Many people were shocked to see the video of a far right politician assaulting two fellow politicians in Greece last week.
Golden Dawn’s Ilias Kasidiaris physically assaulted Liana Kanelli of the KKE (Greek Communist Party) and threw water over Syriza’s Rena Dourou on national television last Thursday morning. Shocking? Yes. Surprising? Probably not.
When considering the actions of other Golden Dawn members; from the openly racist street violence of a 350-strong mob attacking migrants in Patras, to the hospitalisation of an Egyptian fisherman by suspected Golden Dawn members, and the most recent threat to raid hospitals and kindergartens to expel immigrants and their children, it doesn’t seem that surprising. Kasidiaris himself is currently being accused of being an accomplice to the mugging of a student.
Golden Dawn is a threat to Greek society on the streets and at the ballot box. The parliamentary elections in Greece at the beginning of May saw Golden Dawn take 21 seats. Even if they lose seats, their thugs on the street have been emboldened.
A rise in the support of far right parties is not confined to Greece: the mainstreaming of the Front National in France over the past decade is a concern for all progressives.
The first round of the parliamentary elections in France saw a result of approximately 47% for the left combining Socialists, Greens and Front de Gauche and 49% on the right including Sarkozy’s Union Popular Movement (UMP) and the Front National.
Whilst it is reassuring to see an increase in support for the broad left in France and the recent loss of the incumbent Sarkozy in the presidential election, those that are lauding a ‘left victory’ risk overlooking a key point: 14% is a very worrying amount of support for a fascist party. If the British National Party were to garner this kind of support in Britain, Labour Party members would rightly be appalled.
The politics of the far right needs a political response from all those fighting for a fairer and more just society. The fascists of Golden Dawn, FN and the BNP will only be defeated by an alliance of all those that oppose racism and fascism. It is disappointing to see that the UMP will not form a temporary alliance with the French Socialist Party to block out the Front National in the second round of the French parliamentary elections.
It is not unusual for European Conservatives to make concessions to a racist agenda. Last year David Cameron stated that “multiculturalism has failed” on the same day the racist and Islamophobic English Defence League rampaged through Luton. This kind of statement only serves to legitimise the hatred of the EDL and strengthen their movement.
This May the EDL went back to Luton and I was really pleased to see local Labour politicians and trade unionists joining the “We are Luton” march co-organised by Unite Against Fascism. This march saw MPs Kelvin Hopkins and Gavin Shuker along with Richard Howitt MEP giving speeches in defence of the multiculturalism of Luton and against the divisive politics of the EDL.
When the racism and anti-immigration rhetoric of far right parties is left unchallenged, their support increases. We cannot have a situation in Britain where fascist parties break through into the electoral mainstream.
The Labour Party should condemn all forms of racism and promote our multicultural society – this means not only condemning racism on the streets from the English Defence League but opposing moves from Conservative politicians lining up to lead high profile attacks on issues such as immigration.
The overwhelming majority of British society is not racist, and is proud of the diverse society we live in. If the Labour Party responds to racist scapegoating with a positive and robust defence of the multiculturalism of British society, we will see a surge in public support.
These are the politics that will see the British National Party kicked out of the European Parliament in 2014, and the Labour Party returned to power in 2015.