The Path of Honour, Duty and Blood….
“It is inevitable for Greeks to be awakened. And they will follow the natural order of things and consequently the Path of Honour, Duty and Blood”, or so we are informed by Golden Dawn’s webpage. But where do women fit in, in this Greek supremacist path? What attracts Greek women to the rhetoric of the Golden Dawn and how do they place themselves in the traditionally male realm of racist far-right extremism?
To understand the emergence and growing appeal of far-right extremist groups, we have to understand what motivates their supporters and activists. We have to analyse individual and collective identities, people’s sense of self and of belonging to groups and collectives. We have to understand what purposes membership of far-right extremist groups serves. And we have to understand the recruitment processes utilised by these groups.
What we know so far
Close-up studies of these groups are not very common. Even more scarce are studies focusing on female far-right extremist supporters; in Greece they are practically non-existent. We thus know little about the ways in which women become right-wing extremists.
Describing the processes of transforming traditional middle-class Hindu women into committed, active members of the right-wing Hindu Nationalist Movement in India, Seghal discussed the fabrication and promotion of the feminised siege mentality. It was a collective state of fear, persecution, helplessness, victimisation and powerlessness in relation to various ‘Others’ – in this case male Muslims. Prime recruits were adolescent girls, impressionable and inexperienced due to their age. Indoctrination focused on promoting an image of women as ‘carriers of tradition’ and ‘reproducers of the nation’ in constant danger of being violated and victimised by male Muslims.
Working in the United States, Blee looked into the processes by which female racial activists come to understand themselves in terms that fit the agendas of the racist movement, looking at how they reshape understandings of the movement’s goals to fit their own beliefs and life experiences. Interestingly the majority of her informers, all activists in contemporary Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi groups, held middle-class jobs, contrary to the dominant image of the economically marginalised male racist activist. When explaining their involvement in racial groups, women spoke of a passage from racial naïveté to racist enlightenment, as a consequence of associating with members of racist groups.
Such conversion stories highlight that racist behaviour is learned; the more you immerse yourself in the racist movement, the more you learn how to be a racist. In terms of political and rhetorical socialisation into organised racism, Blee notes that women activists selectively adopted aspects of ideologies or political agendas that fitted their personal goals or allegiances. A further highly gendered response related to the conception of racism as the politics of despair. These women did not attribute their involvement in organised racism to ideological passion or a desire to spread racist ideas. Their role was explained as a response to a troubled society, a way to protect their children or themselves from a ‘degenerate’ society that they had come to understand in racialised terms.
Parallels in Greece
So how do these findings relate to Greek reality? According to the Golden Dawn we live in:
“a world which is hostile to anything traditional, hostile to every expression of the highest values, a world that kills every sprout which comes into flower in the bowels of the Racial and Ethnic heritage, in an era which, overcome by the curse of modernity, wants to expel by force anything that stands in the way of the disastrous globalisation”.
This description can certainly be seen as promoting a conception of a society where Greek women have to protect themselves and their loved ones. Along with the image of the immigrant as job-stealer, thief, drug dealer and rapist, the feminised siege mentality reported in the Hindu Nationalist Movement finds its Greek equivalent. After all, we live, according to the Golden Dawn, in times of “racist violence against Greeks”. The following extract from Golden Dawn’s ideological texts, referring specifically to the female condition, reminds us of Blee’s discussion of a ‘degenerate society’:
“Women’s longed-for ‘struggle’ has rendered them victims of life-style and to acquire this life-style money is required, thus personal employment, thus demanding work hours and constant training in order to survive in the job market. At the same time, the lack of values in life, which has been promoted by television and magazines in a pornographic version, has removed with surgical accuracy women’s Ultimate Role in Life, that of Motherhood’[…] An organised plan by the feminist movement in order to re-determine women’s role, so they can feel free because they work, vote and participate while in reality they are born as slaves to the new social rules which are enforced on them, in essence transforming women into over-consumer docile beings who serve the interests of the ruling class at any one time”.
And since all politicians are corrupted, Golden Dawn is promoted as the only way of protecting oneself from outside ‘threatening’ political forces.
In this version of a hostile, hateful world, women may well seek to find a place for themselves in an organisation that boasts moral uprightness in the midst of an economic crisis of extreme austerity and rising unemployment. Indeed, the Golden Dawn claims to be “aimed at every Greek man and women who, full of grief, realise the decline the Greek Nation is in”. And in its rhetoric, there is a special place for women, as carriers of tradition, as described earlier by Seghal for Indian women:
“The Greek woman is the one who takes on the Sacred Role of the mother, to protect and preserve the cultural heritage”.
Distomo, in Central Greece, experienced what has come to be known as the ‘Distomo Massacre’. Nazi occupation forces reportedly murdered 228 people, 117 of whom were women and 53 children under the age of 16. Infants were slaughtered; women were raped and murdered. In 2009 the political party of the Golden Dawn, campaigning under the Nazi swastika, got 14 votes in the constituency of Distomo. However, the corresponding number in the 2012 election rose to 335. Perhaps one would expect a population that not so long ago experienced a civil war between left and right-wing supporters would be more vigilant to populist rhetoric that advocates hate. However, according to latest election surveys the Golden Dawn appears to be gaining in popularity in a country that does not seem to be on the verge of seeing better days.
How do Greek women fit in these rising percentages? How will this new breed of fascism evolve in the country that gave birth to democracy? It – unfortunately – remains to be seen.