Is Greek Democracy really gone with the Rise of Golden Dawn

No it’s not a sequel to the Patrick Swayze classic Red Dawn, an excellent film and little known trivia fact also the first PG-13 film. No, Golden Dawn is actually a “neo-fascist”, or according to its critics a neo-Nazi, political party in Greece.

You will recall the Greek TV debate in which the heads of the major parties were physically fighting, the head of Gold Dawn was the guy who throws the water and the first punch in that Battle Royal.

Anyhow, a Gold Dawn has been rising in Greece. It was not that long ago that Gold Dawn was something rarely discussed or taken seriously in Greek politics. Golden Dawn was seen as a secret organization with questionable legality. Most people avoided even talking about it, the liberals in the media would have you believe because the political party was a radical “right-wing” nationalist group, in reality I think it more has something to do with the fact Greece was not the bastion of democracy in the 20th century as it was in the 400th century BC.

But regardless why the party was unpopular, Gold Dawn has become “mainstream”. As a matter of fact the party now has a parliamentary foothold with 18 seats in the 300 seat Greek parliament.

Currently, the party is rising in the polls. This is impart thanks to concerns over the illegal immigration situation which many Greeks believe is further harming the already down and out economy, and of course the huge austerity measures that are being forced on the Greeks by both a dysfunctional Athens and a distant non-Greek Brussels. As a matter of fact if elections were held today, Golden Dawn would probably constitute the 3rd largest party in parliament; it is currently the 5th. This of course would be very bad for the coalition government that is doing its best to keep Greece afloat, as the current government is made up of the top 3 parties, all of which are not called Golden Dawn.

According to some experts, the formula for an extreme right-wing political party to become popular is present in Greece. Most Greeks are very upset about the economy and the illegal immigration problem is creating an outside group to place the blame on. Also, many Greeks are thoroughly disgusted or disillusioned with the current government/political parties.

With a weak state unable to operate in most of the country, Golden Dawn is taking on a much more proactive role. The party has provided charity and administrated towns in the dysfunctional regions of the country. Additionally, the party has ramped up attacks on immigrants, both legal and illegal, while the police just standby watching the assault unfold.

But we should note that Golden Dawn is still a long way off from taking control of Greece. Most reports indicate that a majority of Greeks find the party too radical and too extreme.

However, it should be noted that the current government is unstable and unpopular. Times are bad in Greece, and the major parties are at best lackluster. When Golden Dawn steps into play local politics and the only team with momentum it could lead to major change in Greece in the near future. After all most Italians are quick to remind you that Mussolini made the trains run on time, but then again, if this is momentum dependent, momentum is only as good as the next arm in the bullpen, so to speak.

That being said, there is much more to this story than just a bad economy and a movement pointing to “other” as the scapegoat. That is a typical oversimplified blurb that you can get anywhere. Let’s actually take a look at the heart of the matter.

Robert Kaplan wrote a geopolitical briefing about the Greek elections for Stratfor over the summer. His primary focus was that Greece was too geographically important for anyone to allow it to sink into an abyss of the modern world. But there are some points that we can take from his briefing and actually make a much more detailed analysis of the rise of Golden Dawn.

For starters, Greece is at the cross roads of geography. Greece is located at the edge of the Western and Eastern worlds. Though many are quick to call Greek civilization the father of the West, its geographic location forces it to gravitate to the east just as much as the west. And whereas the West is portrayed as liberal and individualistic, the East could be portrayed as its totalitarian and statist polar opposite.

Further, geographically speaking, Greece has a more difficult topography than most countries we normally consider as western and democratic. The rough mountainous landscape with limited arable land forced even the most “progressive” of the ancient Greek city-states to adopt collectivist policies. Even a maritime outlook did not fully compensate for the harsh realities of Greek topography.

So, to assume that Greece would reject a movement like Golden Dawn, which might be accurately defined as neo-fascist, because of a western gravitation is flawed. Such a claim holds little water compared to the severe limitations of the geographic reality.

Further, from a historical and cultural perspective defining Greece as an equally eastern state holds true as well. Even in antiquity, many aspects of Greece were not democratic, liberal or individual in nature. For instants, Athens’ perennial rival, and in my estimation the most successful Greek city-state, Sparta shared very little of the traditional Greek high cultural norms many in the west attribute to Greece of this time. Sparta should be seen as more eastern in temperament than western.

What is more, ancient Greece could be seen as the western most reach of the rear east ancient empires. One could argue that the Greek city-states had more in common with the Persian, Mesopotamian and Egyptian empires than they did with their western contemporaries.

Taking this a step further, as Greece was the gateway to the West, or East depending on your geographic position, Greece found itself ruled by two eastern oriented empires for most of its history. Between the Byzantine Empire, essentially the EASTERN Roman empire reconstituted around Constantinople and EASTERN Christianity, and the Ottoman Turkish Empire, Greece fell under eastern control. These empires had little respect for Greece with liberal western traditions. Therefore, one should not say that Greece was a bastion of the western world. After all, most of its political developments were not under western powers.

Even 20th century Greece was not exactly liberal. Ravaged by war, domestic strife and revolution, Greece was more inclined to adopt a government of an authoritarian nature than a government that reflected it’s so called democratic virtues of yore. Several military coups in the last century replaced democracies with military juntas. And though America might overlook such events as small sacrifices in a much larger Cold War, for the Greek people these events helped to shape their political culture.

