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The Golden Dawn Phenomenon in Greece

The current emblem  of the Golden Dawn [1]

The current emblem
of the Golden Dawn

2,010 words

French translation here [2]

The recent elections in Greece sent shockwaves to the Greek political system due to the almost 7% the far-right party Xrisi Augi (Golden Dawn) won. This short article will try to explain to the reader the reasons for that success and at the same time analyze the political ideology of the Golden Dawn (GD), its strategy, its history and what the future holds for it. 

History

The GD was founded in the early 1980s as an organization with a purely national socialistic platform. Old magazine and newspaper interviews of its leader were interspersed with photos from its offices with the walls covered with swastikas, runic symbols, and portraits of Hitler. Even in religious matters GD, according to the statements of its leader, adhered to a form of esoteric Hitlerism, apparently influenced by Miguel Serrano’s writings.

At the time of course the GD did not participate in the elections and it was mostly a small club for National Socialists. The party line was so strongly dedicated to National Socialism that the official magazine of the organization had even denounced Metaxas’s fascistic regime as a puppet of Great Britain and considered the military regime of 1967–1974 as a mere military dictatorship without any serious ideological background. Totally absent from the magazine and the publications of the organization were articles by and for Greek nationalist thinkers. In other words GD was politically alien to any form of Greek nationalism and had its roots in German National Socialism. We wouldn’t exaggerate if we argued that at the time the organization operated like a Hitler cult totally alienated from the rest of Greek society.

During the early 1990s the GD became known to the public by its violent activism against the far left, it moreover registered as a political party aspiring to participate in mainstream politics. The latter was a crucial point for the organization since this eventually transmogrified it from a Nazi club to a nationalist party. Anti-left activism was always part of GD activities but as the organization grew in numbers it sought to “control the streets” and crush the opposition of the left. Its members might have been much fewer than those of the multiple left-wing groups, but they were mostly ex-special forces personnel and martial artists, they also had iron discipline and a martial ethos. Characteristics which the far left obviously lacked. Soon the name of GD became the fear of the left and the offices of GD had multiple booties taken from street fights with leftists. Such activism continued unabated until 1997 when the deputy leader of the organization was blamed for a savage attack against a left-wing student and the system and the left-wing media found the opportunity to crack down on the organization.

The Wolfsangel, the original emblem of the Golden Dawn [3]

The Wolfsangel, the original emblem of the Golden Dawn

The mid 1990s was a particularly important period for the GD since its hierarchy realized it would be impossible to have any electoral victories posing as a National Socialist party. Hence, it abandoned all the National Socialist symbols and replaced them with Greek ones. The Wolfsangel, which was for years the emblem of the GD, gave its place to the ancient Greek Meander. The swastika flags were replaced by Byzantine and Greek flags, and the portraits of National-Socialist leaders disappeared from its offices. At the same time the magazine of the organization changed as well, the cover had no more Nazi symbols and its topics started focusing on Greek history and not on ideologico-political subjects related to National Socialism and Hitler’s Germany. As part of the strategy of approaching mainstream Greek society the GD published a weekly newspaper which also focused on the problems of contemporary Greek society and did not mention anything about GD’s National Socialist past.

During the 1990s, the party took part in the elections with very poor results but it won 5 per cent in the municipality of Athens during the 2010 municipal elections. Although that small victory worried the political system since, for the first time, representatives of the GD were elected, the real shock came with the results of the parliamentary elections of 2012.

Reasons for the Recent Electoral Success

There are three major reasons for the electoral success of the GD. First of all is the fall of the mainstream nationalist-populist party of LAOS which until 2012 had almost monopolized the nationalist votes in Greece. The inconsistency of LAOS’s policies mainly attributed to its leader led its voters and a large number of its members to abandon the party. As a result LAOS did not manage to get the necessary 3 per cent in the elections that was needed to enter the parliament and more or less disintegrated after that failure. The traditional LAOS’s voters moved en masse to GD since there was no other real alternative for them.

Secondly, the strict austerity policies of the previous governments and the inability of the Greek political system to manage the severe economic crisis in Greece along with other issues such as illegal immigration led to the disillusionment of part of the public with mainstream politicians. It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of Greeks voted for the GD as a mere reaction to the political system and because it was considered a violent organization. Some of them openly stated in interviews that they voted for the GD with the hope that its members will start beating the mainstream politicians within the parliament! In fact certain incidents (e.g. the punching of a communist MP by an MP of the GD in a political show) proved that the more violent the members of the GD turned, the more the party won support among the public. Additionally, the unified front of the mainstream politicians (from the Radical Left party to the Center-Right) and the media against the GD gave the latter the label of the anti-systemic outsider and consequently gained the support of a lot of voters who rejected all mainstream parties.

