like his friend he is, at 50, old enough to remember the return of democracy to Greece in 1974, but too young to recall the preceding seven-year dictatorship. “What I feel is rage and Golden Dawn is the answer to it,” he said. “And look, they’re nice guys now. If they get into the European parliament they can help change the policies of austerity and all the submission, exploitation and globalisation that has got us in this mess.”
Human rights groups are alarmed at Golden Dawn’s rise. The far right’s ability, Europe-wide, to move into the political mainstream on a platform of hate has raised fears of alliances being formed that will ultimately undermine democratic norms from within.
"It is just as dangerous when parties like Golden Dawn and Jobbik try to sanitise themselves to attract votes," said Sonni Efron of Human Rights First, who is visiting Greece as part of a team. "It enables voters who are most angry about economic problems and want to cast a protest vote, or punish those in power, to pretend that these parties are not really fascist," she said.
For seasoned Golden Dawn watchers, the party’s transformation is no surprise. In 2007, Michaloliakos, an open admirer of the military junta that once ruled Greece, wrote in the party magazine: “We will appear as the good guys. We will use the political system but our goal will be to use it as a Trojan horse to conquer the system … just as Odysseus did when he massacred the Trojans.”
The violent, extreme right Golden Dawn, a Greek political party implicated in organized crime, has found an ally in VDARE’s Nicholas Stix, who claims that “Golden Dawn is simply resisting this genocidal process.” He lauds Golden Dawn for “resisting the extermination of the Greek people” in the face of “mass non-white, Third World immigration.”
“And if they want to survive, other Western nations will, one way or another, have to make the same choice – no matter what names they are called,” Stix writes.
I knew that someone on the US far-right would defend Golden Dawn eventually.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
(Athens) – Athens police are conducting abusive stops and searches and have detained tens of thousands of people in a crackdown on irregular migration, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 52-page report, “Unwelcome Guests: Greek Police Abuses of Migrants in Athens,” documents frequent stops of people who appear to be foreigners, unjustified searches of their belongings, insults, and, in some cases, physical abuse. Many are detained for hours in police stations pending verification of their legal status.
“It’s cruelly ironic that the authorities named the sweeps Xenios Zeus, after the ancient Greek god of hospitality,” said Eva Cossé, a Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “In fact, Operation Xenios Zeus is anything but hospitable to migrants and asylum seekers, who are regularly stopped, searched, and detained just because of the way they look.”
Between August 2012, when Operation Xenios Zeus began, and February 2013, the police forcibly took almost 85,000 foreigners to police stations to verify their immigration status. No more than 6 percent were found to be in Greece unlawfully, suggesting the police are casting an extraordinarily wide net.
The report draws on dozens of interviews with people who have been subjected to at least one stop since Operation Xenios Zeus began. Many of those interviewed had a legal right to be in Greece at the time of the stops because they are asylum seekers, legal foreign residents, or Greeks of foreign origin.
Police mistreatment of migrants and asylum seekers is a longstanding, serious problem in Greece, asdocumented by Human Rights Watch and others. Almost everyone interviewed complained of rude, insulting, and threatening behavior, and four people described physical abuse.
Body pat-downs and bag searches during immigration stops also appear to be routine, even in the absence of any reasonable suspicion that the individual is carrying unlawful or dangerous objects.
Since the early 2000s, Greece has become the major gateway into the European Union for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers from Asia and Africa. Years of mismanaged migration and asylum policies and, more recently, the deep economic crisis, have changed the demographics of the capital city. The center of Athens, in particular, has a large population of foreigners living in extreme poverty, occupying abandoned buildings, town squares, and parks. Concerns about rising crime and urban degradation have become a dominant feature of everyday conversations as well as political discourse.
Greece has a right to control irregular immigration and a duty to improve security on the streets for everyone. However, the breadth and intensity of immigration sweeps in the context of Operation Xenios Zeus raise serious concerns about whether the means to achieve those legitimate aims are necessary and proportionate, Human Rights Watch said.
International and Greek law prohibit discrimination, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, unjustified interference with the right to privacy, and violations of dignity and the right to physical integrity. International and national standards also require respectful treatment by the police.
