Look at this picture. Can you guess who or what it is? No? Well I’ll tell you – it’s the new face of Greek democracy! His name is George Germenis, a black metal rocker, although he uses the stage name ‘Kaiadas’, after the chasm where Spartans threw deformed babies.
Germenis or Kaiadas – whose next album, incidentally, is called Long Live Death – was thrown into another chasm - the Greek parliament. He is there along with another twenty members of Golden Dawn, an extreme nationalist movement entering the assembly for the first time ever. It won seven percent of the poll in the election held last Sunday, that’s well over 400,000 votes. It’s a remarkable achievement considering that Golden Dawn was long in the murky twilight of Greek politics, securing less than one percent of the vote the last time round.
Kaiadas and Golden Dawn is a sign of the times, said the mayor of Salonika. They certainly are; a sign of the European times, a sign of Greek anger at the austerity programme imposed at the diktat of the European Union, a sign of the madness that has arisen from monetary union. It’s a consequence of the arrogance of the politicians and bureaucrats who govern the destiny of Europe, who believed that national electorates could be ignored and sidestepped with impunity.
Greece, sinking ever deeper into recession, wanted to make a gesture, and it has. In making the gesture, in retreating from the mainstream into the fringe, people were clear what they were voting against; it’s just that they seemed to have no clear idea what they were voting for. Since the election many have said that they were shocked over what they subsequently learned about Golden Dawn.
What have they learned? Why, that it’s racist, violently so, and reactionary, rejecting, in the words of its own manifesto, “the so-called Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.” It is also irredentist, rejecting Greece’s present borders. We are, in short, dealing with a Nazi-style party which has a Nazi-style logo, though it rejects the label, saying that they are inspired by the regime of Ioannis Metaxas. He was dictator of Greece on the threshold of the Second World War, himself inspired by – can you guess? – the Nazis. They had their Third Reich; he had his Third Hellenic Civilization. In time to come – who knows? -there may be a Fourth Hellenic Civilization.
Golden Dawn is led Nikolaos Michaloliakos, once jailed for the possession of explosives. In the best non-fascist style the party’s charter places him in total control. In the best non-fascist style the charter also authorises the straight armed Roman salute, or is that Greek salute? The leader, though, has eschewed such gestures when his people march into parliament. His people, incidentally, include one who was facing trial for allegedly allowing his car to be used for an assault on a left-wing university lecturer. I say ‘was’ because he will be facing trial no longer; he now enjoys parliamentary immunity.
The ascent of Golden Dawn should not be seen in isolation. The door was already held open, ironically, by the socialist Pasok party and New Democracy, the respectable face of Greek politics. In forcing through the austerity package insisted on by the European Central Bank and the IMF, they formed a less than respectable coalition with the Popular Orthodox Rally, another movement on the extremist fringe, closely allied with Golden Dawn. In other words, Greece’s political class, dancing to a tune played from Brussels, effectively made right-wing extremism a respectable choice.
"May God help us. I dread to think that they got in," said Maria Savelona, a 51-year-old widow, who claims not to have voted for the Golden boys. "People voted in anger, without thinking. When they realize what they did, they'll be afraid." They should be. It isn’t just Germenis, his heavy metal makeup, his knives and his fake blood. No; since the election people have been shown images of his party comrades smiling next to an Auschwitz crematorium.
Michaloliakos, in his first public appearance after the election, said that getting into parliament would not turn his "brave boys in black" into moderates. He warned those who "betrayed the motherland" to run scared, banging his clenched fist on the podium, a bodyguard on each side: "We are coming!" They certainly are.
Like one who, on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turned round, walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread.