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.
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]