E. Avdela & Aggelika Psarra: Elections 2012: The Hidden Aspects of a DarkVote

Efi Avdela and Aggelika Psarra

In the parliamentary elections of 2012, Golden Dawn received 7% of the popular voteto enter the Greek parliament immoderately. They were voted in byapproximatelyfive hundred thousand people, mostly young men of average educational level, living in urban and suburban areas. Many questions arise, one, however, is of considerable political importance: Who is behindtheorganisation and whydo its voters choose to vote forit?

We believe, that the obviously undeniable fact that Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi organisation, does not necessarilymean that its voters embrace -and follow- the neo-Nazi views and practices. The generalisation of labelling hundreds of thousands of voters fascist or Nazisupportersis an inadequate interpretation and might prove politically ineffective. Indisputably, we will not be able to provide adequate answers to contemporary questions by usinghistorical equivalents of the causes that led to the outburst of fascism and Nazism during the interwar period. In other words, linking Golden Dawn voters toNazism does not reflect the complex reality and, above all, it doesnot work asa deterrent.This is backed up by the fact that the organisation managed to retain its percentagesbetween the two electionsalthough its neo-Nazi beliefs were exposed, even with inexcusable delay, in several ways.

Neither Nazism nor its contemporary versions are the key in allowing us to understand why 7% of the electorate voted forGolden Dawn - this time round in full awareness of its criminal activity. In our opinion, the main reasons behind the impressive electoral strengthening of this criminal gang, are to be found in  the endurance –and the coincidental revival in a period of crisis– of perception “structures” that have existed within the Greek society for decades, which had beenpolitically disarmed and thereforemarginalisedto a point duringthe post – Junta era. And by this, we refer to anti-Semitism, racism, nationalism, the depreciation of the civilian staff – often flirting with totalitarianism- and sexism. The discussed “structures” that mainly relate to thecomprehension and management of diversity, form a uniquely compact grid; if we separate them, we do so, in order tobetter understand the occasional outburst of some of them, but also to observethe diffusion of the reasons responsible for their legalisation, by identifying their respective transmitters and their changing audiences.

Anti-Semitism, as an archetypical form of racism, constitutes a stable and “invisible” feature of the Greek society. And, although nowadays, other versions of racism claim greater popularity, there is a particularly suitable audience for archaicanti-Semitic conspiracy theories, whereas unconcealedanti-Semites have acquired central political legitimacy.  We will not persevere on the obvious upsurge of xenophobia, racism and nationalism: the problems of the crisis have intensified Greek society’slong documented intolerance of diversity. Nevertheless, the fact that this intolerance has, nowadays, transformed into direct and open hostility, should not be neglected. The unprecedented and systematic policyfollowed by Golden Dawn, of exercising physical violence against immigrants, is currently, finding, many supporters. Thefictionaldistribution ofproblemsby creatinginternal and / or external enemies -scapegoats- has proven to be a very old refuge in times of economic hardship, mental insecurity and fear for the future. The increasingly harsh depreciation of the civilian personnel, thatoccasionally entices eventhe parliamentary system, can, undoubtedly, be included among the effects of the crisis.Based on preexisting characteristics of the Greek society, and, above all, on the distrust towards the state and its institutions, Golden Dawn, currently expressesthe disruption of the traditional structures used by citizens to identifywith specific political figures and parties.

 It is obvious, that Golden Dawn voters share these prejudices with voters of a broader political spectrum. In this context, the unconcealed invocation of sexism and homophobia, is of particular importance. The references of the neo-Nazi organisation to the “Greek race” –or the “Greek nation”– are based on a version of aggressive masculinity, which formsamajor throwback compared to the diversifications occurring in gender relations in the recent decades. Powered by the upheavals in gendered everyday lifegenerated by the crisis, Golden Dawn’s rhetoric on genderis spreading alarmingly, irrespectively ofthe biological sex of its supporters.

 The version of masculinity alleged by Golden Dawn constitutes a meeting point for a significant portion of its voters.This is a model of aggressive masculinity, rooted on traditional social entanglements, challenged and marginalised in the public space for decades as opposed to a “European” and “modernized” version of gender relations. The turbulence caused by the financial crisis has brought into question the, until recently, hegemonic model of “consensus” manhood and has given fertile soil to the  stereotypical targeting of'the ones responsible': What seems to bother, now, apart for the “corrupt” politicians, the “criminal” foreigners, the “impudent” homosexuals, are “mouthy” women, those who occupy positions of responsibility, speak in public places or –worst of all– maintain, possibly easier, forms of employment in the informal economy, whilst young men are losing their jobs or simply don’t have one. How many men – or even women – have thought that all of them “need a good hiding”? And how many amongst them did become Golden Dawn voters? 

 At this point, let us not underestimate the fact that thekey viewpoint of the neo-Nazi organisation’s Women’s Front, that strongly emphasises the social and national role of motherhood combined withcondemnation of abortion as a “crime against race,” is related to viewsenthusiastically expressedby various social, political and scientific circles, for some time now.  And we should not ignore, the relationship of these reasons to the direct xenophobic and sexist return to the “Greek family” notion, which, in view of the recent elections, was embraced by the majority of the country's political forces. This current obsession with the “Greek family” and its asserted rights, are consequences of there-arrangementscaused by the economic impact of the crisis andentail, in the present context, the legitimationof exclusions,especially those concerningimmigrants, but also those men and women who fail to meet the regulatory requirements of the “Greek” family model.

Interestingly, at the same time, Golden Dawn’s rhetoricbenefits by many known weapons used to defend traditional antifeminism. As it is looking for a national audience, and in the context of its “anti-systemic” critique, the organisation condemns feminism-long forgotten by the rest of the political forces - along with other “dangerous” & “outlandish” concepts such as internationalism, equality or homosexuality. Golden Dawn’s viewson women (whether they have to do with the "genocide of abortions" or the "feminists with the hairy armpits" as Eleni Zaroulia Michaloliakos, wife of Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, hascasually mentioned)are dangerously associated with archaic predispositions concerning gender  “natural characteristics”, which seem to prevail in this period of crisis. It is, actually, not that difficult to find a connection between the extremely conservative conceptions of gender, which remained marginal until recently, and the gendered discourse expressed by the neo-Nazi organisation. Underpresent circumstances, traditional antifeminist and homophobic attitudes are placed into a new framework that allows them to appear as the vehicle that can restorethe disturbed natural order of things.

 Moreover, the crisis has undoubtedlyled some of Greek society’s “deep structures” to bout, turning them into commonplaces. It is equallyclear,that it has allowed the aggressivepracticeadopted by Golden Dawn in public discourse and practices, to become publicly acceptable by being considered a version of aggressive masculinity claiming hegemony as the vehicle for the nation’s salvation. The crisis facilitates the repeated expression of this practicein several ways. The fact remains ,that the use of physical violence as a basic component of its policy distinguishes the neo-Nazi organisation from other political forces, with whichit sharessome-ormany-ofits political views. The social implications of this “extraordinary fiscal emergency”, are once again clearly apparent here. Meaning, that the insecurity and the anger met in a portionof the electorate, whether conscious or not, is evidently leading them to assign actual “annihilation” of those held responsible for the present plight, to Golden Dawn.

Difficult times lie ahead.

Efi Avdela is α Professor of Contemporary History, Department of History & Archaeology, University of Crete.
Angelica Psarra is a journalist.

Translated by Renia Giordambli


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  • The original text was first published on: Written for AnalyzeGreece!