First published on ΕΝΘΕΜΑΤΑ, written by Efi Avdela and Agelikas Psaras in July 2012, in the aftermath of fascists gaining seats in the Hellenic Parliament, this article gives some of the background to the rise of fascism in Greece and how the Golden Dawn managed to gain such a hold over a section of Greek society. Over a year later, with Golden Dawn’s influence still rising, it is worth examining further not only in the context of Greece, but also across Europe where fascist tendencies are gaining footholds.
Original version (in Greek) is available on the ΕΝΘΕΜΑΤΑ website.
In two recent elections Golden Dawn got 7% of votes and settled for good in the Greek parliament. About five hundred thousand people, mostly young men with average educational level in urban and suburban centers, voted for them. Many questions arise from this. One, however, is of considerable political importance: What fed this particular organization; Why did the voters choose them?
It is, we believe, obvious that the undeniable fact that the Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi organization does not automatically mean that voters embrace and follow neo-Nazi positions and practices. The vague identification of hundreds of thousands of voters with fascism or Nazism could prove inadequate and politically unsustainable as an interpretation. And it is certain that historical analogies with the causes that led to the burgeoning of fascism and Nazism the interwar period is not able to give answers to contemporary questions. In other words, the identification of the voters of the Golden Dawn with Nazism does not capture the whole complex reality and, above all, it is not a deterrent. Evidence that the organization maintained its vote, despite between the two national elections admittedly belatedly, its neo-Nazi character was revealed and was denounced as such by many sides.
Nazism, or at least the modern versions, are not the key that will allow us to understand why 7% of the electorate supported the Golden Dawn – it is time that the facts are needed. In our opinion, the main reasons behind the impressive electoral strengthening of this criminal gang is to be found the resilience-and the cyclical resurgence in crisis conditions of some “deep structures” of Greek society, which had been politically disarmed were therefore sidelined the climate of the first post-dictatorship decades. These are, of course, anti-Semitism, racism, nationalism and sexism. These “structures”, which relate primarily to the management of diversity, form a compact grid: we separate them, as this way we can more easily understand the occasional bouts of some of their manifestations and also the manner in which they identify their respective modes of transmission and audiences, to monitor how it is present in a way that supports its legitimacy which contributes to its spread.
The archetypal form of racism, anti-Semitism is a fixed and “invisible” feature of Greek society.Though nowadays other versions of racism claim greater visibility, our soil remains particularly fertile to archaic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories , while naked antisemitism has now gained central political legitimacy. I will not dwell on trite upsurge of xenophobia, racism and nationalism: the problems of the crisis have intensified long perceived intolerance of otherness in Greek society. It certainly is not insignificant that today intolerance has been transformed into straight out hostility. The unprecedented and systematic campaign of physical violence against immigrants, which the Golden Dawn initiated, today finds many supporters. The imaginary transfer of problems through the discovery of internal and/or external enemies is treading a well worn path in times of economic hardship, emotional insecurity and fear for the future. The impact of the crisis and the increasing authoritarian nature of the state, is impacting on itself and the parliamentary system. Based on historical characteristics of Greek society and, mistrust towards the state and its institutions, is today being expressed in the break in the traditional structures of public representation with specific political figures and parties.
It is clear that the voters of the Golden Dawn share these biases with voters across a broad political spectrum. In this climate, the invocation of overt sexism and homophobia acquires special importance. References by the neo-Nazi organization to the “Greek race”-or “Greek nation” is based on an aggressive version of masculinity, which is a clear regression in relation to the progress that we have made in gender relations over the past decades. Powered by the conditions that produced the crisis, the perspective of the Golden Dawn on equality seems to take on alarming scope, independent to some extent by the biological sex of its supporters.
The version of masculinity raised by the Golden Dawn strikes a chord with a significant portion of voters. This is a model of aggressive masculinity, which draws from traditional social rigidities which was challenged and marginalized in the public domain for decades replaced by a “European” and “modernized” version of gender relations. The turbulence caused by the financial crisis called into question recently as the hegemonic model of “consensual” manhood and offered the ground for the stereotype of “those who are respeonsible” : apart from the ‘corrupt’ politicians, and “criminal” foreighners, the “insolent” gays, seems to annoy them most together withwomen, who occupy positions of responsibility, speak in a public place or – worse, find it easier to find some form of employment in the informal economy, at a time when young men are losing their jobs, or simply may not have a job. How many say (and how many more think it even if they do not express it) that they all need a “good smack?” And how many among them were not voters of the Golden Dawn?
Let us not underestimate this point, and the fact that the central positions of women in this neo-Nazi organization, put up a front for emphasis on the social and national role of motherhood coupled with condemnation of abortion as a “crime against the race,” along with reasons here long spoken with increasing fervor by various social, political and scientific environments. And let’s not ignore the affinity of these reasons the direct xenophobic and sexist return to “the Greek family“, which, in view of the recent elections, has converted the majority of the political forces of the country. Chiming with the upheaval associated with the economic impact of the crisis. The current obsession with “the Greek family” and and clamour to assert its rights in current legislation and legislative exclusion relate primarily to immigrants, but also include men and women who do not meet the regulatory requirements of the “Greek” family model.
At the same time, it is interesting that the position of the Golden Dawn uses many of the familiar weapons of traditional anti-feminism. Claiming a national audience, and under a “counter-cultural” banner, the Golden Dawn condemns movements long-forgotten by other political forces: feminism along with other “dangerous” and “outlandish” concepts such as internationalism, equality or homosexuality. The position of the Golden Dawn on women (remember Helen Zaroulia Michaloliakos musing on the “genocide of abortion” or the “feminists with hairy armpits” ) resonates with alarming old fashioned ideas on the nature of the sexes and their purpose of their ‘use’, which seems to raise its head in times of crisis. Indeed, it is not difficult to find the thread that connects extreme conservative views on sex, which until recently remained marginal to the philosophy of this neo-Nazi organization. Under present conditions, these traditional anti-feminist and homophobic attitudes are part of a new framework that allows them to appear as a vehicle for restoring the disrupted “natural” order of things.
It is now certain that the crisis led to a consolidation of some “deep structures” of Greek society, turning them into “common sense”. Equally clear is that this has been allowed to become a publicly acceptable aggressive stance adopted in the public discourse and practices of the Golden Dawn, an aggressive version of masculinity which claims hegemony as a vehicle of salvation of the “nation.” The crisis facilitates tropes that occur repeatedly in many different circumstances. The fact remains that the use of physical force as a constituent element of the neo-Nazi organization’s policy differentiates from other political forces, with which it shares some (or even many) of its positions. At this point it meets the social implications of being financially precarious. In other words, the insecurity and anger of the electorate, which, more or less consciously, proved willing to give in to the Golden Dawn demands for literally “annihilation” of those whom can be blamed for their the current plight.
Difficult days are coming …