Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Some thoughts on the emergence of the far right in Greece

The May and June parliamentary elections have returned Greece's openly national socialist and erstwhile marginal party to the parliament. Today 18 members of parliament have been elected under the party banner. Many more seem to share some of the views that have made the party popular; the demonization of immigrants, the assumption that crime is imported, an intense anti-europeanism. There is a lot that needs to be done to analyse and counter such discourses. But the phenomenon of Χρυσή Αυγή (Golden Dawn) is still unexplored beyond the journalistic work that has surrounded it. 
Back in November 2011, I was invited to talk in a panel on the extreme right in Europe with Zeev Sternhell and Vassiliki Georgiadou. There I suggested that we need to see how the extreme right engages citizens at the micro level, providing local services that the state or civil society seem not to be able or willing to. At the time, another extreme right party, ΛΑΟΣ, had agreed to participate to a coalition government to prepare Greece to negotiate its second bailout deal with the IMF, EU and ECB troika. People were focused on this facet of the extreme right and did not understand or, perhaps did not want to understand, the ways in which Χρυσή Αυγή was establishing links, networks and relationships on the ground, in areas of urban decay but also beyond them by providing 'security' in some local areas. The photographs and video below represent yet another aspect of this engagement of the far right with local societies, this time providing food staples to those in need. These do not have to be systematic activities, they can be isolated, even staged, but highly symbolic. They deploy a narrative of state failure, the moral collapse of the elite and the establishment and legitimise the far right who stays present and vigilant at the grassroots level. And, what is more, rumour and myth quickly propagate such claims and constitute the basis of new truth claims and repertoires.

Below, I reproduce a short excerpt from my talk:

It is interesting to note the ways in which the far Right engages with society at large. Just like Islamic movements have done earlier on the Far Right attempts to "fill gaps" in state and civil society provision and presence, providing education, welfare and social solidarity services denoting in this way the inefficiency of the "system" .... Organizations such as Chrisi Avgi have created "patrol units" in declining areas of Athens in order to draw attention to the inadequacy of the state, to link urban decline and crime with immigration and to reinforce xenophobia and establish links with local societies. The far Right does not attempt to prove the validity of the totality of its worldview, or drawing on Gramsci's terminology, does not (always) engage in a war of positions but in a war of manoeuvres.

Spyros A. Sofos, notes from a talk at the Onassis Cultural Centre on the theme "Europe's extreme right wing reflexes", 16/11/2011

You can see the video of the talk (in Greek) here:

The text of the talk (in Greek) appeared in v 14 of the Greek cultural and political review Books' Journal (Dec 2011) together with the text of Professor Sternhell.


  1. Far right movement in Greece is partially due to pompouus self-righteous anti-Greek deconstructive post modernist crackpots foreigners that dishonestly pretend not to notice FYROM's change into ancient Macedonians and irredentist rhetoric are trying to talk us out our very identity. There are even a few patronizing pseudo-intellectual "Greeks" that collaborate with IMRO. Don't suppose you know anyone like that do you Mr. Sofos?

    1. Dear anonymous reader: Let us not hide behind our finger. The far right had no need of any "pompous self-righteous anti-Greek deconstructive post modernist crackpots foreigners" to justify its existence; it has consistently invented them for the best part of a century and distorted their words beyond recognition in order to hide its ugly face behind the lies and misinformation it has been spreading.
      If supporting democracy and human rights, regional cooperation and understanding is so alien and unpatriotic to you, if being Greek means being uncritical and paranoid, you are obviously right. And, for the record, I criticize both the nationalism of VMRO-DMPNE and that of my compatriots. You choose to select to condemn other nationalists as bad and brand your own nationalism as good. Not much principle and consistency there!
      Finally, those who support the far right's paranoid views want a country that will look like a jail because only inside it they can keep a frightened misinformed audience captive and feel validated.

  2. I think the Greek government should fire all the bizarre extreme anti-nationalists collecting money from the Greek taxpayers to write books we are not "real" Greeks. Since they don't respect the identity of Greek taxpayers, let them earn a living by producing something of value rather than parasitically living off the efforts of Greeks

    Since these anti-Hellenic "comrades" have deconstructed Greek identity in such a way that they don't see themselves as related to ancient Greeks... we should also consider kicking them to the curb along with illegals. Otherwise these unprincipled IMRO collaborating cowards can be trusted to betray their country. They will attempt to ethnically erase us with words just like they did during Greek civil war (back when these sorts of far leftist flakes claimed Stalin was "human rights").