Athens street scene
Athens street sceneReuters

The rising power in the polls - and in the streets - of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in Greece is being compared to the rise of Nazism in Germany.

The parallels are there and the party is not shy about being anti-Semitic and employing Nazi and fascist symbols, such as the swastika and black shirts-  and engaging in organized violence.

The conditions are similar, namely, an economy in freefall that is driving the middle class and even members of the upper middle class to below the poverty line and to soup kitchens and hostels.

The establishment parties are being blamed for putting the country into this mess and reducing Greece to a vassal state of the European Union and the IMF.

Then there is the violence perpetrated by the extreme left and the anarchists that plays into the hands of the extreme right, with adherents of Golden Dawn saying that it might be time for another Civil War, such as the one that played out in Greece between 1944 to 1949 between the Royalist resistance and the Communist resistance. That bloody interlude that tore families apart ended up in victory for the Royalists.

The left has been culturally provocative. A play in Athens portrays Jesus and his disciples as a group of homosexuals and Golden Dawn violently stormed the theater. As occurred during the rise of Nazism, Golden Dawn can count on many sympathizers within the police who view the party as allies against the anarchists and against the illegal immigrants.

Party members recently went into an open-air shop and asked vendors to display proof of legal status in Greece. Those who failed to do so had their stalls smashed and merchandise destroyed.

The immigrant issue is probably the big vote spinner for Golden Dawn. Even back in 2009, before the economic crisis had become so acute, the then EU Commissioner for immigration, Jacques Barrot, warned about the risk of "democracy being knocked off balance".

Greece with its many islands and long border with Turkey is in the front line of the EU's battle against illegal immigration. The EU promised help, but so far has failed. Now that Turkey is no longer a realistic candidate for admission to the EU, Brussels' leverage on Ankara has dropped.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras talks of 1.5 million recent arrivals in a country of 11 million. This illegal immigration wave was driving Golden Dawn, warned the Prime Minister, and the party has climbed in the polls to 22%. Among the young, whose employment prospects are dismal, support for Golden Dawn now surpasses the 25% mark.