The Greek government should revise its general stop and search powers, including for Operation Xenios Zeus, Human Rights Watch said. The government should adopt legal and policy reforms to ensure that all measures to identify irregular migrants are conducted in full compliance with national and international law prohibiting discrimination, including ending ethnic profiling, and arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
Emboldened by its meteoric rise in Greece, the far-right Golden Dawn party is spreading its tentacles abroad, amid fears it is acting on its pledge to “create cells in every corner of the world”. The extremist group, which forged links with British neo-Nazis when it was founded in the 1980s, has begun opening offices in Germany, Australia, Canada and the US.
The international push follows successive polls that show Golden Dawn entrenching its position as Greece’s third, and fastest growing, political force. First catapulted into parliament with 18 MPs last year, the ultra-nationalists captured 11.5% support in a recent survey conducted by polling company Public Issue.
The group – whose logo resembles the swastika and whose members are prone to give Nazi salutes – has gone from strength to strength, promoting itself as the only force willing to take on the “rotten establishment”. Amid rumours of backing from wealthy shipowners, it has succeeded in opening party offices across Greece.
But the campaign has met with disgust and derision by many prominent members of the Greek diaspora who represent communities in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
"We don’t see any gold in Golden Dawn," said Father Alex Karloutsos, one of America’s leading Greek community figures, in Southampton, New York. "Nationalism, fascism, xenophobia are not part of our spiritual or cultural heritage."
But Golden Dawn is hoping to tap into the deep well of disappointment and fury felt by Greeks living abroad, in the three years since the debt-stricken nation was plunged into crisis.
"Golden Dawn is not like other parties in Greece. From its beginnings, in the early 80s, it always had one eye abroad," said Dimitris Psarras, whose book, Golden Dawn’s Black Bible, chronicles the organisation since its creation by Nikos Michaloliakos, an overt supporter of the colonels who oversaw seven years of brutal anti-leftist dictatorship until the collapse of military rule in 1974.
"Like-minded groups in Europe and Russia have given the party ideological, and sometimes financial, support to print books and magazines. After years of importing nazism, it now wants to export nazism,” added Psarras. By infiltrating communities abroad, the far-rightists were attempting not only to shore up their credibility but also to find extra funding and perhaps even potential votes if Greeks abroad ever won the right to cast ballots in elections.
"[Golden Dawn] not only wants to become the central pole of a pan-European alliance of neo-Nazis, even if in public it will hotly deny that," claimed Psarras, who said party members regularly met with neo-Nazis from Germany, Italy and Romania. "It wants to spread its influence worldwide."
As part of its international push, Golden Dawn has also focused on the US, a magnet for migrants for generations, and Canada, which attracted tens of thousands of Greeks after Greece’s devastating 1946-49 civil war.
"It’s a well-studied campaign," said Anastasios Tamis, Australia’s pre-eminent ethnic Greek historian. "There is a large stock of very conservative people here – former royalists, former loyalists to the junta, that sort of thing – who are very disappointed at what has been happening in Greece and are trying to find a means to express it. They are nationalists who feel betrayed by Greece over issues like Macedonia, Cyprus and [the Greek minority] in Voreio Epirus [southern Albania], who cannot see the fascistic part of this party. Golden Dawn is trying to exploit them."
The younger generation — children of agrarian and unskilled immigrants – were also being targeted, he said. “They’re the generation who were born here and grew up here and know next to nothing about Greece, its history and social and economic background. They’re easy prey and Golden Dawn will capitalise on their ignorance.”
Tamis, who admits that some of his students support the organisation, does not think the group will gain traction even if Australia’s far-right party has been quick to embrace it. But the prospect of Golden Dawn descending on the country has clearly sent tremors through the Greek community.
"This is a multicultural society. They are not wanted or welcome here," said one prominent member, requesting anonymity when talk turned to the group.
Greek Australian leftists have begun collecting protest signatures to bring pressure on the Australia immigration minister, Brendan O’Connor, to prohibit Golden Dawn MPs from entering the country. In a statement urging the government not to give the deputies visas, they said the extremists had to be stopped “from spreading their influence within the Greek community and threatening the multicultural society that Greek Australians and other migrants have fought to defend”.
The neo-Nazis have been given a similar reception in Canada, where the party opened a chapter last October. Despite getting the father of champion sprinter Nicolas Macrozonaris to front it, the group was quickly denounced by Greek Canadians as “a black mark”.
The culture of intolerance that has allowed racially motivated violence to flourish in Greece – with black-clad Golden Dawn members being blamed for a big rise in attacks on immigrants – had, they said, no place in a country that prides itself on liberal values.
