Not in Europe

Hannes Swoboda, the president of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European parliament, said: “Golden Dawn’s openly xenophobic, neo-Nazi hatred even goes as far as murdering political opponents. This is shocking and intolerable by any standards, and more so in a European Union country.”

There’s a lot in this quote, about the killing yesterday of Pavlos Fyssas, that is symptomatic and deserves unpacking, but I’m most charmed by the eight words appended to the end. The guy who wants to rid the body politic of xenophobia also has no problem saying unblinkingly that the EU is superior to the rest of the world in political civility and tolerance. Harrumph.

Making this even harder to swallow is that it is precisely the leftist and socialist parties Swoboda is a part of and is speaking for here that have in the last twenty years been building the juridical and physical infrastructure that’s made Fortress Europe possible. As a member of the European Parliament, his function is to solve the problems of overlapping sovereignty created by the EU project, and the solution has mostly been to resort to radical violence: mass deportations, the forced exclusions of migrants arriving by boat, the extension of sovereignty to extraterritorial zones where national prerogatives apply but legal norms don’t. Most of these techniques have been enacted at the national level, but the EU’s task, through Frontex, has been to rationalize and coordinate them.

So Swoboda’s shock is difficult to take seriously, given that the Golden Dawn seems to be doing the EU’s work. That formulation is probably too neat, but it’s certainly the case that the Golden Dawn patrols for the bordering and monetary regimes the EU has put in place. Located at the physical edge of Europe and designated as a zone where the union’s striations can be partitioned and addressed away from the rest of the political body, Greece is serving as a sort of laboratory for working out the control of labor flows and the policing of populations, and the Golden Dawn has played a pivotal role in that, in its collaborations with the police during protests and street patrols and in its concern with defining the properly European people.

Of course sometimes they might cross a line, and if anything, that’s what Swoboda’s protest registers. Because really, his outrage is tardy by at least three years, the amount of time fascists have been, routinely and without retribution, harassing and beating migrants and queers, among others. Swoboda’s late-arriving horror is aimed not just at the killing–tacitly accepting along the way the less-lethal violence–but at the fact that it was visited on an avowed antifascist, an “opponent,” someone with a politics. The previous victims lacked such subjectivity; they were merely queer, or simply “economic” actors, but whatever they were, they did not have a politics. That’s for Europeans.

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