Golden Dawn adds to Greek troubles

Golden Dawn adds to Greek troubles

An interesting story caught my eye the other day. A 22-year-old married man and father of a baby child was caught in Volos, Greece, carrying Molotov explosives and cartridges in his car. He claimed that he was on an “assignment” by the extreme right-wing organization Golden Dawn to set fire to a self-made mosque in Volos. He also revealed that he regularly worked for Golden Dawn as “outsourced” staff, as the organization would find temporary jobs for him, usually as a farm worker, and thus he could support his family income. In his car were two other men, 21 and 26 years old, in whose homes the police discovered knives, hoods and empty bottles as well as Golden Dawn leaflets. The organization itself denied any connection to the arrested parties.

Let me take you a few weeks back, when another incident shook the popular touristic Nydri port on the island of Lefkada in the Ionian Sea. The incident took place in a primary school on Oct. 28, the Greek National Day commemorating when then-dictator I. Metaxas refused to allow the Axis forces to enter Greek territory at the beginning of WWII in 1940. The children of the Nydri primary school – as is customary – prepared a special ceremony and the teacher asked the children to draw the flag of their country as part of an intercultural educational program for areas with mixed populations of Greeks and immigrants. A large number of immigrants of Albanian origin are found in the Ionian Islands. Most children drew Greek flags, however, some children of Albanian origin drew the Albanian flag. The teacher pinned both flags on the notice board. This enraged certain parents, who demanded the removal of the teacher. An announcement by the Golden Dawn followed, in which the teacher was accused of conducting practices against the national sentiment. Pictures of the classroom with both flags appeared in the media to mixed reactions from the public. Authorities launched an enquiry and removed the teacher from the school until its completion. However, the story took another twist when the Nydri parents association returned last week with a letter in which they called the whole incident a “provocation,” claiming that the photograph was a “set up” and vowing that they will not allow “the teachers of our children to be devoured by wolves.” They called on the education minister to intervene and restore the fundamental pedagogical rules by which “all children are equal.”

Last week, three hundred university teachers signed a protest note condemning the incident at the Nyrdi school and expressing their disappointment that the responsible authorities stepped back by removing the teacher after accusations promoted by the Golden Dawn. “What we worry about most is the Golden Dawn trying to infiltrate the area of official education, where no tolerance should be shown [to them].” The issue was brought to Parliament by the official opposition last week. Deputy Education Minister Theodoros Papatheodorou responded, “For the snake’s egg, which is being hatched, the state should intervene. The effects of the economic crisis are such that should unite the forces of the democratic arc against a ‘fascistization’ of the society.”

The Greek government has embarked on a desperate struggle to newly jump-start the economy by renegotiating a bailout agreement in return for a tougher austerity package.

However, while all eyes are turned to Brussels, another, deeper struggle is taking place in the country between democratic and undemocratic forces. The more optimistic ones claim that the Golden Dawn is a temporary phenomenon and that historically, fascism has never had deep ideological roots in Greek society. Others, though, point out that the Golden Dawn is not only an ideological entity but also acting as an employer, security guard, anti-corruption preacher and social services provider in a society where all these are suffering badly under the crisis. The tragic irony: the last surviving member of the Greek military junta (1967-74), S. Pattakos, celebrated his 100th birthday last week by expressing his sorrow for the situation in Greece, adding that “If there is anyone to do something about it, this is only the Golden Dawn.”