by Augustine Zenakos on October 25, 2012 ·
REPORTS FROM THE EDGE OF BORDERLINE DEMOCRACY
425.000 Greek voters sided with a Neonazi political party in the last election. Though Golden Dawn is implicated in a surge of violent attacks, and while its views range from the ridiculous to the downright racist, its popularity is rising by the day. What exactly is Golden Dawn, where does it come from, what is its true nature? What is the extent of their relationship to the police? And who are the people that vote for them?
“The political party of the crisis par excellence”. This is how Golden Dawn is described by Efthymis Papavlassopoulos, a political scientist and pollster. And Christophoros Vernardakis, another political scientist and pollster, says: “It is the only political party that is clearly rising in popularity”.
In response to this rising popularity, the principals of Golden Dawn have made some effort recently to disguise the nature of their party. Especially after their electoral successes, they have attempted through a series of public statements to pass their organization off as a “nationalist” party that is honestly interested in the well being of Greek citizens and has taken up the struggle against the austerity policies imposed by the Greek governments at the behest of the troika.
They are not being truthful in the least: Golden Dawn is a Neonazi organization, upgraded to a crowd-pleasing political party by riding on the wave of popular discontent with the established political system. Like their original source of inspiration –the German nazis– the Neonazis of Golden Dawn have held views as varied as they are laughable, including mystical beliefs in the ancient Greek god Pan and other gods of Mount Olympus, as well as satanist beliefs dressed up in the theatrics of Black Metal music. They have also subscribed to wildly irrational or conspiratorial views, such as that the once no2 in the German nazi party Rudolph Hess was of Greek descent, or that Adolph Hitler roamed the streets of Berlin for forty days after his apparent suicide, only to ascend to the heavens at the end.
Unfortunately, again like their source of inspiration, they can by no means be dismissed as plain charlatans, though charlatans they certainly are. In addition, however, Golden Dawn is responsible for a web of intimidation and fear that is ever intensifying, and its members have been repeatedly connected –though few of them convicted– with assaults, racial violence, beatings, extortion, and attempted murder.
TIES TO THE COLONEL’S JUNTA
The magazine Golden Dawn was first published by Nikos Michaloliakos, the party’s General Secretary, in 1980. Its publication was suspended briefly in 1983 and resumed in 1984. Even long before that, however, the views of the publisher were hardly unknown: in 1973, at the age of 16, Nikos Michaloliakos became a member of the “August 4th” political party, named after the August 4th 1936 coup that established the dictatorship of General Ioannis Metaxas. The August 4th party had been founded in 1969 by the Neonazi “theorist” Konstantinos Plevris, known for literary feats such as Jews: The Whole Truth. In 1976 Nikos Michaloliakos was arrested for assaulting journalists who were covering the funeral of Evangelos Mallios, a notorious torturer of the Colonels’ junta, assassinated by terrorist group “17th November”. He was also arrested in 1978 and sentenced to a year in prison for being a member of an extremist Far-Right group and for possession of explosives.
In 1984, Nikos Michaloliakos became leader of the youth organization of EPEN (National Political Union), another fascist party, this one openly nostalgic of the dictators that governed Greece between 1967 and 1974, known as the “Colonels”. Michaloliakos himself has expressed his pride in the fact that he was appointed to this position on the order of the leader of the Colonels himself, Giorgos Papadopoulos, who by then had been sentenced to life in prison.
The “National Popular Movement Golden Dawn” (later, “Popular Association Golden Dawn”) was founded in 1985, but its exploits intensified after 1993, when it began organizing protests over the issue of Macedonia, aka the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Nikos Michaloliakos bears the title of General Secretary, though members refer to him as the “leader”.
In December 2005, the “leader” announced that Golden Dawn would cease operating autonomously, and would form part of the nationalist Patriotic Alliance party, which he founded. It was a first effort at blurring the organization’s Neonazi character. It didn’t work. In March 2007, Golden Dawn withdrew its support, and Patriotic Alliance faded out of the picture. Golden Dawn’s 6th political convention took place in the same month.
