Thug Politics

Evan Williams reports from Athens. He is now based in London as an independent TV journalist and documentary filmmaker working regularly as a reporter for Channel 4’s weekly international current affairs program Unreported World. Here’s his report on Golden Dawn (hat tip, Into the Fire).

Listen to it all, because Yikes! Plenty of fascist iconography. This part of the William’s report caught my eye; Golden Dawn is running a soup kitchen:

WILLIAMS: This aid is race-based. Party officals check papers to make sure food only goes to those who can prove they’re Greek. Once approved the people are given potatoes, eggs, bread, and lamb. All Greek, of course.

Williams interviews a Golden Dawn MP [I can’t transcribe the name], who says:

Golden down wants to become and will become like the Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is in effect a second government which helps even the poorest ctizen. And over time, Golden Dawn will do more for our fellow citizens.

Here’s Ian Welsh on Hezbollah:

Americans, Israelis and the West in general are used to assuming they’ll win the surveillance, electronic and information war. But Hezbollah defeated or drew Israel in all three. A network of tunnels, pre-prepared camouflage positions for missile launchers and the use of civilian clothes when troops were traveling made aerial surveillance and satellites virtually useless. The Israelis were never able to shut down the majority of Hezbollah’s missile launchers, any more than they’ve been able to find those of the Palestinians.

Hezbollah’s army is a secret one. It’s like an old fashioned spy agency.

It doesn’t exist.

If you’re enrolled in it, you don’t tell anyone. The war was rife with stories of soldiers being killed, and their families finding out for the first time that they were even in Hezbollah’s army. This, of course, is to make it impossible to use assassination, mostly aerial assassination, to take out key leaders.

Hezbollah is an almost perfect Darwinian organization. Israel uses informants and assassination? Great – we’ll keep even our membership secret. Israel uses air power? We’ll dig tunnels and set up aerial blinds for our missile launchers. Israel doesn’t like taking heavy infantry casualties – fine then, we’ll set up overlapping bunkers which simply cannot be cleared without taking losses.

Hezbollah has created the new model army, and a new model state. Call it the Hidden Army. An army that blends in with the population, that moves only when it cannot be seen, that sets up in the expectation of surveillance. An army that knows all the high tech games, and spent the time to figure out how to nullify them. It sounds like a guerilla army, and it is, but it’s also much more: it’s an army capable of engaging in strategic warfare and an army capable of engaging in full on attrition defense warfare against Israeli main battle forces. It’s hard to overstate how impressive this is.

It’s an unrecognized State with a hidden army. Oh, the UN says there’s a Lebanese government with authority over Hezbollah. But everyone knows that the real government in southern Lebanon is Hezbollah. They pick up the garbage, they give out the pensions, heck, they have their own phone network. Crazy. When the Lebanese “government” picks a fight with Hezbollah, Hezbollah wins.

We are going to see many more of these unrecognized governments, with their hidden armies. Why? Because they work, and they work very well, both at providing government services to a population, and at frustrating much larger, more powerful and expensive conventional armies. As official governments fail, less recognized ones will pick up the pieces. And they will look to Lebanon to see how to do it, survive, and even win. …

Hezbollah might be the most interesting and successful neo-state in the world. Anyone who isn’t studying it is a fool.

Clearly, the Golden Dawn leadership aren’t fools.

Do the European leaders laugh alone in the night at what they’re creating with their austerity programs?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Mark P.

      Yankee wrote: ‘Are there any good links to read more?’

      Yes. Hezbollah’s performance in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war was very striking and made quite a few professionals pay attention.

      Essentially, given a massive mismatch in kit — rocket launchers mounted on Volvo station-wagons vs. Merkava tanks, forex — Hezbollah came near to running rings around the IDF on the ground. They fielded UAVs, hacked Israeli networks, and displayed all kinds of innovative swarming-based tactics.

      Here’s a detailed 2006 study by a former U.S. Army Ranger(service in Afghanistan, resident in Beirut and Cairo) —

      “Hizballah at War: A Military Assessment” by Andrew Exum

      “What should stand out for U.S. military planners and policymakers as they study the July War is the simple fact that an army fighting with largely U.S. equipment and American-style tactics struggled greatly— or was at the very least perceived to have struggled greatly—in its conflict with Hizballah….”

      “…Hizballah displayed the ability during the July War to make good use of whatever weapons systems it was provided …

      “In the next conflict between Hizballah and the IDF, it seems a safe bet that Hizballah’s next goal will be to break the IDF’s stranglehold on the air by using man-portable antiaircraft missiles with the same degree of skill with which it used antitank missiles in this most recent conflict.”

