Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Golden Dawn - recruitment of youth to Extremist ideas / Right wing Extremism in Europe

A report about the political aim of Chrysi Avgi is crucial. It reveals that they base their political concept on a negation of independent structures needed to keep democracy alive, and this independent from party interests.

As a matter of fact, I experienced it many a times in the European Parliament that this difference - the continuity of parliamentary democracy in need of being safeguarded from party interests - was flauted, if not violated most of the time.

At the same time, once someone has been recruited by Chrysi Avgi, it will be difficult for that person to quit or to get out. For they exert whatever possible coercive principle to make the person fear to leave. For example, videos of ceremonies can be used to prevent members from leaving the party, for it can be threatened to make the video public.

In the past, we know many Communist party members were afraid to leave since they feared total social isolation.

Basically it is a marriage of hate and fear. It makes the members weak, internally speaking. Crucial is how to counter this?

The EU has started to take the intiative to develop counter narratives otherwise used as well by Right Wing forces throughout Europe and the world to recruit.

Why is this so important? Valletta 2018 has proclaimed most important for the youth is 'the freedom to make mistakes'? Indeed even joining a Right Wing organization can be corrected, provided it is made possible for the youth to admit it was a mistake to join and to learn out of such a wrong decision by reflecting what was experienced while in such an organisation. It requires a society not stamping someone forever as having made the wrong choice and therefore unable to correct it. Especially in a small community like Malta, there is a high risk of such etikettes sticking forever since everyone knows the others.

Still, we need to discuss the nature of such mistakes made while a youth. We had in Germany the controversy about Günter Grass revealing only 60 years later that he had voluntarily joined the SS at the age of 18. Apparently he did so out of a belief in the end victory which Hitler had proclaimed via a manipulative film managed by Goeppels. Also it was significant that he wished to break out of the narrow confines of his parental home. Many dismissed any criticism of Grass who was a well known writer. Usually they claimed that it is the Right of the Youth to make a mistake. Yet we had on the other example of youth acting, namely the 'Geschwister Scholl'. The brother and sister distributed leaflets in protest of Fascism. They were of the same age as Günter Grass. They were arrested and then executed.

How then to explain that difference between Grass and them? Certainly socialization through the parental home may be a major factor. When we did peace research into who volunteers for war, who not but becomes a conscious objector, the difference was that in the case of the former, they had parents who preached 'law and order' in an authoritarian way and thus drove their children into doing all sorts of illegal things. When war broke out, all of a sudden they found an opportunity provided by the state who justified everything they had doing so far 'illegally' to be now legal since allowed as soldier to do so, namely to fight the enemy with all means. This perversion of ethics relates what states at war make possible: what would be defined in peace time as 'morally' wrong is suddenly legitimized to be done because of being at war. The fact that killing another human being can never be morally justified, is all too easily forgotten and even justified by transforming acts of aggression as if acts of self defence or of prevention. It can get even more absurd when acts of war are claimed to have been done out of humanitarian reasons e.g. Joschka Fischer, Germany's foreign minister, saying the bombing of Kosovo was a humanitarian act because it prevented genocide from being committed further.

Of course, the problem with Günter Grass is much more complicated than what can be stated here. He became the moral conscience of especially West Germany after Heinrich Böll had died and yet he kept silent about his past. Some say, had he revealed it right away, he would have never received the Nobel Prize for Literature. But his silence goes still deeper. In the book 'dialogue with the henchman', there is revealed in conversations with Jürgen Stroop, responsible for the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Warszawa, and thereafter for the reform of the police in Greece during German occupation in Second World War, that the SS had commissioned studies of the resistance movement in Poland since the most successful one. They wanted to learn from them in order to prepare for the years after Hitler was defeated. They anticipated it. One key element they learned is to practice 'silence'. It means everyone keeps to oneself about each other's involvement in the SS. As a matter of fact many of them served for a limited time in the Wehrmacht, in order to acquire the Right to wear that uniform instead of the uniform of the SS. When Himmler was arrested, he wore the uniform of a Wehrmacht soldier. Therefore, this silence can be called 'a conspirarcy against truth'. It is the best tool to corrupt also the youth. It is done by entangle them in wrong doings so as to prevent them from asking too many questions about the past of the older generations.

In the case of Right Wing Extremism in Greece, it should be noted that key leaders of this movement were recruited by a youth organization which was steered from jail by the former military dictators. As the case with the Mafia being able to organize things even when its leading members sit in jail, it says something about organizational skills and methods of recruitment.

A part of the socialization pattern these youth go through on the way of being split personalities is a basic fact. Being without real education, they are plainy dumbfounded and most fearful of authority, but once involved in a sanctioned action, they can be most ruthless and fearless towards anyone opposing them.

