Democracy and its enemies

Democracies have the right and the obligation to protect themselves from their enemies by taking measures against those who pose a threat to their existence. Western democracies know this well. They had to fight against the brutal Nazi regime during the Second World War. For this reason, when the war was over, the Allies took steps to promote the denazification of German society as well as its mechanisms. At the same time they introduced legislation designed to safeguard their own democratic polities. As the years went by, and as the European Union project moved on, national lawmakers cemented their constitutions so as to block any loopholes available to Nazi sympathizers of all stripes.

Too bad Greece failed to catch up. Most people here would like to believe that the average Greek is a stranger to the evils of fascism, racism, intolerance and xenophobia, and that they are allergic to violence. Greeks, the claim goes on, are born democrats and generous people; they have nothing but love and affection for all of God’s creations. At the same time, they are extremely courageous when they need to be. In other words, Greeks tend to view themselves as a rare species that is superior to – and for that reason envied – by all others. This is after all the meaning of all modern Greek mythology, this is the underlying message of all media, and the most popular view across the country’s social media.

The facts, of course, beg to differ. This is confirmed by the emergence, the acts and the popularity of Golden Dawn. Led by Nikos Michaloliakos, Greece’s neo-Nazi party has been following in the footsteps of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party on its path to power from 1923 to 1933. Golden Dawn, which currently controls 18 seats in Greece’s 300-member House, is the only indisputably Nazist and openly racist party to have grabbed seats in a European national parliament, sending shock waves across the continent.

Much thanks to Greeks’ lack of self-knowledge, Golden Dawn has so far been treated as a fringe phenomenon, a by-product of the financial crisis that has hit the country. Much like soccer hooliganism, far-right violence has been treated as the work of a small bunch of idiotic thugs. This could not be further from the truth. The ideology of Golden Dawn, the vocabulary, the aggression, the body language, the actions are all in tune with the whims of a far larger chunk of society that have in the past been manifested in an isolated, disorderly fashion. The ground is fertile for Golden Dawn to grow even stronger. If it is to survive, our democracy must keep its guard up.