A characteristic of Greek tragedies is that someone who has risen to a great height fails to understand why they are falling from grace. And a typical reason why many fall from grace is down to the company they keep.
The unholy alliance of the far left Syriza and far right anti-immigration Independent Greeks (ANEL) parties who yesterday formed a new anti-austerity coalition in Athens suggests political naivety on all sides, with the biggest losers those that are hit hardest under austerity.
The BBC are calling Independent Greeks ‘centre-right’, but that depends on where you locate the centre. In reality ANEL are a hardcore nationalist, and virulently anti-immigration, outfit who want to deport a million foreigners.
They are probably a bit less Nazi than Golden Dawn but then again the BNP are probably a bit less fascist than Combat 18.
When a gang of skinheads are chasing you down the street the slight ideological differences between them scarcely matter.
The Beeb aren’t alone in feting the ‘revolution’ in Greece while ignoring the fly in the ointment. Russell Brand led a gaggle of Left radicals in toasting the election result while Owen Jones wrote: ‘This is what the politics of hope looks like.’
They may be from opposite sides of the political spectrum to the hard right, but they share one thing. If they shaved their heads and climbed into combat trousers and Doc Martens they’d look just like them. Apart from Owen Jones, that is, who would still look like a schoolboy.
And that’s the nub. No matter how ‘radical’ the Left is, some white Leftists still have a blindspot on race.
That’s because they are not living the experience. Fashionable causes are like a wardrobe where you can choose what clothes best complement the stories of the day. Skin colour, however, does not change. Unless you’re Vybz Kartel.
Fascists picked up an alarming 8% in the Greek poll between ANEL and Golden Dawn, even with five MPs in jail. And in September last year Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist hip hop artist known as KIllah P, was stabbed to death in the blue-collar Athens suburb of Keratsini in a murder connected to Golden Dawn supporters.
Ever since Mohammed Kamran was beaten, electroshocked and hung in a police station in Nikaia at the start of the economic crisis in 2009, several immigrants have been murdered on the streets of Greece while the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn continue to poison the atmosphere with their thuggery.
In a few short years Greece has shifted from being the most tolerant country on the Eurobarometer index to arguably the most xenophobic in Europe — a rapid slide into madness that is all too often ignored in media coverage of Greece’s economic woes. It’s like having a serial killer as a lodger but instead of reporting him to police you politely ask him to avoid sawing at night as it’s disturbing your sleep.
Sadly the British chatterati have greeted the rise of fascist parties across Europe with little more than a shrug, a tut and maybe a tweet. Yet while they fiddle Rome, and Athens, burns.
In France Marine le Pen’s Front Nationale picked up 25% of the popular vote in last years’ European elections. In Austria the Freedom Party took 20%, the Danish People Party pulled in 26% and here in Blighty UKIP attracted 27% as the BNP gave up the ghost.
Europe’s alarm bells should be ringing; after all, that’s what the European project was set up to do in the first place after the Second World War.
This far right surge has swept across the continent under the banner of anti-Europeanism, a simultaneous protest against immigrants, austerity and the elite. Yet scratch beneath the surface, as some journalists have done with UKIP, and odious pus pours out.
Holland’s Geert Wilders may have missed his true calling as a Bond villain but many of the far right leaders across Europe are plausible, charismatic and smart.
Yet a cursory look at the plight of Black communities in these countries tells its own story. Wherever the far right are in the ascendency racial attacks, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are not far behind.
With ANEL’s ‘quota’ of 2.5% non-Greeks in the population that spells bad news for the other 5.5%; over one million people who they don’t want in the country, which raises the spectre of deportations. Centre-right indeed. In fact, the non-Greek population is a great deal higher than official figures show as Greece is incredibly lax about making foreigners ‘official’ with one of the largest ‘black economies’ of undocumented workers in Europe all not paying tax. Which helps explain why Greece is in the state it is.
As for the far left and right coalition between Syriza and ANEL, the Young Communist Alexis Tsipras, now the newly-crowned Prime Minister of Greece, may have read about how the German Communist Party linked up with Hitler’s Nazis in 1931. That didn’t end too well.
German Communists clearly thought that holding their nose and building a temporary alliance with the blackshirts would be in their short term interests, while forgetting about the communities who were under attack. After the Nazis had come for all those communities they came for the Communists.
They say those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat its mistakes.
I have no doubt that Russell Brand detests neo-Nazis to the very tips of his chest hairs but I detest this convenient blindspot for race.
The fashionable Left are in such a rush to rip off their pro-immigration Kente cloth, purchased at a premium from a very nice shop in Shoreditch, to hurriedly throw on their Fidel Castro fatigues at the first sniff of the proletariat revolution they’ve forgotten to consider that their new heroes are doing deals with Diablo. Or maybe they just don’t want to know.
It’s a non-gender version of intersectionality borne of a privilege that comes with not having to endure prejudice and hate as a result of melanin.
When the shine comes off Tsipras’s government, as it will in due course, we can rely on the same elements of the Left to be back protesting in solidarity with Black communities at racist attacks in Greece and elsewhere. Only they will have contributed to the problem by default.
And that really is a Greek tragedy.
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Lester Holloway is a former Editor of the New Nation newspaper and presenter on BEN Television. He tweets at @brolezholloway
- Strange Bedfellows (theirategreek.wordpress.com)
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