The Golden Dawn, a fascist party with parliamentary representation and jackboots on the streets are a major problem within Greek society. With a substantial presence in the police which covers up their racist violence, they are now turning their attention to other structures of civil society, particularly health and education as a means of implementing their racist, nationalist policies. Their latest proposal is for immigrant children to be thrown out of Greek schools. The UK government is seeking to steal a march on them.
The Golden Dawn, despite its rise and prominence, is still a fringe party within the Greek political system. So when it suggested earlier this month that immigrant children should be thrown out of schools, even the ultra-right Deputy Minister of Education, Papatheodorou was horrified, exclaiming “the distinction attempted is fascist” (hmm, fascist party suggesting fascist policies, bears shitting in woods territory). That is of course not to say that the PASOK/New Democracy coalition will not implement such a policy in future, once the fascists have paved the way.
In the UK however, with the absence of an outright declared fascist party, it is left to the government itself to think up such racist and discriminatory policies. Over the last week, the inter-ministerial group on migrants’ access to benefits and public services, has been considering the implications of banning migrant children’s access to schools, asking that Department for Education looks into the feasibility of checking migrant status as part of school admissions. It is asserted that a current ban is off the table, but that collecting such data would be helpful should such a policy be implemented at a later date. All this is very reminiscent of the Golden Dawn requesting details from the Greek Government which does already collect such information, on the migrant status of children within nursery schools at the end of last year.
The basic problem that racists have is that children are fundamentally not racist – they accept other children with different skin colours, different ways of speaking, different food or clothing preferences and different mannerisms as just another strange and interesting part of the world that they are learning about. They need to be taught to be racist, otherwise they don’t become so. The Golden Dawn is driving this racist education through its implementation of special educational classes, where racism can be introduced to children, but all this is undermined by a school system which allows them to meet and become familiar with children from other backgrounds, exposing the lies that they are being taught.
Similarly, children in the UK, who see the brutality of their classmates being dragged off to detention centres and forcibly put on planes have reacted with horror to what is being done to their friends. The Glasgow Girls are the most famous group of teenage anti-racist activists who fought against the forcible detention and removal of children which they shared a classroom, a community and a life.
Excluding migrant children from education – whether here or in Greece – is not only damaging for the children who are being denied their fundamental right to an education, but it is damaging for non-migrant children, who then denied direct access to their migrant peers, unable to understand them as individuals and friends they are reliant on adult narratives to make sense of things which in essence make no sense. Keeping people separate and unable to interact with victims of discrimination is used all over the world to maintain and promote the dominant narrative of the inherent superiority of the dominant – whether that is South African ghetto apartheid, American segregation, or Israeli-only buses.
In Greece, although the fascists may have the ear of the government, and be rising in the polls, ultimately they are still a fringe party and widely despised. In the UK, the people who are proposing that children are thrown out of schools on the basis of their migrant status are the dominant force in the ruling coalition with the power to implement these policies.