by Lester Holloway

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.’

Alexis Tsipras and Pamos Kamenos

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

13 thoughts on “An unholy alliance: Syriza and the far right anti-immigration party

  1. From what I’ve read, the policies of the ANEL are not dissimilar from the previous Greek government – in much the same way is the policies of UKIP are not too dissimilar from those of the Conservatives or Labour. I think it would be useful to think about

    a) How different ANEL are to the last government, and therefore whether their influence is likely to worsen the current situation of migrants, and

    b) What role the Greek anti-fascist movement play in all of this. Greece has a large, dynamic and very militant anti-fascist movement, which may be able to influence future policies

    c) What analysis is coming from the various African and Arab-led community organisations in Greece? I’m yet to read anything in English written by them on the topic, or indeed anyone refer to them in their analysis.


  2. Well, where to begin on this liberal apology for the status quo? It’s already been pointed out that the comparison between ANEL & the BNP is idiotic, and it should be pointed out that ANEL and Golden Dawn absolutely detest one another. So to try to paint them as essentially the same is just dishonest. This means that the appalling stories of GD violence have no relevance to this article. Syriza have been opposing GD politically and physically for the last five years, so to try to tar them with their brush is outrageous.

    There are too many other points one could add, so I’ll just point out the authors abysmal ability with numbers: If you want to count the fascist vote as that won by ANEL & GD, the total was 11.1%, not 8% (although ANEL clearly aren’t fascists, so the fascist vote was actually 6.3%). Secondly, the population of Greece is 11 million, so 5.5% (the amount ANEL supposedly want to expel) would be 605,000 people, or 1 million people would be 9%. Either way, your figures dont add up.

    There are things to be concerned about with this alliance, but this article just looks like Guardianista drivel, bemoaning how centrist liberals aren’t popular any more.


    1. ‘A Tsipras government is a good thing if you’re a dead Jew: your memory is cherished and you will probably enjoy more respect and greater recognition. If you’re an alive Jew things will probably will stay the same: even if Tsipras probably personally likes you, he is not to calm the antisemitic sea amidst the one you’re sailing in; I doubt whether this would be possible even if he wanted to.…/tsipras-wins-what…/


  3. I do agree that this is an “unholy alliance” and that Independent Greeks should never have been invited to participate in the government. However, the author has his facts wrong.

    Comparing the Independent Greeks to the BNP is just wrong; the comparison with Ukip is more fitting. Independent Greeks are xenophobic and nationalistic, but they are not thugs like Golden Dawn, nor are they Nazis. Lumping your enemies together is not taking them seriously. This situation is in fact very different from the 1930s communist-nazi partnership; the dynamics are different, the power relations are different (SYRIZA has the upper hand here), the methods and ideology of Independent Greeks are different from the Nazis, and the type of alliance is also different. This is not to defend the alliance, but the distinction is important. Independent Greeks will undoubtedly attempt (and succeed in doing so, I fear) to sabotage the programme of the Left, but they currently have no power to oppress immigrants; they have no paramilitary branch and they do not hold the governmental positions they would need to oppress them legally. If I were an immigrant in Greece, I would not be afraid.

    Attributing the failure of the Greek economy to the immigrant “black market” is laughable. Even if these people are legalised (which I eagerly anticipate now that SYRIZA is in power), their income is so low that they probably wouldn’t be taxed anyway. Not to mention that linking Greece’s financial problems to immigration is an error that can play right into the racists’ hands.

    Fyssas’s murder was not merely “connected to Golden Dawn supporters”, it was committed by Golden Dawn members at the orders of their leaders. Keep that in mind when comparing them to the Independent Greeks, who – despicable as they are – stay within the bounds of legality.

    Lastly, claiming that the leadership of SYRIZA chose to ally with the Independent Greeks because they’re “not anti-racist enough”, because they either don’t care or don’t get it (because they’re white non-immigrants) is a very superficial reading of the situation. SYRIZA didn’t move away from their anti-racist positions. What’s happening is that SYRIZA think they can use the Independent Greeks without having to capitulate to the agenda of the latter on any major issues. I think that this is dangerously underestimating the Independent Greeks. This is a mistake that they make because they’re reformist, and it has absolutely nothing to do with them being white non-immigrants. Political conscience is affected but not defined by the privileges one does or does not enjoy.


    1. Also, when I say SYRIZA I mean the leadership. There is major discontent within the “party” (if you can call it that) on that decision on part of the leadership.


  4. Interesting article Lester and good comment Paul. I know little about Greek politics but why did Syriza have to for a coalition with this particular party? Why couldn’t they form a coalition with a party more aligned with their political position? Generally interested.


    1. The KKE are viciously sectarian and won’t touch Syriza with a barge pole (it would undermine their whole point in being). Nor would Pasok, who are less sectarian, but would still be likely torn even further apart if they joined an alliance. That leaves Potami, but their support for austerity light makes them unsuitable too. Syriza’s key aim is to stop EU austerity, none of the other parties would fully support that (except the KKE, but they are out for the other reasons), whereas ANEL are very strongly of the same viewpoint.

      The hope is that by undercutting the material conditions that have fuelled the growth n racism, they will also undercut racism. Of course that requires a strong anti-racist message to be sent out TOO, but there is no reason to believe Syriza wont (continue to) do just that.


  5. While I agree with the sentiments in this article, but unfortunately Syriza were left with little choice except to form this unholy alliance if they wanted to form a government. The Greek constitution does not allow for minority governments, so the only other option would have been to hold another election.

    With progressive Syriza overwhelmingly dominating the new government it is to be hoped that their erstwhile “partners” are marginalised and powerless to influence the future direction of Greek politics. At this point in time I will critically give Syriza the benefit of the doubt and wait and see. If I seen any signs of them supporting anti-immigrant and racist policies my support will disappear.


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