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September 15, 2013
September 15, 2013

Waiting for the Civil War?

Source: Cosmi_Apart  Category: Letters from home
This article is also available in: eseltrfr
Waiting for the Civil War?

After the murder of 34 year-old antifascist rapper by a Golden Dawn member in a working-class suburb in Athens on September 17, things seem to be explosive both in the streets and in the corridors of power.

In the streets, the antifascist movement has mobilized thousands who clash with the police on daily basis and allover Greece, while the members of the Golden Dawn are hiding pending police investigations in 34 criminal cases which the Ministry of Interior discovered within the last 24 hours apparently under immense pressure by international outcry and by internal mobilization.

no-fear

It is an important indication that the ‘party’ had to condemn the killing and distance itself from the killer, claiming to have nothing to do with him. This will have repercussions in the coherence and the morale of the organization, which boasts of its heroism and the Spartan spirit of its fighters. At the same time, reports and eyewitnesses come out saying that police were present and standing idle 1-2 meters further while the killer stepped out of his car with a knife. At the same time, the antifascist demonstrations are violently attacked by the riot police.

Within the higher echelons of power, what’s clear is that the current government coalition is going to have a hard time maintaining the fake scenario of the ‘success story’, which it has been promoting so far both within the country and outside it – with the silent approval of Chancellor Merkel and other European politicians.  This difficulty is especially gravitating after revealing reports in the international press about the penetration of the police by Golden Dawn and the apparent reluctancy of the right-wing party in the government to have the judiciary thoroughly investigate crimes by them against immigrants and other ‘targets’ over the past three years.

Now that there has been an international outcry, we might witness efforts by the Minister of the Interior to clamp down on the Golden Dawn, as the French authotities did after the murder of Clemens few months ago. But there are limits to this effort. The reality is that the Golden Dawn is extremely useful to an embattled ruling class for at least two reasons: first, because they change the agenda and divert public attention by pointing to popular scapegoats such as Muslim immigrants and Jewish conspirators. Second, because their mafia-like, criminal violence is often used by the government to discharge the popular violence of demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins, and occupations through the theory of the ‘two extremes’. Thus, (part of) the government needs them and they can’t afford to lose them.

There is no credible evidence that the government wants to go against the Golden Dawn. It was in fact the government itself who opened the ears of the citizens to the nationalist propaganda. The right wing prime minister was referring to Greece as a country ‘under occupation’ by immigrants at the eve of the elections one year ago and the ‘socialist’ minister referred to the HIV positive foreign prostitutes as ‘hygienic bombs’ that threaten the ‘Greek family’ just weeks before the same elections. The nationalist propaganda has been high in the agenda of both parties for decades (s. on Macedonia, on Cyprus, on immigration) and it is at least hypocritical to pretend that they are surprised to see the nationalists rise.

The same parties accepted as a veritable member of their government coalition just after the first memorandum an ultra-nationalist party that was vanquished in the elections to give its place to the Neonazis of Golden Dawn, who pose as anti-systemic. So the ‘response’ by the government will most likely focus on eliminating some parts of the rogue organization who have gone too far in criminal actions, while still making sure that there are others who are free to do the job that they have been doing for some years now: protecting the interests of the ruling economic elites.

The fascist violent attacks on immigrants and left-wings activists are simply hoping to terrorize and silence them. The social movements in Greece have been very loud and demanding these past few years. The nationalists and the Nazis are the countersolution to this at the street level where the media propaganda cannot reach. But, they also provide an outlet for widespread popular rage against austerity policies to find a secure and convenient way of expression by attacking immigrants and leftists. This choice appears very convenient to the jobless Greek in the street, because it fulfils the need to take revenge for the misery imposed on him and recover his national pride at the same time without however risking imprisonment or punishment, given that much of the police and the judiciary are often sympathetic to or curiously unable to tackle right-wing semi-criminal or openly criminal actions.

To be sure, no one in the country can afford to forget or pretend to ignore the Civil War (1944-1949). And no one can be sure that the conditions that gave birth to it some years ago are not going to return albeit in a different guise. History repeats itself as a farce, a famous man said once, and we see how the caricatures of the old Nazi collaborators are emerging again using the rhetoric and the symbols of the Civil War.

No one knows how far history will be revengeful, but the sure thing is that the memories of the Civil War are not easy to be buried again once out there. In fact, another historical irony is that the most comprehensive effort sofar to end the spectre of the Civil War in Greece in a decisive and peaceful manner was undertaken by the Social Democratic government of Papandreou in the 1980s, who – under the mounting pressure by social movements of workers and citizens – attempted to coopt the Left and ease the tensions by bulding a rudimentary social welfare state and by granting pensions of ‘national resistance’ to those who fought against the Nazis in the WWII. No matter what one thinks about this effort in terms of social justice, it constituted nevertheless the first time after 1949 when those who really fought the Nazis were recognized, and not their mutant allies.

Yet, this effort was already fraudulent from the very beginning. Apart from its clientelistic nature, it was mostly promoted through the EU-entrance (which guaranteed subsidies if their directives for de-industrialization and privatization were followed) and the borrowing of cheap money from global financial networks which exaggerated the state deficit.

In that sense, the current debt crisis must be seen in the light of an ill-conceived effort to end the still ongoing albeit subtle Civil War in Greece, by building a social welfare state on borrowed money against the background of de-industrialization that the EU engineered in the country some decades ago.

Greece was the first European country to witness the rise of the Cold War rivalry. It seems that it will be the first European country to witness the immediate effects of the rise of new coalitions and constellations of global power. In this regard one might say that Greece points toward the future of all Europe and, thus, no one is safe anymore. Reflection, action and imagination are direly needed everywhere.

* Nikolas Kosmatopoulos is a cultural anthropologist. This year he teaches at the University of Columbia /New York and in Sciences Po/Paris.

(The label above reads in Greek “I am not going to be afraid” quoting a lyric by slain rapper, Pavlos Fyssas)

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