Is the political divide tearing Greece in half? Featured

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Over the last few years, the Greek population has been plunged into a climate of fear. Following a dubious political agenda, cuts in pensions and wages and Europe’s charitable bailouts, the country has been left in a state of chaos. Since 2010, Athens has witnessed continual protests, culminating in the 2012 street riots. The Greek capital is all too familiar with the sight of citizens running in fear, surrounded by tear gas and flames.


According to Roman Gerodimos, founder and convenor of the GPSG (Greek Politics Specialist Group), Greece’s dependency on IMF bailouts and its clearcut pro-Eurozone foreign policy has created a divided political landscape. A gap is forming between the ‘pro-Euro camp’, which extends from the ‘reformist left to the liberal right’ (including the three partners of the current coalition government), while the latter camp attracts both radical leftist parties (such as Syriza and the Communist Party) as well as the nationalist and xenophobic right (including Independent Greeks and the infamous Golden Dawn).’ The rise of Golden Dawn, a fascist neo-Nazi rightist party which boasts a repertory of ‘cleansing’ activity as well as misogyny, corruption, insidious propaganda and political subversion, is feeding on and taking advantage of the Greek citizens’ fragile state of mind. 


There is no ambiguity surrounding this group; it has blamed the crisis on jobs being given to ‘immigrants’ and has its regular, obtuse discourse televised nation-wide. The slapping on public television of a female left-wing politician by a Golden Dawn spokesman provides the Greek nation with a backdrop as to what extremism is really about. The relevance of the GD with its seemingly ‘funny’ unabashed racist rhetoric, quickly becomes of significance in a country where national xenophobia is on the rise. The instances of extremely violent ‘personal justice’ inflicted by groups of GD activists on non-native Greek civilians are widespread and the close relationship the GD has with the Greek police force is unsubtly reminiscent of the Nazi occupation period in Greece from 1941 to 1944. 


The austerity measures which have resulted in wage cuts and job losses, as well as the neglect of educational and civil reform weigh heavily on the mind of the average Greek citizen. The nature of the current crisis is linked to Greece’s history of political division and oppression. The nation’s liberation from the Axis Power rule following its 4-year Nazi Occupation in 1944, plunged the country into a polarizing Civil War where communists and anti-communists waged a subversive battle with devastating social and economic consequences. This initiated a 7-year right-wing military junta dictatorship commonly referred to as the ‘Regime of the Colonels’, which collapsed in 1974. 


Historically, Greece has suffered mistreatment and abuse under right-wing governments, which has left a stain in the memories of generations of Greeks. Paradoxically, following the restoration of democracy in 1974, the prolific corruption and abuse of the Greek citizen under the veil of egalitarianism has further injured the psyche of Greek society. The line is blurred between contribution and retribution, as Greece struggles to forget its long history of oppression and its political legacy of immorality whilst waving the birth certificate of democracy. 


Greece’s battle with its public and economic sector inefficiencies, as well as the right/left cleavage occurring between the Liberalist pro-Euro group and the radical right-wing nationalists, is costing Greek citizens their lives. This, coupled with its history of extremism, has resulted in a re-surfacing mistrust of the government, and to a certain extent the subconscious emergence of intolerant extremist ideology. Terrorism, extortion, physical and verbal abuse as well as prolific hate crimes are a symptom of Greece’s historical backlash. Its relationship with oppressive right-wing governments is deeply rooted in anti-institutionalism, resulting in a refusal of society, as it is, thus the systematic destruction of it. The scars are extensive and profound; the Greek citizen believes that they cannot rely on the state anymore so has to rely on himself. This is creating a mobilized group of like-minded civilians in search of retribution and revenge. This highly politicised, organised group mentality and the destructive nature of extremism is synonymous with the destructive nature of the Greek who is familiar with themes of persecution and tyranny. The fearful Greek citizen is panicking at the current state of affairs and looking for someone to blame or someone to follow, which under the current circumstances of severe poverty, desperation and apprehension is not justifiable but completely understandable. This begs the question - what would you do if the world came crumbling down around you?


The need for fundamental change is being expressed through fundamental extremism. However when a group collectively takes on the responsibility of a country’s ‘problems’ by publicly beating its civilians, arming its young men and drowning the voices of justice and freedom with the all too familiar dribble of fanaticism, the ‘civilised’ world should lay in fear of things to come.


Stephanie Skarbek

I'm in my second year studying English Literature and Language at Leeds. In my spare time, which I never seem to have a lot of, I like to draw, play the drums and watch Korean films. I also write short stories, and spend my time investing in comic books and cheap clothing on ebay!

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