Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Back in Black

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Back in Black

Article excerpt

It was an unwelcome echo of Europe's past: as black-clad henchmen barked instructions at journalists, ejecting those who refused to show "respect" by standing up, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the greying leader of Greece's neo - Nazi Golden Dawn, hailed his party's unprecedented entry into parliament. Waving his fists like a practised demagogue, he threatened retribution "for those who betray this homeland". Then came a promise: "The Europe of the nations returns. Greece is only the beginning."

The sudden emergence of Golden Dawn - an obscure fringe party only a year ago but which won 21 seats in the 6 May general election - is the latest symptom of political turmoil to hit Greece as it struggles to cope with EU-imposed austerity. Mainstream parties have fallen like dominoes as Greek voters, angry at being punished by a fiscal compact that protects northern Europe's wealthier economies, look for politicians who have not been tarnished by compromise with the Brussels elite.

Many have turned left, but 7 per cent of voters chose Golden Dawn, which promises to "clean" Greece of immigrants and uses a swastika-like emblem on its flag. In the words of one Greek Jewish leader, "They don't deny the Holocaust they - desire it."

The spectacle has made outside observers shudder, while the millions of Greeks who did not vote for Golden Dawn are justifiably disgusted. Greece has not suddenly turned to fascism - and although Michaloliakos was a supporter of the military junta that ruled the country from 1967 to 1974, there is no special darkness in the Greek psyche that lends itself to extremist politics. Golden Dawn's gains, which can be reversed, were achieved with techniques employed by the far right in other countries. It stood "ordinary" candidates - members of the public who had been drawn to the party in recent months - for election and it won some support by imposing vigilante patrols in urban neighbourhoods. …

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