The Nazi threat in Greece: Golden Dawn
Övgü Pınar - 19/11/2013
Greece’s racist Golden Dawn party, riding the wave of dissent caused by the economic crisis and influx of illegal immigrants, entered the Greek parliament for the first time in 2012. Greek politicians and commentators compare the rise of the Golden Dawn to that of the Nazis in the 1930s. Human Rights Watch called the rise of Golden Dawn as “the most worrying example of the political tension” in Greece.
Anti-muslim, anti-semitic, anti-gay party encourages violent attacks. Human Rights Watch says “Mob violence against people from Afghanistan, North and sub-Saharan Africa is alarmingly commonplace, much of it going unrecorded” in Greece and that “some politicians appear reluctant to act decisively on this issue for fear of a populist backlash from Golden Dawn.”
However, after the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September, the group started losing support. Its leaders were arrested and charged with running a criminal organization. State funds to the party were cut. There were reports that the Golden Dawn has lost almost a third of its supporters in one night with the killing of Fyssas. Supporters, who had their bodies adorned with racist tattoos like swastikas started to rush to the tattoo shops againg, but this time to delete these marks of the Golden Dawn.
But as there was talk of Golden Dawn losing power, what seemed to be a revenge of murder of Fyssas changed the outlook. Two members of Golden Dawn were killed on 1 November. Although the assault looks suspicious to some, ratings of Golden Dawn started to rise again.
We asked Greek journalist Dimitri Deliolanes, who wrote a book called “Golden Dawn: Nazi Greece threatens Europe” (Alba Dorata. La Grecia nazista minaccia l'Europa), to explain the reasons that gave rise to the success of the group and the threat posed by it. Deliolanes says “The advance of the racist and xenophobic extreme right threatens the fundamental values of Europe. Golden Dawn just opens up the road” in the description of his book.
- How was the Golden Dawn born?
- Golden Dawn exists since 1980, but it was mostly irrelevant during all these years. It had only 50-100 adherents. They were occasionally causing problems, beating someone etc. With the economic crisis, in 2010 local elections they managed to get a seat at the Athens City Council. It was the “führer” of the group Nikolaos Michaloliakos, that entered the City Council.
- So can we say that the economic crisis in Europe, and in Greece in particular, helped Golden Dawn to become stronger?
- Of course. Golden Dawn’s entrance to the parliament and its growth depends on many factors, but the two main factors are the crisis and the immigration.
The crisis also brought by a political crisis. Golden Dawn took advantage of the political crisis that caused the emptying of the democracy.
EU Comission leadership is, I think, composed of extremely mediocre people. Barroso, Van Rompuy, Baroness Ashton… They are of a much lower level, compared to the European politicians. They didn’t do anything but just aligned themselves with the most powerful EU states, which are Germany, France… Although there was a sharp fall in democracy in the EU, they continued with the neo-liberal approach, instead of trying to find an alternative to create growth. This, also, may have caused some disappointed people to turn to anti-democratic groups.
Immigration, on the other hand, is a more complex question. It’s not just a Greek problem, it’s a problem in all of the world. And there are not any formulas to resolve it. The only solution for a government could be to try to govern it. When people from the Eastern Bloc countries started migrating, there was not a problem to govern, because the countries that recevied these migrants needed the labor force offered by the migrants. But when the times are hard, the jobs become more precious and racism and xenophobia rises. This is what happened in Greece.
And then there’s another point that needs to be added. Greece is one of the frontiers of the EU. And most migrants come to Greece hoping to go to the North Europe. But usually they can’t manage to go there and just stay in Greece, a poor country that’s in crisis itself. As there are not so many jobs, some immigrants, along with Greeks of course, join criminal bands. And this changes how they are perceived and creates tensions.
- Does it mean that also the EU has a responsibility in the immigration problem?
- Of course… There’s this famous “Dublin II” accord, that says if, for example, a migrant is found in France and it’s determined that he entered Europe from Turkey-Greece border, he should be sent back to Greece. This leaves the border countries like Greece, Spain, Italy, Malta, Cyprus etc with an enormous dump of people that the EU doesn’t want to support. So surely there’s a big responsibility of the EU.
- During the last years thousands of people from war zones have tried to escape to Europe. How does the Greek public in general see this flow of immigrants from Middle East or North Africa?
-This is a very complex problem. Because, during the last 1.5 years, most of the migrants that arrive to Europe don’t look for jobs, they are just trying to escape the war and survive. The problem is great. For example in Greece, also in Turkey of course, since more than 10 years we have a continuous flow of migrants from Afghanistan. And it’s not possible to distinguish who escapes from war and who wants to come to Europe to have better opportunities. At this moment the Greek population is also having its own problems and trying to survive.
- Recently the leaders of Golden Dawn were arrested, public funds to the party were cut. And there are also reports of supporters changing their minds, the racist tattoos being deleted. What do you think of the current situation? Is the Golden Dawn in a decline?
- I’d like to underline something about Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn is not a group that belongs to the extreme right. It’s a Nazi group. This distinguishes it from the extreme right groups we see in the Europe.
The name “Golden Dawn” refers to the British magical order with the same name, with Aleister Crowley, a satanist magician, as its leader.
It’s different from traditional far right groups like Lega Nord in Italy, Marie Le Pen in France etc. They are militarist Nazis. They support a violent solution and talk explicitly of a civil war. So they are not an opinion group, they are a militant group.
In september they killed the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas. And obviously the Greek people detested it. Until the November 1 killing of two Golden Dawn members, the group was losing consent. A few days ago, a far left group that was not heard of before, the Militant People's Revolutionary Forces, claimed responsibility for this attack. The assault was very professional, very precise. Seems like the job of a professional killer under contract. I think this assault was a provocation.
Before the killing of Pavlos Fyssas, the support for Golden Dawn was around 15 percent, right after the attack it was reduced to 7 percent. And people started to delete their racist tattoos. But with the killing of two Golden Dawn members the support has risen again to around 10 percent.