AN UNPRECEDENTED RISE
In the Athens municipal elections in 2010, Nikos Michaloliakos is elected in the municipal council. If there was ever doubt as to whether his organization had abandoned its Neonazi views, they quickly disappear: at the end of a council session, the Golden Dawn leader gives everyone the nazi salute.
Despite this, the Greek mainstream Media are not eager to delve into Michaloliakos’s murky past, even when a document surfaces, in which the leader of Golden Dawn appears to have been on the clandestine payroll of KYP (State Service of Intelligence, later EYP, “National”, the Greek Intelligence Service) in 1981. According to the document, his monthly salary was 120.000 drachmas. Michaloliakos has denied this and has claimed the document to be a fake.
Golden Dawn appears in national polling in November 2011 at 1% nationwide. The followning spring, according to political scientist Efthymis Papavlassopoulos there comes a crucial moment: Illegal immigration is focused on by the Media, which present it as the first and foremost threat that Greece is faced with.
In the beginning of 2012, Golden Dawn begins to be presented by the Media as a counterpoint to SYRIZA, the left coalition party, which at the time is also rising in popularity. Golden Dawn seizes the opportunity and steps up its rhetoric condemning the governments pro-austerity policies. But, in contrast to SYRIZA, it also has a vehemently racist anti-immigrant side to its rhetoric. The government responds by stepping up its anti-immigrant police action, even opening concentration camps for illegal immigrants. But Golden Dawn still offers up the more “authentic” version: it speaks of Greece as a place for those with “Greek blood”. In the following months it will give out food to the poor, but only if they can prove their “Greekness”, and it will set up a blood bank, with “Greek blood only”.
In the national elections of June 2012, Golden Dawn gets an uprecedented 6,92% of the vote, and secures 18 seats in the 300-seat Greek Parliament.
Golden Dawn poses as “anti-systemic”, but its party program does not bear this out. There is no concrete opposition to the dominant paradigm: the party is certainly not anti-capitalist. Its rhetoric is vague, full of attacks on “thieves”, “banks”, and “corrupt politicians”, and exclamations about Greece’s “huge strategic depth”, through which the country can acquire “inexhaustible power and international influence”. The party’s proposal for economic recovery is drilling for oil. About the only concrete thing in the party program is what to do with immigration, a subject where proposals do take on a ghastly specificity: Golden Dawn proposes to reinstall the anti-personnel landmine fields on the Greek borders – a criminal weapon, banned by the Ottawa Treaty, which Greece has of course signed.
Browsing through Golden Dawn magazine, it is difficult to keep a straight face. In its pages, one finds gems such as: “Is the great god Pan dead? The racial soul answers: NO”… The text is signed by the “leader” Nikos Michaloliakos himself, who also asserts that “the Renaissance of Hellenism means a return to the Models of the Olympian Gods, with which our ancestors achieved greatness”.
There other great finds also, such as the story of Rudolf Hess’s Greek ancestry or the story of the resurrected Hitler roaming around Berlin for 40 days. But nostalgia for Hitler and Nazism is not all in the sphere of naive metaphysics. There are titles such as: “May 1945 – May 2005. We have nothing to celebrate”.
On the contrary, one reads, in a text bemoaning the defeat of the Nazis in World War 2, the “[real] winner is the young fighter of the Hitlerjugend, who fell fighting in destroyed Berlin. The soldier of the Wermacht and the Waffen SS, against the forces of nature and the forces of the enemy”.
TIES TO INTERNATIONAL FASCISM
Golden Dawn has paraded its Neonazi beliefs in other ways: In May 2005, for instance, it joined the German Neonazi party NPD in Berlin in a ceremony paying respect to Hitler, on the anniversary of the defeat of nazism. And in 2010, Nikos Michaloliakos addressed the audience in a gathering of the Italian neofascist party Forza Nuova.
It is curious, of course, how a Greek political party that claims to be “patriotic” can at the same time be nostalgic of Hitler and mingle with Italian neofascists, given that in Greece Italy’s defeat by the Greek Army in the Albanian front, as well as fierce resistance to the nazis throughout the occupation, remain a major source of national pride. Coupled with the aforementioned views on the Olympian Gods, such beliefs might tempt one to dismiss these people as buffoons and turn away laughing; but their laughter would be cut short.
