‘Ides of September’ for Greece?
“I was told that you will exist only until September 2013,” confided Greek professor Helene Glykatzi- Ahrweiler, the nearly 90-year-old world authority on Byzantine history, first ever woman President of the Sorbonne and now Rector of the University of Europe. The outspoken historian who has been living in Paris since the fifties is known for her connections with European top brass and her quote during an exclusive interview to private MEGA channel back in June this year, came as a shock.
However, her prophetic warnings about the “Ides of September” for Greece were proven tragically right.
Last week, the cold blooded assassination of a popular anti-fascist young Greek rapper by a member of the fascist pro-Nazi party of Golden Dawn before the eyes of his friends, policemen and passers-by in an Athens neighborhood, traumatized the society, disturbed the political establishment and forced the Samaras government to come face to face with the brooding phenomenon of Greek fascism. On top, bad news came from Brussels that Greece may not be welcome in taking over the presidency of the EU in the first part of the new year, unless it deals with its domestic pro-Nazis. This is not easy.
The assassination took place against a background of widespread strikes by teachers and other public sector workers, who have lost their jobs following “reforms” dictated by Greece’s creditors: the EU, ECB, and IMF. The representatives of the “troika” will arrive in Athens today for further talks and possibly new measures while more strike actions are being planned ahead. There is a widespread belief in Europe that Greece may need a third bail-out package in order to stay afloat. The Greek government is struggling to convince everybody that it is doing well. Money from tourism was better than expected this year but unemployment is hitting new records, approaching slowly the 30 percent mark. This is the sixth year of recession and the fourth of austerity packages. The main opposition of the leftist Syriza has asked its members to get ready for early elections and predicted an imminent “parliamentary overthrow” of the coalition government.
Since the beginning of September the political tension has been rising and so did the polarization of the society. Golden Dawn had increased its public presence by its semi-uniformed paramilitary groups and there were incidents of violent attacks by its members against members or sympathizers of the Greek Communist Party (KKE).
Against such an explosive background, and with opinion polls showing an almost symmetrical percentage of supporters between the governing party of the conservative New Democracy and the official opposition party of leftist Syriza, with a steep rise of the Golden Dawn, certain pro-government commentators threw the idea that a collaboration with the “serious part” of Golden Dawn would not be so bad in order to avert Syriza. Also politicians close to the prime minister brought back to the surface the theory of the “two extremes” which equalized Syriza with the Golden Dawn. They even suggested that Syriza should be considered “outside the constitutional spectrum” unless it renounces its alleged involvement in violence. According to this theory, any act of violence whether from an organized political clan such as the Golden Dawn or from an unemployed striker who gets into a fist fight with a policeman is equally condemnable.
It was at that moment that the young rapper was brutally stabbed by a “hit man” of the Golden Dawn. It was an incident that changed the political agenda overnight and revealed the criminal nature of a party that managed to send 18 deputies to a 300-strong Greek Parliament after the June 2012 elections.
The government ordered a thorough investigation into the Golden Dawn and investigative journalists are already reaching evidence which links its members to the Greek underworld. In the first opinion poll conducted after the murder, the Golden Dawn appears to have lost almost half of its public support.
But the issue now has become more complicated for the government. How should they deal with the Golden Dawn? Should it be banned from the Parliament? The Greek constitution does not allow the closure of parties but allows the prosecution of members of parties who commit criminal acts. How should they justify their political flirting with the Golden Dawn just before the murder? Does that mean that the government was preparing a plan for a grand center-to-extreme-right coalition to deal with the onslaught of the left? Did that plan fail or will it be re-launched? And what happens now?
In my one-month stay in Greece, everybody I talked to thought that in the next general elections – which they thought would be much earlier than due – the first party would be Syriza. But not easily and not without a bloody fight, they say.
It is this that I fear most. And it is that realization that brought to my mind the words of Mrs. Ahrweiler.