The Serpent’s Egg hatchlings in Greece’s postmodern Great Depression

A brief history of the racist/fascist/neonazi penetration of Greece’s new ‘technocratic’ government

It will prove George Papandreou’s ugliest legacy: that his last-minute childish maneuvering to maximise his waning hold on power (while negotiating his eviction from the PM’s job), has brought into the new ‘national unity’ government four self-declared racists (some of whom are neo-Fascists and one a neo-Nazi of some renown). It is also wildly ironic: for Mr Papandreou’s best quality has traditionally been his ardent cosmopolitanism, his demonstrated anti-nationalism, a genuine commitment to minorities and a deep seated intolerance of racism. Alas, such is the lure of power, it seems, that the entry into the new government of one minister and three junior ministers representing LAOS (a small ultra-right wing party) was cynically judged as a smaller price to pay than handing more control of the new regime to Mr Papandreou’s political opponents in the two major parties – his own PASOK and New Democracy, the conservative opposition.

To non-Greeks watching breathlessly the swearing into government of the serpent’s egg latest hatchlings, these news from Greece will surely resonate terribly. As they should! For yet again a Great Depression has given fascism another twirl. And while Greece is small and ought to be irrelevant, its past has spawned great perils for the world at large. Lest we forget, the Cold War did not begin in the streets of Berlin but in the alleys of Athens back in December 1944. Greece was also one of the first countries to have established a fully fledged fascist regime after the Crash of 1929: the Metaxas dictatorship in 1936. More recently, a CIA-backed coup brought Greek fascists in power six years before General Pinochet rolled his tanks against the Presidential palace in Santiago, quite obviously inspired by the ‘success’ of his Greek brethren. Nowadays, with Greece leading the chorus of Europe’s headlong dive into a new recession, and a renewed disintegration complete with racial overtones (Germans loathing the Greeks and vice versa), it is time for the world to take note. Feeling the irony of Papandreou’s tragic end will simply not do. Progressives around the world must remain vigilant.

A brief history of LAOS

The junior member of Mr Lucas Papademos’ government is a party called LAOS. Its acronym stands for Popular Orthodox Rally but forms the Greek word for ‘People’, or the equivalent of the German ‘Volk’. Its leader is a certain Mr George Karatzaferis; a former third grade TV journalist with an eye to the benefits of appealing, via right wing populist means, to the right of the conservative party. Back in the late 1890s, when his TV career was refusing to take off in the big league channels, he shrewdly invested in a small TV channel of his own (called Telecity) which he used, American style, as his personal fiefdom. On the basis of TV rants with substantial racist overtones, he managed, unperturbed by the awful quality of his programs, to secure a small band of loyal lower class right wing viewers. Three were his weapons:

  • unrestrained attacks against the socialist party, PASOK; especially of Andreas Papandreou (George’s father)
  • an unbridled racist campaign that fanned the apprehension of a Greek society caught out by the sudden influx of immigrants, especially Albanians (following the implosion of Greece’s neighbouring country in 1991)
  • the wave of national anger and self-loathing spearheaded by the post-1991 breakup of Yugoslavia which led the southern former Yugoslav state of Macedonia to seek independence under the name Republic of Macedonia; a turn of events that unleashed mass nationalist hysteria in Greece, not confined (it must be said) to the Right of the political spectrum.

At first, Karatzaferis operated as a populist within the mainstream conservative party, New Democracy. Indeed, courtesy of his TV station and its small but loyal band of followers, he managed to get elected in Athens as a New Democracy deputy with clear majorities. Nevertheless, New Democracy’s leadership, while trying to keep him on a leash, never gave him a role in the party’s higher echelons. And when the party entered a period of intense internal divisions (as a result of PASOK’s great electoral successes in the 1990s), Karatzaferis seemed to have backed the wrong horse thus finding himself marginalised within. [His eventual parting with New Democracy came when he targeted the party’s spokesman, a young handsome man that was politically close to the then New Democracy leader, insinuating unequivocally that he was gay.] At that point, Mr Karatzaferis took the bold decision to get out of New Democracy and use the combined firepower of his position as MP and of his lamentable (quality-wise) TV channel to start a new ultra-right party. The choice of acronym, LAOS, appealed to the Greek Orthodox church (the O in LAOS stands for ‘orthodox’) while his anti-immigrant rants were intended as means of bringing into the fold (a) despondent Greeks (the unemployed, the distressed petty-bourgeois etc.) and (b) assorted neo-Fascists.

Judging by the peronnel he peopled LAOS with, it would have been very easy to dismiss LAOS as a non-starter. None of them had any political kudos in mainstream politics. They comprised geriatrics who waxed lyrical about some non-existent glorious Greek past, remnants of the old Royalists (estranged since 1975 from the mainstream Right, when the latter’s leadership espoused republicanism), a small band of supporters of the 1967-1974 fascist junta and, most importantly, a small but dynamic band of younger supporters who were keen to find a political home for their explicit anti-migrant narratives (which polite society had no time for). Crucially, within this mish-mash of rightist groups lacking any serious ideological compass, two figures stand out: Mr Voridis and Mr Plevris. Two young men with an uncompromising ideological position and definite plans for LAOS.

