George Iordanou Politics, Philosophy and (not much) Real Life

Greek elections, racism and Golden Dawn

I have a comment to make about the Greek elections, which I have trouble communicating within twitter’s 140 character limit.

It is about the entrance of the Nazist party, called Golden Dawn, into the Greek parliament. The elections brought to our notice something that we already knew; namely, that roughly one in every ten Greeks is a racist. Nothing new here. What is new, is that the racists managed to organise themselves into a political party. Is this necessarily bad? If we consider that Hitler came to power in a likewise manner through a small and irrelevant party it surely seems worrying.

There is another interpretation though, which challenges the dominant narrative that wants the phenomenon of racism to be something new. What is new, is that these people, the racists, abandoned the existing political parties in favour of Golden Dawn; an organisation which became a formal political party only three years ago. Where were these racists before? Golden Dawn is roughly thirty years old, yet it was never as popular as it is now, and it is not the only political party that supports and promotes racism. Before the rise of the Golden Dawn, the main advocates of racism in Greek politics were the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), who lost most of its supporters after they joined the last coalition government of Lucas Papademos, accepting and supporting the austerity measures of the troika (EU, IMF, ECB). Most of LAOS supporters, were former New Democracy (ND) voters and active members. The close ties between the two were evident in the parliament, were they supported each other’s policies, especially on hot matters like immigration and border control.

Racism in Greece is not something that existed in void prior to yesterday. All recent governments institutionally enforced racism through the use of the police, a phenomenon that unfortunately is not exclusive to the right-wing parties. The Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK), under the former Prime Minister George Papandreou has either orchestrated, or to say the least tolerated, various incidents of police violence against immigrants. Moreover, outside the parliament, in the mainstream media, racism is as prevalent as ever. Newspapers and TV stations are eager to stress the problems arising by the increase of immigration, even at periods were immigration is actually declining. Moreover, there is a tendency to overemphasise the ethnicity of an individual only if he or she committed a wrong-doing, and only if that person is not Greek.

Another source of racism is the educational curriculum, which promotes a static version of Greekness, one that derives directly from the Ancient Greeks and is based on notions of superiority and authenticity, promoting exclusion and suspicion against anyone that is not Greek in this narrow and restrictive sense. The Greek Orthodox Church has played a leading role in this process, since they frequently support racist views, or advocate for racist policies, both at the civil and at the institutional level. One example off the top of my head is the case of non-Greek students that score the highest marks in Greek high schools. These students are denied (by some schools) the right to hold the Greek flag (a customary right for the top students of each Greek-speaking high school). What is ironic that in some cases, the children who were denied this right, are Greek nationals born and raised in Greece, who are denied the right to hold the flag because their parents have a dual nationality and are hence not Greek in the ‘proper’ sense of the word.

Therefore to say that racism is a recent phenomenon in Greece, or that it is merely a response to the austerity measures is plainly wrong. Racism is an integral part of the Greek society. The question that remains is whether the concentration of the racist votes to the Golden Dawn means that other parties will have the chance to promote less nationalist policies. Does the rise of the Golden Dawn mean that the traditional conservative party, New Democracy, will become less racist in the absence of these extreme members, or that it will become more racist in order to get them back. In short, are the mainstream parties (whatever that means anymore), cleaner now that they lost the racist vote?

I don’t have an answer but something that is often discussed in twitter worries me: there is a debate about a possible coalition of non-extreme parties. In this coalition, LAOS, is considered a non-extreme party, and the Golden Dawn, is considered extreme, exactly like the Greek Communist Party (KKE). The KKE is anachronistic and archaic in many respects, yet it is most definitely not an extreme party. In fact, it would not be far fetched to call it conservative. This worries me because it demonstrates a potential of legitimisation of the Golden Dawn. As I said, I don’t have answers to these pressing matters, as it would require quite a bit of guess work. My prediction would be that if (and this is a big if) a government is formed, especially a coalition headed by ND, everything will return to business as usual.

About the author

George Iordanou

I'm mostly interested in politics and philosophy, which makes up for the majority of this blog. As this is an archive of what I have written over the years, it also provides a glimpse into my personal life. I'm currently working in the humanitarian sector. In my past life I was in academia where I completed a Ph.D. in political theory with focus on multicultural citizenship. I'm one of the few people lucky enough to be given the opportunity to actually practice their research interests. Needless to say, whatever I write here is strictly my personal opinion and does not represent anyone else.

You can also find me on twitter @iordanou.


  • At some point last week you had enquired on twitter why was everybody panicking over XA. It’s exactly as you’ve expressed it in the article: “Hitler came to power in a likewise manner through a small and irrelevant party”. I would also like to add that in time of great economic depression and tremendous social problems he managed to become Prime Minister and the rest is history. This is why we were worried.

    What worries me personally, is not XA’s racist beliefs which I’ve come to accept as an “integral part of Greek society” as you say and as an important issue in Cypriot society as well.

    What worries me is XA’s blatant disregard for personal liberties and their disrespect for the Constitution under which they were elected. They did not enter the parliament in order to give voice to their racist beliefs, they entered the parliament in an effort to abolish the constitution and promote their agenda from within.

    Now on the issue of KKE, I personally regard it to be an “extreme” party in that it doesn’t accept the Greek constitution either and would also like to abolish it. Or at least, this has been their traditional position for many years. It is a conservative party in that it has retained a very “traditionally” communist rhetoric and hasn’t updated it’s worldview.

    It has no resemblance to the radical left that is currently shooting businessmen in Genova, but wouldn’t you call the standing request of abolishing the constitution under which you’re elected and re-elected term after term a little extreme?

