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
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.