Greece, the birthplace of democracy, could be heading down a path toward fascism. Since the beginning of the global recession, there has been much news coverage of the economic turmoil in Greece, and the rise of far-right organizations that blame immigrants and the European Union for the country's problems. Many have come to fear that one such group, Golden Dawn, a radical party with a neo-Nazi ideology, will soon gain enough momentum to become the ruling party in Greece. Golden Dawn won its first municipal council seat in 2010, and its popularity has since increased, with the party gaining more governmental positions. Golden Dawn won 18 of 300 seats in the Greek parliament during the 2012 election.
There is concern that that this ultra-right party could lead Greece along the same path as the Nazi’s led Germany. Members of Golden Dawn have avidly preached in favor of ridding the country of illegal immigrants, promoted books on Aryan supremacy, and denied the Holocaust. This group promises to give the Greek people an alternative path to prosperity from the austerity measures imposed by the EU. According to Nikos Zydakis, commentator and editor in chief of the daily newspaper Kathimerini, "It really shows the aggression in Greek society right now .... This is a society not just in crisis, but in depression — like Germany or Italy in the 30s. The EU is pushing too hard on the economy, yes, but also on society, which is cracking. When that happens, all the barriers to extremism fall." The atrocities of World War II are still fresh in the minds of many Greeks, and some worry that a massive fascist movement in any country could create ripples across the globe. Many fear that Greece could become be the new Nazi Germany, but I, for one, do not believe there is anything to fear.
First, violence has been rampant in Greece in recent years, due to instability on both ends of the political spectrum; at times, left-wing and right-wing contingents have clashed in the streets. Even so, it's unlikely that ultra-right parties would overcome opposition by force. Greece has had a democracy for too long to give it away to a party that made its political debut in the last couple years. In Germany, it took the National Socialists years to instill any sort of political agenda, especially because of the isolation of the German people.
Which brings me to my second point. Greece is not being punished economically by the international community, as Weimar Germany was. Greece's membership in the European Union will prevent far-right parties from seizing power. The EU just won a Nobel Prize for “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights,” and is likely to maintain close observation of activities contrary to its ideals in Greece. The EU previously stepped in when Hungary’s ruling party proposed authoritarian legislation, and they would do the same if Golden Dawn ever became Greece's ruling party. Meanwhile, Golden Dawn's leadership cannot blame isolation for the country’s recession, as Greece is not the only country suffering; many of Europe’s democracies have been hit hard by global economic instability.
Finally, Golden Dawn does not have the support of Greece’s historic allies, such as the United States, which has aided Greek fascists in the past. After World War II, the CIA supported the pro-Nazi fascists in a struggle against the Communist Party of Greece. In April of 1967, a military coup d'état took place, and a fascist military government ruled Greece until 1974. The United States fully supported this action because of its desire to suppress communism in the region. Today, there is no “enemy” that American elites are aligned against; communism died with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Furthermore, the annual U.S. State Department report on Greece describes concern about the rise of Golden Dawn, and the party’s participation in harassment and increasingly violent physical attacks against individuals, many of whom are Muslim, it perceives to be immigrants and refugees. The U.S. government is clearly distancing itself from far-right organizations, and expressing a need for the current Greek government to crack down on such incidents.
It is natural to fear that a far-right party could rise into power. In reality, there are ultra-nationalist parties all across the globe, even if few have such momentum. We have to remember that fascism has been a part of Greek politics since the 1930s, but has only ever gained power thanks to external assistance. For now, I don’t believe that the rise of Golden Dawn should be feared. The Greek people need the international community during times of crisis such as this economic recession. The ideology of Golden Dawn would further push the U.S. and EU away, and I think that the everyday citizens of Greece understand that.