The Rise of the Extreme Right in Greece

A Child of the Crisis and the Peculiarities of Greek Society; A Challenge for the Left

On the 6 May, 440,000 people chose to vote for neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn. They chose to support a political group, which, besides being openly Nazist, is responsible for hundreds of murderous attacks against immigrants and members of Left and Anarchist organizations. A group, the very existence of which should be forbidden. Not because the prohibition of any political ideology has something to offer to the Greek democracy, but because many of its cadres should be prosecuted for crimes of the common criminal law. After the assault of a member of Golden Dawn against two left-wing MPs of KKE and SYRIZA, the TV stations decided to break their silence and speak about the role of the party, which, for so many years was denounced by the Left.
The rich debate taking place these days regarding this new phenomenon conceals the real characteristics of the party’s voters behind the statement “let’s not overreact; these 440,000 people are not nazists”. So, in this text I will try to shed some light on what the support of this group really means, not as a means of reaction against a collapsing party system, but as a choice per se. To this direction I make the following observations:
1. Opposite to what happens in the rest of the countries of Western Europe the polls in Greece managed to forecast the electoral result for the Extreme Right because its voters were not ashamed to declare that they would vote for it, as it was the case in France for example.
2. The electoral geography of Golden Dawn reveals that the party is present all over Greece, but stronger in urban centers with a traditionally conservative electoral behavior. Its highest percentages were realized in the “right-wing” area of the Peloponnese, and more specifically in regions that do not face severe problems with immigrants. Correspondingly, the lowest percentages were realized in the “democratic” area of Crete, even though the cases of racist violence during the last years are not few even there.
3. While the two parties in power were creating clientelistic networks, the political forces of the Extreme Right were integrated in them without claiming major things. However, the inability of these parties to deliver has politically released the bearers of far Right ideas.
4. Thus, the 400,000 voters of Golden Dawn are not Nazist. However, they adhere to a social, ideological framework where the expression of their support to Golden Dawn is not blameworthy. This is because racism, as a political stance is far more wide-spread than the condensed core of the voters of the Far Right. The fact that the attitude towards immigrants constituted a basic criterion set by the parties of the former two-party system and the big media for a growing part of the electoral base, is not irrelevant to the shift of the political agenda from unemployment, austerity and recession to security and fear for the “polluting effects” of illegal immigrants.  
5.  Nevertheless, racism is not the only element that runs across the electoral base of Golden Dawn. Vote to this party also expresses an existing and visible ideological shift inside the Greek society towards anti-parliamentarism. A shift, in other words, to the direction of an open questioning of the opinion that bourgeois parliamentary institutions constitute an adequate way to articulate political and social antagonism. This anti-parliamentarism is expressed today – at least in public –  with the cult extravagance of the cadres of Golden Dawn in front of the cameras, but also with their assault against specific parts of society. Tomorrow, though, we can see this antagonism being transubstantiated in a more mature political proposal that even ideologically incorporates “modernizing” or “reformatory” parts of the Greek society, as was the case in the interwar period with fascism.
6. In this conjuncture, the Left and the Extreme Right constitute directly opposing outlets and proposals for the understanding of the crisis of political representation on the ideological level. In this framework the Left has to primarily focus on the fascist danger in order to counter it, but more importantly it has to succeed to what the Left itself intends to do. As such, it has to confirm and maintain that is holds the heritage of the original fiduciary of democracy. 
7. The vote to Golden Dawn is not only indicative for the spread of racism and anti-parliamentarism in Greece. It also testifies the spread of a new type of defensive sexism. The vote to Golden Dawn is greatly higher among young men. The political changeover (Metapolitefsi) was a huge positive incision (this is something we always tend to forget) regarding the female position in Greece both socially and economically. The economic crisis places the role of the two sexes in the forefront. The value shift realized in Metapolitefsi has deprived Greek men from their ability to embody the masculine ideal of bringing food and leading the family. The crisis today seals this shift given that, even if they wanted to, the unemployment and the reduction of incomes, forbids them to play this autonomous and utterly dominant role in the division of power inside the family. Thus, echoing the analyses of the Frankfurt School regarding the "authoritarian personality" which supported fascism, economic and social "castration" of the Greek man is replenished by extremely violent and masculine options (until recently, cultural, and only during the last period also political). Violence in the stadiums, the emergence of body building as a particular aesthetic ideal, and the aesthetic codes of nightlife for years showed the emergence of this new defensive sexism. The Golden Dawn is the authentic political expression of this new sexism, as a request to restore a social order where the woman stays in the kitchen and paranoid homophobia (which discovers sexual perversions everywhere, to cover any "deficiency") in authority. A similar trend clearly emerged with both the Neo-Nazi attack against the two parliamentary candidates of the Left (what seems to make him feel humiliated and react so that he was attacked by women), and some of the supportive comments for the act, which was expressed these days in private talks in Greece.