Friday, June 08, 2012

Civilisation's strange saviours

As a teenager I sneaked into a screening of Romper Stomper, the portrait of the Australian neo-Nazi scene that launched Russell Crowe's movie career. I was impressed by the epic running battle between Russell's band of dim-witted skinheads and the army of enraged Vietnamese Australians who poured out of a seemingly endless series of Ford Escorts and Bedford vans wielding enormous knives borrowed from their parents' restaurants.

I don't think I spent long considering the ideological backdrop to Romper Stomper, but I do remember being struck by the contrast between  the neo-Nazis' claims to be the saviors of Western civilisation and the depravity of their lifestyles. The tattooed, taut Crowe, who was far less famous, in the early nineties, than his cricketing cousins Martin and Jeff, talked about leading a gang of ubermenschen, but he and his mates were covered in jailhouse tattoos, and used a toilet brush to wash their dishes. They lived in a series of grotty warehouses, and their political activism invariably involved knuckledusters, baseball bats, and oi, a subgenre of music which makes run-of-the-mill punk seem as sophisticated and adventurous as free jazz. For all their talk of social Darwinism and their claims to uphold the best of European culture and history, I don't think Russell and co would have been admitted to Plato's Academy, or allowed onto the Beagle.

I'm reminded of the pathetic ubermenschen of Romper Stomper when I see reports on the progress of Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi organisation which last month won twenty-two seats in Greece's parliament. Led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, an ex-soldier with an exceptionally high-pitched voice and a fondness for stiff-armed salutes, Golden Dawn bemoans the state of modern Greece, and promises to recreate the age of Homer, Pericles, and Plato.

Laments for lost Hellenic glory are not new - Byron famously described Greece as a place on which 'all, except their sun, is set' - but they do not usually come from fat, tattooed, crewcut blokes in leather jackets. Nor is it clear exactly how the Golden Dawn's political programme, which calls for the mass internment of dark-skinned folk and socialists, the banning of trade unions, and the placing of 'the interests of the country before the interests of democracy', is going to help Greece revive its reputation for intellectual and literary brilliance.

Golden Dawn has come under scrutiny from the Greek and international media since last month's elections, and its poll ratings have dropped. Greeks who used the party to register a protest against the austerity programme forced on them by the German bourgeoisie have discovered that Michaloliakos and his colleagues are ardent Hitlerians, who look back to the German occupation of the '40s reverently. Golden Dawn has slipped in the polls, and may not keep its place in parliament in the new round of elections scheduled for June the 16th.

The Dawn's reelection chances have not been helped by the decision of one of its MPs to turn a television chatshow appearance into a boxing bout. In Romper Stomper, Russell Crowe's troubles began when he and his friends decided to beat up a group of young Vietnamese women. On Good Morning Greece Ilias Kasidiaris, who is apparently a keen weightlifter and boxer as well as a politician, had a crack at a couple of female MPs from the left-wing Syriza coalition and the Communist Party.  After throwing a glassful of water and three punches Kasidiaris fled the television studio. He is now holed up at Golden Dawn headquarters, a fugitive from the Greek police.

Even before Kasidiaris' implosion, Golden Dawn had been denying claims that it was a fascist organisation. The Dawn's online bookshop, which offered literary classics like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf for sale, had been closed down, and Michaloliakos had insisted he was a run-of-the-mill Greek nationalist, not a Nazi.

Despite Golden Dawn's attempts to clean up their website, a good deal of evidence of the real nature of their politics remains online, and some of this evidence comes courtesy of one of New Zealand's best-known neo-Nazis, Kerry Bolton. The obscure Ethniko website, which was set up to 'honour the Greek-German folk spirit', harbours an interview which Bolton did in French with a member of the Golden Dawn back in 1998.

