When anti-racist rapper Pavlos Physsas was stabbed to death by Nazi thugs in the streets of working class Keratsini, near Athens, Greek society was forced to acknowledge that the serpent’s egg had not only hatched but that it had produced a venomous snake intent on taking a terrible toll. No longer content to bash migrants and to intimadate their opponents, the Golden Dawn thugs had calculatingly adopted a new tactic: Unleashing deadly violence against leftwing activists – first against a group of nine communist party members, whom they hospitalised, and soon after with Pavlos’ deliberate murder. Click here for my radio interview with Radio 2SER, Sydney, Australia, on the deeper causes of this ‘incident’. For a piece on what needs to be done,…
Golden Dawn’s new strategy should be understood in the context of two separate, but intertwined, motives.
First, Greece’s Nazi thugs chose to take advantage of the government’s chosen tactic of seeking legitimacy behind the hideous strategy of portraying the official opposition party, Syriza, as the ‘other side of the Golden Dawn coin’. Mr Samaras’ government, once its Greek Success Story proved offensive hot air; after yet another large Greek corporation moved its headquarters outside of Greece; after unemployment received another boost; with the fiscal adjustment program (on whose altar millions of Greeks have been sacrificed) in tatters – saw a out-and-out clash between the Greek Left (of which Syriza is the major force) and Golden Dawn as a godsent; as a wonderful opportunity to present itself as the only bastion of stability and peace in the Land. Golden Dawn, fully cognisant of this, saw an opportunity to realise these expectations of the cleptocracy-in-power by actually unleashing a series of atttacks of leftists. The spirit of the Civil War, from which Greece suffered so enormously in the second part of the 1940s, thus returned to haunt our society.
Secondly, a week or so ago, the chief economics correspondent of influential SKAI tv and Kathimerini newpspaper, Mr Babis Papadimitriou, made an extraordinary statement live on air. In a discussion with a member of Syriza, he asked: “If your party is thinking of seeking a vote of confidence from the communist party, why should Mr Samaras’ New Democracy not seek the support of a serious Golden Dawn?” A ‘serious’ Golden Dawn? While Mr Papadimitriou, with whom I have appeared on SKAI tv numerous times, was clearly repeating the mantra of the present coalition government (namely that Golden Dawn and Syriza are the different faces of extremism), he unwittingly causes a backlash within Golden Dawn. As Golden Dawn officials stated on their website, they refuse, point-blanc, to get ‘serious’; to be co-opted by the conservative New Democracy. While clearly happy to play the role of Syriza’s deadly foes, they are not going to taint the ‘Nazi purism’ with any notion of lending their parlaimentary votes to New Democracy. Pavlos Physsas’ horrendous murder served, partially, as a signal of the Golden Dawn’s determination not to be co-opted by New Democracy. At least not on New Democracy’s terms.
What should we do about these thugs?
Now that we are attending funerals of leftists, like Physsas, it is natural for large numbers of progressives to think that the solution to the Gloden Dawn ‘problem’ is the criminalisation of that horrific can of worms. But I beg to differ. And to differ with all the firce I can conjure up.
The Nazis have two allies: First, the desperation of the dispossessed masses generated by the self-reinforcing economic crisis, in conjunction with the political class’ inability to end it. Secondly, the knee-jerk reaction of those of us horrified by the Nazis, at a time when we are overflowing in rage at the sight of their victims.
At the same time, two are our worst counsels on matters constitutional: Mourning and anger. The sight of Golden Dawn deputies, in Parliament, provoking and taunting moments after their stormtroopers had killed Pavlos Physsas, naturally make us want to put that ‘party’ of villains beyond the pale; to render it illegal; to throw them out of Parliament by some act of Parliament.
What an awful mistake that would be!
Our basic difference with the Nazis is our tileration of the Other, of the Different, of the Dissident.
Our basic difference with the Nazis is that we reject the idea that we have the right to suppress (via private or state violence) the genes, the ideas or the seuality of those with genes that differ to ours, those who entertain ideas that we disdain, to people of a sexuality that we do not share or understand.
In contrast, the basic notion that brings us together, in opposition to the Nazis and independently of our differences, is the conviction that, while their violence and ideas deserve zero tolerance from us, they ought not be persecuted for their beliefs. And here is the rub: How to combine zero tolerane for the Nazis without criminalising their ideas and without prohibiting the participation of their disgusting party in the electoral process.
Undoubtedly, this is not an easy task. Yet it is imperative that we try to bring it to fruition.
For if we do nothing, and merely continue, as a society, to tolerate the Golden Dawn’s poisonous, racist soup kitchens (the purpose of which is to eclude hungry migrants from them); their threats to those who do not bow their heads to them; their violence, etc. – we shall have a lot to answer for to future generations.
At the same time, if we hide behind a legal ban of Golden Dawn and condone the criminilsation of their ideas and political activism, we will have made a substantial gift to the Nazis – having had accepted, de facto, the idea that the majority has the right to suppress the ideas and legal political activism of those that the majority dislikes.
The criminalisation of Nazi ideas and parties is, in the end, not only an ineffective way of fighting them but also an ideological defeat on the part of the democrats. It is the ‘easy solution’. And as is always the case, an ‘easy solution’ is never a real solution.
What alternative do we have? We have the alternative, as a society, as neighbours, as citizens, to implement the principle of Zero Tolerance throughout the breadth and the width of our Land.
I dream of a Greece in which, every time Golden Dawn thugs dare distribute their pamphlets, in some farmers’ market, at the motorway tolls, in schoolyards, thousands of Greeks gather to boo them, to challenge them. Without fear or passion. Determined peacefully to face down their violent tendencies and to shame them into submission.
I dream of a Parliament in which Zero Tolerance to the Nazi MPs is practised by all non-Nazi MPs, rightwing and leftwing, supporters of the government’s austerity package and its ardent opponents alike. Without any interest in playing strategeic games that allow the Nazis to divide us and therefore to rule in substantive ways.
Naturally, such a posture of Zero Tolerance for the Nazis requires hard work. It exposes us to danger, when we come face-to-face with lovers to brute force and naked violence. It demands of us that we become ‘inconvenienced’.
For these reasons, it is understandable that many prefer the ‘nationalisation’, the state solution, to the Nazi ‘problem’ – a legal ban of the Golden Dawn party. However, in this field of confict against genuine evil, there is no room for statist solutions. Humanity’s worst nightmare, Nazism that is, must be fought on the basis of private initiatives and spontaneous collective action by citizens who autonomously, but also cooperatively, choose to erect a Wall of Intolerance to the Nazis – without resorting to the ‘easy’ solution of asking the state to kill this particular serpent.