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Greece’s ‘aGreekment’ isn’t Versailles: why the bailout won’t lead to sudden rise of Golden Dawn

Grecians have made it clear how they feel about Golden Dawn: get out. Greece protest via www.shutterstock.com

Greece’s ‘aGreekment’ isn’t Versailles: why the bailout won’t lead to sudden rise of Golden Dawn

It is not uncommon that a compromise is made that leaves practically everyone disappointed, but the aGreekment, as the recent agreement between the EU and the Greek government has been so coyly dubbed, takes it to a whole new level.

An avalanche of (orchestrated) tweets tells us that #ThisIsACoup and pundits warn that “the 12 July agreement puts Greece on a slippery slope towards right-wing extremism.”

The hero of continuous resistance, former Greek Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis, also weighed in on this, comparing the aGreekment with the Treaty of Versailles – putting contemporary Greece on par with Weimar Germany – and proclaimed with his usual level of certainty that the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn will be strengthened by more austerity.

I am not going to focus on the irony that the European Union elite has used the same cynical and misguided fear-mongering tactic again and again against both the far right and the far left, including Varoufakis’s Syriza Party itself.

I am also not going to dwell on the fact that Weimar Germany was literally destroyed by a (real) war, while contemporary Greece has seen no armed conflict since its own civil war, more than 50 years ago.

Nor will I develop further the meaningless comparison of the aGreekment, which is essentially a loan of billions of euros to Greece in exchange for binding reforms, to the Versailles Treaty, which meant a payment of billions by Germany in the form of reparations.

I am even going to ignore the fact that the whole leadership of Golden Dawn is currently in jail or under house arrest and the party can hardly organize in a normal fashion.

Instead, let’s just look at the empirical facts. Is Golden Dawn really on the rise?

There is little doubt that Golden Dawn did profit from the crisis, growing from an irrelevant party of less than 1% before 2010 to a moderately successful party with roughly 7% in 2012.

Perhaps high, but hardly a threat to Greek democracy. While no polls have been held since Monday morning following the bailout, a Metron Analysis poll taken between the Greferendum and the aGreekment shows remarkable stability in Greek party preferences since the January 2015 elections.

Only one shift was outside of the margins of error of plus or minus 3.1%: New Democracy (one of Greece’s two major parties) lost almost 9%, which is undoubtedly in part a temporary response to the fresh news of the resignation of party leader Antonis Samaras after the No vote in the Greferendum. Golden Dawn was down 2%, from 6.3% in January elections to 4.3%. Again, this is within the margin of error, but at the very least shows that there is absolutely no evidence for a rise.

If Varoufakis and others really want to learn lessons from Weimar Germany, they should remember that the rise of the Nazi Party was at least as much caused by the material economic effects of the Versailles Treaty and the Great Depression as by the psychological consequences of the framing of the two.

As Weimar Germany was largely a democracy without democrats, contemporary Greece is largely a liberal democracy without liberal democrats. Just like in Greece today, anti-Semitism was rampant in Weimar Germany. However, while anti-Semitic conspiracies were highly popular in other countries in the 1930s too, including Austria and France, Weimar Germany had an even more toxic conspiracy theory.

The “Dolchstoβlegende” (Stab-in-the-Back Myth) emerged already at the end of the First World War and was spoon-fed to ordinary Germans by a broad range of elites. The accusation was that the capitulation of Germany and the consequent Treaty of Versailles were the result of a stab in the back by a “fifth column” and a “traitorous elite” who did the bidding of hostile international forces.

Sound familiar?