Last week, a senior Greek police officer claimed that the far-right party Golden Dawn had infiltrated the Greek police force. The officer reported that, for the last few years, the Greek state had been fully aware of the illicit activities of Golden Dawn but instead of clamping down on their behaviour, the state had turned a blind eye to the radical party. The state, he said, effectively are using these 'pockets of fascism' at their disposal, particularly against the Greek left, that has led popular street protests against the government and the recent austerity cuts imposed by the IMF.
This not the first time allegations that close ties between Golden Dawn and the police force have have been brought to light. Last May, the president of the Greek photojournalists' union suffered brain damage after being allegedly attacked by members of Golden Dawn. Earlier this month, at the Athens premiere of Terrence McNally's play, Corpus Christi - which depicts Jesus and his apostles as homosexuals living in modern Texas - members of the Golden Dawn, including several MPs protested, hurled stones and racist abuse at the crowd forcing the show to be cancelled. Throughout Athens, police are ignoring scores of attack on immigrants who are being left robbed and beaten.
Golden Dawn's influence in the Greek state goes deeper, and perhaps more worryingly, it finds its foothold in the Greek parliament. In 2010, Golden Dawn received 5.3% of the vote in the municipality of Athens, winning a seat in the City Council. This year, however, running in the national election, the party led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos winning 7% of the popular vote and 21 seats in parliament. Following the second election in June, this was reduced to 18 seats.
The rise of the far-right party comes at a time when immigration is seen as a threat to the very fabric of Greek identity. European policies states that countries within the European Union are allowed to deport undocumented immigrants back to their point of entry. Often, this is Greece; used as a back door for heavy flows of Middle Eastern and Asian migrants. With 1.5million of Greece's 11 million population being immigrants, of them 40% make up Greece's prison population, Golden Dawn's virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric is resonating amongst local Greeks who feel dismayed with the economic and political direction of their economy.
More broadly, the rise of Golden Dawn reflects the move of the far-right in mainstream European politics over the past decade. For example, the success of Le Pen in this year's French election and the growing calls for Catalonian independence, highlight the growing discontent in Europe towards those who govern. These movements resonate amongst the concerns of many voters: that the promise of modern globalization has brought more instability and new insecurities, that mass immigration is threatening local and national identity, and that secularism is taking hold.
The question remains as to how best to respond to the rise of the far-right. Improving social conditions would go a long way, although this can simply not be done as austerity measures forced on indebted European nations that is stretching the fabric of society to its breaking point - never is this more evident in Greece. The youth unemployment rate is at 50%, aid and pensions for the elderly and disabled have practically been dismantled, and rioting and violent crimes litter the streets. People are finding their voice in anger, not reason. When governments lose the will of the people, anxiety creeps in and people search for an outlet for answers.
If anything, the timing of the Nobel Peace prize is ironic. If the European Union is serious about sticking to the values and the principles upon which it was formed, it must recognise that bringing unity to a country where the memories of civil war are all too recent is paramount. Austerity measures will do nothing but create unrest and divide country, allowing parties such as Golden Dawn to rise up through the cracks.
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