Even the neo-Nazis from Golden Dawn should get due process


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9:05 am - September 30th 2013

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by Jonathan Kent

The test of democracy and of the rule of law, both here and in Greece, is not how it treats the best of us but how it treats the worst.

That doesn’t mean we should be complacent. There are real threats to justice in Britain, such as cuts to legal aid. However the battle is clearly not yet lost here.

Meanwhile in Greece the authorities have moved to arrest members of the Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, including its leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos and four other Golden Dawn MPs. They’ve been charged with belonging to a criminal organisation and it’s claimed that guns and ammunition were found in Michaloliakos’ home.

Recent posts by reservists belonging to elite Greek military units calling for a coup, the killing of a prominent leftist musician, sustained attacks on immigrants and left wing protesters, had all brought things to a point where the state seems to have felt obliged to act.

I feel obliged to say two things. Firstly that I believe in muscular democracy; in other words I do not believe that a democracy, in the name of democracy, should hand the means of its own destruction to non-democratic forces.

When Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared at one point that he saw democracy as a bus, you use it to get to your destination and then get off, he associated himself with autocrats everywhere who have exploited democracy from Hitler onwards.

The minimum qualification for seeking power democracy must be a commitment to surrender power democratically when citizens demand it. For that reason it’s hard to justify allowing Golden Dawn or any other anti-democratic group an electoral platform.

The other thing I would say is this; however odious Golden Dawn the party and its members may be they must get due process and a fair trial. It’s not so much a concern about creating martyrs. Most knuckle dragging far right thugs would fetishise a rotting dog’s carcass if it served their warped cause. Nope, it’s because the damage done to Greek democracy by further degrading its already damaged institutions would be almost as bad as letting Golden Dawn damage them.

There’s a passage in A Man For All Seasons, where Sir Thomas More is debating with his son-in-law Wiolliam Roper, that puts it better than I could.

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Bang ‘em up, throw away the key and all that, but do it proper and do it so a better, more confident, more self respecting, more honest, more democratic Greece can come out of this.


this blog was originally posted here.

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Reader comments


1. So Much For Subtlety

Bang ‘em up, throw away the key and all that, but do it proper and do it so a better, more confident, more self respecting, more honest, more democratic Greece can come out of this.

Banning a political party just because you don’t like them and they are too popular is not very democratic either. And make no mistake, that is what has happened here. Golden Dawn may be a neo-Nazi party and its members may well be thugs. But then so is virtually everyone in Greek politics. No one is suggesting that they ban the Greek Communist Party and all its many offshoots. They are the ones doing the banning. Despite the fact that they have been responsible for the murder of tens of thousands during the Civil War as well as dozens through terrorism ever since.

One GD supporter kills one DJ and the entire party is banned? By that standard Greece would hardly have any political parties at all.

Everyone, even neo-Nazis, have the right to take part in the political process and to express an opinion. That is all these men have done. But the EU apparatchisk are running scared for some reason. Shameful.

I’m not sure that you’ve done me justice by pulling out a quote calling for a fair trial on the criminal charges members of Golden Dawn face and then go straight to the issue of banning the party.
Let me be clear – I am not calling for a ban on the organisation here. There may be a case for banning an organisation that is found to be criminal and violent. Just because an organisation is a political party it shouldn’t allow it to escape a ban that would be applied to a group like, for instance, the mafia.
What I am saying however is that it is not unreasonable for any party, left or right, to contest an election it has to be committed to democracy. If the party’s position is that it believes it has the right to cling to power by force and to ignore the wishes of the majority, then it should not be allowed the take power peacefully. Being robust about the right of democracy as a system to self preservation hardly seems unreasonable.
Moreover I don’t accept that this is about liking or disliking Golden Dawn – simply about whether it poses a threat to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The same standards could apply to any secular or religious authoritarian group.

SMFS: “That is all these men have done.”

But it’s not all they’ve done, is it?

They are well known to run a large vigilante militia who make it their business to seek out immigrant market traders and shopkeepers in order to break legs and fracture skulls, in order to intimidate non-whites to leave Greece.

If you can point to evidence of similar terrorist conduct by other political parties in Greece in recent times (as opposed to during a war decades ago), then maybe you can reasonably make such accusations toward other parties.

4. Richard Carey

@ Jonathan Kent,

don’t worry about SMFS. It’s clear the point you are making.

5. So Much For Subtlety

2. Jonathan Kent

Let me be clear – I am not calling for a ban on the organisation here. There may be a case for banning an organisation that is found to be criminal and violent.

No it isn’t. Or the Greek Communist Party and all its offshoots would be banned too. As I said, everyone in Greek politics, more or less, murders other people.

What I am saying however is that it is not unreasonable for any party, left or right, to contest an election it has to be committed to democracy. If the party’s position is that it believes it has the right to cling to power by force and to ignore the wishes of the majority, then it should not be allowed the take power peacefully. Being robust about the right of democracy as a system to self preservation hardly seems unreasonable.