“WE, THE STRONG, WILL CRUSH YOU LIKE WORMS”
“We want to create”, Nikos Michaloliakos has said, “a fighting guard that will punish traitors at the crucial time”. And Yiorgos Mastoras, a member of the organization, has put it in even clearer terms: “It is time for you to understand that the streets now belong completely to us, without a hint of retreat. You can change your mind and walk on our path, on the road of Nature, Power, and Human History. Do it, or else vanish from our sight, because WE, the Strong, will crush you like worms”.
They mean every word: “[The accused Antonis Androutsopoulos or Periandros is unanimously pronounced guilty of the following:] That on 16.6.1998 and at approximately 5.15pm in Athens […], acting with approximately another nine persons, members like himself of the organization Golden Dawn […], having resolved to commit the felony of premeditated murder, attempted an act that involved at least the initiation of this crime, that is having decided to kill Dimitrios Kousouris, […] did attack him with wooden clubs held by the accused and the other accomplices, and inflicted with terrifying violence and savagery multiple blows mainly on his head and on the rest of his body […]. They did not however succeed and did not complete their murderous purpose, due to causes external and independently of their own volition”.
The above is the Supreme Court of Greece’s final ruling, upholding the conviction of Antonis Androutsopoulos, known by the nickname “Periandros”, for the attempted murder of student Dimitris Kousouris. Androutsopoulos was second in command of Golden Dawn at the time, Nikos Michaloliakos’s right-hand man. The incident that nearly cost Dimitris Kousouris his life began when members of Golden Dawn gathered at the Athens Courthouse, on June 16th 1998, to demonstrate their support for other members, who were to stand trial, and found themselves face to face with union workers and leftist students, who were there to support their own arrestees. Both groups started shouting at each other.
According to Androutsopoulos’s indictement, a little later he and other members of Golden Dawn spotted Dimitris Kousouris sitting with two of his comrades at a cafe, near the courthouse. They broke off the wooden fencing of a small park nearby, and armed with a wooden club each, they attacked them without warning. Kousouris, who was the most savagely hit, survided by sheer luck. They thought they had killed him.
Androutsopoulos has since been released from prison and has accused his former leader of lack of support, as well as betraying the ideals of the organization.
This, however, is only the most notorious incident among many. In January 1998, Alex Kalofolias, a member of Last Drive, a rock band, was attacked by three people. He was struck with an iron rod, and when he fell, they proceeded to smash his head on the sidewalk. Bystanders saw the attackers fleeing into Golden Dawn’s nearby party offices.
Attacks have never stopped, but are becoming almost a daily occurrence, particularly in Athens.
THE MEDIA’S “SEXY” NEONAZI
The place of Antonis Androutsopoulos as the leader’s right hand man was filled in the last few years by Ilias Kasidiaris, who serves as the party’s spokesman and is a member of Parliament since last June. He achieved nationwide notoriety when he attacked two other members of Parliament – throwing a glass of water on Rena Dourou, an MP for SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), and striking Liana Kanneli, an MP for KKE (Greek Communist Party), in the face, while on a panel discussion on live TV. He was not arrested.
In what has become a trademark misinformation act by Golden Dawn, Kasidiaris has stated in a speech in Parliament, on September 20th: “Let everyone know that they should not speak of Neonazism. For us, this is hubris. And criminal defamation”.
Facts prove him less than truthful. Very recently, while Kasidiaris was already Golden Dawn’s spokesman, he wrote an article in Golden Dawn newspaper, on the occasion of the anniversary of Adolph Hitler’s birthday. Hitler, he wrote, was “a great social reformer and an organizer of a model state”. And this member of the Greek Parliament goes on to ask: What would have happened if “democracies”, by which he means “the Jews”, had not “broken the rejuvenating course of National Socialism”? His answer: “Romanticism as a spiritual movement and classicism would have overcome the decadent subculture that has eroded the white man”…
However, despite Golden Dawn’s recent electoral success, not that many people read its paper. A great many people, on the other hand, read the mainstream newspapers, particularly the “yellower” ones, watch the gossipy TV shows, and listen to popular radio. And these Media’s attitude towards Golden Dawn’s number two man is, to say the least, peculiar: he has become the new “golden boy” of lifestyle shows and populist tabloids, which go on about whether women find him “sexy”, the fact that he still lives with his parents “because they are a close family”, whether he is romantically involved with a triple-jumber, who was disqualified in the Olympics due to a racist joke she made on twitter, whether or not he has paid 800 euros to get rid of his body hair, or he has done botox on his face, or why he abandoned tango, which was his first love before politics.