"Their philosophy and ideology does not appeal to Greeks living here," insisted Father Lambros Kamperidis, a Greek Orthodox priest in Montreal. "We all got scared when we saw they were giving a press conference. But it was a deplorable event and as soon as we heard their deplorable views they were condemned by community leaders and the church."
Despite the resistance, the far-rightists have made concerted efforts to move elsewhere, with Golden Dawn supporters saying Toronto is next. But the biggest push by far to date has been in the US. As home to close to 3 million citizens of Greek heritage, America has the diaspora’s largest community. At first, cadres worked undercover, organising clothes sales and other charitable events without stating their true affiliation. Stickers and posters then began to appear around the New York suburb of Astoria before the organisation opened a branch there.
But while Greek Americans have some of the strongest ties of any community to their homeland, senior figures have vehemently denounced the organisation for not only being incongruous with Greece’s struggle against fascism, during one of Europe’s most brutal Nazi occupations, but utterly alien to their own experience as immigrants.
"These people and their principles will never be accepted in our community. Their beliefs are alien to our beliefs and way of life," said Nikos Mouyiaris, co-founder of the Chicago-based Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), whose mission is to promote human rights and democratic values.
The victims of often violent persecution at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan as well as wider discrimination (in Florida in the 1920s restaurant noticeboards declared “no dogs or Greeks allowed”) Greek Americans proudly recount how, almost alone among ethnic minorities, they actively participated in the civil rights movement, their spiritual leader Archbishop Iakovos daring to march alongside Martin Luther King. “Our history as a diaspora in the US has been marked by our fight against racism,” said Mouyiaris.
Many in the diaspora believe, like Endy Zemenides who heads HALC, that Golden Dawn has deluded itself into believing it is a permanent force because of its soaring popularity on the back of the economic crisis. “The reality is that it is a fleeting by-product of failed austerity measures and the social disruption this austerity has caused,” he said.
In Greece, where Golden Dawn has begun to recruit in schools, there are fears of complacency. Drawing parallels with the 1930s Weimar period and the rise of Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ party, the historian Mark Mazower recently warned against underestimating the threat posed by a party whose use of violence was so disturbing. “Unfortunately, the Greek state does not seem to realise the urgency of the situation,” he told an audience in Athens.
h/t: The Guardian
(Reuters) - Arm raised in a Nazi-style salute, the leader of Greece’s fastest-rising political party surveyed hundreds of young men in black T-shirts as they exploded into cheers. Their battle cry reverberated through the night: Blood! Honour! Golden Dawn!
"We may sometimes raise our hand this way, but these hands are clean, not dirty. They haven’t stolen," shouted Nikolaos Mihaloliakos as he stood, floodlit, in front of about 2,000 diehard party followers filling an open-air amphitheatre at Goudi park, a former military camp near Athens.
"We were dozens, then a few hundred. Now we’re thousands and it’s only the beginning," cried the leader of Golden Dawn, a far-right party that is seeing its support soar amid Greece’s economic collapse. Last month’s rally revealed the party, which describes itself as nationalist and pledges to expel all illegal foreigners, has a new-found sense of triumph, even a swagger, that some find menacing.
Riding a wave of public anger at corrupt politicians, austerity and illegal immigration, Golden Dawn has seen its popularity double in a few months. A survey by VPRC, an independent polling company, put the party’s support at 14 percent in October, compared with the seven percent it won in June’s election.
Political analysts see no immediate halt to its meteoric ascent. They warn that Golden Dawn, which denies being neo-Nazi despite openly adopting similar ideology and symbols, may lure as many as one in three Greek voters.
"As long as the political system doesn’t change and doesn’t put an end to corruption, this phenomenon will not be stemmed," said Costas Panagopoulos, chief of ALCO, another independent polling company. "Golden Dawn can potentially tap up to 30 percent of voters."
The party now lies third in the polls, behind conservative New Democracy and the main opposition, the radical leftist Syriza. Violent behavior by Golden Dawn members, who often stroll through run-down Athens neighborhoods harassing immigrants, seems to boost rather than hurt the party’s standing.
As the government imposes yet more austerity on an enraged public, the collapse of the ruling conservative-leftist coalition remains on the political horizon. The possibility that Golden Dawn could capture second place in a snap election is slim but real, say pollsters.