    My comment is starting to rival your post in length so I will bid you good night. Thank you for a great post.

  • Thanks a lot for the comment, don’t worry about it’s length, the bigger the better (no pun intended). I absolutely agree with the first three of your paragraphs. I get the Hitler-related worry, which is indeed a justified one, and I am, like you, also worried about Golden Dawn’s total disregard for the constitution, as well as for their frequent use of physical coercion.

    Our opinions part on the issue of the Greek Communist Party (KKE). When a political party is described as extreme, two things are possible: (i) a party holds extreme views, meaning that the party holds views that are not mainstream, that is, views that do not represent the majority of the country’s population; or, the other explanation would be that (ii) a party is extreme in itself, meaning that the party wants to abolish the constitution, and actually acts upon it, like Golden Dawn’s disregard for the institutions of the state.

    I will grand you that KKE is ‘extreme’ in the first sense. It holds views that are non-mainstream today, even though they were mainstream a while ago. As I argued in the last paragraph of the post, I don’t consider their views to be radical (progressive), so I agree with you on that, but I disagree with your claim that they call for the abolishment of the constitution. If that was so, I would put them in the second category, and they would be indeed rightfully understood as ‘extreme’ in the sense that Golden Dawn is. But, how is a party which participates in the democratic processes of the Greek state ‘extreme’ in the second sense of the world?

    Here’s a rather extreme example to demonstrate my point: I really really want to be able to teleport. Seriously, it is what I live for, I live for the day that I will be able to click a button and find myself in Australia. Does that mean that I am actively undermining the aviation industry? I think not. As long as I pay for my tickets and follow the rules, I am actually reinforcing the industry, rather than undermine it. Of course, I may whine every once in a while about how cool it would be to be able to teleport instead of waiting for ages at the border control, or I may even donate money for teleportation research, but this does not mean that I actively undermine the dominant mainstream travelling medium.

    Now that the silly example is over, let us return to the facts. The fact is that KKE actually fought for democracy. The other fact is that for nearly half a century, KKE is participating in the democratic elections, both at the local, national and regional level. Their main (practical) political goal is to improve labour conditions, and redistribute wealth. In this respect they are like any other social democratic party. What ‘makes’ them extreme, is that they don’t form alliances, and that their interpretation of communism is obsolete. That being said, their unwillingness to cooperate with other parties is their democratic right, and their inspirations for a future revolution that would overthrow capitalism, is by no means a threat to democracy, because they simply don’t act upon it. They are not actively attacking anyone. In fact, it is KKE’s youth that often guards democratic protests against the attacks of right-wing fundamentalists like Golden Dawn, and it is KKE who encourages the political engagement of individuals within the civil society to defend the democratic institutions which are being eroded by capitalism (or by ‘the markets’ as the latest vague term goes—see for example the appointment of Papademos by the troika).

    This is why I am frustrated when people equate KKE and Golden Dawn, or when people attack “communism” in general, because there is no such thing other than the uneducated idea that communism is the abolition of democracy, the institution of equal pay irrespective of contribution, and a huge state that will be dominated by a dictator with a big moustache.

  • KKE’s contribution to the Greek democracy is invaluable and frequently overlooked. Which is why even though I would categorise their *views* as extreme, I would never put them in the same sack with Golden Dawn.

    I just wish KKE was more active in Parliament, proposing legislation and… doing things. I think their “inactivity” and complete refusal to agree with anyone on anything is alienating their base. Greece has a long history with the left, it is a pity that KKE is alienating more and more of its base every decade.

    I liked the teleportation analogy, by the way. I would invest in that kind of research too.

  • The Greek love of political theatre never wanes. Reality demands tribute though, collection for the ECB and every shade of politico will always grab as one grabs best, tax the public to damnation. Communists, Fascists, New Democrats et al feed from the same pig trough Brussels threatens to re-possess.

    There’s no such thing as Democracy anywhere in it’s present description. Ministers are proxy bank clerks rubber stamping technocrat policy for a fraudulent debt conjured up in algorithmic clusterfu*ks. I’ve played the market 30 years, today it’s bloody unapproachable and downright dangerous.

    Please, spare us the racism cue in the headlines next time you broach the subject. Populations from countries already plundered by international bankers were herded to Greece these past years. We all read the papers so there’s no need for political correctness, there are genuine and fake refugees.

    FDR is supposed to have said there aren’t any accidents in politics. Golden Dawn’s success has the distinct smell of skunk with it’s potential to further demoralise Greeks. At home it’s just another bitter pill to swallow but out here in the diaspora, we’re wondering why any idiot giving a Nazi salute doesn’t get a bitchslap for ignorance, regularly.

    Their play-acting is giving us the serious creeps. What moron doesn’t know what people went through at the hands of the Germans, don’t they have grandmothers?

    Charlatans, the lot of them!

    Two control mechanisms are at work here, the DEBT keeps Greeks stressed out and in line with government whims while the scary neo-Nazis send migrants to the state begging for protection in their own right. Nobody’s talking about how they or the Greeks will survive when the ECB spigot turns off.

    Golden Dawn’s backers haven’t deviated far from standard agitation models but their asinine use of identifiable fascist symbolism marks them out as contrived for nefarious purpose. They look ridiculous to begin with so the mockery supply can never run out and we’ll all be tarred with the same brush as nitwits.

    Who’s funding the Freak Show?

    Oh I forgot, all the parties split 30 million euros so they could ‘run’ for election. Greeks have the privilege of paying to have their own throats cut. Can you tell I’m livid?

    Thanks for your patience 😉

George Iordanou Politics, Philosophy and (not much) Real Life


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