Two examples of LAOS stalwarts

While Mr Karatzaferis is an accidental leader, and is probably not more racist than many politicians in the mainstream political parties (in the sense that he only formed LAOS when he judged that his private fortunes were better served that way, rather than by staying in mainstream New Democracy; and then gave it a racist spin to differentiate his ‘product’), this is not so for some of LAOS’ leading lights. Here are two telling examples.

Plevris is the son of the foremost postwar Greek Nazi ideologue. Please note that the use of the Nazi epithet here is not an attempt to attach a term of abuse to him. For Mr Plevris was proud of it (National Socialist was, I must admit, his preferred term, though he did not balk at being labelled Nazi). His books and publications strove to defend the ‘national socialist’ version of history, including the ardent persecution of Jews (as a natural defence of Aryan people from the Jewish conspiracy), Holocaust denial, a systematic defence of  the Nazis’ occupation of Greece etc. etc. Indeed, father Plevris had formed a number of neo-Nazi organisations after 1974 and had shown a remarkable determination to stand his neo-Nazi ground at a time when the Greek Left was resurgent and the ultra Right was in retreat. Had Mr Plevris been younger, he would have played an active role in LAOS. The next best thing, as it turned out, was that he promoted his son within the new party – the result being that Plevris Junior is now an MP. While it is important not to presume that a son must necessarily bear responsibility for his father’s views and political activities, in the case of Plevris Junior he has not questioned (at least in public) his father’s considerable legacy.

Let me now turn to a second young man, Mr Voridis, who is now a government minister (holding the Public Works portfolio). Voridis was a neo-Nazi activist with a chequered past of violence (he has been known to partake of attacks against left wing students and activists) but also a bourgeois education (he graduated from the American College of Athens, a major incubator of the Greek elite). While he is now denying that he is a Nazi, and calls himself a nationalist, not once has he renounced the essence of his anti-semitism, anti-immigrant past. He speaks well and knows how to speak to people’s anxieties, while holding back on the darker side of his putrid ideology.

LAOS’ ‘culture’

I recall, not so many years ago, that upon returning to Greece from Australia, I would try to treat my jetlag, in the morning’s wee hours, by watching Telecity, Mr Karatzaferis’ appalling TV station. It was hilarious. To this day I cannot forget a program in which some crazed rightwinger unfolded a magnificent argument which, I must admit, I had not seen coming.

He started by declaring that, though a devout Orthodox Christian, he now believed in Darwin. This captured my attention and thus I watched on. He went on and on about how the fossil record makes it clear that prior Christian objections to Darwinism could not be sustained. Though he did look and rave like a loony, he sounded eminently reasonable. Until at some point he asked: “But is there any evidence that we Greeks, the chosen people who shone a bright light upon civilisation, have evolved from apes? Is this possible, I ask you? Of course it is not!” At that point I was all ears and eyes. “What could he possibly have up his sleeve?”, I wondered.

My incredulity was deepened when the presenter began showing aerial photographs from a mountain near Athens, claiming that they revealed the existence of ancient routes, caves and tunnels. After all the evidence had been laid bare, the masterstroke came: For it was ‘clear’ to him that the puzzle had been solved: Greeks were, unlike the rest of humanity (that had indeed descended from the apes), the descendants of an Über Race of extraterrestrials. I rest my case.

The danger

Most Greeks recall ludicrous LAOS-associated narratives of the sort that I just outlined. It is natural, therefore, that many cannot take the LAOS threat seriously. In the greater scheme of Greece’s troubles, the majority feel that LAOS is a sideshow that is here today gone tomorrow. That they found themselves in government as a result of a silly tactic by Papandreou but that they will return to the margins soon after. This is dangerous claptrap. Official racism-in-power, even if this government does not last long, poisons a whole society in the long term. The serpent’s egg, once it hatches, has the capacity to spread its venom far, wide and deeply. Once unleashed, anti-semitism, as we should have known by now, does its work subterraneanly and with undiminished poise. Already, a Muslim PASOK deputy from northern Greece refused to give the new government his vote of confidence. Immediately, LAOS seized upon this in order to argue, through its opportunistic leader, that this was a good thing, as it shows that the Turkish government is unhappy about the presence of true patriots in the new Greek government. Notice how racism is forging divisions within Greek society (turning the Muslim MP into a Dreyfus-like ‘spy’ figure) and, also, creating new rifts between Greek and its neighbours after years of substantial progress in healing them (progress that is largely due to good works by George Papandreou in his previous incarnation as Greece’s Foreign Minister).