Michalolikos founded Golden Dawn in 1980, but by 1998 his outfit was still tiny and little-known. Bolton's interest in Golden Dawn is understandable, though, because he and Michalolikos shared a peculiar desire to fuse neo-Nazi politics with Satanist and neo-pagan religion. In its early years, Golden Dawn denounced Christianity as a foreign, pusillanimous creed, and urged Greeks to turn to the authentically Aryan figures of Zeus and Lucifer. Bolton promoted much the same message in a string of magazines published at this end of the world in the '90s. In recent years Michaloliakos has reinvented himself as a stout defender of the Greek Orthodox Church, and Bolton has pronounced himself a Catholic. I wouldn't trust either of them with the communion wine.

I'm reliant on babelfish for my reading of Bolton's 1998 dialogue with a Golden Dawn activist, but I'm fairly sure I haven't misunderstood the opening section of the chat:

Bolton: Can Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) be described as a National Socialist Movement based on Hitler, or is it based on specifically Greek tradition while appreciating the merits of such movements of the past?

Golden Dawn: I will repeat this question by repeating two sentences of Hitler. The first is located in Mein Kampf, where this great leader stated: "the civilization that we will create will last a thousand years, because it combines the Hellenic thought Germanic thinking." The second is the answer to a question of the famous General SS Belgian Léon Degrelle. The question: "Mein Führer, who are we?", Hitler said: "we are all the co-rapporteur. This remarkable statement is mentioned by General Degrelle himself in a letter to Mr. Mihaloliakos leader a few years before the death of the first. In short, we see National Socialism not only as a political movement created by Hitler to serve the needs of a specific people (the German people, in this case) at a specific time, but also as the modern version of the former Greek expression. I recommend your readers to read Plato's Republic and to inform on Greek thought; then they fully understand what I'm saying here:  National Socialism has its roots far in the past, at the dawn of our Aryan civilization and it is indeed a Greek philosophy! I should add that the modern National Socialist philosopher David Myatt fully recognized this fact in his various works.

I'm sure that Golden Dawn would today hasten to denounce this exchange as a flagrant fabrication perpetrated by an agent of the New World Order, but I think that it highlights an essential aspect of the party's politics.

Where many other southern European fascist movements have looked to Mussolini or Franco for inspiration, Golden Dawn is preoccupied with Hitler. Bolton's interlocutor labours to make the Belgian fascist and wartime collaborator Leon Degrelle into a sort of bridge between the Fuhrer and Michaloliakos. Degrelle is a controversial character amongst fascists, because he chose to put his loyalty to Hitlerism before his loyalty to his own people, but Michaloliakos apparently had no objections to his behaviour. Now that he is presenting himself as a Greek nationalist rather than a neo-Nazi, though, Michaloliakos might be embarrassed by his connection with Leon Degrelle.

Michaloliakos would be even more discomfited, I think, by the praise that Golden Dawn's spokesman had for David Myatt, a Briton whose ideology fuses Nazism with elements of Islamism. Myatt, who nowadays calls himself Abdul-Aziz ibn Myatt, argues that Aryans and Muslims ought to join forces and launch a jihad against Jews. In 1998, when Bolton got his interview with Golden Dawn, Jews were still the favourite hate group for most European fascist organisations, but over the last decade or so, and especially since the 9/11 attacks on America, the far right has attempted to capitalise on widespread Islamophobic by focusing its hatred on Muslim immigrants to the West. In the new atmosphere of the twenty-first century, David Myatt's Islamonazi ideology has become an embarrassment to many fascists. I doubt whether Golden Dawn, which likes to claim that immigrants from nations like Pakistan are in the process of 'Islamicising' Greece, would cherish being associated today with the bearded, Koran-carrying Myatt.
The Golden Dawn spokesman's assertion that Hitler was some sort of reincarnation of Plato shows once again the absurdity of the group's claims to represent the best of Greek and Western culture and history. While Plato's Republic has been criticised as an authoritarian text by numerous scholars, including our own Ted Jenner, it cannot be fairly compared to Hitler's demented Mein Kampf, or to Michaloliakos' incoherent conspiracy theories.