Even a democratic Greece is a little bit of a misnomer. Though elections did and to this day take place, the Greek political system is ravaged by patronage and corruption. Both of these make democracy extremely difficult. Instead of power resting in institutions and processes, a system ravaged by patronage and corruption puts power in the hands of strong individuals. That is not democratic.

This all seems to suggest that Greece might have a tendency, geographically, culturally and politically, to embrace Golden Dawn.

This is not to say that Greece will become a neo-fascist state, and that it is resigned to embrace Golden Dawn. It is meant to say that a strong possibility, based on these geographic and historical developments, of Golden Dawn becoming a more significant player in Greece. To ignore these trends and tendencies would foolish on the part of any commentary on Greece. 

Further it suggests that the points I have laid out are more important than the media’s arguments that right-wing nationalism or neo-fascism is taking hold at the fringes of Greek society because of a bad economy and an easily identifiable other to serve as a scapegoat.

These conditions existed in many other nations at many other times and have failed to lead to anything. Perhaps a good example of this could be seen in interwar Britain in the person of Oswald Mosley. Though he created a very popular fascist movement, it failed to take root. During his movement most famous rally against Britain’s Jewish population, Mosley’s men faced more opposition, from even non-Jews, than it got support. It should also be noted that Britain was extremely anti-Semitic at that time. A strong case could have been made for an “other” was ruining the devastated economy. But fascism never entered the mainstream of British political culture.

I would argue the main reason for this had nothing to do with differences in temporal realities between Britain and other fascist states. Rather, I contend that this has more to do with geographic and historical facts that limit, even severally limit in some cases, a man or the states course of action.

So in summation, to suggest that the media’s traditional formula for right-wing nationalism to flourish provides only a partial glimpse into a much more convoluted picture.

Just to reemphasis, this is not a fatalist argument. Greece may not follow Golden Dawn. Just as easily as a Golden Dawn also rises it could also set-ith just the same. But it should not come as a surprise, if ineptitudes in the Greek government and society persist, that Golden Dawn takes on a more significant role in Greece moving forward.

One thought on “Is Greek Democracy really gone with the Rise of Golden Dawn

  1. There was once the “Lost Generation”, immortalized in Gertrude Stein’s epigram in The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. But today’s generation shall be the “Forgotten Generation”. During the course of this generation, the “millenials” shall be overlooked and left to the margins of society by political and economic forces beyond the control of this “Forgotten Generation”.

    Just look at the town hall debate between Obama and Romney. Neither candidate addressed the concerns of the college student asking about his grim future. Politicians will not touch the concerns of the “Forgotten Generation”.

    From a political stand point, the “Forgotten Generation” will always be in the shadow of the “Baby Boomers”. The “Baby Boom” will dominate politics until the Boomer generation is too old and senile to hold office. Its sheer size makes this a force for politicians to court.

    Meanwhile, the “Forgotten Generation”, much smaller, is young and portrayed as disengaged in politics. Even if the generation did care, which I believe it does more so than any other generation in the past because of the fact that technology has made information more available than any other point in human history. But unfortunately you could compare the showdown between the “Forgotten Generation” and the “Baby Boomers” to Thermopylae. The smaller side will unfortunately get crushed. Math dictates the outcome here. The “Forgotten Generation” will never be large enough to escape the shadow of the “Baby Boomers” ahead of them. By the time the “Baby Boomers” phase out, a new younger generation will be ready to take up the mantle.

    Further economically, the “Forgotten Generation” will also find itself marginalized. Currently, this generation is struggling for a job. This is in large part due to the glut in the labor market. Firms are less willing to take a risk on a young professional to mold them into a better employ when there are older professionals out there looking for work.

    It is just like the NFL draft. Teams are willing to trade draft picks for older players who have been in the league for a while because the product is known. Whereas the draft choice, there is a huge risk it might not pan out.

    This could be said as well as the current American job market. Firms could choose to hire an older employ that will require less investment and training. The firm knows exactly what it will with this employ. Or it could risk time and effort on a young person who will require more work from the firms said to mold into a good professional with no guarantee the investment will pan out.

    As a result, the “Forgotten Generation” will never get the investment it needs to advance the economic ladder. With modern medicine, it is possible to see people working up until their 70s and 80s. This means the glut in the market will be with us for some time. It is conceivable that the “Forgotten Generation” will be eclipsed in the work force for a decade, at least. By that point, a younger and yes larger generation will be ready to start working. At this point, firms will choose the younger generation, because both will require the same amount of investment, but at least the younger generation, the ones who pan out, will have more years to work.

    As you can see, the future is bleak for the “Forgotten Generation”. Economically and politically, this generation will constantly be eclipsed and left to the margins. Of course this will have large social impacts. Just like the “Lost Generation”, this forgotten one will, as trends already indicate, put off “maturing rituals”, e.g. moving out, getting a job, marrying, etc. It will be like any number of short stories written on the “Lost Generation”, but this generation will be immature here in America. And what is worse for “right-wingers”, in the American sense of the term, the “Forgotten Generation” will look to government for assistance. This generation will be immature and government dependent.

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