The gist

1929 ought to have taught us that two things happen after a banking-cum-debt-cum-real economy collapse: First, the common currency shrivels and dies (the Gold Standard then, the euro now). Secondly, racism raises its ugly head, gains entry into government and, before we know it, makes it impossible to find civilised means by which to tackle the Crisis. For all the talk of a technocratic pro-European government in Greece, the truth has a nasty underbelly in which the serpent’s egg has already hatched. The world better beware.

134 thoughts on “The Serpent’s Egg hatchlings in Greece’s postmodern Great Depression

  1. Varoufakis you should go and live in Agios Panteleimonas with the illegal immigrants instead of the affluent northern suburbs. Athens in not a safe place anymore because of mass illegal immigration. It is a fact that the influx of illegal immigrants has lowered the wages of unskilled workers and has greatly increased crime rates. Also, many of the illegal immigrants are muslim extremists and they pose a threat to our values and to Greek national security.

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  7. Well yes… it’ s bad, and perhaps dangerous, that LAOS is part of the new greek government. But I do not think that the rise of the right in Greece is an isolated phenomenon. It connects to the rise of fascism in Europe in general. Not only the right wing parties increase their voters all over Europe (perhaps only in Germany there is no such development simply because the Christian Democratic party represents fascists perfectly fine) but the EU creates all the necessary conditions for the right wing parties to increase their power. Since you were talking about immigration, how do you find, for example, the EU immigration law? How should one see on the one hand Merkel’s statement that Germany only wants highly educated people as immigrants in order to fill in specific positions in the country and on the other Germany’s humanitarian concerns about the state of being of immigrants in Greece? Do you think that the left has convincing solutions or have they lost their connection both to reality and people? Thus, I have the impression that it would have been much more useful to concentrate on the conditions that give rise to the right instead of simply lamenting its newly acquired privileged position. As someone that despises LAOS, I have to say that I agree with M.P. G. Psarianos. I am interested more 1. in hearing what the left has to offer and 2. in examining what went wrong in this ideological/political spectrum. Finally, I am interested in the european dimensions of this “crisis” too.

    • @europeandecadent I like what you say: “…..it would have been much more useful to concentrate on the conditions that give rise to the right instead of simply lamenting its newly acquired privileged position”…… because I am sure this is the only way to stop it (extremes).

      It is the same with diseases: if the root of the problem is not known you cannot give the right medicine. Mostly they (mainstream medicine) use something to stop the symptom of the disease, which is similar with the symptom of a alarming bad (going into extremes) development in the society.

      We live in a cosmic system which is in a constant search for a natural balance. If there is a disbalance then we name that “bad”, in the meaning of “not right”. But also too much “good” is not right.

      If there is the symptom of the rise of what we call the extreme right wing then there must have been a not normal rise on the other side.

      Also important to realize is that what we fear in the outer world we fear also in our self. Fear is related with judgements.

      We are all one (micro and macro). Also with what we dislike, or learned to dislike. There is not one single human being with just positive sides, and yes, in extreme situations the good one we think we are can change into a killer, even a Hitler.
      We are all one deep inside. We are all searching for complete oneness. The Path to reach the final Oneness is long.

      We have to keep an eye on our own self, analyse it and search for the balance there, to stay healthy in not just a physically way but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. To take the responsibility to bring and keep ourselves in balance.
      To be harmonious.
      But that is connected with evolution, with awarenes and consciousness, deepening, development, with learning, not only rational, to get the awareness for instance Aristotle had.

      It takes more than one life to learn that. That is the reason that there are so many differences in levels of development. Because the one is harder working at the self than the other one. The one has had already more reincarnations than the other one.

      It is wonderful to have all political parties in the governement. In Netherlands this is normal. We all learn more by listening to other opinions and by having a voice, all.

      I am not afraid.
      I know myself and yes, in me is, on some moments, also an extremist. I was shocked the first time that I realized that. But I understood/understand myself:
      When I hear about new disgusting scandals in nature I can get so furious, feeling so completely frustrated and standing alone in front of the wall of power of those who rule this planet that I can find ways to punish the bad one that you would be astonished.

      But, that is extreme frustration. Hatred. Yes, I can hate, I can love.

      This planet is there because of contradictions. Lao Tzu wrote about it already thousands of years before Christ, and it is true.

      You cannot know what love is if you don’t know hatred. If you say you don’t know hatred then you lie, deny yourself, and pretend that you are holy. Or you live with masks, as the most do. I don’t say that hatred is good. It is a mood, not you. Even priests can hate, and they name it love on moments that they want to fight for that what they learned that is right or wrong.
      Even in the bible they created a violent God, who even encouraged wars. That is not God, that is hatred, “speaking”, and the person who is/was experiencing this >thinks< he hears " God" speaking.
      Their "God" killed billions of people, even Hitler was praying to God. and heared answers.
      Love is more than the other side of hatred.
      "It" is older than the concept of God.

      It helps to talk. To scream, to cry.

      It helps to listen.
      To discuss.
      To search for the reasons.
      To forgive.
      And to embrace.

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