By Alexis Herr
Approximately 1,000 Golden Dawn members gathered outside parliament in Athens last week (4 December 2013) to protest the pretrial detention of Nikos Michaloliakos and other Golden Dawn leaders. Army commando and Hitler enthusiast Michaloliakos received international attention when his extreme-right and antisemitic Golden Dawn party gained traction in Greece’s 2012 parliamentary election. For most of its 30-year history, Golden Dawn’s support base was a meager cult of Hitler devotees. In parliamentary elections in 2009, for example, the neo-Nazi party won just .3% of the national vote. Greece plummeted into a recession shortly thereafter and as the country’s economy continued to decline, Golden Dawn’s popularity rose. Thus in Greece’s 2012 parliamentary elections, Golden Dawn seized 7% of the national vote, earning it 400,000 votes and 18 seats in parliament (out of 300). Greece’s government made the decision to crack down on the extremist party this September.
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) warned of the dangers of the Golden Dawn long before 2012 and has continued to do so after the party’s electoral success. In a New York Times Letter to the Editor published 4 October 2012, ADL stressed the dangers of Golden Dawn’s ideology. “This is not just another xenophobic, right-wing European anti-immigrant group,” ADL explained. “It is a true neo-Nazi party.” It is thus of little surprise that Michaloliakos argues that the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust was nothing more than a hoax promulgated by Jews and refutes the use of gas chambers at Auschwitz.
Golden Dawn’s supporters applaud the party’s stance on racial purity and advocate discriminatory policies targeting immigrants, minorities, and Jews. “Greece for Greeks,” is a common theme despite the fact the Greek Jews have been in the country since approximately 400 B.C.
Greece’s parliament was finally persuaded to take decisive action against the right-wing group following the alleged murder of Pavlos Fyssas, an antifascist rapper, stabbed to death by a Golden Dawn supporter. Greeks responded by staging mass protests against the Golden Dawn and urged their parliament to take action. Greece’s government responded on 28 September by arresting Michaloliakos and shortly thereafter 16 of Golden Dawn’s 18 parliamentary officials. Golden Dawn’s leadership has been charged with possessing explosives, attempted murder, murder, and robbery.
We have yet to see what type of effect this crackdown will achieve. Some analysts suggest that the disgrace of the Golden Dawn leadership will tank its support within Greece, while others contend it is too early to tell. One thing is clear, however, that much of Greece has taken a no tolerance stance on the Golden Dawn’s xenophobic and extremist position and as a result Golden Dawn’s leaders are behind bars, for now.