Could the rise of Golden Dawn save the Eurozone?

In Germany's nightmares, inflation leads to Nazis. But now that there are Nazis anyway, perhaps we'l

More growth would obviously do a lot to help the Eurozone. For Spain and Italy, a healthy level of growth alone might be enough to pull them out of crisis mode. For Greece, more would have to be done, but it would be a strong start.

Unfortunately, that growth is being at least partially quashed by the outspoken desire of Germany (and thus the European Central Bank) to keep inflation low. High inflation in Germany would overcome the problem that the Eurozone currently has where wages in Spain, Greece and Portugal need to fall relative to those in the core, but are showing no signs of doing so.

Why is Germany so against inflation?

Well, the fact that high inflation would negatively impact the German economy is obviously a large part of it. But equally important is the experience of the German people in the 1930s. Put bluntly, there is a fear in Germany that high inflation leads to fascism.

Which is why the rise of Greek neo-nazis Golden Dawn (whose flag looks like an alternate-universe version of the swastika) could be a blessing in disguise. Albeit a really, really good disguise. Because the one thing Germany hates more than inflation is Nazis.

Greece has price of a little under 2 per cent. There are a lot of things causing the rise of their homegrown Nazis, but hyperinflation is not one of them. So right now Germans are seeing their worst nightmare happen even though they managed to keep inflation low across the Eurozone.

Could this mean that they'll back off slightly over their overbearing desire to keep inflation low?

Well, so far there isn't a huge amount of encouraging news. On Wednesday, the FT did report that:

A future German inflation rate above the eurozone average could be part of a natural adjustment process as crisis-hit countries pulled themselves out of recession, the Bundesbank argued in evidence to German parliamentarians.

Except that that was only a couple of days after the Bundesbank president wrote in the same paper that:

To prevent the recovery stalling, demands have been directed at the Eurosystem to deliver yet lower interest rates (or at least to forego raising them), yet more liquidity and even larger purchases of assets.

However, the assumption underlying such well-intentioned advice does not hold up to closer scrutiny.

So they don't appear to have been spooked into monetary expansion anytime soon. Perhaps Golden Dawn aren't really a blessing in disguise after all; sometimes, to misquote Freud, a Nazi is just a Nazi.

The leader of the fascist Golden Dawn party. Photograph: Getty

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.