Via Meadia has been keeping a close eye on Golden Dawn, the far-right Greek political party that won its first ever seats in Parliament this year and has been growing more popular by the day. A weekend article at the Washington Post talks about why many Greeks are starting to love and rely on Golden Dawn, and why many others are scared stiff:
To fulfill its promise of a Greece for Greeks alone, the party appears willing to go to great lengths. Its supporters — in some instances with the alleged cooperation of police — stand accused of unleashing a rash of violence since the party rose to national office, including the stabbings and beatings of immigrants, ransacking an immigrant community center, smashing market stalls and breaking the windows of immigrant-owned shops.
Attacks have not stopped at foreigners. One Golden Dawn legislator slapped a left-wing female politician on national television. Party supporters have attempted to shut down performances of progressive theater. Activists see the party’s hand behind three recent beatings of gay men. The Golden Dawn has also begun engaging left-wing anarchy groups in street battles — more evidence, observers say, of a societal breakdown that some here fear could slide into a civil war if Greece is forced out of the euro and into an even deeper crisis.
But perhaps more worrisome, critics say, are signs that the Golden Dawn is establishing itself as an alternative authority in a country crippled by the harsh austerity imposed by its international lenders. It has set up its own “pure” blood bank, providing and accepting donations to and from Greeks only, in a nation of 11 million that is also home to roughly 1.5 million refugees and migrants, many of them from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. As the party attempts to place a swelling number of unemployed in jobs, its officials say they have persuaded a major restaurant chain to begin replacing immigrants with Greek workers.
Fiscal austerity and a tough economy are making life difficult for Greeks:
One in every four Greeks is without work. Youth unemployment is above 50 percent. The suicide rate is climbing. Medical treatments for cancer and other illnesses have become harder to get. Growing intravenous drug use is causing a spike in the rate of HIV infection, according to a study published in the Lancet medical journal.
One consequence of this situation is the rise of Golden Dawn. A recent poll put its popularity at 22 percent across the country, a huge increase from June when it won 7 percent of the parliamentary vote. Its popularity is based on its social services, and many Greeks view the party as a go-to problem solver. But its leaders
vilify glorify Hitler, and its operatives speak of “cleaning up” immigrant neighborhoods.
“Greece fought the fascists in World War II, thousands of Jews ended up in crematoriums and now we are facing this threat again. . . . This is being caused by the tough conditions Greece is being forced to endure. Extremists are taking advantage of the situation.” Greek Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis told the Post.
Bad things happen when European politics are dragged to the fascist right.
[Editor’s note: Updated at 5:11 p.m., 10/11/2012]