The 14 Words

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Greece's Golden Dawn: A Wake-up Call for Europe

By Christopher Lawrence, Truthout


It is hard to convey the experience of economic and political collapse in Greece. In Athens, the city center is full of vacant, graffiti-covered store fronts. 

The only businesses that seem to be thriving are the pawn shops and the huge open-air heroin market that the police are apparently tolerating in the student neighborhood of Exarchia. For the first time since WWII, many Greeks are faced with hunger, homelessness and a lack of basic health care. Schools are struggling to provide lunch to the growing number of malnourished children. The public health system has collapsed, a sacrifice to austerity. HIV infection rates have doubled, and malaria is on the rise. Suicides have increased dramatically. The legitimacy of the political system, which was long dominated by two mainstream parties - the center-left PASOK and the center-right New Democracy - is under threat because of the parties' inability to offer either an alternative to the current austerity regime or a plausible strategy for surviving it. In the midst of this crisis, the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn has become the fastest growing political movement in Greece, with some placing support above 20 percent.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. When Greece entered the European Union in the early '80s, hopes were high that it signalled a new era. Despite the common tendency toward fatalism, many Greeks hoped that the sad history of 20th century ethno-nationalism, a history of war, occupation and dictatorships, had finally closed. Now they feel that the rug has been pulled out from under them. Suddenly the beneficence of the EU, much of which was diverted into the pockets of the politicians and financiers with a nod and a wink, has become a noose around their necks. Among the Greek middle class, - which, thanks to the EU, has grown to include most farmers, small craftsmen and clerical workers - feelings of frustration and injustice are palpable. Not only has their new-found prosperity collapsed like a huge pyramid scam, but they are being pilloried in the international press as a bunch of lazy welfare cheats.


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