It will suffice to say that this type of “laundering” through Media banality does a lot more to blur the public’s perception of Golden Dawn’s criminal actions, than strenuous denials of Neonazi beliefs in Parliament.
BATTLES FOR THE DOMINATION OF THE SIDEWALK
But what of Ilias Kasidiaris’s true “lifestyle”? He has faithfully served Golden Dawn for over ten years, and he has repeatedly been linked with violent actions, what his leader Michaloliakos has termed “battles for the domination of the sidewalk”.
Born in Piraeus, he grew up in the Athens district of Aigaleo, where there have been immigrant communities, particularly of Iraqi refugees, since the early 1990s. A few years later, these communities become the target of systematic attacks by Far-Right racist extremists, with repeated beatings and arson.
Locals who grew up in the area have told us that they knew Ilias Kasidiaris at the time, and linked him to the attacks. They also said that on at least one occasion, some in these immigrant communities decided to resist, and Kasidiaris was badly beaten. They partly attribute his hatred of immigrants to this period in his past. And it is indeed tempting to connect this to another piece of information: that on the night of the national elections of May 6th, one of the ways for Golden Dawn to celebrate success was for an “order” to be given out for gangs to attack immigrants in the area of Aigaleo.
In October 2002, a band of Golden Dawn members were handing out flyers in the Technical University of Athens, when they saw some antifascist posters, and started tearing them up. Some students protested, and the Golden Dawn gang attacked them and stabbed one of them. Sources that were there at the time have told us that Ilias Kasidiaris was present.
His crowning achievement, for the moment, is that he is charged as an accessory to robbery, grievous bodily harm, and carrying and using an illegal weapon. According to what eyewitnesses say, his car was used as a getaway vehicle after an attack on a doctoral student in the Athens University campus. The attackers, after they beat up with clubs and stabbed the student, threw Golden Dawn flyers all around. Ilias Kasidiaris has said he was elsewhere at the time of the attack, and he has witnesses to prove it. The trial has been postponed several times.
“THEY KILLED ME. THEN GOD INTERVENED.”
Though attacks were taking place for decades, Golden Dawn began stepping up its violent anti-immigrant activity in 2011. In the beginning, its members started posing as “concerned residents” in areas with a high percentage of immigrants, such as Aghios Panteleimonas and Plateia Attikis, in Athens. These invariably are some of the most neglected areas, where crime rate is also high. The combination gave rise to “spontaneous” anti-immigrant demonstrations, highly orchestrated by Golden Dawn.
The usual set-up would be as follows: Golden Dawn would hand out Greek flags, and banners with slogans like “Say no to the Islamization of Greece”. These would be held by hand-picked locals, while Golden Dawn “troopers” would stand guard all around. These “protests” never gathered more than a hundred or so people. But they provided sufficient apparent legitimacy for “concerned residents” to become “indignant residents” and start meting out “justice” as they meant it…
Ali, an immigrant from Pakistan, who resides and works legally in Greece, spoke to us about Golden Dawn’s idea of “justice”: “We went to get gas. We were standing at the bus stop, when a car stopped. They asked us: ‘Where are you from?’ I said: ‘Pakistan’. Immediately they started beating us and stabbing us. They stabbed me just above the heart”. We asked him if he thought he would die. “But they did kill me”, he said. “God intervened and saved me”.
Racially motivated attacks, such as the one on Ali, are reported almost daily in most major cities, especially in Athens, systematic data however is scant. The Network for the Recording of Incidents of Racial Violence, a UN sponsored survey, has recorded 63 occurrences of racially motivated violent attacks in just three months, between October 1st and December 31st 2011.