      And here’s a study by Matt Mathews, a historian/analyst at Fort Leavenworth, who went over and interviewed various folks, including many IDF officers, about the IDF’s piss-poor performance —

      “We Were Caught Unprepared: The 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli War”

      “As IAF campaign planner Ron Tira noted: ‘Israel failed on the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.'”

      1. Banger

        This is why the U.S. is reconsidering its approach concentrating efforts on “soft power”, covert ops, drones, IT, propaganda, massive bribery and so on and devaluing large scale armaments other than as to feed/bribe Congessional districts with jobs of useless and pointless weapons. My guess is that Israel is doing the same thing and their tactics may be more successful next time if and when they confront Hezbollah again.

        1. ToivoS

          My thought also. You refer to the war game that Gen Van Ripper won. Among other unconventional things he did was to use motorcycle couriers to deliver messages and used electronic messages to spread disinformation.

          Gaffney has a great article on this:

          Israel suffered an unpleasant surprise in 2006 and it is difficult to see them making the same mistakes again. But it is hard to see them defeating Hezbollah in any future war unless they can mobilize 20 or 30 thousand trained soldiers who are willing to sacrifice their lives to capture a single bunker. Israel is still seeking high tech solutions to that dilemma. That is why they working so hard to get the US to provide them with more bunker busting bombs. Hard to see how that will turn out but we can wait and see what happens after the next Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

      2. russell1200

        Chechnya is another example. Some of the Chechnyan tactics (and I think their are Levenworth papers on them) at least on the surface are similar to Hezbollah.

        But it is not that easy. It takes a lot of training, a willingness to take at least some casualties. That they are fighting governments that are very casualty adverse goes a long way to helping their cause.

        I also think that the predator drone strategy badly falls apart in large urban areas in any case.

        1. RanDomino

          I think the War Nerd said it as, ‘Mao said that the insurgent swims through the civilian population like a fish through the sea. The most effective answer is to drain the lake.’ That’s how Russia won in Chechnya, anyway.

  1. C

    Given the scope of the spying apparatus that has been revealed in Europe it is clear that they fear all of their subjects equally and plan to use spycraft to subjegate them rather than using statecraft to serve them. Given that the government of Luxembourg (second richest country in the world with a population of less than 1million) has grown so paranoid that it was spying on it’s own ministers I’d say they’ve long since moved on from worrying about any one party.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Regarding spying on the Luxembourg leadership, there’s a scene in Kropotkin’s “Memoirs of a Revolutionist,” in which, having been informed on, captured and questioned by the secret police, the Revolutionary Prince is assured by his chief interrogator that no one was under greater surveillance than the Czar himself.

  2. Monte Letourneau

    Seems to me there’s only one reason for their focus on Australia – pilot project for the US.

    Is there any reason to believe such a motivation originates with Greek speakers concerned primarily with Greece?

    Who’s idea is, and what is meant by, “Greek Empire”?

    I see the same hand as the one behind austerity.

    1. margarets

      Australia has a large Greek immigrant population. But not large enough to get something like Golden Dawn off the ground there. I don’t think it has anything to do with the US (not everything is about the US).

      1. Thomas Santilli

        we still have a large Greek population especially in Melbourne, likely their looking more for funds and potentially even recruits and some overseas legitimacy from greek expat communities

  3. Timothy Gawne

    A very interesting piece – indeed, well said and thought-provoking.

    Not to say that I approve of all of what Golden Dawn is doing, but it is incorrect to call them racist. They are nationalist. The rich and powerful generally want to boost population growth to drive wages down and profits up. Excessive rates of immigration are NOT about morality, they are about cheap labor. Most people who work for a living don’t want that, any more than you want me and 50 of my relatives invading your house and eating your food and taking your car. Of course the rich don’t play fair, and any attempt to oppose these policies is met with screams of ‘racism’. If groups like Golden Dawn take up the challenge, it is only because more moderate progressive groups have abandoned the working class…

    And as far as being ‘thuggish’, yes, but do they have an alternative? Peaceful protestors are tear-gassed and beaten by armored goons. Only groups that are not afraid to be equally nasty have a chance of survival. When peaceful protest is outlawed, should we be surprised if more ‘thuggish’ outlets take up the slack?