Golden Dawn's attempt to annex Greece's classical heritage seems particularly surreal to me, because of my current dealings with members and former students of the 'Atenisi Insitute, the school established on the outskirts of Nuku'alofa by the Tongan classicist Futa Helu back in the 1960s. In the new Oceania-themed issue of the literary journal brief, Ted Jenner notes that 'Atenisi, whose name is Tongan for Athens, began teaching its students Greek in the late '70s, the very time when the language was pulled from the curricula of  Kiwi state schools. At the launch party for the new brief, Ted talked nervously to me about his forthcoming trip to Greece, noted that he had taught the Greek language and Greek literature to enthusiastic students in Malawi for more than a decade, and suggested that classical civilisation might be in better nick in Africa and the Pacific than in the Athens neighbourhoods patrolled by Golden Dawn thugs. Looking at the likes of Nikolaos Michaloliakos and Ilias Kasidiaris, who would disagree with Ted?

[Posted by Maps/Scott]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

that fight scene is classic

'gooks, gooks, fuckin' thousands of them coming!'

the vietnamese kick arse...

6:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kasidiaris did not want the woman MP told the truth about him, that he had been convicted of robbery and violence. He is one of the Nazi freaks who took advantage of the great economic crisis to come out and, with the usual demagoguery of populists, were elected by the Greeks most deluded and ignorant (who for some time are realizing the egregious mistake made).

6:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn says Istanbul will be Greek
ATHENS - Hürriyet

The supporters of Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which won nearly 7 percent of the vote in an inconclusive election on May 6, marched on May 30 chanting “Istanbul is Greek and will remain Greek.”

Some 1,000 far-right Golden Dawn supporters gathered in Athens city center to protest the 559th anniversary of the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire and marked the date with a number of events held in the city on May 29.

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaliolakos also said, “Istanbul is Greek and will remain Greek,” during the protest. The group chanted the national anthem and made the Nazi salute.

7:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re that first photos...when did merv hughes moves to greece?

8:37 pm  
Anonymous John said...

The most trite article I've ever seen.

11:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what john sed. blacks reading the

11:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is growing polarisation. People are becoming increasingly radicalised thanks to all the rhetoric in the EU and here against the anti-austerity leftist majority and that is opening the door for Golden Dawn," said veteran activist Petros Constantinou. "We are demonstrating not only against the rise of the far right but against those who have enabled fascism to take root."

Constantinou, a tall, thin man who has spent years running an organisation that protects migrants, is, like a growing number of Greeks, convinced that it is the police who have facilitated Golden Dawn. "Without police cover and protection Golden Dawn would not have survived," he said. "And the proof of that is the failure to capture Kasidiaris.

"How is it possible that a man can do what he did in a television studio and yet manage to get away and stay on the run after a state prosecutor has ordered his arrest? The police clearly don't want to arrest him."

Dimitris Trimis, the head of the Greek journalists' association, ESEA, agreed. In a nation where physical violence is rare – and public displays of violence against women even rarer – Kasidiaris's assault on Liana Kanelli and Rena Dourou, during a live TV debate of politicians representing the seven parties that won seats in the country's inconclusive 6 May election, had clearly shocked Greeks.

All day Friday, TV channels had replayed footage showing Kasidiaris, a former commando in the Greek army, lashing out at Dourou first, hurling a glass of water in her face before turning his fists on Kanelli, the KKE communist party's spokeswoman, a former news anchor.

But his ability to evade arrest was entirely plausible, said Trimis.

"Suspicions of the collaboration between the police and Golden Dawn were confirmed at the ballot box in May," he said.

"As much as 50% of the police force voted for the party. There might be all the political will to arrest Kasidiarias. But there is a certain level of unwillingness among the police force that will stop that happening."

9:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hail the Golden Dawn!

6:35 pm  
Blogger Chris Trotter said...

