Capitalism and 21st century fascism: Golden Dawn and women

Categories: Features

The Greek fascists Golden Dawn now command 12% in the polls and are growing in strength on the streets. Jade McCarroll puts their rise into historical context and analyses the role of women in their movement and ideology.

The crisis of global capitalism and the re-emergence of fascist ideology in Europe as a destructive and prominent political and social force, are inextricably interlinked. No surprise then that the ‘sick man’ of Europe should find itself at the mercy of fascist thugs with the state and its enforcers completely unwilling to intervene and put a stop to their brutality.

At the moment in Greece it is in the Golden Dawn that we find the worst expressions of a degenerate financial system in crisis. With the violent austerity imposed on the people of Greece by the Troika, after a crisis not of their making, and with all other forces on the right participating in a government of an unelected banker Lucas Papademos, Golden Dawn appeared on the electoral scene projecting an anti-system image (an entirely false image) and providing the proof that the European elite had been playing with fire for far too long.

‘Blood, honour, Golden Dawn’ -a direct translation of the German ‘Blut, und, ehre’ once the motto of the Nazi SA- is a favoured chant of Golden Dawn and their followers. Although the blood being shed is not their own, it is that of immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ people and those who oppose the vile rhetoric and actions of these fascist bullies. Knife attacks, beatings and the terrorisation of anyone who does not fit with GD’s visions of a fascist Greece have been well documented, but rarely acted upon. In many instances the police were present during these attacks and simply turned a blind eye, or as in the recent case reported in the Guardian of police torturing and humiliating anti-fascist’s who had already been the victims of an attack by the thugs of the GD. Whether or not the estimate that 50% of Greek police voted for the fascist’s is in fact true, it is abundantly clear that there is a close relationship between the police and fascist’s in Greece, both historically and at present. The police themselves have been accused of vicious attacks on immigrants and of systematically stopping, detaining and harassing anyone who looks foreign.

Fascism is tied by a million threads to capitalism and class rule, and throughout its history has been funded by big business, rich capitalist’s and religious institutions. Although riding on a wave of populist rhetoric and appealing to the working class, GD are no different to any other fascist party and like Mussolini and Franco, seek to make strikes, trade union rights and democratic rights a thing of the past. Like Hitler appealing to the German people’s humiliation after the Versailles treaty, GD are appealing to the bruised ego’s of the people of Greece who see their country singled out and held up as the pinnacle of ‘financial mismanagement’. At present it cannot be said that GD represent the immediate threat of fascism in the same way as Hitler or Mussolini did previously, not for the want of trying. Those social layers who historically would have backed the fascist movement during economic crisis, the petit bourgeois, have been rallying against the Government and EU imposed austerity on a mass scale. However, if these efforts continue to be fruitless there is the very real possibility of GD making huge gains as Greek society continues to disintegrate.

It is clear to anyone who has watched events in Greece unfold that the GD are racist, xenophobic and homophobic bigots; they proudly tell us this. One thing that is not so clear is their views on the place of women in society.

Women and Golden Dawn

“Naturally a woman shouldn’t be a slave, but if I concede her the vote, I’d be laughed at. In our state, she must not count.”

Mussolini Nov 12, 1922.

The role of women as inferior to men in fascist ideology is not hugely surprising given its ties to the capitalist system. In order for capitalism to maintain its stranglehold division is necessary at the base of society. Women in class society are treated as second class citizens, this is well understood; the subjugation of women in relation to fascist ideology however, is particularly striking. From Mussolini to Hitler to Franco we see a complete contempt for women and their aspirations to live as economically independent beings who do not strictly adhere to the most backward interpretation of gender norms. In fascist society they are to be constrained, treated merely as a domestic slave and as a means of breeding and nurturing the next generation of docile and eager patriots. No area of social life is out of the reach of the fascist state, not even sex. In Mussolini’s Italy the ‘battle of the births’ was launched in 1922 (something that was later to be emulated by Hitler) the aim was to have a population of 60 million by 1950 – families were given a target of 5 births and for their services to the state were to be rewarded with lower tax rates, the shortfall of tax was of course to be picked up by those who failed to do their duty in creating the next generation of soldiers and breeders.

Although since this time the position of women in European society has advanced a great deal, it would seem that the 21′st century versions of Hitler and Mussolini want to see women relegated back to their ‘natural’ role, occupying themselves solely with being mothers and domestic labourers. We are told by the Golden Dawn that motherhood is not a choice, rather it is a “obligation and supreme honour” and that abortion is a “crime against the race”. Women are not allowed to live as autonomous beings but rather as obedient spouses and nurturing mothers. Fascism at its roots is extremely patriarchal and GD as an organisation is a naked reflection of this.

Nonetheless ‘the women’s front’ does exist within Golden Dawn. They explain:

we, the Greek women, members of the Peoples Association ‘Golden Dawn’ having a profound sense of the destruction brought about by the feminist spirit of our times, are against all sorts of pronouncements on gender equality.

They go on to say that the essence of womanhood is the nurturing of children and the family. Presumably their idea of the nature of ‘the family’ and child rearing also has its roots in fascist ideology where ‘war is to the male what childbearing is to the female’ and the only family is the nuclear family. The woman is to stay at home and tend to the children, whilst the man goes out to earn the money- or to ruthlessly attack immigrants, whatever the task of the day is. Patriachal power relations seem to be readily accepted by these women and it has proven impossible to find any kind of condemnation or even comment on the televised assault on Rena Dourou of Syriza and Liana Kanelli of the KKE carried out by Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris.

As with any successful advertising campaign GD have taken to showing off ‘their golden girls’ and have a blog devoted to showing off the women of GD who as one visitor to the site says “don’t just look pretty they defend their Greek heritage and kick the f— out of paki, muslim scum”. The fascist mystique of women as nurturing, domesticated and docile creatures seems then to be expendable so long as women are beating up immigrants and of course looking good whilst doing so.

Although they lack any considerable amount of real political power, GD’s presence on the street has been felt by all in Greece and the threat that they represent both immediately to Greek society and more generally as a manifestation of a reactionary, violent and potentially catastrophic ideology cannot be overstated. There have been continued heroic efforts by socialists, anarchists, anti-fascist’s and immigrant’s to fend off the attacks meted out on Greek society by Golden Dawn, this has been met with brutality from both the fascist’s and the police, which has led to the bourgeois media to call for their MP’s to be recalled from Parliament and for them and their foot soldiers to be subject to the rule of law. This is a good start, but what then? Even pro-capitalist journalists acknowledge that fascism is a recurrent phenomenon that never really disappears, but is only ameliorated during times of economic prosperity, when there is not so much need for a scapegoat. The amelioration of fascist ideology can only ever be ephemeral when relying on an economic system that is inherently contradictory and unstable – under a capitalist economy fascism will never be tackled head on and will continue to be a bloody stain on the history of humanity.

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