Between January 1st and September 30th 2012, the same Network has interviewed victims of 87 racially motivated attacks against political refugees and immigrants. 83 of these attacks took place in public, 73 were in Athens, 3 in Piraeus, and 5 in the city of Patra. Victims were 85 men and 2 women, mostly between 18 and 35 years of age, mainly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Guinea, Pakistan and Somalia.
In 84 out of 87 incidents, victims report that the reason they were attacked is that they are foreigners, and that they were targeted because of their “color”, or other factor revealing they were not natives, a fact they were made to understand through prolonged racial humiliation. In the case of women, both believe they were targeted because they were wearing head scarves.
According to 48 of the victims, the perpetrators are connected to extremist groups. They are described to be moving in bands (in 85 out of 87 incidents, victims were attacked by more than on person), dressed in black, occasionally wearing camouflage trousers, motorcycle helmets or masks. A widely reported practice is for the attackers to be “patrolling” an area on motorbikes, as self-styled “militias”. They stop people who look like they could be immigrants, ask them where they are from, and then attack them. In some cases, victims reported that attackers were connected to Golden Dawn either because they were wearing the organization’s insignia or because they had been seen in Golden Dawn’s rallies in the area of the attack. Commonly used weapons in these attacks are wooden clubs, iron rods, folding batons, chains, knives and broken bottles.
“IMPAIRED PEOPLE SHOULD BE STERILIZED”
“On August 22nd 2012, at dawn, we were walking around with friends in Zappeio [a popular area of Athens for gays], when we were attacked by about 20 people, one woman among them… They were dressed in the telltale Golden Dawn t-shirts, they sweared and screamed, while the policemen that were only a few meters away just stood there…”, says 39 year-old Thodoris Dallas.
This incident, selected among others documented by a popular free-press newspaper, show that Golden Dawn is clearly also turning against the LGBT community. In an eerie echo of the Third Reich’s pronouncements, the organization has even suggested that Gay Pride parades should be banned “for a thousand years”.
It would therefore be wrong to think that the intensification of violence against immigrants means that they are Golden Dawn’s exclusive target. The organization’s own literature bears this out: “Impaired persons, like those who are paranoid, mentally retarded, schizophrenic, epileptic, carriers of mutant genes, incurable alcoholics, heavy drug-addicts and others, should be subjected to sterilization”, maintains an article published by the “Green Wing”, Golden Dawn’s “ecology” branch.
And though it might be tempting for some to think that even if immigrants are not the exclusive target, still there are “clear rules” to determine who should be afraid and who shouldn’t, according to which a “true Greek” (meaning, e.g. a “white heterosexual non-epileptic Greek without any mutant genes”) has nothing to fear, they couldn’t be more wrong.
One night in the middle of September, a little after midnight, a young white man is walking in central Athens. He has a camera swung round his shoulder, but he is not taking pictures. As soon as he turns a corner into a narrow lane, two heavy-set men block his path. He tries to swerve, but it is too late.
“I’ll stick that camera up your ass”, says one of them.
He pretends not to hear and carries on.
They run after him. Another three guys join them. All young, none over 25, one of them wears a t-shirt that reads: “Golden Dawn”.
They did not stick the camera up his ass. He got off with ten stitches in his mouth.
This young man –a white Greek, as it happens– is a friend.
He can hardly speak to us through his swollen mouth. As we talk, he looks at his bruised face in the mirror.
“I can see their hands on my face. I feel sick. Do you understand?”
“FUCKING ALBANIAN ASSHOLES”
In the last few years, Golden Dawn has attempted to forge ties with the Greek Orthodox church. Its leader has proudly proclaimed that in Athos Mount, the venerated monastic community in Northern Greece, most of the monks support his organization.
Ludicrous though it might sound for an organization that believes “that the Renaissance of Hellenism means a return to the Models of the Olympian Gods” to want to appear supportive of Christianity, the approach seems to be working.
A few weeks ago, a performance of Corpus Christi, a play by Terence MacNally exploring themes of gay sexuality in Christianity, was due to open in Hytirio, an Athens theater. The Metropolitan of Piraeus Seraphim filed a lawsuit for “blasphemy” against the company. He appeared in Omonoia police station to file it accompanied by four Golden Dawn MPs, the parliamentary spokesman Christos Pappas among them. They declared their support for the suit.
