Young people who voted for Golden Dawn in 2012 did so out of ideological conviction and not for reasons stemming from the economic crisis, a new study from a leading Athens university shows.
Conducted by researchers at the Panteion University, the study also found that the level of identification among Golden Dawn’s young voters with its aims was higher than for youth who backed other parties. These voters generally view Golden Dawn as a “nationalist party”, rejecting as “despicable” its description as “fascist” or “neonazi” even though they recognise that there are ideological affinities between it and fascism.
For them, Golden Dawn is a “patriotic-nationalist” party, which “puts the Greeks above everything else”. The almost total identification with the party’s “nationalist” ideology, expressed through the pride these young voters feel as Greeks pride, stems from the belief that Greeks are superior to other people historically and culturally.
“When we had civilisation, others were living in trees,” one male voter aged 24 told the researchers, repeating a phrase often found in Golden Dawn’s “theoretical” texts.
In the June 2012 elections, Golden Dawn was the second most popular party in the 18–34 age group.
The research was carried out by sociology department at Panteion University within the framework of a European programme called MyPlace (Memory, Youth, Political Legacy and Civic Engagement), which was conducted in 14 European countries (UK, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Georgia, Finland, Denmark, Russia, Estonia, Slovakia, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary).
The quantitative survey was conducted in 2013 and involved 1,200 questionnaires being sent to young people aged 16–25 in the Attica region, which includes Athens. The researchers also conducted 60 semi-structured interviews with young voters and facilitated 15 intergenerational group discussions.
“As the data from the survey makes clear, the widespread argument that young people (and not only) turned to Golden Dawn due to the economic misery is very debatable,” says Panteion professor Alexandra Koronaiou, who coordinated the research in Greece.
“The research brings to light a number of other parameters that show Golden Dawn’s impact on a part of the youth and it highlights the strong ideological identifications of new voters with the ideology that the party represents.
“This ideological positioning stems from the stereotypical perception of the glorious history of ancient civilisation and the (supposed) unbroken historical continuity and superiority [of the Greeks] over the centuries,” Koronaiou said.
“This ‘cultural’ racism is complemented by ‘biological’ racism, when it comes to the issue of attitudes and perceptions towards foreigners,” she added.
“For example, only a small minority of these young voters accept that second- and third-generation immigrants could be considered Greek citizens.
“The majority insists on the cultural and biological superiority of the Greeks and the corresponding inferiority of other ethnicities. However, this pride is accompanied by feelings of national humiliation, resentment and self-pity when faced with the decline that the country is experiencing,” said Koronaiou.
The report shows that these feelings are accompanied by contempt for and rejection of democracy, procedures and institutions, encompassing hatred and anger towards political figures in parliamentary system and a clear preference for authoritarian and totalitarian systems.
The study reveals interesting findings as to why these young people are not turning leftwing parties, which some consider to be anti-systemic. Some of these voters say they reject the left, and specifically Syriza, because of their stance on immigration.
The vast majority, however, argues that the only true “antisystemic” party is Golden Dawn and they describe the other parties, especially those on the left, as “hypocritical”.
This view is summed up best by this comment from one young female Golden Dawn voter: “Politicians are only interested in their own well-being, their wealth; they are responsible for what we spend because the only things that matters for them are votes and money.”
Koronaiou believes that Golden Dawn has reaped the benefits of targeting the youth at various levels. “Golden Dawn’s systematic infiltration and propaganda in schools and other spaces frequented by young people in their leisure time (such as fitness studies, soccer, camping, musical bands) has paid off. The youth is a tremendous force, whose ‘conquest’ all fascist and Nazi movements and parties gave great importance.”
She quotes from Golden Dawn’s own website to show the importance the neonazi party places on younger generations. In November 2012, one article said: “A generational battle is certain in the next election, with the vast majority of new voters supporting Golden Dawn.” Another proclaimed: “We have taken the youth from you, once and for all.”
“Golden Dawn’s ideological influence over the youth is a very serious phenomenon in terms of the country’s social cohesion in the future and it highlights the urgent need for policies to combat racism and fascism among young people,” according to Koronaiou.
“Why? As François Mitterrand once said: ‘If young people are not always right, the society which ignores and knocks them is always wrong.’”
Golden Dawn’s young voters in their own words
“Maybe nationalists” – Harilaos, 22
“I don’t know if it’s a neonazi party. I know that some officials have such views, but I don’t think it’s a problem … I don’t think you can label the party, as it’s not a something uniform. Let’s say that some are neonazis, some are nationalists, some are nazis, and others are just rightwing. I would say it’s more a nationalist party even though this doesn’t describe it.”
“They’re uncivilised” – Marios, 25
“If the those guys, the Somalis, cut people’s heads off in their country for breakfast, it’s because they are uncivilised, because we are talking about immigrants who have no culture. Cameroon, Angola. What are they? The best of them would kill their own mother. You can’t talk to these people. You just can’t, because they’ll draw a sword and do you in. You have to draw yours first.”
“We’re going forward” – Nikandros, 21
“It is the only party that I hear talking about the word “Greeks”, the only party I hear talking about promoting Greece, the only party I hear talking about solving the problem of illegal immigrants … Golden Dawn supports nationalism; nationalism in each country means moving your country forward, to make it the ruler of the whole world and let the rest poke their eyes out.”
“I’m a Greek, not a Golden Dawner” – Nikodimos, 25
“Why do not I believe that a Greek should vote? A Greek patriot doesn’t vote; he doesn’t have a party. And something that’s misunderstood in Greece: whoever says he is a Greek is a fascist. So if you wear a shirt with the Greek flag, you’ll be called a fascist or Golden Dawner. I don’t view myself as a Golden Dawner; I’m a Greek.”
“We’re degenerates” – Marios, 25
“Where the Greeks are superior, where we could be superior is culturally. We could be ‘the’ country and be the centre of the world. I really believe it. Why isn’t one of us Obama, the ruler of the world? You fucking start from here. We could be from the cradle; but we are not because we are modern Greeks. For me, modern Greek is the biggest insult you can say to someone. And I say it, we modern Greeks, fuck it. We’re degenerates.”
“It’s all from us” – Domna, 25
“Compared to other nations, we are far more superior. Because we gave birth to democracy, which of course has now been abolished by everyone, but what examples can I give … let’s say astronomy, I don’t know, all science, it’s all from us, it’s all from is … Everything started from here, they’ve even taken some ancient names and are using them. Everything is from us.”
“I’m racist” – Voula, 25
“Yes, I say it, I’m a racist. Let’s be clear. No bullshit or anything, I’m very sorry … Yeah, I have been forced to become one because I can’t be ashamed and afraid to move around areas in the country where I was born and raised … Or be afraid to get into a public transport, which previous generations have paid for, to be able to move around comfortably … Why do we not put them on a ship and sink it somewhere in the Aegean sea?”
“It’s like if was elected” – Mario 25
“[Golden Dawn] is not a party. And it’s not party like those parties that have become degenerate nowadays. The difference is probably that it’s not made up of politicians. Now a politician has become a profession, I don’t know if you can study it somewhere, to grow up to become a politician and learn to lie. These people [Golden Dawn MPs], are from around the corner, who have been really up against it. They haven’t from America to pretend that they know Greece. They haven’t come from France. They are people from [the Athens districts of] Kypseli, Agios Panteleimonas who have really been up against it. People who before becoming MPs were probably one or two years unemployed, who had nothing to eat. That’s the difference; it’s like if you or I entered parliament.”
* Translated from an article by Giorgos Kiousis that appeared in the Sunday edition of Eleftherotypia on 19 October 2014. This translation first appeared on EnetEnglish