Analysts believe that, ultimately, the party lacks the broad appeal and structure needed to gain mass traction. In World War Two Greece suffered massacres and famine in its fight against the Nazis, and the spectre of the 1967-1974 military junta still hangs heavy over its modern politics. So why are many Greeks now turning to a party whose emblems and rhetoric, critics say, resemble Hitler’s?
Golden Dawn denies any such resemblance. In an interview with Reuters at an open-air cafe in the Athens district of Papagou, a traditional neighbourhood for military personnel, Ilias Panagiotaros, a Golden Dawn lawmaker and spokesman, explained the party’s appeal. “Golden Dawn is the only institution in this country that works. Everything else has stopped working or is partially working,” he said.
"We operate like a well-organized army unit, because the military is the best institution in any country." Greece’s far-right party goes on the offensive (PDF) link.reuters.com/rut83t > Greece’s other debt problem (PDF) link.reuters.com/ryq82t
Short, squat and combative, Mihaloliakos once praised Hitler and denied the Nazi gas chambers existed. A former special forces commando in the Greek army, he met the leaders of the Greek military junta while in prison for carrying illegal weapons and explosives as a member of a far-right group in 1979.
When pressed on such issues, Golden Dawn says they are all in the past and it is looking to the future.
For years after Mihaloliakos founded the party in 1985 it remained marginal: in the 2009 elections Golden Dawn won just 0.29 percent of the vote, or fewer than 20,000 votes. Yet in June, the party amassed votes from across the political spectrum, wiping out the more moderate nationalist LAOS party and winning support from as far left as the communist KKE party, pollsters said.
Now it is stealing votes from New Democracy, which flip-flopped on the international bailout keeping Greece afloat and, after coming to power, imposed harsh cuts instead of relief measures. Though Golden Dawn attracts mainly urban male voters up to 35 years old, the party is also gaining its share of women and the elderly, primarily those suffering unemployment or falling living standards, say pollsters.
Part of its appeal is down to the sort of welfare work that Hamas, the Palestinian party, does in Gaza. Golden Dawn distributes food in poor neighborhoods, helps old ladies get money safely from ATMs - and has also set up a Greeks-only blood bank.
A short film showed highlights of the year, which included attacks on immigrant street vendors, clashes with police outside parliament and food distribution to the poor. When the film showed Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris slapping a female communist lawmaker, Liana Kanelli, across the face on live TV, youths bellowed profanities against the victim.
"Golden Dawn’s target is simple. We want the absolute majority in parliament so we can replace the constitution with our own," Kasidiaris told the crowd. “It will then be easy to immediately arrest and deport all illegal immigrants.”
Pollsters were ready to write off the party when Kasidiaris slapped Kanelli after she swatted him with some papers during a dispute he was having with a Syriza lawmaker. Kasidiaris says he was defending himself; Kanelli says she was coming to the aid of the Syriza lawmaker after Kasidiaris had thrown water at her.
Painting Golden Dawn as an aberration stemming from the financial crisis, pollsters said the party’s support would dwindle. The opposite happened - the party gained 3 to 4 percentage points in polls as a direct result of the Kasidiaris incident.
In parliament Golden Dawn’s 18 lawmakers cluster in a rear corner of the marble-covered hall, but make no attempt to hide their ideology. Recently, Panagiotaros asked the welfare ministry to find out which babies admitted to state day-care centers were actually Greek. Eleni Zaroulia, wife of party leader Mihaloliakos and also a lawmaker, described immigrants as “every sort of sub-human who invades our country carrying all sorts of diseases.”
Artemis Matthaiopoulos, another Golden Dawn lawmaker, was formerly the bassist for a heavy metal band called Pogrom, which produced songs such as “Speak Greek or Die” and “Auschwitz”.
Rights groups say racist attacks in Greece have been surging, but that many immigrants are reluctant to report them because of their illegal status or mistrust of the police.
Like other victims, he accuses Greek police of supporting Golden Dawn and hindering immigrants in reporting attacks. In a July report, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said gangs of Greeks were regularly attacking immigrants with impunity and authorities were ignoring victims or discouraging them from filing complaints.
Greek police deny accusations they are soft on, or even sometimes work with, Golden Dawn. Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias has vehemently denied reports that police were beating up illegal immigrants and has threatened to sue British newspaper The Guardian over the issue. He is at such odds with Golden Dawn that the party ridiculed him during the youth festival at Goudi park.
