Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Spot the obnoxious fascist… and other reflections on Greek politics
Above is a discussion between Syriza’s Petros Tatsopoulos and Golden Dawn’s Ilias Panagiotaros, regarding Golden Dawn’s recent picketing of the play, Corpus Christi, which apparently depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexual swingers. If you can follow Greek, then I’ll leave it to you to decide who is the obnoxious fascist here.
More generally, there is still not much hope for Greece, as it slides inexorably towards the political abyss. Latest opinion polls still show Syriza in front, at 26 percent, four percent or so ahead of centre-right New Democracy, which is currently the lead party in the governing coalition. Syriza, an agglomeration of romantic but worryingly sincere anarchists and Marxists, has been boosted by ex-supporters and stalwarts of the almost-defunct socialist party Pasok, many of whom are still hankering for the good old days of clientelism and trade union/public sector tyranny.
Nationalist, anti-immigrant Golden Dawn is third in the polls, on 13.5 percent; although this probably underestimates its real support as some Greeks no doubt feel it somewhat taboo to express sympathy for a party still, by and large, ostracised and demonised by the mainstream media.
At the elections in June, opinion polls showed Golden Dawn’s support at around four percent, but it eventually got around seven percent of the vote. This suggests that Golden Dawn’s current electoral support may be nearer 20 percent. Nevertheless, it still remains unlikely that such a radical and shunned party will get close to government any time soon, although it says itself that its primary aim is not to take power in Greece, but to change the nature of the debate in the country, to bring the issues that matter to it most – immigration, national identity, national sovereignty – to the top of the political agenda. Golden Dawn’s politics will remain grassroots and street level, eschewing the niceties or complexities of the bureaucratic or parliamentary game.
Immediately above is a video of Shiites celebrating Ashura in Piraeus. It’s a grotesque spectacle, so grotesque that the video appears on youtube with this caution: ‘The following content has been identified… as being potentially offensive or inappropriate. Viewer discretion is advised’, while the Chicago Tribune advises: ’WARNING: Graphic Video.’
In London, Shiites commemorate the day with a peaceful march, with the occasional beating of chests to express mourning for the death of Hussein, a founding father of their branch of Islam. There is no way UK police or authorities, normally so indulgent of these things, would have allowed the shocking display that took place in Greece to have occurred here. Greece, it seems, has no idea of how to deal with immigrants. It doesn’t know whether to beat them up, round them up and send them home or let them do what they want, without restriction or limits.
The video was produced by Euronews and the title it gives to the video is: ‘Greek Shiites Mark the Day of Ashura’. Greek Shiites? I don’t think so.
As you can see, I’ve had a couple of exchanges with Yanis Varoufakis on twitter. I like Varoufakis. He’s charismatic, has a nice turn of phrase, his Global Minotaur thesis is compelling and, so far, his gloomy predictions and scathing criticisms of the way the Eurozone crisis has been handled and affected Greece have proved accurate. (And there is no reason to doubt his withering assessment, in the second exchange, of last night’s attempt by Greece’s creditors to definitively deal with the crisis).
My problem with Varoufakis is that he is part of that nihilistic, permissive intellectual elite that, after 1974, took over Greek mass media, education and culture and significantly contributed to the breakdown Greece is currently enduring.
In many ways, Golden Dawn (and LAOS before it) is challenging the hegemony of this intellectual elite and the bitterness and ferocity of the debate between Tatsopoulos and Panagiotaros reflect this cultural war. It is no coincidence that a lot of Golden Dawn’s senior members (and no doubt many of its supporters) are people whose experiences and views were shaped by service in the armed forces, where the values of Greek nationalism (and Greek machismo [λεβεντιά and παλικαρισμός] – a key component of Golden Dawn’s makeup and attraction) remain entrenched.
Regarding my first tweet, Varoufakis takes my provocation with politeness and good humour, even if his response is unsatisfactory, inasmuch as, even though, of course, he has a perfect right to have a Swiss bank account, the fact that he has one (and appears to think nothing of it) points to a massive gap in lifestyle and experiences between Greece’s elite and the rest of the population.
Of course, such a gap exists everywhere, not just in Greece, but in Greece it takes the particular form of a cosmopolitan class that feels Greece is too small and suffocating for its talents and looks elsewhere for its influences and inspiration. I doubt many of this cosmopolitan class knows Greece or Greeks that well. Indeed, based on my own experiences of Greece and Greeks – which have been, essentially, that of an outsider – it was obvious to me from ages ago that attempts to turn Greece into a ‘multicultural’ society, hosting mass immigration, would be resisted by many Greeks, who would not meekly surrender their homogeneity and way of life. The notion that Greeks, because of their experience as immigrants and foreign oppression, would or should welcome with open arms hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic migrants, was utterly fanciful, disdainful and ignorant of Greek history and national self-perception.