Friday, October 04, 2013

The Theory Of The Two Extremes - Greek government's attempt to rein in opposition

One of the side effects of austerity measures in Greece has been the spectacular rise of the neo-nazi party, Golden Dawn (Chrysi Aygi, In Greek) and in an attempt to combat its growing influence in the polls the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras has been promoting the Theory of the Two Extremes, the idea that the murderous violence on the far right is equivalent to protests on the left over economic reforms. Put crudely, as it often is in the country's highly partisan press, opposition, both on the left and right represent a threat to political and economic stability and so the current coalition government made up of former political foes, New Democracy and PASOK are able to present themselves a solid guarantee against chaos.

This week the prime minister took the opportunity to share the theory with a foreign audience whilst taking part in a Q & A session at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington on Tuesday when he said that while Golden Dawn was at one extreme in Greek politics, those opposed to Athens's membership of NATO and the European Union occupied the other.

The indirect reference to Greece's Communist Party (known as KKE) and the staunchly anti-capitalist ANTARSYA party provoked an immediate and fierce response from commentators on the Left who accused Samaras of fanning the flames of political conflict in order to scare voters back to New Democracy which has seen its importance in Greek public life wane over the last four years as opposition parties have nibbled away at its disgruntled party base.

If this is, indeed the aim of the government then the move has yet to bear fruit according to the latest VPRC opinion polls which show that little of Golden Dawn's drop in popularity has been translated into support for New Democracy who remain in second place, a 1-2 percentage points behind SYRIZA.

Back at home Greek government spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou also tried tying the excesses of Golden Dawn to the the main opposition party, this time for domestics consumption claiming that the SYRIZA leader, Alexis Tsipras was the best advocate Golden Dawn and its leader could ask for after Tsipras questioned the legal basis of the rushed government crackdown on Golden Dawn's political leadership.

In other countries in Europe, those with a less troubled history claims that the government was fighting to save the nation from political extremism would gain little traction, but memories of Greece's brutal civil war in the 40's which pitted Left against Right for four bloody years and the Regime of the Colonels which brought a far right military dictatorship to power from 1967 till 1974 means that fears of extreme political conflict are a living part of the collective political narrative, not to mention the stuff of many a family history.

However, with Golden Dawn facing a raft of serious criminal charges, including several counts of murder and attempted murder the idea that this band of thuggish racists can be compared with Communist Party trade unionists protesting job losses or SYRIZA organised rallies over school closures has become even more absurd.

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