On the opening night of the play, Golden Dawn supporters teamed up with Christian fundamentalist groups and violently prevented the performance from taking place. In a piece of footage from the evening that has gained notoriety, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayiotaros is heard expressing his Christian emotions about “fucking faggots” being “fucked by Pakistanis”, and calling the theater company “fucking Albanian assholes”.
Not all priests, of course, are supportive of Golden Dawn. The Metropolitan of Siatista Pavlos issued a statement saying: “It is sad that some ‘Christian fighters’ have identified with Golden Dawn to defend Jesus. Jesus who is persecuted by Golden Dawn, offended and humiliated daily in the persons of refugees, immigrants, even children”.
Pavlos has since claimed he has received threats on his life by Golden Dawn.
“THE POLICE IS NOT ON TRIAL”
On October 12th 2012, Hamed A., an Egyptian student, fell victim to a racist attack in Plateia Attikis. As reported by the Network for Political and Social Rights, a group of three attacked him with iron rods, as he was getting off the bus. He lay bleeding on the ground and they then set their dogs on him. The attackers withdrew only when a crowd started gathering around. A police car arrived, as well as a policeman on a motorbike. They did not call an ambulance. Hamed made it to the Aghios Panteleimonas police station, assisted by compatriots of his who arrived at the scene.
The police officer on duty insisted that the motive for the attack was robbery, despite Hamed’s protests, who pointed out that the attackers had not attempted to take anything from him, and repeated the racist humiliation (“black punk” etc) that accompanied the beating. The officer on duty did not allow Hamed to file a lawsuit against his attackers, insisting that he should first go to hospital. Hamed did go to hospital. He was so badly beaten up in the face, he lost his eye.
A couple of weeks before, on the night of September 25th, the offices of the Community of Tanzania, in the downtown area of Kypseli, were attacked. According to a report by the Hellenic Union for Human Rights, the attackers were a group of about 80 Golden Dawn members.
The next day, responding to an invitation by members of the Tanzanian Community, Yianna Kourtovic, a well-known lawyer, went to Aghios Pandeleimonas police station, where an investigation into the previous night’s attack had begun. Members of Golden Dawn were also present, including Member of Parliament Ilias Panayiotaros. The Network for Political and Social Rights has accused the officers of the police station that on this and other similar occasions, they are the ones who give a “heads-up” to Golden Dawn.
According to the report by the Network, what followed was that the police started pressuring the immigrants not to identify those detained for the attack. When one immigrant insisted to identify his attackers, and filed a lawsuit despite the police officers’ discouragement, he was arrested, while the attacker was allowed to walk around freely. The immigrant was pressured for hours by the police to withdraw his statements and the lawsuit, which he was in the end forced to do. The other immigrants were likewise “persuaded” not to make any statement incriminating the attackers.
While all this was going on, members of Golden Dawn were freely roaming the offices of the police station. More of them gathered outside the station and started shouting and threatening. Platoons of riot police then arrived, but stood around chatting with the Golden Dawn members. When the lawyer, Ms Kourtovic, tried to leave the police station, she was attacked in front of the riot police.
Golden Dawn often uses the slogan “Against Everyone”, trying to convince of its anti-system program. It has become quite obvious that this does not include the police, who have in numerous occasions been found to be doing Golden Dawn’s bidding. This has been widely reported for many years, yet no steps have been taken to investigate the reports.
After the attack on student Dimitris Kousouris in 1998, described earlier, the main perpetrator Antonis Androutsopoulos, Golden Dawn’s then no2 man, who was later convicted of attempted murder, was a fugitive for six years. Michalis Chrysochoidis, who was then Minister of Public Order, formed a special police team in spring 1998 with the mission of capturing Androutsopoulos, a task in which EYP (the Greek Intelligence Service) was also involved. None of this produced results. A report, six years later, revealed that the investigation was “sabotaged from within”.
Despite the report, the Minister said: “I do not believe the police acted intentionally. […] I never had any such evidence”.