But a member of the police officers’ union, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, admitted there was some sympathy for the party among the ranks. “There are some among the police who ideologically support Golden Dawn and a handful that have been violent against illegal immigrants,” the unionist said. “But these cases are being probed by justice.”
As middle-class Greeks have fled the centre of Athens, immigrants have moved into their empty properties. It’s common knowledge that if you want to get squatters out of your flat, you call Golden Dawn, not the police, who at best will quietly pass you a Golden Dawn telephone number. The story has become a staple of dinner-party conversation; in the version I heard from unemployed journalist Julia Iliakopoulou, the Golden Dawn heavies who cleared the Pakistanis out of her friend’s flat by “beating them black and blue” made them clean it up and paint it afterwards. “Don’t upset yourself,” they said. “We’re Greeks helping Greeks.”
Golden Dawn = sickos.
Frightening piece by Yiannis Baboulias on the rise of the extreme right party Golden Dawn in Greece:
“We feel disgusted in the parliament,” said their leader, Nikos Mihaloliakos, in a speech to his followers on 25 August. “If they want us to, we can abandon it at any given moment and take to the streets. There, they shall see what the Golden Dawn is really about, they will see what battle means, they will see what struggle means, they will see what bayonets sharpened every night mean”. Holding torches, they shouted “blood, honour, Golden Dawn” – a direct translation from the German “Blut und Ehre”, the motto once carried by the Nazi SA. “It’s you who are our Storm Detachments (Sturmabteilung). Let them come after you!” he continued, in his usual Nazi-inspired terms. Singing their official hymn “Raise the flags high” – again, a direct translation of the Nazi stormtroopers hymn “Die fachne hoch” – young men and women call for open, violent conflict both with the state and with any opponents on the ground.
Photograph: Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters
Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party is increasingly assuming the role of law enforcement officers on the streets of the bankrupt country, with mounting evidence that Athenians are being openly directed by police to seek help from the neo-Nazi group, analysts, activists and lawyers say.
In return, a growing number of Greek crime victims have come to see the party, whose symbol bears an uncanny resemblance to the swastika, as a “protector”.
One victim of crime, an eloquent US-trained civil servant, told the Guardian of her family’s shock at being referred to the party when her mother recently called the police following an incident involving Albanian immigrants in their downtown apartment block.
“They immediately said if it’s an issue with immigrants go to Golden Dawn,” said the 38-year-old, who fearing for her job and safety, spoke only on condition of anonymity. “We don’t condone Golden Dawn but there is an acute social problem that has come with the breakdown of feeling of security among lower and middle class people in the urban centre,” she told the Guardian. “If the police and official mechanism can’t deliver and there is no recourse to justice, then you have to turn to other maverick solutions.”
Other Greeks with similar experiences said the far-rightists, catapulted into parliament on a ticket of tackling “immigrant scum” were simply doing the job of a defunct state that had left a growing number feeling overwhelmed by a “sense of powerlessness”. “Nature hates vacuums and Golden Dawn is just filling a vacuum that no other party is addressing,” one woman lamented. “It gives ‘little people’ a sense that they can survive, that they are safe in their own homes.”
Far from being tamed, parliamentary legitimacy appears only to have emboldened the extremists. In recent weeks racially-motivated attacks have proliferated. Immigrants have spoken of their fear of roaming the streets at night following a spate of attacks by black-clad men on motorbikes. Street vendors from Africa and Asia have also been targeted.
Paschos Mandravelis, a prominent political analyst, attributed the rise in part to the symbiotic relationship between the police and Golden Dawn. “Greeks haven’t turned extremist overnight. A lot of the party’s backing comes from the police, young recruits who are a-political and know nothing about the Nazis or Hitler,” he said. “For them, Golden Dawn supporters are their only allies on the frontline when there are clashes between riot police and leftists.”
Riding the wave, the party has taken steps to set up branches among diaspora Greek communities abroad, opening an office in New York last week. Others are expected to open in Australia and Canada. Cadres say they are seeing particular momentum in support from women.
With Greeks becoming ever more radicalised, the conservative-led government has also clamped down on illegal immigration, detaining thousands in camps and increasing patrols along the country’s land and sea frontier with Turkey.
But in an environment of ever increasing hate speech and mounting tensions, the party’s heavy-handedness is also causing divisions. A threat by Golden Dawn to conduct raids against vendors attending an annual fair in the town of Arta this weekend has caused uproar.
h/t: The Raw Story