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Battle against fascism requires outreach, not crackdowns alone

Global Times (2013-10-14 P16)
By George N. Tzogopoulos
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

As the Greek crisis keeps unfolding, the country has seen its far-right Golden Dawn party become the third most popular party, after the governing conservative New Democracy party and the main opposition party Syriza.
Since the national election of June 2012, members of the Golden Dawn have attempted to increase their influence by criticizing status quo politicians, distributing food for poor and unemployed Greeks, protecting old people, employing nationalist rhetoric, replacing the role of the police, dismissing illegal immigrants, and blaming foreign creditors of Greece.
With its anti-systemic and anti-establishment umbrella, the Golden Dawn portrays itself as a new political force that could punish those responsible for the current drama, tackle corruption and liberate Greece from its economic submission to Germany and the IMF.
But this doesn't alter the violent fascism of the Golden Dawn. Members of the party have not refrained from using violence against immigrants and also political opponents. It is fortunate that according to a latest poll, most Greeks support cracking down this far-right party for criminal charges.
The murder of hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn thug on September 18 was the most tragic example, which shocked not only Greece but also its international partners.
Golden Dawn leaders and members not only admire Adolf Hitler in their writing, but openly offer Nazi salutes.
Following the killing of Fyssas, the Greek government started investigation and decided on the party's nature as a criminal organization. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is proud of the crackdown on neo-nazis. Athens also counts on warm support from the part of Brussels.
It is time to wait for the Greek judicial authorities to properly do their work and finally issue a judgment. Nonetheless, whatever the court decision will suggest, and even if it will condemn the criminal activities of Golden Dawn members, it will not be sufficient to bury fascism.
Important as it is, Athens' policy is only placed within the framework of mitigation. It endeavors to limit the effects of the problem rather than to eliminate its roots.
A much more efficient strategy could be based on the dogma of prevention. The fact that the Golden Dawn leadership is fascist does not mean that voters of the party necessarily share the same ideology.
They are victims of the ongoing crisis, and feel an inner need to react and protest. Therefore, if they see that Greek politicians finally deciding to equally distribute the pain of the crisis, putting national interests above political ones, acknowledging their catastrophic mistakes, and dealing with poverty and unemployment, they will not vote again for the Golden Dawn or for a new party with a similar ideology.
But Greek politicians are more interested in their survival than in tackling fascism.
For the conservative New Democracy party, their first priority is wooing Golden Dawn voters to their right-wing faction. For its part, the leftist Syriza is economical in applauding the arrest of Golden Dawn members, which would have otherwise highly endorsed publicly, because it believes that the government will attempt to capitalize on political gains.
The cynicism in domestic politics in Greece is such that the government and the main opposition cannot build on consensus and cooperate even while the leader of the far-right party is staying in prison.
A definite crackdown on the Golden Dawn will possibly take place in coming months. But unless the real issues are dealt with, the hydra of fascism will sprout more heads under different names.

The author is a research fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy.

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