    The emergence of groups like Golden Dawn and Hezbollah is primarily due to a failure of the central state to provide basic services or to have any concern for the average working person. These ‘shadow governments’ are not invincible and they can be easily taken down, if the states were only to provide just minimal services and concern. That would cut the legs out from under them and they would dry up and blow away. But the central governing authorities have to care enough. That’s the main issue.

    I suspect that the European leaders are too busy collecting their bribes from the big banks to care… They figure they can just ignore the population, call out the riot police when the proles get uppity, and go back to their catered meetings in luxury hotels where they congratulate themselves on how wise and moral they are.

    1. digi_owl

      The irony being that most of the jobs taken by immigrants are jobs that remain vacant because they are seen as denigrating the worker and so avoided.

      This in large part because of the push towards higher education, with the unconscious side effect that anyone not having a higher education is seen as either lazy or similarly failed person.

      I can’t speak for how it is in Greece, but it recently hit me that in large part the left has abandoned the industrial and service worker in Norway. The party that claims to represent the worker has over time become a career bureaucrats party, with the smaller left wing parties largely picking up student and environmental issues.

      this then leave the door wide open for the right wing to pick up the torch by claiming to represent the worker via the “self made man” angle. But that leaves anyone not running their own business without a voice, unless you buy the argument that you should be “leasing” yourself to any would be employer.

    2. Inverness

      Based on the video evidence, they look quite racist. They not only deny food to those who cannot prove they are Greek, but you hear racist slurs against Pakistanis. Furthermore, they have included a form of swastika as part of their insignia. If they were merely all about Greece, why identify with the Nazis?

      Their thuggishness has been used against the immigrant population — who are not the problem. This is a very old and troubling story. Extreme nationalism and poverty is a poisonous cocktail.

        1. John Jones

          Dont know if this is anything you are looking for but I will plug these here just in case anybody is interested as they are relevant for Greece.

          This is a small Greek party I think lead by Dimitris Kazakis.

          It is not well known in Greece unfortunately to Greece’s detriment.

          Dimitris Kazakis does go around and educate the Greek public on the crisis were he can.
          And he does not get much time in main stream Greek media.
          Unfortunatly there is not much of his stuff in English.

 Dimitris blog in Greek

          A a party link for international viewers

          Some example articles that has some info not heard in english speaking news much.

          This is in German and Greek so will need Google translate etc to be read in English

          You can see who is on golden dawns side and and who’s side they are really on.

    3. Jimbo

      You state, “Not to say that I approve of all of what Golden Dawn is doing, but it is incorrect to call them racist.”

      Golden Dawn disagrees. On their website, Golden Dawn – International Newsroom, is an article entitled Racial Socialism: An organic synonymy.. They explain:

      Being aware of certain biological, historical and financial facts, we must, using honest dialectic, construct the meaning of Racial Socialism.

      And also:

      Because hyperconsumerism is halted, at some point, due to low wages, loans were devised to temporarily fill the void until the citizen was unable to pay off and was reduced to a slave. The Jews use this tactic to both enslave Whites on an individual level and also to increase their profits on a national level (see the loans of EU towards Greece and the “newly discovered” oil and gold deposits that will be sold to them at a miserable price).

      Same old stuff.

  4. nonclassical

    “of course the rich don’t play FAIR”.. mentor defined it such: “It is always the disempowered who call for-desire FAIR”…

    needless to say, the powerful don’t intend to allow empowerment…

    but then what would this mentor know about “empowerment”:

    (hint-he ran 20-30 miles per day, bench-pressed 350 pounds 500 times, 3 times a week, performed endless “dips”, etc, etc…

  5. Alejandro

    CON “Poli-Tricks” and thug politics are symbiotic. The shared purpose is the annihilation of any remnants of “Democracy”. Greece is especially significant in that it is widely considered the cradle of “Democracy”.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Follow the money to their source of funding. I suspect it is not coming from the Greek people, who have been deliberately and ruthlessly impoverished.

  6. casino implosion

    It’s pretty interesting to compare the demands and plans of Golden Dawn, as promulgated on their English-language blog, with those of the 20th Fascist movements.

  7. RepubAnon

    One can see why the Republicans are so eager to dismantle government-funded social programs in the US: they, too, may be planning on using the Hizbollah model. I envision vote-by-mail parties at Republican ward leaders’ houses, where ballots are inspected before being sealed.