But you did not call for a ban on the Greek Communist Party and all its offshoots. Which is not and never has been even remotely concerned with democracy.

Again that is not what the Greeks are doing.

Moreover this is problematic on so many levels. Who is to decide what is or is not democratic? The Belgians have been trying for years to preserve the monopoly of the main corrupt and incompetent parties by banning, repeatedly, the Flemish Fascists. How democratic is this? If we went down this route, we would have to ban dozens of parties. Many of them with supporters here at LC. But we would also have to establish a Qango to decide who is or is not democratic. Which would be a bigger threat to democracy than the BNP ever was.

Democracies should protect themselves. In extreme circumstances. Greece does not face such a circumstance.

jungle

But it’s not all they’ve done, is it?

Yes it is. They are not being charged with murder or even conspiracy to commit murder. They are charged with some other bogus make up complaint. If the leadership was in any way involved in sending thugs out to break people’s legs or murder a$$hole DJs, they would be charged with it. They have not been.

So it is all they have done – stand for election with views the new upper class does not like.

If you can point to evidence of similar terrorist conduct by other political parties in Greece in recent times (as opposed to during a war decades ago), then maybe you can reasonably make such accusations toward other parties.

Decades ago? November 17 wasn’t murdering British consular officials all that long ago. But it is beside the point. When it comes to murderers, the Europhile Left loves former murderers as long as they were Leftists. Look at the President of Brazil. They like people who aid and abet murderers. Look at Gerhard Schoeder and Joschka Fischer. No Greek party is entirely untouched by support for terrorism. That is why the leadership of the PKK was able to live there quietly for so long.

@5 SMFS Seriously, if you want to engage in debate here you’re going to have to raise your game.
This article is about GD because (and it saddens me to have to lay this out for you in bald terms because I’d have expected you to understand the nature of discussions about news) Golden Dawn is in the news and the Greek Communist Party is not. However my points about democracies robsutly refusing to hand over the means of their own destruction to anti democratic forces seeking to use democracy to their own end apply evenly across the board.
You can bury your head in whatever medium you choose to bury it but if you can’t accept a plain statement such as those made here then I suspect you’re not here with honest or honourable intent.

7. So Much For Subtlety

6. Jonathan Kent

This article is about GD because (and it saddens me to have to lay this out for you in bald terms because I’d have expected you to understand the nature of discussions about news) Golden Dawn is in the news and the Greek Communist Party is not.

And I think we should ask why not. Or more accurately you should have asked. Given half the Greek Parliament has done what you think means they deserve to be banned. And yet they are not going to be. That is kind of the point. If you say GD was banned because of A and yet there are a lot of other parties who have done A but are not banned, a reasonable assumption is that there is something else, B, that is the real cause.

However my points about democracies robsutly refusing to hand over the means of their own destruction to anti democratic forces seeking to use democracy to their own end apply evenly across the board.

You may think they do, but they do not in Greece. They do not across Europe where former Communist Parties are able to sit in Parliament – despite blood on their hands, look at Die Linke in Germany – while the Loony Right is not.

But it also misses the point. If democracy is about to fall there may be a case for a ban. I think Pinochet did the right thing in just such a case. But Greece is not such a case. What you are arguing for is the ruling class to be given the power to pick and choose which parties they will allow. To end any real democracy. That cannot be good.

8. Richard Carey

@ SMFS,

so, to clarify, Nazis should be embraced as part of a healthy democracy, and an indulgent attitude should be taken with any minor peccadillos such as murder, whereas Commies and crypto-Commies (union leaders, priests with a social conscience etc)should be rounded up and shot or preferably bayoneted as a cheaper option.

9. So Much For Subtlety

8. Richard Carey

so, to clarify, Nazis should be embraced as part of a healthy democracy, and an indulgent attitude should be taken with any minor peccadillos such as murder, whereas Commies and crypto-Commies (union leaders, priests with a social conscience etc)should be rounded up and shot or preferably bayoneted as a cheaper option.

Either but not both. We need consistency. Preferably the former – both the Nazis and the Communists should be allowed to do whatever it is they want to do as long as they remain within the law. And now the leaders of GD have been charged with real crimes, it remains to be seen if they will be found guilty of those crimes. In Greece, probably. Courts are not exactly impartial.

But if we deem the violent and undemocratic to be a threat then both the Neo-Nazis and the Communists should be banned. We should not have a situation like Germany where neo-Nazis who merely think Hitler’s crimes were not so bad are arrested while Communists who actually carried out crimes against humanity sit in Parliament.

We can start by banning Sinn Fein. There is a hell of a lot more evidence that Martin McGuiness and Gerry Adams are guilty of murder, theft, extortion, kidnapping, torture and so on – all with the warm support of the Left needless to say – than Golden Dawn is.

10. Voltara Smith

Jonathan, Richard and SMSF, an interesting and thoughtful discussion which I enjoyed reading. I give it to SMSF on points.


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