The reality that gave birth to the Golden Dawn

With authorities clamping down on the far-right group, public sentiment has been somewhat indifferent.

Supporters and members of extreme-right Golden Dawn party hold Greek national flags as they sing the national anthem outside the Greek police headquarters in Athens September 28, 2013 [Al Jazeera]

On September 19, Greek society woke up in a strange place. The night before, for the first time in decades, an anti-fascist activist had been killed by a member of the far-right. The days that followed have seen a long wave of Golden Dawn condemnation: For the first time since the group entered parliament, in June 2012, articles have appeared in such great numbers in the national and international press denouncing the presence of the GD as a legal political force in the country; national politicians and its juristic authorities now seem eager to take action.

Given the fierce struggles of the anti-fascist movement against the Golden Dawn, one would have expected to sense a feeling of happiness among its ranks in face of the GD’s ostensible ostracising from public life. One would have expected a similar feeling to run through the wider civil society. But this is not quite what is going on. Beyond doubt, the attempt to curtail the Golden Dawn will come as huge relief to those who had been targets of its brutal activity: escalating across Greece, violence was directed not only against migrants, but lately also against homosexuals, anti-fascists and everyone not fitting into the perverted ideological frame of national purity the GD represents – like Pavlos Fyssas.

What, then, is the problem? In the swirling days that have followed Pavlos Fyssas’ murder, it may be only too easy for many of us to forget how we got here in the first place: the Golden Dawn could not have thrust into the limelight without its promotion by a significant portion of the country’s mainstream media. The exact same plexus of power (the political establishment, mainstream media, police and security forces and juristic authorities) now chasing after GD had long ago adopted a xenophobic discourse and racist practices against migrants, while racist attacks went largely unaccountable, reports of police ‘collusion’ had become no-news and anti-fascists were persecuted. The road to such widespread racism, even if now attributed solely to the Golden Dawn, was paved with the governmental policies and discourse of years past.

This is where feelings of constraint stem for people on the ground: this recent unmasking of the GD originates from the same plexus of power it had been part of so far. A little-reported fact showing this contradiction was the police’s handling of the demonstrations in memory of Pavlos Fyssas, called on the eve following his murder: Across the country, the demonstrations were viciously attacked. In Athens, a demonstrator is in grave danger of losing his eye, having been shot with a tear gas cannister. The message is clear: turning against the GD has nothing to do with grassroots anti-fascist activism, civil society representatives, the communities of people in solidarity with victims of racist attacks, or even the victims themselves. It is as if anti-fascist and counter-information struggles through all those years, against both Golden Dawn and the apparatus that supported it, were irrelevant. As evident in the arrest of the GD leadership, the group’s diminishing is orchestrated because it is no longer useful – at least in its current form. This reconfiguration may fix the Greek state’s tarnished image before the international community, yet will do little to convince people it is a step in any emancipatory direction.

By asserting its exclusivity in determining peoples’ lives, the Greek political establishment verifies the lack of freedom prevailing in the country today. The harsh and furious style of governance in Greece’s memorandum era stems from the severe austerity it executes. Yet it also extends far beyond economic conditions, building an ever-increasingly totalitarian state apparatus. Consequent feelings of social injustice and incapacity by now permeate much of the social fabric, reaching across the European continent. However, in these austerity years, fascism has been unmasked by people taking on everyday struggles, on the ground. In the exact same way, Golden Dawn – and neo-Nazism in Europe overall – will only be fought off effectively when people act for themselves, when they fight back at the reality of incapacity and injustice cast upon them daily. A reality, after all, that gave birth to Golden Dawn in the first place.

Hara Kouki is a historian working as a researcher in Athens, and a member of the Occupied London collective. 

Antonis Vradis is part of the collective project The City at the Time of Crisis, a member of the Occupied London collective and Alternatives Editor of the journal CITY.