Can Europe Make It?

Which way is 'right'?

Ioanna Karamitrousi
29 April 2014

In recent years, an increasing number of EU member states have had a serious increase in the presence, action, and political influence of extreme political formations. The emergence and strengthening of intolerant, xenophobic, even racist forces coincides with and benefits from the social degradation - unemployment, poverty, desperation - and the deep economic crisis plaguing the European economy - primarily in the countries of the European South.

In Greek politics, we can see a large group of forces - including parliamentary representatives, whose extreme political discourse, symbolism and action, recall the darkest pages of recent European history, from the 1930s and early 1940s. Such examples include the practice of verbal and physical violence, the glorification of the Greek military dictatorship (1967-74), repeated violent attacks on civilians and foreigners, and the use of threats against political opponents.

In Greece, many political analysts are sounding the alarm about the rise of extremist, racist and intolerant right-wing forces in Europe. They express a deep concern about the representation of political groups who don’t hesitate to use violence to impose their views. Many citizens in Greece support the view that the rise of the far right is natural, because governments have failed to come up with adequate policies and provide leadership. As a result, people support the extreme right and the extreme left. In these times, the first focus falls on the ‘the foreigner’. The alien foreigner is considered as a danger or a threat, so the average citizen is turned towards the extreme right, leading to a thriving rise of extreme political formations.

Let’s look the latest events in Greece. According to Al Jazeera’s blog an even more embarrassing episode, this time directed at the Samaras administration, occurred the week just as a meeting of European Union finance ministers was about to end in Athens. Politician and spokesperson for Golden Dawn Ilias Kasidiaris submitted a transcript to parliament of what he claimed was a recorded conversation featuring cabinet secretary and close Samaras aide Panayiotis Baltakos.

A video of the conversation, which appeared later, has gone viral: Baltakos, on camera, admitted to someone with a voice very similar to Kasidiaris' that senior ministers had pressured judges to remand in custody Golden Dawn MPs, including party leader Nikolas Michaloliakos, on charges of directing and participating in a criminal organisation. Baltakos also let on that the persecution was politically motivated, as ruling party New Democracy, whose leader is Samaras, was losing voters to Golden Dawn.

The arrests followed the stabbing to death of a man by a reportedly self-confessed Golden Dawn sympathiser last September. Baltakos was forced to resign, while the respective justice and public order ministers mentioned in the video denied any involvement.

This combination of so-called neo-Nazis and the elected government does lend itself to a perverted sense of irony. It applies to what seems like a definite rise of the far right across Europe, as mainstream parties seem to lose a great part of their appeal before this May's European Union Parliamentary elections. I expect a continuation of this current in the near future. It seems that the developments will be rapid and all the Greek citizens ought to work towards a resolution of the situation and apportion blame where need be.

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Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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