The truly delusional aspect of so many of the world's neo-fascist groups is that they cannot move past the imagery of the Nazi period.

If, by fascism, we mean a political movement dedicated to the political and cultural demobilisation of the working-class, then the manifestations of fascism are all around us.

Modern day fascists have no need of brown shirts or jackboots. Their modern uniform is a stylish business suit, and Hitler's crude social Darwinism has been preplaced by full fluency in the languages of both neoliberal economics and evangelical Christianity.

If you want to see what modern fascism looks like, book a flight to Wisconsin, USA.

11:06 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Hail Golden Dawn!'

Why not just say Heil Hitler, anon?

Too scared?

11:08 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Chris,

your comment resonates with something Jeremy Rose told me a couple of years ago. Rose said he was talking with David Farrar, and Farrar said something like "I can see how people connect Stalinism with Marx, but I don't see how skinhead neo-Nazis have anything to do with capitalism and the mainstream right". And Jeremy's point was that the boneheads of groups like the National Front have obscured the very real fact that Hitler and other fascist leaders of the 1930s and '40s served the interests of their national bourgeoisies. The neo-Nutzies are like history repeating as farce.

Hi anon,

for the record, the fight scene in Romper Stomper doesn't end when the youtube clip I posted runs out. In fact, the most riveting part of the fight is left out of the clip. After Crowe and his dwindling band of followers wind up in a small attic room and hear Vietnamese bashing against the door, they face the choice of either a last stand or escape across a nearby rooftop. Crowe wants a suicidal fight; the rest of the skinheads force him to flee.

I can't decide whether Romper Stomper is a good film or not. The fight scene is exciting, but does that fact mean there is something inauthentic about it? Shouldn't it be sickening rather than energising?

11:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zizek on GD
Imagine a scene from a dystopian movie that depicts our society in the near future. Uniformed guards patrol half-empty downtown streets at night, on the prowl for immigrants, criminals and vagrants. Those they find are brutalised. What seems like a fanciful Hollywood image is a reality in today’s Greece. At night, black-shirted vigilantes from the Holocaust-denying neo-fascist Golden Dawn movement – which won 7 per cent of the vote in the last round of elections, and had the support, it’s said, of 50 per cent of the Athenian police – have been patrolling the street and beating up all the immigrants they can find: Afghans, Pakistanis, Algerians. So this is how Europe is defended in the spring of 2012...

11:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zizek's speech to Syriza:

9:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a different one

9:56 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recent polls for the upcoming second election give the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn 4-5 per cent of the vote. Until 2011, Athenians that came in contact with Golden Dawn resided mostly in the troubled neighbourhoods of Aghios Panteleimonas and Kypseli. However, the party’s influence in these two areas has decreased by 4 per cent, most probably because citizens are becoming increasingly disillusioned with its actions and mentality, while in the rest of Athens, where racist violence has been scarce, it has increased by 3 per cent.
It makes sense. This is not another populist rightwing party. It is a neo-Nazi gang, comprised mostly of skinheads, a number of which have outstanding court summons relating to violent crimes. The party has openly glorified Hitler and the Waffen SS; been involved in a number of racist attacks and pogroms; collaborated with the Greek riot squads against protestors, antifascists and immigrants; and been associated with neo-paganism and Satanism.
Golden Dawn’s threat is over-stated. A drop in their vote – from 7 to 4 per cent, and ultimately back down 0.5 percent – should be expected.
Some 60 per cent of Golden Dawn’s votes were cast in protest. Many of these are planning to make a full swing and vote for the radical left coalition SYRIZA in the second election. Another 30 per cent of Golden Dawn’s vote was motivated by the promise to 'get rid of immigrants'. But seeing as all Greek voters view immigration in a negative light, Golden Dawn are unlikely to hold the monopoly as an outlet for this grievance. Just 4.8 per cent of their voters support Golden Dawn’s ideology.

10:07 am  
Blogger marco said...

trandafiri uscati

11:04 pm  

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