Sunday, September 22, 2013

What a difference a week makes - Golden Dawn down but not out.

2-3000 anti-fascist demonstrators march against Golden Dawn murder of singer Pavlos Fyssas - Thessaloniki, Greece
   Picture-anti-fascist demonstrators protest murder of singer in port city of Thessaloniki

A week, as the saying goes, is a long time in politics and the last seven days have seen an apparent sea change in the Greek political scene with the once triumphant Golden Dawn now backed into a corner following the murder of singer by a man, allegedly belonging to the party.Hounded by political opponents, both on the streets and in parliament they have been forced onto the defensive. Even Greece's mainstream media which was till recently suggesting that the party could form an alliance with the ruling conservative New Democracy party has made a U-turn concerning their stance towards Golden Dawn.

The far right Proto Thema newspaper is a case in point, till recently reporters have been more than willing to welcome Golden Dawn MPs on their pages, with lifestyle pieces that glamourised them in much the same way the media glamourise sports or pop stars. Now that has all changed following the killing of Pavlos Fyssas in the port city of Piraeus and now the Sunday front pages and TV news broadcasts are full of condemnation of the party and the killing with daily revelations also alleging financial impropriety by party functionaries are also adding to their woes.

Greek riot police take up positions to protect Golden Dawn offices against anti-fascist protesters
                       Picture-Greek riot police protecting Golden Dawn offices in Thessaloniki

On the streets large anti-fascist rallies were held this week across Greece and abroad as the news of the murder came out, forcing Golden Dawn members to keep out of public view or hide behind thousands of riot police deployed to protect their offices (a blow to the myth that their thuggish tactics are sweeping all before them on the streets). Once more domestic news cast doubts on the Greek prime minister's effort to to paint Greece as "an island of stability in a troubled region".

Yet  it hasn't been all bad news for the ruling Greek coalition since the negative publicity that Golden Dawn has garnered over the murder has clipped their wings, at least temporarily and has given the conservatives a window of opportunity to woe back disgruntled voters. New Democracy can present itself as a moderate alternative for right-leaning Greeks who are angry with austerity but appalled at the violence of Golden Dawn supporters.

At the moment that is exactly what is happening, at least according to the latest opinion polls which say that that Golden Dawn support has dropped 1.5%. However, before anyone decides to pop the champagne corks and consign them to the trash can of history the fate of the Greece's largest neo-nazi party has not yet been decided. The dire economic conditions that have helped them come to prominence have not disappeared, and indeed are set to worsen as the Troika mandated cuts in public sector spending and jobs are implemented. Such moves will just add more fuel to the fire as more and more of the middle class slide into poverty so adding to the deep well of discontent with the current political elites which the far right in Greece and the rest of Europe has been so success in exploiting.

A Night In Greece
Picture-photographer capturing aftermath of anti-fascist demo in Thessaloniki

On the other hand the sudden willingness by the two main parties to turn on Golden Dawn is the product of political calculation and not the result of a moral epiphany or a newly found revulsion over their ideas. If the fall in popularity of Golden Dawn continues they'll be more than willing to use the power of the State to make sure they are rendered impotent. On the other hand if Golden Dawn support proves to be resilient and their polls figure continue to rise once more ruling government coalition will go back to their previous policy of turning a blind eye to their violence and racism.

The same is true for the mainstream media, which is owned by a handful of oligarchs is hoping that it can weaken Golden Dawn's appeal and drive voters back to the PASOK and New Democracy, parties who can more easily be manipulated by the economic elite that dominate the country's private sector economy. But, if Golden Dawn weather the storm and the choice is between a left-wing government led by SYRIZA and a New Democracy - Golden Dawn alliance in next year's local elections will be on the cards and, all the recent attacks on nazi ideologues and extremist right wing violence will be quietly dropped.

For more on the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece, listen to this broadcast by Novara Media on Resonance FM.

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