no food for thought: extreme sports for the greek squares


What? Fascists distributing free traditional food on Syntagma square? And fighting the cops? And elephants flying over Athens?

Τhe populist patriotic party calling itself "Independent Greeks" immediately got it right: The announcement of the Golden Dawn food distribution "for Greeks only" in the central Syntagma square in Athens on the 2nd of May, the prohibition of this action by the mayor Kaminis, and the attempt to attack the mayor at a philanthropic event by an armed Golden Dawn MP, which resulted in the MP hitting a 12-year-old girl who happened to be there with her father for a free Easter gift was "nothing but a show set up by the system, aiming at promoting Golden Dawn...Even during the Easter Week, the system invented some false conflict in order to advertize them, now that they are losing in the polls..."


They would know. The Independent Greeks are the main competitors of the neonazi party in Greek Parliament for the far-right, patriotic, anti-immigrant votes of a large part of the population who feel "betrayed by the politicians" and who so easily turned their sense of betrayal into hatred against whoever is weaker and more vulnerable, in favor of the "strong and frightening".


It is interesting that both the Independent Greeks and the Golden Dawn go out of their way to appear anti-systemic, since they know this is the only way to pose as "strong and frightening" to the cynical, confused and disillusioned poor of the so-called crisis. But simple facts rather point to their absolute dependence on the system: Fascists have never in modern Greek history managed to exist outside the handy crowd-control toolkit of the State, let alone go out into the streets without police protection...In comparing photographs of fascist meetings and pogroms you see the same people wearing the riot cop uniform in one demo, and the Golden Dawn T-shirt in the other, depending on whether they are on duty beating up pensioners or on a day off attacking Bangladeshi small vendors in open markets (and more often than not receiving some well-deserved material responses...) Though they make huge headlines in the tycoon-led Press, their membership is minimal even in big towns...And the much-discussed skyrocketing of the votes of the GD party was a carefully constructed media miracle: In December 2011 the official media were desperately trying to convince everyone that the neonazis would soon reach a threatening 1%, by February this was elevated to a virtual 2,5%, soon it was pushed to 3% and in the June elections it reached the record 6.9%.


Of course it takes a few good stories and a keen ear to manufacture statistics so effectively. Even if the electoral numbers do not reflect any real far-right movement dynamics, it is easy to detect here the traditional technique for appealing to the lowest and well-trained fascist reflexes of an individualist consumerist racist society that is suddenly shocked with austerity, poverty, no future and a whole class of déclassé immigrants to blame: The pogroms by the few fascists' "citizens' committees" against immigrants in Athens three years ago helped the police "cleansing operations" against the sans papiers and complemented the counterattack against immigrants by the State, which in turn had begun a few months after the December riots in 2008. With neighbourhood assemblies spreading everywhere, "ordinary people" demos growing wilder and wilder and adopting practices that had been hitherto associated only with antiauthoritarians, like burning banks and attacking police stations, the radicalization of society was showing no sign of decline - and something had to be done about it...More crucially, the promotion by the media of the virtual image of a fascist "organized movement" was the safest way to establish the Greek version of the theory of extremism. With an alleged far-left extreme and an alleged far-right extreme, the State would appear to occupy a middle position, guaranteeing social peace, security and balance. Otherwise the State (basically a local police and diplomatic force working with, and for, banks and multinationals) would have absolutely no raison d'être.


So the far-right parties are trying to appear extreme and anti-systemic exactly because the system needs them. What's new?


Well, maybe it is interesting that the Syriza leader Tsipras made sure he was not absent from the process of building the indigenous "Extremismus" myth. In April 2012, in an open speech in Lamia, he attacked corruption in the media by saying: "I don't care what your newspapers say, you have accused me of being a Golden Dawn member, you have called me an anarchist, a nationalist, an extremist and a friend of terrorists."  Since then, and despite their great numbers in the 2012 elections, the Syriza party, while certainly supported by well-meaning people, has often been proving its inability, unwillingness or reluctance to seize the opportunities offered to it by the social movements to follow through protests against poverty, unemployment, taxes, cuts in pensions, wages and welfare, oppression and police brutality, to follow social initiatives such as self-organization in education and healthcare, social struggles against destructive capitalist mega-projects like the planned goldmines in Halkidiki, or the privatization of water, mutual aid and solidarity structures, and to prove that what the State is calling two extremes and one middle is really just "the clash of two different worlds". On the contrary, one Syriza MP responded to Golden Dawn's accusations that he is gay with public announcements that "he has slept with half the women in Athens, so how can they say he's gay?" and another joined the front rows of a police demo last September against the cuts in the wages of the security forces next to MPs of the nazi party. So much for the "next government" conversing with the extremes on anti-sexism and support of trade-unions.


In any case, even with the indirect help by the parliamentary "Left" rhetoric, it's getting harder for the Golden Dawn to keep up the anti-systemic act. And it's getting harder for them to play the "social" card as well. Blood donations for Greeks only, food distributions and savior squads (like those helping an old lady use an ATM - she turned out to be the mother of a GD parliamentary candidate!) have proved to be just fragile, sorry lies and facebook postings every time, failed rendez-vous of a handful of fools escorted by the cops, and so were the fake news stories of rapes by immigrants of Greek women in six different areas in a few months.


This messing around with the spectacle of extremism and "social concern" would be simply risible if it were not for the real deaths, injuries and dehumanization of immigrants and the poor as a result of the fascist attacks, police brutality, the accepted State violence of unemployment and exploitation and of dire "structural adjustments" that have devalued labor and life by 40% within a matter of months. The fiascos of the Golden Dawn's fake radicalism wouldn't even be worth mentioning if it were not for the real effect of "facebook fascism" on schoolkids. Part of a whole diet of conspiracy theories and fascist cultural values with which the official media have been feeding the new generations of Greece for the last 15 years, the latest propaganda machine is doing its best to make the "hate & aggression" culture cool for school. Neoliberal moderates are taking the nazi costume out of the closet in the crisis, are lacing it with nationalist rhetoric and cop-film dialogue subtitles and are serving it to its bad students. The better ones, those destined to be tomorrow's CEOs, multinational NGO leaders and Prime Ministers, they will educate with their own brand of the capitalist adaptation guide to the (somewhat shrunken) European Enlightenment.


In case anybody is still wondering: No, there was no food distributed by fascists on Syntagma square in Athens. There were no clashes of fascists with the police. But fascism  is always an excuse for the narrowing of the limits of democracy: After this first “official prohibition of racist food distribution”, next time, it will be easier to repress any action on Syntagma square.