The Politics of Austerity – Successive compliant Greek governments accepted the politics of austerity demanded by an international troika (EU, European Central Bank, and IMF) as a way of gaining access to loans. The conditions for these loans are codified through a series of evolving Memoranda imposing increasingly strict and detailed directives for the social and economic policies of Greek governments. The austerity policies create conditions fuelling the growth of a far right movement with neo-Nazi links that seeks to victimize immigrants, asylum seekers, gays and marginalised communities.
Background – Fascism and right-wing politics have a long history in Greece as in other countries. Fascist organisations emerged in the 1930’s and proved useful to sections of business and the elite as a mechanism to counter a growing workers movement. As the establishment sought to re-establish its cultural as well as political control of the country in the post-war period, it again had recourse to a far-right ideology built around nationalism, religion anti-communism. This culminated with the imposition of a military junta during the period 1967-73 when it became fearful of the powerful people’s movement for change that was developing. The collapse of the junta marked the retreat of the far-right from centre-stage in Greek politics. The far-right presence however has always been felt behind the scenes through its positions within the military, police and broader security apparatus.
Austerity and the return of the far-right Golden Dawn – The movement which would become Golden Dawn was founded in 1980 by the former commando Nikolaos Michaloliakos, its leader who was arrested in 2013. The party emerged out of a vein of far-right extremism in Greece dating back to strongman Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas in the 1930s.
Mr Michaloliakos has organised the party “along military lines, with him as leader, as the supreme authority”. Golden Dawn may officially deny being a neo-Nazi movement but its badge resembles a swastika and some of its senior members have praised Adolf Hitler. Mr Michaloliakos himself has denied the existence of gas chambers and crematoria at the site of the Auschwitz death camp. The party’s political breakthrough came when Mr Michaloliakos won a seat on Athens city council in 2010. It fought the 2012 general elections on a twin platform: opposition to immigration and condemnation of the bailouts and managed to collect 7% of the vote and seats in parliament.
Violence against immigrants, leftists and women – The UN Office of the Human Rights Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission of Greece, found that between October 2011 and December 2012, more than 200 racist attacks were carried out. At least some of these were fatal. In late 2013 the murder of an anti-fascist activist and musician in Piraeus sparked widespread community outrage and a government crackdown on the criminal activities of the organisation.
Cooperation between New Democracy and Golden Dawn – in March 2014 a political scandal broke out when the Cabinet Secretary (and key advisor to the Prime Minister) was filmed in secret talks with a Golden Dawn MP. These links with the far-right by the party in government covertly introduce them into decision-making and threaten to legitimate their overt presence in government.
Reports and material on fascism in Greece today:
See video here from Australian Sixty Minutes Television Program on Golden Dawn
Amnesty International released in April 2014 a damning report about policing in Greece, claiming that the security forces have an entrenched culture of racism and systematically use excessive force with impunity thanks to the tolerance of the country’s political leadership. News report summary here See full Amnesty International report here