Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Greece : The Leisurely Rise of the Neonazis

[French versions of this post can be found on Paul Jorion's blog and on Rue89]

Kalamata, September 16th, 2012.

Some mysteries are better left alone. However, it happens that, in the quiet timelessness of Sunday mornings, puzzles are resolved even though you wish they wouldn’t be. A small provincial city, Kalamata is the biggest settlement of the Messinia Province, in the South-West of the Peloponnese. It’s a quiet town, which slumbers under the crushing rays of the summer sun despite the towering shadow of the Taygetos mountain range, its majestic neighbour. Kalamata is a place where nothing much ever happens, where Time seems to flow more slowly, the opposite of megalopolises like Athens or Thessaloniki, whence a few worrying images of surging poverty an violence reach us once in a while – you know, these brief reports deprived of the smallest ounce of contextualization, which the TV channels use to shower their news whenever the whim comes upon them, and the news is lacking in what they deem worthy of interest.

And yet, Kalamata isn’t without its own problems, all thanks to the crisis which has been hitting Greece for more than two years now: groups of beggars haunt each crossroads, more often than not they’re illegal immigrants from Asia or Africa, left adrift once they’ve managed to cross Europe’s entry gate. Or rather, I should say that Kalamata used to also have this kind of problem. During the course of the last winter, a strange miracle took place: nowadays, you can no longer find any beggar haunting the town’s crossroads, you can no longer find illegal immigrants selling bootleg CDs or junk stuff only found in the worst suburb’s bazaars. At first, you naively believe that the Greek state has at last decided to take care of the illegal immigration issue, and to care for all those poor people left at the tender mercies of the various mafias which are more than willing to give them a helping hand – for a modest fee, of course. And then, while browsing through one of the local newspapers, the truth comes out. It’s dark, this truth, as black as a night of the end of the 1930 years. No, the police didn’t intervene to gather the immigrants and allow the competent services to start deportation procedures. No, the Greek state hasn’t at last decided to shoulder its responsibilities.

It’s the result of Golden Dawn’s handiwork. Chrissi Avgi in the Greek language, is more militia than political party. Its ideology is clearly advertised, without the smallest qualm or attempt at hiding its nature: overtly racist, xenophobic, Golden Dawn proudly claims its ties with the Nazi ideology, flaunting around pictures of Adolf Hitler, whose death it qualifies as a terribly sad event, as well as a swastika-like emblem.

Yes, It’s Golden Dawn which cleaned up Kalamata’s crossroads, which organised the beatings and all the violence necessary to chase defenceless people away from the town – to erase them from the streets the way one would erase vermin from a garden. Golden Dawn’s militias took up what should be the duties of the police and the Greek state with impunity, and now they boast about their exploits in the local newspapers.

This isn’t the end of the story, unfortunately. During the course of the summer, watchful readers have read the reports of pogroms set up by Golden Dawn in the poorer suburbs of Athens. Reading a report is one thing. Hearing directly the tale of crimes encouraged – spawned by the Greek police – close to you is quite another.

“Once upon an evening in Kalamata”, in this small backwater town of the Peloponnese, a Greek woman spots a dark man entering her home’s garden. Frightened, she calls the police. The police’s response is swift, and crystal clear: no, no police officer will be sent to the woman’s home. However, she can call Golden Dawn, and its militia will come and take care of the matter. Ever so helpful, the policeman at the other end of the phone line gives the woman the phone number she can use to request the help of Golden Dawn’s local militia. Shocked, she hangs up, but refuses to follow that particular piece of advice. She waits for a while. Still worried, she ends up calling the police once more. Its reaction remains the same: she merely has to call Golden Dawn and her problem will be solved. No, the police won’t intervene: it claims it doesn’t have the means to do so. Again, the woman hangs up. Asking the neo-Nazis to come is out of the question for her.

Yet, just a few minutes later, Golden Dawn’ militia irrupt in the street. There isn’t anyone in the woman’s garden anymore. However, a few dozen steps away from her home stands a house inhabited by a Pakistani man. It takes a few more minutes for the uniform-wearing thugs to surround it.

And once they have, they set the house ablaze.

End of the story.

The year isn’t 1938. This isn’t Germany. The year is 2012, in Greece, a country renowned for its douceur de vivre and its inhabitants’ hospitality. Greece, a country ruined by corrupt management, and most of all because of the absurd demands of foreign governments and central bankers who have absolutely no idea, who do not realize what kind of monster they’re busy awakening and feeding ever more with each and every unjust and inefficient austerity measure they force upon a country they already have almost starved to death.

On the eve of the May 2012 elections, Golden Dawn’s neo-Nazis claimed 8% of the votes. In June, their electoral score had gone down a tiny notch to 7%, which still enabled them to send 21 representatives to the Greek parliament, the core of democratic institutions, which they target in speeches everyday, proud to announce without the slightest ambiguity in their words that they’ll take the struggle to the streets with their stormtroopers as soon as they’re ready to do so.

The last surveys give Golden Dawn more than 10% of the vote, ahead of PASOK itself. Each and every strike dealt at Greece, each and every unjust measure forced upon Greece from the outside in our name, we who are Europeans and had based our Europe on the oath of “Never Again”, each and every demand for more austerity which unwaveringly targets the same categories among the Greek population and tears from formerly middle-class citizens what little they have left sends them further into the black embrace of Golden Dawn. The mechanism is terribly simple, and already more than well known of anybody with just a bit of historical knowledge: destroy a country from the outside using means belonging to barely veiled economical colonialism, destroy its public services, health care, education and the rest, while leaving in place the corrupt administration and governments which are the root of the problem, and you lead it to a point where the democratic state starts unravelling. Everything starts crumbling down, democracy itself cracks, like rotten plaster. The police and army, ripe with people nostalgic of the sinister far-right dictatorship of the Colonels, where the neo-Nazis reach their highest electoral results, take advantage of the circumstances to simply let go a bit further, and to push a beleaguered population without the smallest prospect of a better future, in desperate search of security, in the arms of Golden Dawn.

Today, the Neo-nazis are the third political party in Greece, before the historical social-democrat party.

No, the year isn’t 1938. But we’re going back there. We’re rushing back there.