The book 'Dialogue with the Henchman' does reveal such a socialization of Jürgen Stroop, the assistent of Himmler. It begins with experiencing always unjust and harsh treatment by his father, a police officer, whenever he got into a fight with his brother. At the same time, his mother looked down at her husband for having only four policemen under him. She preferred to keep contact with the better connected elements of society, the upper class and especially the artistrocats. Jürgen Stroop himself prided himself to walk through the streets of his small town in boots which were polished so well that the city reflected itself in them. When he married, he got as a wedding gift the library of his father in law, a learned man. Since he did not read books, he did not know what to do with them. In the end, he sold them to a factory producing toilet paper. That was before the burning of books by Hitler Youth.

Nowadays it does not take much to convince nowadays a very unsettled youth to exchange this with a deadly certainty. We see this in the recruitment of European youth to ISIS in Syria and Iraq. When last October in Marseille, I was told by Ferdinand Richard who lives in the northern suburb that this is a classical recruitment field. Unemployed youth are targeted to sell drugs. Once they get involved in such a dirty and illegal business, what the organisers do is to withdraw all of a sudden the supply of drugs so that these youth are stranded. They have lost all credibility within their own local community and since without a job they have no way to make a living. Hence they are ready to go to Yemen for training purposes.

If one steps back from this, one can see everywhere the same pattern being reproduced and repeated. In a world having lost any credible demand upon the intellect, and therefore no link between morality and work, the easiest thing to do is to adopt a model of success which brings in money, even it it means taking foreign hostages and selling them for a ransom. For the way to get money in such a world can mean such a reductionist approach to whatever means are justified. Now if these means are justified in addition by some holy cause, then it reminds of the poem Hölderlin wrote. In his poem 'fatherland' he states that he does not wish to die an ordinary death but while fighting for the freedom of the state, then he would not mind to die on that battle field. Such a justification silences the doubts anyone has in whatever other motives are behind such a 'holy' cause.

It is all too easy for many to abandon any level headed approach to politics and replace it by simply enemy pictures. What it does in general is to justify the more extreme expressions. This is because the world is perceived as if full of corruption, thus the purer the motives, the more noble the action. And no care is taken about humanity, or other people, since the model of success relies on start-ups, on single actions, on just being disruptive blows. It is like stopping the traffic flow by setting off bomb explosions but which means in reality killing innocent people.

We have gone way beyond what Kant used to define as accident, that is when the expected collides with the unexpected. For it is an induced accident prone to make people think as if it is God's will for them to die in an open street or not. It is made to appear as if some kind of destiny. As Canetti puts it, people gain strength when standing beside the grave while the coffin is lowered into the ground and they themselves know they can still walk away because they are at least still alive.

Precisely these mechanisms of death to gain supremacy needs to be understood in its own terms. In the 21st century, it seems to be spreading out, and this far beyond any national borders. So while Europe is caught in various ways of a nostalgic past as if the nation state or even more local unity is more sovereign, the drive towards an Islamic state and more so totalitarian one suggests another yearning for unity way beyond any classical borders which had been drawn especially during Imperialism and Colonialism. (1)

One should not forget all these battles taking place in Syria and Iraq are due to an open border and extra territory with no clear political allegiance to any state. This area has become representative of modern war fares. They constitute the new testing grounds for ever new forms of warfare.

In Eastern Ukraine, Putin has allowed Chechyna fighters to enter, so that they can get battle experience not allowed to them back home for then it would mean fighting the Russians.

We call this in German 'Stellvertretender Krieg': a war represented by another kind of war with some definite safety devices build in, so that in the final end only those who do not know what real game is being played, they will suffer. It is also a way to contain these fights to being merely local even if foreign fighters are recruited.

Why then this broader perspective in need to be taken into account when looking at the rising phenomenon of Chrysi Avgi here in Greece? A definite learning process takes place within this party when it comes to adapting to new models of success. Interestingly enough the testimony refers to dissemination as a cultural tool to spread its ideology. Once it grips the mind of not only the youth, but people easily deceived by its simple message of strength against all kinds of corruption, then in the belief this is the only solution, 'an avalanche of stupidity and simultaneously panic spreads out' (Adorno).

One model to counter this growing fire in the underbush is to identify moments in people's lives when it would make a real difference that they speak out against any further encroaching of ideas which surely lead to inflicting even more injustices. The person giving the testimony is such an example: he stands to having been consciously a member of Chrysi Avgi, and now realizes it was a mistake. That offers a chance to learn out of mistakes - most important when we think how we can freedom from our own foolishness, often at times the things which blind us to solutions standing just right beside us.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 19.6.2014



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