Androutsopoulos surrendered to the police on his own in 2005. When witnesses at his trial mentioned the reported police involvement in delaying his arrest, the court quipped: “The police is not on trial”.
In the same report, classified documents were revealed that showed that the police was supplying Golden Dawn with radios and batons during popular demonstrations, in order for them to strike against “leftists and anarchists”. The same documents revealed also that members of Golden Dawn were carrying illegal firearms, which were supplied to them by Members of Parliament (according to the documents, members for the New Democracy party, which currently heads Greece’s coalition government).
In a notorious incident, Golden Dawn members attacked an anti-racist demonstration, in 2008, stabbing protesters, and then fled behind the lines of MAT, Greece’s infamous riot police, who protected them. The Golden Dawn gang was heard shouting to the police: “Why don’t you also do something?”
The collusion between Golden Dawn and the police has been confirmed even by the Vice-President of Police Employees Union of Attica, Nikos Karadimas, who stated, after reports that riot police had provided shelter for Far-Right extremists, during a demonstration in 2011, by herding them into the grounds of the Greek Parliament, that “it is true that in the Police Force there are many who sympathize with the Far-Right. In some units they may be up to 20%”.
Media coverage after the summer national elections brought the percentage of Golden Dawn voters in the police up to 50%.
And former Minister of Public Order –dubbed, during his last term in office, “Minister for the Protection of the Citizen”– Michalis Chrysochoidis said in an interview in UNFOLLOW magazine: “I don’t know whether it is 50% or 60%. But they are many. Even if it is 40%, they are too many”. When asked to comment on the fact that so many in the police seem to vote for a Neonazi party, he said that they are “misguided” and are seeking “political warmth”. Asked in a follow-up question why the Greek police seem to be sympathetic to Neonazi tactics, he replied: “I do not believe this to be true”.
“NO TOLERANCE FOR STORM-TROOPERS”
Very recently, the Greek Parliament revoked the immunity from prosecution for one Golden Dawn MP, Yiorgos Barbaroussis, who has been videoed attacking immigrant street vendors. A few days later, it also revoked immunity for MPs Yiorgos Germenis and Panayiotis Iliopoulos, for a similar attack on street vendors, and for Ilias Kasidiaris, so he can stand trial for the charges of accessory to robbery, grievous bodily harm, and carrying and using an illegal weapon. Compared to the magnitude of evidence of Golden Dawn’s exploits, however, this seems a rather feeble reaction.
The current Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias recently in Parliament made a show of chastising Golden Dawn and stated that he will “absolutely not tolerate storm-troopers and the like”.
Nevertheless, this was not how it turned out to be when, on September 30th 2012, a group of antifascists drove on their motorbikes to the Fylis area of downtown Athens to demonstrate against Golden Dawn. A clash with Golden Dawn stormtroopers –who were busting up shops owned by immigrants, but later maintained they were “residents”– drew the police, who soon arrived in force. A platoon of motorized police, dubbed “DELTA”, arrested 23 antifascists and two Golden Dawn members. While the Golden Dawn members were released within a few hours, the antifascist demonstrators were taken to GADA (General Police Directorate of Attica, the Police HQ), and held without access to counsel. During the night, they claimed they were brutally tortured, which was subsequently confirmed by forensic reports.
Mr Dendias shrugged off the allegations when asked about them in Parliament, and accused SYRIZA, the left-wing opposition, of supporting violence. When he was asked again, he said the forensic reports showed no such thing, even though the forensic reports had not been concluded yet, and when they were concluded did support the claims of the victims. When the Minister was confronted with a report about the torture in the Guardian newspaper, he replied he was going to “sue the newspaper”.
Golden Dawn’s electoral success and recent rise in the polls has made a lot of people wonder what the characteristics of these voters might be. The number of votes was calculated at approximately 425.000 in the last election, out of a 6.2 million total (registered voters are 9.5 million, but catalogues are outdated).
According to political scientist and pollster Christophoros Vernardakis, Golden Dawn’s primary audience is the traditional lower middle class that is being rapidly impoverished by the crisis. Small owners, shopkeepers, lower middle class unemployed, and the police are the social groups where the Far-Right achieves its highest ratings.