  8. Emma

    Do the European leaders laugh alone in the night at what they’re creating with their austerity programs?
    I’m sure they are snoring serenely, impervious to the alarming speed with which groups such as the Golden Dawn are harnessing the discontent of people in Europe. It is worrying as groups of this nature clearly become more vocal, influential and violent. Given the ineffectiveness of a weak Greek government to regulate the activities of Golden Dawn, we are probably witnessing the dawn of a new nightmare.
    It would be fortuitous for Europe today if the Greeks remembered how to think, and not what to think.

    1. Banger

      Euro leaders have already sold out to the finance oligarchs and are unlikely to suffer during a fascist revival–have they ever?

      1. Massinissa

        No, not really. Many capitalists supported and were enriched by the Mussolini and Hitler regimes, and we all know how much Neoliberals all but masturbate every time they mention Pinochet.

        History has pretty much proven that dictators are much more conducive to the needs of international capital than are liberal democracies.

  9. Banger

    This is a historical period of failing central states they are failing both because of increased corruption but also because they are not needed any more. Currently we are coming into a “distributed” imperial system on the macro level and a neo-feudal system with entities ranging for corporate fiefdoms to Hezbollah or Mafia organizations as well as, hopefully some equivalent of free cities. Should be interesting–this is why I thinks efforts at reforming the central state are a waste of time the period of liberal democratic states is over.

      1. SufferinSuccotash

        Your “equivalent of free cities” does have precedents: ancient Greece, Northern Italy and Northern European seaports during the Middle Ages. The Theban, Lombard and Hanseatic Leagues not only survived, they also frequently held their own against some fairly powerful adversaries (Sparta, the Holy Roman Emperors). This appeal to the past seems pretty antiquated, except for one factor. Allegiance to places can provide a much stronger motive for preserving democratic values than any other form of loyalty.

        1. Banger

          Indeed those are the precedents I had in mind. However, geography is only one of several possibilities. I believe virtual communities are possible despite appearances as the technology becomes richer and more involved with AI. This requires a science-fiction mentality but I believe it is inherent in the technology and the culture. We have to remember that this technology is very new and not even close to being mature. But, ultimately, there has to be some flesh and blood interaction to cement any virtual ties.

          1. Me

            Ok, so nation states are going to break down and the vacuum that is left will be filled by whatever groups are dominant. Worked wonders for Pakistan. The nation state stopped providing services and the Islamists stepped in. Wonderful. So, how in the world are we to solve the ecological crisis in that chaotic environment? What those in power have done is outright criminal, and it couldn’t be at a worse time for human society. These parasites in power need to pay for what they have done. Since all they care about is money and power we can start by taking that away first. After that we can let the people decide their fate. Well, it would be nice if we did that. A man can dream, can’t he?

          2. Me

            By the way, I am always reminded of Polanyi’s “double movement”. How, during the previous experiment in rignt wing globalization, those policies lead to near societal breakdown. Communities responded to those changes by putting up barriers and protecting themselves. This helped to lead to fascism when the system that existed and dominated completely broke down.

            Well, here we are but the breakdown is more radical and deeper (see Keen’s statistics on private debt now vs. the great depression) and we now have the ecological crisis to deal with. Whenever the capitalists’ system was threatened and a fascist type of movement emerged they were quick to jump on the bandwagon. In Greece the right has grown but so has the more radical left. You can bet your ass that if the left grows and threatens those in power in any way that the capitalists will put all their support behind the fascists. They’d rather have their economic system than democracy and social/economic justice. The fascists won’t turn their guns on the parasites who have caused this economic collapse, they will turn their guns on the working people with a different skin color or language. All the better for the capitalists, they’ll just pay off the segement of the workers on the fascist right and they’ll be the capitalists’ hammer. Greece might start partying like it’s 1967 soon.

  10. kris

    Greece is no Lebanon. Greece is a NATO member.
    The writer is comparing apples to cucumbers

    Time will come that a simple secret service sweep will eradicate golden dawn

    There are interests to keep Lebanon in a mess. There is zero interest to allow golden dawn controlling greece.

    The article is mainly fiction.
    Greeks are not arabs.

    1. Butch In Waukegan

      “Greeks are not arabs.”

      Is this your corollary to David Brooks’ doctrine?:

      “. . . incompetence is built into the intellectual DNA of radical Islam. We’ve seen that in Algeria, Iran, Palestine and Egypt: real-world, practical ineptitude that leads to the implosion of the governing apparatus.

      1. kris

        1)Islam does not allow change of religion or atheism.
        2)Islam does not allow usury.

