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Greek Neo-Nazis? Why the Center Cannot Hold

In Greece this week, 750,000 voters cast ballots for the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. Economic crisis and austerity is squeezing the political center and the extremes of left and right are exploiting the discontent by targetting “economic globalization,” the “loss of national sovereignty to the EU,” and, in the case of the fascistic right, “mass immigration.”

Winning 7 percent of the country’s popular vote secured 21 parliamentary seats out of 300. According to Haaretz, “the party expressly articulates neo-Nazi sentiments, publicly sings Nazi songs, and openly bandies about Nazi symbols.” The Jewish Daily Forward has noted that “the party openly displays copies of ‘Mein Kampf’ alongside works on Greek racial superiority at party headquarters.” Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos bellowed after the election results, “All the illegal immigration out! Out of my country, out of my home!” How? “Use your imagination,” Mihaloliakos replied. (Watch this video to get a sense of the political character of Golden Dawn.) 

Of course, few Greeks are voting for Mein Kampf. Rather, they are voting for the promise of national renewal. Mihaloliakos calls for “a Greece liberated from global speculators … without the slavery of the bailout agreement and the surrender of our national sovereignty … [and] a Greece that will not be a social jungle because of the illegal immigrants.” Like Hamas and Hezbollah, Golden Dawn carries out a kind of dawa (proselytizing by welfare), delivering food to the poor and helping the elderly to the shops. 

The swing to the Greek far left was much more pronounced. Panos Garganas, the editor of the Trotskyist Workers Solidarity, was euphoric. “The swing to the left was huge. The vote for left parties reached 2,115,000—over 33 per cent of the total.” (He is not including Pasok, note.) He dismissed the fascist breakthrough as “the only dark spot in the results.” Some spot.

In short, the Greek center could not hold. Pasok and New Democracy normally win 85 percent of the vote between them. This time—after backing the austerity programs imposed by the EU—they only secured 34 percent, combined.

None of this is really surprising. The Greek economy is imploding. The 7 percent fall in economic output last year will be matched by a 7 percent fall this year. Out of a population of about 11 million, 1.5 million are unemployed. Wages are down 22 percent and pensions have fallen 15 to 25 percent since 2010. The cuts in social services are deep. National economic sovereignty is in tatters, replaced by the rule of the EU “troika”—debt inspectors from the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund—and a technocratic coalition government in Greece headed by former banker Lucas Papademos that has been subservient to the troika’s dictates.

Across Europe, the slow strangulation of the southern countries inside the eurozone must surely be brought to an end, the austerity programs of the northern countries must be replaced by coordinated growth and restructuring policy, and the banking system must be back into the social contract. 

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