OPINION

The night porters

Who remembers the German democrats of the time of the Nazi ascendance? What we don’t forget is that — despite several heroic, tragic figures who resisted — they failed to stop their country’s slide to dictatorship and disaster.

All the good intentions, the ideological squabbles, the failed compromises, the passions, the temporary victories, the excuses, the death of each — all count for nothing now. Only the consequences of their failure matter. If they knew this then, would the German conservatives, the extreme Left, the Catholics, Protestants, Jews and atheists have acted differently when they first saw that ridiculous and obviously deranged little man leading his thugs determinedly to absolute power? Would they have joined forces, would they have forced their institutions to protect the State, or would they have again waited for catastrophe as if it were inevitable?

It is impossible to avoid such thoughts when we see our own political establishment fragmenting under the pressure of popular anger and the weight of its responsibility, while bigotry and violence intrude on our lives more each day. Whatever our excuses, whatever our political and personal differences, no matter how hard our creditors press, it is we — the citizens of all political persuasions ?- who bear final responsibility for whatever befalls our country.

Greece is not the Weimar Republic. Our country is an equal member of the European Union, but our people have a dangerous tendency toward fanaticism and division. Today, our institutions’ inaction (either selectively or through incompetence) and the lack of confidence of a government forced to implement harsh and often unsuccessful measures, have created an explosive mix: while many citizens feel rage and insecurity, nothing has been done to stop a pseudo-paramilitary organization from pretending to fill the vacuum left by the State. On the contrary, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn’s entry into Parliament has provided a new legitimacy that its members have taken as license to behave as if they are now the State, as if they are the ones who decide who is allowed to pass through doors of which they are self-proclaimed guardians.

It is indicative of the State’s long-term incompetence, but also of our political establishment’s talent for self-destruction, that this extremist group’s criminal actions are not stamped out immediately and effectively. As long as the State, the government and institutions do not shoulder their responsibility to protect the citizens, to prosecute every crime (whether by corrupt politicians, by illegal immigrants, by police, or thugs of any political color), they undermine our civilization further and allow the power grab by groups that are accountable to no one. Also, how long will our Church stay silent in the face of groups that thrive on violence and fear?

From the June elections, when Golden Dawn’s parliamentary presence was confirmed, the party has seen an impressive increase in support. According to a Public Issue poll (for SKAI and Kathimerini), with figures from May through to October, Golden Dawn saw its approval rating rise from 16 percent before the elections to 21 percent now. The greatest rise in support has come from people with the lowest educational level (climbing from 13 percent to 26 percent), in semi-urban areas (from 20 percent to 27 percent) and in rural areas (from 16 percent to 23 percent). Support among the unemployed remains unchanged at 26 percent, while in the 35-44-year age group it has climbed from 20 percent to 26 percent and among those aged 45-54 it has shot up from 13 percent to 21 percent.

Clearly, Golden Dawn has found fertile ground and is establishing itself strongly even in parts of the population that had not noticed it before or had reservations about supporting the group. It is succeeding even though it does not hide its violence — in fact, perhaps because it shows its true self, giving many the illusion that with Golden Dawn at their side they are strong and confident, not weak and insecure.

If the rest of us do not understand that we must join forces in the face of this threat, that we must demand the implementation of the law in every instance, that legitimate political forces and institutions must secure better conditions for citizens, we will continue to slide into the dark.