Greece has been boosted by the news that it has posted its first current account surplus since records began in 1948, with a significant rise in tourism hinting at the possibilities of an economic recovery. Yet at the same time the country remains politically volatile. Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi nationalists that hold 18 seats in parliament, remain a perennially-visible concern for the established political order. Indeed, judges are trying to seek the removal of the Golden Dawn MPs’ parliamentary immunity on the grounds that they run a criminal organisation.
Whilst still a small party, the fact that Golden Dawn commands some 7% of the population’s support is a worrying statistic. This is especially so given Greece’s experience of fascism.
During WWII, the Italian fascists of Benito Mussolini saw Greece as a potential prize, having been deprived of territorial gains at the Paris Peace Conference after WWI. The ineptitude of the Italian attack in 1940 meant that the Hellenic Army easily defended Greek shores, yet the respite proved short-lived.
Reluctantly, Adolf Hitler provided the Italians with the support of the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe to ensure an Axis conquest of the Greek territories. By April 1941 the occupation was complete and would last for over three years.
During the occupation, the true nature of fascism became evident to the Greek civilians who were starved, interrogated and brutalised. Whilst there were some notable collaborators with the invading force, the majority of the population detested the fascists and many joined the Greek Resistance, whose guerrilla warfare tactics would frustrate the Axis powers until they were finally evicted by the Allies.
It is a fact that people turn to political extremes in the face of economic desperation. Yet you would think that the proponents of Golden Dawn and their supporters would have a greater sense of history; most will have ancestors who survived the Axis occupation.
The Greek prosecutors are doing a great service by trying to reveal the illegitimacy of these so-called politicians. Along with a hint of economic recovery, it is hoped that Golden Dawn’s vile moment in the sun will come to an abrupt end.