        If these concepts are applied into a society, particularly the first one, David Brooks is correct.

        Note: I have never ever read anything written from David Brooks.

        1. Massinissa

          Technically, the bible speaks out against Usury.

          And plenty of muslim countries do allow usury. Actually, most of them. Cant think of any that dont.

          Furthermore, it could be argued christianity doesnt ‘allow’ atheism either…

          I fail to see your points.

          1. kris

            Which muslim country allows usury?

            Christianity respects individual’s ‘free will’

            There is a parable in the Bible where the master (God) tells the servant to put the money in the bank and gain interest (usury)
            True, that catholic church forbid usury until 13th century I think, Thomas Aquinas considered it a deathly sin.
            But later it was allowed because economy cannot advance without usury

            Money cannot exists without ETHICAL usury.
            I’d say 3% min and a maximum of 8% is quite ethical.

            1. F. Beard

              The Bible allows usury from foreigners* so the Lord was not contradicting the Old Testament nor lifting the prohibition against usury from one’s fellow countrymen as far as I can see.

              And no, economic growth does NOT requires usury since money can be issued as Equity and not just as Liabilities.

              * Deuteronomy 23:19-20

              1. kris

                With Christ’s appearance, the concept of ‘foreigner’ disappeared and old testament was fulfilled as per theology

                The parable is actual
                Christianity is not against ethical usury.

                1. F. Beard

                  Not quite. In Christ distinctions disappear but there are still distinctions between Christians and non-Christians.

        2. Massinissa

          Also, from my point of view, as well as the points of view of some others on this site, banning usury would be a GOOD thing…

    2. Inverness

      Kris, you’re moving in strange directions. This isn’t a racial comparison (which is creepy, especially in this context). It is discussing how providing social welfare to a population increases the popularity of a given party.

      I thought the David Brooks reference was on-target.

      1. kris

        Sorry, it came across as racist.
        What I meant was that Lebanese and Greek cultures are not the same.

        The author is assuming culture is the same, but it’s not.
        Hesbollah, is a Lebanon phenomenon inside lebanese culture.

        Lebanese culture is not the same as greek culture, not better, not worse, just not the same.

    3. Massinissa

      “There is zero interest to allow golden dawn controlling greece.”

      I wouldnt be so sure about that…

      Plenty of capitalists supported Hitler. And clearly, a large group of capitalists, probably foreign capitalists, are financing the GD.

      I think you underestimate the potential a GD government could have for the international ruling class. It would create a very pliable state for international capitalists to exploit, just as fascism has done many times in the past.

  11. allcoppedout

    There was a rising Golden Dawn in between the wars Germany. I wonder who financed that lot?

    1. Massinissa

      Foreign capitalists, of course.

      Similar ones are clearly doing the same thing in Greece.

      Hopefully it wont spectacularly backfire this time.

      Sigh, international capitalists never learn…

      1. Carla

        Oh, I think the international capitalists have learned quite well…they can do whatever they want with impunity.

        Look at (whatever you can find out about)the TAFTA and TPP trade agreements currently being negotiated. The international capitalists enshrine their criminal activity in international “law” that trumps national legal systems and regulatory agencies.

  12. allcoppedout

    Greece is very middle eastern. Fakilaki is like the Arab wasta systems – bribes and go-betweens. Not that long ago they had a vile military dictatorship and torture. Sexism is much worse than north of the olive line. It would almost certainly have been communist if not for British bombing and interference after WW2.
    There’s good stuff too – but don’t underestimate the dangers brought by poverty, the shame of it and realisation they’ve been had by an oligarchy and neo-liberal promises and German ‘efficiency’.
    We are just too dumb to realise we’ve been had too.

    1. Massinissa

      I believe you mean American bombing and interference.

      But anyway, the communists in Greece at the time were not really very stalinist. They were more like anarcho-syndicalists, sort of similar to what had been going on in the Catalan during the spanish revolution. Its honestly a real shame we blew the crap out of them. Would have done them more good than decades of fascist dictatorship. So I dont know why you mention those communists like they were bad ones like Stalinists. They would have created a state closer in character to Yugoslavia, independent of the soviet union.

  13. John Jones

    “Greece is very middle eastern. Fakilaki is like the Arab wasta systems – bribes and go-betweens. Not that long ago they had a vile military dictatorship and torture. Sexism is much worse than north of the olive line. It would almost certainly have been communist if not for British bombing and interference after WW2.”

    If that makes Greece Middle Eastern then so is the rest of Europe.

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