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Populists in Europe (2/8) : Neo-Nazi Greece

Wednesday, 14 May, 2014 - 16:12

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The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, an anti-Semitic, negationist and islamophobic party, has become a feature of Greek people’s daily life. With an estimated 15 to 20% of votes in the polls, they could enter the European Parliament in the next elections.

Golden Dawn or « Chryssi Avgi » in Greek, was founded in 1981 and reactivated in 2007 by Nikos Michaloliakos, a former member of a fascist youth organization during the Regime of the Colonels (1967-1974). The ideological basis is clearly neo-Nazi with a black and red flag that bears an explicit resemblance to that of the National-Socialist Party and the swastika, Nazi salutes as well as publications and websites including articles and pictures making references to the 3rd Reich.

Golden Dawn is xenophobic, nationalist, Europhobic, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semite, negationist, islamophobic, and irredentist when it comes to Northern Epirus, Cyprus, Macedonia, conflicts in the Aegean Sea etc. It also supports a rising birth rate as well as birth rights. 

Semi-clandestine beginnings

For a long time Golden Dawn was a half-clandestine small group and in 2009 it received negligible support with 0.45% of the votes in the European elections and 0.29% in the legislative elections. It was in the spring of 2012 that it got its break with 6.92% of the votes. The party then made it into the Greek Parliament with 18 representatives and became Greece’s fifth party.

With a nationalist slogan, the party has been multiplying social actions on the ground, such as distributing food to native-born Greek families, supporting seniors and organizing neighbourhood patrols. These visible initiatives have received media attention and, in a country traumatised by the financial crisis and its tragic consequences for many Greeks, have given the party an image of being the only true defender of a people sacrificed and abandoned by Europe.

A military organisation

This image is a far cry from the reality of Golden Dawn. With its military organisation and the active or passive cooperation of the police, the army and the Church, the party has crept into all levels of society, enrolling school and university students, keeping foreign children from public gardens, attacking strikers and organizing assaults against foreigners (see video). In 2013, over 166 racist attacks were committed in Greece with complete impunity.

It was not until the stabbing of antifascist Greek rapper Pavlos Fyssas (listen below) by a Golden Dawn member near Athens in September 2013 that the government and the justice system were forced to act. Nine party representatives, including Nikos Michaloliakos, were since charged with affiliations to a criminal organization in October. But in spite of the accusations against it, Golden Dawn remains the third most popular political group in Greece with 15 to 20% in the polls.

The justice system finally reacting

The first – and for a long time the only – organizations committed to counter Golden Dawn were migrant support organizations. But they did not have the necessary means against this group and its dangerous ties to the leading political class. Evidence of these ties can be found in the renewal of Elina Zaroulia as official delegate for Greece in the commission for equality and against discrimination of the European Council. This member of the European Parliament who is also the wife of the leader of Golden Dawn had called immigrants “subhumans” and “cockroaches”.

For the first time on April 15th, The Greek justice system, which has often been criticized for its indifference towards offences perpetrated by the neo-Nazi party, sentenced two men to life in prison for the murder of a Pakistani in Athens in January 2013. Petros Konstantinou, the coordinator of the antifascist movement which had made a symbol of this trial, said this decision was “a message to society” which “lifted the veil on the reality of racism and the way Golden Dawn operates, using the State to perpetrate its crimes.”

(Translation: Clemence Grison)