What is also interesting is that, according to recent polls, 7.4% of New Democracy voters, the Right-Wing party that currently heads Greece’s coalition government, now intend to move to Golden Dawn. There are however those who voted for SYRIZA, the Left-Wing coalition that is currently the main opposition party, if fewer in number, who also intend to move to Golden Dawn. Political scientist and pollster Efthymis Papavlassopoulos believes that Golden Dawn’s voters are moved by particular yet crucial choices, such as their position on immigration, and are characterized by “ambivalent ideology and values”. Half of these voters, he sais, “originate in the right wing of the political spectrum: 41% from New Democracy, and 9% from LAOS [a Far-Right party that failed to secure seats in Parliament in the last election]. A hardly negligible 20% originates in PASOK [a Center-Left populist party, formerly the strongest in Greece, that has taken a huge dive in the last elections, after implementing harsh austerity policies in government]. But the most interesting find is that a 27% of Golden Dawn’s voters originates in the “others” category. What does this mean? That the Far-Right is reaping the ‘anti-political’ wave, which in previous elections was mainly expressed by not going to vote at all…”
“WE ARE NOT DEMOCRATS”
425.000 people voting for a Neonazi party, in a country that suffered greatly under nazi occupation and boasted some of the fiercest resistance in the world, is shocking.
Shocking, however, doesn’t mean incomprehensible. The reasons can be found in the deepening debt crisis and recession, while interesting analyses point out the structural characteristics of traditional Greek society and contemporary popular culture that in combination explain in part why such a portion of the public seems enthralled with Golden Dawn. Still other analyses document the relationship between totalitarian government and the neoliberal economic paradigm, draw enlightening parallels with historical experience, or critique the ideology of the “two extremes” that makes Liberal Democracy so susceptible to this kind of threat.
The most important historical parallel to be drawn, though, is that Golden Dawn’s intentions, the same as those of their original source of inspiration, are plain for all to see.
“They do not understand”, said Golden Dawn’s leader Nikos Michaloliakos in a speech in 2011, “that when we become strong, we will be merciless! If need be, we soil our hands! If need be, we are not democrats!”
On this, if on nothing else, Golden Dawn should be taken at its word.
Additional reporting by Mariniki Alevizopoulou, Panayiotis Frantzis, SPY – Jungle Report. Photos via Jungle Report, unless otherwise credited. Some photographs not credited, for reasons of safety of the photojournalists involved. Additional photos and video via UNFOLLOW, Antenna TV, and Golden Dawn connected blogs. We owe a big thank you, as always, to the UNFOLLOW team.
 P. Frantzis, “The Lower Middle-Class and the Rise of the Far-Right”, UNFOLLOW magazine, issue 11 (November 2012), p. 96
 Interestingly, Michaloliakos was succeeded in this position by Makis Voridis. A Far-Right extremist, known for taking part in street fights with leftists (an infamous picture shows him holding an axe), Voridis was later elected in Parliament with LAOS, a Far-Right political party, and then slipped into the New Democracy party. Apparently disavowing his Far-Right extremist past, he became a minister in Loukas Papademos’s “national emergency” government, appointed to implement austerity policies, and is currently a member of Parliament and Parliamentary Spokesman for New Democracy, the major party in Greece’s current coalition government.
 Officially, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.
 Nikos Michaloliakos, “The Tradition of Race. The Mythological Continuity of Earth and Blood”, Golden Dawn magazine, September 1982
 Golden Dawn magazine, June 2005
 Ilias Kasidiaris, “Hitler Beyond History”, Golden Dawn newspaper, 20.4.2011
 Network for the Recording of Incidents of Racial Violence, pilot survey.
 Network for the Recording of Incidents of Racial Violence, Survey 1.1.2012-30.9.2012
 Th. Antonopoulos, “Your Turn is Coming”, Lifo newspaper, 12.9.2012
 Ta Nea newspaper, 17.4.2004
 Maria Margaronis, “Greek anti-fascist protesters ‘tortured by police’ after Golden Dawn clash”, The Guardian newspaper, 9.10.2012
 P. Frantzis, op. cit.
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