However the main reason for the success of the GD is its systematized action in the protection of poor Greeks who suffer from the criminality of the illegal immigrants, mainly in downtown Athens. GD has followed the political recipe of Sinn Fein and Hamas, it has been working within its community (something all other Greek parties have been indifferent to doing). For years the ghetto areas of Athens were abandoned by the police and the political system. The ideological hegemony of the left which has been pervasive in Greek society since 1974 assured that anyone complaining about illegal immigration was labelled as racist, xenophobic and neo-Nazi. As a result, no government, until recently, has taken any serious measures to combat illegal immigration and the high criminality of the immigrants.  With the Greek state absent and the Greeks of downtown Athens and other immigrant-infested areas (mainly the working class and low middle class suburbs of Athens) terrorized even to walk alone after the setting of the sun, a power vacuum was created. Soon the desperate inhabitants of those areas learned that the members of the GD would escort them to the local grocery store and protect them from the preying illegal immigrants. Where the police would refuse to act a call to the local offices of the GD would do the trick. Whole ghetto areas of Athens were secured again for its native Greeks by the violent actions of the GD who literally kicked out the illegal immigrants. Not only that, the GD has started collecting food and clothes and distributed them strictly only among Greeks, and it surprised everyone by recently creating a blood and blood-products bank again only by Greeks and for Greeks. Such activities have the support of the majority of population even of those who haven’t voted for the GD.  

Criticism by Ex-Members

Despite the strong opposition of the media and the political system against the GD, its most vehement critics remain its ex-members. Many of them have characterized the leader of the GD as an agent of the Greek secret services and describe his organization as a form of controlled opposition to the system. They also argue that the GD was mainly created in order to gather all the extreme elements of the far right and have them monitored. Those accusations come from ex-members who used to be even high in the hierarchy of the GD. Others claim that since the GD abandoned its National Socialist platform and acquired a nationalistic-patriotic one it has thus betrayed its cause.  Even if such accusations are accurate, the fact that the GD has changed the political landscape of Greece cannot be doubted. Its high electoral percentage forced the current coalition government to deal seriously with the problem of illegal immigration and for the first time since the beginning of the immigrant invasion, the state and the police tried to curtail it.

The Future

So what does the future hold for GD? A few months after the elections, gallop polls show the GD to be the third party with close to 15 percent, in other words the party has apparently already doubled its electoral power. In fact, recently an ex-prime minister of Greece (K. Karamanlis) appeared to have said to his circle that the GD would get 20 per cent if Greece had elections now. Despite the negative attitude of the mass media (still many refuse to invite representatives of the GD to political talk shows) and the mainstream political parties, the support for GD is rising especially in the working class and lower middle class districts of the major Greek cities, which, as we explained earlier, suffer the most from the high criminality of illegal immigrants. Just a few weeks ago a group of GD members led by GD MPs attacked immigrant street vendors who had been selling their products without an official license. The condemnation against GD was universal among the media and the politicians, but the official trade union of the Greek street vendors published a declaration of support for the actions of the GD and thanked it publicly.

Currently Greece has a coalition government headed by the Center-Right party, however in terms of electoral votes the Radical Left is the major opposition party and has serious changes to be the next government of the country in the future elections. Before we analyze what that means for Greece, it is important to explain what the Radical Left really represents. It is an alliance of different far left parties, mainly Trotskyites, Maoists, and other fringe leftists, whilst the party is known for supporting far left violence and its MPs have defended leftist rioters and terrorists in court. It used to acquire between 3 to 5 percent of the vote but in the last elections the voters of PASOK (i.e., the Center-Left party) which are mainly the numerous public sector employees, voted for the Radical Left. Greece, with the Radical Left in power and the GD close to 15 percent, will suffer from extensive riots between the far left and the far right, riots which may even lead to a low intensity civil war, especially if the economic crisis worsens. A reaction by the security services and the military against a government of the Radical Left cannot be ruled out either.

Conclusion

In the final analysis the phenomenon of the GD was the result of a multitude of factors of which the economic crisis is only one.  A fringe organization with a few hundred members turned overnight into a serious political player in Greek politics. The future of Greece amidst the economic crisis and with record high unemployment rates certainly does not look bright. The new austerity measures by the government will further stagnate the economy and exasperate the Greek populace. However, the crisis has turned into an opportunity for Greek nationalism and the GD in particular, as the English saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining.” Ab Aeterno will continue to monitor and report the political developments in Greece and the rise of the GD.

Source: Ab Aeterno, no. 12, Summer 2012.