False Dawn: Arrests of neo-Nazis in Greece will achieve little if the deeper malaise is not addressed

Closing down Golden Dawn will not prove a miracle cure for Greece

Share
Related Topics

No one, apart from neo-Fascists, doubts that the thuggish neo-Nazis of the Golden Dawn party have created a poisonous atmosphere in traumatised Greece. After emerging from obscurity only a few years ago, they soon migrated from verbally scapegoating gays, immigrants and leftists for all of the country’s problems to encouraging and even carrying out physical attacks. Their track record for violence explains why much of the Greek public holds Golden Dawn directly responsible for the recent murder of the left-wing rapper, Pavlos Fyssas. The chief suspect has admitted only to supporting the party and there is no suggestion as yet that he acted on orders from high. But for the embattled Greek state it has been enough to justify the arrest at the weekend of Golden Dawn’s leader, several MPs and other supporters, and to charge them with forming a “criminal gang”.

Many people feel relieved, believing that when a country’s democratic values are challenged as brazenly as they have been by Golden Dawn, democracy must roll up its sleeves and fight back. It is a strong argument, drawing on the conviction that Germany might have stopped the Nazis in their tracks had it outlawed them in 1932. A Greek minister may have had this in mind when he hailed Saturday’s arrests as an “historic day”. We must hope he is right, and that these events marked a turning point. At the same time, Greeks should not fantasise that rounding up Golden Dawn leaders will necessarily decapitate the movement, let alone that this will repress political extremism.

The authorities should also follow due process and limit prosecutions to those suspected of ordering or taking part in actual crimes. Some appear inclined to dismiss this as a technical point, saying that whether the leaders of Golden Dawn were involved in violence, or merely fostered a climate in which it flourished, they merit an outright ban.

This is a risky strategy. Imposing blanket bans on political movements sometimes works, but not often. West Germany outlawed the Communist Party for decades without suffering a noticeable democratic deficit. However, the Federal Republic was rich and stable, and neither adjective applies to Greece. More generally, the record of blanket political bans is poor. Either they are evaded, or they fail because the extremist party in question is a symptom rather than a cause of a much deeper malaise. Greece is a case in point here, not only because of its relentless economic decline but because of its endemic corruption. According to the think-tank Demos, it remains by far the most corrupt state in the EU.

If the basic disconnect between the people and a corrupt political elite is not addressed, closing down Golden Dawn will bring Greece only temporary relief – before the dawn of some other, equally sinister, movement.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there